Bad news for Jane.
After work on Friday night, Terry and Jane set off for East London. They turned into the street where Terry's parents lived, wearing their number one uniforms. Jane would have preferred to be in civilian clothes, but she knew Terry wanted to turn up at his house in his uniform so she wore hers as well to keep him happy.
They came to an off-licence near Terry's home and Terry went in while Jane remained outside with their travel bags. Jane was fascinated by the rows of small terraced houses, the valley roofs hidden from view, looking as if the houses were roofless. She smiled at Terry as he emerged from the off-licence with a box of Milk Tray chocolates for his mother.
Jane became a bit nervous as they approached Terry's house, wondering how his family would receive her. "I hope they like me," she said.
"What a strange thing to say." Terry gave a laugh. "Of course they'll like you, you silly girl."
Jane gave a light-hearted push on his shoulder. "Oy, don't be so cheeky, I'm older than you."
Her fears soon disappeared when Terry’s mother welcomed her with a warmth she hadn't expected as if the woman had always known her. His father showed her the same hospitality, and it was a bonus that his brother with his wife, and two daughters were also there to greet them. She stood thinking what a wonderful family he had and wondered why he ever left them all to go into the air force. She took an interest in a framed coronation photograph on the wall with the three young brothers smiling as they stood to attention in their crepe paper suits.
"Any news from Australia?" Terry asked.
"Ian's doing well, got himself a big house by the beach, surprised he hasn't wrote to you." His mother replied. "Billy's thinking of going as well now. Might even go ourselves if it's that good."
Terry looked at his brother Billy.
"It's early days yet," his brother said. "Lots to consider first."
Jane was still studying the mounted photograph hanging on the wall, hardly taking in the conversation between Terry and his brother. She was almost startled when Terry spoke to her.
"That's me on the right," he said. "The one with the smartest paper suit."
"What a wonderful picture," she said.
"It's only a photo, we've got hundreds of them stuck in books. It sort of like, Dad's hobby."
"Talking of which," his father said. He walked across to the sideboard and took out his camera from the drawer. "We need a photo of you and Jane in your uniforms."
"Oh no, Mister Mansfield, I look silly."
"If you think you look silly, Jane, then you've been looking in the wrong mirror." Terry gently pulled Jane over to him and they stood in front of the fireplace while his father took the photograph, dazzling Jane slightly with his high-powered flashlight. "Well, Jane, are you and our Terry just friends, or are you courting?" Jane was caught out by the question and unsure what she should say. She knew what she would like to say, but she didn't want to make Terry feel uncomfortable about her feelings for him. She stood hesitant, but Terry answered the question.
"Jane's my girlfriend, Dad." Jane couldn't contain the huge grin that appeared across her mouth, a grin that lit up the whole of her face as she looked at Terry. The flashlight went off again.
"Marvellous," his father said. "That was a marvellous shot."
Billy and his family had to leave and they included Jane in their kisses and hugs as they left. Although it was just normal to them, she felt as if she were in heaven.
"Come on, Jane, let's go up the pub. I want you to meet my mate, Brian."
"You're not going drinking without something to eat," his mother said. "I'll make some salmon sandwiches."
Terry looked at Jane and shrugged his shoulders. He looked at his watch. "All right, might be a bit early anyway."
"Do you want me to help you, Mrs Mansfield?"
"No, it's no bother, and you don't have to call me Mrs Mansfield. Call me Mum."
"Oh, okay, err," she hesitated. "Mum."
Terry's mother looked at her as if sensing the emotion as she showed a longing but also a fear of saying the word. "Come on then, Jane, perhaps I could do with some help."
"TERRY!" The shout went across the bar-room as Brian spotted them walking into The Guildford Arms. He rushed across to greet Terry, though his eyes seemed to be on Jane. "Wow, I just love a woman in uniform, are you wearing stockings and suspenders?" Jane laughed, but her face flushed a little. "She's bloody gorgeous, Tel, can you get me one of them?"
"Behave, Brian, will you?"
"What's up, can't the ole Brylcreem boys take a joke anymore? Weren't like that when I was in the army."
"You were only in the bloody cadets."
