Rachel sets out to get Gloria.
The next morning Ellis and Gloria sat down to breakfast in the farmhouse and Gloria was noticeably disturbed by the crowded room. "I didn't know we would all take breakfast at the same time," she whispered.
Ellis looked at her and smiled. "Your face has been bright red ever since we walked in. You've nothing to be embarrassed about, we didn't do anything."
"No, but they all think we did."
"They probably don't even know we exist, we are just other people in the room."
"Shh, don't speak so loud, they'll all hear you." Gloria caught a smile from a woman at the next table. She smiled back, but looked away feeling even more flushed. "When's our breakfast coming, I wish that we hadn't bothered now."
The farmer's wife walked in with two breakfasts. Gloria looked at her and suddenly her heart began pounding as she thought about their conversation the previous day. She was filled with dread at the thought that the woman might make a fuss; might make an announcement to the others in the room about the newly-weds on their honeymoon. She would die; she would crawl under the table and die. The woman put the breakfast on their table; she looked at Gloria's burning face and then she gave a large smile and to Gloria's relief walked off.
After breakfast they packed up their bags and were about to set off home. Ellis stopped her at the door. "Gloria, it's about Gordy. I don't expect you to lie for me, but can you just say nothing, just don't deny anything. You know what I mean? Or he'll think there's something wrong with me."
"He's the one who's got something wrong with him." Gloria smiled broadly. "Funny things you lads, but all right, I'll say nothing if he asks. Only if my sister is not around though. I don't want to give a bad impression to her."
"Just one more thing." Ellis started confidently, but then hesitated. "I'm sorry, I don't know how to put this without sounding corny."
"Is there something wrong?"
"No, I'm just a bit nervous of asking, in case you don't want to do it."
"Don't want to do what," she said, with a noticeable change in the tone of her voice.
"Gloria, will you marry me?"
Gloria was speechless, she had wanted to move their relationship on, but this was an unexpected surprise. It was him that was supposed to have got the surprise.
"I think we should get engaged. We don't have to make any marriage plans just yet if you don't want to, but I think it would be nice if we were to be promised to each other." Gloria stood looking at him, still in silence, in total shock at his request. "Well, what do you think?" He said.
"I don't know. This is not some kind of cunning little plan, is it?"
"Don't say that, Gloria, of course it isn't. That's why I couldn't ask you last night. It would have looked like an excuse to get into bed with you." He stood looking, waiting for a response from Gloria, but she stood quiet, just looking back at him as if in a daze. "You don't want to, do you?"
"Of course I want to," she said and broke into a huge smile "I'm over the moon, I really am. When, when are we going to have the engagement?"
"I thought it would be nice on your birthday, June the ninth. It's only a couple of weeks away, but it'll be nice on your birthday and it'll still give us some time to plan a party round my house." Ellis was so happy with Gloria's response that he began to laugh and Gloria laughed with him before she threw her arms around him and began kissing him.
* * * *
Over at Carver's Hollow, Rachel became agitated when she found out that Gloria had gone out of the county for a few days. It seemed that just as she had decided to take Gloria she had put herself out of reach. She was alone and could no longer take her anger out on her companion so she gave the unfortunate woodland creatures a hard time. She thought of Rosie and made her way over the field to her terraced house. Rosie had been out drinking and was asleep on the sofa. Her mother was snoring and snorting up stairs in her bedroom, full of sleeping pills. The fire had been on and was still plugged in and Rachel knew she could get it to turn on and cause the TV times that was on the floor to cover the fire until it burst into flames. It could be all over that very night, but she had set her mind on Gloria, and felt that she had gone away deliberately, as if to spoil things for her. Rosie would be so easy, but she could be kept in reserve. She would wait until Gloria returned and at the first opportunity she would take Gloria as she had planned.
* * * *
Wednesday evening, Ellis pulled up outside Gloria's house and Gloria walked out to meet him dressed in one of her best party frocks.
"Is it supposed to be a surprise party or something, only your parents never mentioned it to me before we went away?"
