More bad news for Gloria.
I felt weak; I only picked at my meals since my break up with Ellis and my depression continued to intensify. Even my sleeping had been affected and I woke up just after two o'clock in the morning, thinking of Ellis. What was wrong with him? Why had he suddenly developed a split personality, sometimes changing from a wonderful boyfriend to an uncaring oaf? Tears were forming in my eyes when something disturbed my thoughts. As I lay in bed listening, I thought I could hear my mother crying, and then there were voices, my parents talking. I got out of bed and put on my dressing gown. I knew I would have trouble getting back to sleep and thought I would sneak downstairs for a hot milky drink. Being as quiet as I could, so as not to disturb my sister or startle my parents, I went out onto the landing.
"You'll be all right, you're well provided for," I heard my father say
"I don't want to be provided for I want you to stay with me," my mother replied.
I could hardly believe what I was hearing; surely my parents were not splitting up. They don't always show it, but I know they think the world of each other. I didn't want to eavesdrop, but I could not help myself and I moved closer to the door.
"What are we going to tell the girls?" my mother said.
"I'll have a word with them on Sunday, after church."
"They could be wrong, darling, they might be wrong. They are sometimes."
"We must face the facts, they've given me a month and we have to accept it."
"I don't want you to die, damn your bloody smoking. Why you, why us?"
I went into a state of shock when I realised what they were talking about. I began to have trouble getting my breath and I was breathing in spasms. I began to shake, my nose began to water and tears filled my eyes, I felt dizzy, I felt sick, my vision became blurred, my legs buckled. I grabbed the doorjamb and started to cough while taking gulping breaths.
My mother heard me and came to the door.
"Oh, Mum. It's not true, tell me it's not true." They were the only words I could utter. I began to sway and my mother rushed forward as I passed out.
Early Monday evening, I was sitting on a bench in my front garden listening to my transistor radio. I had secretly started on some arrangements about my future and was trying to gain the courage to go to Ellis's house to talk to him about them. I was thoroughly depressed, worrying about my father and badly missing the support I wanted from Ellis. I heard an approaching motorcycle and knew by the sound of the engine it was Gordy. He pulled up and walked to my front gate. I looked at him and then got up and began walking towards my front door, but Gordy rushed across and grabbed my arm before I could get inside.
I wrenched my arm away and stared at him. "You're all I sodding need, just when I thought things couldn't get any worse."
"You've heard then?"
"Don't you speak to me, just go away. I hate you, Gordy; I really hate you for what you did to me."
"I told you the other night; I didn't mean to leave you there."
"Oh yeah, you just rode off and forgot I wasn't on the back."
"If that copper had pulled me with no tax, no insurance, and only a provisional licence, as well as being drunk in charge, they would have locked me up and thrown away the key."
"Well, that might not be such a bad thing, and why the heck did you leave me there in the first place? That was a really nasty thing to do, even for a low-life slug like you."
"Don't talk like that, we grew up together, we're mates."
"You make me sick, just go away."
"No listen, Glor, there's something down them woods, they reckon it's haunted. All right I take a few liberties, but I would never dream of leaving you there. Something seemed to be controlling me, some force making me leave you."
"Yeah ghosts and goblins. Nice try, Gordy, now sod off." I thought of the things that had happened to me in the woods, the sights, the sounds, and the strange behaviour of the woodland creatures; were there really ghosts down there or had it just been my imagination. I dismissed the thought, walked into my house, and was about to close the door on Gordy.
"You don't know, do you? You don't know what's happened?"
"Gordy, if it's anything to do with you then I don't want to know. If I never ever see you in my life again, I will have missed nothing." I looked away from him and slammed the door.
Gordy shouted towards the closed door. "Ellis could have died, you know. Some people are saying that it wasn't an accident, that he deliberately crashed his motorbike because he was depressed at splitting up with you." He didn't have to wait long before I opened the door again.
"What the heck are you talking about?"
"That's why I'm here, Gloria. I didn't just come here to be abused. Ellis crashed his bike on Saturday night. He was taken to hospital in a bad way, smashed all his face up."
"Oh my God, no! Where is he? What hospital?" I said, full of panic.
"He's at home now. I went to see him this morning."
"Why the heck didn't you let me know?"
