Lynn's in trouble with her father.
Friday night and I noticed Kathy kept checking her watch as we stood waiting to meet Brian at the bus terminus.
"It's quarter past seven, Lynn," she said. "We might as well forget it. He's not coming."
"We can wait a few more minutes, Kathy, if you want."
"No, let's face it he's not going to turn up. When we spoke to him in your car he seemed so genuine and I really liked him."
"He might have a good reason."
"Once, twice maybe, but this is the third time. He's having a game with me. How can people be like that? Oh, Lynn, I feel so stupid. I can't face Kings. I think I'll just go home."
"Oh, no you're not. I'm not having you sitting at home moping. You're coming with me, sod him. I'll have something to say next time I see him, the bloody cretin." I tried to joke with Kathy on the short drive to The Kings Arms but I could tell that she was disappointed.
We met Pat in the bar and despite me giving a few subtle kicks under the table, Pat would not stop until she had extracted all the details.
I looked across the room and noticed Mike sitting in his usual pose with his hands locked behind his head flexing each arm muscle alternately. That's odd, I thought, it's Friday. I looked at the blonde girl with him and was amused at the sight of the obvious dark roots creeping into her hair. Mike looked over to me and I looked away.
"Do you know where he drinks?" Pat said. "We could go and confront him."
"He did mention The Ring O'Bells," Kathy replied. "But he could have been lying."
"It's only ten minutes down the road, let's go and see. I like a flipping good slagging match," Pat said enthusiastically.
"I don't know," Kathy said. "What do you think, Lynn?"
"I don't think it's a good idea," I said. I picked up my glass. "I'm going to get another drink. Anybody want one?" The girls had only taken a mouthful from their glasses and declined the offer.
Mike saw me waiting at the bar and walked over. "I'll get that," he said. The barman was a friend of his and walked over straight away to take his order.
"What are you doing in here on a Friday?" I said. "The Big Night at the gym."
"I took a night off to come and see you. I thought you might have reconsidered now that you've had a bit of time on your own."
"Yeah, well why did you bring your mum with you?"
Mike laughed. "You're a cheeky cow; she's not that much older than you. Anyway, I wasn't sure you'd be in tonight and you know I like to be seen with a blonde on my arm."
"Blonde!" I glanced over at the girl he had been sitting with. "Old chemical head is giving us dirty looks."
"Lynn, you don't have to worry about her. I'll soon get rid of her. Well, what do you think? Shall we give it another go?"
"I don't know. I need to think about that."
"You don't need to think. You know you love me, that's why you're jealous."
"I'm not jealous, Mike."
"Aren't you? What about old chemical head? Why did you call her that?"
"I don't know. It just came out."
"Take another look at her and don't just look at her hair. She's a good-looking girl. She used to have lovely hair but she ruined it just to get a date with me."
"You're a big headed sod, Mike."
"Yes, I know I am. So what? You want to think about it, well go ahead, but look what you're missing and look at the gym. That will be mine in a few years and you could be part of it or you could be married to some overweight van driver from the bakery. Don't leave it too long or you'll miss your chance."
I gave a short laugh and looked over at the girl again. The girl was not looking my way and this time I noticed one eye was more heavily made up than the other and appeared slightly swollen. "Have you attacked her?"
"Don't worry about her. She's not like you. She likes it rough."
A chill shot through my arms as I looked into his eyes. The thought of the night he attacked me flashed back to torment me again. His eyes looked evil as they had then, piercing straight to my very soul. "If I were a man, I'd punch you on the nose."
Mike laughed. "If you were a man you wouldn't have to."
The barman returned with the drinks. I picked up my Cherry B and walked back to the girls but again finished the drink quickly. "Come on, let's go to The Ring O'Bells then," I said.
Mike was still at the bar chatting to the barman when we got up to leave. I avoided eye contact with him as I left but I noticed Pat purposely look over at him and poke her tongue out before looking away.
We walked into the Ring O'Bells, bought our drinks and walked into the jukebox room.
"This must be the right room," Pat said. "There's two still alive in here." She walked to the nearest table spilling splashes of beer from her half-pint glass. Kathy and I followed her over.
"Hello girls, I'm Badger and this is my rich friend Adrian," Badger said. "You've come to see me so why sit over there?"
Pat glanced over at him but looked away before giving a reply. "Badger, yeah I've heard about you. Is that a real streak in your hair or do you dye it?"
"I can only discuss that in my bedroom," Badger replied.
"Oh, yeah, like talking to yourself do you?"
"Oooo, got spirit, I like a girl with spirit," Badger said. "You and me could do things together."
"Oooooo. " Pat grinned at him. "Come and see me when you're a grown-up and you might get the chance." She got up and walked to the jukebox.
I had made eye contact with Badger, prompting me to ask the question. "We're looking for a lad named Brian Conway. Does he come in here?"
"No," Badger replied. "He usually does that in bed."
Pat turned and glared at him. "You filthy flipping creep," she said.
"Turn it in, Badger. You're going a bit too far now," his friend Adrian said.
"All right, all right I know when I'm beat," Badger said while holding up his hands.
"Well, has he been in or not?" Pat said.
"Brian's not been in for a couple of days. He's been hanging around with a girl in Barfield but I'm available if you like."
"No, thanks," Pat said. "I don't flipping do charity work. What record do you want on, Lynn?"
