Gloria's boyfriend' goes too far.
On Friday evening, Gloria got dressed-up ready to set off to meet Simon. She was hesitating, standing in the hall, staring at her new hairstyle in the mirror, and wondering if she had done the right thing. Suddenly the front door opened and Evelyn walked in. She was laughing after messing about with her school friends and gave a wave to them before closing the door. Gloria looked over at her, waiting for the younger girl's reaction.
Evelyn dropped her school bag and raised her eyebrows. "What have you done to your hair?"
"Don't you like it? You don't, do you? It looks stupid on me, doesn't it?" She looked back into the mirror, pressing her hair in by her ears.
"No, it's great. I just can't believe my frumpy sister has gone all trendy that's all." She went across and eased Gloria's hands back down. "Let me get a proper look." She gave a smile. "Wow, you look fabulous."
Gloria felt a huge relief and smiled back. "I went round Bab's house thinking of having it dyed black, but then I saw this impish, bob style in one of her fashion books and I just went for it. I was still going to go for black, but Bab's talked me out of it."
"I should think so as well. It's perfect. Listen, if you want to hang on a little while, I'll have a bath and come into town with you."
"I can't, Eve. If I don't get down there soon Simon will get bored, then he'll start drinking heavy again."
Evelyn looked at her watch. "You're a right optimist, aren't you? He's probably already drunk by now."
"No, he won't do that; he knows I'm serious this time. I told him if he gets drunk again, then that's it. I'm finishing with him."
"Right, well I'll see you later in The Coffee Bar then."
"Oh ye of little faith." Gloria gave a laugh, took a final look in the mirror and set off to catch the bus.
Gloria got on the bus and noticed Brenda, as usual, wearing her leather jacket and ice-blue jeans. She always dressed the same, in hopeful anticipation of being the girl riding on the back of Gordy's motorcycle. Gloria dropped down on the seat next to her. "Where are you off, Brenda? Got a date?"
"I'm just going down to The Coffee Bar to see if Gordy's in."
"Isn't he still going out with that girl from up town?"
"Yeah he is, but he don't like her that much. She won't go in The Coffee Bar, she's too snooty. I don't know who she thinks she is. She only works in the bloody bakery. At least I work in an office and I can type."
Gloria could not understand why such a lovely young girl could have a crush on the town rat, but she knew better than to try to put her off. "I think it's Gordy. He probably tells her she's too good for the place so she doesn't follow him down there."
"Yeah, but I'm glad really, cause when he's in there, he sometimes sits with me. He likes me more than her I know he does. He just goes with her because she lets him go all the way." Brenda went quiet before changing the subject, as if she had embarrassed herself. "I haven't seen you in The Coffee Bar lately. Are you still with that soldier? Is he on leave again?"
"He's just had two weeks leave, but he's going back to the barracks on Monday. And he's another one who doesn't like The Coffee Bar."
"He'd make a good match for Gordy's old tart then."
"Brenda! You can't call her that just because she's going out with Gordy."
"Why not? That's what he calls her."
Gloria gave a short laugh. "Anyway, I don't need you matching my Simon up with other girls thank you."
"So you'll be all lonely again, once he goes back?"
"I suppose so, but thankfully it won't be too long before he gets home again. Anyway, I'm thinking of getting a flat in London. Simon said that there's lots of places to let just across the river. He's got another week's leave in June, so if he can sort a place out for me, I might even go back to London with him and set up home down there." Although Gloria liked the thought and often imagined doing it, she knew that it was just fantasy. She would never leave home to live in sin with Simon, or anybody else, no matter how pleasing it seemed.
"Wow, that's fantastic, and me and Gordy can spend weekends with you."
"Err, yeah, well let me get the place before we make any plans."
"And you might live next door to a pop star or something."
"I don't think there's many pop stars living in Battersea." Gloria ran her hands through her hair, lifting and then flattening it at the back. "What do you think of my new hair style?" Gloria said, feeling disappointed that Brenda had not mentioned it.
"It's dead good. I think I preferred it longer though."
Gloria was further disappointed with the comment, but she shrugged her shoulders and tried to look unconcerned. "Oh, well thanks anyway."
"No, it still looks nice, and I've always liked the colour."
The bus pulled into the terminus and the girls walked into the town centre together before saying their goodbyes and going off on their separate ways.
Gloria arrived at The Nelson Hotel just as two women were entering the saloon bar. They were stout big-breasted women and Gloria thought that their skirts were too short because of the huge mass of their thighs. They were heavily made-up and wore their hair in beehives styles. The women smiled at her and she smiled in return, but as she followed them in, she felt dismayed at the thought that she seemed to be a regular. A regular in The Nelson. As she walked into the bar, she spotted Simon at the far end of the room with a crowd of his friends. He stood out in his army uniform, still looking immaculate, if not slightly drunk. He wore his uniform most of the time when he was on leave and she thought how she always felt good to be seen out with him. He gave her a silly grin, she smiled back as she walked over, but she was annoyed that he had obviously been drinking all afternoon despite his promise to her that he wouldn't.