"I'm here now, ain't I? Come on I'll drop you off." He gave a smile. "See I'm not all bad, am I?"
Gordy dropped me at Ellis's house and I was warmly greeted by his mother. "Ellis," his mother shouted. "You've got a visitor. Just go up," she said to me. "First room on the left."
"Oh dear, you have made a mess of yourself," I said as I walked in.
"Gloria!" Ellis sat up straight, buttoned his shirt, and ran his hand across his hair in a subconscious attempt to look better. "Oh, Glor, it's so good to see you."
"Don't call me Glor." I took hold of his hand as I sat beside him. "We've been a bit silly, Ellis, haven't we? Gordy came round to see me and when he told me you'd had an accident I almost died." I sniffled as the first teardrop began to trickle down my cheek. "Look at your poor face. Oh, Ellis, Gordy told me I might be to blame for the accident, he said it might have been my fault. Please tell me the truth, was the accident because of me?"
"Of course it wasn't. A bloody squirrel darted out in front of me and when I swerved to miss it, I came off." He put an arm around me. "Please don't cry."
I wiped my eyes. "I'm sorry, I'll be all right. It's just that I love you so much, Ellis, I really do."
"What even with my front teeth missing?"
"Well at least you can't bite me." I gave a laugh before continuing. "Anyway, Gordy exaggerated a bit, as usual, you don't look half as bad as I was expecting."
"Gordy tends to alter the truth a lot, but he's a good mate, I'm lucky I've got a friend like him."
"Yeah." I stared at his face. "A few false teeth and whip out the stitches and no one will notice the difference in a week or so."
"Let's hope so. I have been trying to see you, Gloria; I called round your house a couple of times."
"I know. To be honest I was a bit surprised when my sister told me you were necking with her."
"But it was... We were not going out with each other then, and…"
"It's all right. She was only testing you, see what sort of kisser you were, or so she said, and at least you didn't follow her in the house."
"She took a risk there, inviting people in."
"I think she was quite safe with you, anyway, my mum was in the kitchen."
Ellis took hold of my hand. "So can we carry on as before, before my stupid accusations that is? I'd really like us to get engaged if you still want to. We can give it a couple of weeks, hopefully, I'll have my teeth done by then."
"I don't want us to get engaged."
"Oh! Well, I suppose it's all I deserve after the way I behaved. But..."
I put my free hand up to stop him. "I just want us to get married."
Ellis stared at me, looking mystified.
"Not this Saturday, but the Saturday after."
Ellis was still and silent as if frozen to the spot. There was a look of disbelief and shock on his face and he just stared at me until I continued.
"You don't want to, do you?"
"Don't want to, of course, I want to, but bloody hell, as you can imagine it's a bit of a shock. I know we love each other, but why the sudden rush? What's going on?”
"Ellis, we were going to get engaged and I think we both know in our hearts that one day we'll get married. Two weeks, two years, it will happen. Do you believe that?"
"Yes, yes I do." He brought his other hand over and rested it on mine. "Gloria, you look as if you are about to burst into tears, but it doesn't look like they'd be tears of happiness. Please tell me the truth, what's the matter?"
I pulled one of my hands away and wiped my eyes. "It's my dad, he's dying."
"Oh no. Oh, Gloria, I'm so sorry to hear that."
"I want him to be at my wedding. I'm sorry to put on you like this and I'll understand if you don't want to. I know it's not fair on you and I've no right to ask you like this."
"Fair has nothing to do with it and you've got every right because you're in love with me and I'm in love with you." Ellis sat forward and took me into his arms. "Like you said, two weeks, two years, it will happen and the sooner the better for me, but let's do it properly." He pulled away from me. "Gloria Dawn, will you marry me?" He started to laugh but soon stopped. "Will you marry me in two weeks' time?"
I gave a laugh as well before answering. "Oh yes, Ellis. Thank you so much." I reached forward and kissed his cheek, but he pulled away from me again.
"Ouch! Watch my face." I laughed again and Ellis grinned back at me, both of us feeling highly emotional, and both of us wiping tears from our eyes. "So we'll have to book the registry office."
"No, we'll get married in the church."
"But I thought you had to give notice, and banns and all that."
"No, I've been to see the vicar, I told him about my dad and he's gonna sort it all out for us."
