Jane thinks her new life is good, but cannot see the danger signs.
Book 2I was naturally excited when my seventeenth birthday arrived and after the lesson at the dance school, the older students asked me to a local bar for a celebration drink. I was reluctant at first, but they soon convinced me that it was the thing to do.
I had been in the bar a few times before with a couple of the other girls, but I had only had one or two Babychams. This time things were different and my friends seemed to have the misguided idea of getting me drunk. They were almost successful in their efforts and at the end of the evening, they were laughing at the drunken way in which I was behaving, but one of my girlfriends was not amused and had tried to stop me from drinking too much. She lived near me and knew how my mother treated me and knew that I would be in big trouble when I got home. When we left, the girl took me to her own house first to try to sober me up with cups of coffee and dry toast, but although she had some success I was still a little drunk when the girl took me to my front gate.
It was nearly midnight when I closed the front door and crept across the hall. It seemed as if my mother had been lying in bed waiting for me and she appeared on the landing like a spectre before dashing down the stairs. "And where the hell do you think you've been to till now?" she shouted. My sister heard our mother shouting and she came downstairs to give me a bit of support.
I didn't answer my mother. I just put a hand to my mouth, hiccupped, and then gave a silly laugh.
My stern-faced mother moved close to me and gave a loud exaggerated sniff. "You've been drinking, haven't you?" Not waiting for a reply, she grabbed me by my hair and dragged me across the hall before striking her hand hard across my face. I screamed as the blow seemed to sober me up more than my friend's coffee. My sister ran over, pulling at our mother's arms.
"Leave her alone, Mum, it is her birthday, you know."
"Little harlot, her birthday yes. Just turned seventeen and she comes home drunk like some dirty little tramp. She's a bad influence on you. We should have left her in that home where she belongs. Get her upstairs out of my sight before I break her bloody neck." She turned to look back at me. "Your mother must have known what you'd turn out like. It's no wonder she dumped you in that shop like a piece of rubbish." She stormed off to the kitchen to make herself a cocoa and Gwen took hold of my arm and helped me up to my bedroom.
"She hates me, Gwen, she really hates me and I don't know why."
"I know she picks on you, but she can't hate you. I'm sure she can't, not deep down."
"Well I've had enough, I'm going. When I get my wages on Friday, I'm off."
"Off, where? Where are you gonna go?"
"London, I know a girl who lives in Bromley-by-Bow. She used to work with me at the factory. When she left to live with her boyfriend, she gave me her address and said I could go and stay with her anytime I like."
"But what am I going to do without you. Without you looking after me and stopping the bullies from getting me?"
"The bullies, the bullies won't bother you. You've grown up to be a tough little nut." I smiled at her before reaching across to hug her tightly. "I do love you, Gwen."
"I wish I could go with you. Will you write to me?"
"Write to you. I'll write to you every week. And I'll come to visit. I'll be an adult and she won't be able to touch me anymore." I stood up and went to the window to shut the curtains. "Look, there's a big red moon tonight."
Gwen looked out through the window. "Yeah, red moon. There was a program on the tele' about it last night. Some of those UFO weirdos were saying that the moon turns red when the monsters from Mars are lining up a ray gun to blow up the planet."
"Nothing to do with the glare from the sun then?"
"I don't know, do I? But the weirdos haven't been seen since."
"Probably gone off looking for the abominable snowman."
"Bit scary though, isn't it?"
"If you say so." I hiccupped again. "I think I'm gonna be sick."
* * * * *
The house was in darkness when I left early on Friday morning and made my way to the bus stop. All the things I thought I would need were neatly packed in my old brown suitcase. I knew I had no chance of being paid before midday, but I wanted to be out of the house before my parents woke up.
I waited in the canteen, most of the time alone and bored, checking the time frequently as the minutes slowly passed. Just before twelve o'clock, I set off to the office to collect my wages. The money was a little more than I had expected. I had a week in hand, but the amount of holiday pay was a welcome bonus. I was pleased with myself, off on an adventure where I would be treated with respect, like an adult, with all my money and time being spent however I chose.
