Things get worse for Jane.
We left the RAF and moved in with Bob's parents in Sheffield. All went well at first. I was happy with the arrangement, but I soon realised that visiting people and living with them were vastly different situations.
I began to sense the resentment of his mother at the intrusion into her kitchen. While Bob went to work at his father's haulage company, I was made to feel surplus as if his mother felt she knew which food was best for her son, and knew better than me how to prepare and cook it.
I began to get bored in the house and I thought that I saw an opportunity for change. We had just finished our evening meal. I looked across to Bob's father. "Have the new lorries arrived yet?"
"Two came today, the other two probably early next week." His father spoke without looking at me, but cast a stern disapproving look towards Bob.
"I've got a HGV licence," I said. "I've driven a lot of the RAF Bedfords and I even drove a big Leyland in Cyprus."
"We don't talk business at the dinner table," Bob said
"I'm not interested in business. What I'm saying is that I could do with a job to help out with our finances, so we can get a place of our own."
"Our house not good enough for you now," his mother said.
"It's not that. The depot has the work, I have a HGV licence and the experience, why can't I drive one of the new lorries?"
Bob started to laugh, but his father just stared at me. "Preposterous," his mother said. “Girls don't drive trucks."
"I'm not a girl, I'm a married woman. And lots of women drive lorries, and buses, nowadays."
"Not in my bloody firm they don't. If you want work then go to the dairy. They're taking on girls there. Oh, I'm so very sorry, taking on women."
The father stood up. "No more, the matter is closed. I want to hear no more of your ridiculous idea. I'm going to the lounge for a brandy. I bloody well need one after this." The man stormed off. Bob looked over at me and shook his head.
His mother was the next to stand up. "Come on Jane, let's get this table cleared. Rachel will be waiting to do the washing up so she can get off home."
It was not long before we were offered a flat on the ninth floor of a new tower block. I was over the moon at first, pleased we were on our own, but the novelty soon wore off and I began to feel isolated. It was a lonely place; I hardly ever saw my neighbours and knew no one except for Bob's family and friends, so I decided to take a job at the local supermarket to relieve my boredom. I began to make friends with some of the local women, but the happy marriage was crumbling. Bob was becoming hostile towards me due to our failure to produce any children, especially the grandson that Bob's parents were expecting. I was also worried about our failure, but we had only been married a year. Plenty of time yet, I thought.
I stood alone on the balcony of our flat looking out into the night. I put a hand to my trim waist thinking on how I had been married for three years, was twenty-eight years old, and still I had no children with Bob. We had tried every method, every plan, but nothing seemed to work. It made me wonder if some damage had been done when I had given birth in Margate. I went to the doctors and he sent me for a check-up, but there were no problems and I thought that perhaps it might be a problem with Bob. I only brought it up the once and suggested he go for a check-up, but he went into a rage and started calling me terrible names. It was the first time he hit me, but he has hit me many times since.
I thought of Terry, wondering, as I so often did, how he was and what he was doing. He will be twenty-five now, another five years and you can get married, Terry. I walked back inside and looked at the clock. Midnight, he's bloody late again. There were voices outside our flat, people laughing, the key turned in the Yale lock, and Bob walked in. Colin, who was Bob's drinking partner, and a woman, followed him in. The woman smiled at me and I smiled back out of politeness, but I thought the woman looked common and tarty. I looked back at Bob clearly showing my disapproval at him bringing folk back at such a late hour, but it was a wasted effort.
"Hello, darling," he said. "Get some lagers." I walked off to the kitchen and brought three cans back. "Where's yours?" he said.
"I don't want one."
"Oh yes you do. You can join the party." He walked to the kitchen and brought me a drink back. I sat in an armchair wishing that his friends would leave, the lager can still held in my right hand, unopened. Bob put a record on the hi-fi and closed the curtains. "Jane," he said loudly, almost shouting. "Get up and dance."
"I don't want to dance thanks."
"Fiona will dance, won't you, love?" Fiona giggled but got up and began to cavort around the living room.
"Get em down, you Zulu warrior," the men began to sing, drowning out the song from the record. "Come on, Fiona, get your gear off."
"Bob, it's late, I think you should pack this in, don't you?" I had raised my voice but avoided eye contact with the woman.
"Shut up, Jane, it's only a bit of fun," Bob said. "Come on, Fiona."
The woman started to unbutton her blouse. I could tell by the way that she moved that it was not the first time she had given such a performance. "Bob, what the hell, please tell her to stop."
"Don't be such a prude. You don't have to look do you."