"You have been busy; you haven't told my mother, have you?"
"No, I'll leave that to you. Do you think she'll be angry?"
"Gloria, she'll be over the moon. Can you go to the kitchen and tell her I want to speak to her?"
"Just think, it won't be like Blackpool, the next time we spend the night together we'll be married. I'm glad we've never done it, it's something I'm really excited about."
"Yeah," Ellis said, a huge toothless grin on his face. "I can't wait either."
"Oh yes you can, and then when we're married you'll have new avenues to explore." I became flushed. "I didn't mean... oops."
"You rude girl. What a thing to say."
We both laughed as I stood up. "I'll go and get your mum."
I spent the day with Ellis and his mother. I felt Ellis's mother had taken to me the first time we met and she was saddened to hear the news about my father. I was relieved as well as overjoyed when the woman gave us her blessing.
I got home early in the evening and my parents and my sister were sitting watching the television. I stood in front of the fireplace waiting until the commercial break came on and then I walked over and turned the television off.
"Oy!" Evelyn yelled. "What do you think you're playing at?"
I turned to face my parents but ignored my sister's protest. "Mum, Dad, I've something to tell you," but I hesitated and stood looking at them.
"Well, come on then, girl, out with it."
"Me and Ellis are getting married."
"Wow, golly gosh." Evelyn started clapping for some reason known only to her.
"Well, that's great news dear," my mother said. "Ellis is a lovely boy. We'll start making arrangements for an engagement party for you when you are ready that is."
"No, Mum, we're getting married the week after next."
My mother remained silent, slightly stunned, but my father got up from his chair and glared at me. "What!" He said, and then turned his attention to Evelyn. "Get up to your bedroom."
"Just do as you're told."
Evelyn stood up and threw the TV Times onto the floor before walking to the door. "I'm not a bloody child you know."
"And less of your fizzing language, young lady." Evelyn stormed up the stairs, but I knew she would creep back down again. My father looked back at me, coughed, wheezed a few times, and then coughed again before speaking as if he were clearing his chest. "Don't you think, don't you think this family has got enough of a problem, without you going and getting yourself pregnant?"
My mouth dropped open. I glanced at my mother before looking back at him. "I'm not pregnant."
"Do you think we're stupid? Have you thought about us? Have you thought about your mother, the gossip and looks she'll have to put up with when you have the baby?"
"I am not pregnant!"
"If you're not pregnant then why are you giving us such a burden at this time?"
"It's not a burden, don't call it a burden." I looked at my mother. "Please, Mum, tell me it's not a burden."
"I don't know, Gloria. I don't understand, you've not known him for long."
"Since I was a little girl, I've dreamed of marrying someone I truly loved and I believe I've found him." I turned to look at my father. "And since I was a little girl I've dreamed about being walked down the aisle of our church, with all our friends and family looking on, and my proud father on my arm walking by my side. I want you there, Dad. I want you to be there with me when I get married."
I was full of emotion and my mother rushed across to me. "Oh, darling, don't get upset."
My father sat back down in his chair, took out his handkerchief, and wiped his eyes. "But there are other people to consider. What about him? What about his parents? What are they to say about all this?"
"Ellis is okay, we love each other, and his parents are really happy we're doing this."
"Well, we need to sit down with his family to talk it over and to make sure."
"That's not a problem, Dad. I can arrange that."
"Have you been to the church, have you spoken to the vicar?"
"Yes, it's all being arranged, but he wants to see you."
"Have you told him I'm dying?"
"Don't talk like that, Dad."
"Did you tell him?"
I looked at my mother. "I had to tell him, Mum, I had to. He wouldn't do it otherwise."
"It's okay, love, you did right."
"Yeah, I suppose so; trouble is now he'll be around all the time till I've gone."
Evelyn walked into the room with tears flowing down her cheeks. She stood by the door looking at our father, unable to fully take in the words she had heard.
Our father looked over at her. "Come over here and sit down, sweetheart, there's something I have to tell you."
Evelyn walked slowly across the room, wiping the tears away with her sleeves and she sat on the arm of our father's chair looking at him, waiting.
We heard a car pull up outside. My father leaned over and looked out of the window. "It's the fizzing vicar," he said.