"What on earth have you done to your hair?" he asked as she sat down next to him. He peered at her, swaying, while leaning forward. "You look like a bloody school kid."
"Why is it that you only pay me compliments, when you're not with your mates?" She asked the question, but didn't bother to wait for a reply. "Anyway, I thought you weren't going to the Rec today?"
"Thought wrong then. Anyhow, I only went for a game of snooker." He stood up and swayed unsteadily for a moment. "Hang on, I'll get you a drink."
Simon walked off to the bar, leaving Gloria sitting with his friends. She felt uncomfortable sitting with the gang of semi-drunk young men, but she felt worse when she saw three girls returning from the toilets and realised that they were in the company. They were not the kind of girls that she would usually spend time with. She knew two of them vaguely, but she had never been friendly with them. The oldest, Sheila, was nineteen. She was an unmarried mother and already had two children, though her mother looked after them most of the time. Lucy was the youngest and like her older friends, she was known to be of loose morals. Gloria liked Lucy the least, knowing that the girl had often made a play for her boyfriend Simon, but Gloria was confident that Simon would never return any interest in someone so common and immature. Despite Lucy's make-up and revealing clothes, she was very much under age for her drinking activities.
Gloria hardly knew the third girl, Rosie, at all, although she thought she had seen her with Gordy once or twice.
The girls smiled politely at Gloria, and to her relief they sat the other side of the boys and began to chat amongst themselves.
"Here's your Babycham, Glor," Simon said, plonking her drink onto the table and spilling some of it in the process.
Gloria smiled at him before taking a sip of her drink, hoping she could coax him away from his friends. "Can we have this drink then take a walk down to The Coffee Bar or something? I'd like us to be on our own so we can have a chat about our future."
"No, we're all right here. Unless you fancy a walk in the park." He gave a laugh. "For a chat."
"I don't think so, not after last time. It was bad enough when you were sober."
Simon stared at Gloria and shook his head. "It's the last chance for you tonight."
"Last chance!" Gloria gave a laugh. "Last chance at what?"
Although the crowd was pretending to take no interest, they were all listening to the conversation, knowing how easily he could turn abusive towards Gloria when he had too much to drink.
"I've been having a good think about our future myself, about our relationship, and how I don't seem to be getting anywhere with you. We've been going together for ages and you won't even let me get your tits out."
That was it. He had started. The sensible thing to do now would be to get up and leave, but as usual she would try to reason with him. However, once he had started, his insults nearly always became too much for her and she would usually end up walking out on him anyway. One of his friends was sitting close by and had a huge grin on his face as he listened to every word. Gloria stared at him for a moment causing the lad to look away like a scolded child. She looked back at Simon. "The drink talking again. Come on, let's go somewhere else. You need to sober up a bit."
"Cheeky bitch. Who the hell do you think you are?" He stood up and shouted across to Rosie. "Oy, Rosie, this is Glorious Gloria, the bible bashing virgin. I've tried my best to rectify the situation, but sod it, I've given up on the goose. Too much like hard work." Some of the crowd laughed, but some of his friends were fond of Gloria and were embarrassed by his remarks. Those that did laugh soon dropped the grins from their faces when Gloria looked at them.
"Come on, Simon, you've had enough. Let's get you home," she said.
"Look, she thinks she's my mum." He leaned over to whisper to her. "I'm serious. If you don't let me have something tonight, then I'll go out the back and have it off with Rosie."
"Why is it that you have to talk so stupid when you've had a drink?"
"Stupid am I? One of us is stupid and I don't think it's me." He turned away and looked over to the girls. "Rosie!" he called again, but this time he walked over to her. Taking hold of her hand, he tried to pull her up out of her seat, but she pulled against him. "Come outside a minute," he said, "I want a word."
She yanked her hand away from him. "Forget it," she said. "Go and play somewhere else. Anyway, Tony's coming to pick me up soon and he won't be too pleased with you trying to chat me up, especially if he's got his mates from the coal yard with him."
"Oh, I'm so scared."
"You'd better be as well."
Simon laughed. "Trained I am. Trained in combat. Coal-jaggers, what are they trained to do? Carrying dirty sacks of coal, that's all."
"Yeah, and thumping piss-head squaddies."
"Sod you anyway; you've had your chance." He turned to Lucy. "What about you, Lucy? We've always had a bit of a thing between us, haven't we?" He had more success with her and managed to pull her to her feet. "Come on, let's go outside?"
"No, Simon, you've got your girlfriend with you."
"Who glorious Gloria? Don't worry about her. She's not my girlfriend anymore, and anyway, I only want to ask you something." He turned and gave an obvious wink to his friends.
