Bad news for Jane.
After work, Friday night, Terry and I set off for East London. We turned into the street where Terry's parents lived, wearing our number one uniforms. I would have preferred to be in civilian clothes, but I knew Terry wanted to turn up at his house in his uniform so I wore mine as well to keep him happy.
We came to an off-licence near Terry's home and Terry went in while I remained outside with our travel bags. I was fascinated by the rows of small terraced houses, the valley roofs hidden from view, looking as if the houses were roofless. I smiled at Terry as he emerged from the off-licence with a box of Milk Tray chocolates for his mother.
I suddenly felt nervous as we approached Terry's house, wondering how his family would receive me. "I hope they like me," I said.
"What a strange thing to say." Terry gave a laugh. "Of course they'll like you, you silly girl."
I gave a light-hearted push on his shoulder. "Oy, don't be so cheeky, I'm older than you."
My fears soon disappeared when his mother welcomed me with a warmth I hadn't expected as if she had always known me. His father showed me the same hospitality, and it was a bonus that his brother with his wife, and two daughters were also there to greet us. I stood thinking what a wonderful family he had and wondered why he ever left them all to go into the air force. I took an interest in a framed coronation photograph on the wall, 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."
I was still studying the mounted photograph hanging on the wall, hardly taking in the conversation between Terry and his brother. I was almost startled when Terry spoke to me.
"That's me on the right," he said. "The one with the smartest paper suit."
"What a wonderful picture," I 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 me over to him and we stood in front of the fireplace while his father took the photograph, dazzling me slightly with his high-powered flashlight. "Well, Jane, are you and our Terry just friends, or are you courting?" I was caught out by the question and unsure what I should say. I knew what I would like to say, but I didn't want to make Terry feel uncomfortable about my feelings for him. I stood hesitant, but Terry answered the question.
"Jane's my girlfriend, Dad." I couldn't contain the huge grin that appeared across my mouth, a grin that lit up the whole of my face as I 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 me in their kisses and hugs as they left. Although it was just normal to them, I felt as if I 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 me 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," I hesitated. "Mum."
Terry's mother looked at me as if sensing the emotion as I 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 us walking into The Guildford Arms. He rushed across to greet Terry, though his eyes seemed to be on me. "Wow, I just love a woman in uniform, are you wearing stockings and suspenders?" I laughed, but my 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."
We walked across to the table where Marion was sitting and Terry introduced me to her. Marion was a friendly girl and straight away began chatting to me 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."
I smiled at the girl. She seemed friendly enough, maybe even a little over-friendly, speaking to me as if she knew me 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."
I began to tremble, my eyes began to water at the terrible thought that entered my mind. It couldn't be, surely, please God it couldn't be my 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 me. "You don't think? What's her name, what's your sister's name?"
"It's Carol," I said. "Carol Prudesworthy."
"Oh shit, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry, Jane." Marion put her arm around me as if to give some comfort in expectation of me having a breakdown. I 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.
I forced a smile. "No, Terry, I'd rather you didn't. You spend the day with your family."
I looked away, trying to hold back my tears. I began to look around the bar, it hadn't changed much since I was last in there, although the stage seemed to be a lot bigger and there was no longer an open area for dancing. I remembered jiving in there and all the people smiling at me and clapping as I left the floor. At first, I couldn't see any familiar faces as I looked around, but then someone caught my eye on the other side of the room, a face I knew, a face I would never forget. "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," I said, handing him a pound. He brought the pint back from the bar and put it on the table. I stood up, picked up the beer, and walked across the bar room. The man and his female companion looked at me as I stopped at their table, and they were slightly puzzled I seemed to know the man, but they had no idea who I 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." I 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 me. "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. We left the bar and set off to the nearby Prince of Wales. Although I was prompted many times, I wouldn't discuss the reason for the incident in The Guildford, I would hardly speak about anything, remaining withdrawn for the rest of the evening.
We left the bar and said our goodbyes before setting off towards Terry's house. Terry stopped by the off-licence on the corner of his street and took hold of my hand as he turned to look into my 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?" I 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!" I 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." I 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 my shoulders. I tried to resist him and turn away from him, but he managed to restrain me. "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 me as he gave me a comforting cuddle. "I think the world of you, Jane, and don't you ever think any different."
It was late when we got to Terry's house and his parents were sitting up waiting for us.
"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 me up the stairs to Terry's bedroom while his father stopped downstairs a while talking to Terry. He knew my sister Carol and was shocked to hear the tragic news when Terry told him earlier.
I lay in Terry's bed knowing I was going to have trouble getting to sleep. The thoughts of my sister Carol were prominent in 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, I would have carried on working in the cafe. The truth I was Carol's sister might have been realised and I would have been welcomed back into my family. I thought of the tragic loss of the sister I 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 my frustration, laughing at my sorrow.
The funeral, the rest of the family would be there. I knew I had to speak to my mother. I had to find out why my mother abandoned me. However, I couldn't be angry with her. I thought of my own child and how I allowed my adoptive parents to convince me to give him up. Had I not behaved in the same manner as my mother?
My thoughts were upsetting me and my eyes began filling with tears. I 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 me, it was a lonely place. How I hated being alone. How I longed for someone to love and comfort me. To cuddle me and hold me close. To help to ease the terrible hurt I was feeling. It was too much for me and I burst into tears.
"Are you, okay girl?" Terry's father spoke from the other side of the door. I couldn't answer him, I was too upset to speak. Despite this, I felt embarrassed when I heard him call down the stairs to Terry. "You'd better come up, son. She's crying her bloody eyes out up here."