Jane arrives at the funeral nervous, but full of hope.
Jane took extra care to ensure she was perfectly turned out in her uniform when Marion's father pulled up outside Terry's house the next day. She brought some casual clothes with her from Uxbridge, but she thought them unsuitable for the funeral. She got in the back seat of the car with Marion for the short trip to her brother Tommy's house in Limehouse.
"You haven't told them, have you?" Jane said.
"No, of course not, I haven't even seen them."
"I thought it might be best if I leave it till after the service. To tell you the truth, Marion, I'm a bit frightened."
"I'm sure it'll work out fine. Don't go worrying yourself, it'll only upset you. You look really smart in your uniform, really impressive, so let's try and keep it that way."
Jane smiled at her. "Thanks, Marion, I don't know how I would have coped without you."
Marion's father dropped them at the corner near Tommy's house. He didn't drive down the street because the wreaths and sprays were covering the pavement and a large crowd of people were standing in the road. Marion knew many of them and exchanged greetings, but Jane began to feel awkward, feeling she stood out in her WRAF uniform. She felt everyone seemed to be taking an interest in her, wondering who she was.
The terraced houses were set back off the road and because the ground floor was a semi-basement, the cast iron spear railing had escaped the salvage drives of the war. Half a dozen steps led up to a large front door on the first floor. A man walked out and stood at the door, looking around. He noticed Marion and he walked down the steps and across the street to greet her. "Thanks for coming, Marion, it's good to see a friendly face. They are all arguing in there about the cafe, can you believe that? All that can be sorted out another time, can't it?"
Marion shrugged her shoulders as if to let him know it was none of her business. "We've got no transport. Can you fit us in with someone?"
"Of course. You know Betty, you can get in with her and Trevor." He looked at Jane. "I don't know you, do I?"
"My name's Jane; I used to work for Carol in the cafe."
He stared at her for a moment. "I'm sorry, it's just that I don't seem to recall you working there."
"I wasn't there long, and it was seven or eight years ago now."
"Well, that explains it. I was still in the Royal Navy then." He took hold of her hand. "I'm Tommy, Carol's younger brother, pleased to meet you, Jane." He looked down at her hand. "Goodness me, you're shaking like a leaf. You're looking a bit pale as well. Do you want to go inside and have a sit down?"
Tears filled Jane’s eyes as she looked at him. This was too much for her and she had to get away. "I'm sorry, you'll have to excuse me." She turned and hurried back along the pavement.
Marion ran along the street and caught up with her. She managed to calm Jane down and they walked back just as the hearse turned into the street. It pulled up outside the house and all the flowers were put into place. Tommy walked out of the house with an older woman and a few people following behind.
"That's her," Marion said. "That's Elsie, that's your mum. You've met Tommy and that is your other brother Ronnie behind them."
Jane stood watching the woman as she got into the limousine. She was not as Jane had imagined her. The picture in her mind was of a strong upright woman, but she looked old and frail although she was only in her early sixties, and it was obvious she had trouble with her eyesight.
The cortège began to move off at a walking pace and they went with Betty and her husband for the journey to the cemetery at Manor Park.
The chapel was almost full and they sat in the back row. The service in the chapel and at the graveside was, as expected, a sad affair and they were a comfort to each other.
Elsie walked from the graveside with one of her sons on each arm. Jane saw the tear-stained eyes of her brothers, but her mother seemed unaffected. When the woman got to where Jane was standing, she stopped and smiled. Jane’s heart began to pound, believing that her mother had recognised her.
She turned to her son Tommy. "And who's this army man.?"
"No, Mum, that's a girl who used to work in Carol's cafe."
"Well why is she dressed like a soldier? I thought for a minute that it was... Oh never mind."
Tommy looked at Jane and smiled. She smiled back and he seemed to stare for a moment as if he thought there was something familiar about her. Her heart was still pounding as he looked away and the group continued on their way. She wondered if he recognised her, but how could he. She was only a toddler when she was abandoned by my mother.
Betty and her husband dropped them back to the house and they stood on the pavement talking, with Jane showing mixed feelings of eagerness and reluctance.
"Well, Jane, are you going to tell them, or do you want to leave it for a bit? We can go for a walk for a while if you like."
"I'll go in. I've got to go in. I'll just go straight up and talk to her. Wish me luck, Marion, I'm bloody terrified."
"Of course I wish you luck. It's going to be all right, Jane, I'm sure of it."
They walked up the steps and along the passage to the front room. It was spacious with two large dividing doors opened up between the two rooms. The rooms were full of people and Jane felt nervous, feeling as if all the eyes were on her. Again, she regretted wearing her uniform, thinking it made her conspicuous.
Elsie was standing talking to another woman on the far side of the room next to the window. Jane walked over and Elsie turned to look at her.
"Hello," Jane said, dearly wishing to say more, but feeling a little reluctant.
"Who are you?" Elsie asked. "And why are you dressed like a soldier?"
"I'm your daughter." An embarrassing silence spread across the room as the woman stared at her. Others were also staring and she felt as if everyone in the room was staring at her. She suddenly felt vulnerable, as if she were a small wingless bird in a room full of cats.
"I have just buried my daughter. Why are you saying such a thing?"
Elsie laughed. "You are a soldier, why are you wearing a skirt?"
