Jane arrives in London.
The man continued to close the gap and Jane's fear grew worse as she hurried along the pavement. She thought of abandoning her suitcase so she could sprint away from him, thinking it might just be the suitcase he was after. She noticed a small cafe amongst a row of shops and she dashed in. The cafe was empty apart from a woman who was busy wiping the counter with a steaming cloth. The woman looked over at her and raised her eyebrows while giving out a false grin.
"We're closing now, girl," the woman said.
"Please, there's a man following me, can I sit in here for a few minutes?" She pleaded to her in an obvious and nervous panic.
The man looked in through the window prompting the woman to hurry over to the door. "Oy, what are you doing following this girl about? Get yourself home, Harry, you fat drunken slob, before you get one of my pans over your head."
"Sorry, I was just trying to help. I thought she was lost. There's some funny people about you know." He smiled and walked off.
The woman closed the door and turned the little closed sign on the window. She walked to the counter and poured two cups of tea from a large teapot before sitting down at one of the tables. "There you are, sweetheart, sit down you look like you need a hot drink. I'm Carol, this is my cafe."
Jane sat opposite the woman, with her smile clearly showing her relief and gratitude. "Oh, how much do I owe you?"
"No, the tea's on me. I'd only throw it down the sink. So what's happened? Have you lost your way?"
"I think I panicked and took a wrong turn when that man was following me. I'm looking for Tench Street; I've a friend who lives there."
"It's just up the road from here. I go past it on my way home. I'll walk up with you if you like." She looked at Jane’s old brown suitcase. "Left home, have you?"
"Yeah, I couldn't get on with my mother."
The woman laughed. "Bloody hell, I know the feeling. I can never get on with my mother either. Have you got a job to go to?"
"No, not yet, I'll start looking tomorrow."
"You can work here if you like. I could use another pair of hands."
"I can work here, really?" She could hardly believe her luck. Not only had she stumbled on a woman who knows where her friend lives, but within minutes of leaving the truck, she has found a job. Leaving home is the best thing I have done in my life, she thought "That's fantastic, thank you. Oh thank you, thank you, thank you so much."
"Calm down girl, don't wet your drawers, it's only a skivvying job." The woman gave a laugh and took a swig of her tea before losing interest in the drink. "Right then, you can help me to clear up, then I'll change me shoes and we'll walk up to Tench Street. Me and the cook get here at six in the morning, but there's not much of a rush till seven. So as long as you're here by then we'll get along fine."
Carol locked the cafe and they walked up past a parade of shops. The shops all had stalls outside and the stallholders were packing away their goods. Carol was a popular woman and all the men spoke to her as she passed. The men also looked at Jane, in a friendly manner, but she felt uncomfortable because they seemed to be taking more interest in her body than her face. They left the shops behind and she listened to the clip-clop of Carol's stiletto heels on the paving stones as she took short but fast steps. Her chest seemed to bounce in the same rhythm as her footsteps and Jane thought Carol had enormous breasts for such a short woman. Her hair was bleached and backcombed beehive style with a large comb in the back and it seemed her hair also bounced in the same rhythm.
They said their goodbyes at the corner of Tench Street and Jane walked along until she came to her friend's three-storey terraced house. The knocker had been removed and replaced by a doorbell. She pushed on the button and was surprised when a scruffy middle-aged man opened the door. "Hello," she said as she looked at the man, thinking perhaps she was at the wrong house.
"Are those yobs at my lorry again?" The man rushed out to the pavement and checked across the road to his lorry. "Huh, what, did you scare them off?"
"The yobs, the thieving yobs, raiding my lorry."
"I haven't seen anybody."
"Well, what the hell do you want then? Ringing my doorbell."
"I'm looking for a friend of mine, Rose. Does she live here?"
"Rose lives at flat two; you ring the bloody bell twice. I live at flat one and I've got better things to do than to open the door for other people. Anyway, if you are staying here, you let me know if you see anyone near my lorry, there's a nice bunch of bananas in it for you."
"Oh, well, thanks then. But is Rose in?"
The man pressed the bell twice and walked off down the passage muttering to himself. "If I catch the sods I'll break their bloody necks I can tell you."
Rose appeared at the landing and when she saw who it was, she rushed down the stairs to greet Jane. They went up to the flat and sat in the living room chatting for a while. Rose had just made some coffee when her boyfriend Kevin walked in with a carrier bag of fish and chips.
Jane looked at him, stared almost, thinking he was the most handsome young man she had ever seen in her life. What a lucky girl Rose is. Not only did she have her own place, but she also shared it with a man who looked like he just stepped out of a Hollywood film.
He smiled at her as he put the bag on the table in front of Rose. "And who's this pretty young thing?" he said. "Not the Tupperware lady I'll bet."
Jane smiled back at him but looked away knowing her face had bloomed.
