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When Sam Grainger’s little sister Amy plays matchmaker between her brother and Josie Flynn it seems like a match made in heaven. But Josie’s father strongly disapproves and make his feelings very clear. There would be no wedding: that is until fate takes a hand and Sam saves the life of Josie’s brother. Their first battle is won and Sam is accepted into the family. Unfortunately this is only the first hurdle they will need to overcome throughout their married life. From meagre beginnings Sam and Josie build a small empire, but the price they pay for their new lifestyle is high, with Sam’s ambition and the ambition of his sister Amy ultimately driving Josie into the arms of an old friend, with tragic consequences.
Kathleen Haslingden was born in Lancashire, the daughter of a coal miner and a mill worker. This is Kathleen’s first novel, but she is working on a second and hopes there will be many more. A mother and grandmother, she now lives in Cheshire with her husband Eric.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I WOULD LIKE TO THANK THE FOLLOWING PEOPLE
My husband Eric for his patient encouragement. Also for his honest criticism, which was always noted and acted upon…though not always gracefully. My son-in-law David and daughter Deborah, and grandson Jamie whose computer knowledge proved invaluable.
To Eric with love, forever and always. My children, who in my unbiased opinion are the best in the world. And my grandchildren who never fail to brighten my life and make me laugh.
she had 6 . and later when she accompanied him as Mayoress on his first official function. The funeral cortege passed slowly through the streets and although Josie saw not one face. Beside her sat Leah.” they told her. Of course no-one around her understood that this was the end of her life. They meant well she told herself silently.PROLOGUE Her face was expressionless. who’s generosity of spirit had touched most of them at some time during his lifetime. never for a moment dreaming that it would happen. But in her grief. that carried her slowly to the end of her life. Josie remembered how she had joked with him about becoming Mayor one day. before turning back to the tinted window. at least not outwardly. She wanted to scream at the world. but she did not. as if etched in stone. the well liked and respected Mayor and businessman. and at God. It was a private. the daughter who’s love for her father was as strong as her own and who’s loss was no less cruel. even those closest to her. almost the whole population of the town had turned out to pay their respects to Samuel Grainger. until she wanted to scream at them. the long black limousine. staring once more into the blackness. She and Leah had been so proud when they first saw him in his mayoral robes and chains of office. Josie could no longer be the comforter. one after another. selfish grief. “Time will heal. Her own grief was too overwhelming. time after time until she believed it. as she gazed unseeing out of the car window. Leah took her hand and squeezed it and Josie turned and smiled weakly. not to be shared with anyone. the one who helped her daughter through every trauma in her life.
warm hearted woman that she was today. Now his chains were being worn for the last time. that if she had the means to return to that day and do it all 7 .’ Josie thought. draped regally over his coffin. soaking her clothing. neither of whom could ever be replaced. she knew without any shadow of a doubt. Leah’s biological father would have been happy to see the way Sam had protected and guided his daughter into the beautiful. smiling now as she looked at Leah. love.’ Josie thought illogically. Maybe he had worn it out prematurely. but who had been accepted and cherished. watching over his daughter and giving Sam his seal of approval. She had been fortunate enough to experience the enduring love of two remarkable men. Josie had sensed his presence on more than one occasion. would remain with her to the end of her days and beyond. slow journey to the cemetery. Sam had been an ordinary man. and loved as deeply as her own father could have loved her.almost burst with pride. in which lay the body of the man she loved more than life itself. The journey took twenty minutes. both happy and sad. to be placed around the neck of the new Mayor. with all the kindness he had showered on those he loved. a loving and devoted husband and the doting father of a child who was not of his own blood. the tears flowing at last…most of all. of love and laughter. As the heavy drizzle descended. John. Tomorrow they would be handed back. then what more valiant way could there be to die?’ There were so many memories. and the spirit of the man who gave life to Leah. that his spirit. As Josie tossed a single red rose onto the coffin. and Josie seemed to recall them all on that long. Forty years of joy and pain. but most of all of love. but the memories spanned forty years. ‘Maybe Sam’s big heart had been his downfall. at the age of only fifty seven. In spite of his position. and maybe that was why it had given up in the end. ‘Well if that was the case. ‘Oh yes. she recalled another rainy day many years earlier. secure in the knowledge.
painful. she would not change one joyous. heartrending moment. 8 .over again.
It was just after four in the afternoon. “But don’t be too long.” she added. who worked behind the counter in the shop. from which drifted the aroma of comforting winter food. As they reached Johnson’s newsagent. I just need to call in here for something. The mingling aromas. wrapping their clothing tightly around them against the chill wind. cheering the cold. of stew and dumplings. she was sure to be ages. and then on past a row of terraced houses. and baking bread. A small group of them passed St. Amy Grainger turned to her friend Eileen. and sweet shop. assailed their nostrils and made them hungry for the food their own mothers would be cooking. dismal. tobacconist. the street lamps were already lit. “Oh alright. Friday afternoon. Joseph’s Catholic church. heralding the onset of winter. yet in the small Lancashire mill town of Leigh. I’m freezing. And it looks as if it’s going to rain. The shops and houses cast a cosy glow from their windows.” replied Eileen impatiently. anxious to warm themselves by the fire. Will you wait for me?” she asked. School children hurried along Chapel Street. onions.CHAPTER ONE Late Autumn 1960 The hours of daylight were becoming shorter as a blanket of darkness descended earlier each day. in preparation for their return from school. and chattering gaily as they made their way home. “I won’t be a minute. 9 . knowing that when Amy got talking to Josie.
” All this was said in one long breath and concluded with a dramatic sigh and an indignant pout. embarrassed by such a personal question. When Amy spoke in this wheedling tone. she was always suspicious. “Sorry I asked. from such a small child. Amy looked at Josie with a conspiratorial glint in her eye. no reason. Why do you ask?” “Oh. After buying her usual penny liquorice and a sherbert dip. and then when I bent down to pull them up. pony tailed child. I’m fed up with school I am.” “You’ll have to pull your socks up my girl!” “That’s what she said to me this morning. Josie Flynn half turned. “Do you have a boyfriend?” Josie coughed self consciously.” said Josie. who came into the shop almost every day after school and who’s honest. to see who had entered. “Well. though often caustic manner of speaking. There must be a reason why you would ask. no I haven’t. after placing the last of the toffee jars on the shelf. can you Josie?” Before Josie had a chance to reply Amy rambled on. and …she says I talk too much.” “Come on now Amy. blonde. “And… she doesn’t have to keep picking on me in front of the class. “Yes?” Josie grinned. had a good day at school?” she asked cheerfully. as she looked down at the diminutive nine year old. struggling to contain her laughter. she doesn’t have to keep reminding me.” 10 . I hate Mrs Winston. never failed to amuse her. I know I’m hopeless at arithmetic. wondering what was coming next. “No I haven’t. and then gingerly descended the rickety stepladder.At the tinkle of the shop doorbell. “Josie?” she asked tentatively. as she caught sight of the pretty. “Hello Amy. she said I was being insolent…whatever that means…you just can’t win with teachers.
when I do decide to go out with someone. “Amy. Her usually lustrous auburn hair.” Amy giggled.” Amy called back over her shoulder. you might like him. So whatever you are cooking up. well.” was Amy’s hasty reply. and rain dripped uncomfortably down her neck from her umbrella. which blew in all directions. ‘I wonder what she’s up to. Somebody who really likes you…. as she struggled to dig out her 11 . it was six o’clock and she was soaked. breaking into a run occasionally. I’m not interested in boys just yet. You’ll see. you can forget it. there was a heavy drizzle. then walked with short quick steps. There’s plenty of time for that. looking down at the ground. By the time she reached Hope Street. hung limply around her shoulders. in order to reach home as quickly as possible. that’s all. then looking intently at her. I think I know somebody who likes you. sighing in exasperation. She stood on the doorstep of number 112. “Now Amy. that’s for sure. what are you up to. She bent her head and held her umbrella at an angle. And anyway. juggling her umbrella from one hand to the other. “Yes.” replied Josie. as she skipped happily out of the door.” “But Josie. waiting for an explanation. I just wondered. she was so comical. it will be someone of my own choosing. just you hold on a minute. “See you then. “Well.a lot. will you be working tomorrow?” she persisted. making it impossible to escape getting wet. I’m sure you would like him. She had no intention of hanging around to be questioned further.“Well. You can’t just leave without an explanation.” Josie said in mock annoyance.” “Amy behave. ‘She’s got something up her sleeve.’ As Josie left the shop that evening. I’m only sixteen.’ thought Josie.” “Never mind. In fact. It was impossible to be annoyed with Amy.
” said her mother 12 . which was totally at odds with the rest of the furnishings. “You look tired. She loved this room. which radiated around the room. listening to little Amy’s tales of woe about school. After finally managing to open the front door. a trait which Josie’s father never missed an opportunity to tease her about. who lived together in the next street. Do you remember Ethel Simpson and Vera Quinn?” Mary nodded. “she polishes anything that doesn’t move. “Don’t sit still. It didn’t seem to matter that the sideboard and dresser that adorned the walls were of inferior quality. with its large green moquette threepiece suite. Her mother still polished them until you could see your reflection in them. gold and green regency striped curtains and a red. making her way over to the fire to warm her hands. before dragging her aching feet down the hall and into the living room. It’s a tonic I can tell you.” The familiar greeting brought a smile to Josie’s face.” “I’m not surprised. recalling the two jolly women. Talk about the merry widows. heavily patterned carpet. “But it’s worth going to work just for the fun we have in that shop. And then there’s the two sisters from Princess Avenue. “Hello love. but the fact that it’s a joint effort scares the men to death. The roaring fire in the hearth emitted a warm welcoming glow. where her mother was setting the table. “Well. she hung up her wet coat and umbrella. Unfortunately they don’t seem to have much luck. they came into the shop this morning and they had us in stitches.” he would tell visitors to the house. but I’ll tell you a secret. casting a flickering light on the walls and ceiling.” Josie replied. It’s bad enough that they are so blatant about it. They can clear the shop of male customers quicker than a fire.” “I am. how was your day?” Mary asked sympathetically. I’ve never seen anyone try harder to get new husbands than those two.key from the pocket of her bag.
but the thing he found most difficult to cope with. recovered at an astonishing pace. walking alongside him in the street. but no matter how bad it got.” “Got a date have you?” Josie called back teasingly. But what had impressed his family most was the fact. “they were no different when their husbands were alive. and with his pride intact. At the age of eight he had been struck down with polio and Josie remembered clearly him being encased in a machine called an iron lung. Making a determined effort never to give them the satisfaction of letting them know how hurt he was by this.” Josie burst into fits of laughter and was still laughing when a head poked around the door. not just as an older brother. but because of the bravery he had shown in coping with his illness. They taunted him unmercifully.giggling and whispering as if she might be overheard. “Huh. was when they called after him in idiotic voices. seemed to find his disability amusing and considered him to be a source of regular entertainment. Michael would not allow them to break his 13 . that throughout all this he had managed to stay bright and cheerful. However. before rushing down the hall and banging the front door as he left. a particular group of local boys. his head held high. After being in the hospital for what to Josie at such a young age seemed like years. He was able to let most of it ride over his head.” Michael answered. I’m just off out. mimicking his limp. with just his head poking from the top. Josie looked up to him. In spite of being left with a very noticeable limp and severe weakness in his right arm. he had adapted amazingly well. He had determinedly taught himself to write with his left hand and brushing aside any offers of help. inferring that he was retarded. he had eventually come home wearing callipers on his legs. This infuriated the youths. See you later. Can’t stop. Michael was Josie’s brother and at seventeen was a year older than his sister. “Hi Josie. he just carried on walking. stirring them to even worse behaviour. chance would be a fine thing. Bye.
spirit. taking an instant liking to the mild mannered young man with a will of iron. Michael’s escape from the world lay in his love of reading and he would sit for hours engrossed in spy thrillers and adventures. a kind man who. growing in confidence daily. I’ll be glad when he gets himself a wife. Only once had he broken down and told Josie how he really felt. meat and potato pie. This had led to him becoming a regular visitor to the local book shop which was owned by Arnold Franks. something smells good. He should be the size of a house that lad. as he was given more and more responsibility.” she laughed. but if he doesn’t stop eating me out of house and home. cataloguing and generally keeping everything in order. “I had to rescue this from Michael. taking orders. and proceeded to dish out a portion for Josie. She placed it in the middle of the table. the amount he eats. even occasionally leaving Michael in charge in his absence.” Josie said to her mother after Michael had left. Josie had never seen him so excited as the day he burst in through the front door and informed his mother that he was now in full employment and would be able to pay for his keep. “Probably not.” Josie laughed. I’ll be walking around naked because I can’t afford to buy 14 .” “You know you don’t mean that Mam. “I’m starving. “He would have eaten the lot if I hadn’t stopped him. She had been so overwhelmed as she saw the look of pride on his face. making her promise on oath never to tell their parents. that she had sped from the room in order to hide her tears. and one for herself. Since then he had gone from strength to strength. encouraged his growing interest in books and eventually offered him a job in the shop.” Mary disappeared into the kitchen. “Ooh. came back carrying a large earthenware dish. and a moment later.” “It’s your favourite.
my hands are wet. as she finally recognised the familiar voice.” Josie giggled. maybe I did exaggerate a bit. I’ve already eaten. “No thank you Mrs Flynn. Mam said to ask if you fancy a day shopping at the market tomorrow. Josie was drying the dishes in the kitchen when she heard a knock at the front door. Then coming through from the kitchen drying her hands. but he does take some feeding. But I must say. “Hello Mrs Flynn. Josie‘s best friend. Whilst enjoying every delicious mouthful of her favourite pie. then tried to lighten the situation by adding. blushing slightly at the thought of her mother in the nude.” she called out.” “Ooh Mam. she listened with interest as her mother relayed all the local gossip. you’re soaked.” “That would be nice. mainly because I don’t know anybody yet.clothes. Have you had your tea yet? You’re welcome to a piece of meat and potato pie if you haven’t. she’s in the back. standing in the rain. “Could you get that please Mam. “how did your new job go. but the staff seem friendly enough and I didn’t get into too much of a muddle with the filing system. I get the feeling that being a filing clerk won’t be the most 15 . Oh by the way. “Well. then sat down to eat her meal. “Hi Val. is Josie in please?” “Come in love. just look at you. Mary laughed self-consciously realising she had embarrassed her daughter.” she said kindly.” “Well.” Josie nodded. Mary opened the door. “Oh. It’s ages since we had a day out together.” she called from the kitchen. Will you tell her I’ll meet her outside the post office at around eleven o’clock. it all still feels a little bit strange. before I forget. to find Val. she asked.” Josie strained her ears to try and work out who was in the hall.
“Just give me a few minutes to get changed.” replied Mary. Patrick. Both Patrick and his father had been astonished when they had discovered his mother was pregnant again at the age of forty three. raising her hand and brushing it across the top of Josie’s head as she ducked out of the way. Sorry Val. that does it.interesting job in the world. worked at Bickershaw colliery and was on his two o’clock till ten o’clock shift. It’ll give me a chance to have a nice quiet couple of hours before your Dad gets home off his shift. but after the initial shock. I couldn’t possibly let Mam have a quiet time now could I? She might get used to it and even worse she might like it.” “Get off with you.” “I’ve no doubt that won’t take long. I’ll just have to be patient until I get promoted to Managing Director. “Our Alfie and his mates will be there and a few of the girls. enjoy yourself.” “Oh well. Is that alright with you Mam? I won’t be late. He had permanent black rings around his eyes. which made him look as if he was wearing eyeliner and in spite of scrubbing himself clean each night. before dashing upstairs to get ready.” said Josie smiling. were delighted at the thought of a new baby. Patrick had left his native Ireland at the age of twenty three. after tragically losing both his parents.” Alfie was Val’s brother and a couple of years older than they were. *** Josie’s father. “Do you fancy coming to the coffee bar for an hour or two?” Val asked. before you get a clip round the ear.” “Of course it is love. So when she died in 16 . Mining was a hard and dirty job and he came home each day covered in coal dust. the dust was ingrained in his caloused hands.
All he was interested in. died from a heart attack. and getting a place of his own to live. they lived in a tiny rented cottage. That was until he saw Mary. Within a year they were married and shortly afterwards moved to Leigh fifteen miles away. filled him with dread. Within two weeks. he had been taken on as a gardener at a large house in Didsbury. He worked hard. Mary had discovered she was pregnant with Michael. nothing could have prepared them for the devastation they felt. he was beginning to feel as if he had made a big mistake. It remained a standing joke to this day. But Patrick suffered a second blow just two weeks later. just when he was about to give up his idea of ever settling in England. Manchester. Then. he had been smitten. To start with. Patrick had been their only child. he had made the decision to make a new life for himself in England. the thought of being alone in the rented house in Dublin. and she had worked out that if she saved her wages for the next two years. He came to live with an Aunt in Newton Heath. he had been a grown man. After six months of desperately seeking work. when his heartbroken father. they would have a sizeable deposit on a home of their own. but full of enthusiasm.childbirth. and failing. and the last thing on his mind was women. and even though at the time of their death. and from the day he first looked into the sparkling blue eyes of the slender fair haired young girl. But after just nine months. which he had shared with his parents. still grieving. Theirs had been a short courtship and as Patrick delighted in telling people…much to Mary’s embarrassment…a passionate one. at the prospect of starting a new life. that Michael 17 . Mary found herself a cleaning job at the Greyhound Hotel. where housing was less expensive and employment in the mines plentiful. determined to prove himself to his new employer. She had been a live-in maid in the household. Memories called out to him from every nook and cranny of what had once been a happy home. was making as much money as he could.
After the birth of the baby. “Over here. then carefully balancing the cup and saucer in one hand whilst carrying their handbags in the other. I think you should be very scared. to find out what the big secret is. and waving to acquaintances as they arrived and left. “Our Alfie’s here. elbowing their way in and ordering an espresso coffee. They loved having friends round. of which Mary was so proud. so they put down every penny they had. “I don’t know whether I should be excited or scared.” 18 . Motor bikes of all types and sizes lined the road outside. until they saw him with three other boys.” she said laughing.” “Well. and they had been there ever since. Josie told Val about Amy’s mysterious visit to the shop. the cottage was far too small.had scuppered his parents plans to own a big house.” The girls waved back. sitting on high stools at a counter that ran down the side wall of the café. Patrick’s ham fisted attempts as a handyman had caused much amusement at first.” he shouted. they managed to make it to their seats without spilling a drop of the foaming liquid.” she remarked. but as he became more adept. finding out who was going out with who. “I can’t wait for tomorrow. knowing Amy. they heard the buzz of voices from the coffee bar. “We’ve saved you a seat. They pushed their way through the crowded café. he transformed the shabby old house into the comfortable home of today. The rest of the evening was spent catching up on local gossip. As Josie and Val walked down Bradshawgate. before going to the bar. As were Josie and Michael. Everyone felt at home in the Flynn household . as a deposit on a run down terraced house in Hope Street. where the kettle was always boiling and the warm aroma of baking regularly pervaded the kitchen. and Val recognised the black Triumph five hundred immediately.
and probably with someone resembling Quasimodo. You don’t make my dinner and iron my shirts. it’s like this. “Well I’m off to bed. don’t you ever get a Saturday off? You’re looking 19 . Her Dad poked his head around the kitchen door. Both Mary and Josie answered in unison. “I’m fine thank you.” said Michael forlornly.” Patrick remarked to Michael. Just feel free to ignore me. I can tell you that much…even if she assures me he looks like Elvis.” “You are asking for trouble.replied Val. That’s just what I need. choking on her coffee. “She’s probably fixed you up on a date. Josie arrived home just before ten o’clock and was drinking a cup of cocoa and chatting with her mother and Michael. But don’t bother asking how I am. I think you’d be wise to go and have your bath. I have no idea. if I hear the strange clanging of bells. But it would pay you to watch a master at work. so I don’t have to butter you up.” Josie chuckled. “I’ve got an early start tomorrow. as the group of lads burst out laughing. I’ll know who you’re out with.” “Oh love. “Oh well. “How’s my favourite girl?” he called. before you say something you regret and your dinner goes straight in the bin.” “Isn’t it great to be so popular with the ladies. “You’re asking the wrong bloke. just by clicking my fingers. “Well you see lad. I can get these women to do anything I ask.” said Mary. There is no way that I am going out on any blind date.” “You’re wicked you are.” said Josie wearily.” Josie retorted.” “Oh thanks a lot. when she heard the back door open and close. I’m just your son.
and the time passes quickly. 20 . I should have a word with Mrs Johnson about a weekend off.” and got the familiar reply back. Goodnight Mam. “Goodnight Dad.” Josie put in quickly. thinking about what Amy had said. “I won’t.” In spite of herself.” “I don’t mind really Mam. with tomorrow’s surprise in the forefront of her mind.” Josie undressed. Her mother had put a hot water bottle between the sheets.” “Well as long as you don’t make yourself ill.tired. and eventually drifted off to sleep. Goodnight Michael. “Goodnight sweetheart. “I know somebody who likes you…really likes you…a lot. then climbed into the soft bed. Josie could not help but wonder who the somebody was.” As Josie reached the landing. “Anyway. and she sank gratefully onto the warm mattress. I quite enjoy Saturdays because we are always so busy. sounding concerned.” her mother replied. God bless. She lay on her back for a long time. she called out to her father in the bathroom.
