Rosie moves in on Ellis.
The goods train squeaked and rumbled as it snaked its way out of the sidings at Stoke-on-Trent. I sat on the fireman's seat feeling thoroughly miserable knowing I had over re-acted about Gloria's meeting with the soldier and I realised our break up was my own fault. I was missing Gloria terribly and I had called at The Coffee Bar hoping to see her in there, or even seeing her sister so that I could ask how Gloria was, but neither of them had called in. I thought of going to the surgery, but remembered how hostile she had been towards me the last time. Perhaps it would be best if I went to her house and gave her a chance to explain about meeting the soldier. Or perhaps I should forget all about an explanation and just plead with her to start going out with me again. How I wished I had listened to her at the party instead of storming off full of anger. I don't know why I reacted like that. It couldn't have been the drink because I had not had that much. It was as if I had been possessed by a demon or something. I thought back, it was not the first time it had happened. I had to change my thoughts; I had to stop the despair that was filling my heart and the wetness filling my eyes.
I looked at my watch. It was almost nine p.m., I was already on overtime and we were just setting off on the return journey. I stood up and opened the firebox doors. The engine was a class five and we were only pulling some empty oil tanks. I wouldn't be busy, there was plenty of coal on the fire and my driver was light-handed. I half-filled the lid of the billycan with freshly brewed tea and sat back down. I knew by the time I had finished my brew the fire would need attention and I may forget about my row with Gloria for a while. It didn't work, after I had attended to the fire and the boiler my thoughts immediately returned to her.
We picked up speed and I looked down for a while from the cab window, staring as if in a trance, at the sleepers whizzing past. The engine jolted to the side slightly and cracked its way across a set of points. I looked ahead and saw the bright green light just ahead of the tunnel entrance. "Right away mate," I called across to the driver. Just before the train entered the tunnel, I put my foot on the fire door and shoved it. The two doors were linked and they slapped shut with a loud crack. Into the tunnel and a flame shot out from the bottom of the doors like a dragon's breath, but it was gone in a second. The darkness was total, but there was a light showing at the far end and I hoped that there would soon be a light at the end of my tunnel of personal gloom.
Some hours later, the engine was standing on one of the shed roads, a small heap of coal burning slowly under the lip-plate where one of the shed firemen had left it when he had disposed of the fire. The train of tanks was sitting in the sidings waiting for its journey onward. I got home tired from my twelve-hour shift, but I was lying in bed unable to sleep, thinking of Gloria and full of regret and depression. It was one o'clock in the morning and I decided to make myself a hot drink. I got dressed and made my way quietly down the stairs, not wishing to disturb my parents. As I reached the bottom of the stairs, there was a knock on the front door. I walked down the passage wondering who would want to call at this hour of the morning. A thought flashed into my mind that it could be Gloria, and I thought perhaps she could not sleep either and had made the trip round to see me. It had to be her I thought as I hurried to the door; it could not be anyone else at this hour. I was ready and eager to throw myself into her arms and offer her a thousand apologies for my stupidity.
As I opened the door, I was surprised to see a lone, young, policewoman. "Are you, Ellis?" she said.
"Yes, what's the matter? What's happened?"
"I'm Policewoman Carver. A young girl’s been found in the swimming pool at Carver's Hollow. It looks like she's tried to commit suicide. There was a note in her bag with your name and address on it and we'd like you to go down there and see if you can identify her."
"Don't say you think it's my girlfriend Gloria. Please don't say that."
"I don't know who it is."
"What does she look like?"
"Late teens, slim with short auburn hair, quite attractive really."
"Please, don't let it be her." I was in a panic as I rushed to the coat hooks under the stairs. "Just hold on while I'll get my jacket."
"No, you'll have to go on that," she said, pointing to my motorcycle. "I've got somewhere else to go. Be quick though, they were still trying to resuscitate her when I left."
I got my coat and started my motorcycle without even noticing the sudden disappearance of both the policewoman and her police car. I sped off on my motorcycle towards the other side of town. I was panicking, speeding and almost in tears, hoping it was not Gloria, praying it was not Gloria. I foolishly overtook a police car at high speed before slowing down and swerving into Carver's lane. I pulled up at the gates and put my motorcycle on its stand, but left the engine running and the headlight shining across the pool. I looked in, but the place was empty. They must have gone, I thought. Maybe they had taken her to the hospital, but then I looked round at the approaching headlights, perhaps it was the ambulance and the rescuers were waiting with Gloria in one of the huts. I looked back inside and thought that I saw someone's arm thrusting up out of the pool.