The woman threw her blouse onto a chair. She unzipped the side of her skirt and then slipped it down to the floor, kicking it over to the corner of the room."
I yelled at the woman. "You don't have to do this. Just take no notice of them."
Fiona laughed. "I don't mind, like Bobby said, it's only a bit of fun."
"Well I bloody mind, and who the hell do you think you're calling Bobby?"
Fiona deliberately ignored me and after removing her bra, she flicked it over onto Bob's lap as if to taunt me further, while causing the two men to yell with delight.
I put the can of lager on the floor and got up from her chair. "I'm going to bed, this is gross."
"No you're not," Bob said. "Sit down."
"Bob, I don't want to watch this, I'm tired, and I want to go to bed."
"Control yourself, woman, we'll all be in the bed soon enough." Bob and the two unwelcome visitors laughed at his innuendo.
"You're not funny. Can I go to bed now?"
"Sit down." I stood looking at him, but then he suddenly shouted at me, "I said sit down." I was nervous and I sat back down knowing drink could make Bob violent towards me. He had even beaten me up once while Colin was there, and I remembered Colin sitting there looking on and making no attempt to stop him. I turned my head away from the company and looked towards the curtains.
Fiona was soon dancing naked and provocatively in front of the men, seeming as if she were deliberately trying to aggravate me. "Come on, Jane, your turn," she said, speaking as if she were my friend although the two of us had never met before.
"Yeah, get your clothes off and dance with her," Bob said.
"Piss off," I said. This had gone too far for me, it was time to fight or run, but I didn't intend to have a catfight with the naked woman, knowing that would be just the sort of thing that would delight the men.
"See what I have to put up with, Colin, the miserable fucking bitch."
I stood up. "I'm going to bed, you do what you like."
"Yes, you go to bed. Better still why don't you go and sleep in the refrigerator, you frigid bloody cow." I felt humiliated as the three of them laughed at Bob's remark. I went to the bedroom and slammed the door behind me.
I was lying in bed when the music was turned down low and I could just hear them talking in the living room. I thought that perhaps Bob had realised he had pushed me too far and the guests were leaving. I thought I would give them ten minutes or so, and then if Bob didn't come to bed I would go back in the room and see what was going on. I closed my eyes and relaxed into my pillow.
I woke at eight o'clock the next morning realising I would be late for work. Bob had not slept in our bed and I thought he had probably slept on the sofa. I was feeling angry because he hadn't woken me before going off to work. I put on my dressing gown and walked into the living room. It was a terrible shock to see the three of them asleep, naked, Colin and Fiona huddled together on the settee, and Bob lying sprawled on the carpet. A long-playing record was spinning quietly at the end of its last track. I realised what had been going on. I had heard the rumours of the sex parties in Colin's flat, but nothing like this had ever happened in our home before. I was aware that Bob went to the parties, although he always denied it, and I knew he had at least two affairs in the short time we had been married. I stood looking at him, wondering how many times I must forgive him, and frightened that if I didn't, he might leave me, leaving me alone and abandoned again. I returned to the bedroom. Bob would be late for work and I knew his father would be livid. Punctuality was very important to his father and he had sacked many drivers for being late for work. He expected his son to give a good example. I didn't intend to wake Bob just yet; the later he was the better I would feel.
I hurriedly got myself ready for my job at the supermarket, but before I left, I went to the record player, turned the volume up and clicked the start lever. I opened the front door and smiled to myself as the first track began to blast out, knowing Bob would look at the time and immediately be filled with panic.
I returned from work at six o'clock and was busily tidying up the mess from Bob's private party when Bob arrived back from the haulage yard.
"Hello, love," he said. "Do you want me to get some Chinese, save you cooking?" I ignored him. "Come on, Jane, I'm sorry, we just had too much to drink that's all."
I stared at him. "You had sex with her, didn't you?"
"No, of course, I didn't. We just danced and had a bit of fun."
"A bit of fun. I found you all lying naked and you tell me it was just a bit of fun. Have you any idea how I feel? You and that friend of yours screwing some bloody whore, that you've brought in from the street, in my flat, while I'm asleep in the next room. How could you do that?"
"She's not a whore, she's a nice girl, which you could have found out if only you'd taken the time to get to know her."
"Nice girls don't dance naked in front of strangers and screw other women's husbands."
"Look if anything happened then I'm sorry, but I don't remember, and anyway she was with Colin not me."
"Oh, that's all right then, is it? I suppose Colin lets you shag all his women, does he? And is that what last night was about? Did you think I'd return the favour for you?"
