THE CLOCK MAN.
Chapter Twelve. Jane Summers
Jane Summers was depressed. Every day seemed to be a chore and she could no longer see any point in doing anything.
Ever since Sam Toddy had “accidentally” touched her bosom at work she had felt soiled, but that wasn't the worst of it. No, not by far. She never saw Ricky and that was the worst thing that could happen in her world.
At first she thought it was her. But he had called every Saturday before the incident that had so enraged her mother, and she began to see a pattern in her misery.
So she challenged her mother when the pressure became too much.
“Why does Ricky never call like he used to?” she asked.
“You must know dear,” he mother had purred. Then she had frowned and her expression suggested that she wanted to be more emphatic. “Because what he did to you was evil,” she almost snarled.
Then she smiled again. “Because it wasn't right and we lall know that, don't we, darling. We all know about Heaven and Hell and how absolutely real and terrifying they are, don't we? And we want to go to Heaven in the Afterlife, don't we?”
And there had been no argument against her. Mother was always right, especially over spiritual judgements. Jane knew that. So she had sighed and retired to her room and wept.
Work had become a dreary and frightening place, too. Somehow it had got round that Sam Toddy had “touched her up” and that she had turned against him, and everyone else (Jane excepted) rather liked the presence of Sam Toddy because most of the women had something against him. It was security having something against a boss, and they used it whenever necessary, which made for a harmonious work place. But it had got out that she, Jane, had made a fuss, and the word went round that was someone not to trust.
So the nightmare had begun. Home and work were equally bad in her eyes, and she would have turned to her father for support but he was as scared of her mother as she was.
But greater than these troubles was the fact that Ricky was nowhere. She did look – in the coffee bar, hanging around on the corner near at Bosworth's garage, but there was no sign of Ricky anywhere.
There was only one thing for it, and when she called, fearful and unexpected at Ricky's house it was clear to the lad's mother that something was very wrong with her. To the older woman's eyes she looked dreadful and any doubts she had regarding this girl's suitability as a lover for her son dissolved away the moment she cast eyes on her.
Not that I'll have any say in who he chooses to share his life with, she thought, nor should I..
“Come in, dear,” she said, “you don't look exactly well,” she added, minimising her first opinion.
In truth, the child looks really poorly,she thought, she looks as if there's something very, very wrong...
“Is there something wrong?” Again not pushing the matter, being minimal so as not to rock any boats that may be on the verge of sinking.
“Is...” and silence, moody troubled silence, more than teenage angst.
Light dawned and Molly shook her head. “Didn't you know?” she asked, “he was called up.”
“You mean … already?”
“He was expecting it,” she replied. “He got the papers, you know.”
“Didn't he tell you? Didn't he say goodbye or anything?”
Jane shook her head. “My mother...” she whispered.
“Wasn't so keen?” urged Molly.
Jane nodded. “It's her beliefs,” she said quietly. “She didn't like Ricky … touching me...”
“Not many mothers would,” murmured Molly. “Mothers like to protect their daughters, Jane.”
“I want to go...”
Molly raised her eyebrows, questioningly.
“Away … I must go....”
“You need to sort you thoughts out,” she said, determinedly. “You must put things into the right order in here,” and she tapped her forehead knowingly. “Then you'll know what's best,” she added, her words as good as meaningless to the troubled girl.
“I'm sorry,” said Jane, pale, almost in tears. “I shouldn't have come...”
“I won't keep you if you don't want me to, but what about a nice cup of tea before you do anything important … or …
“Or rash, you mean?” The girl almost flared up.
“Maybe. Or rash if that's what you want to call it. Though I'd call it personal. I'd call it what you have to do.”
“No tea, thanks.”
Jane made for the door and didn't even pause. She went straight out, into the world that was being barbecued by an unclouded sun.
Her mind was a cauldron. I've got to get away from here. I've got to get away for good. I've got to sort things out and in the end, when I've got the strength, I've got to find Ricky. He'll be out there, maybe shooting people with horrid guns ... and he could shoot my mum for me... No! I don't mean that … I don't know what I mean, just that I hate her, hate her, hate her...
When she got home her mother was out but the key was under its usual plant-pot. She let herself in without even thinking that her mother's security left a lot to be desired. Just about everyone left a spare key under a plant-pot or doormat or something a determined burglar would understand without having to think about it.
“Mother!” She knew that the woman was out but shouted anyway.
Then she knew what to do. It came to her in one of those flashes that change lives. Suddenly, in the massive moment, her past counted for nothing and all she could see was the future. And that future wasn't here, in this house, with the parents who'd prepared the way and then let her down.
Yes, that's what they've done: prepared the way and let me down, and now I must go. I must find my world, my life, my Ricky … I must get out of here while I still can, right away from mum and her old fashioned religious ways, away from dad who doesn't really care, how can he when he's married to the virgin Barbara, and it wouldn't surprise me one jot if she was a virgin, I can't imagine her ever lying back and thinking of anything but her cosy Heaven with its angels and its harps … it wouldn't shock me to find I was the result of some bizarre virgin birth … and Sam Toddy with his nasty touchy-feely fingers never far away, I must get out while I can, go right away, London maybe, where they say the streets are paved with gold, though I know they're not ….
Then, in a frenzy crafted from her thoughts, she stuffed a few things into a holdall, some underwear, a few treasures, a full dress with giant red polka dots all over it, pretty or ugly depending on your viewpoint, her mother wouldn't let her wear it in public because it was so unchristian, bright colours like the devil's angels might wear, she had said, and short enough to see her knees...
“The good Lord never meant men to see a girl's knees … you know that, Jane, a girl's knees are her own affair … it's bad enough that in these loose times we have to show our legs at all …”
The woman raved, of course she did, it was the way she was, and if there was no sin in something she'd poke and pry until she found some.
What about when you were young before the war, mother, and the Charleston with its tiny dresses and all the legs and arms flailing like joyful things to wild music, didn't you think back then of all the sins in the world?
And the fierce woman with her knowledge of hell would reply it was nothing to do with me, child, I wrapped up well like the good Lord would want me to as did all us decent girls, and father would smile secretly to himself because he could remember the truth, and she would scowl at him and he'd pop out for a word with the Priest, though she, Jane, knew all about his corner in the Fox and Crown....
When her holdall was swollen with too many things she fumbled in her top drawer for her Post Office Savings book and looked in it.
Twenty-seven pounds, ten shillings and sixpence she breathed. That's a lot of money...
And it was. You could buy a lot with twenty-seven pounds, ten shillings and sixpence. It was a great deal more than she earned in a week … no, it was more than she earned in three or four weeks at the hosiery mill. It would go a long way, would twenty-seven pounds, ten shillings and sixpence!
Then, taking one last look round her bedroom, she quietly went down the stairs, let herself out of the house, replaced the key under its plant-pot, and, she hoped looking rather like a shadow, she made her way to the post office near the main bus stops.
This is the start of my adventure, she whispered, this is where all the sorrow ends...
© Peter Rogerson 28.07.13
This is the twelfth chapter of a little love story I'm quite enjoying writing (not very manly is it, to admit that?) and because Gather is in a parlous state these days here are links to the first 11 chapters in case you've missed out.