"They don't know about it that's why. They've gone to Chesterfield to visit my gran for the weekend."
"Ellis, they'll go mad if the house gets wrecked. Is Gordy and his gang of merry men coming?"
Ellis laughed again. "No, it's only me and you."
"That's great, I've spent ages getting ready and there's no sodding party."
"There's food, there's drink, there's good music, there's you and me dancing, there's you and me kissing and cuddling. It's my kind of party, Gloria."
"Hmmm, all right, mister, I suppose it does have its good points, but let's hope that you behave yourself."
"Course I will, scouts honour."
"Where you a boy scout then?"
"No, not really."
"Could be a problem then," she said, as if a little concerned.
"You know, I think you can handle me by now," he replied humbly, as if to offer her some reassurance.
"You bet your life I can." Gloria got on the pillion and they were soon round at Ellis's house. Gloria dropped onto the sofa as Ellis set up the record player.
"Put The Stones on," Gloria said. "I like The Stones."
Ellis put the album on and sat next to Gloria on the sofa. "Do you want a drink?" he asked.
"Yeah, all right. Do you want me to make it?"
Ellis stood up again. "No, I mean a drink drink."
"Oh, you mean a drink drink." Gloria gave a laugh. "And I thought you meant a drink."
He went to the sideboard and brought back a half bottle of whisky and a half bottle of gin. He put them on the coffee table and then went back for two glasses. "What do you want, gin or whisky?"
"I'll have a gin and tonic."
"Tonic, I've got no tonic."
"All right, gin and orange is okay." She looked at his blank expression and gave another laugh. "Lemonade!"
"No, I've got nothing like that, I didn't think. Anyway like I said, it's a bit of a party, isn't it? We can drink it straight. Would you rather have the whisky?"
"I can't stand whisky." Gloria remained with the grin on her face and shook her head feigning disapproval. "You can tell that you're new at this."
Ellis looked at her as if he didn't know what she meant. He smiled and poured an inch of gin into her glass, half filling his own glass with whisky. Gloria lifted the glass to her mouth, the neat spirit just touched her tongue and she put the glass back down knowing that she would be unable to drink the gin on its own. She stood up and began to dance, singing along to the record. "Let's spend the night together, now I need you more than ever. Come on, Ellis," she said. Ellis was happy to oblige; thinking that his plan was working.
Half an hour passed and still Gloria had hardly touched her drink though Ellis had topped the glass up twice. "You not drinking much, don't worry if you have too much to drink you can always stay the night on the sofa."
"Yeah, well I don't think that's gonna happen, Ellis. Anyway, my mum would have a fit if I didn't come home, but don't worry if you're too drunk to give me a lift home, I can always catch the last bus as it heads back into town."
"Don't be silly." Ellis refilled his own glass for the third time before making his way unsteadily to the toilet. When he had gone, Gloria walked to the kitchen and tipped the gin away before refilling her glass with water. She returned to the room and had just sat down on the sofa when Ellis walked back into the room. "Let's get the party swinging," he said and he put his hand down to Gloria as a prompt to get her up to dance again. As she stood up Ellis reached forward and kissed her, but she pulled away from him finding the smell of whisky on his breath nauseating.
"Let's leave the dancing for a bit," she said, "and get some serious drinking done." She picked up her glass. "Down in one then?"
"Yeah, I'm all for that." He picked up his drink and was surprised when Gloria emptied her glass in three successive gulps.
"Your turn." she said.
Ellis emptied his glass with some difficulty and Gloria stood grinning at the way he was trying to stop the contortions spreading over his face. They began to dance again, but it was only seconds before Gloria noticed Ellis's face had turned pale. He started to retch. "Won't be a minute," he mumbled and dashed off to the toilet.
Gloria tipped some more of the gin down the sink and partly filled her glass with water again and she sat waiting for Ellis to return. She became concerned because he had been gone for quite a while and she went to check that he was all right. The toilet door was open and Ellis was out cold with his head over the toilet pan and the pan filled with vomit. She cleaned his face with cold water and managed to rouse him before helping him back to the living room.
