Jane's New Year's celebration is not so happy.
The time for my leave soon arrived and I set off home on the train feeling disappointed Tommy hadn't answered my letters.
I strolled out of Bedford railway station and caught a bus to the end of my street. I walked proudly along the green in my number one uniform, swinging my suitcase slightly as I went. A neighbour waved to me from a window, I smiled and waved back. Further on two young boys ran out of their garden and began marching around, saluting me as they passed. I saluted back and laughed as I ruffled the hair of one of the boys before walking on towards my own front garden. The hedge and some of the rose bushes had been removed to make way for my dad's Hillman Minx. The car stood on some paving stones set across the lawn in two neat rows. The street door opened before I was halfway along the garden path and I put my case down as Gwen dashed across to greet me, hugging me with genuine sisterly affection.
"It's great to see you, Jane, I miss you so much. I wish you could come home and see us more often."
"Military commitments," I said and gave a comical salute. "Come on now, let's get indoors and you can tell me all the news about you and David. I was really thrilled when I got your letter. I was so happy for you it made me cry."
Gwen gave me another hug, picked up my case, put her arm around me and we went inside. My parents greeted me with affection and I responded in kind, but because of the way they had treated me, I felt I could never truly love them as my parents again. I also often thought of my baby. I could never forgive them for making me agree to his adoption.
I sat with Gwen at a table by the large front window in the living room. Our father left the house for a meeting at the bowls club and I watched as he drove off. How nice it would have been if he had taken the trouble to meet me at the station. I pictured him, standing waiting proudly at the end of the platform, his arms outstretched. I would run to him out of the mist like in one of the old films. I would rush into his arms and he would lift me and swing me around before stopping to give me a fatherly kiss and a loving cuddle.
Yes, it would have been nice, but I didn't dwell on it and I looked back to Gwen. "I can't believe my little sister is getting married before me."
"Me and David want you to be chief bridesmaid."
"Chief bridesmaid! I thought you might think I was a bit too old."
"I told her that as well," our mother said, interrupting the conversation as she walked over with two cups of tea. "You should have someone young and pretty."
We both stared at her then looked back at each other, ignoring her comments.
"I want you to be chief bridesmaid, Jane. If you don't do it, I won't have one."
"Don't be so stupid," our mother said.
"Of course I'll do it, and I'm over the moon you have asked me."
Gwen took hold of my hand and kissed me on the cheek. Our mother turned to walk back to the kitchen. "Something wrong with you two," she mumbled.
"Anyway what about you?" Gwen asked. "Tell me about this chap you've been seeing, Terry, isn't it?"
"Oh, Gwen, I really like him, I think this is it. I think he is the one for me. I feel so good when I'm with him and I'd marry him tomorrow if he asked me."
"He hasn't mentioned it yet then?"
"No, and I don't know if he will."
"I'm sure he will. He would be a fool to lose someone as nice as you." I smiled, hoping my sister was right. "Are you lovers though?" Gwen continued. "You know, proper lovers."
"No, not yet." I kept our encounter on the way back from US Air Base at Ruislip private, where I thought it belonged.
"We are." Gwen lowered her voice to ensure she was not overheard by her mother. "We've been doing it for months now. It's such a change to our lives, so intimate, so close in our minds as well as our bodies."
"Don't let mother find out or you'll end up in the WRAF like me." The pause for laughter was only brief. "As for Terry, I don't know. I've only just left camp and I miss him terribly already. But he has a funny attitude, sort of split. One minute he's really affectionate and telling me he loves me, the next he's a bit distant and treating me like one of the lads."
"Seduce him. It'll all change if you seduce him."
"I don't think so. Remember when I wrote to you about Stan in Cyprus, and then that flying officer creep. They're all the same. All pigs once they think they have you under their control."
"Not my David." Gwen gave a smug and contented smile. "Maybe you should have brought Terry home with you."
"I thought of it, but he's on short notice for that thing in Libya and he can't leave camp."
"Saw it on the tele', lots of trouble, riots and things. You must be worried about him going."
"Not really, that's all miles away from the air-base. I'm more worried about him going across to the pub New Year's Eve and getting drunk. I'm sure he fancies the barmaid over there."
"Don't worry about that. All men try to chat up the barmaids; it's a male ego thing. My David does it all the time, but it never leads to anything, it's harmless."
I was not so sure, but I was sure if I were engaged and my fiancé continued to chat-up barmaids, I would not be too pleased, but I kept the thoughts to myself. "Come on then, you can help me to unpack my stuff."
I was determined to enjoy my break at home but began to feel that two weeks was perhaps a bit too long to be away from Terry. The lack of response from my real brother Tommy also played on my mind, and I wondered if he had listened to Ronnie and changed his mind about me. I decided if he hadn't replied to my letter by the time I returned to camp, I would make more of an effort to go over to East London to see him.
The family Christmas passed quietly and I was pleased when New Year's Eve arrived, the time seeming to drag for me. Gwen's fiancé David arrived at the house and walked to the New Year's party with me and Gwen. The evening started well, I was not a stranger and knew most of the people. I was up dancing most of the night and was pleased that I still seemed to be as popular as when I was a teenager. At midnight, there was plenty of kissing going on as all the revellers wished each other well for the New Year.