The girl glanced over at Gloria, but quickly looked away again. "No, I don't know. I don't want to."
"It's all right, look." He turned to look at Gloria. "Oy, Gloria, you don't mind if I take her outside and give her a good..." He stopped and gave a short laugh before continuing. "A good talking to?"
Gloria was horrified at what was happening. "Don't do this to me, Simon. Please don't."
"We're finished, Gloria. It's all over between us. Hallelujah, I've seen the light." He laughed again, at his attempt at humour. "So it's nothing to do with you. I can do what I like, with who I like, when I like." He led the partially drunk girl out through the back door. All the time the girl was giving a token resistance verbally, but not physically.
The two older girls looked at each other, more amused than shocked at their young friend's foolish attempt at being adult. The lads whispered amongst themselves with huge grins on their faces. Gloria looked on with mixed feelings of anger and despair, feeling hurt and disgusted about what was happening. Still she thought that he might be bluffing and if she followed them they would just be talking, and having a good laugh at her expense. He had often humiliated her, but, bluff or real, this was the worst thing he had ever done. She felt more like running from the place, but thought that it would make her look weak and foolish. She would stand her ground and face him when he returned. She would remain calm, hide her true feelings, the hurt, the humiliation, and tell him that, yes it was over between them and that she didn't really care. Then she would walk out proudly and confidently, out of the bar and out of his life.
One of Simon's friends had followed them out and he soon returned. "He's giving her a right seeing to out there." He began laughing, but stopped when he saw Gloria staring at him.
This was the confirmation that she didn't need. She had hoped that he wouldn't really go through with it; that he would come back laughing as if it had been one of his sick jokes. She was not just hurt and angry; she also began to feel physically sick because of what was going on. It was only moments later when, to the cheers and whistles from a few of the drunken crowd, Simon and Lucy walked back into the bar room. Simon walked off to the bar and Lucy sat down, red-faced, and avoiding the stare from Gloria while her friend Sheila looked at her and shook her head.
Simon returned with a Bacardi and a bottle of Coke and put them on Lucy's table. "There you are, a deal's a deal." He began to laugh as he staggered over to Gloria. "It was your choice. It could have been you. You want to be a selfish, old-fashioned prat all your life, then I'll just have to look elsewhere, won't I?" He swayed about a little before dropping onto the seat opposite her.
Gloria had a lump in her throat that no amount of swallowing would clear. She was trembling, her heart was pumping hard in her chest and her face reddened from her frustrated anger. She knew she had to leave right away or she would fly at Simon and try to physically hurt him. This was the end for them. She had no doubt about that and she felt hatred towards him for what he had done. She had suffered his drunken insults and suggestive behaviour in the past and had always forgiven him, but she could never forgive him for this. She stood up and looked at the gang, each of them losing their smile when she looked at them. Lucy had become afraid and was naively trying to hide herself behind her two friends. Gloria didn't intend to confront the girl. She felt sorry for her, thinking that Simon had taken advantage of her and used her for no other reason than to belittle the both of them. It was that, and not Lucy's two friends, that saved her from Gloria's anger. Her plans to give Simon a mouthful of abuse had vanished. She could feel the teardrops forming in her eyes and she knew that she had to get out of the place before she made a spectacle of herself.
The walk towards the bar doors felt as if it were miles. All the people in the bar were watching her as if she were a retreating defeated soldier who had lost all hope. Her tormentors whispering, ridiculing her, some laughing at her, and the silent ones feeling pity for her as if she were a fool.
The laughing stopped when Gloria turned around and stormed back across the room towards Simon. He saw her arm coming round, but he was too late and too slow to stop her hand crashing against his cheek. He leaned back into the seat. "Didn't hurt," he said, childishly, but the rosy shape of Gloria's hand could be seen clearly on his pale complexion and his left eye was watering. She picked up his glass and threw the beer over him. He jumped up and went to punch her, but his friends grabbed him and held onto him. He began struggling to get free from their grip while yelling obscenities and abuse at Gloria, full of anger because she had the nerve to defile his uniform.
No one laughed as she walked off this time. A slight smile blossomed on her angry face as she heard Rosie call out. "Good on yer, girl."
It was not far from The Nelson to The Coffee Bar and Gloria knew that she would be sure to find some of her friends in there. She felt very angry, but she had time to think as she made her way through the town, thinking that she was well rid of Simon. She was not going to cry for him now. He was not a man who was worth her tears, but the thoughts of him having intercourse with Lucy wouldn't leave her mind. It disgusted her that he could behave in such a way, whether drunk or not, and the girl, had she no respect for herself? The stupid, stupid girl. She knew her sister would be in The Coffee Bar and wondered if she should just give it a miss and go home. Her sister may unknowingly increase her distress by making remarks in fun about her turning up there, but she decided to call there anyway.
Sod him, she thought, he's not running my life. Not any more.