Miss Josephine Flynn. they could not control their laughter any longer and they laughed until tears rolled down their faces. with people off work for the weekend. Sam this is my very good friend. picking up their cigarettes and newspapers to read over breakfast. serving them swiftly and efficiently. Their contagious laughter started everyone in the shop laughing and when three new customers walked through the door.CHAPTER TWO Saturday morning in the shop was hectic from around eight o’clock. as Sam put out his hand to take Josie’s fingertips in an old fashioned gesture. Around eleven Josie heard a familiar voice and saw the pretty little blonde with a ponytail come through the door. won’t you Josie?” It was no use. He had the same striking blue eyes and blonde hair and the same mischievous twinkle in his eye.” “Likewise. in a plumy accent. very formally introduced them. I’d like you to meet my brother Samuel Grainger. “very pleased to make your acquaintance Miss Flynn. Then. “She’ll let you call her Josie.” Amy interrupted. in 21 . bowing from the waist. She abruptly brought her attention back to the queue of customers. There could be no doubt that he and Amy were related. Josie could not fail to be amused and nor could the boy when Amy. and a boy of around the same age as Michael.” said Josie. sounding impatient with her brother. they could not help joining in. but this time not alone. until finally she was face to face with Amy. whilst glancing up at her and winking he said. “You don’t have to call her Miss Flynn. “Hello Josie.” They both had to stifle their laughter.
She’s a natural. No. she has absolutely no idea how funny she is.” he added. not really. She found herself watching the door around five fifteen. looking uneasy. as if he had something on his mind. but I didn’t think you would find each other so funny. “Eeh love. No boy had ever made her feel that way before. and now he finds something to buy every day?” said Mrs Johnson. “I think you’re all daft. “What time do you finish work. That little girl has done me a power of good.” Mrs Johnson said firmly. I thought maybe I could walk you home. I’ll need you for an extra half an hour during the week for stock taking. causing her heart to pound and her legs to turn to jelly each time he walked through the door. taking a deep breath.” she announced. and had to admit to herself that she would have been very disappointed if he had failed to turn up.” said Amy. that was not the word she would have used. setting them off again. That’s if you want me to.” Subtlety was definitely 22 . She found him extremely attractive. On Friday Sam hung around in the shop longer than usual.” “No you don’t. I’ve got another half an hour to do yet.spite of the fact that they had no idea why they were laughing. “Strange isn’t it. Eventually. “Yes it is a bit strange. how he never needed anything from this shop before. “I told you yesterday. breaking into her thoughts. not wishing to appear too eager. so you can finish early tonight.” she answered shyly. Disturbing was the effect he had on her. he plucked up the courage to ask the question he had been wanting to ask all week. “She’s just about to finish now. who had been eavesdropping. “Well. What tickles me is.” Every day for the next week Sam came into the shop just as Josie was finishing work.” remarked Mrs Johnson the owner of the shop after Amy had left. “I knew you would like each other. I haven’t laughed so much in a long time. Josie blushed and grinned. aren’t you Josie?” asked Mrs Johnson.
see you on Monday morning.” he said smiling.” “Not on your life. “I’ve just realised. but would you have changed your mind if it had been. I’ve said I’ll walk you home and I don’t even know where you live. “Well that’s alright then. doing a jig down the road. it’s only a couple of streets from where you live. I’ve tried everything to get your attention. You just carried on.. maybe just a little. you know.” he answered quickly. eyes front. throwing myself under a bus. “Actually.I think you are exaggerating just a touch don’t you?” she laughed. “Well. “it’s only Hope Street. Purely by accident you understand. I told a fib when I said I didn’t know where you lived. desperate not to offend her. I mean it is pure coincidence that I happen to take the wrong turning on my way home and find myself in your street at least twice a week. but nevertheless Josie was grateful. By the way.” she said. I was beginning to think I was invisible” “Er. “We’ve crossed paths on more than one occasion you know. To tell the truth I made it my business to find out. I knew you worked in the shop.” laughed Josie. where do you live?” “Duke Street in the mill houses. “No. Sam decided to come clean. “Thank you Mrs Johnson.” he added.not Mrs Johnson’s strong point. so in the end I decided to send in my secret weapon…Amy. As they stepped out into the street Sam put a protective hand under her elbow. after collecting her coat and bag from the stock room. I hope it’s not ten miles away. coughing loudly as you passed. tapping the side of his nose conspiratorially. I have my spies. you’ve been let off lightly. Anyway. Unfortunately you always seem to be in a hurry and looking straight ahead. all the usual things like smiling. but I’m afraid she could do with 23 . She comes in very useful sometimes.” His conscience getting the better of him.
now we know each other so well. you must miss him.” “Of course.” “There’s just me. what an understatement.” she said without hesitation. She comes into the shop almost every day. Of course at the moment I’m just a general dogsbody. but I think it’s against her religion. She’s such a little thing. when fifty men were killed. “Well she certainly cheered us all up in the shop. Where do you work by the way?” “At Courtley’s mill. “Yes I do. she just can’t help herself.” “I’m so sorry Sam. I have a brother Michael. “What about your family Josie?” “My Dad’s a miner too.” Sam went on. Amy and my Mam. in the weaving shed.some training in tact. What I mean is. will you come to the Palais with me tomorrow night. just Amy. I probably see as much of her as you do. who works in a bookshop. Quickly he changed the subject. she’s a housewife. I’m training to be an overlooker.” he replied. My Mam works in the mill too. He was in the accident at the Parkway colliery. Well.” “Well. She doesn’t mean to be annoying. He’s about the same age as you. not quite knowing why she was being so uncharacteristically forward and telling herself 24 . I will. that’s the wrong thing to say really. before he had the chance to change his mind. but my Mam doesn’t work. Have you any other sisters or brothers?” “No. I should have guessed when you said you lived in the mill houses. She’s more than a houseful. she works harder than anyone I know. Just Amy.” “I know. “Yes.” he asked quickly. She’s forever in trouble at school for speaking her mind.” said Josie. Mam’s always telling her to stop and think before she speaks.” he laughed. looking pensive. but the havoc she can cause. “My Dad died shortly after Amy was born.
by the twinkle in his mother’s eyes. but I didn’t want to seem too pushy.that she should be playing a little harder to get. She’s sixteen now you know. She won’t hang about forever waiting for you. Talk about jungle telegraph. “As if Amy hasn’t already told you.” he said. Then with a knowing smile she asked. or was likely to again. Amy came running down the stairs two at a time and burst into the front room. Still. but kicking himself for not having the courage to kiss her. “Have you asked her to marry you yet?” “Good grief Amy. “You’re late Sam. then surprised himself by thinking secretly.” said his mother when he arrived home.” he confirmed. and I have asked her out tomorrow night. doing her best to keep a 25 . I did get to walk Josie home. maybe it’s better to take things slowly. “Well you’d better be quick before somebody else asks her. But there was no way he was going to take the risk of spoiling things with Josie. “Well? Well?” she said panting. feeling on top of the world as he waved goodbye.’ He reluctantly banished the thought from his mind as he realised that his feelings for Josie were like nothing he had felt before. there were plenty of other fish in the sea. so what. But yes. “Amy‘s quite right. If it had been any other girl he would have taken the risk and if he got his face slapped. “Seven thirty tomorrow outside the Palais then.” As Alice was about to offer her opinion. I didn’t know whether I should have offered to pick her up from her house. ‘maybe that’s not totally out of the question. She’s said yes and I’m meeting her at seven thirty. “any particular reason?” He could tell immediately.” said Alice. Amy broke into his meanderings once more. it didn’t matter.” she added seriously. he told himself. well. I haven’t even taken her out yet. As they continued walking Sam took Josie’s hand and was as reluctant to let go as she was when they reached the corner of Hope Street. that she already knew exactly where he had been. give me time.
but not too good eh.” “I know. “She’ll be drawing her old age pension soon. as they parted at the end of the road. somehow managing to restrain herself from running out of the door.” Josie retorted. Smiling fondly as she watched her leave the shop. “Oh you.straight face. to her surprise. I’ll cash up.” Amy said. grinning as she turned away. “I hope you don’t mind me not coming out with you tomorrow night Val. you’re wicked you are. she breathlessly told her about their date.” she added affectionately.” she replied laughing.” Josie too was unable to stop the fluttering feeling in her stomach every time she thought about Sam. I do have other friends you know. thanks Val. about to ask her quietly if she would like a mint imperial.oh…you know what I meant. Later inside the cinema Val glanced sideways at her friend. At four thirty. “You can go now Josie. “I just meant….” “Oh Mam. See you Sunday. but noticing the dreamy look on her face as she stared blankly at the screen. I’m sure you’ll need a bit of extra time to get ready for tonight. “Anyway. “but I really like him a lot.” she said with a knowing wink. in spite of being their busiest day.” Josie said. Mrs Johnson handed Josie her coat. pushing her playfully. you’re a pal. Saturday in the shop seemed to drag on forever. it’s my hobby.” “You don’t say! I would never have guessed. and on meeting Val that evening. there’s not much left to do here.” Josie blushed and thanked her with a grateful smile. as they stepped out into the cool night air. Mrs Johnson wondered if Josie had any idea what effect she had on the 26 .” “There’s no need to be sarcastic. “Don’t worry about me. grinning as she got the joke. she left her to her thoughts. though not as good as you.” she added. “You just have a good time.
She had never once heard her say a cruel or unkind word about anyone. “Hurry up in there.” Her mother looked at her. The fact that she was completely unaware of how beautiful she was. to find it occupied by Michael. unsure whether to tell her mother about Sam. With her mass of auburn curls. gently swaying hips.” answered Josie. His name is Sam Grainger. eager to get her hair washed. fearful now of what she was about to be told.” Josie sighed.boys in the neighbourhood. “I think so. from Duke Street?” “That’s right. But nicest of all in Mrs Johnson’s opinion. If there is something I should know I would rather you just came out with it.” “Your Dad’s what’s wrong sweetheart. “What’s the matter Mam? Do you know him?” Her heart sank as she wondered if her mother knew something bad about Sam. He’s a protestant. I’ve only just met him myself. “I’ve got a date. completely silent now and Josie sensed something was wrong. silky smooth complexion and slim. “Yes Mam. that her 27 . She seemed totally oblivious to the stares as she walked down the road. it’s a bit soon Mam. although she was sure the male population would not agree with her. He’ll go spare if you go out with him. “Going out tonight love?” asked Mary. “Well. “Oh. I’m going down the Palais. do we know him and when will we get to meet him?” Mary asked all in one breath. but he’s very nice. with a mixture of relief and anger. was Josie’s gentle nature. “Please tell me what’s wrong Mam. she never failed to captivate everyone she came into contact with. Is he Alice Grainger’s boy. Josie made a dash for the bathroom as soon as she arrived home.” she said. then deciding it was better to be honest. made her all the more endearing.” Josie answered. what’s his name. But it was the deep blue eyes and the voice so soft and clear that held your attention. I think you’ll like him. blushing slightly.” she called through the door.
I’ll deal with your Dad when the time comes. Couldn’t you have picked a nice Catholic boy and saved us all this trouble?” “Oh. but prayed her loyalty would not be put to the test. then realising how much trouble this would cause for her mother she added quietly. where Sam bought their tickets. but I’m not looking forward to it I can tell you.” “Well just don’t tell him until I’ve had a chance to talk to him. but if you don’t want me to see him again then I won’t. I’m sure it won’t bother Dad that much.’ She smiled at Josie. He greeted her with a beaming smile. “Do you jive?” Josie asked Sam. her feet tapping to the music 28 . she was surprised to find him already outside the Palais entrance. ‘Probably this time next week she’ll hate him. I thought you were going to tell me he was a bank robber or something. She’ll probably have dozens of boyfriends before she settles down. “No love. which was already quite full. But not just yet eh?” Arriving quarter of an hour early for her date with Sam. Josie believed the words as she said them.’ she told herself. you go and have a good time.” said Mary.” he said. I didn’t think to interrogate him.parents could be so narrow minded. well. it’s not likely to get serious anyway. “And you’re early too. before leading her inside to the ballroom.” They entered the foyer. They found a seat at one of the tables and Sam brought two cream sodas from the refreshment bar.” said Josie sarcastically. On stage a local skiffle group were playing and the floor was crowded with people jiving. “I’ll try to pick the right time. “I wasn’t sure you would come. ‘Josie is only sixteen for heaven’s sake. you’re talking as if we’re living in the dark ages instead of the nineteen sixties. “Oh for goodness sake Mam. “I’m sorry Mam. Just a crush at this age. knowing deep down that she would find it the hardest test of all resisting the feelings she had for Sam. ‘What a fuss I’m making. I really like him a lot.’ thought Mary. I’m very sorry.
but I can’t guarantee that you’ll still have ten toes. To her surprise. which as usual had caused a great deal of merriment within her family.underneath the table and itching to dance. causing Michael and Mary to fall about laughing. Josie had pretended to be annoyed. she began to feel grateful that she had brought with her a pair of soft flatties. As their movements gradually synchronised. who lived in the same street as the Flynn’s and had been Michael’s closest friend since they were children. which folded into a tiny package in her large handbag and made it much easier to jive. an infectious laugh. After seating Josie back at their table. “You’re wearing me out. don’t you ever sit down?” he asked. you’ve got some energy. knowing that something special was happening. She had stiffened them in a solution of sugar and water the day before. Glancing around the room. which fell damp around her face. as he looked at her pink cheeks and the soft curls.” She laughed.” Patrick had called after her as she left the house. which lit up her face and crinkled up her eyes.” “I’ll chance it. with Josie’s layered net underskirts flying high as she twirled. Having arrived wearing stiletto heels. you’ll have every insect in the neighbourhood following you down the street. over which he had no control. Josie found that he was a natural dancer and very easy to follow.” she said as he led her onto the dance floor. they became more and more adventurous. but as she walked down the street she could not help giggling. She waved to attract their attention and John 29 . A warm glow invaded his body. Sam left her to get two more drinks from the bar. “Blimey Josie. “Well I try. “Sure. They danced and danced until the first dance session ended and Sam led her from the floor gasping for breath. Josie saw the familiar faces of her brother and his friend John.
after all she was very young. ‘What an idiot’ he thought. “Hi Sis. But by the look in both Josie and Sam’s eyes. Now his chance was gone. Michael however.” exclaimed Michael. Where’s Val?” asked Michael. Sam walked over to the table a glass in each hand and Josie’s eyes lit up at the sight of him. before crossing the dance floor to join her. convinced that he stood no chance with her anyway. As she introduced them John struggled to hide his feelings. let’s go and see if there’s any talent in tonight. All he could do now was wait and hope that it wouldn’t last. but you mustn’t mention a word to Dad until Mam’s spoken to him. She saw him nudge Michael and point across the room in her direction. was more adept at hiding the disappointment he felt at not seeing Val. Now I decide to do something about it and it’s too late. as he became aware of the abrupt tone in his own voice as he tried to make polite conversation with Sam. She had never given him any reason to believe that they could be anything other than friends and in spite of 30 . I’m here with Sam Grainger. Sam’s committed the mortal sin of not being a Catholic and you know what Dad’s like. “She’s out with the other girls tonight.” “Uh-Uh! Rather you than me. he did not hold out much hope. ‘All these years I had the chance. He reluctantly shook the hand of his rival and saw his chances of a date with her disintegrate before his eyes. He desperately needed to get away as quickly as possible before he gave the game away. He had always had a soft spot for Josie and had been determined that tonight he would ask her to dance.spotted her first. “Come on Michael.” John’s hopes were dashed in an instant. I think they were planning to go to Wigan for a change. “But don’t worry. I won’t tell him.” he said suddenly. maybe even ask to walk her home. Perfect timing John’ he told himself.
leaving him in no doubt that her feelings matched his own. 31 . As he brought his face within inches of hers her eyes held his gaze. making her pleasantly aware of his closeness and tingling with anticipation. A moment later.” Sam whispered huskily into her ear.Michael’s good looks and the cheerful demeanour he portrayed to the world. As the music came to an end. Sam stood still. until she relaxed into him. People jostling their way to the cloakroom to retrieve their coats told them that the evening was over and they followed the crowd out onto the street. Eager to find an excuse to be closer. The soapy fragrance of his aftershave pervaded her nostrils. talking non-stop over the record music. which was played in between the live skiffle sessions. her cheek resting against his. fearing rejection. but this time he held her close and they moved slowly in unison. on the pretence that he could not hear what she was saying and then put an arm around the back of her chair and spoke into her ear. Josie and Sam were left alone once more and they leant towards each other over the table. the bustling movement around them broke their spell. Then taking her hand he led her once more onto the dance floor. As if sent in answer to her prayers. his arms still wrapped around her waist. Sam moved his chair beside hers. he had never let Val know how much he cared for her. the sensual voice of Elvis Presley sang out the words: It’s now or never Come hold me tight Kiss me my darling Be mine tonight Tomorrow may be too late It’s now or never My love won’t wait “Couldn’t have said it better myself. he was ever conscious of his disability. Consequently.
