Kenny meets an old flame. Retro Fiction.
Locksford/Barfield, Cheshire. 1963-64.
Tommy’s van pulled up outside Judy’s house in Barfield.
“Do I look all right, Tommy? I don’t want them knowing I’m upset.”
“You look fine, pretty as ever.”
They got out of the van just as her brother Steve was leaving the house.
“Oh, having a royal visit are we then?” Steve said.
“Something like that," Judy said. "Where are you off to?”
“Football down at The Swan. I’m a bit late so I gotta go but will you still be here when I get back?”
Steve looked at Tommy. “How are you doing, Tommy?”
“Fine thanks, Steve. Yourself?”
“Yeah! What are you Ken and Judy’s chauffeur now?”
“Sort of, I was coming this way anyway and Kenny’s gone off to Liverpool.”
Steve walked off and Judy smiled at Tommy. “Thanks for not saying anything,” she said.
Tommy gave a laugh. “I’ll leave that to you.” They unloaded Judy’s bags into the passage. “Well, that’s it then. Let’s hope I get to see you soon.” Tommy went to the van and got a pen and pad. He wrote a telephone number down and gave it to Judy. “That’s the number to the foreman’s office at the locomotive depot. You probably won’t get me there but you can leave a message. If you need me just call and I’ll come over. If there’s a problem or even if you just need a shoulder then call the number.”
“I really appreciate that, Tommy; you are such a good friend to me.”
“Judy!” her mother called from the doorway. “What’s going on?”
“Give me a minute, Mum, I’ll be in, in a minute.” Her mother went back inside. “Well, better go and face the music.” She gave Tommy a tight hug and kissed his cheek. “Thanks for everything.” She smiled, walked off and went inside.
* * * * *
Months passed and one Saturday Judy walked into the Ring O’Bells. She was blooming and her baby bump was showing through her frock. Kenny was sitting with Tommy and Badger and there were a few more of their friends in there. Kenny completely ignored her but Tommy gave her a smile and she sat next to him. Judy looked past Tommy. “Kenny, why won’t you answer my letters, why won’t you talk to me?”
Kenny acted as if he hadn't heard her, as if she wasn’t there. “Fancy going up the snooker club lads?”
She realised that there were too many people there and she felt they were all judging her. The last thing she wanted was to make a scene or make a fool of herself. “I can’t go on like this, Kenny.” She walked to the jukebox and put a Cliff Richard record on. She looked back but Kenny was looking away. Tommy was looking over, she felt the teardrops forming in her eyes and knew she had to leave. After the musical introduction to the song Judy turned and walked out.
All day, I’m walking in a dream, I think about you constantly.
Just like an ever-flowing stream, your memory haunts me constantly.
Tommy got up. “You getting the beers in, Tommy lad?” Kenny said.
“No, I’m going to see if Judy’s all right. That’s okay, isn’t it?”
“Do what you like.”
Tommy got in his van and caught Judy up. “Come on, get in, I’ll drop you at the bus terminus.”
Judy got in without argument. “Don’t take me to the terminus; drop me at the cosmetic factory.”
“There’s someone there that I want to see.”
“You’re not going there for a row, are you?”
“No, there’s someone in there who’s ruined my life. I’m gonna smash her all round that factory.”
“Yeah, and you’ll get yourself arrested.”
“Well, I do."
“She set me up, Tommy. She got me drunk and let that bastard take advantage and have sex with me while I was out of it. I don't know what to do, Tommy, Kenny won't even talk to me. What can I do?"
“I don't know, Judy, but I know what you can't do. You are in no condition for brawling.”
Judy looked across at him and gave a big sigh. “Maybe you’re right. Perhaps I should wait.”
“Right, and stop upsetting yourself because you're upsetting me as well. Just think of the baby.”
“I think of him all the time. It’s Kenny’s you know, it really is. And I am gonna love the baby to bits because I know it’s his.”
“That’s better. That’s the Judy I know and love. I’ll drive you home.”
“You don’t have to do that, Tommy.”
“I know, but I want to.”
It was an hour and a half when Tommy got back to the bar. Kenny and Badger were the only ones still in there. Tommy looked at Kenny. “You really should speak to her.”
“Speak to who?”
“You know who. Let’s stop being silly.”