"Of course not. Come on, Jane, let's not fall out again." He put his coat back on. "I'll go and get some Chinese."
* * * * *
Thursday night, girl's night out, the highlight of my week. I left the flat at eight o'clock and called for my friend on the third floor. It was over twenty-five's night at the club across from the flats, though there were many people there who were regulars and were nowhere near that age. We met the rest of our friends inside. There was usually quite a crowd and we would drink, mess around, dance and as the night progressed, do a bit of flirting, but it was all harmless fun, we never had any trouble and always had a good time.
I spotted a young lad I knew. Every week he would chat with me and we would always have a dance at some time during the night. I liked the lad and felt flattered by the attention he gave me. I had a dance with him and he walked me back to the girls' table. My friends were still up dancing and I sat down looking around to make sure I was not being watched by any of the staff. The young lad sat next to me as I took the quarter bottle from my bag and began to top up my Bacardi and Coke.
The lad grinned as I put the bottle back in my bag. "My parents are throwing a party for me tomorrow night," he said. Would you like to come? It won't start till late, but it will probably go on all night."
"What's the party for?"
"My twenty-first. It's my birthday tomorrow."
"Why didn't you tell us last week? We could have got you a card."
"You can give me the card tomorrow. What do you think, will you be able to come?"
"It's nice of you to ask and I'm really flattered, but I'm married and I've a husband to go home to. I can't go anywhere with you, love, so please don't ask me again."
"You're not angry with me, are you? I didn't think you'd go, but I had to ask, I had to."
"Angry, of course I'm not angry. In fact, you've made me feel good. Tell you what, as it's your twenty-first tomorrow and I won't see you, I'll give you your birthday kiss now."
The lad's face was filled with delight as I stood up and then sat on his lap. I put my arms around him and started to kiss him with a simulated passion. It amused me when I felt his aroused state moving against my thigh. I was beginning to get excited myself and I thought it was time to break away, but as I was about to I heard a voice behind me.
"Hello, Jane, enjoying yourself?"
I knew the voice and quickly turned to look at my husband's friend Colin. He walked away from me slowly, knowing I would follow him. "Colin, wait," I called. I got up and rushed after him grabbing his arm as I reached him. "It's nothing, Colin. I was just giving him a kiss for his birthday, he's only young."
"That's all right, I understand." A smirk appeared on his face.
"Please don't say anything to Bob. He'll get the wrong idea."
"You know, I've always fancied you and because I like you I won't tell Bob what I've seen, but you have to do something in return. I want you to call at my flat tomorrow when you take your dinner break."
"Just for a bit of fun."
" What the hell are you suggesting?"
Colin laughed. "O come on now, Jane, you know what I mean, mutual favours."
"Mutual favours. You mean sex."
"No, I mean female ecstasy, once you've had it off with me you'll never look at another bloke again. Every time you have it with Bob you'll be thinking of me, wishing it were me."
"He's your friend, I'm your friend's wife, how can you even think like that?"
"No one has friends when women are on offer. You're an attractive girl, Jane, and quite horny. All his mates would give you one if they got the chance."
"You disgust me."
"Well, when you call at my place tomorrow we can disgust each other, but if you don't turn up, then I'll know that you want me to tell Bob and you know what'll happen then don't you."
"I'll tell him you're lying. I'll tell him what you've been saying to me."
"He won't believe you. I'm his mate, ain't I?"
He put a hand onto my breast, but I pushed him away. "You can piss off."
"I'll leave you to think about it." He gave a laugh. "I'll be waiting, tomorrow lunchtime." I turned my back on him and walked away.
I returned from work the next day feeling a bit concerned about Colin, but thought that surely he wouldn't tell Bob about the boy; even he was not that low. I put a Vesta curry on and had it simmering as I waited for Bob to come home from work. I went onto the balcony and looked down at the parked cars to see if I could see Bob's car. There was no sign of it, but sometimes he had to park around the side and out of view from the balcony. There was a blue sky mottled with steamy looking clouds. I liked the balcony. It was a special place for me, away from my normal life where I could stand and think, often about my lost love Terry. An aeroplane was passing high up in the sky. I gave a laugh remembering when I had seen a shooting star in the night sky and Terry asked if I had made a wish, I had, but I had lost Terry so the wish could never come true now, if only. I gave a large sigh, thinking of my times with Terry, and wondering if I would ever forget him. I walked back inside and looked at the clock; he was later than usual. I began to worry about spoiling the curry and went to the kitchen to turn the gas off, but just as the gas popped off, I heard the front door close. "You're late tonight," I shouted through.