The sufferers were easily recognised by the calipers they wore on their legs and were either smothered by sympathy from adults or ridiculed by other children.” “What a snob. you should hear the comments from my Dad and Michael. We always have to take them home and put them on a plate and eat them with a knife and fork. A great number of children had been affected by the polio epidemic in the nineteen fifties. “People can be very cruel. “Oh. “But it hasn’t always been easy for him. feeling disgusted at the way some people behaved and also a little ashamed that he himself had never taken the time or the trouble to understand the problems that disabled people suffer.” he said casually. even when it affected one of their own family.” Sam said. She even insists on having a tablecloth. especially as a child.” She went on to tell him about Michael’s illness and his time in hospital.” “Yes he is. dipping his fingers into the newspaper wrapping as they emerged from the shop back onto the street. the problems his disability had caused him physically and the abuse he had suffered at the hands of other children and how even as a teenager it still went on. but little was understood about the condition by the public. Their nickname for her is Queen Mary.” said Sam jokingly.” explained Josie as if reading his thoughts. “They made a decision to treat him 32 . “Mm…but Mam won’t let us eat them straight from the newspaper.” Sam decided this was an appropriate time to ask about Michael as tactfully as possible and carefully avoiding the question of his disability. “My Mam and Dad were never overprotective. “Your brother seems a nice chap. The enticing aroma drew them inside and they joined the queue waiting to be served. “I always think they taste better eaten outside don’t you?” Sam remarked.It was a clear night and they strolled along the pavement hand in hand until they reached the fish and chip shop.” she replied thoughtfully.
but at the time I thought he was cruel. his breathing slowly returning to normal as he distanced himself from her. “How about tomorrow? We could go for a walk and then call for an espresso at the coffee bar. He walked away.” she said. not trusting himself…or Josie…not to take things too far. As Josie’s senses were heightened.” “I’d like that. As they pulled apart they looked into each others’ eyes with yearning.” Sam said.normally from the day he arrived home from the hospital and I’m sure that has helped him to cope. she felt as if she was drowning in a sea of forbidden pleasure and she wanted more.” she added smiling.” When they arrived at the end of Hope Street Sam asked Josie if he might see her again. After that they saw each other almost every night. still panting slightly. I realise now that he was right. obviously full of admiration for her brother.” Josie said. We’re all very proud of what Michael has achieved. “And he has a wicked sense of humour. finding it increasingly difficult to be apart and counting the minutes until they 33 . I must admit that I was one of the worst culprits when he first came home. It felt so natural when his arms went around her and as she leant into him she felt his muscular thighs pressing against hers. Josie too had to collect herself before entering the house. “He’s obviously a very strong character. that was until Dad caught me doing something for Michael that he was quite capable of doing himself and gave me a good telling off. “It sounds to me like Michael takes after your father. She felt his heart pounding against her own and her body responded in a breathless excitement like nothing she had ever experienced before. although in the early days Dad sometimes had to hold Mam back from doing everything for him. “I think you had better go.” Sam said reluctantly. turning every few steps to wave and blow kisses. As she looked up at him their eyes met and he bent his head to plant a soft kiss on her lips. surprising her. worried in case her shaking hands and pink face should give her away.
putting up a hand in a gesture which told her he would tolerate no argument. Do you hear me?” “I should think half the street can hear you. “I’m going up to bed Mam. The only time Patrick used Josie’s full name was when he was angry. Josephine. on second thoughts I don’t want to hear your excuses. “No.” Josie answered.” he continued. curled up in an armchair with her hands around a steaming mug of cocoa. It’s coming to something when I have to hear about what’s been going on within my own family from somebody in the pub. Sooner or later she would have to face up to the fact that her husband must be told and she made up her mind that she would speak to him that night. she was startled by the sound of the front door closing with a bang so loud that it rattled her bedroom door. The light in her eyes each time Sam’s name was mentioned told Mary everything she needed to know and realisation dawned that this was not just a fling. “Had a good time love? How is it going with this boyfriend of yours?” “It’s wonderful Mam. Three weeks later Josie arrived home one night around ten o’clock. Get down here…now” he bellowed. say goodnight to Dad and Michael for me when they get in. “Josephine.” Fifteen minutes later. is there a fire?” “Don’t get cocky with me young lady. what have you got to say for yourself?” he asked angrily. after Josie had settled into bed and was drifting contentedly off to sleep. “Well it can stop this instant. Well. to find Mary in her dressing gown. and she could count on one hand the number of times she had heard him shouting like this. Then she heard her father shouting from the bottom of the stairs. You do not go out with that lad again.” muttered Josie 34 . She ran down the stairs. “What’s up Dad. I don’t like being made a fool of.could be together again.
he had the urge to smile at the glint in her eyes when she lost her temper…but knew better. Is it any wonder I didn’t tell you? I knew how you would react. and from what people tell me he comes from a very nice family.” he barked unjustly at Mary.” interrupted Mary.under her breath. was her strength of character. she was no doormat. without even meeting the lad. on occasions. He had to admit.” “Well. “What was that young lady?” “We were going to tell you Pat.” Red in the face and with the veins standing out on his neck. God help him. always speaking her mind no matter what the consequences. Mary. Of course he had been too proud and stubborn to ever let her know that he admired the way she stood up to him. felt her heckles rise at his tone of voice and reacted angrily to what she considered to be his unreasonable behaviour. In fact. but he cannot and will not be a member of this family and that’s an end to it. that one of the things that had attracted him to Mary when he first met her. Soft and gentle though she was. Patrick felt as if he would burst he was so angry. And now. no matter what you say and if you try to make me…I’ll…I’ll just leave and find lodgings somewhere else. it’s plain to see where your loyalties lie. though feeling ashamed at having lied to him. “I won’t stop seeing Sam. but sometimes that was the price he had to pay for choosing a wife with spirit and allowing his daughter a certain amount of freedom to develop her own character. unable to hold her tongue any longer. maybe he does and I’ve nothing against the lad personally.” Josie shouted suddenly. he had another one just like her. “So you knew about this too did you? And I suppose Michael knows as well. Well. It seems everybody knows apart from me. “Don’t you speak to me like that Patrick Flynn. He’s a nice boy and our Josie is very fond of him. 35 .” “No. that is not an end to it.
Josie never mentioned the subject again and after discussing the matter with Sam.” she answered simply. She had heard so much about Alice that she felt she knew her already and was looking forward to meeting her at last.” Mary shouted after him. that woman just has to have the last word. “When would you like me to 36 . “She’s dying to meet you. they made a decision to keep a low profile in the hope that he would calm down.” Josie laughed. cooking his favourite meals and fussing over him and planting little kisses all over his face.” he muttered. assuming that Josie would have seen sense and would comply with his wishes. “He’ll come round…eventually” Mary said. “Bloody hell.” he muttered under his breath as he stormed upstairs to bed.“Goddam these women. completely underestimating the depth of her feeling for Sam. The way Amy is singing your praises. “I’d like that. As Josie’s seventeenth birthday approached it was early December and preparations for Christmas were starting to get underway. The following morning Patrick. “Would you like to meet my Mam?” he asked nervously before they parted. It wasn’t often that Patrick dug his heels in about something and she could usually get round him. He would laugh as she cajoled him into doing whatever she wished and try to appear reluctant as he finally caved in. though slightly subdued. behaved normally. leaving her further away from her street than usual. trying to console Josie even though she had her doubts. But I must warn you. but she had a feeling that on this subject he would not be moved so easily. Sam met her after work on Monday evening and walked her home. Not wishing to annoy her father more. “And don’t blaspheme. she’s expecting you to have a halo. afraid that they may bump into Patrick.
” Mary said gently. Feeling nervous 37 . Now you stop worrying and drink this. On Tuesday morning Josie allowed herself more time than usual to dress for work.” “Well.” “That will be fine. they made the decision to tell Patrick that she would be going to Val’s. before smoothing down her skirt and turning to give herself a back view in the mirror.” she said bitterly. dabbing Josie’s tears away with a handkerchief and handing her a cup of tea. because I don’t know about you. before kissing him and waving him goodbye. you know I didn’t mean it. she began to cry. not wishing to risk upsetting him again. now that’s enough. I just hope this lad’s worth it.” remarked Mary. “I’m sorry Mam. we’ll see. “Where is it all going to end? You’ll have to face the music eventually you know love.” “I know Mam. I’ve been on your side over this up until now. After whispering her news to Mary in the kitchen. but if you start talking about your Dad like that you’re on your own young lady.come?” “You could come for tea on Tuesday if you like.” Realising she had spoken out of turn and immediately feeling contrite. just because holy Joe in there has got his bigot’s head on. making a special effort with her hair and putting on a little make up. nodding towards the living room. I’m sure they would get on if he gave him half a chance. but he is worth it and I don’t see why I should give him up.” replied Josie. I know he can be unreasonable at times. but I’m a nervous wreck. “Josie. where her father was sitting listening to the radio. but I just wish he would accept Sam. completely oblivious to the conspiracy that was going on in the kitchen. And you know something else Mam. “I hate all this cloak and dagger. but your Dad doesn’t deserve to have you talking about him with disrespect.
take your coat off and sit by the fire. who greeted them with a broad smile and a warm welcome.” she replied kissing him. “Oh. shrugging off the compliment. In fact. you’re just biased. then picked up her bag and went downstairs to get Mary’s approval before leaving the house. “You look gorgeous. he noticed that even Amy had difficulty breaking into their conversation. With great amusement. the two women chatted easily. Sam opened the front door to leave and just as Josie was about to say goodbye Alice enfolded her in a warm embrace and said that she looked forward to another visit soon. while Josie finished cashing up and collected her coat. After staying longer than she had intended. putting Josie immediately at her ease. worried that she had applied it too thickly. “I think those two have been eating parrot seed.” she whispered to Sam later in the kitchen. “Thank you. you don’t look so bad yourself. with the two women still chatting happily. “Come in love. Sam arrived at the shop a little earlier than usual that evening and chatted to Mrs Johnson. As she pulled 38 . Josie finally rose to leave and they made their way down the hall.” replied Josie. “but then you always do. thrilled that they got on so well.” After settling down with a cup of tea. Sam had trouble getting a word in.” Mary said. but was content to just sit and listen.” she added proudly. They arrived at Sam’s house fifteen minutes later and as he raised his arm to put his key in the door it was opened by Alice. It’s nippy out tonight. she blotted off some of her lipstick. as if they had known each other for years. “You look lovely sweetheart.about meeting Sam’s mother and anxious to make a good impression.” he said when they got outside. causing her at one point to let out an audible impatient sigh.
On an impulse Sam turned down an alleyway between the houses. with Fred Astair and Gene Kelly. As they rounded the corner a bus sped past them and they broke into a run. sending messages to her brain that removed all her inhibitions. spread down through her lower body. Sam took her hand as they left the cinema and they strolled down the road. She loved the old musicals and sat spellbound.” Sam led her out into the street and they walked hand in hand. The tingling feeling he invoked as he touched her nipple. which she pressed into Josie’s hand. Eventually with heavy hearts they went their separate ways. and then as his hand moved upwards to tenderly stroke her breast. pulling Josie gently with him. His kisses became more intense and she sensed his excitement as he pressed ever closer. just managing to jump onto the 39 . lost in their own love filled world. she took from her apron pocket an envelope. Josie fell into bed that night and drifted into her own secret dream world. All she cared about was the moment and the floating sensation she experienced as their passion grew. “I’d love to come again. and in his own bed. As he took her in his arms it seemed the most natural thing in the world and without a hint of shyness she melted into his body. tapping her feet in time with the dancers underneath the seat. a whole new sensation invaded her world. They were finding it more and more difficult to part each night and in her bliss Josie realised that if the opportunity arose. oblivious to everything except each other. “Oh. completely. silently deep in their own thoughts.away. Friday was Josie’s birthday and Sam took her to the cinema to see a Hollywood musical. She opened it and withdrew a birthday card with roses on the front and a sentimental verse inside. she would welcome the chance to make love to Sam fully. or who may see. Sam shared the same dream. She no longer cared where she was.” said Josie with tears in her eyes. until they neared Hope Street. thank you Mrs Grainger.
kicking out at something on the ground. thinking it best to walk the rest of the way to avoid being seen. Having youth and speed on his side. somebody is being beaten up and Sam’s gone to help. Sam. Though not as fast as he used to be. you wouldn’t stand a chance. the youth he was holding eventually wriggled free and ran off after them. he found a strength he did not know he possessed.” His conscience getting the better of him. or it will be too late.” screamed Josie. with Josie and Mary hot on his heels.” said Sam. shouting as she burst through the front door. as he suddenly broke away from her arm and made to go in the direction of the scuffle. “Dad. and now you expect me to help him when he’s fighting. they heard a commotion some distance behind. they decided to get off a stop earlier then usual. as he began to run. Sam staggered. Josie ran frantically towards her own house. trying to hold him back. the rest of them made a run for it. Turning they saw four youths huddled in a circle. “No.” “It’ll be too late. “I think somebody is in trouble. Please Dad.platform before it left the bus stop. They’ll kill him. Their raucous laughter sent a fearful chill up Josie’s spine. Dad. As he dived into the middle of the group. There are too many of them. exhausted and dazed to 40 . just come and help him. striking a resounding blow at the largest of the boys. Dad. “I’ll go and get some help.” he answered. As they neared their destination. Patrick ran out of the door and down the street. he’s helping somebody. He’s not fighting. he was still fitter and stronger than most men his age and with the adrenalin rushing through his body. As they were walking in the direction of Hope Street.” “I’ve warned you not to see that lad.” Patrick said angrily. “No…no. There are four of them. please come and help. Please don’t argue.
for curled up. Our John will be really upset that he wasn’t here to help him. I’ll tell him as soon as he gets home. I’m so sorry. “Don’t just stand there. Quickly. with a hand up to her face. no. grabbing Patrick’s arm. Within what seemed only a few minutes. A blind panic took over as she convinced herself that something had happened to John. He’s in a terrible state and they’ve taken him to Leigh Infirmary.” she asked fearfully.” ordered Sam. Oh Annie. As she banged on the door John’s mother opened it. “Get the police and an ambulance. “Come on. taking charge. it’s awful. bundled Mary and Patrick into the little Austin car and drove them to the hospital. Looking down at the huddled figure on the ground Patrick let out a low groan. our Michael’s been beaten up.” he yelled when they did not move. “Is it our John. “No. as he saw the familiar clothes and shoes. Josie ran as fast as she could to the telephone box on the corner of the street and dialled 999. “Whatever’s the matter love?” she asked when she saw Mary’s ashen face.” said Mary suddenly.” “Aw Mary. It’s not John. Pulling herself together. wearing a dressing gown and slippers. Is there anything we can do?” “Do you think your Arthur would take us to the Hospital?” As she spoke John’s father appeared from the back room and after being given a brief outline of the incident.Patrick’s side. with blood pouring from his head and with a face that was barely recognisable was Michael. an ambulance screamed to a halt and Michael was taken to the hospital. their hands up to their faces in horror. Mary and Josie stood rooted to the spot. leaving Patrick and Mary feeling helpless. 41 . before running down the street towards the house where John lived with his parents.
“Oh God. he’s going to be okay. Patrick was silent. terrified of what he was about to hear. and he’s had a sedative to help him sleep. as much for his own benefit as for hers. “but he looked in a terrible state.” said the doctor. As they walked over to the bed and sat one on either side. Oh Arthur. The slits that were now his eyes refused to open and his face and shoulders were one mass of bruising and swelling. They sat in the corridor for what seemed like hours.” “We don’t know anything yet. They stood up and steeled themselves. As he handed yet another cup to each of them he asked quietly. hiding her face in his shoulder. As he looked at Michael’s face. “He’s going to be fine.As the car pulled up outside the hospital Michael was being carried inside on a stretcher. while Arthur brought them one cup of tea after another.” Patrick told her adamantly. not wanting to prolong their agony. but anxious to hear it at the same time. Maybe when they’ve cleaned him up a bit. but we’ve given him something for that. but it may not be as bad as it looks. 42 . he might…. He’s in quite a lot of pain at the moment.” He was cut off in mid sentence as the doctor walked towards them.. so he will be very drowsy. “You heard the doctor. turning to Patrick. Mary almost collapsed as she saw her son. “any news yet. You may see him now if you wish.” sobbed Mary. how could anybody do this to our Michael? It’s just so awful. He was covered in blood and his face was all swollen.” Creeping apprehensively into the sideward. prepared for the worst. Patrick had never felt so helpless in his life and all he could do was put his faith in the doctors and in God.” she sobbed. laying completely still on the bed.” “I know love. Patrick and Mary ran to catch up and followed the ambulance men into the emergency department.
who did this to you.” Patrick answered. so that you won’t worry if I’m late. “Oh. I haven’t time to explain it all now. the poor lad. “I’m alright Mam. or you would 43 . comfortingly patting her back. I’ve just called in to tell you. Her Mam and Dad are at the hospital and I’m going to stay with her until they get back.” she cried when she saw the cut above his eye and the dried blood beneath his nose. “He’ll be okay in a day or two.” he assured her. “Oh love. it’s just as well you’re not then isn’t it. I’ve got to get back to Josie. “That would be very welcome lad. As if he hasn‘t been through enough” she said. Her cheeks were wet with tears and Sam automatically embraced her. thank God. Sam let himself in with his key just as his mother was walking out of the kitchen with a cup in her hand. wondering whether Patrick would throw him out. a tear spilling onto her cheek. “Is our Michael going to be alright Dad?” asked Josie. One that told him to behave. It was three hours later when Patrick and Mary arrived home. We can’t thank you enough for what you’ve done. looking intensely at Sam. looking pale and tired. As they walked into the living room. and give Josie’s parents my best won’t you?” she added.” “Well. It’s Michael who’s in a bad way.holding his hand. Mary flashed Patrick a look. Michael spoke barely audibly. her concern obvious.” and then fell asleep. “Hi Mam…Hi Dad. but relieved. Thanks for letting me know love. Between swollen lips he said. Can we Mary?” Mary approached him and put her arms around him without a word. But I wish I could get my hands on the thugs who did this. If I’d been a few years younger they wouldn’t have got away so easily I can tell you. “Can I make you a cup of tea?” he asked nervously. Some thugs beat him up. Sam stood up respectfully.
She opened it and inside was a gold heart on a chain. 44 . Mam will be worrying. “Look Mam” she said. That belief had been ingrained in him since childhood. he added.” “I’d better be going Mrs Flynn. he still could not come to terms with the fact that he was not Catholic. it’s beautiful. Then. “Dad.” said Mary. but his daughter was obviously a good judge of character. for all their sakes. But this young man had saved his son’s life at great risk to his own. showing it to Mary. don’t you think its lovely?” asked Josie. “Oh Josie…I forgot to give you this.” said Sam. he made up his mind to try. probably the best man Josie could have chosen.have ended up in a cell. He silently prayed that God would understand his predicament. Though Patrick was grateful to Sam. he could not have chosen better. He may never be completely comfortable with the situation. or dislike of Sam. and he doubted that he would ever feel any different. It was only his genuine belief that a mixed marriage could never work that prevented him from giving his blessing. ‘How could she possibly have a happy birthday with her brother laying in the hospital. “It’s lovely. no father could wish for a better suitor for his daughter. and Catholic or not he told himself. her face pleading for his approval. holding out the gift for him to see. who waited nervously for his reaction. “Oh Sam. It was not bigotry that drove him. Happy birthday. and for a moment Sam wished he had left it until tomorrow. remembering something that seemed to have become unimportant in the events of the evening. and he did not doubt that Sam was a good person. “You just leave it to the police.” said Mary. that if he had chosen her boyfriend himself. In fact. As Patrick looked around at the expectant faces of both families. he had to admit.’ he thought as he handed her a card and a tiny parcel. wrapped in gold paper.” It seemed the wrong thing to say somehow. Thank you” she said with tears in her eyes. to do the right thing.
but in that moment his love for her reached new heights. May I come in please?” he asked formally. “I love you. thanks to a witness who saw them running away and recognised two of them. Patrick smiled lovingly at her. Anyway I shouldn’t think they’ll be back on the streets for quite a while this time. “Can I offer you a cup of tea officer?” “No thank you Mrs Flynn.” she whispered as if reading his mind.“That’s very kind of you lad. Mary crossed the room and kissed her husband warmly and gratefully. “I know. Stewart. I hope?” “Well if it’s okay with you Mr Flynn. Sam was waiting with the rest of the family to welcome him. They’re all four of them well known to us.” she replied. Mary showed him through to the living room. getting straight to the point.” “I suppose that will be okay. “We’ll see you again soon. so deep it hurt. He had never thought it possible to love Mary more than he always had.C. can it?” Patrick said teasingly. Sam laughed shyly and Patrick winked at Josie. “The boys who attacked your son have been found. well that can’t be helped now. When three days later Michael arrived home looking frail.” he said.” he said. who’s relief was written all over her face.” said Patrick. trouble makers the lot of them. then took him to one side. and if our Josie just happens to be here. with his helmet held under his arm. Once we had an address for those two. where nobody would hear her words. they spilled the beans pretty quickly about the others. I’d like to call to see Michael when he comes home. “I’m P.” 45 . I’ve got some very good news for you. “God will understand. Shortly after he had been settled onto the sofa there was a knock at the door and Mary answered it to see a police officer.
That was until eventually realisation dawned.” said Mary. he said. “You certainly do things the hard way. Persuading him to stay on the sofa for a few days more than was necessary and giving him a bell to ring 46 . but neither of us had any idea it was you we were helping.” “Nor can I. that’s very reassuring. “Not many people would have done what you did. then trying to lighten the seriousness of the moment. “well actually. I would have done anything to get in your Dad’s good books. sorry Mam. didn’t mean to swear. “I believe I have you to thank for my being here in one piece. It took some guts to go in and rescue a stranger.” Mary said.” After the policeman left Michael turned to Sam. especially when there were four of the bastards.” Michael went on. Whoops. surprising them all. don’t you lad?” Sam became a regular caller during Michael’s convalescence and enjoyed every minute he spent in the Flynn household. “Your Dad did a pretty good job too. “I’m just glad we managed to get those thugs. He found it to be a home filled with fun and he laughed until his sides ached at some of Michael’s antics.” A wide grin spread across Patrick’s face and he punched Sam playfully. Now you take care lad.” he said.” “No they wouldn’t.“Well. proudly coming to his side and squeezing his hand. thanks. Thank you for letting us know officer. but I can’t think of a better word for them. Sam blushed.” “I think that makes you even braver. “Yes thank you.” agreed Josie. The doctor had ordered him to stay home and rest for a couple of weeks and he was enjoying the fuss being made over him by Mary and Josie.” Michael called from the sofa. that he was taking advantage of the situation. “Anyway.
They were worn out.when he needed anything had proved to be a big mistake. 47 . Finally their patience ran out and when Michael rang the bell just once too often. and irritation rapidly replaced their sense of duty. they unceremoniously tipped him off the sofa. and by the end of the second week they had had enough. much to the amusement of Patrick and Sam.