I set off to a nearby transport cafe to meet a lorry driver who worked from the factory. He was booked on a journey to Millwall docks in London and said he would give me a lift to Bow Road, near to where my friend lived.
I sat in the cafe surrounded by workmen and feeling nervous because the men were looking at me as if I had no right to be there. The men looked menacing and their language was crude and vulgar as they spoke to each other. Again, I waited checking the minutes and thinking the lorry driver might not turn up. Perhaps he had forgotten and gone without me. What will I do then? How will I ever find my way to East London on my own? I felt relieved when I saw him at the cafe door and was eager to start my adventure, but he wanted his lunch before he left so I had to wait a bit longer.
When we set off, I had no difficulty climbing into the cab of the Thames Trader and was looking forward to the experience of the journey into London. I was impressed with the way the man handled the lorry thinking how skilled he looked. I wondered if I would ever have the opportunity to drive a lorry, and thought probably not, but I would have loved to have a try. We arrived in East London and I climbed down from the cab. The driver passed my case down, slammed the door, and gave a quick wave before the lorry lumbered off.
I felt apprehensive as I watched the lorry pulling away, but tried to dismiss my doubts. It was too late now anyway. It was my decision and there was no going back now. "Right, let's go then", I muttered to myself. I smiled, thinking what a change it was for me; I had plenty of money, a friend's house to stay at and a life ahead of me devoid of abuse, fear and humiliation. I noticed a crowd of people standing at a bus stop looking at me as if I had just arrived from another planet, and I moved off feeling slightly embarrassed.
* * * * *
I glanced at the page that the lorry driver had torn out of an old street atlas for me and I set off to find Tench Street.
I noticed how everybody seemed to be in a hurry as they made their way home. They seemed unfriendly, there were no smiling faces, and I felt reluctant to ask any of them for directions. I felt isolated and weak as I struggled along the pavement with my suitcase. A huge stoutly built man was standing in the doorway of a derelict shop and I noticed him staring at me.
"Do you want a hand with that," the man said, and he started to walk towards me swaying a little as if he were drunk. His jaw was covered with dark stubble and his teeth looked long and yellow as he smiled at me.
I shook my head and hurried away from him, but he began to follow me. I became frightened and looked behind after every few steps, hoping he would give up. In my haste, I dropped the map page and thought of going back to pick it up, but the man was gaining on me so I left it and hurried on. There was a small cafe amongst a row of shops and I dashed in. The cafe was empty apart from a woman who was busy wiping the counter with a steaming cloth. The woman looked over at me and raised her eyebrows while giving out a false grin.
"We're closing now, girl," the woman said.
"Please, there's a man following me, can I sit in here for a few minutes?" I pleaded to her in an obvious panic.
The man looked in through the window prompting the woman to hurry over to the door. "Oy, what are you doing following this girl about? Get yourself home, Harry, you fat drunken slob, before you get one of my pans over your head."
"Sorry, I was just trying to help. I thought she was lost. There's some funny people about you know." He smiled and walked off.
The woman closed the door and turned the little closed sign on the window. She walked to the counter and poured two cups of tea from a large teapot before sitting down at one of the tables. "There you are, sweetheart, sit down you look like you need a hot drink. I'm Carol, this is my cafe."
I sat opposite the woman, with my smile clearly showing my relief and gratitude. "Oh, how much do I owe you?"
"No, the tea's on me. I'd only throw it down the sink. So what's happened? Have you lost your way?"
"I think I panicked and took a wrong turn when that man was following me. I'm looking for Tench Street; I've a friend who lives there."
"It's just up the road from here. I go past it on my way home. I'll walk up with you, if you like." She looked at my old brown suitcase. "Left home, have you?"
"Yeah, I couldn't get on with my mother."
The woman laughed. "Bloody hell, I know the feeling. I can never get on with my mother either. Have you got a job to go to?"