Kenny glared at him. “Leave it, Tommy!”
Tommy thought that with the absence of the usual and friendly “lad” after “Tommy”, it might be best to take a step back. “I’ll get the beers in,” he said.
* * * * *
That night in the Kings Arms young Brian Conway was celebrating his sister’s forthcoming wedding. He had been in the youth club most of the night but someone had suggested going into the local bar.
By a stroke of bad luck, it was not long after when Sergeant Lovell of the local police walked in to check on underage drinkers.
Brian was shocked to see him, knowing he was a good friend of his father’s at the British Legion club.
“I’m only drinking lemonade.”
“Brian, I saw you with a pint of beer in your hand. Come outside a minute. The rest of you better be over 18 because I’m coming back.” A few of the crowd immediately shuffled out through the back exit.
“The sergeant went outside and looked at Brian while shaking his head. “I thought you had more sense, Brian. What would your father say if a court summons came through the door for him as well as for you.”
“He wouldn’t be happy.”
“No, Brian, he wouldn’t. Because your dad is a good friend of mine, I'll let you go with a warning. But, if I ever catch you again, you and your dad will be up in court. Do you understand?”
“Yeah,” Brian said. “I was only celebrating Linda’s wedding.”
“Your sister’s wedding is not until next Saturday and even then that’s not a good excuse for stupidity. Now get off home.”
“You won’t tell my dad will you?”
“I might do, away you go. And remember, if there is a next time you won’t be so lucky.”
Brian heeded the warning and reverted to spending time at the youth club and the coffee bar.
The wedding of his sister Linda to her fiance Bob went ahead and despite the sergeant being a guest, Brian managed to sneak a couple of bottles of beer.
It was only three months later when the happy couple were moving into a private rented terraced house in Barfield.
* * * * *
Judy’s brother Steve was in the Black Swan at Barfield with a few of his friends. A stranger in the bar looked over as Steve laughed loudly at one of his pals remarks. Steve saw the stranger looking at him and shouted across. “What are you looking at?”
“Nothing mate, I didn’t mean nothing.”
Steve walked over to him. “I’m not your fucking mate. I've seen you in here before, haven’t I? Think you’re a tough guy don’t ya?”
“No, I only came in for a drink, not a fight.”
“Fight, you want to fight me do you?”
One of Steve’s mates came over. “Leave it, Steve.”
“Shut up you.” He turned back to the stranger. “Let’s go out to the car park and sort this out.”
“I don’t want no trouble. I’ll just leave and go home.”
Steve pushed him. “Go on then, you coward. Piss off out of here.”
The man left his drink and walked out but Steve followed him outside. “Still think you’re a tough guy?”
“I’m not a tough guy. I don’t want a fight.”
As the man turned to walk away Steve hit him with a savage blow to the side of his head, immediately flooring the man. He jumped down on him and grabbed him by the throat to hit him three more times before his friends pulled him off. They coaxed Steve back into the bar while a couple of them helped the man up and helped him on his way from the car park.
One of Steve's friends spoke up when he came back in. “There was no need for that, Steve, his face is swollen up and he’s covered in blood.”
“Shut up you pansy or you’ll get some as well.”
* * * * *
Kenny was in the Ring O’Bells. It was early evening and the only other person in there was one of the more casual acquaintances, George. Because Kenny didn’t like George that much he made an excuse to leave and walked down to The Sportsman.
He just got to the bar when he heard, “If you’re in the chair, Kenny, I’ll have a Cherry B.”
He turned around. “Hello, Rachel. Did you follow me in?”
“Well, I did yeah. I was on my way to the labour club and I spotted you. So here I am.”
Kenny got the drinks. “So, I hear that you are getting married soon.”
“Yeah, this time next month and I’ll be the good well-kept housewife living in a big house in Knutsford.”
“Oh, haven’t you done well for yourself.”
“You know I still have a soft spot for you though. Superstud I used to call you.”
Kenny laughed. “I don’t know about that. But we did have some wild times back then.”
“Yeah, until you went in the bloody army. Do you remember the time when my dad nearly caught you in my bed and you had to climb down the drainpipe?”
“You were a rude young girl then, Rachel.”
“And you were a rude young man. I still am, what about you?”
Kenny laughed again. “Are you propositioning me, Rachel?”