He walked across and stood in the kitchen doorway. "Yeah, I had a drink with Colin." I looked over at him. "Yes, you can look, you fucking slag."
"Look if it's about that young boy, I just gave him a kiss for his birthday. Nothing's going on, Bob, I swear."
"Bullshit, you had your tongue down his throat, and I've been told it's not the first time either. How long has it been going on ay? I treat you right, I let you go out with your mates once a week and this is how you repay me." He rushed over and grabbed my hair; oblivious to my screams he dragged me into the living room and shoved me onto the sofa.
"Don't hit me, Bob, please don't beat me up again."
"I'm not going to beat you up, you're not worth the effort. I'm leaving you, Jane. I'm moving in with Fiona, she's a real woman, a woman who can have children." He walked to the bedroom as I sat staring at him, shocked by what he had said. I thought that he surely could not do this to me. It was not the same as my other lovers, we were a married couple; we were supposed to stay together. I could hear him opening the cupboards and drawers as he packed his clothes in his old RAF bag. I knew for my own sanity that I had to stop him, he couldn't leave me, abandon me, reject me, he mustn't. He walked out carrying the bag and I rushed across to him, throwing my arms around him.
"Bob, don't go, don't leave me. I know we haven't been getting on, but we can work it out I know we can, and we can have children, we can adopt them." He shoved me to the floor, but I dived back at him wrapping my arms around his legs. "Don't do this to me, please, Bob, I'll do anything you say, but please don't leave me." He pulled a knee violently away and then brought it back striking me hard in my face. I let out a scream and fell back, my cheek swelling in a huge purple bruise. I looked back at him. "I'll kill myself," I shouted. "If you leave me I'll kill myself, I can't live on my own, I don't want to be on my own again."
"You want to kill yourself, do you? I'll give you a hand then." He picked me up by my blouse and pulled me across to the balcony. I cried and pleaded with him as he grabbed my hair and bent me over the railings, putting his other arm under my legs he lifted me off the ground, tilting me over the balcony. I struggled and cried in terror as I stared down the side of the nine-storey building, gripping onto the top rail with all my might. I thought my life was over, that he really was going to kill me and I wet my underwear and began screaming. Bob pulled me by my hair back into the living room and pushed me onto the sofa again.
"You've pissed yourself you filthy, disgusting bitch. That's about all you're good at, crying and pissing yourself. What use are you? You can't have kids, you're hopeless in bed, you're good for fuck all." He picked up his bag and walked out leaving me sobbing and trembling on the sofa.
The front door slammed shut, the sound echoing through the flat. I got up and dashed to the bedroom to get changed. There were many items thrown onto the bed, as Bob cleared all the old RAF stuff from his bag before packing his clothes. Seven blue airmail letters were lying amongst some old receipts and out of date documents, but I hadn't taken much notice in my haste to go after my husband. I thought that he was sure to call at Colin's flat and I was soon on my way there stopping only to look in the hall mirror at how the flesh on my cheek had swollen up from Bob's blow, almost forcing my right eye closed.
* * * * *
Colin stared at my swollen face looking as if he was shocked, but then he started to laugh. "Walked into a door have we?"
"You bastard, this is your fault."
"Oh no it isn't, you could have avoided all this."
"I want to speak to Bob, is he in there?"
"Bob!" He hesitated. "Oh yes, he's inside, you'd better come in."
I walked into the living room and turned to look at Colin as he closed the door.
"That's right, he's not here, but I am and I'm gonna give you the best shagging you've ever had."
"I don't think so." I went to open the door, but he grabbed me, dragged me across the room and pushed me against a sideboard. I was trying to force him off and was startled by how strong he was, as if I were powerless to stop him. I was in pain from my face injury as he tried to force kisses on me. I felt as if my spine was going to break from the way he was arching my back against the sideboard. His hands, one molesting me, the other trying to undo his trousers in between trying to control me. I saw a red wine bottle on the sideboard; the bottle was almost empty and was wobbling from the effect of Colin's attack on me. I picked the bottle up by its neck and smashed it across Colin's head with a great force. It shocked me the way the bottle seemed to explode, showering me with glass, red wine and blood. Colin fell to his knees clutching his head.
"You stupid, fucking cow," he screamed.
I rushed from Colin's ground floor flat and ran to the lift, panicking and continually looking round. The lift door opened and I pushed past two women who were leaving the lift. The women were shocked by my appearance, looking as if I had just left a war zone. "Are you all right love?" one of the women asked. I pressed the ninth floor button and turned away, facing the corner, shying away from the women's attention.
