Terry returns to the UK and gets some disappointing news.
I was sitting on the veranda outside my barrack room at El Adem airfield counting the weeks I had been there. I shook my head and gave a sigh before looking at the address on the envelope, double-checking to make sure every detail was correct. It was the seventh time I had written to Jane and I couldn't understand why she hadn't replied to any of my letters. I drank the last drop of lager from my can of Amstel and threw the can into a bin that was outside the next room.
My friend opened the door and looked out. "Terry, do you fancy calling at the pigs' bar for a drink before we go to see Joan Regan?"
"What for, I've got another case of Amstel in my locker?"
"That's all right, we can dispose of that after we've seen the show. I'll get me ole guitar strumming and we'll have a singsong. You never know, Joan might have heard about my talents and she might want to come back and do a duet."
I gave a sarcastic laugh before going to my room to get ready for our evening's entertainment.
Although I was having a good time and a great social life getting drunk with the lads, I was missing Jane. I had received letters from Mark, but Mark hadn't mentioned Jane, and I was reluctant to ask about her, not wanting Mark to know that I had strong feeling for her. I had letters from some other WRAF girls, some I hardly knew. I thought it was obviously Mark's handy-work, but I didn't reply to any of them. The only girl I wanted to hear from had seemed to lose interest in me as if I didn't matter to her because I wasn't there. I wondered if she had met someone else, could that be why she hadn't replied. Had she just binned my letters, like I had done with the letters from the other WRAF girls? I had my refuge, the pigs' bar. I could go there drinking with the RAF lads, or the Royal Corps of Transport lads, or the Lancers. I could go there, get drunk, and sing songs, laugh, and joke with the company. I could forget about Jane, forget about my strong feelings for her and my desire to develop an intimate relationship with her, marriage, yes even marriage. I could get drunk and forget my desire to marry her, despite all my comments to the contrary. However, the following day she would be in my thoughts again, and my despair would return because she had chosen not to write to me, not to reply to me, but to forget me.
It was the last week in March when the air force VC 10 landed at Brize Norton and I stepped out into the cold wet evening. By the time I got back at Uxbridge it was almost midnight. My friend Mark was asleep in bed and the other three beds in the room were empty. I jumped onto Mark's bed kneeling with a leg each side of him, pinning him down under the counterpane. Mark woke up startled, but pleased at the sight of me as I began playfully punching his arms and chest, causing Mark to laugh at the painless blows. I soon became fed up with the futile blows and Mark's laughter. I got off the bed and thrust a half-full bottle of Bacardi at him.
"Have a drink, me ole mate," I said.
Mark had hardly got over his laughing and although he didn't want a drink of the neat spirit, he took the bottle just to be sociable and pretended to take a drink from it.
I had drank half the contents on my journey back to camp and it was obvious that I was quite drunk. I looked down to the floor as I sat on my friend's bed and my manner changed as I looked back to Mark. "You seemed to get my letters all right. I can't understand why Jane never wrote back to me. She hasn't been posted again, has she?"
"No, she hasn't been posted, but I think I know why she hasn't written to you. You probably left it too late writing to her."
"What are you talking about, Mark? I wrote to her as soon as I got there, I posted it with yours."
"Well she never got it. She even asked me for your address. I gave it to Bob to give to her, but then they started seeing each other so I suppose she didn't bother."
"What on earth's she doing with him? I know he was after her, but she told me she wasn't interested."
"She must be a bit interested, they've got engaged."
"What!" I bent over, looking at the floor before looking up again. "She didn't waste much time did she? Shit, why didn't you say something, Mark, why didn't you write and tell me?"
"Why would I write and tell you. I didn't think you'd be that bothered. You always said that there's plenty of women out there, and we all know what you think about WRAFs."
"Yeah, I know what you're saying, Mark, but she's special."
"Well then maybe you should have told her that. Maybe you should stop trying to kid yourself and everyone else that you don't want her cause she's a WRAF."
"I don't need a bloody lecture, Mark, I want her back. I've really missed her and I've got to get her back, I've got to."