"No, not yet, I'll start looking tomorrow."
"You can work here, if you like. I could use another pair of hands."
"I can work here." I could hardly believe my luck. Not only have I stumbled on a woman who knows where my friend lives, but within minutes of leaving the truck I have found a job. Leaving home is the best thing that I have done in my life. "That's fantastic, thank you. Oh thank you, thank you, thank you so much."
"Calm down girl, don't wet your drawers, it's only a skivvying job." The woman gave a laugh and took a swig of her tea before losing interest in the drink. "Right then, you can help me to clear up, then I'll change me shoes and we'll walk up to Tench Street. Me and the cook get here at six in the morning, but there's not much of a rush till seven. So as long as you're here by then we'll get along fine."
Carol locked the cafe and we walked up past a parade of shops. The shops all had stalls outside and the stallholders were packing away their goods. Carol was a popular woman and all the men spoke to her as she passed. The men also looked at me , in a friendly manner, but I felt uncomfortable because they seemed to be taking more interest in my body than in my face. We left the shops behind and I listened to the clip clop of Carol's stiletto heels on the paving stones as she took short but fast steps. Her chest seemed to bounce in the same rhythm as her footsteps and I thought Carol had enormous breasts for such a short woman. Her hair was bleached and backcombed beehive style with a large comb in the back and I noticed how her hair also bounced in the same rhythm.
We said our goodbyes at the corner of Tench Street and I walked along until I came to my friend's three storey terraced house. The knocker had been removed and had been replaced by a doorbell. I pushed on the button and was surprised when a scruffy middle-aged man opened the door. "Hello," I said as I looked at the man, thinking that perhaps I was at the wrong house.
"Are those yobs at my lorry again?" The man rushed out to the pavement and checked across the road to his lorry. "Huh, what, did you scare them off?"
"The yobs, the thieving yobs, raiding my lorry."
"I haven't seen anybody."
"Well what the hell do you want then? Ringing my doorbell."
"I'm looking for a friend of mine, Rose. Does she live here?"
"Rose lives at flat two; you ring the bloody bell twice. I live at flat one and I've got better things to do than to open the door for other people. Anyway, if you are staying here, you let me know if you see anyone near my lorry, there's a nice bunch of bananas in it for you."
"Oh, well, thanks then. But is Rose in?"
The man pressed the bell twice and walked off down the passage muttering to himself. "If I catch the sods I'll break their bloody necks I can tell you."
Rose appeared at the landing and when she saw who it was, she rushed down the stairs to greet me. We went up to the flat and sat in the living room chatting for a while. Rose had just made some coffee when her boyfriend Kevin walked in with a carrier bag of fish and chips.
I looked at him, stared almost, thinking that he was the most handsome young man that I had ever seen in my life. What a lucky girl Rose is. Not only did she have her own place, but she also shared it with a man who looked as if he had just stepped out of a Hollywood film.
He smiled at me as he put the bag on the table in front of Rose. "And who's this pretty young thing?" he said. "Not the Tupperware lady I'll bet."
I smiled back at him, but then looked away knowing that my face had bloomed.
Rose stood up to go and fetch the plates and cutlery. "This is Jane, she's a mate of mine from home," she said as she walked to the kitchen area. "Looking for somewhere to stay so I gave her the box room. That's all right, isn't it?"
"Course it is." He looked at me again and lowered his voice. "As long as you don't walk about the flat topless and wearing skimpy knickers all the time." He grinned widely at me as he held his hands up. "I'm only joking, you can if you like."
Rose put the plates on the table. "Can what if she likes?"
"Share our fish and chips."
"Yeah, all right. Was he being rude, Jane?"
"No, no I don't think so," I said. "He just said… Well, no, we weren't being rude."
Rose grinned at my flushed face and my obvious nervous manner. "Um. Take no notice of him, he's harmless, but if he does ever try it on, just let me know and I'll cut his dick off." She held a knife up. "Anyone want a chipolata with their chips." Rose laughed as she started dividing the two meals into three.
