Jane is attacked and runs for home.
Sunday passed uneventfully. Ray went to visit his parents and Rose told me that Kevin's Sundays always followed the same pattern; lie in, pub with the boys, dinner, afternoon nap, pub with the boys again, and then to bed drunk with little chance of any amorous adventures. We had most of the day to ourselves and most of the evening at the Bingo Hall.
After the breakfast rush at the café on Monday morning, Carol opened her purse and took out half a crown. "Can you pop down to Barton's, Jane, and get another two dozen rolls." I took the money, but my eyes were on an old worn photograph of a baby girl in the pocket of Carol's purse. Carol saw me looking and turned her purse so I could get a better look. "Pretty, isn't she?"
"Very pretty." I smiled. "Is she your daughter?"
"No, that's my baby sister. She was a lovely kid."
"Was!" I said.
"She died. I was playing with her before I went to school, but when I came home she wasn't there. It was so sudden, she had been rushed to hospital and died. It was the worst day of my life. I cried for weeks."
"I'm sorry, Carol, me and my big mouth."
"It's all right, love. It was a long time ago." Carol closed her purse. "No, I've no children. I had a miscarriage eight years ago now. The father was actually pleased. We were about to be married and it sort of, well, gave him his freedom back I suppose. Works both ways though. When I found out what a selfish, uncaring bugger he was, I lost interest in him as well. Never bothered to get serious again and all my relationships now are strictly casual. I've got my cafe, that's my baby. Well, that's enough of my waffling. You'd better get off to the bakers before the rush starts again.
* * * * *
"Have you still got them four stink bombs, Terry?" Brian asked.
"No, only two left." I said. The two of us had been friends for as long as I could remember, and wherever one of us was seen the other was sure to be not far away. We knew the streets in our area of the East End well, and although we were often getting into mischief, we prided ourselves in the fact that we always managed to evade capture from anyone that pursued us.
"Only two left eh!" Brian said. "Well, Carol had a go at me last week for leaning on her window. Let's go and leave her one in the cafe. On the way we can look down Tench Street; see if that lorry is parked there."
We were soon at Tench Street and pleased to see the lorry parked in its usual place.
"I hope it's not bananas again. We've still got four bunches dossed up over at the bottle washers." I kept look out while Brian went to the rear of the lorry and forced up the tarpaulin sheet. "Oranges, it's full of oranges. Bloody big ones an'all." There was a large crack as he snapped one of the wooden crates. We did up our jackets, tucked them in our jeans and then filled them with Jaffa's before casually walking off.
"We'd best doss these at the bottle washers as well," I said. "My ole man will have a fit if I go home with a dozen oranges in me coat."
We soon arrived at the bottle washers, climbed over the wall and made our way through some bushes to an old disused railway toilet block and climbed into our hideout in the roof space. Brian looked at his watch. "The men will be at dinner over at the pub. We might as well have a quick look an' see if we can find some lemonade bottles." Occasionally we would find some deposit bottles amongst the wine bottles, but they were rare and usually kept inside the building. We walked from the bushes into the yard eating bananas and searched about for a while. "They're all crap," Brian said.
I spotted a wooden crate by the building and dashed over to it. "Tizer bottles, a dozen Tizer bottles," I shouted. We took the crate to the wall and I passed it down to Brian and we set of to the corner off-licence near to where I lived. There was a loud single ring as we opened the off-licence door and we walked in and put the crate on the counter.
The man walked from the back room and looked at the crate of bottles, but he knew us well and showed no sign of surprise. "Hello boys, been over the wall again?"
"No, we like Tizer, don't we Tel,"
"Yeah, we drink it all the time and we've been saving up all the bottles."
The man laughed, but gave us the deposit money and we left with a jingle of change in our pockets.
"Let's go and sort Carol out then," Brian said.
"Nah, she's all right Carol."
"Well she didn't have a go at you did she. Give us the stink bombs if you don't want to do it." I shook my head, but handed over the bombs and we headed for Carol's Cafe.
As we got near we noticed an attractive girl leaving the cafe. "Blimey, she's not from around here." Brian said. "Wonder what she's doing in the cafe, it's only for workmen."
"Never mind about that," I said. "Look at the Bristol's on her. I wouldn't mind tittin' her up."
"Gis a bit," Brian said, as we walked past her.
"A bit. A bit of what?" she replied.
We laughed as we walked off leaving her to wonder what we were talking about.
"She was bloody beautiful," I said. "I wouldn't mind going with a girl like her." I turned to look at her as she walked off. "And just look at them legs."