"You'd better get a move on then. They're getting married in June. "
"June! That's ridiculous. How the hell can they get married in June?" I shook my head and looked over to Bob's bed. "What time will that shitbag be in?"
"I don't think you're gonna like this. He's on leave, gone up to Sheffield with Jane. They won't be back till next week."
"Terrific, ter bloody rific." I shook my head again and then looked at Mark, trying to force a smile. "Oh well, who gives a shit anyway," I said, though I fooled neither my self nor Mark. "Have you got some Coke to go with this Bacardi? I'm getting pissed off drinking it neat."
"No, but Jock will have some."
"Come on then, let's go and wake the sod up."
Bob was driving back to Uxbridge in the early hours of Monday morning, with me sitting next to him trying unsuccessfully to get some sleep. Both of us were excited to be in his new car, but I was also reflecting on how well I had got on with Bob's parents. They seemed to be so happy about the wedding arrangements. I opened my eyes and glanced at Bob before looking to the road ahead. For some reason, there suddenly seemed to be a lot of traffic on the motorway.
I closed my eyes again wondering why Bob had lied to his parents, saying that we had been seeing each other for over three months. Maybe it was because if his parents knew that it was only half that time, they wouldn't have been so comfortable about things. His parents lived in a large detached house and I was impressed with the luxuries they enjoyed. I always knew that his father ran a haulage company, but I had never given much thought about how well off they were.
I had visited his father's transport yard and it surprised me that it seemed just as big as our MT section back at Uxbridge. A lot of the lorries were out, but Bob told me that his father had fourteen, four and six wheeled Fords, and due to an increase in his work he was about to buy some more.
To show their acceptance of me as a future daughter-in-law and their approval of our engagement, his parents surprised the pair of us when they bought Bob a new MG Midget as a replacement for his battered Vauxhall Cresta that we had travelled up in. He was supposed to get the car for his birthday a few months later, but his father brought it forward in celebration of the happy event. I fell in love with the sports car and was eager to show it off back at camp. I imagined driving around the camp roads with the top down, waving to all my friends as I sped past. Then I imagined the Station Warrant Officer screaming and shaking his fist at me as I roared past the station headquarters.
I was startled back to reality as Bob swerved around a lorry. "There's a lot of traffic on the road," I said. "Can't you slow down a bit?"
Bob gave a laugh. "It's a sports car, Jane, it's meant to go fast."
"Not this bloody fast it isn't, you're just showing off."
"Course I'm not. We don't want to be late back at camp, do we?" Bob gave another laugh. "Bit of a scaredy-cat, aren't you?"
"No, I'd just like to get back in one piece that's all. We'll be at Watford Gap soon, do you want me to drive for a while so you can have a blow?"
"Don't be silly, I'm all right." Bob eased the car's speed down a little. "Anyway, you're not insured to drive it."
"Not insured. Your mother said I was, and she said the car was for the both of us."
"She doesn't know about the technical stuff. Anyway she meant that the car was for both of us once we were married, but don't worry, I'll let you have a drive round the camp when we get back." Bob smiled at me briefly before looking back to the road. "What a fantastic week it turned out to be. What with the car, and you, you were great between the sheets this week, you little sexpot." Bob smiled at me again, but I didn't return the smile.
"I still say you should have spoken to me first."
"Are you saying that you didn't want to go to bed with me? It's not like we haven't done it before, three times we've done it in the back of my car."
"No, I'm not saying that. Do you know how embarrassing it was, for your mother as well as me, to be sitting down to tea on our first evening at your house, listening to you and your father discussing whether we should sleep in the same bed together? The pair of you were discussing morals, discussing me, as if I weren't there."
"You could have joined in the debate."
"Joined in the debate, joined in the debate. How could I do that, Bob. I was bloody mortified. I thought my face was going to burst into flames. All I wanted to do was to slip down under the table and hide. Why didn't you talk to me first, give me some kind of warning?"
"Jane, it was a spur of the moment thing, but it had to be done. Would you rather we slept in separate rooms with me creeping into your room for half an hour when my parents were asleep and then going back and leaving you on your own?"
