Brian calls at Judy's house, but is not well received.
I was woken when my parents returned home and walked into the living room. I jumped up in a panic when I saw them.
"What's up, son?" my father said.
"I'm supposed to meet someone at seven."
"You'll have a job," my mother said. "It's twenty-five past."
I thought of the telephone number that I had written down at the bus terminus and I dashed out to the old pantry to check the pockets of my working jacket. "I'm just popping up to the phone box," I shouted. I thought there wasn't much chance of Kathy waiting, but it was worth a try.
I returned home from the telephone box disappointed that I had missed Kathy. Even though Judy was the girl in my life I felt guilty about letting Kathy down again.
I was due to start work at two o'clock in the morning but because I wanted to go out, I dropped my work bag and a change of clothes in the depot restroom to save myself a journey home later.
I started walking back to The Ring O'Bells in the hope of meeting my friends. As I approached the place I started to think about going to find Judy. Although she said she had something on, I thought she might have changed her mind and gone to Minstrels looking for me. There was not a live group at the club on Mondays but girls got in for half price so it could be quite busy sometimes. I decided to give The Ring O'Bells a miss and set off for Barfield.
I arrived at the club and walked around the dance floor feeling disappointed because Judy wasn't there but I thought that she might call in a bit later. I sat on a barstool and pictures began going through my mind, like they had many times that day. The same pictures over and over again. Pictures that I thought were of love, not realising they were pictures of lust. My thoughts were interrupted as I heard someone beside me. "Would you like a drink, love? Oh, yes, I'm a man. I'll have a whiskey."
I recognised the laugh. "I might have known you had something to do with it." I turned and looked at Badger laughing. One of the local lads, Colin, was with Badger, standing grinning, but not knowing the story. I ordered three pints of bitter. "You should pay for these, you cost me six and eightpence." I laughed as Badger relished in telling Colin the story of how he had set me up with a woman from his work.
"How was the party?" I asked.
"Don't ask. Them two spare birds had their boyfriends waiting for them when we got there. I was standing with a glass of poxy wine listening to Mrs Mills records all night. It was hours before I could get Adrian to give me a lift home."
My two friends started talking about fishing. Not being interested in the sport I began to look around the club. I saw Judy standing by the cloakroom and I stood as if mesmerised for a moment. The smile spread across my face and I felt a sudden elation as if the world had suddenly become a much better place. "Won't be a minute," I said and I walked off leaving my two friends talking. Judy noticed me walking over and smiled. I smiled back, pleased that Judy seemed just as pleased to see me.
"Hiya, darling," she said as I walked up to her. "How's things with you?"
"I knew you'd come. I just knew it," I said. "Shall we have a dance?"
"No, Brian, I'm with someone. I told you that this morning, didn't I?"
"What do you mean, with someone? I thought you were going out with me."
Judy laughed. "Why, Brian, whatever makes you think that?"
"The things we were doing last night, the things you were saying to me."
"Oh don't go all silly on me now. Look I like you, you're a really nice lad, but you'll have to find yourself a nice girl. Last night we were there for each other but it was just a passing fling. It's gone."
"Don't say that, Judy." I took hold of her hand. "I love you."
"No you don't, you can't." She pulled her hand away. "I'm sorry, Brian. I really thought you understood."
A man walked over from the bar with their drinks and stared at me. "Who's he, Judy?" he said.
"Who am I," I said aggressively. "Who the fucking hell are you?"
"I'm with Judy," the man replied confidently. "And watch your bloody language."
"No, you're not with her, I am, and you'd better piss off before you get a whack."
"Hold these drinks, Judy."
"No, Jeff, leave it. Leave it will you? I don't need any trouble in here, you know?" Judy moved between the pair of us as we glared at each other. "Brian, go away. Will you please just go away and leave me alone?"
Two doormen had been watching and they walked over. "Is everything all right, Judy?" one of them asked.
"Yes, he's just going back to the bar," Judy said.
I stared at her. "Am I?" I turned and gave the doormen a look of contempt. I had seen these men in action and knew that they could be a handful when they needed to be. But my anger overruled good sense.
"Brian," Badger grabbed my arm. "Your beer's going flat, come on kid." Badger looked at the doormen. "There's no trouble here lads. Everything's fine."
Judy took the opportunity to walk off.