As they were passing a stall selling children’s clothing. Pitchers could be heard shouting.CHAPTER THREE Drawing back the curtains. to join their wives on the shopping expedition. And if you have no kids. It was Saturday and Josie had a rare day off work.” 48 . fascinated by his good humoured sales technique. As they stepped off the bus outside the market they were immediately caught up in the seasonal atmosphere. “Can’t say you don’t get good service on this stall. giving the dark winter morning a warm glow.” he added with a meaningful wink. then went downstairs to find Mary already up and dressed. I’ll happily oblige. before making her bed and padding sleepily across the landing to the bathroom. in competition with each other from all directions. these bargains are too good to miss. eh ladies. they stopped to join the crowd surrounding the stallholder. You could have the best dressed kids in town. She and her mother had arranged to go Christmas shopping and they decided to leave early in the morning to avoid the rush. “Come on ladies. against the background music of jingle bells and Christmas carols. who were complaining to each other that they had been forced against their will. After a quick bath. Josie yawned and looked out onto the dark street below. she dressed in a warm Arran sweater and wool trousers. Surprisingly the bus was full of people who had the same idea and it was alive with the buzz of chattering women and one or two men. The Christmas tree at the entrance was brightly lit and most of the stalls were surrounded by tinsel and fairy lights.
However. especially as they will be spending Christmas with us. Mary bought a pair of gloves and a scarf for Sam and Josie had saved up just enough money to buy him a watch. “Amy would love that. but disappointed when he had said that he would love to. it’s going to be wonderful. I saw a brooch on that jewellery stall we just passed.” said Josie. but his Mam and Amy would be on their own.’ she thought.” Mary suggested “and we could do the same for Alice’s present. and the problem would not be resolved overnight. Her father could not help his feelings.” retorted a robust middle aged woman in the crowd. Her Dad had solved the problem by inviting them all and she was looking forward to this Christmas more than ever before. but he was trying hard for her sake and she was grateful. “Oh look Mam. She and Sam would get to spend Christmas together with the whole family around them. We could go halves if you like. Her last purchase was a bottle of Eau de Cologne for Val. She also knew that he still struggled to come to terms with the fact that she and Sam intended to stay together. they finally decided to call 49 . She knew that partly his acceptance came from a sense of obligation. with a collar edged in cream lace. she also knew that in spite of his disapproval. Loaded up with bags and feeling pleased with themselves. but it’s a bit more expensive than I can afford. it’s lovely. because of what Sam had done for Michael.” Josie had been delighted when her mother had invited Sam to have Christmas dinner with them. I’m sure Alice would love it. Josie was not fooled by her father‘s attempts to welcome Sam into the fold. they bought a sweater for Patrick and one for Michael.” “Yes. “Thanks Mam” said Josie beaming.“Cheeky bugger. I’d like to get them something really nice. she understood that. After buying the brooch. deep down he liked and respected Sam. spotting a lovely royal blue velvet dress. causing a burst of laughter from everyone around. ‘Oh.
The last figure to be put into place was the baby Jesus and Mary carefully arranged the straw around the manger.” she said. After tea. underestimating Patrick’s determination as they attempted to drag it through the living room door.” Half an hour later they emerged from the warm café and joined the long queue at the bus stop. you’ll never get that in here. lulled by the movement of the bus. After much pushing and pulling they managed to manoeuvre it into a corner and after lopping the top branch. they sat in silence on the journey home. to a chorus of oo’s and ahh’s. Mary’s head nodding as she dozed. it stood. when Patrick and Michael came in through the back door. We’ve earned it. Mary and Josie decorated the tree. “Good grief Pat. By the time the bus arrived at four thirty a thick frost was glistening on the roads and the roofs of the houses. then placed tiny white lights around the stable 50 . Mary got out the Christmas decorations from the cupboard under the stairs and while Patrick and Michael were busy hanging streamers and tinsel from the ceiling and around the walls. stamping their feet against the bitter cold as they waited. Mary lifted the crib with the tiny plaster figures from its box and set it out on the sideboard. There was only one thing left to do. “We’ve done well to get everything in one day” said Mary. majestically dominating the room. as they stood back to admire their handiwork. He switched out the light and turned on the fairy lights. “Let’s treat ourselves to a cup of tea and a vanilla slice in the café before we go home. Exhausted and eager to get home to a warm fire. “Ready for the lights now?” asked Patrick. They had hidden away the last of the presents and were relaxing by the fire. The men finished just in time to watch the fairy being placed on the top. dragging behind them an enormous tree.it a day. In less than an hour the room had been completely transformed.
A childish anticipation was accompanied by the rustle of tearing paper as the presents were 51 . waiting for the big day. singing carols at the door. Although there was still a week to go. “Merry Christmas everybody. laughter and most of all a feeling of togetherness for Josie and Sam. Christmas day dawned and after Mary had put the huge turkey on a low light in the oven. in order to arrive home in time to prepare dinner for when the Graingers arrived. before closing the door in their faces. A decision had been made to wait until everyone was together before opening their presents. Sam.doorway to depict stars. The spirit of Christmas enveloped them and Patrick took a bottle of sherry from the dresser and poured them all a small glass to celebrate. “I’d like to welcome Sam and his family to our home. Alice and Amy arrived around eleven thirty. this action heralded the beginning of the Christmas celebrations for the Flynn family.” They tipped their glasses to drink and Amy coughed and spluttered as she gulped it down. Josie handed a sherry to everyone.” he said with a glance towards Josie. Patrick raised his glass in a toast. then led them into the living room where Josie was pouring sherry into tiny glasses. They laughed and banged on the door until he opened it again with a mischievous grin on his face. I’m sure that this is the first of many Christmases that we will be spending together. as he did every year when the decorations were completed. putting down the bottle and kissing everyone enthusiastically. as they sat in the cosy lounge surrounded by twinkling lights and mistletoe and holly. the Flynns went to early Mass. Patrick opened it and gave them a penny each. and had done so since Josie and Michael were small children. Mary came from the kitchen wiping her hands on her apron and repeated the ritual. including Amy who was so thrilled to be treated like an adult that she could not wait to taste it. Each night was magical after that. He took their coats and hung them over the banister in the hall. It was a day filled with bright chatter. “Merry Christmas.” she said.
where they stood under the street lamp. “I might. On opening it Josie gasped as she saw the exquisite ring. realising that she had noticed. I’ve thought about it long enough now. but I’ll have to think about it. as he took it from her and slipped it onto her finger.” and she threw her arms around his neck and kissed him passionately. Smiling broadly and with tears in her eyes she answered. When they finally parted. “Got a bit of dust in my eye that’s all. Even Amy. Sam withdrew from his pocket a blue velvet heart shaped box. as she held up the blue velvet dress. Amy managing to keep it quiet all this time? And of course. Can you imagine. when Sam took Josie by the hand. “well. Does anyone else know?” “Oh.” she exclaimed. with three tiny diamonds set in gold. “It fit’s perfectly. I couldn’t risk being in his bad books again. putting a finger to his lips to indicate that she stay silent. she said. it’s beautiful” she said. While everyone was occupied. thank you. could I?” 52 . running to kiss first Josie.” Then after teasingly looking upwards at the sky. Patrick sniffed and Mary smiled. He led her outside.” he answered. then Alice and finally. thank you. “Oh. winking at Josie who understood the signal that he was getting emotional. Amy’s face was aglow and she let out a loud squeal of delight. “Oh Sam.opened. How did you know the size?” “Your mother let me borrow her ring. as if deep in thought. he took both her hands in his. It was around ten thirty and the two families were engrossed in conversation. a little hesitantly. Looking nervous. “Will you marry me Josie. just about everybody. Sam whispered to Josie that he would give her his present later. when they were alone.” he asked simply. Patrick and Michael. I had to ask your Dad for your hand. the answer is yes.” he said sharply to Mary. She said it fitted you. “So Mam already knows.
it’s not easy for him you know.“And he said yes?” she asked incredulously. Sam had announced that he would take lessons in Catholicism from Father Murphy.” Patrick advised.” she said to a roar of laughter. Over the next six months. “Without any argument?” “He said yes. “I don’t want to go to a different school. “Does that mean I’ll have to be a Catholic too?” asked Amy worriedly. thank you. You never stop moaning about your school.” he said.” Sam said teasingly. tears filled his eyes. Mary and Alice drove everyone to 53 . Mind you.” “You really are the limit Sam Grainger…but I love you.” Josie coughed. Patrick poured everybody a drink and they raised their glasses once more in a toast. He’s putting the feelings of the people he loves before his own. “Just do as you’re told lad and you’ll be fine. Not everybody can do that. I like my school. and after a secret consultation with his mother who had agreed without hesitation.” As they walked back into the house the family cheered loudly. A look of deep gratitude crossed Patrick’s face and as he shook Sam by the hand. I did have his arm twisted up his back at the time. that would never do. never considering for a moment that Josie might have said no. By the end of the evening a date had been set for June. “Well. “Thank you lad. “I don’t believe you just said that Amy Grainger. ducking as Mary brought her hand up to clip him across the top of his head. He must love you very deeply. almost spitting out her drink. I think we underestimate how deep rooted his beliefs are. it doesn’t mean I want to go to another. we can’t have a protestant in the family now can we.” “Well everybody moans about school. so that they could be married on the altar at Our Lady of Lourdes church. I admire him. But seriously Josie.
in a room above the Queen’s Arms 54 . On her head she wore a tiara style headdress with pearl droplets and a long veil. the only other sound to be heard in the church was of Alice and Mary. who was complaining that he looked like a stuffed dummy in his new suit. Every detail had to be perfect. who was fixing Josie’s headdress in place. The sun shone brightly on the morning of Josie and Sam’s wedding and chaos reigned in the Flynn household as everyone tried to get ready at once. To outsiders it would have looked as if they were on the verge of a nervous breakdown. came from Patrick. He had never seen her look so beautiful. And Michael. Mary made a wedding cake and Alice iced it. was panicking over making a speech. The loudest sniffle of all however. His eyes were moist as she gazed lovingly into his face. smacking Amy’s hand away as she attempted to dip her finger in the icing. as Mary put it. Mary. At the small reception. not only for themselves but for the ungrateful men. As they spoke their vows. As she walked down the aisle towards him on her father’s arm. Sam felt as if his heart would burst with pride. but to members of their family it was plain that they were enjoying every minute of it. The long tight sleeves came to a point over the back of each hand. They drew up a guest list. embroidered here and there with rosebuds so tiny they were barely visible. who was best man. who tried desperately to cover it up by blowing his nose. lost her temper with Patrick.distraction organising the wedding. at which point Mary shot him a warning glance and Josie and Sam grinned at each other. as they sniffled their way through the service. then rushed around arranging the food and the flowers and buying clothes. Val and Amy looked a picture in their pale blue chiffon bridesmaid dresses and Josie wore a dress of Nottingham lace. that she and her mother had travelled all the way to Leeds on the train to buy. It had a sweetheart neckline and the bodice was encrusted with tiny pearls.
She gave herself willingly and in spite of her inexperience. Her smooth white skin was silky soft. At the end of the speech. then as her body responded. The room was plush. with a rich red carpet and a large bed with crisp white sheets. Josie’s father rose to make a speech. hesitating a little. Their perfect day was complete. beckoning him to touch it.public house. moving slowly against his. passionately. This was the moment she had waited for. until he reached the part about Sam saving Michael’s life. teasing each nipple in turn with his tongue. He needn’t have worried. The events of yesterday seemed like a 55 . the sight of Josie laying naked on the bed. In that moment they both knew that there would never be anyone else for either of them. before going on to speak about his new son-in-law. He moved his lips down her neck. with arms stretched above her head. “Brazen hussy. he eloquently related. She was more beautiful that he could ever have imagined. In the morning they awoke almost simultaneously and gazed at each other across the pillows. both touching and amusing stories of his daughter’s childhood. the kisses became more intense. “Would you prefer me to put on my fluffy pyjamas?” “Don’t you dare” he answered. but lacked nothing. It was over quickly. This was all she had dreamed about each night. Josie succeeded in holding back her tears.” he said breathlessly. She moaned softly as he gently entered that part of her that was his alone. unsure of Josie’s reaction. laying down beside her. Josie felt no shyness with Sam. Patrick presented them with a surprise wedding gift from both families. took his breath away. He kissed her softly to start with. since the moment they had first met. then to her breast. Much to her embarrassment. They left the reception to noisy cheers and confetti throwing and arrived at the hotel feeling happier than they had ever dreamt possible. and as he emerged from the bathroom. It was two nights at a hotel in Blackpool.
exploring each others’ bodies more confidently. without any shadow of a doubt. He leant over her and placed his lips on hers. As her body arched to his touch they made love once more. more intimately. “Good morning Mrs Grainger” he said sleepily. that they had made the right choice of partner. or had loved so deeply as they loved. As their lovemaking exploded into a mutual.dream and it took a moment or two to realise that they were now man and wife. Sam smiled. 56 . They were sure that no couple had ever experienced the feelings that they shared. this time taking longer. Her sexual desires matched his own and he took pleasure in meeting those desires to the full. no inhibitions. This time there was no urgency. both Sam and Josie felt sure. mind-blowing climax. Sam had no worries about offending Josie.
Entering the tiny hallway and hanging up his coat he instantly felt cheered by the delicate fragrance. Josie’s attempts at sewing had been a standing joke within the family. After she and Sam had managed to acquire a good quality.CHAPTER FOUR October 1962 The sky was dark and heavy with cloud. Encouraged by the result. Previously. he smiled with pleasure. where Josie was busy sewing. which was a mixture of freesias standing in a glass vase. There were times when. She had put so much effort into transforming this room from cold and dingy into warm and welcoming. Her one and only attempt at making a skirt had been a disaster. her 57 . she had gone on to make matching curtains and cushions with the remaining fabric. her enthusiasm had been re-awakened. she was determined to have another try. Sam fondly recalled her enthusiasm as she had set to. But once they had moved into a home of their own. and furniture polish from the table on which they stood. unable to make the material fit the sofa. second hand sofa and armchair. but shabby. tackling what proved to be a more difficult task than Josie had predicted. threatening a downpour. soaking up the homely atmosphere. She purchased a bundle of imperfect gold brocade at a knock down price from the market and astonished everyone by covering the sturdy old furniture. as Sam wearily took his key from his pocket and let himself into the house that he and Josie had rented since their marriage. Moving on into the living room. making it look like new.
” “Mm…this looks good. and as delighted customers sang her praises to friends and neighbours. In fact. But then the work came pouring in. the finished result looked very professional.” As she ate Josie noticed the deep furrow between Sam’s 58 . Sam looked lovingly at the bouncy curls hanging over her face as she bent over the machine. “Oh Sam.” Josie said as Sam placed the plate of piping hot food in front of her. I didn’t realise it was so late. you made me jump. startling her. “Hello sweetheart. she frequently had more work than she could cope with. still working?” Sam shouted over the whirring of the machine. I’ll get your tea in a minute love. To start with customers were thin on the ground and Josie almost gave up hope of ever making a living from her sewing. When one of their neighbours first suggested that Josie could earn money from her skills she had had her doubts. with careful cutting and strategically placed trimming to cover the flaws in the fabric. I’ll make yours for a change eh? It won’t be anything too complicated. But her determination was relentless and eventually. but after much practise and a short course at the technical college. a few well chosen ornaments and a lamp with a shade that Josie had covered to match the cushions the room was completed. she finally reached the stage where she no longer needed to advertise. she gained confidence and placed an advertisement in the local newspaper. It’ll be ready by the time you’ve finished here. With the addition of a sideboard. Standing behind her now. She began to regret having given up her job in the newsagents. but I reckon I can just about manage egg and chips.” “Don’t worry.temper had flared and he had removed himself from the house until she calmed down. “I didn’t realise how hungry I was. and with great pride she had shown it off to almost everyone she knew. deep in concentration and sewing frantically.
I didn’t realise. I don’t think they know any more than we do. knowing that it may damage your hearing. Why didn’t you tell me before?” “I didn‘t want to worry you. Nobody’s job is safe in the mill these days.” Sam hesitated. They’ve already laid some men off. “Is something wrong love?” she asked. There are rumours that the factory is going the way of all the others. It’s probably only a matter of time before we are all out of a job and it won’t be easy to find another one. It’s not as if I’ve been given the push yet. deciding that he needed to tell someone how he felt. Nearly all the mills in Leigh have closed down and ours could be the next. None of us know how long we’ve got.” 59 . Everybody seems to be on a knife edge wondering what’s going to happen. “Oh sweetheart. “It’s so depressing. I’d rather have no money at all than risk that. To be honest.” “Is it the noise love. All the decisions are made by the top brass. They are sending the work abroad where the labour is cheap. And of course the management won’t tell you anything. I worry all the time. I don’t want you to end up deaf just because of the money. what about the risk to your health. dreading telling her his main concern. “Everything okay at work?” “I can’t stand much more of that place Josie” he finally blurted out. There’s only Courtley’s and Tunnicliffe’s still open now. with half the town already looking for work. as he poked at his food. “It‘s not just the noise love.” “Well even if they do keep open.brows. and I’m probably just being paranoid. The atmosphere in the factory is awful at the moment. He took a deep breath before going on. up in their big offices somewhere. barely eating any. where the likes of us never get to speak to them. And your Mam too. But I can’t see us lasting. I know it gets you down in the weaving shed.
thinking that he was angry. I’ve been thinking about it for a while and I was trying to pluck up the courage to suggest it. On a small scale to start with. but I’ve been plotting behind your back. hear me out. I could just stay home and count the money.” she said impatiently.” “Sam…shut up!” “Sorry!” he said. If you’re willing to take a risk that is. “I’ll bet you could make us a fortune. “No. “I didn’t intend to mention it to you just yet. I do love you. I hope you’ve not been selling your body. moaning about my job.” “I do. but where would we get the money. she misread his expression.” Josie lashed out.” “I realise that. putting a finger to his chin and looking thoughtful. Trouble is love. “I’m not completely clueless. “Josie Grainger. “I’ve always fancied the idea of running our own business. and I reckon that we should just about have enough to buy an old van. still grinning and feeling better for having unburdened himself. How about trying to sell some of my work at the market?” she went on. that’s not a bad idea.” Sam said.“Oh sweetheart. How about it?” As he looked across the table at her without saying a word.” She put up a hand to silence him as he opened his mouth to question her. with a smile from ear to ear. Here you are working so hard to earn extra money. you’ll probably never trust me again when I tell you what I’ve been up to. I’ve been putting some money by each week out of the housekeeping. Then suddenly he was pulling her from her chair. 60 . I don’t know what else I could do if I did leave. swinging her round.” “It’s a nice idea Josie. We can’t start with nothing. “Oh. If we bought material in bulk from the warehouse.” said Josie excitedly. “I could make curtains in two or three sizes to start with and some cushion covers to match them. you…you… “Actually. and here am I. I could make table linen too. in fact.
