Rachel sets out to get Gloria.
Over at Carver's Hollow, Rachel became agitated when she found out 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 upstairs 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.
The next morning Ellis and I sat down to breakfast in the farmhouse and I was noticeably disturbed by the crowded room. "I didn't know we would all take breakfast at the same time," I whispered.
Ellis looked at me 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." I caught a smile from a woman at the next table. I smiled back but looked away feeling even more flushed. "When's our breakfast coming, I wish we hadn't bothered now."
The farmer's wife walked in with two breakfasts. I looked at her and suddenly my heart began pounding as I thought about our conversation the previous day. I feared the woman might make a fuss; might make an announcement to the others in the room about the newlyweds on their honeymoon. I would die; I would crawl under the table and die. The woman put the breakfast on our table; she looked at my burning face, gave a large smile, and to my relief walked off.
After breakfast we packed up our bags and were about to set off home. Ellis stopped me 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." I 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," I said, with a noticeable change in the tone of my voice.
"Gloria, will you marry me?"
I was speechless, I wanted to move our 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." I 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 me, but I just looked back at him as if in a daze. "You don't want to, do you?" he said.
"Of course I want to," I replied 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 we could do it 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 seemed so happy with my response and he began to laugh and I laughed with him before I threw my arms around him and began kissing him.
Wednesday evening, Ellis pulled up outside my house and I walked out to meet him dressed in one of my best party frocks eager to go to his birthday party.
"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."
"Were you a boy scout then?"
"No, not really."
"Could be a problem then," I said as if a little concerned.
"You know, I think you can handle me by now," he replied humbly as if to offer me some reassurance.
"You bet your life I can." I got on the pillion and we were soon round at Ellis's house. I dropped onto the sofa as Ellis set up the record player.
"Put The Stones on," I said. "I like The Stones."
Ellis put the album on and sat next to me 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." I 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." I 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?"
"No thanks. I can't stand whisky." I remained with the grin on my face and shook my head feigning disapproval. "You can tell that you're new at this."
Ellis looked at me as if he didn't know what I meant. He smiled and poured an inch of gin into my glass, half-filling his own glass with whisky. I lifted the glass to my mouth, the neat spirit just touched my tongue and I put the glass back down knowing I would be unable to drink the gin on its own. I 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," I said, and Ellis was happy to oblige.
Half an hour passed and still I had hardly touched my drink though Ellis had topped the glass up twice. "You're 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. I walked to the kitchen and tipped the gin away before refilling my glass with water. I 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 me as a prompt to get me up to dance again. As I stood up Ellis reached forward and kissed me, but I pulled away from him finding the smell of whisky on his breath nauseating.
"Let's leave the dancing for a bit," I said, "and get some serious drinking done." I picked up my glass. "Down in one then?"
"Yeah, I'm all for that." He picked up his drink and gave a look of surprise when I emptied my glass in three successive gulps.
"Your turn." I said.
Ellis had a full glass of whisky and he drank it with some difficulty. I stood grinning at the way he was trying to stop the contortions from spreading over his face. We began to dance again, but it was only seconds before I noticed Ellis's face had turned pale. He started to retch. "Won't be a minute," he mumbled and dashed off to the toilet.
I tipped some more of the gin down the sink and partly filled my glass with water again and I sat waiting for Ellis to return. I became concerned because he had been gone for quite a while and I went to check 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. I 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 I helped him to sit down on the sofa. He leaned to the side, collapsed onto the cushions, and was soon fast asleep.
I caught the bus home and went into the kitchen to make a hot drink. My sister came down from her bedroom to see me. "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?"
I looked at my 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."
We both looked to the back door as we heard the garden shed door banging in the wind.
"Dad's left the door open," I 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?" I shook my head. "Don't worry, I'll go." I walked out to the shed, but as I was about to close the door I noticed a strong smell of petrol coming from inside. I 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," I said and thought it best to pick up the can and put it outside. I always thought that the shed was a potential firebomb: turpentine, paraffin and many part used tins of paint were stacked on the wooden shelves. When I walked inside the door slammed shut behind me and a piece of wood leaning against the shed fell and wedged between the door and the raised edge of a paving stone. I pushed on the door, but only the top moved an inch or so and sprang back into place when I took the pressure off. I turned and looked around quickly, sensing there was someone behind me, but then laughed at my own foolishness. I felt uneasy though and pushed harder on the door, trying to force it open.
The fumes in the shed were filling my head and I began to feel slightly dizzy. I thought I heard laughing and I looked in horror at the box of matches in my hand, wondering why I had picked them up. I threw them back onto the bench and turned and began banging on the door in a panic. I could see my sister in the kitchen through a crack in the door, dancing to a tune from the transistor radio. I screamed out my sister's name and then thought I heard laughing again. I was horrified because I had somehow picked up the matches once more and was about to strike one.
Again I felt as if someone were behind me and I felt very cold and thought I heard someone whisper my name. I was petrified and too scared to look around, afraid of what I might see. I was just about to scream out in terror when suddenly the door opened.
"What's happened to you?" Evelyn said.
I rushed outside to my sister. "Evelyn, there's something in there."
Evelyn laughed loudly at my comment.
"Seriously, it frightened the life out of me."
My 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 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 I was not laughing and I was still shaking with fear." Evelyn put an arm around me. "Come on, come inside and I'll make us a brew, you silly old sausage."
"Next time, Gloria, next time you may not be so lucky."
I stopped and looked at Evelyn. "What did you say?"
Evelyn gave me a puzzled look. "I never said a word."