Terry feels depressed and alone. Badly missing Jane's company.
I was just about to leave my bedroom. I picked up the framed photograph that my father had taken of Jane standing smiling at me the night we stopped at my house. I continually regretted losing her to Bob but thought that I would probably never see her again. I had many friends in the RAF, but after I left the service I realised how lonely my life was. Both my brothers and my parents were now living in Australia. Although my family were constantly trying to persuade me to join them, I never felt any desire to do so.
I dated a few girls since Jane, some I liked more than others, but I never seemed to experience the same feelings that I got when I was in Jane's company. I knew that I could have got her back, and I thought that was perhaps what she had wanted, but I hadn't done what we both wanted, and that was the biggest regret of all. Why did I just give up? Why did I allow my jealous thoughts to interfere with my desire to spend my life with the most wonderful woman a man could wish for? I often thought about her, thinking how it might have been and knowing it was my stupid opinions of marriage that had put doubts into her mind in the first place. I would often fall into a deep depression, tormenting myself and wishing I had done things differently. Craving the past and playing the same batch of records repeatedly, records that reminded me of my times with her.
I kissed Jane's image and then carefully put the photograph back into its place before leaving to meet Brian at The Prince Of Wales.
Brian was waiting for me in the bar, but he had arranged to meet up his wife Marion at the bingo hall and only had time for a quick drink. He was trying to arrange a date between me and one of Marion's friends.
"So why won't you make up this foursome on Saturday, Terry? She's a tasty bit of stuff. Some blokes would kill to get in bed with her."
"I've already told you, I don't want a relationship at the moment thanks."
"Who's talking about a relationship? I'm talking about getting your end away. She's really got the hots for you."
"That's just what I don't need. I don't need some bird trying to get her hooks into me. I don't need anybody."
"You'd best get up to that new massage parlour at Stratford then, with all the other saddo's. All they want there is your money."
"Yeah all right, just piss off to the bingo and leave me alone. Huh, bingo, I don't know what's up with you."
"And I don't know what's up with you either. You're not the same Terry I used to know. Perhaps you should just fuck off back into the air force." I looked at Brian as he stood up to leave, but I never commented on his remarks. "Listen, Tel, we'll have a beer tomorrow night. We'll have a right bender like the old days. Maybe I'll be able to talk some sense into you when you're pissed. Oh, by the way, I won't be able to call at your site tomorrow. I've got a meeting over in Middlesex. Do us a favour, see if you can push the blokes a bit. I need to be off the site by the end of the month."
I looked around the bar as Brian left for the Bingo hall. There were only a few customers in the place and I knew none of them. I thought I might as well just go home and play a few records.
"Cheer up, Terry," the girl behind the bar commented. "It's not the end of the world, you know."
"No, you're right there," I said. "That happened a few years ago."
The girl shook her head as I turned to leave. "There's a free pint in the pump if you want it."
"No thanks." So, I thought, she fiddles a pint for me, and then she'll expect me to ask her out. Then it'll be meet the parents and before you know it I'll be trapped in her web.
I set off, but I didn't go home. Brian's words were in my head and I headed for Stratford. Well, why not, I thought.
I passed the doorway, walked a little way, and then turned back and passed the doorway again. I had almost gone in this time, but a young woman had walked out from the shop next door and I carried on past. I stopped at a Chinese restaurant and stood pretending to read the menu until the woman had walked off. I looked back along the street to the sign hanging above the doorway: CINDY'S MASSAGE PARLOUR.
I started back towards the entry. Just walk into the porch, I thought. It's only one step to the side then the worst bit is over. Once committed and in the porch, there will be no turning back. I glanced at the public house on the other side of the road. I wondered if the people were looking out of the bar windows at the perv's going into the massage parlour. Is that what I was? Was I a perv'? I dismissed the thought. No, I just wanted a bit of attention, a bit of companionship without any commitment, a pretence of love from a stranger that would mean nothing to me afterwards.
I made the turn into the porch and began to climb the marble stairs. The sound of my footsteps echoed up the stairway and I tried to walk without the heels of my shoes clicking on the floor as I crossed the landing. The door on the right had the name of a solicitor on a small brass plate; the pink door on the left displayed the name, CINDY'S, in large black letters.
There was a bell push on the left doorpost and I walked across to press it, but the door opened before I had reached the button. A tubby grey-haired man walked out, a large grin beaming across his face. I ignored the greeting from the man, being more interested in the attractive young girl standing at the door giving me a seductive and inviting look.
"Well are you coming in?" she asked. She stepped back and I walked through. It surprised me how plush and clean it looked inside, not the seedy joint that I had been expecting. I stood at the desk watching as the girl walked around to the other side.