“When can I give in my notice in at the mill? Is tomorrow too soon?” he asked. and I can build up extra stock in time for the Christmas rush. Each Saturday Sam visited the local markets. I’m not kidding myself that we are going to get rich overnight. I know it won’t take off straight away. it will pay in the long run. waiting patiently until he condescended to speak to him. finally choosing the one he thought would be the best. Over the next four weeks. building up as much stock as she could. Her mother helped as much as possible. Afterwards. Then you can get the market stall organised. as she lay nestled into his shoulder. following him around the market. his feelings were so strong they were almost painful. “It’s easier to get an audience with the pope” he told Josie later. which had a waiting list of traders desperate to get a stall. I just know it will. “You’re wonderful. “I think tomorrow will be perfect.” she answered sleepily. but if we cancel Christmas this year and spend every penny on our new venture. The supervisor informed Sam brusquely that he would just have to arrive early and queue up with 61 . he said. and he drifted off to sleep with a contented grin on his face. Josie worked until she almost dropped. you know what I mean. I’m sure we can make it work. start selling. you know that?” “Yes I know. By the time you have worked your notice. The Christmas rush eh?” “Well. It’s going to be hard work Sam. I will have made enough stock to start with. We need to start trading as soon as possible.” That night as Sam made passionate love to Josie. Sam sought out the market supervisor with great difficulty.” “Sam laughed. The problem was he had chosen the busiest market. checking the finished articles and pricing them. while Sam worked his notice at the factory. but if we can manage to get through the next few months.
but as soon as he walked into his own home he let fly. When the rain came down suddenly. bringing 62 . “Who does he think he is. There was a wonderful camaraderie between the traders.” he ranted. feeling as if he had just completed a prison sentence and looking forward with optimism to his new venture. It was some considerable distance from the entrance. Two weeks later. He had expected to be first in line so early in the morning. then turned his back and walked rudely away. the stallholders around him offered pieces of advice. flatten him after you get a stall. After waiting for more than two hours. he set off for the market in the town centre and by six o’clock was waiting outside the market office full of hope. At least the factory supervisor has the courtesy to stand in one place and listen when you talk to him. but at least he was on.” he added. “Well.” replied Josie. after loading the van. Sam felt it in his best interests to hold his tongue. Sam was finally allocated a stall in a corner of the market. For two pins I’d flatten him. Although angry at the man’s superior attitude. a spare rain cover was taken from the back of a van and spread over Sam’s stall in a flash. Sam arrived home after his last day at the factory. especially after he was taken to task by the supervisor for taking too long unloading and moving his van from the front of his stall. Sam realised that he would have to get himself more organised. saving a good deal of space on the counter area. setting him off laughing. On Saturday morning. but after wasting another two hours trying to cram everything into a small space. but to his surprise there was already a sizeable queue. with traders who had been coming regularly for quite some time being given priority.the rest of the casual traders. “Pompous prat. before he could be questioned further. Enthusiastically he began to unload his van. one of them setting up a line across the top bars of the stall on which to hang his display items. Seeing that he was struggling over the best way to display his goods.
who visited the market each week.to his attention the fact that he was going to have to invest in quite a few pieces of equipment from his first day’s takings. His confidence boosted.” This gesture on Sam’s part was to seal their friendship. especially after he got a stall in the centre of the market which was much busier. I’m alright here. after about three months trade began to improve at a fast pace. By the end of the day he had ordered all of these items from Sanjay. “Oh.” he said. Sam’s doubts had returned.” he said. Not wanting to tread on any toes. Sam had offered the stall to Bill before accepting it. He worried also about her mother who. though helping out as much as possible was no longer young. “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Bill said confidently. “Shouldn’t have much trouble making a good living out of it. keeping production in line with demand became a problem. The stall adjacent to Sam’s belonged to Bill Higgins.” Sure enough. “You’ve got good quality stock here lad. reviving Sam’s optimism. providing you turn up regularly. As they approached their second year of trading. He would need extension bars for the front of the stall and a cover to keep off the rain. who after thirty years trading knew the business inside out. my customers know where to find me. and the strain 63 . Sam noticed the dark circles around Josie’s eyes and became concerned as she worked long into the night. But after counting his takings at the end of his first day and deducting his expenses. “But thanks for asking. clips to hold it in place and bungee ropes to prevent it taking off in the wind. “Don’t worry lad. Sam gradually expanded his workload to include three other markets and on his day off travelled to the warehouses in Manchester to purchase fabric. not many would have been so generous.” he said encouragingly. supplying everything the stallholders needed at a reasonable price. a colourful character with a mischievous sense of humour.
” The more Sam considered the idea. Can’t say I blame her either. Meals were grabbed in between sewing. it was Bill’s idea. It’ll cause problems with the wife if you don’t. the more it seemed to make sense. Josie hired two girls 64 . it will be worth it.” “Not like the one you just gave me. This proved more difficult than he had anticipated.” he admitted reluctantly. in order to purchase four industrial sewing machines and overlockers. During the next six months Sam toured the industrial estates searching for a unit of a suitable size. tell Bill I’ll be coming on the market to give him a big thank you kiss too. “Don’t worry.” “Well actually.was beginning to show in her face. You need a refuge were you can get away from the job occasionally. with stock piled high in every available space. One Saturday on the market. It broke up my marriage.” Josie assured him. the next step was persuading the bank to give him a loan. Their comfortable home now resembled a warehouse. Once he had found one. “Why not rent a unit if you are doing so well Sam? It can drive you round the bend when your house is taken over with stock. You’re a genius. “Well then. Bill made a suggestion which was to change their lives. He decided to discuss it with Josie that evening and she was so relieved at his suggestion. that would be wonderful. kissing him passionately. I was beginning to think this place would never get back to normal. packing and pricing. I hope?” Sam said in mock horror. and at a price he could afford. By the time I got round to doing something about it the wife had upped and gone. when I think what she had to put up with. Believe me I know. but once it was achieved they were up and running. “Oh Sam. but not sure if she believed her own words. that she threw her arms around his neck. and they had no time at all to themselves.
Sam lay awake at night. but cautiously enough to ensure that they chose the right location. Never one to let the grass grow under his feet.to work alongside herself and Mary. they finally bought the lease on a shop in Cross Street. She propped herself up on one elbow. “Something worrying you sweetheart?” Josie asked sleepily through the darkness. They began to relax a little. wondering how he could expand even further. took almost everything he earned. in addition to the rent for the unit and the girls’ wages. It was in the town centre off Deansgate and could not have been a more ideal location. Manchester. 65 . then we’ll talk. leaving them barely enough for living expenses. Sam began to wonder if they had done the right thing.” he answered in a whisper. To begin with. “I’m going to make a cup of tea. meeting the monthly payments on the loan. And they did talk. enabling Sam to give up his markets and concentrate on manufacturing and wholesaling. The rent and rates were higher than they had budgeted for. staring up at the ceiling. After two months of viewing almost every available premises. But when enquiries started to come in from other traders wanting him to sell wholesale. which meant that they did not have to work such long hours and these days when Sam arrived home. her eyes adjusting to the dark and looked at him. in every town within a thirty mile radius. As they went from strength to strength. both Sam and Josie decided it was a risk worth taking. Sam started the search for shop premises the very next day. but after much discussion. until with the dawn light breaking through a chink in the curtains a decision was made to rent a shop which would be run by Josie. her instincts telling her that he was awake. the business took off at an alarming rate and he found he had money to spare. I’m sorry if I disturbed you. his meal was prepared and the house tidy. “You go back to sleep.” she insisted. but not for long.
On this she refused to compromise. Their quality would match any of the expensive stores. including curtains. Josie herself would always buy from a friendly face. and she was determined that her store was going to have both these qualities by the barrel load. and the back had shelves stacked high with all types of household textiles. They would use the best fabrics and trimmings they could possibly afford. Sam had suggested they start on a smaller scale and build up to more expensive goods. even if it meant a reduction in takings. The result was just as Josie had imagined it would be. towels and table linens. she was determined they would remember this shop when refurbishing their home. who had their own inhouse fabric and linen departments. Even if customers did not make a purchase on their first visit. The town centre was busy and the minute the door opened people drifted in. and she argued that if people did not 66 . then they would have to offer something special. Josie nudged Mary delightedly as she overheard the numerous favourable comments. which would encourage people to return in the future. watching excitedly as the shell of a building turned into their dream. Divided into two departments. no matter how impressive the merchandise. If they were going to compete with the large department stores like Lewis’s and Kendals.Over the next few weeks they employed shop fitters and decorators. a reason for people to choose to visit Grainger’s. Josie firmly believed in this policy. nervously poised to receive customers as Sam turned the sign on the door to open. On one decision Josie would not budge. The day of the opening arrived and Josie and Mary stood. but Josie knew what she wanted in their store. or when needing to buy a wedding gift. A great deal of the day was spent talking to customers and creating a friendly environment. cushions. rather than a cold impersonal environment. the front of the shop had a display of good quality furnishing fabrics and trimmings. curious to see the new merchandise. bedding.
Sam cashed up at the end of the day. so I’m not expecting too much. Just five years later and at the age of only twenty six.” said Mary. He had also found himself a secretary. “You have got to be joking” she exclaimed in disbelief. But we have been quite busy. Oh…come on.” remarked Sam. tell me. who knew what they liked. with an enormous grin.get top quality goods to begin with. who had been recommended to him by a client. Sam bought factory premises and employed twenty machinists. which was more than Sam usually brought home from the market in a week. “You’re a torment you are. She intended appealing to a discerning public. but elite department store. On this matter she had stood firm and was glad she had. teasing Josie by refusing to reveal how much the takings were.” He held up the long strip of white paper with the total at the bottom in front of Josie and her eyes almost popped out of her head. The demand for their wholesale goods rocketed and they now supplied a large number of retail shops. Very nicely indeed. It is our first day after all. Norma Campbell. as she accepted compliments from customers gratefully. “For goodness sake. was a plump motherly woman of about fifty. they would not come back for more. who to Josie’s relief. and she would not insult them by providing inferior goods. “Guess?” he said. “We mustn’t get too carried away. put her out of her misery. unable to take her eyes from the figure.” And they did. “I’ve no idea Sam. She turned out to be extremely efficient and ran the office with military precision. after Josie realised it’s potential when dressing the 67 . “Our overheads are sky high. trying to snatch the till roll playfully from his hand.” she pleaded. but if we keep this up we should do very nicely. The store had gradually turned into a small.
They fell into bed each night and dropped off to sleep the moment their heads touched the pillow. I don’t want to lose what we already have. feeling even more exhausted 68 . that Josie cleared an upstairs room and opened a kitchen and dining ware section. Josie readily offered her the position. Sam refused to slow down and Josie had no choice but to stay on the train with him. And I’m scared that things are moving too quickly. crystal glasses and candlesticks. He went ahead with the purchase of two more shop premises. “We’ve got quite enough on our plates. one in Bolton. But we are in danger of getting in above our heads. So many people had come in asking to buy the crockery. the other in Wigan.” Josie argued. However. compelling Josie to work alongside him. but she could not help but worry about his health or her own. Though Josie was more than content with her lot. “Why do we need more. We are already making more than enough money. He was talking about expanding yet again. and much as she enjoyed working. I’m happy with what we’ve got. until they were too exhausted to do anything else. When Amy rang to say that she was unhappy with the hairdressing course she was on. After a particularly hectic day. but Josie sometimes felt as if she was on a runaway train with no communication cord. Sam was having none of it. She had placed a table and chairs in the window to display their range of table linen and dressed it for a dinner party. Josie felt that they needed to get away occasionally. The business had completely taken over their lives. Financially things could not have been better. We’ve proved that it’s worth taking a few risks.” “I know love.shop window.” But Sam was adamant. He just worked and worked. cutlery. She agreed enthusiastically and started work in the store two weeks later. Sam was not. When the new department opened Josie’s Staff were stretched to the limit and she decided to place an advertisement in the local paper for another assistant.” “But why stop now? There’s no limit to what we can do.
On her way to school she used to pass by the impressive three storey houses. as Josie was driving down Pennington Road. picking up the phone in the hall to ring Sam at the factory before she even took off her coat. we need to talk. neither of us are going to be fit enough to enjoy the profits. 69 . but things are going so well.” “I know Josie. As a child Josie and her friends had referred to this area as snob hill. She screeched to a halt and jotted down the telephone number on a scrap of paper. she saw a ‘for sale’ sign in the garden of one of the large houses.” “But Sam. Something wrong?” “Yes Sam there is. Look. Don’t you want to go out sometimes and enjoy the money we’re making. with the arched front door and large bow windows. In a few more years we can take things easy. Josie dashed home. We’ll see. but there is a limit. but if we keep on the way we are. Can’t we leave it till morning?” “No. too angry to speak to him.” Josie sighed and turned her back to him. “Sam. He fell into bed beside her and leaned over to kiss her cheek. Now lets get some sleep. I know we are only young. we can’t. Josie made up her mind to confront Sam. We’ve got a busy day tomorrow. “Maybe. I know you love the business and so do I. but not now.than usual.” He sat up in bed and looked at her. He leant over her to kiss her and she shrugged him away. or even just a weekend. A week later. It was her dream house. “What is it love. imagining that one day she would live in the double fronted one.” “I’m tired love. After speaking to him and getting him to agree to a viewing she rang the estate agent. Surely we can afford to take some time off now and again. We have enough staff to be able to take the occasional holiday. It’s important.
The house was vacant and the sale went through without a hitch. Mary’s mouth dropped open the first time they walked into the drawing room. Alice laughed. planning the décor and buying furniture. They could have moved years earlier. “As the mother-in-law. “I don’t think it’s too much to ask. You’d think they could manage that wouldn’t you?” Mary persisted.” “Well. forcing her into another agonising wait. sure that at any minute she would wake up. She purchased two large sofas. unable to believe that she was looking around with a view to purchasing her childhood dream. “Don’t start” said Josie. it’s a good family house I suppose. I 70 . mostly by herself.” replied Mary. she felt like a child again. “Good grief you could fit the whole of our house into this room.” commented Alice. She could not believe her luck when she saw that sign From the day they moved in she was in her element. there is that. but Josie could never find a house to match up the this one. with filling so sumptuous that you could almost disappear in them and then had the girls at the factory make beautiful cushions in a jacquard fabric and curtains with swags and tails. looking sideways at Josie with a smile. As the estate agent took them on a tour of the house. sounding hard done by. The rooms were huge with high ceilings and Mary and Alice found it difficult to understand why two people needed all this space. An appointment was made for the weekend.They were closed and she was forced to wait until the following morning before contacting them. a house in the same road as her family doctor. do you Alice? Just a couple of grandchildren. They won’t have to move when the children come along. “Yes. I have to be careful what I say…but I have seen a lovely pram in the High Street sale. as Sam was more often than not too busy to get involved.
She dreamed of a home filled with children’s laughter. They appeared to have everything they had every dreamed of. Sam was either out on business. Josie had no idea how to handle this situation. The more he ignored her feelings the more bitter she became. when she was expected to make small talk with people she did not know and sometimes did not even like. nothing helped to dispel the emptiness that enveloped her. anything to take her mind off her unhappiness. ‘Everything has been put on hold for this damn business’ she thought bitterly. feigning annoyance.G. 71 . except when Josie played hostess to Sam’s clients. The smell of baby powder collected in the crease of a delicate little neck was like a magnet to her. Every time she saw a baby in a pram. then chastised herself for being so ungrateful. In reality her life was far removed from this dream. Forever wrapped up in the business. They would not have this house if it hadn’t been for the business she told herself. but somehow their relationship had changed. They very rarely sat down to a meal together these days. But their banter hit a spot in her heart. Midget for Josie. She longed for real friends of her own. But the longing within her when she encountered other peoples’ children would not go away. she yearned to pick it up and kiss it’s tiny face. Two weeks after moving house. Sam bought a large Rover car for himself and an M. having tried and failed on a number of occasions to approach Sam about it. Try as she might. or taking some client to dinner.wondered if it would be too soon to buy it. with days spent dashing between the three shops and her evenings catching up on paper work. She and Sam had been married for nine years now and she desperately wanted his baby. inside she was crying and lonelier than anyone could have imagined.” “Oh for goodness sake” Josie retorted. Though polite to each other. Though she smiled on the outside. there was a growing distance between them.
saluting behind his back as she marched into the kitchen.” “She’s far too young Josie.” Josie had opened the matter up for discussion. But we’ll see. She was furious. “If we sent her to college a couple of days a week. Of late. When Josie had employed Amy in the Bolton shop she had proved to be a great asset. maybe in a year or two. but she was not smiling. she’s only seven years younger than me and the staff don’t mind taking orders from me. “I think Amy may be good management material. not to have Sam make a decision and tell her what he had decided. Of course they won’t mind you telling them what to do. She felt her heckles rise every time that Sam just assumed that he should make all the decisions.This bitterness spilled over into her business dealings with him. for even consulting him on the matter. she could help ease my workload.” “That’s different. and then maybe I’ll consider it again. In the meantime. He 72 . Anyway seven years makes a big difference. I don’t think they would take kindly to having a slip of a girl take charge.” Josie mentioned to Sam one evening as he was reading his mail. She should have made the decision herself. easy manner. she was in charge of the stores.” “Yes Sir” she muttered under her breath. making her very popular with customers and Josie had noticed that the takings had risen considerably during the two years she had been working for them. You own the place. as much with herself as with him. give her some training in stock ordering and bookkeeping. She had a pleasant.” “But Sam. We can’t go upsetting the other staff. he frequently interfered with her decision making in the shops. not content with running the factory and handling clients. And anyway. I’ll reconsider in a couple of years. This gesture may have looked like a joke. She’s only eighteen for goodness sake.
” “But dinner is almost ready.” “Sorry. Where’s the fire?” she replied. it’s important. I haven’t time.” When he did not respond. “where are you?” “I’m here Sam. Could be a big order.” she sighed. where she had been preparing the evening meal. After all the work she had put into building up the company and running the shops so efficiently. and it’s important. I’ve got to dash.” “I’ve no choice Sam. “But Sam. “And I wanted to talk to you. “Have I got a white shirt ironed. Someone has got to do something about 73 . but Josie had promised herself that no matter how angry she felt.” “Well I’m sick of waiting. We need to talk.” he said dashing upstairs two at a time. “Josie. this was something she would never do. coming from the kitchen.” “Oh what are you on about now. “I’ll speak to him tonight.had adopted a way of speaking to her that made her feel like an employee. she followed him up the stairs. but the saddest thing of all was that Sam did not seem to notice that there was a problem. It was on the tip of her tongue to remind him how this business had begun.” he called. We are important.” she fumed. It’s never the right time to talk to you. whatever it is will have to wait. the problem had to be confronted. Deep down Josie knew that she could not go on like this much longer. she felt she deserved more respect. You never let up these days. If only he knew how insulted she was by this. There would never be a convenient time. This time she was determined to pin him down. make him listen. Got dinner with Albert Ibson from Ibson & Son. can’t talk now. so she would just have to make time. Sam hurried down the hall that evening heading for the kitchen.” she told herself out loud. “I’ve told you Josie.
eating with some client or other. It’s not that I don’t want children.” “Oh. it’s not a priority for you. my feelings don’t matter. I’m sick and tired of you and your bloody business. I come home and cook a meal. Maybe one day when things aren’t so hectic. We go to bed…to sleep…never anything else these days. Listen Josie. Our love life has gone down the pan almost completely….our marriage. She heard the front door slam and sobbed even harder. everything I do is for us. because you are off somewhere. or we won’t have a marriage to save. and I’m sorry I ever encouraged you to start one up in the first place. And when I do you are too wrapped up in the business to talk to me. Oh well that’s okay then.. “The good life? That’s a laugh.” She stormed downstairs and into the lounge. It’s just that it’s not a priority for me.” she finished on a sob. but I hardly ever see you.and I want a baby. We go to work. The business is for us. which more often than not doesn’t get eaten.” she cried in desperation. You never find any time for us. As long as it’s what you want.” “Oh no. I love you Sam. That’s why we are living in this house and living the good life. She put her head in her hands and sobbed.” “The good life?” Josie ranted. Well. 74 . not that old subject again. “Oh Sam.” “Josie. A baby just wouldn’t fit in with our lifestyle at the moment. When you are home you are either doing paper work or on the telephone.
but Sam’s out as usual. ‘I hope Dad’s not ill’ was the thought that immediately crossed her mind. before snatching up the phone and speaking into it breathlessly. everything’s fine. “Did I disturb you dear?” asked her mother at the other end of the line. I’ll be here. No. Tutting in annoyance.CHAPTER FIVE Just as Josie was about to step into the bath the phone rang. and was beginning to feel his age. you’ve got to give him that” said Patrick.” “Your Dad and I were wondering if we could come round this evening. “Everything is alright isn’t it Mam?” she asked anxiously. “Well he’s a good worker. He had been looking very tired lately.” “I think you’re forgetting something Pat. We’ll see you in about an hour then. Sorry if I worried you love” Mary said. Do you want me to pick you up?” “No. suddenly realising that she had been tactless. she ran down the stairs. “Well. we’ll get the bus. I was just upstairs. “But for our Josie there wouldn’t have been a business in the first 75 . “Oh. “Oh yes.” “Josie will be there. But you could run us home later. hi Mam. but Sam will be in a meeting. Bye love. as she noted the serious tone in her mother’s voice. “The way he’s built up that business is nothing short of miraculous. if you don’t mind. There is something we would like to discuss with you. defending his son-in-law.” said Mary sharply.” Josie’s heart leapt.” Mary remarked to Patrick as she put down the receiver.
you know I do. “Make us a cup of tea. But whenever I’m not working…which I admit isn’t very often…you are at the pit. “Well. She was at the door before they had the chance to lift the knocker and was immediately encircled in her father’s arms. “We’ve been saving for this for a long time. he thought the sun shone out of him and anyway. “I know. “Thanks sweetheart. he added. I like Sam. She sighed and went upstairs to change. then we’ll tell you all about it…and stop looking so worried. feeling guilty. Josie saw her parents walk towards the house. but how will you manage. but we have been paying into an endowment ever since we got married and it’s due to mature this year. not for much longer I hope” he said as they made their way down the hall.” Mary said. Seeing the puzzled look on his daughters face.” “There are worse things than being ambitious” Patrick retorted adamantly. being a man he just looked at it from a man’s point of view. “We’ve got some good news” she went on.” he said smiling. it’s too long. We were 76 . “Long time no see sweetheart. smiling at her daughter. then poured out three cups and passed two of them to Mary and Patrick before offering them a biscuit. Dad isn’t due to receive his pension yet is he?“ Josie said. her mother’s arm linked in her father’s.place. His pit pension won’t be all that much if he takes it early.” They settled onto the settee in the sitting room and Josie carried in a tray of tea and biscuits. Mary gave up. but he never seems to have time for anything else these days.” “That’s wonderful news. Looking through the window. “Your Dad is going to take early retirement. not wishing to keep Josie in suspense any longer. There was no point arguing with Patrick over the subject of Sam. in the hope that we would have enough to retire on.” she said.
but she felt as if she was being abandoned. “Hey. But I don’t think it will be necessary. “Watch your mouth young lady.” The relief showed clearly on Josie’s face.” “We will love.” said Josie and though she was laughing. Probably not much by your standards.” “Well it’s about time you took things easy. “Behave yourself. Patrick was still a handsome man. She knew that her father had always missed his homeland. “That’s wonderful Dad. don’t spoil my hair. we should get by quite nicely. down to business.” she added with a teasing grin. is that your Dad and I intend to retire to Ireland. All their lives they had put herself 77 . I scrub up very well. especially the way things had been between her and Sam lately. “The main thing that we have to tell you. This feeling lasted only a moment.” Josie was shocked into silence. you are still quite fanciable. I’m not over the hill yet. “but enough for us to live on quite comfortably.quite shocked when we realised how much it would be. I’m really pleased for you. It’s hard work in that pit…especially at your age. as she jumped up from her chair and gave them both a hug.” she added with a grin. Let me tell you.” “Actually Dad. Invested it should give us a nice little income. as she reminded herself how hard her parents had worked. “Right. with his greying curly hair and aquiline features. And with the money that I’ve managed to save while working at the shop. we’ve budgeted very carefully. Though I must admit. I might just meet some young bit of stuff on my way home. come on you two. and thanks. Promise me you will ask if you need any help.” Mary clipped him lightly around the head.” “You would be more likely to find somebody suitable in the old folks home” Mary retorted. it can be a bit of a strain having to fight the women off all the time. and I’d be glad to help out financially. she meant what she said.” said Mary changing the subject.