"No, but we could have been a bit more diplomatic. I'm sure we would have got your parent's approval anyway, but the way you and your father were talking made me look like some tart you'd just met in the pub."
"Don't be silly. Look, have you enjoyed this week?"
"Yes, you know I have." I knew I had enjoyed the week, very much. I thought that at last I had found a man who loved me for myself, loved me enough to marry me. The lonely nights gone, I would soon have someone to cuddle up to for the rest of my life.
"Well, that's all that matters, isn't it? I love you, Jane. I love you lots and lots, and we will soon be the happiest married couple ever." He smiled and squeezed my leg, but when he looked back the cars in front were stopping and he stamped on the brake.
"What's happened?" I yelled, in panic.
Just in time, the MG midget screeched to a halt behind the vehicle in front. "Looks like there's been an accident. This could make us late. If you hadn't asked me to slow down we might have been past it."
"Past it, yeah, or we might have been part of it."
Bob had still not returned to the barrack room by the time Mark and I left the block on our way to breakfast. When we entered the dining hall I looked around at all the tables, but there was no sign of Bob or Jane.
After breakfast, I walked into the crowded rest room at the MT section. Bob was sitting in one of the easy chairs and I nodded to him.
Bob stood up and walked over. "Nice to see you, Terry, when did you get back?"
"Last Wednesday, when did you get back?"
"About ten minutes ago. I thought we weren't gonna make it for a while. Have you heard the good news about me and Jane?"
"I've heard no good news." I turned my back on Bob before he could continue the conversation and walked out of the rest room, making my way to the WRAF room.
Jane was sitting talking to Mandy when I walked in, she was slightly shocked by my appearance. She stood up and smiled at me. "You're back then. It's really good to see you, Terry."
I looked at Mandy. "Can you give us a minute?"
"Course, I've got to see the corporal anyway." She gave me a smile and set off to the control office.
"Getting married then, Jane?" I said, almost sarcastically.
"Yeah, and me not even thirty yet."
"Why didn't you tell me? Why didn't you answer my letters?"
"Letters, what letters, Terry? I didn't get any letters, did I?"
"I wrote to you. Seven times I wrote to you. Surely you must have got one of them?"
"Honestly, I swear I didn't get one. Terry, I was so disappointed, I thought that you didn't care about me. Then I got the news that my brother Tommy had been killed in a road accident."
"Oh, Jane, I'm so sorry. Have you been down there?"
"I can phone, get Marion to meet you, if you like."
"No, Terry. I'm not going there again, and I don't really want to talk about it. About the letters, are you sure that you addressed them right?"
"Yeah, I addressed them right." I gave a long sigh. "I don't know, I don't know what's going on, I don't know what to say to you. Are you happy about getting married? That's a stupid question I suppose."
"No it isn't. I want to get married, Terry, I really do. I need someone, and if I have to settle for second best then I will, but if you've got any other ideas then just say the word. You only have to say it, Terry, and I'll go through there and tell him it's off."
I took a deep breath and looked down to the floor briefly before looking back at her. "Have you slept with him?"
"Oh, Terry, Terry, what does that matter?"
"Have you slept with him?"
"Why are you asking that? You must know that I have, but I thought you weren't interested. We can make a go of it, Terry, if you really want to. What has happened between me and Bob, does it really matter as long as we get things right between us?"
I looked at her for a moment before answering. I was torturing myself picturing her making love with Bob, imagining every passionate detail in my mind. "It doesn't matter at all really, does it? Anyway, I'm not old enough to get married, am I? I wish you all the luck for the future, Jane, and with Bob, I think that somehow you're gonna need some."
"Terry, please, please don't walk away from me like this. I love you, Terry, you know I love you and I swear to God, I swear to God that I didn't get a letter from you. If you did write to me then that proves that you care about me as well."
"What do you mean? Do you think I didn't write, do you think that I'm lying?"
"No, Terry, I didn't say that."
"There's only one liar in here, only one cheater. Engaged to him and standing there telling me how much you love me. Do you get some kind of sadistic kick out of hurting people or something?" Jane stood looking at me, speechless, quite unprepared for my sudden verbal attack on her. I continued, "Perhaps, Vinny was right about you."