"Help, Ellis, help me, I'm drowning."
I was confused but felt sure that it was Gloria's voice. "Hold on," I shouted. "I'm coming to get you." I started to climb the gate, but someone grabbed me and hauled me back down.
"And what the hell are you up to?" Two policemen had hold of me and they didn't look too friendly after I had just cut them up.
"My girlfriend, she's in the pool, she's drowning. I've got to get in; I've got to save her. Help me, please help me."
"Hold on, calm down, there's nobody in there. They've got problems with the pool and the waters been drained."
"But I saw her, she called me."
We were all startled when we heard a loud screeching cry from inside.
"There is someone in there." They looked at me. "You stay here, we'll take a look." The two officers clambered over the gate. As soon as they were clear, I followed them over. The officers were searching the bushes, but I hurried over to the pool. It was as they had said, completely drained.
I suddenly felt out of control of my body and I lifted my arms and took a step forward as if I were about to dive into the empty pool. But I was in control again and took a step back from the edge. I thought I heard a voice." Shit, damn you," it said.
"Who's that?" I said. "Who's there?" I started to look about but saw no one. I heard a scream and one of the officers staggered out from the bushes. "The bastard's hit me with something," he shouted. Blood was pouring from a large gash in his head. We helped the injured officer back over the gates and they set off for the hospital with me following behind on my motorcycle.
I was making a statement to one of the officers while his friend was being attended to in the casualty department. The police had mixed views, at one time mentioning attempted murder, but then suggesting that I may have been up to no good myself. "I don't know any policewoman named Carver. Didn't you think it funny that her name was Carver and she sent you to Carver's Hollow instead of sending you to the hospital," the officer said.
"No, I just rushed over. How was I to know that she was a nutcase?"
"It all seems very strange. If what you said about the bogus officer is true."
"Of course it's true. You heard someone yourself and they attacked your mate."
"Could have just been intruders. Anyway, you're lucky we were there to stop you. If you had run over and dived in the pool, you'd have broken your bloody neck."
I got home and couldn't stop thinking about the strange woman who had lured me to Carver's Hollow and tried to trick me into diving into the empty pool. If I had, it would have probably killed me. I couldn't understand why anyone would want to kill me, or even harm me. I thought of calling at Gloria's house to check she had not been a potential victim as well, although I may not get a good reception at that time of the morning. It was after a few more hours of troubled sleep that I decided to make my way round to her house, thinking I might catch her before she set off to work. I felt I still had to make sure that Gloria was all right. Evelyn must have heard my motorcycle and she stood at the front door in her school uniform waiting for me.
"Is Gloria in?" I asked.
"No, you've missed her, she's gone to work. What's up, you look terrible?"
"I've had a bad night that's all. Did she get home all right last night?"
"Ellis, we didn't go out, either of us. We were in all night, except for when we went up the chippy."
"I had a bit of a scare last night. It really frightened me."
"Why, what happened?" Evelyn asked, obviously full of interest at the thought of a piece of gossip.
I told her about the policewoman and my trip to the pool and how the woman turned out to be a fake.
"My God, they could have killed you. Why would anyone want to do that to you? It's frightening, there's some crazy people about but you've no need to worry about Gloria, she's okay." To my surprise, Evelyn rested one of her hands on my shoulder. "Apart from being depressed because you two have split up." She suddenly reached over and began to kiss me. I was surprised and although I was enjoying the embrace, I pulled away from her feeling puzzled by her action and the grin on her face. "Well, I couldn't do that if you were still going out with my sister, could I? So I've had a go while you were broken up. You know, see what sort of kisser you were."
"And what’s the verdict?"
"You were all right, quite groovy in fact. No wonder Gloria wants to get back with you and you obviously want to get back with her so why don't the pair of you stop being so silly?"
"I've been a fool, Evelyn, and I'll be the first to admit it, but I'm so much, well you know."
"No, I don't know. Come on then say it, this is not a good time to be bashful."
I laughed. "You know, don't you? You know that I'm madly in love with your sister."
"I think I do yeah, so why don't you pop round in the week to see her. She's a bloody nightmare every time you two stop talking so why don't you do something about it. Although if you keep upsetting her then I'll make sure you never see her again, and I can do it. It was me that showed that creep Simon the door."