” “Do you think you could drive us to the station?” her father asked. “We thought we would go over at the weekend. but he always chickened out at the last minute. I’m happy for you both” she said. “It’s okay if you’re too busy. trying her best to sound cheerful. we can get a taxi. There’s not much point having a well off daughter with a car of her own if you have to get a taxi is there” Josie joked. Now they deserved to do whatever they wished. I’ll probably see more of you than I do now. Josie felt a pang of guilt at her selfishness. Will you and Sam be able to come?” “Oh of course we will.and Michael first. “Will Michael be going with you” she asked as an afterthought. “It’s easy enough to reach by ferry. and was glad that she had kept her objections to herself. actually Val had to ask him out in the end. I’m so thrilled for them. Mary broke into Josie’s thoughts. I always knew Michael had a soft spot for her. In fact you’ll be sick of me coming for holidays. “You don’t mind do you sweetheart?” “Of course not. We are having a party at the Labour Club a week on Friday. that’s our other piece of good news. Ireland was not the ends of the earth and they would have a good life there. I must say they kept this very quiet. “Well. He came very close to it a few times. Nothing flash. You wouldn’t believe the number of times I’ve tried to persuade him to ask her out. Suddenly she was happy for them. She got sick 78 .” “You’ll do no such thing. “No. just a buffet and a band. at the thought of going home at last. Well! Well!…so he finally plucked up the courage. to see if we can find somewhere to live in the Dublin area where your Dad was born. She saw the happiness in her father’s eyes. He’s getting engaged to Val.
Josie drew up outside her parent’s home. But the enclosed space and the dull throbbing of the engines. Mary followed Patrick down the steep steps to their cabin. beeping the car horn to let them know she had arrived. As they emerged onto the pavement she picked up their cases and loaded them into the boot. as long as they got there in the end. As Josie stood waving until the train was out of sight. containing two bunks. Patrick remembered well his journey to England as a young man. a tiny sink and not much else. before driving them to the train station.” Josie said smiling broadly. They were standing on the top deck. which would take them to the ferry port at Holyhead. which was in the lowest part of the boat. After a twenty minute wait they boarded the train. they decided to go on the upper deck for some fresh air. After Patrick dragged their cases into the tiny space. Patrick put an arm around Mary’s shoulder and she sensed his emotion as his homeland got closer and closer. when they first spotted land in the distance. There seemed to be bodies everywhere. The following Friday evening. and what a beautiful sight it was. she told herself over and over again. with the wind blowing through their hair. “Well I don’t suppose it matters who asked who. On the drive back home. Mary 79 . a rarity on the notoriously rough Irish Sea. The dawn light was breaking through as they neared the harbour. with people stretched out asleep on chairs and on the floor. tears ran down her face.” Patrick said laughing. This is certainly a day for good news. they climbed onto the hard mattresses and tried to sleep. prevented them from dropping off. then helped them carry the cases onto the platform. Fortunately the sea was reasonably calm. that this move would be good for them. he had felt ill for the whole of the trip. She parked the car. In spite of having taken sickness pills. Eventually.of waiting.
But his joy at bringing her back with him to live on Irish soil was the icing on his cake. before showing them to a large bedroom on the first floor. And you must be Mr and Mrs Flynn. one of whom now opened the door. It was an even stranger sensation for Patrick after all these years. you must be exhausted. The only sound was the screeching of the seagulls flying over the harbour. the enormous old furniture and a wash stand in the corner of the room. He had been happy here as a child surrounded by relatives and friends. extending a hand and smiling warmly. They rode through the quiet early morning streets. on which stood a jug and bowl. I hope you had a smooth crossing. “You have a good sleep now. Mary glanced around.” she 80 . while Mary lifted the heavy brass knocker. Now she would share that with him and was more than happy to do so.felt a surge of excitement well up inside her. and then carried the cases up to the front door of the large Victorian house. they took a taxi to the guesthouse. “Hello. taking in the houses with drawn curtains. wearing a long fleecy red dressing gown. she now sensed an overwhelming closeness to him. there was a side of Patrick that Mary never really knew. They went back down to their cabin to collect their suitcases and then joined the queue to disembark.” she said. too tired to take in details. In all their years in England. but most of them were either dead or scattered around the world now. But for England he would never have met Mary. which Josie had booked them into and insisted on paying for. The house was run by two elderly sisters. Patrick paid the driver. she had the typical appearance of someone’s kindly grandmother. They travelled for only about fifteen minutes before reaching their destination. In spite of his love for his homeland he had never regretted going to England. but noticing the smell of polished wood. After passing through customs. Small and dumpy. He was home at last. with white hair clipped into curls. I’m Mrs Ryan. Never having visited her husband’s birthplace.
which was surrounded by twelve high backed chairs. A statue of Our Lady and a crucifix adorned a table on the landing and a receptacle containing holy water was attached to the wall above. Or should I say today?” she corrected herself. but I’ll do it whenever you are ready tomorrow. with home baked soda bread. one end of the enormous oak table. It’s normally served between eight and nine. After a sound sleep.said kindly. They washed and dressed. crisp white sheets and a beautiful patchwork quilt. An oak sideboard… on which stood two silver candelabras… adorned the back wall. they rose around nine thirty. “Good morning. After a delicious cooked breakfast of bacon and eggs. 81 . was set with a pure white damask tablecloth and shining silver cutlery. Mrs Ryan came back in to give them their key. “This is my sister Eileen.” joked Patrick as they sank into the mattress. to the aroma of bacon drifting through the house. Mary and Patrick turned their heads on hearing Mrs Ryan enter the room carrying a tray. fitted perfectly into an alcove by the window. Settling themselves at the table. and a dresser. In the dining room. They thanked her and after undressing quickly. noticing as they went what a lovely old house it was. then descended the stairs. with feather pillows. slightly nervous old lady.” They stood up and shook hands with the shy. laden with blue and white crockery. At the bottom of the stairs stood a grandfather clock and on the wall opposite the door was an occasional table. “I might never get up again. There could be no doubt that this was a catholic household. I hope you slept well” she said cheerfully. fell almost immediately into the soft bed which felt like a giant marshmallow. Behind her walked a younger version of herself. “and don’t worry about coming down early for breakfast. on which stood a plant pot containing an aspidistra.
that was before you met me.” “Ah well. Whilst strolling along the harbour wall hand in hand. My mother used to warn me about women like you. The moment they were outside.” “That’s very true.“You may come and go as you please. as he attempted to give the impression that he was blowing his nose. There was a telescope looking out to sea. I used to go to dawn Mass every day before school as a child. I don’t think a halo will suit me somehow.” “Thank you Mrs Ryan. as he held his aching sides. but I would be grateful if you would put the bolt on the door when you come in at night. Dinner is at six thirty. before starting their search for a place to live. they decided to explore the small town and take a walk along the harbour. “I forgot to warn you about that” he said almost unable to speak. in order to cover his laughter. spotting ships on 82 . “And it certainly won’t suit you. The stone walkway widened into a circular area at the end.” After wiping their eyes and pulling themselves together. Oh…by the way. both Mary and Patrick bent double with glee. I hope you enjoy your stay. shooting a warning glance at Patrick. I always knew you would corrupt me. you would be more than welcome. that’s very kind of you” said Mary. If you require lunch just let me know. is considered to be a heathen. The sun sparkled like jewels on the water. If you would care to join us. with a cool breeze at their backs carrying them along. which Mary and Patrick took turns to look through. who turned away excusing himself. memories of their courting days came flooding back.” said Mary. we say the Rosary around seven thirty every evening. where people sat enjoying the view and warming themselves with flasks of tea or coffee. “Anyone who doesn’t say the Rosary every night and attend church at least twice a day.” “What do you mean by that? I’ll have you know.” “Oh no.
three nuns. “It’s a good job we’re not here on a dirty weekend” Patrick whispered to Mary teasingly. for a light lunch and a much needed drink. Do you Mary?” “You read my mind Patrick. After trudging for miles looking for a suitable property to rent. they finally dragged themselves exhausted into Mooney’s bar. dressed in white habits which blew gently in the wind. who wanted to know all about them. Within half an hour everybody in the pub knew that they were seeking accommodation and one person after another offered to make enquiries on their behalf. On the way back. I’ll show you who’s too old when we get back. “There would be no chance of keeping it quiet. They felt at home already and decided that this would be their local if they were lucky enough to find somewhere to live. at least it shows they are friendly. knowing that she could be very happy here. “Well. his memory of all things to do with his religion being rekindled. I was hoping you would say that” Mary replied. topped with huge white hats that stood out like wings over their wimples. Which order are they from?” “They are sisters of charity” answered Patrick. promises” she said laughing at the lecherous wink he gave her.” “Promises. By the time they 83 . “But seriously I don’t mind the locals being a bit inquisitive. he said.the horizon. Then turning to Mary and taking both her hands in his. chattering gaily as they walked. it’s a good job we’re too old for that sort of thing then isn’t it?” “Hey speak for yourself. They were welcomed as if they were long lost friends by the locals. “I don’t think we need to look any further than Dun Laoghaire for a house. were walking in the opposite direction. “I’ve never seen habits like those before” whispered Mary discreetly.
“Anyone want a drink?” “Aye. they were introduced to the owners of the two properties and arrangements were made to view them. Both cottages were in need of some minor renovation. but it was mainly cosmetic and with the offers of help they had from the locals. “Yes” they called back. say aye.” “All in favour. 84 . After some discussion…a discussion in which the whole community became involved…it was decided to take the cottage nearest to the town.” The following day as they said their goodbyes. “Anyone got any objections?” “No. they yelled again.” they yelled in unison.” “Aye. they looked forward with eagerness to the day they would return.returned to Mooney’s on Saturday evening two suitable cottages had been found and on Sunday morning after Mass. and begin their new life among their new found friends. “Are we all agreed?” Patrick called jokingly to the crowd. it was clear this was not going to be a problem. which was attended by all the pub regulars.
“No. I’ll ring him later. read well. she snatched it from the machine and threw the screwed up paper into the waste paper basket. She had taken over as Sam Grainger’s secretary only three weeks ago. one of Grainger’s most valued customers. with a polite. “Hello. “She doesn’t work here any more.” he said. agitated at her brusque manner. sorry. Pauline was the first person to apply for the job and her qualifications. “Good morning. putting the phone down hard on the cradle.” “Don’t bother.CHAPTER SIX Pauline Shaw picked up the phone in a huff.” she answered unprofessionally. “Suit yourself. The person at the other end of the line sounded shocked. after her husband suffered a stroke and needed constant nursing.” was the terse reply. then took a nail file from her handbag and sat filing her nails before making herself a cup of coffee. is Mr Grainger there please?” Roger asked.” “May I speak to Norma please?” asked Roger Simpson. ‘Damn phone’ she muttered. before putting down the phone. after making yet another mistake on the letter she was typing. Grainger’s Textiles. Sam.” Pauline mumbled. well. though not entirely genuine. “Oh. Getting back to the letter. He had expected to hear Norma Campbell answering. when Norma had had to leave suddenly. who desperately needed to replace Norma as soon as possible. had uncharacteristically offered her the job without 85 . shaking his head in disbelief as he did so. Who is it? I’ll tell him you rang.
The only trouble was that it did not seem as if Sam Grainger was going to be a pushover in this direction. her position would be secure. She had attempted to flirt with him on one or two occasions. Sam was out of the office meeting clients most of the time. he had no reason to think anything would change. However. Most of her employment had been with temporary agencies. 86 . which was just as well for Pauline. but it had been easy up to now and it was good while it lasted. but everything had run quite smoothly with Norma in charge and after she convinced him that she had lots of experience. and she was not averse to flashing an expanse of thigh and flirting outrageously with the boss. so she had cunningly managed to conceal her incompetence from him. leaving buttons open on her blouse to a dangerously low level and leaning over him seductively. She had no idea how long she would be able to keep up the charade. as he had done when Norma worked for him. always being polite on the telephone when he was around. Unfortunately he seemed oblivious and so wrapped up in his work that she was sure that if she had walked around the office naked he still would not notice. For one thing Sam Grainger was quite a dish. and typing away merrily as if everything was going smoothly. if it meant getting what she wanted. and secondly he left her to run the office on her own initiative. In her last job she had been sacked. but she had never lasted long with any of the companies she had worked for. as she had never managed to attain any.bothering to ask for references. Pauline would have been the first to admit that her looks had got her through many an interview. Now if only she could make herself indispensable in other ways. Pauline could not quite believe her luck when she landed this job. Pauline had omitted to tell him in which direction her experience lay. after being discovered in the stock room in a compromising position with one of the Managers. He had been a bit naïve to say the least she thought.
she dashed to her desk. to find Pauline perched on the edge of her desk. When she saw it was Sam. giving her the names. Any messages?” he asked. picked up her pen and had her head down. the others will ring back. omitting to tell him that she always encouraged people to ring back. Could you get them for me?” he said. having to stop herself from jumping up and down and screaming. It will be Thursday and Friday. This was what she had been waiting for.” she replied. “Only two. I’ll need you to come with me. Pauline jumped up to the window. “By the way. will that be convenient?” he asked. so that she would not have to bother taking messages. legs 87 . She was not used to being thwarted and surprisingly found it a turn on. by the time he entered the office. This was her big chance. “Yes.‘I wonder if he’s like this at home’ she thought. appearing engrossed in her work. At four o’clock Sam’s car pulled up on the car park outside the factory. But his reaction just made Pauline even more determined. Josie had disliked Pauline Shaw from the moment she first met her. *** A heated argument had broken out. when Sam informed Josie that he would be in Harrogate and would be unable to accompany her to Michael and Val’s engagement party. She had called in at the office unexpectedly one afternoon on her way home. There was nothing she liked better in her men than a challenge. fine” she answered. Hearing the wheels on the gravel. but she was even more furious at the fact that he would be taking his secretary with him. I’ve just called back to pick up some files that I need for a meeting tomorrow. “I’m not staying. Yes! Yes! Yes!. I have to attend a trade show in Harrogate the week after next. He did not know it. “Good afternoon Pauline.
After a long luxurious scented bath. when she needed him most. it’s not as if I have a choice. before storming out of the office. leaving tendrils of curls escaping around her face and neck. The thought of him spending two days away in her company. she washed and dried her hair. When the man had left. It had culminated in a huge argument. Then determined to boost her self esteem. Josie heard the door slam as Sam stormed out as usual. “I can see that” Josie retorted. she would not have reacted so strongly. Well. but with anger. She brushed it ferociously. flirting with the stationery delivery man. but had made her stand and wait while she finished her joke with the man. even though she recognised her as Sam’s wife. Her face crumpled in frustration and she gulped back tears as she experienced total despair. “Well. “He’s not in” she said sharply. even if it was only business…which she doubted…cut her like a knife. as Pauline gleefully thought. saying that Josie was overreacting. Maybe if he had not jumped to her defence and maybe if she did not dress like a tart in the office. she slowly strolled round to the other side of the desk.crossed. It’s only once a year and it’s important to the company. her eyes defying Josie to make a complaint. She had not moved when Josie walked in. not with embarrassment. “And that’s an end to it” he added. On Saturday evening Josie prepared for the engagement party with a lack of enthusiasm. That evening Josie made her feelings about Pauline plain to Sam. causing Josie to go beetroot red. Josie thought of if as abandonment. and to her chagrin he had defended Pauline’s behaviour. then drew it back from her face in a soft French pleat. He thought of this as a cooling off period and would expect everything to be back to normal when he returned.” he said matter of factly. She slipped into her favourite midnight blue dress with shoestring straps 88 . insinuating that she was neurotic and maybe just a little jealous. I have to go. she decided she would take extra care to look nice. he was right about the last bit.
Finally. She wished desperately that Sam was here to see her and longed for his approval. In fact they were so inseparable that her parents had labelled them the Siamese twins.and a matching bolero jacket. “I’m so glad you could come. “That’s wonderful Val. grinning at Michael who grinned back at her. She was tempted to go back into the house. where she found Michael greeting guests at the door. An unbearable sadness enveloped her. From what I hear. Spotting Josie she flew into her arms. I’m pleased for you. after the addition of tiny pearl earrings and a string of pearls at her throat. Josie left the house and climbed into the car. but convinced herself that he would probably have failed to notice her appearance anyway. and Val just inside talking to her mother and father. My Val is a private secretary now you know” he said proudly. I hope you know what you are letting yourself in for. Earning good money now at the library you know. Not as much as Val mind. sitting there for a moment or two deep in thought. she stood back. pleased with how she looked. “I’ll have you know. Josie parked the car and then followed the sound towards the entrance. I’m not a proud chap. “I’m so thrilled about you and Michael. you didn’t do 89 . The club was practically bouncing with the sound of loud music emanating from the building.” she added. always wanted to be a kept man. It’s been ages since we got together. I don’t know about that. but containing herself she wished Val luck. You always were the clever one.” “Oh. as she remembered how close she and Sam used to be and how they went everywhere together. but that doesn’t bother me. but then pulled herself together and drove away. How are you?” The warmth of her old friend made Josie want to pour out her heart. I’m the best catch in town.
” “That’s a matter of opinion. back in a minute. He had smouldering brown eyes which gave him a Latin look and stood with a drink in his hand.” Josie muttered under her breath. Fortunately.too badly either. Alice glanced around. “How are you?” she said.” Looking over his shoulder he called to Val. with dark brown hair which curled teasingly onto his collar. When he finally spoke. his face paling visibly. “What do you mean? Is anything wrong?” asked Val. sensing an air of regret in her friends voice. There was an uneasy moment. accompanied by Alice and Amy. Michael appeared. 90 . taking her hand comfortingly. “Come with me” he said. “Look after Josie will you John? She’s here on her own. swaying slightly to the music as he glanced around the room. that familiar warm smile that Josie had known since childhood. taking her by the arm and leading her away. before Josie had the chance to give into temptation. “There’s someone over here who you’ll want to see. it’s so lovely to see you. distinguished looking man. On seeing Josie walking towards him he stood stock still. when Josie’s mother and father joined them. “I’d better get back to Val” said Michael breaking the ice. just…”Josie”. as he stared at her without saying a word. After greeting her warmly.” As they crossed the room she noticed a tall. on what should be one of the happiest days of Val’s life. “Won’t be long sweetheart. all he said was…”Josie”…nothing more. Then he smiled. “Where’s that son of mine? Working as usual I suppose. “Are you sure love?” Val persisted. “Oh John. “Oh nothing” Josie said hastily. slim. suppressing the urge to tell her everything and chastising herself inwardly for even considering sharing her problems.” He had no sooner left them.