I unlocked my front door and bolted it behind me with some difficulty, my hands shaking frantically. Dropping onto an armchair I leaned forward and grabbed my knees tightly, trying to stop myself from trembling. The smell of the wine was beginning to make me feel sick and I thought I would get washed and changed, but as I stood up, I heard the siren of an ambulance approaching the flats. I stood silently thinking as it pulled up outside. Colin, maybe he was seriously hurt, maybe I had killed him. I rushed to the balcony and looked down relieved to see an attendant walking Colin to the ambulance. A police car pulled up and I panicked and dashed back inside. I walked about the flat unable to settle but was soon back on the balcony. The ambulance had gone but the police car was still there. I walked to the kitchen and leaned on the cooker, knowing that the police were coming up for me.
The banging began on my front door, loud banging and I stood as if frozen to the spot. Would they smash the door in and get me, dragging me off to prison, and who would care if they locked me up and never let me out. I heard a man calling through the letterbox, and then silence. I remained as if glued to the cooker. I didn't want to move in case I made a noise; the police might still be there, listening. A car started up and drove off. I peered through the window relieved that the police had gone. I went to the bedroom to remove my spoiled clothing and the letters on my bed stood out as if they were glowing. I shook my head feeling like I had been a little dazed, and then the letters were normal again, but I was now attracted to them and picked them up. They were addressed to me at Uxbridge with Terry's name and BFPO address on the back. It was a shock to me, although Bob treated me badly I found it hard to believe that he had stolen them. I needed a drink and walked to the kitchen putting the letters on a coffee table as I passed. I returned with a half bottle of Bacardi and some cans of Coke. Not bothering to change my clothes I poured a drink and sat down, eager to read Terry's letters. Letters wrote with a love that I had always craved from him, from the first full of hope and passion to the last full of pleas and despair.
The empty Bacardi bottle lay on the floor. I had sat for hours reading the letters repeatedly. It was getting dark, I couldn't read anymore, but I was afraid to turn on the light in case the police were watching and they would know that I was at home. I was drawn towards the balcony, drunk and highly depressed. I looked up and this time saw a shooting star crossing the sky. I again thought of the time outside the barrack block with Terry, and then briefly re-lived the moments when we were making love after walking back from the American Base. I remembered the highly emotional passion I had felt, so intense that it frightened me, and then the bloody seagulls. "What a fool I've been, what a bloody idiot," I mumbled to myself. "If only, if only." I looked back to the sky. Had it been a star, a plane, or even an alien craft, I didn't care anymore and I looked down over the balcony and down to the ground, thinking of ending all my heartache.
"Do it, Jane, do it."
I leapt back away from the balcony and dashed into the room. "Who's there?" I shouted. I looked all around the room. "Great, now I'm bloody going off my head." I kicked at the coffee table feeling frustrated because the Bacardi was finished. Bob's Brandy, that might do me some good, might calm me down and stop me from shaking. I took the bottle from the cupboard under a wall unit and poured myself a glass. I took a large gulp of the spirit and immediately felt nauseous. I began wandering about the room, staggering, and found myself on the balcony again. A whining buzzing sound filled my head as I looked down to the concrete below. "Just climb over, Jane, jump over, it will all be better for you. Do it and ease your wretched existence here."
Even in the drunken state that I was in, my fear was too great as I looked down. I put my hands across her ears. "Stop it, stop it," I screamed and ran back across the living room. I stood with my back against the far wall looking at the open door for what seemed to me like hours, but was possibly only minutes. Tears began running down my cheeks and my trembling had reached an almost exaggerated level. The whining began again.
"Do it, Jane, I'll be with you, I'll take you to a better place, trust me. Run, Jane, run."
"No, no, no," I shouted. Suddenly something reacted inside me, convincing me that just maybe there was a better after-life and all I had to do was run. I sprinted across the room intending to dive over the railings. Just as suddenly, the doubt and fear returned and as I dived over I managed to grip the bar at the top with one of my hands, but my body weight flipped me over and my legs followed with the momentum. I gripped the bar tightly. I didn't want to die after all. I wanted to get back, I wanted to go to my job at the supermarket, I wanted to see my friends at the club, I wanted to patch things up with my adoptive sister, I wanted to see if I could get my birth mother to acknowledge me, but most of all I wanted to find Terry. My bodyweight pulled on my arm, my grip was wrenched from the bar and I began to fall. I could see the concrete road nine floors down. I was petrified as I looked at the ground hurtling up towards me, believing that this was the last moment of my life. I tried to scream out in terror, but no sounds left my mouth, and then nothing.