"Are you one of the girls?" I asked.
"Well I'm a girl," she said. "Well spotted."
"No, I mean do you do it, do you do the massaging?"
"Goodness me no, I'm not qualified. I just do the reception. If you want Cindy, then you'll have to wait a while, she's just freshening up. But Hayley's free at the moment." She looked across and tipped her head slightly towards the lounge.
I turned and saw a girl sitting in the lounge looking over through the doorway and smiling at me, a familiar smile. She stood up and walked towards me. I suddenly felt flushed. "Joyce," I said in surprise.
"Hayley, call me Hayley in here, Terry."
"Hayley!" I laughed. "This is crazy."
She laughed with me. "It's a bit of a shock for the both of us, isn't it?"
I looked at her as she stood in the doorway wearing just a see-through nightdress, underwear and stockings. Her legs looked long and slender, her face glowing with a false rosy hue. She stood as if she were posing for a camera, giving a knowing cheeky smile that complimented the image of bold sexuality that she was portraying. How could this be Joyce? "A massage, I've only come for a massage. I feel a bit tense," I said, trying to justify my visit.
She gave a chuckle. "We'll see about that. But don't worry about the expense Terry. Just pay the door fee, the rest is on me. It's time to finish what I started all those years ago." She winked at me before walking provocatively towards one of the rooms. "This way Terry," she said.
* * * * *
The next morning I arrived for work feeling depressed. Was that how I was to spend the rest of my life, just getting drunk or going off to see Joyce at the massage parlour? I had no family now outside of Australia, all my friends were married and seemed as if they were on a different planet to me, and I had no interest in starting a relationship. All I could think of was Jane, every day, every night she would visit my mind at some time. I thought that my only hope was to visit a hypnotist to have her memory removed from my mind before it destroys me. But I wondered how I could do that when I still feel so much in love with her.
A huge crane with a two-ton demolition ball clattered and vibrated as it inched its way towards an old and derelict building. The tracked loading shovel travelled a lot faster as it rumbled across the slabs of concrete in top gear. As it came close to the building, it slewed round with its back to the upright girders. Piles of small broken concrete lay at the foot of the four girders on the corner of the building, where it had been chipped away to reveal the bare steel. I held the cutting torch as a barrage of sparks shot out, tiny droplets of molten steel, the larger ones popping as they hit the floor.
The crane driver approached me and I stopped cutting. "We're going across to the cafe for a bit of breakfast."
"Okay, I'll get breakfast after I've finished," I said. "I'll have this done by the time you get back. Can you track the crane a bit further away? I don't think we'll need it, she should collapse all right." The man walked off to move the crane and I carried on with the cutting, carefully watched by my lookout. I put three angled cuts through each of the four girders, and then a hole through one of the outside ones and another hole through the side of the inside one. My lookout threaded a wire rope through the first hole and then attached it to the inside steel with a large shackle. The lookout went back outside and vigilantly looked for any sign of the slightest movement as I cut triangles of steel out of the inch-thick sides of the upright girders. I dragged the trolley of cutting equipment further into the building and clear of the area of collapse, and then walked outside to join my friend. The wire rope had been attached to the tracked machine and the four bays of the three-storey building stood waiting to be collapsed.
A young lad that worked in the site office ran over to us saying there was a telephone call for the lookout and the two of them hurried back leaving me on my own. I looked up and thought I saw a shape move back from one of the windows. I remembered the old tramp, the tramp that I had thrown out of the building the previous day. I thought I had better go and check that the tramp hadn't moved back in again.
Unkown to me, the men passed the site office on their way back from the cafe. The machine driver looked over at my lookout standing at the office door talking on the telephone.
"Is it ready to go?" he shouted.
The man was still engaged in his conversation, but he looked at the machine driver and raised one of his thumbs.
In the building, I noticed a pile of rags in the corner of the top floor and I walked over to them. It was the tramps bedding, but the tramp was not there. I was startled when I suddenly heard the machine revving up outside. I looked out of the window and frantically shouted to the men, but they couldn't hear me over the sound of the machine. I saw the cable tighten up as the machine tracked forward and I knew that there was no chance of me getting across the two bays to safety if it all went to plan. I only had one chance. If the other three steel girders didn't pop out when the inside one was pulled, then the machine would have to track forward to pull out the outside one. It was my only hope and I turned to try to run to safety. The middle steel was pulled out, the building sat slightly and then the other three girders popped out. There was a rapid multitude of creaks and groans before the whole corner of the building dropped and collapsed inward causing a great rumble and a huge cloud of dust. I had prepared the job well.