"Leave off, Terry, you wouldn't know what to do with her."
"And you would I suppose."
"Yeah, if you remember right, I took Janice round the back of Bromley Hall last Thursday."
"Yeah, so what happened then?"
"We had a bit of a snog and I titted her up."
"You titted her up," I said. "She let you?"
"Yeah, I always tit 'em up. Don't you?"
"Course I do, most of the time. So when are you going to see her again?"
"I'll probably go round her house next week, and we'll go to bed and do it."
"You've done it before then?"
"Course I have. Loads of times."
"What's it like then, what do you do?"
"Well, if you don't know, then it's not for me to tell you. You'll have to find out for yourself."
"I will," I said. "And probably before you, you bullshitter. But it won't be with a tart like Janice, it'll be with someone like that girl who just left the cafe. A bit of class."
"You can dream, Terry, do you really think she'll go out with a school boy? Come on let's go in the cafe. You order an orange and when she turns to get it I drop the bomb and crush it and then we'll have to leg it on the quick or she'll clout us."
"Where shall we go after then?"
"We'll go down Three Mill Lane. See what's in the barges."
* * * * *
Saturday night soon came around again and my three companions and I arrived once more at The Guildford Arms. Ray had been a regular caller at Rose's flat since his date with me and we had become close and friendly towards each other. He was a good dancer and he jived with me in the area in front of the band, with continual smiles beaming across both our faces. I was more settled and at ease than I had been the previous week and I put a lot more effort into my dancing, surprising my friends that I could dance so well. The crowd had cleared the floor for our dance and I felt joyful and proud as everyone in the bar clapped when we left the floor. Kevin had bought the drinks and an unfamiliar drink was on the table waiting for me. "What's that?" I said. "I wanted a port and lemon."
"We've all gone onto spirits," Kevin said. "Rose said you liked Babycham, so we got you a Brandy and Babycham."
"Brandy and Babycham!" I looked at Rose's glass. "What's that then?"
"Rum and blackcurrant," Rose said. "Would you rather have one of these?"
I pulled a face and shook my head. I sat down, picked up my glass and took a mouthful of the potent drink, causing me to wince and screw my face.
A middle-aged couple got on the stage to sing, "Who's Sorry Now." I am a fan of Connie Francis and it was one of my favourite songs. I persuaded my three friends to get up and have a dance.
The small dance floor was crowded for the slow dance, but we managed to squeeze in and I laid my head on Ray's shoulder with my arms resting around his neck. I could feel his arms around my back and I felt comfortable with him at first, but after a while his hands slipped down to my bottom. I moved his hands back up, but he laughed before sliding them back down again, gripping hold of me and gyrating his pelvis against me. I felt my dress riding up and pulled his hands off me before pushing him away. I walked back to our table with Ray following not far behind me and I sat at the table giving him a hostile stare.
"Jane, I'm so sorry. It was just meant to be a bit of fun, a laugh. I never dreamed you would take it the wrong way."
"So what was the right way then?" I said, still not smiling.
"Like I said, I was only fooling. I just forgot you were so young and thought you were high-spirited like us, but I know now that I was wrong to assume that." He smiled at me. "Are we still friends?"
I returned his smile and accepted his apology, feeling as if I had maybe acted a bit immature. "Of course we are. I'm just not used to that sort of thing on the dance floor."
"It won't happen again. Come on, let's have another dance, best behaviour."
"No, I honestly don't want to dance. To tell the truth I'm a bit tired and I could do with a sit down."
"Okay, if you're sure there's no offence, like I said…"
"There's no problem, I'm just tired." I smiled at him again and despite feeling that I might have overreacted, I was slightly distressed by the incident and didn't want another dance with him.
We had a few more drinks before the last bell sounded. I looked at my watch thinking it was time to go and I was surprised when the landlord bolted the doors allowing us to continue drinking after time. Another hour passed and I was becoming drunk. I stood up to have a dance with Kevin and felt as if the bar was swaying a little. I felt giddy, but it was a slow dance and Kevin held onto me. My mind began to wander and I began thinking of things I would never usually dream of. I thought of the noises from Rose and Kevin's bedroom and tried to picture what they were doing. I knew that I had strong feelings towards Kevin. I liked him a lot and wondered how it would feel to be the one making love with him. I suddenly felt as if I were too close to him, and as if my breasts were pressing into his chest. I looked over to Rose worried in case she was jealous, but Rose and Ray were looking back at me and laughing about something, so I thought it must be all right. I grinned and waved across to them and was puzzled that it seemed to make them laugh even more.