Badger's revelation struck hard at Kathy. I gave Kathy a comforting smile and Kathy smiled back, shrugging her shoulders while turning her palms up, trying to give the impression that she didn't really care.
"Come on, let's pick some records." I got up and walked over to join Pat at the jukebox but Kathy remained seated.
"Eight B," Badger said. "Put Eight B on." He rushed over to join us at the jukebox and we playfully argued, each of us trying to put our own favourite records on.
I noticed Badger's friend Adrian looking over at Kathy. She smiled back at him and it pleased me when he walked over to her and introduced himself.
I enjoyed the evening with the lads in The Ring O'Bells although Brian remained on my mind most of the night. When I got home everyone was in bed and the house was in darkness. I was feeling angry because Brian had stood up my friend again and I sat in the kitchen wondering what to do about it. I decided to write him a letter, but the drink and my anger were affecting me and I had not thought the idea through properly. I wrote the letter but then realised that I didn't know where he lived and I was sitting wondering how I could get the letter to him.
"Hello, Princess, you're late."
It startled me and I looked over in panic to see my father entering from the passage doorway. "Yeah, I'm, er, I'm just going to bed." I picked up the letter and wobbled a bit as I walked to the door.
"Have you been drinking? Have you been driving like that?"
"I'm all right. Good night."
"Good night, good bloody night. Don't you dare drive in that state again. Do you hear me? Just what the hell do you think you're playing at?"
I hurried upstairs to my room without answering.
"I can soon sell that bloody car again," he shouted after me.
Saturday morning, I was dressed and lying on my bed knowing that my mother had prepared breakfast without my help. My mother called up to me that my breakfast was on the table but I was reluctant to join my family. I read the letter that I had written to Brian. The best thing to do with that, I thought, would be to throw it in the bin. My mother called me again and I knew I had to go down. "Oh, well here goes," I muttered to myself.
It was quiet when I walked into the kitchen and the atmosphere was obvious. My father had a mood on. I looked on the table, scrambled egg on toast, my favourite breakfast when it was hot, but my family were just finishing breakfast and I knew that my breakfast would be almost cold. I sat down, not daring to look at my father. I must not look at him but I couldn't help myself and I glanced over at him. We made eye contact and straight away he started on me.
"Think you're clever, do you? Do you take me for some kind of, idiot?"
"No," I said, timidly. My father launched into a furious verbal attack, shouting at me about my condition the previous night. I was upset and ashamed because he was still angry with me and my brothers' stirring remarks didn't help. I hurried my breakfast and escaped for a while when I went to the paper shop for him, hoping to calm the situation, but I brought him the wrong newspaper and he started on me again. I remembered the letter and decided to deliver it to Brian's workplace, thinking that it would get me out and away from my father's mood for a while and it would give me a chance to drive my car again.
I drove into town and stopped at a set of traffic lights. I felt boxed in. The drivers in front, to my left, and behind were all men and it made me nervous. I became paranoid and felt as if they were all looking at me, waiting for me to make a mistake. The lights changed, I selected the wrong gear and the car stalled. Although I restarted it quickly the car behind overtook as I started to pull away, cutting me up. The man stuck two fingers up at me and I panicked and pulled to the left. The driver on my left sounded his horn and we stopped inches away from each other.
The man glared at me. "Bloody young girls in cars," he shouted. "What's the world coming to?" His wheels spun as he sped away. I pulled away slowly wondering why I was having such a bad day. It took me a while to get my confidence back, I wasn't used to people being so nasty to me.
I arrived at the locomotive depot, parked my car and walked to the entrance. Some upended railway sleepers had been made into a fence beside the long cinder path. It looked a hostile lifeless place with not a nettle or blade of grass showing. I walked along the path, one minute hoping I wouldn't see Brian, the next hoping that I would. I came out in a large open area at the end of the path and looked at the many steam locomotives on the shed tracks, thinking how enormous they looked from the trackside.
To my right, I noticed a young lad sitting outside a large cabin that looked as if it might be the canteen and I went over to speak to him. He directed me to the foreman's office and I had to pass one of the larger locomotives. A jet of steam was hissing loudly as it escaped from a pipe on the engine. It worried me as I timidly walked past and into the office. The foreman was amazed by my sudden appearance, not being accustomed to seeing young girls turning up at his office. He took the letter from me and told me he would pass it on.
I went back out and as I hurried past the engine again I was shocked to see that a large group of men had assembled outside the cabin, waiting for me. They whistled as I passed and I gave them a brief smile and hurried on my way. I liked to be noticed and whistled at but the number of men whistling and jeering made me feel uncomfortable and uneasy. I was glad when I was on the footpath and out of their sight, wishing that I had put my slacks on. Although the path was well used and firmly trodden down I could feel the crackle of the cinders under my shoes. I heard a noise behind the fence, it startled me, and I began to run. I reached the road and felt foolish as if I were a child running away after knocking at someone's door. I looked back down the path and began to feel bad about the letter and wondered if it had been such a good idea. I thought of going to ask for it back but the path looked even more sinister and I really didn't want to face the escaping steam or the group of men again. I felt slightly depressed and wasn't pleased with myself as I walked back to the Mini.
I stood looking at my car, something was different, and then I noticed that my spotlights were missing. I looked around. There were people about. In broad daylight, someone had stolen my spotlights and no one had taken any notice. I got in the car and slammed the door thinking that surely the day couldn't get any worse.