Brian makes a mistake, and George seizes his opportunity.
I got to Barfield a bit late on Sunday night and met my friends who were already in Minstrels nightclub. It was not long until I started looking around the dance floor searching for Helen. Resentment built up when I noticed her dancing with a stylish young mod. The music ended and Helen stood talking to the lad until the next record began to play. The song: "When A Man Loves A Woman", did not make me feel any better, especially as Helen and her partner were now dancing very intimately, like lovers. My resentment soon turned to jealousy and I had to look away. I saw one of Helen's friends and I thought I would have a dance with her. Maybe seeing me with her friend on the dance floor might make Helen feel as unhappy as I was. I walked over to the girl. "Fancy a dance?" I asked.
"I'll dance with you," she said, "seeing's it's your birthday."
"Oh, you remembered then?"
"No, I didn't remember. Helen told me."
I smiled and took the girl's hand and deliberately walked near to where Helen was dancing. My attention was focused on Helen as I danced with her friend and I kept looking over at her. She seemed happy and was smiling continuously but the smile left her face when she saw me looking at her and it disappointed me as she looked away.
"It's no use just looking," the girl said. "Why don't you have a dance with her?"
“She’s with that idiot. Look at them, you'd think they were a couple. Who is he anyway?" I was getting myself more wound up even though I knew our break up was my fault.
"That's Mark, her ex. She went out with him for over a year."
"She probably doesn't want to dance with me now she's back with him then."
"Of course she wants to dance with you. She's not back with him, but they are still friends. He’s engaged to someone else. Trust me, if you go over he'll just walk off. That's what she's waiting for; she thinks the world of you."
"I don't know about that."
The girl gave a large sigh and a shake of her head. "What's your problem? There's something wrong here?"
"What makes you ask that? I haven't got a problem," I said, trying to look unconcerned.
"Well, I think you have and you'd best sort it out. It's obvious you like her but there's no shortage of lads eager to take your place and that's a fact. If you mess her about too much you'll lose your chance with her."
The record came to an end. "Do you want another dance?" I asked.
"No, you go and dance with Helen." The girl walked off and left me standing alone on the dance floor as the next record began to play. I looked back over at Helen. She was looking back at me as she danced with the young man and eye contact lingered for a moment before she turned her back on me. I turned and walked from the dance floor, left the club, and headed home feeling as if she didn't want to know me.
Clouds of gloom seemed to float above my head all week. I was badly missing Helen and wishing I were with her. I cheered up on Saturday when my father signed the hire purchase agreement and I collected my, BSA, Gold Star motorcycle.
Sunday evening, I rode to The Ship Inn with George on the pillion. Helen was sitting with her friends in the jukebox room when walked in. We looked at each other with both of us unsmiling almost hostile but making the briefest of eye contact. I knew it was up to me to make the move and I walked over and asked her if she would come outside with me for a talk. I feared she might not want to and if she refused I would look a bit silly to all our friends in the bar. It was worth the risk though, and I was delighted when she agreed and followed me outside without any hesitation.
"Well, how do you like my bike?" I asked.
She glanced at me, almost in disbelief, before looking back to the motorbike. "Bloody hell, that's one smart machine; it looks fantastic."
I sat on the side of the motorbike seat and took hold of Helen's hands. "About the other night. I know I shouldn't have spoken to you the way I did. I'm so sorry."
"You were really nasty to me. I just don't know what I did to deserve that."
"You did nothing. I was just in a funny mood and took it out on you. I really am so sorry and I'm missing you so badly. Please Helen, will you go out with me again?"
Helen gave a deep sigh before answering. "I don't know. Will I have to suffer every time you're in a mood?"
"I love you, Helen."
"And I love you, and I've been so miserable since we split up but I don't know what you want or where we are going, if anywhere."
"Things'll be different from now on, I promise. I'll make you the happiest girl in the world if you'll just give me another chance."
"I hope so, Brian, I really do."