"Ouch, that's made my eyes water," Kevin said.
I went into a bout of uncontrollable laughter. "I'm sorry," I said. "I'm so sorry," and then I began laughing again.
"That's all right, sweetness," he said. "We're all a bit mad in here, but you'll be quite safe with me; this sex-mad nymph is more than enough for any man."
"Yeah, well when I find a man I'll let you know if that's true or not."
I enjoyed the continuing banter between my hosts. The humorous and sometimes lewd comments between the pair kept me laughing between mouthfuls of food, as if they were using me as an audience for some kind of act.
After a coffee and a quick rinse under the cold tap, Kevin picked up his jacket and walked back to the table. "I'll have to leave the dishes tonight, got a date with a publican." He gave a sideways glance at me. "Don't wait up for me, sweetness." He grabbed Rose as she stood up and gave her a long passionate kiss. I felt awkward with the two of them engaged in an amorous kissing session in front of me. I thought it best to take no notice and I stood up and gathered up the dinner dishes for washing. As I walked off the couple's lust seemed to fizzle out. "You can wait up for me though my love," he said.
"Yeah I will, but if you're not in by half eleven forget it, the shop will be shut." I gave a laugh while I stood at the sink, thinking how lucky I was to live with such a happy and humorous, loving couple.
Kevin went out for his Friday night drink with the man from the third floor flat. I helped Rose with the dishes and then Rose showed me around the house. The flat had a small kitchen, plus a medium and a small bedroom leading off from the living room. The small bedroom was to be my domain and although it was drab and less than half the size of my bedroom at home, I was pleased with it as a sign of my independence. There was a mattress on the floor and boxes of Rose's clothes and other effects. We stacked the boxes in the corner and put some sheets and blankets on the mattress.
"There's no room for any furniture," Rose said. "But you can hang your stuff from the picture rail."
I looked up at the rail running around three of the walls. It was obvious the third wall was a partition that was built across the main bedroom at some time, partitioning it off to make a two bedroom flat. Rose took me down to the ground floor to show me the bathroom. It surprised me that all three flats had to share the same bathroom, though Rose said there was another toilet out in the back yard. We returned to the flat, Rose made some cocoa and we sat talking for a while. I had always liked Rose's company and enjoyed reminiscing about our fun times together at the factory, but it had been a long day and I was pleased when Rose said she was ready for her bed.
I curled myself up on the mattress. It felt strange to be lying on the floor, but I felt cosy and content. I felt that I was an adult in control of my life and I could do whatever I pleased with it and no one would be there to chastise me. I heard Kevin and his friend closing the street door when they came into the house. I listened to the footsteps coming up the stairs and their brief goodbye before Kevin unlocked the Yale and walked into the flat. There were now two separate sets of footsteps, one heading across the living room to the main bedroom, and the other heading upstairs to the flat above. I could hear Kevin talking to Rose for a while and then silence until I heard the bed squeaking. I realised what they were doing and tried not to listen, but somehow it seemed to fascinate me. The partition was thin and I could hear every sound.
However, I soon became uneasy because Rose and Kevin were wild and noisy lovers. I became frightened; I had never heard such sounds before and thought that perhaps he was hurting her. I pulled the covers over my head in an attempt to hide the noise, but I could still hear them and was beginning to worry about my own safety. The noises from Rose seemed to get worse, screams almost, and then Kevin began groaning like a swaggering drunk trying to stop himself from falling over. As I pushed the tips of my thumbs against my ears, the noises abruptly stopped. The sudden silence frightened me as much as the noises had and I looked out from the covers wondering if Rose was all right, worried in case he had hurt her, perhaps he had killed her. I heard someone leave the bedroom. I looked at the door fearing that now he had finished with Rose he might want to come into my room and attack me as well. There was no lock on the door and I felt vulnerable and afraid as I realised that he could just walk in at any time.