I looked at her walking away and I wanted to follow after her, but Badger pulled on my arm. "Come on mate, the bouncers will only throw us out and then we'll be barred for a year."
I knew he was right and I walked back to the bar with Badger. I sat on a barstool, my face still full of anger and bewilderment.
"I told you to keep away from her, didn't I?" Badger said. "I told you."
"Well, I thought we had something."
"Yeah, and I suppose you did, but come back in a couple of weeks and you can probably have something again."
"Watch your mouth, Badger."
"Whoa, calm down, kid. Have a drink." Badger looked away and shook his head.
Throughout the course of the evening I kept glancing around the club trying to see Judy but I finally gave up feeling disappointed because she had obviously slipped away early.
I caught the late bus back to Locksford with Badger and I carried on up through the town, past The Ring O'Bells, and on to the railway depot. I got changed and as I went to check my engine, I waved across to Tommy who was disposing a fire on one of the locomotives as part of his ten till six shed man's duty. Tommy motioned across pretending to drink as if in a charade, to let me know that he was about to take his break. I wasn't officially on duty yet but I stoked up the fire before going to join Tommy and the other shed men for a mug of tea in the canteen.
Dead on two o'clock in the morning my driver, Ernie, arrived. We prepared the engine and set off to the sidings where we backed up onto a train of processed scrap destined for a large steelworks in North Wales. Ernie chatted to the guard through his side window and then poured himself a brew from the billycan. "You all right, mate?" he said noticing that I wasn't my usual happy self.
"Yeah, just a bit tired." I was tired, but I was also troubled about how Judy had spoken to me and no matter how I tried I couldn't get her out of my mind. I forced a smile and joined my driver for a brew.
"Heard anything about the derailment, Brian?"
"Yeah, the p-way inspector said the points were faulty."
"I bet that's a big relief for you, isn’t it?"
"I'm not that bothered. I knew I hadn't done anything wrong."
"All the same…" The signal came off. Ernie opened the regulator and the train began to punch smoke and steam skyward as the train slowly pulled out of the sidings and on to the mainline. I leaned out and looked back along the train to make sure the guard was in his van. Sure enough, the guard was waving a white light. A quick pop on the whistle and the light disappeared. The heavy freight train picked up speed and we roared through the station before climbing the gradient towards the open countryside with the powerful rhythmic sound beating across the sleeping town. It was only a few hours later when we arrived at the steelworks, only to set off with our return train after a short break.
We finished work at nine o'clock in the morning and I caught the bus home. I sat looking out of the window, my thoughts wandering back to Judy, reliving the sexual pleasures we had shared in her bedroom and our argument at Minstrels.
When I arrived home, I saw my motorbike parked in our front garden. I would have loved to take the motorbike out for a spin but I was too tired. I had to sleep.
I left home on my motorbike at eight o'clock that evening and rode up to Minstrels. I had to see Judy. I had to sort things out. The pay booth was closed and I walked straight into the club. I noticed how gloomy and dull it looked. A white rope was looping across the club on wooden pedestals separating the bar from the dance floor. A screen had been pulled across from a recess revealing an old jukebox that was playing a rock'n'roll record. I looked towards the bar where no more than a dozen people were quietly drinking. I walked out and rode off for Judy's house, hoping to find her at home. I was approaching a river bridge when I noticed Judy and Jeff walking towards me heading for the club or the Ship Inn. There was a separate footbridge over the river for pedestrians and I parked by the side of the road and then walked onto the footbridge to meet them. Judy saw me and stopped to talk to Jeff before I got there.
"Well, what do you want now, Brian?" she said as I reached them.
Jeff stared at me, but I ignored his stare. "We have to talk, Judy." I looked at Jeff. "Alone."
"Can we have a couple of minutes?" she said. Jeff was annoyed and not at all keen on the idea but Judy was clearly the boss and reluctantly he walked a few paces away. "Well, what do you want to say?" Judy asked.
"You know how I feel. I want to be with you."
"Well, I don't want to be with you and I don't really like you that much anyway."
"I don't believe you, Judy. We both know you don't mean that."
"We only spent one frigging night together. You was there, I was there, we filled a need that's all. Why the hell can't you understand that?"
"What are you saying? Are you saying that you just used me?"