I stood up and we fell into each other's arms with our passion replacing any further need for discussion.
We walked back into the jukebox room smiling and with my arm around her. Helen started laughing when our friends clapped, cheered and whistled at our reunion but I found it a bit embarrassing although I had to laugh as well.
Although I didn’t usually go to Minstrels on Saturdays, I felt as if I should maybe show a bit more commitment to Helen and I decided to surprise her there. I walked into the club, looked about and saw her dancing with George. I had seen George earlier in Locksford and he said he was going home to have an early night. I wondered why he had changed his mind but I didn’t dwell on it.
I walked over and they seemed to be oblivious to what was going on around them. You would think she was his girlfriend, not mine. "Can I have a dance then?" I said.
She smiled as she turned to look at me. They both seemed a bit surprised to see me, embarrassed almost. “You don’t have to look so guilty,” I said and gave a laugh.
“I’ll leave you two alone,” George said. “I need a drink anyway.”
“I thought you were having an early night?” I said.
“Yeah, an early start in the morning, but when I got home I had a message that the job was cancelled, so here I am.”
He walked off and I started to dance with Helen. “I’ll have to watch him, I think he fancies you.”
“You needn’t worry,” she said. “Not really my type.”
I met Helen in Minstrels on Sunday night. After we had a few dances she sat at a table and I went to the bar to get our drinks. One of her friends was at the bar talking to Badger and George and I got her drink as well. I put a hand up to greet my friends before looking back at the girl.
“I suppose you are staying over tonight?" The girl said.
“Yeah, I might stay at my sister’s”
“No, not your sister’s. Her folks are away for the weekend, aren’t they? They’re not back till Monday night.” She gave a laugh. “I suppose she is gonna surprise you when you take her home. A whole night of passion you lucky pair.”
I walked back over to Helen but didn't feel happy about putting myself in such a vulnerable situation.
Helen took a sip of her port and lemonade. “Shall we have this drink and take a slow walk up to my house?” Helen said.
"No, I've got to get home early. I'm getting the bus."
"What!" Helen said. "Bloody hell, Brian, why can't you stay at your sister's? Sunday night at my house is the only time we spend on our own."
"I'd like to, but I was late for work last week so I've got to make sure that I'm not late tomorrow."
"Well, why the hell didn't you come on the motorbike?"
"I didn't want to risk it. I nearly got done by the police last week for drunk driving."
"Bullshit!" Helen stood up. "I don't want that drink, I want to go home. Can you take me home, Brian?"
"I told you, I'm going on the bus. You'll have to walk up with the gang. That's not a problem, is it?"
"Yes, it is a problem. You've got to come home with me, Brian, please."
"Don't start telling me what to do, Helen. I'll do what I bloody well like."
"Oh yeah, well you do what you bloody like and I'll do what I bloody like." Helen went across and spoke to her friends before walking towards the exit and causing her friends to give puzzled looks towards me.
I saw Badger and George still at the bar and went over to join them as Helen walked out of the club. "Hello, where's she going?" Badger asked.
"We've had a row. She's probably going home for a sulk."
"Cor, you've missed a chance there."
"What do you mean?"
"I heard her mate telling you that Helen's folks were away for the weekend."
"It doesn't matter if they're away or not. They're always in bed asleep when we're in her parlour and sometimes I don't leave till three or four in the morning."
"You dirty little ram," Badger said.
After Helen left the club I dearly wanted to go after her and ask her forgiveness again for being so immature, but I thought of Amanda. If we went to Helen's empty house to have sex and I could not do it because of the drinking, what would she think of me? She might not want anything more to do with me. It's best to wait, wait for the right time when I hadn't been drinking, when I would be ready but I had no idea when that might be.
“Well, I'm off home,” George said.
“What’s up with you?” Badger asked.
“I'm on an early start in the morning. Best get some sleep.”
“I thought your job was cancelled,” I said.
"Oh, yeah. But being on nights last week I'm knackered. Need to catch up on some sleep."
