I am not sure whether to blame or thank my former colleague Peter ‘Treacle’ Thatcher for keeping my memory of Debbi alive. Treacle had a line which he used quite often when describing women: “You wouldn’t know xxx; she was no pushover, but she sure tripped easily”. Being a sort of literary magpie, I pinched it and started using Debbi’s name as the ‘xxx’ in it.
Which was rather unfair of me. You see, Debbi was actually a lovely girl, who I have nothing but good memories of. What she was like to the other kids around me – and particularly the other girls – I do not know. The problem, though, was that she made the mistake of bragging about losing her virginity. At which point she was cast in the role of the school bike.
She didn’t help her own case, either. Her habit of standing so that the sun turned her school skirt almost see-through was a very knowing way of playing up to her own image. At the same time, though, she was clearly hurt by some of the things that were said about her.
There were also problems at home. Debbi stopped attending school regularly just before we took our O levels and I am not sure that I ever saw her again after that. But she left home to move in with her boyfriend, not to run away altogether. Which should have been something of a hint that there was more to her than met the eye.
The last time I heard from Debbi was seven or eight years ago. She and the boyfriend were now married. They had five children. They seemed, in so far as you can tell such things from email, extremely happy. In just about every way possible, we all misjudged her. I’ve not used Treacle’s line since then. At least, not in reference to Debbi…