Bob closes in on Jane.
A few days later, I was sitting drinking a cup of coffee in the WRAF drivers' room when Mandy walked in smiling broadly. I smiled back. "The wedding's still on then?"
"Yeah. You were right, you know. Once we started talking we soon made up. Oh, by the way, Bob was asking about you this morning. He still wants to go out with you, even though you practically ignored him in the NAAFI last night. If you fancy making up a foursome..."
"A foursome with Bob. I don't think so, Mandy. I'll wait till Terry gets back."
"Haven't you given up on him yet? He's a nice bloke and will always be a nice bloke, but he doesn't want to go steady with a WRAF. Nothing personal, it's just the way he is, don't ask me why."
I was good at giving advice, but not so good at listening. I was not prepared to give up on Terry just yet. Mandy left for a trip to RAF Halton and I sat waiting for the afternoon's chores that would be given to me by the duty corporal. Sure enough within minutes, he walked into the room.
"Aero-medical," he said. "Great Ormond Street. Get going, you have to be at Northolt in thirty minutes." I enjoyed doing the aero-meds and was up like a flash.
The old Bedford ambulance was built like a tank, big and heavy, but it glided down the road like a Bentley. It was not far to RAF Northolt. There were two police cars, and two police motorcycle outriders already waiting there when I drove the ambulance in off the Western Avenue.
My rush to get there was wasted, the aircraft was late and it was over an hour before it appeared in the distance. I sat looking at the aircraft as it seemed to float down onto the runway. An airman guided me out onto the tarmac and I opened the rear doors and stood waiting for the patient to be transferred. It was a young girl no more than four years old, her father alongside the stretcher, not wishing to break the visual contact with his daughter. He tried to get into the ambulance, but one of the police officers stopped him. He protested but reluctantly allowed them to lead him to the police car.
It had just turned five o'clock and the traffic out of London was jamming up. Although the ambulance would be heading into town, there was sure to be some congestion. I drove the ambulance back out onto the Western Avenue with one police car in front and the other behind. The motorcycles went off ahead to stop the traffic at the junctions. There was a host of flashing blue lights accompanied by the two-tone siren blasting out from the front car.
Just before White City, the medics asked me to pull over. I signalled to the police car in front, indicated, and then pulled into the kerbside. The medics were concerned, but they didn't appear to be panicking. I was filled with despair and helplessness as I looked back at them.
The medic gave me permission to continue and I gave a headlight flash to the police car. The convoy moved off again, but we would be going through dense traffic from now on. I turned on the siren in case I was cut off from the leading police car. Into Central London and there was a police officer or traffic warden at every set of traffic lights, waving us through. All the sirens were sounding and the blue lights flashed back off the fronts of the buildings. Everybody seemed to be stopping to look as the ambulance passed, wondering if there was someone special inside.
There was a group of medical staff waiting as I pulled the ambulance into the courtyard of the children's hospital. The medics got out as the girl's father dashed into the ambulance and tried to talk to his unconscious child. He looked on as the hospital staff took the girl out, and then he turned to look at me. "She'll be all right, won't she? She's gonna be all right, isn't she?"
"Don't worry, she's in good hands, she'll be fine," I said, wondering why he was asking me and hoping I were right.
"Thank you, thank you," he said, before hurrying off.
I sat alone in the ambulance, waiting to give the medics a ride back to Northolt, and wondering how the little girl was doing.
The back door opened and the two medics got in. "Let's get going then."
"The little girl, how is she?" I asked.
"She's okay; she'll be all right now. I think we should all give each other a pat on the back, we all done well, and your driving through all that traffic was brilliant."
I smiled, turned away, and drove off. I realised my problems were small compared to some people's. I thought of the girl's father. The strain and worry about the journey must have been enormous. Then there was the joy and relief when he knew she was going to pull through.
It was time to move on. I blamed myself for Terry's lack of interest in me, thinking it must have been something I had said or done. I decided I would have the date with Bob and make up the foursome with Mandy and her fiancé, but I thought I must give Bob a lot of love and attention if I were to avoid the rejection that always seemed to follow my relationships.
I met up with Bob, Mandy, and Freddie, the regiment gunner. I was a little worried about spending time with Freddie, thinking of the bad memories in Cyprus, but Freddie was nothing like Stan, he was polite, friendly and very much in love with Mandy. We spent the evening in the NAAFI bar dancing, singing and making merry with the crowd. Mandy and Freddie left as soon as the bar closed, going off for a drive in a friend's car; a trip where no one else was invited.
Me and Bob remained at a table as the place began to empty out. "Well, Jane, I've not been that bad, have I?"
"No, Bob, no it's been nice."
"The offer still stands."
"The offer, what offer?"
Bob had half a glass of beer and he took a sip, obviously not wanting to finish it too quickly in case I got up to leave. "The trip to London, down the west end. We can go there Saturday and get tickets for a show. 'There's a Girl in My Soup' is supposed to be right funny, and we can go for a meal afterwards, if you want to."