"No, damn you, no," she shouted. "I didn't use you. If anything I let you use me. I thought that I was helping you. I don't want you, Brian. I wish it had never happened now."
Jeff walked back. "You heard her, now get on your stupid bike and piss off."
I pushed him away. Jeff retaliated and pushed me hard sending me back into Judy. She stumbled and fell backwards hitting her head on the bridge railings.
"Stop it, stop it," she screamed. She put her hand to the back of her head and then stared at the blood on her fingers.
Jeff didn't frighten me, but I was more interested in Judy's injury than continuing into a fight with Jeff. "Let me have a look," I said.
"Just go, Brian. Will you just go away?" She hurried off back towards home closely pursued by Jeff. I was worried about the cut on her head but knew there was no point trying to talk to her while Jeff was there. I went back to my motorbike and rode off knowing I would have to try to meet her somehow when she was on her own.
Jeff was a friend of Judy's brothers and she made him promise not to tell any of them about the incident on the bridge. He was expecting to be asked in when they got to her house and was disappointed when she told him she wanted to be on her own. He was annoyed that Brian's presence had ended his evening with Judy and despite his promise, he called in on her eldest brother Steve.
Steve had a look of menace about him when he opened the door but Jeff knew that was normal. He told Steve what had happened but fabricated the truth a little.
"So, is this Brian in hospital then?" Steve asked.
"No, he rode off."
"Let me see if I've got this right. This young brat pushes my sister into some railings, cuts her head open, and you stand there and do fuck all."
"No, it wasn't like that Steve. She told me not to do anything," he said beginning to wish that he had kept his promise to Judy.
"Oh," Steve paused for a moment. "She told you not to do anything. And that makes it all right, does it?" Jeff didn't get time to answer. Steve's fist hit him in the stomach. As Jeff doubled over winded and in agony, Steve put his hands on Jeff's head and brought his knee up into his face. Jeff fell to the ground and curled up moaning in pain with blood pouring from his busted nose onto the pavement. Steve went back into his house for his jacket and then walked out casually stepping over Jeff as he set off for his sister's house.
Heather had been baby-sitting and had carefully washed the blood from Judy's hair. She remained to keep Judy company and was sitting in an armchair watching television. Steve knocked at the door and Judy went to see who it was.
"And to what do I owe this honour?" she said as they walked back along the passage.
"Just called to see if you were all right," he said. He looked at Heather as he walked into the living room. "Go and make a brew, wench," he said and gave her a false smile.
Heather got up to make the drink without returning his smile. She didn't like him that much.
"And why shouldn't I be all right?" Judy said but she got no answer. Steve sat at the table with Judy discussing family business and drinking the tea that Heather had made. Judy knew why he was there but because he had not mentioned the incident on the bridge, neither did she.
He got up to leave. "Well, are you going to show me the cut on your head?"
"I knew this wasn't a social call," Judy said. "It's nothing anyway."
Her brother went behind her to look into her hair. She didn't try to stop him, knowing it was a small cut she thought it better to let him see it than to use his imagination.
"Brian, Brian who?" he asked.
"I don't know what his name is, but it's not Brian anyway."
"Doesn't matter. There can't be many Brians in their late teens turning up at Minstrels on a Gold Star Motorcycle."
"Oh, that snake hasn't missed a thing has he? Wait till I see him."
"Don't worry about Jeff. He's been dealt with and I don't think he'll be calling round for you again." Steve started towards the door.
"I'm warning you," Judy said. "You leave him alone."
"Not a chance. Nobody cuts my sister."
"It was an accident, for Christ's sake. Why don't you listen to me, Steve? He's a really nice lad. I don't want any of you fighting with him."
"You've no need to worry about him fighting. He won't be fighting. He'll be getting battered." He walked out and closed the door.
Judy knew that it was no good going after him and trying to reason with him. She sat on the sofa thinking, wondering what she could do. She thought of Brian's workmate Tommy and told the babysitter that she was going to the telephone box.
Four hours later I arrived for work. I stepped across the rails carefully watching every step in the gloom of the dimly lit locomotive yard. I was heavily laden carrying my bag, a firing shovel, a coal pick, and a bucket of tools and detonators. My driver was already busily oiling the motions as I approached the engine.