Badger looked at me. “Just us two then,” he said.
It had been a warm and pleasant evening and Helen had not brought a coat with her. It was raining when she left the club and she began to hurry to get home before the rain got any worse.
She turned into the side street and hurried towards home, but became worried when she heard someone running up behind her. She thought it might be Brian; hoped it was, but was frightened to look round in case it wasn't.
She recognised George's voice as he shouted to her and she stopped to let him catch up. "What are you doing here?" she said.
"I saw you leaving and I didn't like the idea of you walking home on your own at this time of night. So what's happened with you and Brian?" he said.
"I've just had a row with him again. All I did was ask him to walk me home. I don't know what the bloody hell's the matter with him."
The rain became heavy and George took off his jacket and put it around Helen's shoulders. "You're getting soaked," he said.
"Now you're gonna get soaked," she replied.
"That doesn't matter. I'll walk up with you and still get back for the last bus."
"Thanks, George. I could do with some company. I'm really fed up. Why does he keep doing this to me?"
"That's Brian I'm afraid. He's always been a bit immature. Come on, let's get you home."
The rain became torrential as they hurried up the road. A fierce wind began to blow from behind, driving the rain into them. Their backs were soaked through to their skin, their clothes became heavy and seemed to stick to them, and Helen had trouble keeping the coat around her as the wind gusted savagely.
They got to her house and she invited George in so he could dry his clothes. She gave him one of her father's dressing gowns and then went to the kitchen to make them both a hot drink while he got changed.
He was sitting on the sofa with his tea, his wet clothes hanging on a maiden round a small two-bar electric fire; Helen sat in the armchair. He stood up and walked to the window. "It's not getting any better. It's still throwing it down. I might as well put my wet clothes back on and get down to catch the late bus. I'm gonna get drenched again anyway."
You can't put them back on, it'll make you ill. Look you can stop here if you like. You can sleep on the sofa, but you'll have to leave early. My mum and dad will be back about eight in the morning and if you're still here, they might get the wrong idea."
George wasn't about to argue and Helen set off upstairs and brought down a pillow and blanket. "I'll give you a shout in the morning," she said. "If you need the toilet, it's in the bathroom upstairs, first door on the left."
“Helen!" George spoke just as Helen was about to leave the room. “I know you're still going out with Brian," he said. "But I've got these two tickets for a do at the Labour Club tomorrow night. It'll be a really good night. There's a live group and a comedian. But I need someone to go with and I was wondering if you would like to come with me. Just as a friend, there won't be any funny business."
"I don't think so, George. I don't think Brian would like that, do you?"
"Well, why tell him then? Look, Brian's out all the time himself. He can't really complain if you go out. I'm not going to try anything on, am I? Brian's a good mate of mine. What's the matter? Don't you trust me?"
"Of course I trust you."
"Right that's settled then. My mate and his wife are going and we can pick you up in his car then drop you back home afterwards."
Helen felt excited by the prospect of a secret date with him. Nothing would become of it anyway; she wouldn’t let anything happen that she might regret. What was the harm of a night out in the company of others? A smile crossed her face as she thought on how she always felt good when George was around.
Helen said "goodnight," amused by the thought that George was naked under her father’s gown.
"Yeah goodnight," he said as she turned to leave the room. "And don't forget we've got a date tomorrow night.
She turned to look back at him and saw a huge grin across his face. After giving him a lingering smile, she left the room and went to her bedroom.
It was not long before Helen’s bedroom door opened and George walked in. She was in bed reading and feigned a startled look.
"Oh, I'm sorry, I thought this was the bathroom and you left the light on for me."
Helen laughed and put the book down on her bed. "I said the first door on the left, you fool." She laughed again.
"I'm really sorry, Helen. I feel such an idiot." He looked down at her book. "What's that you're reading, a love story?"
"No, it's Ian Fleming."
George sat on the bed and picked up the book. "Oh, it's James Bond. Funny book for a girl."