Rose stood up to go and fetch the plates and cutlery. "This is Jane, she's a mate of mine from home," she said as she walked to the kitchen area. "Looking for somewhere to stay so I gave her the box room. That's all right, isn't it?"
"Course it is." He looked at Jane again and lowered his voice. "As long as you don't walk about the flat topless and wearing skimpy knickers all the time." He grinned widely at her as he held his hands up. "I'm only joking, you can if you like."
Rose put the plates on the table. "Can what if she likes?"
"Share our fish and chips."
"Yeah, all right. Was he being rude, Jane?"
"No, no I don't think so," she said. "He just said… Well, no, we weren't being rude."
Rose grinned at Jane’s flushed face and her obvious nervous manner. "Um. Take no notice of him, he's harmless, but if he does ever try it on, just let me know and I'll cut his dick off." She held a knife up. "Anyone want a chipolata with their chips." Rose laughed as she started dividing the two meals into three.
"Ouch, that's made my eyes water," Kevin said.
Jane went into a bout of uncontrollable laughter. "I'm sorry," she said. "I'm so sorry," and then began laughing again.
"That's all right, sweetness," he said. "We're all a bit mad in here, but you'll be quite safe with me; this sex-mad nymph is more than enough for any man."
"Yeah, well when I find a man I'll let you know if that's true or not."
Jane enjoyed the continuing banter between her hosts. The humorous and sometimes lewd comments between the pair kept her laughing between mouthfuls of food as if they were using her as an audience for some kind of act.
After a coffee and a quick rinse under the cold tap, Kevin picked up his jacket and walked back to the table. "I'll have to leave the dishes tonight, got a date with a publican." He gave a sideways glance at Jane. "Don't wait up for me, sweetness." He grabbed Rose as she stood up and gave her a long passionate kiss. Jane felt awkward with the two of them engaged in an amorous kissing session in front of her. She thought it best to take no notice and she stood up and gathered up the dinner dishes for washing. As she walked off the couple's lust seemed to fizzle out. "You can wait up for me though my love," he said to Rose.
"Yeah I will, but if you're not in by half eleven forget it, the shop will be shut." Jane gave a laugh while she stood at the sink, thinking how lucky she was to live with such a happy and humorous, loving couple.
Kevin went out for his Friday night drink with the man from the third-floor flat. Jane helped Rose with the dishes and then Rose showed her around the house. The flat had a small kitchen, plus a medium and a small bedroom leading off from the living room. The small bedroom was to be Jane’s domain and although it was drab and less than half the size of her bedroom at home, she was pleased with it as a sign of her independence. There was a mattress on the floor and boxes of Rose's clothes and other effects. They stacked the boxes in the corner and put some sheets and blankets on the mattress.
"There's no room for any furniture," Rose said. "But you can hang your stuff from the picture rail."
Jan looked up at the rail running around three of the walls. It was obvious the third wall was a partition built across the main bedroom at some time, partitioning it off to make a two-bedroom flat. Rose took her down to the ground floor to show her the bathroom. It surprised her that all three flats had to share the same bathroom, although Rose said there was another toilet out in the backyard. They returned to the flat, Rose made some cocoa and they sat talking for a while. She had always liked Rose's company and enjoyed reminiscing about their fun times together at the factory, but it had been a long day and she was pleased when Rose said she was ready for her bed.
Jane curled herself up on the mattress. It felt strange to be lying on the floor, but she felt cosy and content. She felt she was an adult in control of her life and she could do whatever she pleased with it and no one would be there to chastise her. She heard Kevin and his friend closing the street door when they came into the house. She listened to the footsteps coming up the stairs and their brief goodbye before Kevin unlocked the Yale and walked into the flat. There were now two separate sets of footsteps, one heading across the living room to the main bedroom, and the other heading upstairs to the flat above. She could hear Kevin talking to Rose for a while and then silence until she heard the bed squeaking. She realised what they were doing and tried not to listen, but somehow it seemed to fascinate her. The partition was thin and she could hear every sound.
However, she soon became uneasy because Rose and Kevin were wild and noisy lovers. She became frightened; she had never heard such sounds before and thought he was hurting her. She pulled the covers over her head in an attempt to hide the noise, but she could still hear them and was beginning to worry about her own safety. The noises from Rose seemed to get worse, screams almost, and then Kevin began groaning like a swaggering drunk trying to stop himself from falling over. As she pushed the tips of her thumbs against her ears, the noises abruptly stopped. The sudden silence frightened her as much as the noises and she looked out from the covers wondering if Rose was all right, worried in case he had hurt her, perhaps he had killed her. She heard someone leave the bedroom. She looked at the door fearing now he finished with Rose he might want to come into her room and attack her as well. There was no lock on the door and she felt vulnerable and afraid as she thought he could just walk in at any time.