The dance finished and Kevin helped me as I staggered back to my seat. It was well after midnight when we left the bar. I was not used to heavy drinking and I could feel myself swaying as I walked out into the fresh night air. Kevin grabbed my arm because I was about to fall over and I collapsed into his arms. Rose was laughing as the two men held my arms over their shoulders and began helping me along the pavement.
We got home and the two men struggled to get me up the stairs and I remember laughing a lot at their efforts. They took me into my room and laid me down on the mattress I was feeling sick and the room seemed to be swaying. I felt very dozy but could hear my friends talking. I heard Kevin. "Blow me, she's out cold," he said.
"You'll have to help me to get her out of my dress, Kevin. If she sleeps in it, it'll be ruined by the morning."
"Oh no, that's all I need on a Saturday night, undressing a pretty young girl."
I wanted to protest but all I could raise was an undecipherable grumble before falling back into a deep sleep.
I woke with someone on top of me. There was pain between my legs and Ray was forcing rough kisses on me. My drunkenness was dissipated by terror. I screamed out for Rose, before Ray covered my mouth with his hand. He was hurting me, I pulled his hand away and pleaded with him to stop but he continued until he had satisfied himself.
* * * * *
After the attack, Ray tried to talk to me, but I wouldn't answer him. I just lay curled up with tears running down my face, remaining silent and still, afraid that if I moved or made a sound he might attack me again. It seemed like forever before he got up and left, but still I didn't move until I heard him moving about in the flat upstairs.
I put on my dressing gown and went into the living room. I looked towards Rose and Kevin's door as I heard them noisily having sex like a couple on banshees. I made my way down to the bathroom. I started to run the bath and took off my gown, but I dropped onto my knees with my head over the toilet and was violently sick into the pan, continuing to retch long after I had emptied my stomach.
I got into the bath and began scrubbing myself repeatedly, but though I had scrubbed myself thoroughly I couldn't lose the smell of Ray's sweaty body odour mixed with his aftershave and it seemed to linger in my nostrils as if he were in the room with me.
I put on my gown and walked over to the bathroom door, but stopped as I took hold of the handle. I thought I heard a noise out in the hall and stood for a while listening, but all was silent. I slowly opened the door and it seemed to creak more than usual. I was feeling frightened and vulnerable and before I stepped out of the bathroom I looked about in the shadows for any sign of movement, ready to dash back into the bathroom and bolt the door. My movements were slow as I made my way to the foot of the stairs. A sudden creak came from one of the downstairs rooms. I panicked and began to dash up the stairs thinking that Ray had been waiting down there, waiting for me, wanting to violate me again. My heart was pounding as I continued up the stairs believing that someone was behind me, but I was too terrified to turn and look. I ran across the landing and into the flat hastily bolting the door behind me before hurrying to my bedroom.
I dropped the bed sheets into the washing basket and then got dressed before lying on the mattress and pulling one of the blankets over myself. Tears formed in my eyes again and trickled slowly down my face as I laid waiting for sleep to come and relieve my fear and distress, but sleep didn't come easy for me.
* * * * *
I woke up just before midday and looked at my watch. I had never slept this late even on the mornings after the Saturday night dances back home. Even so, it took a bit of effort to get up from the mattress. I felt the need to tidy myself up before I left the room, but the pains in my groin, my stomach, and my head, hampered me as I struggled to walk over to the small mirror on the windowsill. I was startled by my reflection, looking dishevelled, ghoul-like almost. I did my best with my brush and a few tissues to freshen myself before heading for the door.
Rose was sitting at the table drinking coffee and she looked over and grinned at me as I walked unsteadily from my room. "Cor you look a mess, Jane. You and Ray must have had a right good ole session last night; you were making more noise than me and Kev."
"How could you bloody well let him do that to me?" I shouted. "How could you, Rose?" Tears trickled down my face as I spoke, as much from my frustrated anger as from my distress.
"Oh don't cry, love." Rose stood up and tried to put her arms around me, but I pushed her away. "Come on now, Jane, this is the sixties not the twenties. You're eighteen years old. You've got to live a bit. Anyway, I thought you liked Ray."
"I'm not eighteen, Rose," I shouted. "And whether I like him or not he had no right to do that, no bloody right at all. Why did you let him, Rose? Why?"
"I'm sorry, Jane, I thought you two were right for each other. Look, do yourself a coffee and I'll go up to the pub and fetch the boys back. We'll get a few bottles and have a good ole sort out."
"I don't want to see him, Rose."
"Don't be silly, he's a nice bloke and he's got a lovely pad upstairs going to waste. If you move upstairs with him things'll be great. You'll be set up."
