Jane arrives at the funeral nervous, but full of hope.
I took extra care to ensure I was perfectly turned out in my uniform when Marion's father pulled up outside Terry's house the next day. I brought some casual clothes with me from Uxbridge, but I thought them unsuitable for the funeral. I got in the back of the car with Marion for the short trip to my brother Tommy's house in Limehouse.
"You haven't told them, have you?" I 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."
I smiled at her. "Thanks, Marion, I don't know how I would have coped without you."
Marion's father dropped us at the corner near to Tommy's house. He didn't drive down the street because the wreaths and sprays were covering the pavement and a large crowd of the people were standing in the road. Marion knew many of them and exchanged greetings, but I began to feel awkward, feeling I stood out in my WRAF uniform. I felt everyone seemed to be taking an interest in me, wondering who I 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 me. "I don't know you, do I?"
"My name's Jane; I used to work for Carol in the cafe."
He stared at me 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 my hand. "I'm Tommy, Carol's oldest brother, pleased to meet you, Jane." He looked down at my 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 my eyes as I looked at him. This was too much for me and I had to get away. "I'm sorry, you'll have to excuse me." I turned and hurried back along the pavement.
Marion ran along the street and caught up with me. She managed to calm me down and we 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 Nellie, that's your mum. You've met Tommy and that is your other brother Ronnie behind them."
I stood watching the woman as she got into the limousine. She was not as I had imagined her. The picture in my 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 we went with Betty and her husband for our journey to Plaistow.
The chapel was almost full and we sat in the back row. The service in the chapel and at the graveside was, as expected, a sad affair and we were a comfort to each other.
Eleanor walked from the graveside with one of her sons on each arm. I saw the tear stained eyes of my brothers, but my mother seemed unaffected. When the woman got to where I was standing, she stopped and smiled. My heart began to pound, believing that my mother had recognised me.
She turned to her son Tommy. "Is he an American soldier?"
"No, Mum, that's a girl who used to work in the Carol's cafe."
"Well why is she dressed like an American soldier? I thought for a minute that it was... Oh never mind."
Tommy looked at me and smiled. I smiled back and he seemed to stare for a moment as if he thought there was something familiar about me. My heart was still pounding as he looked away and the group continued on their way. I wondered if he recognised me, but how could he. I was only a toddler when I was abandoned by my mother.
Betty and her husband dropped us back to the house and we stood on the pavement talking, with me 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."
We 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 I felt nervous, feeling as if all the eyes were on me. Again, I regretted wearing my uniform, thinking it made me conspicuous.
Eleanor was standing talking to another woman on the far side of the room next to the window. I walked over and Eleanor turned to look at me.
"Hello," I said, dearly wishing to say more, but feeling a little reluctant.
"And who are you?" Eleanor asked. "And why are you dressed like an American soldier?"
"I'm your daughter." An embarrassing silence spread across the room as the woman stared at me. Others were also staring and I felt as if everyone in the room was staring at me. I suddenly felt vulnerable, as if I were a small wingless bird in a room full of cats.
"I have just buried my daughter. Why are you saying such a thing?"
Eleanor laughed. "Marvin. You are Marvin, and 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 Eleanor suddenly became agitated. "No, no, Marvin. You can't do this to me. It was wrong, you were wrong. Go away, get away from here."
"Mum, please, please, I need to talk to you."
My brother Ronnie grabbed my 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."
We were led, manhandled almost, to the door. I looked back at my mother, but the woman was looking away. When I got outside, I became highly distraught and close to becoming hysterical. Some of the women were outside with Marion, trying to calm me down.
My brother Tommy rushed out to the street.
I looked at him frightened by the look of rage on his face. My own face was flushed and puffy, my mascara had trailed down my cheeks and my tunic was soiled from the continual stream of tears that had flowed down my face.
"Please don't shout at me," I sobbed. "Don't be angry with me."
"Oh, Jane, it's not you 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 Ronnie told me what you said to mother I knew, I just knew. Come here. Come here and give your big brother a hug."
I 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.
I left my uniform at Terry's house and got dressed in a jacket, blouse and jeans. Terry was with me and he held my hand throughout the long walk from his house in Bow. I was wondering how my brother's discussion had gone with the rest of the family. Clearly, he believes I am his sister and he might have convinced the other brother, Ronnie. Maybe Ronnie would be there to meet me as well.
Tommy's wife greeted us at the door. She was a friendly woman who I remembered as one of the women helping Marion to calm me down the previous day. Tommy was in the dining room and greeted me with a hug and then introduced me to my 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. I sat with Terry on the sofa and I looked across to Tommy as he relaxed back into his armchair.
"Will Ronnie be coming?" I 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 during the war. Dad was in the navy and was killed when his ship was attacked in the Atlantic. She never got over it, and she has been irrational and inclined to forget things ever since. She even went through a phase when she hated Americans, blaming them somehow for the death of our dad. 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," I 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. 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."
His words almost brought me to tears as well as my eyes filled up. He 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 me to give me 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 me. "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." I threw my arms around him and we hugged each other tightly.
Terry looked all choked up. I saw him look over to Tommy's wife and give a small laugh. "Have you got a tissue," he said.