by 'Harve' ©2010
1. TINA'S RETURN
It was June 1963, and my twin
sister Tina was due home next Friday for the summer school holidays from the
exclusive residential girls' school in Brighton that she attended, and my
mother was running around like a scalded hen trying to organise things for
An additional thing to worry about this time, was the party Mum had organised to celebrate Tina's homecoming. Tina had had a very good year at her school, and had been elected Head Prefect on top of her many other achievements, such as playing the piano in the school orchestra, finishing top in needlework, Latin and public speaking, just to name a few. So the homecoming party was as much to celebrate those things as it was to welcome Tina herself home. There was also the matter of her – and mine also - 16th birthday which would come up at the end of July, so celebrations for Tina's return were widespread.
You might think that I, the twin brother, might have become a little jealous of my twin sister's efforts, but that was not the case. We were still very fond of each other as we had been since we were toddlers, maybe helped on by that special bond that traditionally exists between twins. We were about as close to identical twins as a boy and girl can be, being the same height, about the same weight, same shoe size, and so on. However, as Tina and I were now approaching 16, clearly her shape and mine were starting to develop obvious differences which became more apparent every time she came home on vacation .
Our family was comfortably off but certainly not rich, and we certainly couldn't have afforded the expensive fees that Tina's school normally charged. However, Tina had managed to win a valuable sponsored scholarship endowment from a former student who had gone on to great things in the fashion business. That scholarship just about met all the school's charges and fees.
Me? Well, I battled on at the local high school, doing my best, but I was no great scholar, to be honest. I never finished any better than halfway in my class in our end-of-term exams, which was something of a contrast to Tina, who had regularly finished top in them. I sang in the school choir as a soprano, because my voice had not yet 'dropped.' But my main claim to fame was some prowess at sport, especially cycling, having won a few junior events already. However, I really needed a new machine to keep up with the competition.
My old racing bike was really starting to show its age, so I had had my eye for a while on a new Claude Butler racing machine from Charlie's Cycles in the High Street in town. Mum had been very fair and offered to match whatever I could save out out of my meagre wages from a weekly newspaper delivery job, but it was a slow job trying to reach the magic 25 pounds that Mum would match to reach the 50 pounds that the new bike would cost.
Today was a Saturday and Mum wanted me to accompany her for some shopping that she had to do. I didn't really want to go until she mentioned that she especially wanted to drop in at Miss Fotheringale's Frock Salon n the High Street. Now, why would I be interested in a visit to a Frock Salon? Well, it just happened that Charlie's Cycles was directly opposite, which meant I could drop in and have yet another close look at that racing bike I had long set my heart on!
We didn't live all that far from town, so we walked the mile or so to the High Street and Mum headed into the Frock shop while I crossed the road to Charlie's Cycles. I didn't have much of a chance to look longingly at the bike of my dreams, because it was now 1PM and the shop was closing. So I headed across the road to the Frock shop to see what mum was up to. It was also now about to close at 1PM, but the pretty young salesgirl let me in when I asked if my mother was still around in the shop. However, as soon as she let me in she closed the door and turned the 'Open' sign around to read 'Closed.' No problem, I thought, that means mum surely won't be very long now.
2. AN UNEXPECTED TURN OF EVENTS
I soon spotted Mum talking to a middle-aged lady, who was showing her some party frocks. The salesgirl who had let me in went up to them and pointed out my presence, which seemed to bring a smile to both Mum and the lady's faces. Hmm, what could they have in mind to be so pleased to see me all of a sudden, I wondered? 'Hello, Timmy,' called out Mum. 'Come over and join us, will you please?' I had no idea why I should be suddenly so welcome amongst all those party frocks, but I was soon to find out …
Back in those days in the 60s, politeness was a necessity, so I found myself being introduced by my mother to the middle-aged lady who turned out to be nothing less than Miss Fotheringale herself, i.e., the boss of the Frock shop. She was very nice to talk to but I quickly twigged that there was something being planned between my mother and Miss F., in which I was going to play a part. But what could it be …?
Reality set in when my mother asked me to turn around while she was holding up a very pretty dark red party frock. I did as I was told, and felt the rustle of its satin material against my back. What the hell were they up to, I wondered? I soon found out, when Miss Fotheringale whispered to my mother that it appeared to be a 'perfect fit.' A perfect fit? What the hell were they on about…? I soon discovered what they had in mind, when my mother said 'Timmy, I need some help from you – but in return you would get another five pounds towards your racing bicycle savings. Are you interested in doing a deal with me?'
The whole deal sounded more than a little suspicious, because even at my tender age then, I had begun to realise that nothing was ever as clear as it might appear to be, especially where money was concerned. And that's exactly the way things had turned out! 'Wow,' I said to Mum, 'that sounds a great proposition! I sure could do with another fiver to add to my Claude Butler bike fund. But what exactly would I have to do?'
It was then that Miss Fotheringale stepped in to the conversation. 'Hello, Timmy,' she said, with a sugary smile. 'We haven't met before, but your mother has told me so much about you – including just how identical you and your twin sister, Tina, are in height and weight. We have both selected this lovely dark red frock as ideal for Tina to wear for her homecoming party, but we really need a model to try it on for size. Would you be happy to be our 'mannequin,' please? All we need to do is a bit of 'fine tuning' with your figure.'
I felt so embarrassed at this prospect, right there and then. I mean, much as I adored my twin sister, Tina and was looking forward to her return next week, it was another matter entirely to be trying on party frocks for her. But what to do? - I dearly needed more money for my bicycle fund, so after a few seconds of reflection, I agreed to be their model.
'OK', I said reluctantly. 'Mum, I really could do with another fiver for my bike fund, as you know. So what exactly do I need to do, then?' The two of them then fussed and fidgeted all over me for several minutes, measuring my chest, waist and hips. That was followed by lots of whispering and giggling, before Mum finally came right out and said that I would need to have a bit of 'figure alteration' if the frock fitting was to go ahead properly. I didn't quite know what she had in mind, being more concerned with the prospect of getting that additional five pounds for my bike fund.
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