"Set up, set up with him. Rose, are you mad. I don't ever want to see that monster again."
"Look, love, just have a think about it. I was talking to Ray in the pub and he really likes you." Rose picked her coat up from the back of a chair. "I won't be long and then we'll all get together and sort it out."
I stood watching Rose leave and felt appalled that my friend thought it such a trivial matter. I remained quiet and still for a few moments, gazing blankly across the room until I heard the front door bang shut. I wanted to freshen up, but I had no wish to go down to the bathroom. There was no more hot water in the kettle and I didn't want to wait for the kettle to boil again. I wanted to be out of the house before the others returned. I quickly washed my face from the cold-water tap before stuffing my things into my case and hurrying from the flat.
I rushed up the road to the cafe, knowing that Carol would be there. Sunday was her odd job day and she had told me that she always spent it cleaning and maintaining the cafe. I had offered to help her, but Carol told me that the cook would usually call in to give her a hand and I was not fond of the cook.
Carol lived with her mother not far from the cafe. She had told me they had a spare room that I could move into if I had any problems. I dearly wished I had taken up the offer earlier. Although Carol was a lot older than me, I thought that we seemed to get on well and Carol was now the only friend that I had in the world. I knew there was something special about Carol. I had only been there for just over a week, but there was closeness between us that I couldn't quite explain.
The closed sign was on the window, but I saw Carol's coat on the hook and could hear the radio playing. I opened the door and walked in, putting my case on one of the tables. There were noises coming from the kitchen and I walked through, unprepared for the sight that confronted me. Carol was leaning against the wall engaged in sexual intercourse with the cook. I stood and stared as if frozen to the spot with my eyebrows raised and my mouth open.
The cook looked at me and grinned, but looked away and carried on as if he were further excited by my appearance.
Carol reacted differently when she noticed me at the kitchen door and she yelled angrily at me, "get out, get out," and shoved the cook away while adjusting her clothing.
I turned and ran back through the cafe grabbing my case as I went past the table. My case was banging on my legs as I struggled to run along the pavement. What the hell is wrong with these people? All I wanted now was to be back home with my family and friends. I began to regret leaving home and longed to be back in the comfort and relative safety of my own room. I hurried along to the Underground station and caught a train to Victoria and then a coach to Bedford and home.
I walked up to my house and stood at the door hoping that it wouldn't be my mother that answered the doorbell, but it was. To my surprise, my mother showed signs of obvious relief and she threw her arms around me as she welcomed me back home. My family made a fuss of me, but within days, the relief of my safe return was replaced by resentment that I had sneaked off and left home in the first place. My father returned to being indifferent and my mother to being hostile.
The weeks flowed past and although I was showing all the signs, it still took a while for me to admit it to myself that I was pregnant. I received confirmation from my doctor, but I was frightened to tell my mother and kept the worry and despair to my self for a few more weeks. I was waiting for my mother to be in one of her better moods before telling her, hoping she would help and support me, but fearing she may not.
"Your dad's thinking about getting a car. That lot at number twelve have got two cars now. Goodness knows why they want two cars. Just bloody showing off."
"He'll have to apply for his test then?"
"He used to drive during the war. Thinks he still can claim a licence from the army."
"That'll be great. We can all go for days out."
"Yes, to the seaside. We haven't had a family trip to the seaside for ages, have we?"
"Maybe Dad will win me another teddy bear, like he did before."
"That was years ago. Surprised that you can remember that far back."
"Well I still have the teddy, don't I? So that keeps reminding me."
She gave me one of her few affectionate smiles. "We did have some good times then."
I returned the smile. This seemed as good a time as I would get. "Mum, I need to talk to you. I know you'll probably be angry, but if you hear me out, you'll see it wasn't really my fault." The smile had already left my mother's face. I looked at her and found it hard to continue, wishing I had kept quiet.
"Well come on then, girl, out with it."
"I've been to see Doctor McKay. Mum, I'm pregnant, but..."
"What! Oh no, I don't believe it. How the hell could you do this to us?"
"Mum, I was..."
"Save it, I don't want to hear all the filthy details thank you very much. What's the neighbours going to say, have you thought of that?" My mother's face was scarlet with rage and the veins in her neck were pulsating with blood.
"Mum, please, please let me explain."
"Shut up, shut up," she screamed. She made a fist and banged the side of her hand on the table. "I knew it, going off to London with your tail up like a bitch on heat. I knew what you were after. How the hell could you do this after all we've done for you? Get out. Get up to your room and out of my sight you filthy, little trollop."