I smiled. "Thanks, Evelyn, you've done a good job of cheering me up. I'll call to see her in the week, but don't worry her about that nutty woman will you. She'll only think I made it all up as an excuse to call round."
"No she won't, but if that's what you want. Our little secret then, eh." I turned to walk away, but Evelyn grabbed my arm. "You can't just go off and leave me after your little chat has made me late. You'll have to give me a lift to school. I'll be late if I have to walk now."
"All right, hurry up then."
Evelyn grabbed her coat and bag and rushed out to join me on the motorcycle. "Yippee," she called. "I can't wait to see their faces when I pull up on the back of a motorbike."
I left home that evening making my way to The Kings Arms where I was supposed to meet Gordy and a few of our friends before going off to the club in Crewe. I thought about my earlier meeting with Gloria's sister and I had a strong desire to call back to the house with the chance of speaking to Gloria. The thoughts seemed to be thrust upon me as if it was urgent that I should go there immediately to try to repair the damage I had done to our relationship. Despite what Evelyn said I was not sure Gloria would want to see me, but I had an overwhelming desire to see her especially after the hoax of the early hours and I set off to her house.
I felt nervous as I rode towards Gloria's house, but my feelings turned to anger when I saw the soldier, Simon, walking out from her front gate. I turned in the road and sped off, making my way back to The King's Arms.
I walked up to my friends at the bar. "Where's Gordy?" I asked.
"Not coming. He's got a date with some old tart."
"Sounds about bloody right for Gordy."
My friends must have noticed the unusual malicious trait in my voice. "Are you all right mate, has your old queen scorched your best shirt or something?"
"No, I'm all right, I'm only joking," but it was obvious I was not. "Maybe we'll meet Gordy and his new girl at the club." I looked at my friends' empty beer glasses. "I don't really fancy a drink yet; are you two ready for the off?"
I arrived with my two friends at the club in Crewe but there was no sign of Gordy. My friends soon paired off with two young girls. There was a crowd of them but I had no interest in any of them. Despite the heavy make-up and trendy clothes I thought they were a lot younger than they looked. I thought they were immature and it irritated me the way the girls seemed to be continually giggling. I walked to the bar and thought I would stand and have a drink on my own.
I was looking over at a black-haired girl who was dancing with a few of her friends. I had seen her before; she was the girl I had chatted to at the bar when I was last in the club. Even though she had shown little interest in me, I was still attracted to her but it was clear she was ignoring me. I suddenly felt a cold wind blow across between us. It puzzled me there could be a wind inside the club and I thought that maybe a fan had malfunctioned or something, though it appeared that nobody else seemed bothered, or even noticed.
I looked around the club, but when I looked back to the girl I was surprised to see her looking at me with a broad smile on her face. Her long black hair was loose this time, hanging down to her shoulders. She was wearing a mini-dress that was not much bigger than a vest, complimenting her slim figure. The attractive look of her face completed the picture and even from a distance, she looked desirable.
She left her friends and walked over to me. "I'm Rosie," she said. "Would you like to dance with me?" Without waiting for a reply she took my hand and led me out onto the dance floor. She put her arms up and linked her fingers behind my neck, pulling her breasts into my chest she slowly danced rubbing herself against me like a purring kitten. I felt embarrassed, her stretching up was revealing the bottom of her pants and was causing a bit of interest from some of the other young men.
The record finished and I took the girl over to meet my friends. I was pleased we all seemed to get on reasonably well and I was happy with how the evening was progressing. The disc jockey began to play a slow love song and the two other couples went off to dance. I was eager to dance with Rosie again, but Rosie declined my offer to join them. I felt disappointed as I looked over at my friends dancing in close loving embraces. When I turned to look back at Rosie she was gone. Looking around the club I noticed her over by the cloakroom putting on a long black leather coat and I hurried over to her. "What's up, are you going?"
"Yeah, I'm going to Minstrels, it's nearer home."
"Why not stay here? I've got my own bike now, I can give you a lift home later if that's the problem."
"I want to go to Minstrels. It's all right if you don't want to come with me, I'll just go on my own."
"No, I don't mind going, I just thought we were all right here."
"Well let's go then."
"What about the others?"
"Sod them." She turned and began to walk towards the exit with me tripping after her.