He sighed and pulled the car over. Two minutes ago he had driven past the bus stop, idly given the once over of the two pretty girls in their school uniforms waiting there. Their skirts, he noticed, were unfeasibly short, the top rolled over several times no doubt once they had left home and would be rolled back before arriving at their school. He recognised the uniform, the blue tartan skirt, white shirt, blue tie with a crest and dark blue blazer; it was St Mary’s & Loadstone. An uncomfortable combination of the two girls’ grammar schools names in the town. St Mary’s had been Catholic but unable to recruit enough pupils in this area of England, Loadstone High had been the state school grammar which was established to provide a non-denominational grammar education for girls. The merger after the war had been difficult and fraught and caused great campaigns in this town, both for and against. The end was a school with magnificent grounds, great facilities and an enviable record in getting girls to look beyond ‘secretary’ as a career choice. This was 1963 and women were beginning to think that wife, mother, and skivvy weren’t the only things they were good at. The school attempted to persuade their girls that ‘singer’ wasn’t as respectable or useful a career as doctor, teacher or lawyer; but they were pleased to see women start to appear as stars in their own right. These two girls were waiting for the bus to take them across town to the school grounds which attractively nestled beside a wooded valley. It was an idyllic setting and a school that expected great things from their pupils.
John sighed again and turned the car round back to the bus stop. The Bristol was a stunning, very exclusive car to drive, he loved it. He could probably have bought some expensive pile in the country by now if he hadn’t seen this in the showroom and fallen in love with it. Still, he was single and didn’t need a big house, his flat in Cadogen Sq was good enough, and the car often provided a conversation starter with some very useful people. He rolled down the passenger window.
“Been waiting long?”
“About 15 minutes, maybe it came early” answered the dark haired girl, her hair he noticed as she leant down to speak through the window, done in regulation plaits (the school didn’t approve of bobbing ponytails, a hangover from the Catholic school rules).
“Maybe it didn’t come at all?” He opined, she looked quizzical and then a slow dawning spread across her smooth, clear skinned face.
“Oh, bloody hell. I mean ‘sugar!’ It’s the bus strike isn’t it?”
“Give that girl a coconut. I couldn’t leave you standing there”
The other girl said loudly “Come on Helen, we’ll have to run, it’s 8:30, we might make it”
“It’s 3 miles! We’ll never get there in time. We might as well walk, we can only get one detention”
The school had another policy (this one from the state school legacy – when some pupils’ parents from working class backgrounds thought schooling was optional) ‘school starts at 9am, be there or stay behind after’. The last strike, two years ago, had resulted in 52 detentions for lateness. No excuses, no exceptions (even two staff were required to work late it was rumoured).
“Get in, I’m going that way, I’ll drop you off”
The girls hesitated. Never take a ride from a stranger, but then there were two of them, but then one would be stuck in the back of a two door sports car, but then he was quite good looking, but then they’d get into trouble if their parents found out, but then they’d get into trouble from school if they were late, but then the car was pretty cool. Accepting the ride won by a nose. The brunette clambered into the back and discovered that the seats and leg room (lack of) made her sit with her knees higher than her bottom. With her short, short skirt she had to keep her knees tightly together to prevent an interesting view from the mirror. Eventually she settled herself to one side with her legs angled across the car and back. John noticed all this approvingly, these were well-brought up young ladies, which he had surmised from the bus stop they were standing at (the middle class estate of Beckton rather than the council estate further out), but it was interesting to have it confirmed. The dark haired girl got into the front.
“I’m John by the way”
“I’m Helen, and the pretty one in the back is Emily.” Now it was true that Emily had the shape and looks to make it as a model but that didn’t mean Helen was a skank. They were both pretty, slim, shapely young women. Helen had dark hair in braids over her shoulders, brown eyes, and subtle makeup (makeup being banned as frivolous, the lipstick was flesh colour to avoid criticism). Her bust, he noticed, was fuller than was fashionable at present, and her legs, which were well exposed being stretched forward from the front seat, with her short skirt hiding little, were well toned and smooth. He estimated she was 17; her friend Emily was smaller in the bust but the lighter brown hair was a pretty shade. She wore it up in a bun, which she suited; it made her look older but he expected they were the same age. Her eyes were a stunning green, he noticed that.
He nodded, not sure how to respond. Emily leant forward and playfully slapped her friend. “Helen!” she laughed, “you’re so silly”
“You both seem to have more than your fair share of looks” he said now, realising this was just a joke between them. Turning round again he set off for the school. Halfway there he noticed the two beginning to squirm. Trying to keep his eyes on the road, he couldn’t help noticing as they unrolled the top hem and pulled their skirts down to knee length. Every time a white hand went to the hem he couldn’t help looking at it. It was a flash of white at the side of his vision and it pulled his eyes involuntarily.
“We have to roll them down before we get to school” Emily explained, needlessly.
They arrived at the gates and it seemed ominously quiet. A notice was on the gate. He drove in as instructed to drop them at the door. Another notice was there; four cars left as he drove up, each seemed to still have a girl or girls in the car. Helen went to read the notice.
“It says the school is not properly open today due the strike and lack of teachers. It says they have a covering group of teachers and pupils can stay if they have to but are recommended to go home. It says the catering staff have all been unable to come in so there will be no lunches. It was, umm, oh, I can’t remember the rest”
“I think we get the gist” said Emily, “well, home then”
“Sorry girls, I have an appointment in Backsop at 9:30, I can’t afford to be late for it. I can’t drive back across town.” It began to rain. Helen got back in to shelter.
“Not to worry” said Emily. “We can walk back”
“You’ll get soaked, I bet you have no coats? No I didn’t think so. Those blazers are designed to soak up water. Look. There is an alternative. You could come with me to Backsop. I’m meeting someone at the golf club, you can have coffee and biscuits while I talk over the options and then I can drop you back.”
The two looked at each other, it was uncanny how girls could communicate without saying anything. They clearly weighed up the options. They weren’t expected at school, they weren’t expected at home, and they would be back long before anybody realised. The decision was taken and they accepted. The car pulled out again, a teacher arriving late on a bicycle that had clearly seen better days scowled at the throaty roar of the Bristol’s massive engine. So disapproving of the car was she that she didn’t notice two of her A-level pupils in the passenger seats. The girls breathed a sigh of relief.
“Problem?” Asked John.
“That was Miss Backenstraw. She’s a –” her voice dropped to a whisper “-communist” It would have been better if she was anything else, a lesbian, a criminal, stripper, anything; but a communist had to be whispered in case you caught something from the word. He guessed this was an attitude acquired from parents.
“Really? At this school?”
“I know right? Well she wouldn’t approve of us travelling around in this car I’m sure; she thinks everybody should use public transport ... or bicycles. That’s the socialist way. She wants us to go to University and study economics or politics or something like that”
“Not something useful like science? I’d like to meet her”
“You wouldn’t! She would drive you crazy with the dialectic imperative”
John looked in the mirror at Emily, who was rolling her skirt back up “If you two are going to shorten your skirts again, maybe not quite so much. The golf club is full of very respectable people and I need one of them to approve of me, also I don’t want you giving Major Blunden a heart attack!” he laughed. Major Blunden was about 90 and still ‘one for chasing the ladies’ though it was felt he no longer knew what he’d do if he caught one. “Still, it’s good that you get exposed to alternative ideas. I enjoyed that at University”
“Where did you go?”
.... There is more of this story ...