I became fearful of my mother and thought it best to do as I was told before she started hitting me. I hurried from the room and up the stairs, but my mother followed me screaming more insults and calling me all sorts of unsavoury names. I dropped onto my bed looking up at her, frightened to say anything in my defence and worried that if I did my mother would lose what little control she had and would probably lay into me. However, she kept on with the abuse, getting wilder all the time and then I made the mistake. "Mum, please, will you just listen to me," was all I got out before she started belting the side of my face with the back of her hand. I took three blows before dropping onto my pillow with my arms up, shielding my head from further blows. To my relief she stormed back out of the room and clumped down the stairs.
The matter was rarely mentioned again, as if we never had the conversation. When it was, it always ended the same with me hurrying to the refuge of my bedroom and my mother remaining downstairs, if I were lucky. When my tummy started to show clear signs of my pregnancy, I found myself suddenly packed off to a hostel in Margate. I had very little money and spent most of my time sitting out on a large balcony overlooking the sea. After a while the seagulls began to annoy me. They sometimes seemed to be swooping down and screaming at me. At first I dismissed it, but it began to play on my mind. They would often be there launching a seemingly endless tirade of abuse at me, as if they were servants of my adoptive mother. I knew I was being silly, but I began to take a dislike to the gulls and eventually stopped going onto the balcony.
Early one evening I was sitting in the lounge when I felt the pains as my contractions increased and I knew that my time was close. I used to be terrified at the thought of childbirth, but now I just wanted to get it over. Holding my stomach and with my eyes half closed, I called out for help.
I gave birth to a fine baby boy whom I had to tend, feed, and nurse for six weeks. I felt a bit hostile towards him at first, being Ray's son, but I realised it was not his fault and became close and bonded with the child before he was taken from me leaving me to cry in my loneliness.
I returned home feeling sad and guilty, and not because I'd had a baby, but because I had to give him up and leave without him. My parents seemed to behave as if nothing had happened and they expected me to act the same, and even my sister, though sympathetic, had no idea of the despair that I was feeling. Many nights I cried myself to sleep, thinking of my little boy and wondering where he was and who had adopted him; hoping that he would be loved more than I had been.
I was working back at the factory and I returned home one evening wondering what my mother would pull me up about that night. There was nearly always something, no matter how trivial she had to chastise me about something almost every day.
After my tea, I had a bath and then sat in my dressing gown watching the television for a while, but my mind was troubled with thoughts of my baby and I could find no interest in the television programmes. I went up to my room and turned my transistor radio on low volume and then lay on my bed thinking of my little boy, and wondering when the emptiness I felt would start to ease. My left hand was rubbing my aching breasts while my right hand was resting on my briefs moving gently back and forth, doing nothing more than comforting myself as I slowly started to drift towards sleep. My door was partly open and I was unaware that my mother was looking in at me.
"And what do you think you're doing?"
I was startled and quickly moved my hands and I sat up looking at my mother. "Nothing, I'm just trying to get to sleep."
"Nothing, nothing," she said. "I know exactly what you were doing you filthy bitch. I've had enough of you." She picked up the transistor radio and I feared that she was going to throw it at me, but she threw it on the floor, bursting the casing and scattering the batteries before storming from the room and slamming the door behind her.
I returned from work the following evening hoping that my mother wouldn't mention the previous night. I was thinking of going down to enrol in the dance studio again and thinking it would surely please my parents as I remembered how proud they had been of my achievements there. My mother was busy preparing the dinner when I walked across the kitchen and filled the kettle. "Do you want a drink, Mum?" I asked, but my mother declined.
"I've booked you an interview at the careers office. You've got to be there at two o'clock on Friday."
"What careers office? I already have a job."
"The WRAF, you're going to join the WRAF."
"I don't want to join the air force." I stared at my mother. "Don't you think we should talk about this, Mum?" My mother returned a harsh stare, but she didn't answer. "I'll do my best to please you, Mum. Please give me another chance. Please don't send me away again." In desperation I gave an emotional plea, but it was ignored.
"You're going in the WRAF whether you like it or not. I don't want my Gwen corrupted. I don't want a whore in the same house as my real daughter."
I took a short, but deep breath, as if the remark had winded me. I was devastated and looked at my mother wide-eyed, but she was looking away. I walked up the stairs and sat on my bed for a while, stunned, wondering what I had ever done to make the woman hate me so much. I tried to be strong, I was not a child I was a young woman and had to try to cope, but I was overwhelmed with despair and distress, and wondering what was to become of me.