‘He’s a fool and I shall tell him so when I see him’ she thought to herself. trying to spare Alice’s feelings. The last thing she wanted to do was upset her by letting her know how bad things really were.Surely he could have made an effort for a family occasion” Alice remarked angrily.” “I don’t mind Mum…really. “Well he needs to get his priorities right” she said as she kissed Josie affectionately.” “I won’t” Josie said. She had already worked things out for herself. He’s working hard at the moment. It was obvious that things were not right between Josie and Sam.” “I’ll do my best. 91 . I don’t see nearly enough of the pair of you. and decided against making matters worse by asking awkward questions. “Would you like a drink” he asked. You let him get away with far too much. “Sam is run off his feet with that factory. Having known him all her life. The sadness in Josie’s eyes told her everything she needed to know and she had been concerned for her daughter-inlaw for some time. but in spite of his feelings for her he got no pleasure from the fact that her marriage was in trouble. almost like a member of the family. feeling disgusted at having to make excuses for Sam to his own mother. but you know how it is” Josie answered. She smiled at him gratefully. eager to lighten the mood. But Alice did not need to be told. Josie had never before noticed how handsome John was. “You are going to have to put your foot down Josie. he had always been just one of Michael’s friends. Don’t you forget now. Strangely. and it is for my benefit too” Josie replied.” “Well come on your own if he can’t make it. Now she observed him from a different viewpoint. Left alone with John once more he sensed her embarrassment. “And try to get him to visit his old Mam too.
I’ve always loved coming to your house. Josie said her goodbyes to her family and waved across the room to distant relatives she had not seen in years. John found them a table. “Can I offer you a lift?” John asked hesitantly “I‘ve got my own car thank you. or chatted so easily to anyone.‘Hmm…very nice’ she thought.” “Why do you think he’s been my best friend all these years?” They stepped out into the cool night air. then went to the bar to get their drinks. “I’m just thinking about what Dad says about these family gatherings. “What are you laughing at?” John asked curiously. “Nobody would have me” he joked. “Oh I doubt that” Josie replied. that as a married woman she knew she should not be having. “He’s a real character your Dad. But I really enjoyed tonight. She explained Patrick’s interpretation of births. you always had so much fun. The rest of the evening flew by as they chatted about old times. laughing as they recalled some of the scrapes that he and Michael had got into as children. It was a long time since Josie had laughed so much. marriages and deaths and John laughed with her. his 92 . John took the key from her hand and opened the door. She learned that he was a journalist on the local newspaper and. Her father’s favourite saying was that they only got together for hatches. “I would love a drink” she replied. She smiled now as she thought about it.” They strolled slowly across the car park and as they reached Josie’s car. She was so at ease in his company that she was surprised by how disappointed she felt when the evening came to an end. it was just what I needed and it was great seeing you again. matches and despatches. was relieved to learn that he had remained single.” “We certainly did and Michael’s just like him you know. attempting to dispel the thoughts. though reluctant to admit it to herself. more eagerly than she had intended.
shoulder brushing hers as he bent. I’ll be out anyway” he answered without even looking up from his plate. John made arrangements to meet. “Can I see you again Josie?” he asked quickly before she had time to close the door. Unable to believe his luck. ‘But no…she was not going to be unfaithful.” But there was no mistaking the feelings that stirred inside her when she was with John. On the drive home. Then Josie pulled away. It will be nice to catch up on old times” she said. this was just an innocent night out with an old friend. Their accidental closeness shocked them both for an instant and they looked into each others eyes. Lying did not come easy to Josie and she said a silent prayer asking for forgiveness. then closed her door and waved her goodbye before she had a chance to change her mind. but feeling a hot flush rushing up her neck to her face and hoping that Sam did not notice. unable to come to terms with the fact that she was considering being unfaithful to Sam. attempting to sound nonchalant. nor the excitement she felt at the thought of seeing him again. asking herself silently. This is big money for us if we get the order. ‘where did that come from? What made me say that?’ but nevertheless glad that she had. during one of their rare lunches together. Josie pushed her food around the plate. ‘What the hell am I doing’ she pondered. “Fine. “I’m going out for a drink with Val tomorrow night. but Sam’s next comment swept away any trace of guilt she may have felt at deceiving him. 93 . “Got a meeting with George Webb from one of the London shops. “Yes I would like that” she answered.” “Big deal” she muttered in irritation under her breath. her heart pounding as she sat opposite Sam. cutting her meat with more force than was necessary and at double speed. trembling slightly as she climbed into the driver’s seat of the car. Josie’s mind ran riot.
The two days in Harrogate had been a nightmare and he sorely regretted ever having hired Pauline Shaw. but as her attempts became more and more obvious he could ignore it no longer. All I ever hear is work…work…work.” “You know I can’t at the moment. we’re on that old subject again are we? How many times do I have to tell you.” ‘And not a very good one at that’ he thought. He fumbled in his pocket for his room key and it was missing. Having spent time in her company had brought to light the fact that her skills as a secretary left a lot to be desired. clutching at straws in a last ditch attempt to save their relationship. At first he had been too busy to notice. tired and slightly tipsy went up to his room. We need some time to ourselves Sam.” “I bet you found plenty of time to talk to her” Josie snapped. He was about to go back downstairs to reception. The last thing I need is you nagging me about a holiday. although he had left nothing of any 94 . unable to hold her tongue any longer. Pauline had gone up to bed early after he had rejected her advances yet again.“What did you say?” “Nothing…nothing at all. Couldn’t we plan a holiday or something. the way normal couples do? It would be so nice to get away together. He pushed it open tentatively and slowly crept inside. I’ve just got too much on. and the only thing she seemed interested in was getting him into bed. I’ve got enough on my plate as it is. “Oh. fearing that he was being burgled. He tried his other pockets. to try and get things back to how they used to be. when he noticed his bedroom door was ajar. Pauline is just my secretary. Sam went into the bar for a nightcap and an hour and a half later. We need to talk. But don’t you think it would be a pleasant change to have another topic of conversation occasionally. just the two of us” she pleaded. On the second night at the hotel. still no key.
value in the room. As he entered the room fully he gasped. Lying sprawled on the bed, wearing black stockings and suspenders and nothing else was Pauline. In spite of himself and completely against his will his body reacted. “Oh God” he shouted. “Get out of here.” He approached the bed and grabbed her hand to pull her up, but with unexpected strength she pulled him down on top of her. He felt the bare flesh against his hands and her lips sought his. He fought against her for a moment and then he was lost. He was carried away with lust as her soft warm body writhed against his and her hand caressed his manhood over his clothes, until the blood pumped furiously to an erection. She released him and started to fumble with his belt and undo the zip on his trousers. It took just long enough for him to come to his senses and Josie’s face flashed before his eyes. He jumped off the bed as though he had been stung. His laboured breathing slowly returned to normal as he fastened his clothing. “Get out” he yelled, furious with himself as much as with her. She stumbled angrily from the bed grabbing her clothes and staggered, still semi naked from the room, slamming the door as she left. The following morning Pauline had brazenly come down to the dining room as if nothing had happened. When Sam told her she was fired she had smirked. “I don’t think so” she retorted defiantly. “Your wife would be very interested to hear about last night. But I won’t tell if you don’t.” As they got into the taxi to leave Pauline felt triumphant. At last she had secured her place in the company and who knows, maybe they could negotiate further. Now feeling guilt about what had happened and disgust that he had been weak enough to allow himself to be blackmailed, he was reluctant to admit that Josie’s instinctive distrust of Pauline had been right all along. Oh how he wished he had listened to her in the first place. For a few days after he returned home, Sam had considered
confessing to Josie what had happened, but then had convinced himself that she would not believe his side of the story. Now it was too late. The fact that he had kept quiet all this time would be sure to condemn him in Josie’s eyes. Deep down he knew that she was justified in her anger at him. They did need to get away together to sort things out between them and they desperately needed to talk, but he could not trust himself at the moment not to confess. So he closed down all means of communication and buried himself in his work. “Oh forget it,” Josie said, startling him back to reality. “I’m going to Mam’s. I’ll see you later” she added, storming out and slamming the door. Clearing a space on the dining table, Sam tried to concentrate on the mountains of paperwork before him, hoping that she would have calmed down by the time she got back. But Josie had not calmed down. Each rejection drove another wedge between them. She was becoming bitter and did not like the feeling. If she could not make Sam understand how much she was hurting inside she doubted that she could carry on much longer. The way she saw it, Sam was either genuinely oblivious to their marital problems, or he was burying his head in the sand in the hope that they would go away and if he continued with his refusal to discuss the matter and showed such disinterest what more could she do. Her first instincts, which had told her that he was just so engrossed in his work that he had no time for anything else, were now being replaced with the stomach churning conclusion that he may be having an affair. The following evening, as she got ready for her date with John, she felt physically sick at the prospect of cheating on Sam. Sitting at her dressing table, applying make up to her eyes, Josie’s hands shook. Putting down her mascara brush, she picked up a tissue and wiped away the black smudge under her eyes to find it mixed with tears.
Sitting back on her chair, she contemplated ringing John to cancel. Then remembering how much she had enjoyed the night of the engagement party and the kindness he had shown her, she went to the bathroom, washed her face and reapplied her make up. On the drive to their meeting place, Josie’s mind wandered. She thought again about the way John had treated her with such respect, made her laugh, hung on to her every word. He had made her feel like an intelligent woman, with conversation worth listening to. She realised it had been years since she and Sam had a two way conversation. She had noticed that he would converse for hours with other people, but never with her. He talked at her, told her what to do, gave his opinion without ever considering that her opinion may be different to his own. And they never laughed together any more. That was the worst thing. In the early days of their marriage, their sense of fun was a large part of their relationship, one of the things that had attracted them to each other and she missed it. The laughter and the intense intimacy which made them soul mates…like one person. As the memories came flooding back, Josie pulled off the road. Turning off the engine, she broke down and sobbed, feeling as if her heart would break and wondering if those special feelings had gone forever.
Arriving outside the Red Lion half an hour late, Josie peered through the rain on her windscreen, to see John still waiting in the pub doorway. After parking the car and touching up her makeup, she endeavoured to greet him cheerfully, hoping that he would not notice that she had been crying. As she alighted from the car, John walked towards her smiling. Immediately she began to relax. “I thought you had changed your mind” he said, noticing her swollen eyes, but deciding to say nothing. “But it was well worth the wait” he added, holding her at arms length, his eyes scanning appreciatively over her. “I’m really sorry” she replied, offering no further explanation. To her relief he did not pursue the matter, just grateful that she came. “Come on, let’s get inside before we get soaked” he said, putting an arm around her waist and guiding her towards the entrance. The inside of the Pub was bustling, with people standing shoulder to shoulder at the bar, or carrying drinks to their tables. They had to shout to each other over the buzz of noisy chatter. As John pulled out a chair for her Josie’s heart skipped a beat. She looked furtively around the room before she sat down, fearing that someone she knew may see them. “You look fabulous” John said, making her realise how much she had missed having Sam pay her compliments. Maybe it was vanity, or maybe she just needed to be reassured occasionally that he still found her attractive. ‘There I go again. Why does Sam keep popping into my mind? I don’t suppose he’s thinking about me’ she
thought, annoyed with herself. Then determined to enjoy herself, she put all thoughts of Sam to the back of her mind and concentrated on being with John. Once she had relaxed Josie talked non stop, something she had been unable to do in a long time. John listened intently and she found herself confiding her innermost feelings about the state of her marriage, even disclosing things that, up until now, she had not even admitted to herself. She found his sympathy and non judgemental understanding very comforting. For John’s part, he was unable to say what he really thought of Sam. He could hardly tell Josie that he thought her husband was a complete idiot. It was obvious that she still loved him. But if the man was too stupid to notice how unhappy she was, then he did not deserve her, and John would gladly be there to pick up the pieces. After all, she should have been his all along; would have been his all along, if he had not been so stupid as to stand by whilst Sam stole her from under his nose. Josie was completely unaware that he had loved her for as long as he could remember. As her brother’s best friend, much of John’s childhood hand been spent at Josie’s house and he promised himself at a very young age, that when they grew up, she was the girl he was going to marry. But he had failed to anticipate the bumbling shyness that was to arrive with the onset of adolescence. So many times he had steeled himself to approach her, only to back off at the last minute. Then, after years of silent longing, when he had finally strode across the dance floor, like a man on a mission, determined that this was going to be the night he asked her for a date, it was to find he had been usurped by Sam Grainger. That night at the Palais he had felt as if his heart had been torn from his chest. His world had come to an end. But now, here he was with a second chance and he was not going to let her go again without a fight. “I’m sorry to have burdened you with all my problems” she
It felt so natural that she did not withdraw it and this time as he leant across her to open the door.” “I’m never bored with you Josie” he replied. she did not move away.” she said. “I know this is very sudden and I will understand if you say no. “I just can’t believe you said yes. “I’m doing an article for the paper. John spoke first. She responded and he pressed his lips harder against hers. John took her hand. As their eyes met he took her face in his hands and kissed her gently on the lips. she melted into him and all feelings of guilt were gone. As they left the pub and walked across the car park to Josie’s car. his face close to hers.” Although he did not want to frighten her off by putting pressure on her too soon. he would make the mistake he had made in the past and lose her again. You didn’t even put up a fight” he teased. Are you absolutely sure you won’t change your mind?” 100 . breathless with anticipation they finally pulled apart. “I want us to be together properly.apologised. without even a thought as to how she would explain to Sam that she was staying away overnight. When. I could book us into a hotel. at the same time pulling her body closer. determined not to miss another chance. John was shocked into silence and the look on his face made Josie laugh. “I have to go to Chester next week for a couple of days” he went on. Pulling himself together he drew her towards him again and kissed her gently. but Josie will you come away with me” he blurted out suddenly. without having to worry about anyone else. “You had better close your mouth before you catch a fly. After only a moment’s hesitation. Please say yes. as the bell calling time rang. And you were so easy. “You must have been bored stiff.” “Yes” said Josie impulsively. his worst fear was that if he did not ask her now while he had the courage. casting her an adoring look.
I’ve managed all these years. The following day Josie racked her brain to find a plausible reason for staying away from home.“Well perhaps I should play a little harder to get. “You know your mother sweetheart! The minute she knew she would be moving to Ireland. she got everything organised. I’m sure” Josie retorted.” As fathers do. Patrick sensed a hint of sadness in Josie’s voice.” “Oh Dad. who could have any woman he chose. you’re a tonic.” His words mocked his wife’s efficiency. Patrick rang to tell her excitedly that the keys to their new home were now available and they would be moving to Ireland the following Wednesday. Not a pair of socks to my name” he added. but I won’t. You always manage to cheer me up. Including me. “You don’t think? You don’t live with her. Yes I am absolutely sure” Josie assured him.” “Oh Dad. touched that a man as handsome as John. And 101 . to tell him that she would be unable to go with him. I’ve been wearing the same trousers and shirt for three weeks. “She’s not that bad. won’t you sweetheart?” he said quietly. especially where daughters are concerned. but I’m not exaggerating when I tell you she’s packed everything but the kitchen sink. “Of course I will Dad. “You will come over to see us. Give my love to Mam. “But don’t worry about me. “Well maybe a little. while his tone betrayed the deep affection he felt for her. She told him that she was pleased for him and offered to help them pack. Her father laughed. her parents unknowingly provided her with the perfect solution. wanted her so badly. then just as she was about to ring John. I think you’re exaggerating. as though she had said something completely outrageous. I’ll cope with her. determined to sound hard done to.” Josie said.
Dad…look after yourselves. Bye.” When Sam came home that evening, she told him that she would be going with her parents to help them settle in their new home. She prayed he would not notice the tremor in her voice as she continued to deceive him. “Their phone isn’t connected yet, so you won’t be able to contact me” she said falteringly. No sooner had the lie left her lips, than an overwhelming sense of guilt overcame her. “Fine” he answered. “Just ring from a phone box if you need to contact me urgently.” “Oh god. This is awful. How could she do this. Especially to her parents. They would be horrified if they knew. It went against everything that she had been brought up to believe. But it was too late and her feelings were too strong. The yearning to be loved and needed seemed to override any other consideration. To Josie’s surprise, and not a little disappointment, it was easier than she had expected. Secretly she had hoped that Sam would object, or offer to come with her, or at least be concerned enough to question her. She did not know what she would do if he did, but at least she would know that he cared. Her emotions were totally illogical. As usual, Sam was wrapped up in his work as the taxi pulled up outside the house and the driver sounded his horn. He gave her a routine peck on the cheek and asked her to give his love to her parents, as she left the house in the early morning light carrying a small suitcase. Once again it occurred to Josie that over the years Sam had come to take her so much for granted, that it would never cross his mind that she could possibly be interested in anyone else. But then again, she thought. It would never cross his mind that she would betray him either. The now familiar feeling of guilt washed over her once more. ‘Well it serves him right’ she thought bitterly, wrestling with her conscience and desperately attempting to justify her actions…but
failing pitifully. As the taxi dropped Josie at their agreed meeting place, John’s car was waiting. He saw her in his rear view mirror and got out of his car to put her bag in the boot, before helping her into the passenger seat. He climbed into the driver’s seat beside her and leant over, kissing her tenderly on the mouth, before driving away. They chatted gaily on the journey, admiring the countryside as they drove through Frodsham and Helsby. John drew Josie’s attention to the shape of a face in a high rock, pointing out the nose and the beard, which she could not quite make out at first. Then as it suddenly came into focus, she shrieked excitedly. “Yes, I can see it!” I can see it!” “That’s the old man of Helsby” he informed her. It was around nine fifteen when they arrived in Chester and the misty morning had turned into a bright sunny day. John checked them into the Grosvenor Hotel and while standing in the foyer, Josie noted the plush red carpet and the reception desk of highly polished mahogany. ‘My Mam would be in her element polishing this’ she thought, running a hand over the perfectly smooth wood. After signing the register and putting the key to their room in his pocket, John picked up their two small cases, while Josie carried her vanity case and his briefcase and they stepped into the lift up to their room. Walking behind him into the beautiful room with its regency wallpaper and mahogany furniture, Josie’s heart began to pound. Much as she wanted to be here, she was totally unprepared for the churning feeling she experienced in the pit of her stomach as she looked at the large bed. She had never shared a bed with anyone but Sam and in that moment she had an overwhelming urge to turn and run. It was an even stranger feeling being in a bedroom with John. He was her childhood friend. She had know him all her life and
should have felt at ease, but for some reason this seemed to make the situation even more difficult. How could she make love with someone who felt almost like family? John, sensing her uneasiness, put his arm gently around her. “Come on sweetheart, unpack and then we’ll go and get some breakfast.” All his instincts urged him to throw her on to the bed and make love to her there and then, but his common sense told him that if he rushed things now he may lose her forever. Much as he would have preferred to follow his instincts, he would just have to be patient. Josie heaved a sigh of relief. She could not express the gratitude she felt that John had put no pressure on her and as they made their way to the dining room, where they ate a hearty breakfast of cereal and bacon and eggs, with piping hot coffee, the worried frown on her brow disappeared and her light mood returned. After breakfast, they went for a walk around the wall surrounding Chester, which had been built to protect the City in Roman times. Chester was steeped in history and Josie listened enthralled as John divulged pieces of historical information. Later on the main street, they stood looking up at the beautiful old buildings. Most of them were traditional white with black beams, with the higher floors projecting out beyond the rooms at ground level. John said that he had read somewhere that this was done to save land. There was a walkway spanning two sides of the main shopping street, in the centre of which was the ornate Eastgate clock. Josie’s head spun in all directions, captivated by the impressive architecture and trying to take in as much information as possible in the short time they had. Around mid morning John insisted that they take a break from sightseeing and searched around for somewhere to rest. They found a quaint little teashop in the main street. As they entered the doorbell tinkled. The tables were covered with red and white gingham tablecloths and on each one stood a single red rose in a bud vase.
