Laura Kemp shares an excerpt from The Late Blossoming of Frankie Green.
Frankie Green’s happy-ever-after is put on hold when her childhood sweetheart husband complains things are boring in bed. When he asks for some space, she sets out to win him back by getting herself a sex education. Little does she know that her hilarious, tender and embarrassing journey of enlightenment is going to change everything… A story full of humour, heartache and happiness, of friendship, coming of age and overcoming insecurity.
“Thursday Night: Lesson One
‘Frankie? Where are you?’ Floyd said out of the darkness.
There was a patting which she presumed was him searching for her on the bed with his hands.
‘I’m just making sure no light can get in,’ she said, scanning the room for the slightest chink. For about the millionth time in her rigorous preparation, which she wasn’t about to mention. It wasn’t just for her own benefit – she didn’t want Leonardo to creep in and see anything either.
‘But it’s like the dark side of the moon in here!’ he said. She could hear the humour in his voice, but this was important.
‘I’m just making sure. The last thing I want is for the blanket on the rail to drop off.’
‘Good point. Then there would only be a pair of thick curtains plus a pulled-down blind to protect you from daylight. This might be a good time to tell me if you’re a vampire.’
He was right. She was being a bit obsessive. But she couldn’t help it. The darkness was a cover for her inexperience; if she couldn’t make him out, then he wouldn’t notice her face of fear or her pathetic boobs or her whatsit, which by now she was convinced was abnormal. ‘I don’t want you to see me, that’s all.’ She heard a deep sigh from the direction of the mattress, which she approached millimetre by millimetre so she didn’t trip up. What a great start that would be if she fell face-first on his thing.
‘Don’t roll your eyes at me!’ she said. ‘Are you rolling your eyes at me?’
‘Jesus Christ, are you wearing night-vision goggles or something? This reminds me of the Blair Witch Project.’
If she wasn’t in this situation, she would have laughed at that, she thought. But she was and it was so not funny. Far from it, the complete opposite in fact. It had been from his arrival. A warm-up cuppa, as he’d put it, didn’t calm her down at all. He seemed to be taking it all in his stride, which was lucky, because if he hadn’t said they should drink it upstairs ‘to get in the mood’ then they’d still be chatting in the kitchen. Feeling around for the duvet, she finally found it and sat on the edge, at the opposite end to Floyd. ‘I’m on the bed now,’ she announced, staring blindly into the black.
‘Excellent. That’s a good start. What with both of us being on the bed.’
‘I’d really appreciate it if you were a bit more understanding.’
‘Sorry. I’m just trying to put you at ease.’
‘Oh, I see. Right. Okay.’
‘So, how do you want to do this then? Because we can just go at your speed or I can start things or whatever…’
This was the bit she’d been dreading. The seconds before they actually touched. It was the most excruciating, bum-clenching, toe-curlingly awkward moment of her entire life. Her heart was going like the clappers and she had sat on her hands to stop them trembling. ‘Um, I dunno. Oh God. Well, I’ve got three positions in my head and I don’t know whether to tell you what they are or to just get on with it.’
‘It’s up to you.’
Frankie gulped. ‘Right, well, I’ll just do them then.’
There was a silence. She could hear his breathing and then the muted sound of the duvet rustling.
‘Can I just ask a question, Floyd?’
‘When shall we take our clothes off?’
She heard air shoot out of his nostrils in three bursts.
‘Are you laughing at me?’
‘Yes,’ he said, ‘totally. I thought we could take our clothes off after we’ve had sex.’
Thank God he couldn’t see her blush. This was utterly mortifying. She cleared her throat and tried to pull herself together. ‘Okay, okay, I know I’m being ridiculous,’ she said, taking a deep breath, ‘I’m sorry. Right, I’m, er, coming over now.’
Frankie edged towards him, reciting in her head the order of her moves: on top, turn around then on all fours. Sit, twist, bend. That’s all she had to remember. Her fingers slowly slid across the cover as she sought him out. She was getting closer, she could sense him, so she began to grope the air. She came into contact with something wet and immediately recoiled.
‘Ow!’ he said. ‘You’ve just poked me in the eye!’
‘Oh, shingles, sorry, are you okay?’ she whispered. ‘Oh God, this isn’t going very well.’ She stood up and fumbled blindly over to the wall and switched on the light. Leonardo was sat absolutely still like an Old Bailey judge on her dressing table – oh no, he’d witnessed the whole shambles.
‘Argh!’ Floyd shouted, covering his eyes. ‘You could’ve warned me you were so ugly.’
Frankie had had enough. ‘Look, the point of this is that you teach me. There doesn’t seem to be much of that going on. All you do is crack jokes.’
Floyd pulled an offended face then turned his mouth down as he scratched his beard. ‘Do you know something? You’re absolutely right. I’m not being very instructive, am I?’
He thought for a minute while Frankie crossed her arms, waiting for him to take charge. And then an idea came to him. He leapt up, pointed both forefingers at her and announced: ‘By jove, I’ve got it!’
‘Finally!’ she said, irritably tapping her right foot. Because she was approaching the point of throwing in the towel.
‘So the plan is this: you are freaking out about this, maybe we don’t have to actually have the sex? How about we perform these positions with our clothes on – just think of it as a game of Twister.’
Frankie couldn’t believe the relief that overcame her at this apparent solution. She beamed and nodded frantically: what a brilliant approach! It was entirely educational and she didn’t have to strip off.
‘Perfect!’ she said, clapping her hands.
‘Oh. Right. No offence taken,’ Floyd said, looking disappointed.”
Laura Kemp is a journalist who has written for The Guardian, The Daily Mail and The Sun amongst others, she is married with a son in Cardiff, where she pretends to be a domestic revolutionary so she doesn’t have to do the ironing. Laura runs to eat crisps and drink wine, she adores her mates and loves her dog, Lego and sweary cross-stitch.