The air was filled with the smell of burning coal drifting from the funnels of half a dozen locomotives with the smoke and steam mingling with the early morning mist. I climbed up the steps of the engine and was busily spreading the fire with a long iron dart when Tommy stepped up to join me. We exchanged friendly greetings as Tommy sat on the small wooden driver's seat. I replaced the dart into the long recess in the tender and began shovelling coal into the firebox.
"What's all this business with Judy?" Tommy said.
I stopped shovelling and looked at Tommy. "You been talking to Badger?"
"No, Judy phoned me in the foreman's office last night. She told me what happened on the bridge." I sat on the fireman's seat and looked back across at Tommy, waiting for what he had to say. "You'll have to stay away from Minstrels for a while. That lad with Judy has told one of her brothers that you deliberately shoved her into the railings and cut her head open."
"That's a bloody lie."
"I know, but they don't and they'll be out looking for you. You'd better keep away from Judy."
"I like Judy. We get on all right and I'm not worried about her brothers."
"Well you should be worried about them and Judy's no good for you. She's told you that herself."
"She only said that because she was with somebody. If I see her on her own it will be different."
"You're not seeing sense, Brian. There's only one man for Judy and he wants nothing to do with her. You haven't a hope of a steady relationship with her."
"Well, I think I have and I don't want to hear people telling me otherwise, so if that's it I've got work to do."
"No, that's not it. There's still her brothers and don't give me all that tough guy shit. They can all handle themselves and the oldest one is a right wicked bastard."
"Don't worry about me. I can handle myself as well."
"Oh, so you think you're a hard man, do you?"
"No, but I can be a problem to people who think that they are."
"You'll cop out, Brian. You go up there on your own and you will cop out."
"So what shall I do? Stay indoors and watch the tele' every night? Move to Crewe or something?"
"Of course not. Just don't go up to Barfield on your own. You should take them more seriously, Brian."
My driver stepped up into the cab. "Hello, Tommy. Here, I've got a right good joke for you," he said.
"I've got to go, Ernie. My driver wants me." Tommy walked to the steps. "Remember what I've said, kid."
"Yeah, Tommy, thanks." I prepared myself for Ernie's joke as Tommy left the cab.
I finished work at ten o'clock in the morning. I had been worrying all night about the cut on Judy's head and decided to call at her house to see if she was all right. I set off on my motorbike and was soon knocking on her door. A young man came to the door and I assumed he was one of her brothers. "Is Judy in?" I asked.
"You're Brian," the young man said as he looked at my parked motorbike. "Come round to knock my sister about again, have you?"
"Don't talk like an idiot," I said.
"Idiot, am I? I'll show you who the fucking idiot is." He pushed me away from the door and walked out onto the pavement. His fists went up and he looked at me but he was hesitating.
I didn't respond to the push, not wanting to make things worse by fighting with Judy's brother. I could tell that the lad was nervous about embarking on something that he really didn't want to do. However, he was acting aggressively and I prepared myself for the probable attack. I wasn't too worried about fighting but I was concerned about spoiling the chance of making up with Judy. "Look, I haven't come here for trouble," I said. "I only came to see if Judy was all right. Is she in?"
"You made a big mistake coming round here," the lad shouted. "I'm gonna beat the shit outta ya."
I laughed at him. "I don't think you will," I said.
Her brother, probably now feeling humiliated, decided to make an attack on me and he stepped forward and threw a punch. I easily blocked the punch and then struck her brother on the forehead. It was a powerful and well-aimed punch knocking her brother off his feet and down onto the pavement. He raised himself up onto his elbows while shaking his head, partly dazed.
Judy rushed out to find her youngest brother lying on the pavement. She ran across to him and seeing that he wasn't badly hurt, helped him to his feet. Holding onto his arm she helped him back to the house, but as they got to the door the lad began feigning aggression again. "Let go of my arm, this ain't finished," he shouted.
It fooled no one and Judy pushed him into the passage. "Get inside," she said. "You'll leave this to me if you know what's good for you." She pulled the front door between them and turned to stare at me.
"It wasn't my fault. He started it. What was I supposed to do?"
"It was your fault. If you weren't here it wouldn't have happened, would it? When are you going to listen?"
"I was worried about you. I just came round to see if you were all right."
"Well, I don't want you here," she yelled. "Don't you ever come to my house again." She shoved the front door open, stepped back inside, and pushed her young brother along the passage before slamming the door.