"No, I'm Jane. I'm your daughter. I'm Carol's sister."
Fear and shock quickly followed disbelief as Elsie suddenly became agitated. "No, no, Steve. You can't do this to me. You were wrong. Go away, get away from here."
"Mum, please, please, I need to talk to you."
Her brother Ronnie grabbed her arm. "I think you had better leave."
"Leave her alone," Marion shouted.
Ronnie looked at her. "I might have known you were behind it, you've been fiddling Carol for years. So, I suppose this is your bright idea, trying to swindle some money out of my mother. You know she's not well and you're trying it on. Well, your evil little scheme won't work. Get them out of here."
They were led, manhandled almost, to the door. Jane looked back at her mother, but the woman was looking away. When she got outside, she became highly distraught and close to becoming hysterical. Some of the women were outside with Marion, trying to calm her down.
Her brother Tommy rushed out to the street.
Jane looked at him frightened by the look of rage on his face. Her own face was flushed and puffy, her mascara had trailed down her cheeks and her tunic was soiled from the continual stream of tears that had flowed down her face.
"Please don't shout at me," she sobbed. "Don't be angry with me."
"Oh, Jane, it's not you that I'm angry with. I knew when I saw you in the church that I had seen your lovely face before but I couldn't place where. I was in the kitchen and when our younger brother Ronnie told me what you said to mother I knew, I just knew. Come here. Come here and give your big brother a hug."
Jane was overjoyed with my acceptance by at least one of my family and excited when Tommy asked me to call round to see him the following day.
Jane left her uniform at Terry's house and got dressed in a jacket, blouse and jeans. Terry was with her and he held her hand throughout the long walk from his house in Bow. She was wondering how her brother's discussion had gone with the rest of the family. Clearly, he believes she is his sister and he might have convinced the other brother, Ronnie. Maybe Ronnie would be there to meet her as well.
Tommy's wife greeted them at the door. She was a friendly woman who Jane remembered as one of the women helping Marion to calm her down the previous day. Tommy was in the dining room and greeted her with a hug and then introduced her to her two young nephews. Tommy's wife took the two boys to another room and went out to the kitchen to make a pot of tea. Jane sat with Terry on the sofa and she looked across to Tommy as he relaxed back into his armchair.
"Will Ronnie be coming?" She asked hopefully.
"I'm afraid not, Jane. It didn't go too well yesterday. Unfortunately, his brain has been clouded by greed. He seems to think you and Marion are telling lies to try and get some of the proceeds from the sale of the cafe. That cafe's a gold mine. It was a rundown dump when she bought it, but she spent a lot of time and money to build the trade back up, and as Carol bought it freehold, it's worth a fortune. Then there's the money she's built up in her bank account over the years."
"I don't think Jane's interested in the money," Terry said. "What if she signs something giving up any interest in Carol's estate?"
"Why should she? It's early days anyway, we haven't been all through Carol's papers and things yet, perhaps a will might be found, but there is another problem. Mother had a breakdown after the war. She told everyone that our dad died in a German P.O.W. but we all knew he had run off with a young woman. She never got over it, and she has been irrational and inclined to forget things ever since. Mother is adamant that you died suddenly as a child. Ronnie knows if what you're saying is true, then she is clearly telling lies. My brother won't have that. He prefers to think you are lying."
"Well, let him call the police then," she said.
Tommy laughed. "Oh, he won't do that. You know, I've always known something was wrong. I was thirteen at the time, but Ronnie was very young. I never believed it and it wasn't just because of my grief. There was no funeral, no grave, and apart from the disturbance caused by the council moving us almost straight away, mother seemed to carry on as if nothing had happened to you. Then there were the people, mother said, were from the clinic, calling round all the time, visiting us at our new house. I knew it wasn't right, but I had no one to talk to. I couldn't talk to Carol, she was absolutely devastated. It was months before I could even mention your name without her bursting into tears."
“What about mother,” Jane said. “Do you think she will ever recognise me? Will I be able to sit and talk with her?
“That may be a bit difficult. She is not a well woman and has problems. We will have to wait and see how things go, but we must wait a while.”
His words almost brought Jane to tears as her eyes filled up. Tommy looked at his wife as she walked in with a tray full of cups, as he looked back he saw Terry put his arm around Jane to give her a bit of support. "I'm sorry, love. I didn't mean to upset you again." He walked over and knelt down in front of her. "We don't want any more tears, we had enough of them yesterday. Look, I'll tell you what we'll do. You give me all the details and information that you know, then when I get a bit of time I'll go down to the public records office and get it all checked. If what you tell me is true, and I'm sure it is, then we'll soon find some way to get it confirmed."
"What about the adoption people?" Tommy's wife said. "Won't they tell you?"
"I don't think we'll get any help from them. Have you got any paperwork from your adoption, Jane?"
"Yes, I've got some papers. My adopted mum threw them at me."
"Well, get someone to copy the details and get them sent down to me. With the papers that I have from when you were a baby, I should have plenty to go to Somerset House with. It's all going to work out, Jane. Thank God we've got you back. I only wish Carol could have been here to see it." Jane threw her arms around him and they hugged each other tightly.
Terry looked over at Tommy's wife and gave a small laugh. "Have you got a tissue?" he said.