"Well, same thing, and I was nearly a corporal. Come on then, come over and sit with me and Marion. I was just on me way to get the drinks."
They walked across to the table where Marion was sitting and Terry introduced Jane to her. Marion was a friendly girl and straight away began chatting to Jane while Terry walked back to the bar with Brian.
"So, has he, like, brought you home to meet his parents?" Marion asked.
"No, I'm just stopping the night at his house, as a bit of a favour. I'm visiting my sister tomorrow."
"Oh, so she lives over this way? Funny, you don't sound much like a Londoner."
"No, I'm not, well I am."
"Right, sounds a bit weird." Marion began to laugh.
"Sorry. We were separated when I was a baby, and I haven't seen her since. It was a bit of a surprise, more of a shock I suppose, when I found out Terry knows her."
"Terry knows loads of people, he's a nice bloke is Terry."
Jane smiled at the girl. She seemed friendly enough, maybe even a little over-friendly, speaking to Jane as if she knew her well. "You might know her yourself. She owns a café, not far from here."
"I work in a café, or I used to till recently, it's closed now though. Over two years I worked there. The owner died, breast cancer. It was a right shock to all of us. Carol was a lovely woman. Bad news, really bad news." Marion shook her head. "I'm going to the funeral tomorrow."
Jane began to tremble and her eyes began to water at the terrible thought that entered her mind. It couldn't be, surely, she thought, please God it couldn't be her Carol.
"What's up girl, you've gone a terrible colour, are you sickly or something?" Marion gave a gasp for air as if she suddenly had the same thought as Jane. "You don't think? What's her name, what's your sister's name?"
"It's Carol," she said. "Carol Prudesworthy."
"Oh shit, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry, Jane." Marion put her arm around Jane as if to give some comfort in expectation of her having a breakdown. She just stared blankly across the room, looking over towards Terry, noticing the look of shock on Terry's face and realising his friend had told him about Carol.
The lads walked over to the table. "You've heard then, Jane. Are you okay?"
"Yes, but I want to go to the funeral with Marion tomorrow." She looked at Marion. "If that's all right."
"Well, er, yeah, yeah, of course, it is."
"I'll come with you," Terry said.
Jane forced a smile. "No, Terry, I'd rather you didn't. You spend the day with your family." Shelooked away, trying to hold back her tears. She began to look around the bar, it hadn't changed much since she was last in there, although the stage seemed to be a lot bigger and there was no longer an open area for dancing. She remembered jiving in there and all the people smiling at her and clapping as she left the floor. At first, she couldn't see any familiar faces as she looked around, but then someone caught her eye on the other side of the room, a face she knew, a face she would never forget, Ray. "Terry, if I give you the money can you get me a pint of Double Diamond?"
He scratched his head as a sign he was bewildered by my request. "If that's what you want, but I'll pay for it."
"No, Terry, I've got to pay for it myself, please," she said, handing him a pound. He brought the pint back from the bar and put it on the table. She stood up, picked up the beer, and walked across the bar room. Ray and his female companion looked at her as she stopped at their table, and they were slightly puzzled because she seemed to know the man, but they had no idea who she was. "Hello, Ray, remember me?"
"Sorry, I don't know who you are."
"Well I know who you are, and I remember what you did to me. Still forgive and forget, eh. Here, have a drink on me." She grinned and then threw the beer over him.
Terry and Brian had been watching my every move and they rushed over. "What have you said to her?" Terry yelled.
"I haven't said a word, she's fucking mad. You want to keep your dog under control." The girl was silent, in shock almost and Ray was trying to wipe the beer from his face and hair. He looked at Jane. "So what's all this about, you stupid, fucking slag?"
Terry was angered by the remarks, but Brian was quicker and a little more volatile and he dragged Ray up from his seat and head-butted him, splitting his nose. The woman began screaming, and the landlord rushed over.
"Get out, Brian," the landlord shouted. "I've had enough of you, you're barred. Get yourself out now and take your friends with you."
To avoid further trouble Brian didn't argue. They left the bar and set off to the nearby Prince of Wales. Although Jane was prompted many times, she wouldn't discuss the reason for the incident in The Guildford. She would hardly speak about anything, remaining withdrawn for the rest of the evening.
