I wasn't about to be outdone. The following Saturday I went out, got the latest Hiltone blond dye and got to work on my hair. On Monday I arrived in college by several shades blonder. I was delighted when John noticed: "Get you, Miss Hoylake!" He laughed, but I could see he liked it.
One afternoon all the intermediate students were asked to be in the lecture theater for a discussion. John was a few seats away from me, and my friend Helen Anderson, who was also friendly with John, suddenly leaned forward and stroked his hair. Helen didn't fancy John – it was a friendly gesture in response to something he'd said. But when I realized how jealous I was it brought me up with a jolt.
Although John and I chatted in lettering classes we spent our free time in college with our different groups of friends and virtually ignored each other. I thought of him as unattainable and, despite my fantasies, still didn't think for a minute that we might actually get together.
We were all getting excited about the holidays, when someone suggested we hold a party one lunchtime before we broke up. One of the staff, an ex-boxer named Arthur Ballard, a tough but excellent teacher, gave us permission to use his room, provided he could come, too. We happily agreed, found a record player and chipped in for the beers.
I was looking forward to the party, not because I thought John would be there – I felt sure a tame little students' do wouldn't be his style – but because I thought it would take my mind off him. After that we'd be on holiday break. I was looking forward to that and was determined to get over my crush on John.
The day of the party was warm and the sun streamed through the grubby windows of Arthur Ballard's first-floor room, where we gathered once a week to produce paintings on a chosen theme. We pushed the tables and chairs to one side, set out the food and drink and put on a pile of records. The usual gang were there, a group of ten or fifteen of us who'd been friends since our first year. I arrived feeling good: I was wearing a new baggy black cotton top over a short black and white skirt, with black tights and my best black winklepicker shoes.
By now several romances were budding so the atmosphere was heady. Ann Mason was getting together with Geoff Mohammed, a close friend of John's. They smooched away – Phyl and I glanced knowingly at each other. Then John walked in. My face was hot and my stomach contorted as I pretended not to notice him. Like me, he was in black – his usual drainpipe trousers with a sweater and suede shoes. He made a beeline for me and said, "D'you want to get up?" I blushed, but leapt to my feet to dance with him.
While we were dancing to Chuck Berry John shouted, "Do you fancy going out with me?"
I was so flustered that I came out with, "I'm sorry but I'm engaged to this fellow in Hoylake." The moment I said it I wanted the ground to swallow me – I knew I sounded stuck-up and prim.
"I didn't ask you to f------ marry me, did I?" John shot back. He walked off and, convinced I'd blown it, I was plunged into gloom. But a couple of hours later, as the party was breaking up, John and his friends asked me and Phyl to the pub. This was good news – perhaps all was not lost.