I had just kissed a couple of my old school friends when I saw David making his way over. I had no problem with David coming to kiss me, it was the normal thing to do.
"Happy new year, Jane," he said.
I returned the greeting and reached across to kiss him, but as soon as our lips met, his hands were behind my neck and he was slobbering at me like a man making love. I managed to pull myself away from him and he grinned at me before walking off, but I didn't return a smile. He had annoyed me. He had gone over the top and seemed to have easily lost control of himself and I wondered if he was the right sort of man for my sister. I thought no more of it and resumed dancing with the crowd.
Because of all the revelry and kissing, I thought it was time to re-do my makeup. I went up to the bathroom, but it was occupied. I saw the bedroom door open and a few of the guest's coats on the bed. There was a nice big mirror on the dressing table and I thought I might as well use that.
David came out of the bathroom, looked into the bedroom and walked in as if he hadn't noticed me. "Oops, sorry, Jane," he said. "I didn't know you were up here."
"It's all right, I'm only doing my face." I stood up waiting for him to leave, but he stood looking at me. "Is there something wrong? Do you want something?"
"No, it's all right, I was just looking for Gwen, but I'm glad I've caught you. I've bought Gwen a gold bracelet from a mate at work and I'm not sure if she'll like it. It's in my jacket. Do you think you could have a look and tell me what you think?"
"Of course," I replied. "If I like it, she'll like it."
David picked his jacket up off the bed as I walked over to him, but he dropped the jacket on a chair and closed the door. "You know, Jane, I've always fancied you," he said, with a smirk across his face, as if I should feel flattered by his statement.
"There's no bracelet, is there?"
"You know there isn't, and we both know why you followed me up here."
"Don't kid yourself, David, I didn't follow you up here. I wouldn't be seen dead with a creep like you. Now get out of the way, I want to go downstairs."
He grabbed hold of my arms and I tried to pull away from him, but he overpowered me, pulled me round and pushed me onto the bed. He fell on top of me and began to force kisses on me as I struggled against him. I was trying to get away from him, but he held me firmly. I felt his hand moving up under my dress. I was not going to let this happen and I grabbed hold of his hair and yanked hard on it, pulling his head back away from me. "If you don't let go of me I'll scream this bloody house down."
"All right, all right, just let go of my hair." I let go, but he made no attempt to get up. I pushed him away and stood up, but he grabbed me again and fell back onto the bed, pulling me on top of him. "I just want to talk to you."
"You have a funny way of talking," I said and tried to get up, but he held his arms around me tightly. "Please, David, let me go."
The bedroom door opened and Gwen walked into the room. David threw his arms up. "Just leave me alone, get off me," he shouted as he looked over to Gwen. "Thank God you're here, get her off me, tell you crazy sister to leave me alone."
I pushed myself up and stood up looking across to Gwen. All I could get out was, "Gwen! Gwen, I…"
"You bloody selfish cow! How could you, how could you do this to me?"
"Wait, Gwen, it's not what you think."
Gwen wouldn't listen and she turned away and rushed off down the stairs.
David stood up, gave a laugh and hurried after her.
I gathered up my make-up before following after them, down the stairs and into the kitchen. Gwen was crying in David arms, convinced he was a victim in the matter. Our friends were filling the room, wondering what all the commotion was about.
"Gwen, we have to talk," I said.
"I've nothing to say to you, just go away and leave us alone."
"Will you get out of here," she screamed.
Gwen was drunk and I thought it would be better to talk to her when she was sober. I decided to leave and two of Gwen's friends followed me as I went to the door. "I didn't do anything, I swear. It was that pig, trying to get hold of me."
"You don't have to tell us, Jane, we all know about that scumbag. I don't know what Gwen sees in him. If she sobers up a bit I'll try to have a word with her, but usually she won't have nothing said against him, it's like she's besotted."
I didn't get the opportunity to see my sister on New Year's Day. When I got up, Gwen had been home and had gone out again. It was the following day when I saw Gwen again. She walked into the kitchen with David and gave me a filthy look.
"Gwen, I've got to talk to you."
"I don't want nothing to do with you. I can't understand why you behaved like that."
I looked at David. "Why don't you act like a man for a change and tell her what happened?"
"She knows what happened. You tricked me into going into the bedroom with you and then you tried it on with me."
"What!" our mother yelled. "She did what? I warned you, Gwen, I warned you what she was like, but you wouldn't have it would you?" She turned to me. "How dare you? How could you after all Gwen's done for you?"
"Why don't you mind your own business?"
"Mind my own business, it is my business you immoral bitch." She raised her hand, but I grabbed her by the wrist and gently but firmly pushed her away.
"I'm not a child anymore, don't you ever raise your hand to me again."
"Go pack your bags and get out of my house. You're not wanted here. You've never been wanted here."
I looked over to Gwen. Gwen was becoming unsure and she looked at David to avoid my eyes. I shook my head and went up to my bedroom to pack, thinking my time here was over and I would never return.
I came down the stairs and walked out of the house without going into the living room. Although I was upset, I was also angry and slammed the door behind me without calling goodbye. Despite the weight of the bulging suitcase, I walked briskly and upright and I didn't look back.