"I'd love that, thanks, Bob. But I want to pay my way."
"No chance, Jane, I wouldn't dream of it. That's not the way we do things up North." He picked up his drink and finished it off.
I followed his example and finished my port and lemon before standing up to put my coat on.
"It's over too quick. It's been a real thrill to be out with you, Jane. I've been praying for this to happen since the first time I saw you walking across the MT yard."
I laughed. "Terry mentioned that." I laughed again and sat back down.
"Terry, he's probably having a right time in those brothels."
"I don't think so, he's not like that." I looked straight at him, staring almost.
"What! What's up?"
"You told me you caught him in your room with that girl at New Year. Was that true, because I didn't really believe you?"
"Cross my heart, may I drop down dead now. She was in bed with him, and it wasn't the first time I've been told. Just ask Jock if you don't believe me."
"I don't like Jock, he's very crude."
"Let's not talk about Terry. Why should we care about him? He's out there enjoying himself without a care about us. He said he would drop me a line, but I've heard nothing from him, not a sausage."
"No, neither have I."
"Jane, I'd like us to go out together."
I turned my palms up. "We are here, aren't we?"
"Yeah I know, but I want us to be steady, forever if you'll let us. I'm serious, Jane, I fell in love with you the first time I saw you. I think we can make each other really happy."
I stood up again. "Well let's just take it a day at a time for now, see how it goes."
"Whatever you say, as long as I'm with you I'm the happiest man on Earth."
We walked back to the WRAF block and kissed briefly before I broke away, said "good night," and went inside the block. Idiot, I thought, bloody idiot. He wanted to spend some time kissing, but I broke away from him. Lots of love and attention, must remember to give him lots of love and attention or he'll go off like all the others. Anyway, I thought, he's not that bad really.
Two weeks later, I walked into Mandy's room at the WRAF block and held my arm out. "Well, what do you think then?" I said.
"I've already seen the watch. It's not a Timex and that's for sure. He must think a lot of you to buy you that after just two weeks."
"He does think a lot of me, take another look."
Mandy looked at my wristwatch and suddenly noticed the sparkling diamond ring on my finger. She let out a yelp, a scream almost as she took hold of my hand to get a closer look. "You're engaged." She laughed, her laugh a mixture of joy and sarcasm. "You can't be pregnant yet."
"Course not, but he asked me to marry him and I thought…"
"You're getting married?"
"Well, that's what engagements are about, aren't they?"
"Not with that lot over the NAAFI. They get engaged because they think it gives them licence to have sex with you. Freddie's roommate has been engaged four times."
"Bob's not like that."
"So when's the big day?"
"We're trying to arrange it for June."
"What, this June?" The grin on my face gave the answer. "Blimey, you'll be wed before me. Look, I don't want to sound bitchy, but you've not known him that long, are you sure about this?"
"Course I'm sure. All right we've only been together a few weeks, but I've known him since before Christmas and we've always got on. Anyway, I'm twenty-six this year. I'll end up on the scrap heap if I'm not careful."
"Don't sell yourself down, Jane. You’re a nice girl and a good-looking one at that. Half the blokes in the NAAFI would love to get their head between your legs."
"Mandy! What a thing to say." However, I gave a laugh at the thought.
"So, while we're on the subject, what's the sex like?"
"I don't know, we haven't done it yet."
Mandy let out a large sigh. "Dear o dear. You go and get engaged after just two weeks and you haven't even had sex with him. You've gotta try the goods before you buy, Jane, and that's a fact."
"Will you pack it in. I wish I hadn't told you now. Don't forget it's you who's been trying to get us together for weeks."
"Yeah, I know, but blimey. Have you wrote and told Terry?"
"No, he hasn't sent me his address. I really don't know if he'll be upset or not."
"Probably not. He's a nice lad and fun to be with, but he has this thing about going out with WRAFs. He went out with that girl from the WRAF band for a while, but she done the dirty on him. Then of course he's had a few dates with you hasn't he, but you two never got up to anything. Or did you?"
"No, not really." Mandy didn't notice the slight blush I felt on my face as I thought about the night I made love with Terry in the moonlight, but I also reflected on the words that often troubled my mind, Terry's words: 'no one should get married until they are at least thirty. Getting married before then is a waste of life'.
"You'd think he was queer," Mandy continued, interrupting my thoughts, "I mean, how many men train as a masseur, if it weren't for his sleeping with her from The Eight Bells...."
"And how do you know that?" I interrupted her.
"Freddie told me, he was talking to Bob about it."
I shook my head and walked to the door. "I've gotta go, we're going out for a ride in his car tonight."
"Well if I were you I'd get him in the back seat and try him out."
"Piss off, Mandy. And you're not me are you, you young nympho''?" I poked my tongue out before walking from the room, leaving my friend grinning. I smiled to myself as the thought went through my mind. Well, he has got a nice car and a big back seat. Maybe, just maybe.