Rose began to joke with her man while she made them a hot drink and began laughing as she made her way back to the bedroom. I felt relieved when I heard her voice and quietly laughed at my own foolishness. However, although I was tired I found it difficult to get to sleep because I could still hear them talking. I just lay there listening to them, feeling shocked, embarrassed, and excited that I had just clearly heard a young couple making love.
Six o'clock the next morning and Kevin woke me by pushing on my shoulder. I was startled embarrassed at the sight of a man in my bedroom. He laughed at the look on my face as I pulled the blanket over my exposed shoulder.
"Blow me, sweetness, you take some waking," he said. "We've been shouting you for ages. You look lovely when you're sleeping though, lying there like a fresh young flower, a really pretty sight." I smiled at his compliment as he left the room. Despite the initial shock I would be happy for him to wake me with words like that every morning. I lay thinking how nice it was to have a handsome young man wake me up in my new surroundings, here in London, with the man and one of my best friends as flatmates. I didn't miss my parents at all and certainly didn't miss my sour-faced mother moaning at me every morning. I thought of Gwen; even after such a short time, I missed my sister and thought on how my sister must be missing me. I got up from the mattress and put on my dressing gown disappointed to hear Kevin already leaving the flat. Rose was in the kitchen making a coffee when I walked in to join her.
"Hello, love, did you have a good sleep?" Rose asked. "We didn't keep you awake did we?" Rose looked at me and grinned.
"No," I said. "I went straight to sleep as soon as my head hit the pillow."
"Good, only Fridays are a bit special, it's pay day, if you know what I mean." I laughed as Rose put a hand behind her neck and thrust her hips a couple of times.
The men were setting up the stalls as I made my way towards the cafe and it surprised me how they all remembered me and greeted me as I passed. As I walked into the cafe a group of young building workers who were just about to leave, suddenly changed their mind and ordered more tea. I noticed everybody looking at me and although it made me nervous, it also made me feel good and a little bit vain. Carol smiled, perhaps thinking that a good-looking young girl like me was sure to boost her trade.
The group of building workers had made themselves late by chatting with me, with each of them trying to arrange a date with me, but none of them achieving any success. It was a friendly place and most of the patrons seemed to be regulars. Carol revelled in introducing me to them all as her new helper. The cook was a pleasant enough fellow, but I was not happy by the way that he looked at me, as if he were undressing me in his mind.
I enjoyed the work in the café, but during the day my thoughts often wandered to the previous night. The sounds of wild lovemaking; they were actually doing it, actually having sex, and I could hear every sound as if I were in the room with them. I hoped Kevin wouldn't mention it; if he knew that I had been listening I would die. Maybe it only happened once a week, on Fridays; so I wouldn't have to listen to their passionate lovemaking for a whole week and I could sleep easily. Roll on Friday. The rude thought just seemed to flash across my mind and I gave out a short laugh.
Carol looked over at me. "That's what I like to see in the café, a happy girl; you can't buy that."
Towards the end of the day, I was becoming tired and was looking forward to going back to the flat for a rest. My legs were aching due to the amount of time that I had been on my feet even though I had taken plenty of breaks.
I got back to the flat wearied from my first day. "Do you want to get into the bath before the rush starts?" Rose said. Although I agreed, I would have preferred to have a lie down on my mattress for a while. I took my bag to the bathroom, but the door was locked and I stood waiting outside. The man from the ground floor flat walked out to the sound of the powerful cast iron cistern flushing the toilet. He was wearing a dirty vest and creased trousers; a half-smoked hand rolled cigarette hung from his mouth. He smiled at me as he passed and I politely smiled back. I went inside and felt nauseated by the man's use of the toilet mixed with the strong smell of tobacco smoke. There was a can of air freshener on the windowsill and I sprayed it liberally all around the room, but then felt guilty about using so much. I had been looking forward to a relaxing soak, but I had only been in the bath a few seconds when I noticed the door handle moving.