"That's not bloody fair, Terry," she shouted. "Remember that time when we were walking back from the pub to your house, you said…"
"Yeah, no doubt what you told me then was just a story to get some attention."
"How dare you, how dare you say that to me. If I were a man I'd bloody well punch you on the nose."
I looked at her, knowing my comments had caused her distress. I felt a strong urge to take her in my arms and cuddle her, but I could still see pictures in my mind, pictures of her lying naked under Bob, pulling at his hair and calling out his name. "Forget it, Jane, just forget it." I stormed off out of the room without another word.
I hurried off past the main rest room and along the yard, not really knowing why or where I was going. I turned into the vehicle wash bay and walked out of sight of the office where I began cursing myself. I kicked a broom and sent it spinning across the concrete, and then kicked at a plastic water tub showering myself in water in the process. "WRAF's, bloody WRAF's," I shouted. "I knew I shouldn't get involved with them." I sat on a wall with tears filling my eyes as I thought about Jane and thought about what I had lost. I dearly wanted to run back down the yard and into her arms, but the jealousy demon had squatted in my mind, and neither of us were going anywhere.
The weeks soon passed. I was no longer seen on camp at weekends unless I was on duty. Other times I would be in East London. I started to work weekends with my friend Brian, who had become a foreman in his uncle's demolition company. When I was on camp I would either spend my time in my room or at The White Horse public house in the town centre.
The marriage went ahead as planned. They had the reception at a nearby hall and although I was invited, I didn't attend. Bob was due for discharge three weeks after the wedding and Jane arranged to leave the WRAF to set up home with him in Sheffield.
The following week, I was walking across the transport yard when Corporal Sawyer called out to me. "Terry, can you take the mail across?"
I walked over and took the bundle. "There's a BFPO letter for Jock. He's lucky to get that," I said. "The BFPO service is crap."
"What makes you say that? I've never had any trouble."
"When I was in El Adem, none of my letters got through."
"Yes they did. Mark had a few letters from you. He used to come over and give us your news."
"Yeah, I know Mark's got through, but that's all."
"What, your parents didn't get any?"
"And I noticed six or seven come through for Jane."
I laughed, more from sarcasm than happiness. "No they didn't."
"I saw them myself, blue air mail BFPO letters with Jane Dale's name on the front, and yours on the back."
"She told me she didn't get any."
"Well she's been having you on mate."
I walked across and sorted the letters in the rack before walking around to the WRAF rest room.
Mandy was alone, sitting reading a magazine when I walked in. She looked up with the usual smile noticeably missing from her face. "It's all right, don't bother knocking."
"I knew it. She's been lying all along, hasn't she?"
"I might be able to answer that, Terry, if I knew what the hell you were talking about."
"Jane got my letters, all of them."
"No, she didn't."
"Corporal Sawyer just told me to bring the letters across to the rack. The game's over, Mandy."
"And what game is that? The game where you play the part of a complete idiot? Or the game where you destroy a girl who worships the ground you walk on?"
"It was her fault. She got my letters, and she still went off with him."
"She did not get the letters; if she did she would have told me."
"Corporal Sawyer said he sent my letters across to the letter rack. So he's lying then is he?"
Mandy jumped up from her seat. "You just wait here," she said, and hurried from the room. She was soon back and dropped Jock's letter onto the coffee table.
"You've nicked Jock's letter."
"Yeah. Easy, wasn't it?"
"Are you saying that…Are you saying..." Realisation suddenly struck me hard and I shook my head in despair as I looked vacantly around the room, thinking that maybe I had got it all wrong. "Bob, do you think it might have been Bob?"
"You work it out, Terry." She picked up the letter and handed it to me. "Get out of here, and take that letter back to the rack. You’re a fool, Terry, and you lost a truly special girl because you wouldn't believe her. The things she told me about her past would shock and depress anyone. Her life has been full of people abusing her and letting her down, and you, you were just another on a long list of selfish bastards. I just pray that Bob gives her the love and attention that she hopes for and deserves."