I'm all right, I'm all right," he said, almost protesting as she helped him to sit down on the sofa. He leaned to the side, collapsed onto the cushions and was soon fast asleep.
* * * *
Gloria caught the bus home and went into the kitchen to make a hot drink. Her sister came down from her bedroom to see her. "You're early, it's only just gone ten," Evelyn said. "Have you had a row with him?"
"Well it's a bit early to be home from a party, and how come he didn't see you home?"
Gloria looked at her sister and gave a laugh before answering. "There was no party. He tried the old whisky trick round his house, but the only one who got drunk was him and he fell asleep on the sofa. I used a lot of make-up though."
Evelyn laughed. "What! You didn't clown him, did you?"
"I did, and I done a flipping good job as well."
They both looked to the back door as they heard the garden shed door banging in the wind.
"Dad's left the door open," Gloria said. "One of us had better go and shut it."
"I'm not going, I'm not dressed."
"Who's gonna look at you in your night-gown?" Gloria shook her head. "Don't worry, I'll go." She walked out to the shed, but as she was about to close the door she noticed a strong smell of petrol coming from inside. She looked inside and noticed that a can of lighter-fuel had fallen over and it was leaking onto a pile of old rags on the shed floor. "Sodding wind," she said and thought it best to pick up the can and put it outside. The shed was a potential firebomb: turpentine, paraffin and many part used tins of paint were stacked on the wooden shelves. When she walked inside the door slammed shut behind her and a piece of wood leaning against the shed fell and wedged between the door and the raised edge of a paving stone. She pushed on the door, but only the top moved an inch or so and sprang back into place when she took the pressure off. She turned and looked round quickly, sensing that there was someone behind her, but then she laughed at her own foolishness. She felt uneasy though and pushed harder on the door, trying to force it open.
Rachel was watching her and she was sure that this was the moment of doom for Gloria. There was a box of matches on the workbench. It would be such an easy task to open the box if she were in a body, but as a spirit she could only move the box, in no way could she open the box and strike a match. She whizzed into Gloria, and then picked up the matches, laughing all the time at Gloria's fate. She opened the box, took out a match and was about to strike it when she was ejected.
The fumes in the shed were filling Gloria's head and she began to feel slightly dizzy. She looked in horror at the matches in her hand, wondering why she had picked them up. She threw them back onto the bench and turned and began banging on the door in panic. She could see her sister in the kitchen through a crack in the door, dancing to a tune from the transistor radio. She screamed out her sister's name just as Rachel whizzed back into her body. Again Rachel picked up the matches, and again she was ejected leaving Gloria horrified that she had somehow picked up the matches again.
Rachel was becoming annoyed at Gloria's subconscious strength. She would change her method and would appear before her. She knew that Gloria was already frightened, and the sudden appearance of her in her hideous form just a few feet away would be sure to stop the girl's heart. What possible escape could she have? There would be nowhere to run; nowhere to hide from the heinous sight. She may just have time for a muted scream, but she would die quickly. Rachel would then cause a fire without the matches, it would take a lot of time and effort, but she knew she could do it.
Suddenly the door opened. "What's happened to you?"
Gloria rushed outside to her sister. "Sodding heck, Eve, there's something in there. Seriously, it frightened the life out of me."
Her sister went into the shed, picked up the can and threw the rags outside before stepping back out and bolting the door. "There's nothing in there except mouses." She laughed and threw the piece of wood away from the paving. "Fancy trapping yourself in the shed. Good job I was here to get you out or you might have been stuck in there all night." She began to laugh again, but she saw that Gloria was not laughing and she was pale and shaking." Evelyn put an arm round her. "Come on, come inside and I'll make us a brew, you silly old sausage."
Rachel returned to the woods, annoyed, disappointed and mumbling the same words over and over again. "Next time, Gloria, next time you may not be so lucky."