"Hurry up in there girl," the man shouted loudly. "I've got the runs; I need to use the toilet again."
I froze in panic, looking at the slide bolt, hoping that it would hold, and glancing at the handle when the man turned it. I was just about to get out of the bath and dry myself when I heard Rose shout from the landing.
"Oy, don't take bloody liberties, you can use the one out in the yard."
I felt grateful to my friend as I heard the man grumbling as he walked off to the back door.
I was relaxing after washing myself, lying back in the warm water, my eyes closed as I drifted in and out of a light sleep. I sat up quickly when I heard the front door slam and a few seconds later I heard Kevin call out to Rose as he made his way up the stairs. I was soon dressed and I hurried up the stairs to the flat.
"Hello, sweetness," he said as I walked in.
I smiled, loving the way he often called me sweetness. I suddenly felt embarrassed, because I thought I didn't look my best with a towel wrapped around my head. "Do you want to come out with us tonight? We're going up to The Guildford; it's a right good night in there on a Saturday."
"A good night out, I'd love it," I said, pleased to be invited to join them. My life felt so different now, as if everyone treated me as an equal and an adult woman.
I helped Rose with the dinner and the three of us sat at the table to eat the thick Walls sausages, peas, mashed potato and HP sauce. I felt relaxed, no sour-faced looks, no friction, and I could pour as much HP sauce on my dinner as I liked. I volunteered to wash the dishes and clear up so that Rose could take a bath. The work was soon done and I sat chatting with Kevin about my day in the cafe. Rose returned from the bathroom in her dressing gown and walked across to her bedroom to get dressed. I thought I had better start getting ready myself and was about to go into my room when Rose called me. I walked into the main bedroom and Rose closed the door behind me. "What are you wearing tonight, Jane?"
"I thought I'd wear my trouser suit."
"No, it's Saturday night, you can borrow one of my dresses if you want." Rose went to her wardrobe and took out a red velvet dress. "Wear this, it's really sexy."
"Sexy! I think it's a bit low, Rose. I'll be showing all I've got."
"And why not? You look about the same bra size as me; you can borrow my red bra. Them things you've got would look silly with that dress. I used to wear bras like that when I was at school. Have you got any stockings?"
"Stockings, my mum doesn't let... I don't wear stockings."
"You do now girl." She laid the dress onto the bed along with the bra and a suspender belt. She reached up and took a box from the top of the wardrobe; it was full with packs of black fishnet stockings. "Fell off a lorry," she said. She threw a pack onto the bed and then went back to her dressing table and pulled out a pair of red silk knickers. "You might as well wear my matching knickers as well."
"I can't wear them."
"Why not, they're clean?"
"I know, but there's nothing of them."
"You'll have to stop dressing down, you're not a schoolgirl, you're a young woman. Come on get yourself changed into that lot." Rose took off her dressing gown and walked back to her dressing table naked.
I sat feeling shocked, more than embarrassed, more than surprised. I didn't know how to react. Should I leave the room, should I pretend not to notice, should I say something, should I turn my back and start getting ready myself. I did nothing, I just stood looking at the woman's nakedness and then I looked away before glancing back again.
Rose took a pair of briefs from the drawer. She turned and stepped into the briefs and pulled them up in full view of me. She laughed when she noticed the embarrassed and uncomfortable look on my face. "What's up, love, haven't you seen a grown woman's tits before?"
I looked down at the bed trying to avoid Rose's eyes. "Well, not really, no."
Rose laughed again. "Come on, Jane, get changed. Kevin will be wanting to get ready soon." She looked at me as I started to gather up my clothes. "What are you doing?"
"I was just going to pop into my room to get changed."
"Don't be silly. You can get changed in here, and then I'll do your hair and make-up for you."
I was unsure what to say. I didn't like the idea, but I didn't want to offend Rose.
"Come on hurry up, you don't want to be in the nude if Kevin walks in do you?"