"I've got a few Bond books. I like him. He excites me."
"Does he now? I might just change my name then. George Bond, your very own secret agent." Helen began to laugh, but George interrupted her laughter. "Do I get a goodnight kiss for seeing you home safely?"
"Only if you promise to behave yourself."
He grinned as he reached over to kiss her. The kiss soon turned into a passionate embrace as she welcomed his affection. She knew that she loved Brian, but it had been such a long time since she had made love with her previous boyfriend Mark and she was badly missing the sexual intimacy. They continued their embrace and George moved a hand onto one of her breasts. She knew that she should try to stop him, but she couldn't, her excitement had taken over all thoughts of reason. She was attracted to George and was flattered that he always seemed happy to spend time with her. Her thoughts for Brian had drifted; her thoughts of love were gone. George stood up and slid the dressing gown off his shoulders, dropping it to the floor before getting between her bedsheets.
Helen walked into the Labour Club with her arm linked to George's and walking just behind George's married couple friends. It was difficult to get the thoughts of their night of passion from her mind. Nevertheless, she knew that it had to end; it shouldn't have happened and this foolish date must be the last.
The working men's club was not of the type she usually frequented and coupled with the fact that she knew few people in Locksford, she thought that her infidelity should be safe from discovery. Her heart felt as if it missed a beat and she raised her eyebrows as she heard a girl call her name. She turned to look at the girl and was surprised that one of the girls from The Ship Inn was in the club, grinning at her, knowing she was two-timing Brian. Helen returned her smile and waved but looked away again and carried on walking to the bar.
George bought a round of drinks and as they walked from the bar to find a table, Helen noticed two couples looking over at her and it seemed as if they were talking about her. She didn't know them but had seen them at Minstrels and had once seen Brian talking to them. She smiled at them but then realised she should have ignored them and they may have thought they were mistaken. Her smile wasn't returned as they looked away and carried on talking.
She tried to enjoy herself, but her imagination wasn't kind to her and every now and then she felt that people were looking at her, whispering, knowing she was cheating on the boy who loved her. The time dragged for her and she was pleased when it was time to leave.
They returned to Barfield and George got out of the car with her. He moved forward to kiss her, but she moved away from him. "I've got to go," she said.
"I'll send them away if you want. I can always phone for a taxi later."
"My mum and dad are still up."
"You can introduce me."
"No, George. You said we'd go out as friends that's all. I'm still with Brian."
"Yeah, well what about last night?"
"That was a mistake. It shouldn't have happened."
"It was no mistake, Helen, and you know it. It's what we both wanted. Look, I'll pick you up on Saturday. There's a club what I sometimes go to in Manchester: The Twisted Wheel. It's got a brilliant atmosphere. You'll love it."
"No, George, I can't cheat on Brian again. It's wrong."
"Well, tell him. Brian's a great lad, but like I said, he's immature; he's still got some growing up to do. You know I'm right and you know from last night that we're good together. So tell him. Tell him before someone else does. I'll tell him if you want?"
"Don't you dare! Don't you bloody dare!"
"All right, all right. I won't say a word, but you know how people talk, and you said yourself that you knew some people at the Labour Club. It's only a matter of time Helen. People love gossip."
"I'm going in."
"I'll see you at Minstrels on Sunday. Think about it, Helen. You should tell him."
Helen thought about it a lot leading up to Wednesday night. She was sure Brian would turn up at her house despite their argument at Minstrels, but she was worried that someone might have already told him about her night out with George. She heard his motorbike pulling up and she hurried to the front door, relieved to see him smiling.
She sat on the pillion and they set off into town. She regretted her fling with George and hoped that it would all blow over and be forgotten, but she was worried that the gossiping may have already started. She wondered if, as George had said, it would be best if she told him herself rather than letting him hear it from someone else, but she couldn't bring herself to tell him. While she was with Brian, she felt that her meeting with George had been a foolish mistake and yes, there was the chance that maybe it would just be forgotten.