“Well you are a free agent now aren’t you? And I still have a month of freedom as a single girl.”
Kenny looked at Rachel’s empty glass. “Do you want another drink?”
“Keep ‘em coming, Kenny. Umm, that should be your nickname. Keep-em-coming-Kenny.”
Kenny laughed. “You’re off your head, you are.”
It was closing time and they walked up town. “Aren’t you going the wrong way?” Kenny said.
“No, I’m going home with you.”
“You can’t stay at my house.”
“You just can’t.”
"Do you treat it sort of like a shrine for what's-a-name?"
"Don't be silly."
“Okay, then if I'm banned from your house you can treat me to a night at the Station Hotel.”
“You're a bad girl, Rachel, but I admit it sounds interesting.”
"Yeah, and believe me, Kenny, I know a good way to keep your interest."
They were lucky to get the last room at the hotel. Rachel was impressed that it had its own shower cubicle.
Kenny was in bed when Rachel left the shower cubicle naked. She slipped between the covers. “That shower is great,” she said. “I wonder, what can we do now. I know. I bet Judy never did this.”
Kenny watched in astonishment as Rachel moved her head down under the covers.
* * * * *
Tommy walked into the Ring O’Bells the following night. Badger and his friend George were in there. “Well, guess who George saw coming out of the Station Hotel this morning?” Badger said.
“Kenny and Rachel.”
“You’re joking,” Tommy said.
“No, they have been at it.”
“Don’t go spreading rumours, Badger; they may not have been at it as you put it.”
“Maybe, maybe not.” Badger gave one of his distinctive laughs. “Who knows, eh? But no one comes out of there in the morning after just having a drink.”
“Where is he anyway?”
“Probably asleep after a hectic night.”
“I better go over and wake him up then. If you know what is good for you, you won’t mention Rachel.”
Tommy left the bar and walked over the road, the door was locked and Tommy rapped the knocker loudly.
Kenny was close to tears as he had been looking through Judy's letters. Though he had not answered any he had kept them all. The loud knocking brought him out of his gloom and he put the letters back in the drawer. He looked at the Blackpool photograph of him and Judy and gave a sigh before putting it away with the letters.
He opened the street door smiling. “Hey up, Tommy Lad, I was just coming over.”
“What on earth are you doing, Kenny?”
“Did you spend the night with Rachel?”
“Yeah, so what.”
“You threw a lovely girl, who idolises you, out of your house and then go with the village bicycle. Rachel of all people. What do you think that will do to Judy if she finds out?”
“That makes me and Judy equal then doesn’t it?”
“Oh, no it don’t, Kenny. Judy made a mistake and that was getting drunk and trusting Rachel. As I see it she didn’t know what was happening and Rachel set her up with a lad who took advantage while she was paralytic drunk. You knew what was happening when you went with that slag and she’s getting married in four weeks.”
“You seem to know a lot, Tommy. So how do you know what went on with Judy?"
“Because I talk to her, something that you should do. For fuck's sake talk to her."
“Don't push me, Tommy. You are stepping over the line. Just keep on and see what happens."
Tommy laughed. "What are you gonna beat me up? I can suffer that, Kenny, because you're beating Judy up every day."
“Listen, if you care so much about Judy, I’ll put a good word in for you. I'm sure she will accommodate you in her bedroom.”
“Nice! Are you gonna apologise for that load of crap?”
“No, you are always waving the flag for her.”
“That’s because you actually asked me to make sure she's okay and because she’s a mate. And I would never go out with her for two good reasons. One, she thinks the world of you, and two, she is well above my league.”
“All right", Kenny shouted, "let’s stop this right here." He stared at Tommy for a moment. "I do apologise for that load of crap as you rightly called it. But it’s over Tommy lad, she broke my heart and I can’t get over it. You're right I should not have gone with Rachel. And I know I asked you to keep an eye out for Judy and I am so grateful that you do.”
“Kenny, I think..."
“Let me finish. You are my best mate. I think you might be Judy’s best mate as well. I think that it is you that is keeping both of us from going off the rails and I am so grateful for that as well. But I can’t get over this Tommy lad. It is over between me and Judy and you have to accept it like I have to.”
“Okay, Kenny, but please, no more Rachel.”
“Agreed, now let’s go get a beer.”