I gave a false smile and started to undress, but I was struggling to get changed without appearing fully naked in front of Rose and I kept looking over at the door, just in case Kevin walked in.
"I've never known a girl as bashful as you. I'll look the other way if it helps, just get a move on." I dressed hurriedly while Rose turned away. "I bet you're still a virgin, aren't you?"
"Virgin, I'm not a virgin," I lied. "I've made love lots of times."
"What kind of sex manual talk is that, made love indeed? You wait till you've been here a few weeks, I'll educate you." Rose did my hair and make-up in a manner that was alien to me. I didn't want to appear ungrateful and said I was pleased with the way I looked, although I felt I looked a bit like a tart.
"Blow me, sweetness, you look a dream," Kevin remarked as we walked back into the living room. "Rose, do you fancy stopping at home tonight?"
"Kevin, do you fancy a kick in the balls?" she replied, her remark causing laughter from the three of us.
There was a knock on the door and Ray, the man from the upstairs flat, walked in and he looked at me as if I were the first prize he had won in a raffle.
I smiled at him realising the four of us were going out, but I was a bit peeved that no one had asked me if I minded making up a foursome. Nevertheless, I liked the look of Ray. He was a lot older than the boys I had dated at home. He wore a crisp dark blue suit, a white shirt, and a thin blue knitted tie with a gold tiepin. His short hair was greased with a precisely prepared D.A. style. I thought that he was a good-looking young man, but I thought him nowhere near as handsome as Kevin.
It was not far to The Guildford Arms public house and we were soon walking into the saloon bar. "Cor it's packed tonight," Rose said, hurrying over to the last vacant table. The two men walked to the bar to get the drinks leaving me standing alone and not sure which way to go. I walked to the table to join Rose. "Have you told them what you want?" Rose said.
I walked back across to the bar feeling a little embarrassed, but also thrilled, by the way every man in the place looked at me as I passed by. I stood behind Kevin and was amazed that he seemed to know most of the people in the bar. I liked the friendly atmosphere in the place, but felt silly standing isolated and I tapped Kevin on his shoulder. Kevin looked round and smiled at me, sending my heart in a slight flutter.
"What are you having then," he said.
"What's Rose having."
"She drinks port and lemon," Kevin said.
"But you can have something stronger, if you like," Ray said.
"No, port and lemonade is fine." I would have preferred my usual Babycham, but I thought it more adult to drink what Rose was drinking. Kevin and Ray were talking with a group of men at the bar and I felt out of place as I stood quietly behind them again. I was relieved when Kevin turned around with our drinks.
"Can you take these over," he said. "We'll be over in a minute."
I walked back to the table aware of the attention again.
"You look a bit flushed," Rose said.
"I'm a bit nervous. Everyone seems to be gawping at me."
"That's because you look like sex-on-legs."
That was just what I didn't want to hear. "I knew it. I knew I shouldn't have worn this dress. They all think I'm a tart, don't they?"
Rose laughed. "Don't be silly, you don't look like a tart, you look gorgeous. I was only having a joke. We are all regulars in here and people are looking at you because you are a stranger, that's all."
I was not convinced, but I gave a smile anyway. There was a pianist, a guitarist and a drummer on the small stage and Kevin and Ray walked over to the table when the group began playing. The evening went well and there was cheering as Rose and Kevin won some chocolates in the twist competition. I felt proud to be in their company, but I decided not to show off my own dancing skills, not just yet anyway. I was also enjoying the attention that Ray was showing towards me; he was behaving like the perfect gentleman and making me feel like an attractive woman instead of a young girl.
I was feeling slightly tipsy when we returned to the flat and although I sat with my friends for a while, the alcohol had made me tired and I decided to go to bed. Ray followed me into my room, but I shoved him back out causing a lot of laughter from Rose and Kevin. I curled up on my mattress, like a squirrel safe and warm in its drey, unaware of the predator lurking in the tree. The predator knew I was there, knew I was vulnerable and would surely harm me if given the opportunity.