They left the bar and said their goodbyes before setting off towards Terry's house. Terry stopped by the off-licence on the corner of his street and took hold of Jane’s hand as he turned to look into her eyes. "Jane, I want to know. What was all that about with that prat in The Guildford?"
"No, you don't want to know, Terry."
"Is it something to do with your sister?" She looked at him but didn't answer. "Look, this is my manor, I know that bloke. I want to know what's going on, Jane, please."
"You want to know. You want to know, do you? All right then I'll tell you. That Ray, I went out with him a couple of times when I was seventeen. One night him and his friends got me drunk, they took me home and he came into my bedroom and forced himself on me. He got me pregnant, and my parents made me go off to the coast to have the baby."
"You've had a baby?"
"I had a little boy, but I couldn't keep him and I had to give him up for adoption."
"He didn't offer to marry you then?"
"What!" Jane stared at him, giving him a look he had not seen for some time. "Bloody hell, he raped me, Terry. He hurt me, I screamed and cried my bloody eyes out, but he wouldn't stop." She looked down at the pavement and then along the street, looking at nothing in particular, but avoiding his eyes for a while before looking back at him. "So what do you think of me now, Terry?"
"Yeah, well I was expecting that. Carry on, slag, bitch, whore. Don't worry I've heard it all before, I can take it."
Terry put his hands on her shoulders. She tried to resist him and turn away from him, but he managed to restrain her. "No, no, not you, Jane, I meant him. What I think of you is that you have been a bit silly not telling me before. It makes no difference at all to how I feel about you." He put his arms around her as he gave her a comforting cuddle. "I think the world of you, Jane, and don't you ever think any different."
It was late when they got to Terry's house and his parents were sitting up waiting for them.
"Do you want a cocoa or something, Jane?" Terry's mother asked.
"No thanks, I'm so tired, I'd just go to sleep on the sofa if that's all right."
"I've made the bed for you up in Terry's room. Terry, you'll have to sleep on the sofa, the spare room is full of junk."
His father looked at Terry. "And I don't want to hear you creeping up the stairs in the night, taking liberties with this girl. If you do you'll feel my boot up your backside." His father's comment was light-hearted and Terry gave a laugh.
Terry's mother took Jane up the stairs to Terry's bedroom while his father stopped downstairs a while talking to Terry. He knew Jane’s sister Carol and was shocked to hear the tragic news when Terry told him.
Jane lay in Terry's bed knowing she was going to have trouble getting to sleep. The thoughts of her sister Carol were prominent her my mind. If only things had been different on that awful night at the flat in Tench Street. If Ray had been a nice caring companion instead of a devious predator, she would have carried on working in the cafe. The truth she was Carol's sister might have been realised and she would have been welcomed back into my family. She thought of the tragic loss of the sister she hardly knew, and all because of Ray. Why, why on top of everything did he have to be sitting in The Guildford Arms tonight? As if he were gloating at her frustration, laughing at her sorrow.
At the funeral, the rest of the family would be there. She knew she had to speak to her mother. She had to find out why her mother abandoned her. However, she couldn't be angry with her. She thought of her own child and how she allowed her adoptive parents to convince her to give him up. Had she not behaved in the same manner as her mother?
Jane’s thoughts were upsetting her and her eyes began filling with tears. She looked around Terry's bedroom. It was a nicely decorated room full of items from Terry's past; items spanning the years, from the row of old Dinky Toy lorries in convoy across the top of his wardrobe to the temporary bus stop sign in the corner of the room, a trophy from a drunken night out with his friends. It was a pleasant room, but to her, it was a lonely place. How she hated being alone. How she longed for someone to love and comfort her. To cuddle her and hold her close. To help to ease the terrible hurt she was feeling. It was too much for her and she burst into tears.
"Are you, okay girl?" Terry's father spoke from the other side of the door. Jane couldn't answer him, she was too upset to speak. Despite this, she felt embarrassed when she heard him call down the stairs to Terry. "You'd better come up, son. She's crying her bloody eyes out up here."