Matching gingham curtains with frilled pelmets added to the cosiness. They settled themselves in a booth by the window and a waitress in a white frilly apron appeared to take their order. They ordered coffee and a slice of homemade apple pie. “Am I glad to sit down” said John. “I don’t know about you, but I’m absolutely worn out.” “You men have no stamina” she teased. We women go into training the minute our mothers first take us shopping.” He laughed. “You’re right. Every woman I’ve ever known can keep going for hours if they are surrounded by shops.” “And how many women might that be?” she queried. “Ooh, let me think. Must be into three figures at least.” “I’ll bet. But seriously, have you known lots of women?” “Well now. There’s my mother and yours and Aunty Elsie. Oh and then there’s cousin Dorothy.” “Oh its impossible trying to get any information out of you,” she replied in exasperation. “Okay then, seriously, I’ve had a few dates. I haven’t lived like a monk, but there’s never been anyone that I wanted to settle down with…until now. I could never find anyone to match up to you Josie. You may not believe it but you ruined my life you know.” His stern look turned to a grin as he saw the concerned look on her face. “I was joking about you ruining my life” but I meant the rest. I could never feel about anyone else the way I feel about you.” “Oh John. I’m so sorry. I had no idea.” “Well, it’s my own fault. I had my chances long before Sam came on the scene and I just stood back and let him steal you from under my nose. But the important thing is we are together now. We’ll just have to make up for lost time,” he added, lightening the mood again. She smiled fondly at him, glad that she was with him now, then changed the subject. “What time is your appointment, you
mustn’t be late.” “Three o’clock. But I’ll only be a couple of hours. Will you be okay looking around the shops while I’m away?” “Silly question” she replied grinning. “Today I’ll be interviewing a councillor and then tomorrow I want to speak to some locals” John told her. “The story I’m doing will hopefully help the people of Chester to attract more tourists to their city. It’s always been very popular with foreign visitors, but it would be nice to attract more English visitors. I thought we might be able to encourage more schools in the North West to bring parties of school children here. It’s a great way to teach them some history.” “I agree, I think it’s a wonderful idea. I know I always found classroom history very boring.” John left her at two forty and she had a great time browsing around the shopping centre. The large department stores were a contrast to the smaller, family run businesses in Leigh and Josie had to be strict with herself. The temptation to buy was great but so were the prices. In the end she settled for some beautiful silk underwear from the largest store in the city centre. When she looked at the price tag she almost put them back on the rail, but then chided herself, wondering why she always felt so guilty when spending large amounts of money. The underwear was more than she would normally pay for a whole outfit, but worth every penny and it wasn’t as if she could not afford it. She supposed it stemmed from the early days of her marriage when money had been tight and she had had to watch every penny. ‘Well, there’s no need to worry about that now girl’ she admonished herself as she paid the assistant. Strolling around the china and glassware department, she considered buying something for the house, but decided against it and bought some perfume for herself and some aftershave for John. She had arranged to meet John under the Eastgate clock and he
John. Turning her around he took her gently in his arms. As Josie turned her back and began to undress slowly. which she stepped out of. The sun was hot and the music added to the holiday atmosphere. He slipped the blouse from her shoulders and then undid her skirt. We came up with a lot of good ideas to attract tourists and the paper can help to publicise them. she looked at his slim but muscular body. stopping once to listen to a very talented violinist who was busking.” They made their way back to the hotel hand in hand. they prepared to go downstairs for dinner and John ran a bath. “Never you mind. Back at the hotel. He greeted her with a kiss. for a fleeting moment. As he stripped off his clothes unselfconsciously. he walked over to where she stood fumbling with the buttons on her blouse. looking in shop windows on the way. he lifted her onto the bed and lightly caressed every part of her. As they reached a point of pure ecstasy. “How did your day go?” “Very well. Their passion grew as he adeptly removed the rest of her clothing and when she finally stood naked before him. bring back delicious memories of what it felt like to be desired and needed. as they 107 . “Sorry about that. waited until he had finished the piece of music and then took out his notebook and interviewed the bearded young man. always on the lookout for a story. but I have to keep my eyes and ears open all the time” he apologised. Josie. A shiver ran through her as he put on his bathrobe. ‘Everything was so different with John’ she thought. saw Sam’s face. kissing her passionately and undoing the buttons in an instant. “Buy anything nice?” he asked. I’ve got more than enough to make an interesting article and I thought I might do a follow up each week. but then she banished it from her mind and gave herself to John completely.was already waiting when she arrived. I’ll show you later” she answered winking at him seductively.
With her head buried in his shoulder she lay quietly until the sadness left her. “What’s wrong sweetheart?” he asked quietly. To his relief she smiled. “Please tell me what is bothering you Josie” he pleaded. But deep down she knew that she was lying. “You can tell me anything. 108 . kissing the top of her head. if you would rather go home early. against which the crystal of the glasses and the shining silver cutlery sparkled. The tables were no longer laid with white linen as they had been at breakfast. “Nothing” answered Josie. She did not expect to.” “Well. They eventually dressed and went down to dinner.” She smiled up at him. John poured Josie a glass of white wine. Theirs had been a once in a lifetime love. you know that don’t you?” “I’m sorry John. but something more comforting and reassuring. warm and comfortable. “Just a bit emotional. praying that she would not take him up on his offer. not only to herself. determined never to hurt him. When they had ordered their meal. I never thought I was capable of doing anything like this and it doesn’t come easy to me.lay wrapped in each other’s arms. Josie sighed and was very close to tears. but with dark blue tablecloths and napkins. she was carried to heights that she would never be able to experience with anyone else. kissing him on the neck. She felt calm and safe. She was still quiet and he knew that she had something on her mind. But now it was gone. that’s all. hoping that he would not notice. you only have to say the word and I will take you” he said with his fingers crossed. Wondering if she was being fair to John. “I’m just so happy” she said. I’m just feeling a bit guilty about deceiving Sam. It was not the mind-blowing passion that she had experienced with Sam. But where Josie was concerned John noticed everything and he drew her close instinctively. When she made love with Sam. looking up into his worried eyes. but also to John.
enjoying the warm sunshine. with rows of wooden bench seats.“I’m having a lovely time. As they lay in each other’s arms. “Would you like to go on the river Josie” John asked. Opposite were two or three small cafes with tables and chairs outside. they made their way down to the river in glorious sunshine. really I am. that would be lovely” she answered. She tried to remember a time when she and Sam last did anything like this and she could not. then stepped gingerly up the gangway onto the pleasure cruiser with his steadying hand in hers. As they neared the moorings they noticed the large signs offering boat trips down the river. “To us” she said. some hand in hand. Josie wore a white sundress and John was dressed casually in beige slacks and a short sleeved check shirt. The waiter brought their starter of soup. “Oh yes please. after a leisurely breakfast of bacon and eggs. “To us” John responded. They sat on the wide stone steps which led down to the water’s edge. There was a canvas cover to keep off the sun and highly polished brass rails going all the way round. where people of all ages were eating picnics or feeding the ducks and swans. They settled themselves at the front and when the other passengers were on board the skipper cast off. It was quite a large boat. Why would I want to go home. 109 . Others were just strolling. The following morning. After dinner they returned to their room and made love again. Further along boats were moored on the riverbank. She linked her arm in John’s excitedly as he bought the tickets. which was followed by chicken in a delicious white wine sauce. when I can be here with you?” She raised her glass and clinked it to his. accompanied by asparagus and little baby carrots. John felt happier than he had ever felt in his life…and Josie was content.
You were the same yesterday in Chester. Well to tell you the truth. It’s just that you looked and sounded like a little girl when you saw those houses. From now on Josie would be living a lie and the guilt would not rest easily on her Catholic shoulders. She had slept with another man and she prayed that Sam would not read it in her eyes. in spite of the fact that you are now a woman of means. “Oh. yes I was. not to mention nauseous at the thought of having to face Sam. The house felt cold and uninviting. with beautiful terraced gardens which led down to the waters’ edge. I love the way you still get so excited when you see new things. I’ll bet you love Christmas too. with large leaded windows overlooking the river.As they sailed past huge houses on the riverside. Walking into 110 . “And I have a feeling I will love it more than ever this year” she added. “As if I would dare. Josie’s eyes were wide with pleasure. opened the door and dropped her suitcase in the hall. realising that she must have sounded pretty silly. looking lovingly into his eyes. pointing to a particularly beautiful old house. “Just look at that house over there” she added. Nobody would ever guess that you could probably buy the whole row if you wanted to. Their time together passed all too quickly and on the journey home Josie felt sorry that it had to end. it must be wonderful to live here” she exclaimed. don’t you?” “As a matter of fact I do” she said laughing. The reality of what she had done could not be avoided and as they neared home a deep seated remorse crept into her heart. John burst out laughing “What are you laughing at? Are you laughing at me?” she said. *** Josie turned her key in the lock.
Sam too was deep in thought. as she realised for the first time that there could be no turning back. As usual Sam was out. but felt so empty. she carried her suitcase upstairs. As she began to eat. was why he found himself unable to make a move to heal the rift. making an effort to be pleasant. before going downstairs to the kitchen to make a hot drink and a sandwich. She put down her sandwich. Deep down he knew that it was up to him to make the first move. After unpacking she ran a hot bath and poured in some scented bubble bath. an inescapable feeling of overwhelming sadness crept over her and tears stung her eyes. Always his stupid pride stopped him from admitting that there was a problem. She carried the tray into the lounge. Josie lay on the edge of the bed pretending to be asleep. She stepped from the bath and put on her bathrobe. “You’re early” he said. ready for work. Feeling more alone than ever. Sam crept up to bed late that night. Sam descended the stairs just as she picked up her briefcase in the hall. She showered and put on her navy blue business suit. As her mind wandered the water turned cold and a sudden shiver brought her abruptly back to the present. Staring into the blackness as he lay on his back in the dark. He knew in his heart that the gaping rift between them was growing ever bigger. Josie had time to reflect on the last two days. being as quiet as he could. turned on the television set and curled up in the big armchair. Only recently had he suspected that he had left it too late. but time and again he convinced himself that things would work themselves out eventually. The deed had been done and could never be undone. What he did not understand. “How 111 . without soul. It was such a lovely room. unable to eat as the tears began to flow and the lump in her throat made it difficult to swallow. Whilst wallowing in the relaxing foam. so that she did not have to face him.the lounge she looked around. Then the finality of what she had done hit her hard. The following morning Josie rose early. She was baffled as to why she felt this way after two such perfect days with John.
” “If you mean Pauline. First she felt guilty as she told herself that she was being grossly unfair to Sam. After 112 . Anyway there’s no point keep going over old ground. If you don’t know. You know exactly how I feel about it.are your Mam and Dad? Have they settled into their new place?” “Yes they are fine” she answered briefly.” “Of course not. I mean.” Josie headed for Wigan first. she’s obviously a perfectly respectable young woman.” she retorted sharply. Why can’t you appoint a Manager. her mind ran amok.” “Yes and not just the factory. going over and over the events of the last few days. who has no designs on you at all.” Josie regretted the venom in her voice. causing her to snipe at him uncharacteristically. going on and on at him about Pauline. not really meaning it. I’ve told you before. “Sorry. there is nothing going on.” “You shouldn’t need to worry about the stores so much. but wanting to get back to some sort of normality. I thought that was the whole idea. you know I like to keep an eye on things myself. Recently she could not help herself.” she said.” “Huh…You would do well to follow that advice yourself. She approached him and pecked him routinely on the cheek. Just do me a favour Sam. “Just what do you mean by that?” “Oh nothing. As she drove down Mesnes Street. “I must get to work. I’m certainly not going to spell it out for you. Need to make sure nothing drastic has happened whilst I have been away. “See you this evening. Don’t take me for a fool. silly me. Every time she spoke to Sam the bitterness ate away at her. take some of the load off your shoulders?” “Josie. anxious to leave before he could ask any more questions. now that you have Managers running them for you. I want to check on all three stores today.
Then she got angry. it was a completely different scenario. they had been icy cold. that woman would definitely get her claws into him. jogging her mind back to the business of the day. prove to her that he still needed her and she would forgive him anything. Sam was a red blooded male and things has not been so hot at home lately. She had worked for Josie since the store had opened and normally her mood never changed. She was relieved to find that everything had run smoothly and that the manager Betty Mason. Building still standing I see” she joked trying to lighten the atmosphere. without success. Why couldn’t she make him understand that she just wanted back the man she had married. “Good morning ladies. She did trust her instincts. Then guilt took over again. The paperwork was up to date and the stock all accounted for. She parked the car in her reserved space outside the back entrance to the store. as she reminded herself of what she herself had done.all. She desperately tried to justify her actions. and she knew that even if Sam had done nothing wrong. Josie reasoned. but was definitely not her usual cheery self. had coped brilliantly. She had no proof. But he should never have put himself in a vulnerable position by going away with her. The takings were more than respectable. She was a jovial 113 . In fact. Margaret Legge smiled half heartedly. it was merely a suspicion. All he had to do was show her that he cared. given half the chance. even a fling with that woman. he had given her no reason to think otherwise. On her arrival at the Bolton store however. then straightened out the creases in her woollen suit. The minute she walked through the door Josie could sense that something was wrong. Sam did not love her any more. something she would never have considered if she had not been so lonely and unhappy. Josie would make sure that Betty got something extra in her wage packet at the end of the month.
And you will both be compensated for the extra work you have had to cope with.” 114 . But this time she has just been impossible. “Whatever is wrong Margaret?” asked Josie.” “She’s been giving Margaret a really hard time while you’ve been away Mrs Grainger” interrupted Joan. looked knowingly at each other. sounding concerned. Josie glanced around. because I could handle it. She said why should she bother. but she made it perfectly clear that she had no intentions of pulling her weight. “Oh did she?” said Josie angrily. We don’t want to get her into any trouble.” said Margaret. Margaret. that you’ve had all this to put up with. trying to do her work as well as our own. “She’s not ill is she?” “No. “Amy doesn’t take too kindly to my being in charge. “Kept swanning off whenever she felt like it and wouldn’t do anything Margaret asked her to. “Margaret. I’ll deal with it.character with both staff and customers. trying to decide whether to tell Josie what the problem was. she’s not ill. Don’t let it worry you any more. “I never said anything to you before. We’ve been run off our feet. where is Amy?” she asked. her being a member of the family. she was the most senior and experienced member of her staff. don’t worry. doing a quick head count of staff and noticing that everyone was present but Amy. and knew her job inside out. fearing the worst.” “For goodness sake. when she would get no thanks anyway. She feels that she should have been left to run things while you were away. signalling to Margaret that they should tell Josie everything. I’m very sorry Margaret. and Joan her assistant. will you two tell me what is going on and put me out of my misery?” Margaret and Joan glanced at each other once more and Joan nodded. “Well she can answer to me now. Josie had promoted Margaret to manager two years ago and had never regretted it. At the age of fifty two. she never has.
“I’ll see her when she arrives. It was as bad as lying to her own mother.In the back room of the shop. I would like a word with you in the back room please. doing her best to sound casual. But please do not insult my intelligence by lying to me. She loved Alice and had always known that the feeling was mutual. “Hello Mum. “She’s on her way to the shop dear. “Anyway. Just because you are family. And as for saying that you get no thanks. “I don’t know what all the fuss is about” she said.” “Amy. those two have been blabbing have they? I should have known they wouldn’t be able to wait to tell you. Josie greeted her with a sarcastic. I won’t have you criticising my staff.” “Oh. nice of you to join us. “good afternoon Amy. Is there any particular reason why you are so late?” “I’ve been to the dentist” she lied. I didn’t expect you to be in so soon. does not mean you don’t have to pull your weight. you get the same thanks as everyone else. you can’t just do whatever you want. hoping to catch Amy at home. feeling terrible about lying to Alice of all people. a salary at the end of each month.” On Amy’s arrival at the shop. Josie picked up the telephone and dialled Sam’s mother’s number. “I’m fine love. how are you?” she asked when Alice answered. and I had a lovely time thank you” she replied. See you soon. My memory! I completely forgot that she is starting a little later today” Josie replied. Said she was going in a bit later today. before flouncing through the door to the small office at the back of the shop. Is everything alright?” “Fine Mum. They have 115 . how are you? And your Mam and Dad? Did you have a nice time helping them to settle in?” “They are fine too. “Is Amy there Mum?” she asked changing the subject. Bye Mum. “Amy. a look of defiance on her face.” “Obviously not.” Amy stood with her arms folded.
I would have backed you all the way. rather than admit to her own failings. that’s where. Amy preferred to believe that Josie was being unfair. Maybe I shouldn’t expect any favours from you just because I’m family. wouldn’t he Josie?” Amy retorted with a smirk on her face. It would have been a sorry state of affairs if I had left you in charge. Don’t try to pretend it’s Sam’s decision. instead of throwing the running of the store into chaos the minute my back’s turned. Sam didn’t think you were old enough.” “Oh don’t give me that.” “Josie reeled at the injustice. Nowhere. If you had any hope of ever persuading Sam to give you promotion. one way or another and nobody is going to hold me back. You have just proved him right. “What do you mean by that?” Josie asked. now would have been a good chance to show him what you were capable of. Our Sam would be horrified if he knew quite a few things. calming herself before she spoke again. he hardly ever comes in here. You are not mature enough to be promoted to manager for a good few years yet. You are in charge of the shops.” “Well how will you ever know if you never give me the chance. that’s rich coming from you.worked hard to keep things running smoothly while I have been away. “Amy you are going about things completely the wrong way. but I disagreed with him.” “How I’ve behaved! Oh. but it happens in every other family business. She breathed deeply. And where has working hard ever got me. or to the fact that it was Sam who had held her back. if ever. 116 .” “It’s not my fault Amy. Sam would be horrified if he knew how you had behaved. or experienced enough. But not after this. Anyway I intend to get on in life. I wanted to train you for management and if you had continued working hard. I suppose if I was a man I would be on the board of directors by now. feeling the blood rush to her face.
but whatever it is. her stomach churned and her hands shook on the steering wheel.” “I don’t know what you are talking about Amy. then I’m not going to tell you. ‘I must have been seen getting out of John’s car’ she thought. Amy knew about John…there was no doubt about that. If you don’t know. But the hatred in Amy’s eyes had been almost too much to bear. it has absolutely nothing to do with your position in this shop. but from the heartache that she had carried with her all day. it was Amy’s brother that Josie was cheating on and she could hardly expect her to condone it.” Flustered and upset by Amy’s antagonism towards her. she was overcome with exhaustion. Amy’s attitude towards her had hurt more than she was willing to admit. 117 .“Oh nothing. Josie left the shop. she had always been able to cope with hard work. But whatever happened. After all. Now if you don’t wish to carry on working as a team with the rest of the staff. On the drive to Manchester. then I suggest you look for another job. she had no intention of giving in to the veiled threat. On the drive home from the Manchester shop that evening. They were family and had always got on so well and Josie could understand how she felt. not from the amount of work that she had done. All I can say is you have a nerve criticising my behaviour.
the other for Alice. embroidered with holly and Christmas trees. wondering who it could be. She was tempted to take one for herself. By mid December. without ever having to use the same set twice. with a subtle gold thread design in each corner of the cloth and in the corner of each napkin. producing extra stock to cope with the expected Christmas rush. The girls in the factory had been working overtime for weeks. She had been unable to resist taking two home. having hidden a special one for John. Josie’s favourite being the crisp white. and speciality items had been imported from abroad to give the stores the added attraction they needed over their rivals. giving a hint of grandeur. crammed with enough table linen to give a dinner party every evening for a month. Josie was busy in the kitchen. It was going to be difficult not seeing him on Christmas day. feeling excited at the prospect of spending a few days with her parents who were due to arrive the following day. but resisted as she remembered the sideboard at home. when the telephone rang in the hall. awakening 118 . Sam went to answer it and she strained to hear him talking. but he had been very understanding and they had promised to make up for it later. mixing icing for the Christmas cake she had made two weeks earlier and humming a carol as she worked. There were beautifully gift-boxed tablecloths and napkins. one as a gift for her mother. He spoke more quietly than usual and for a moment her suspicions were aroused.CHAPTER EIGHT It was late November and as Christmas approached the stores became increasingly busier. she had purchased all her presents. They also ran a more expensive line of top quality linen.
I’ll ring your Mam. “But you must go sweetheart. for him to speak.” Josie glared at him. We must make arrangements to leave as soon as possible. heart pounding. “I need you with me. but I can’t. the look of disgust on her face filling him with shame. He went on speaking. I’ve got an important client to see tomorrow and I will be with him for the next few days. taking her arm and sitting her down gently on the kitchen stool. It’s an overseas order and too big a deal to miss.” he pleaded. When he walked into the kitchen a few minutes later. She was staring into space as he spoke. there is no easy way to tell you this. he said. She sends her love.” After a moment’s stunned silence. She waited. and tell Mam we are coming? I don’t think I could speak to her just yet. “What? Oh Please Sam” she pleaded. “Josie this deal is one of the biggest we’ve ever had.” His next words stung her. though Josie appeared not to be listening. Sam tried one last ditch effort to ease the situation. Please try to understand. “I’m so sorry Josie. That was your Mam. “Your Mam was too upset to explain in detail. But Josie’s stance was unyielding.an unexpected streak of stomach churning jealousy. “We must go to him straight away Sam.” “The important thing is that you are there love. Could you ring back please. as she wondered if it could be Pauline. but she said she will keep us informed of any progress. I insist… and 119 . and…and…we won’t get a chance like this again. his face was ashen and he was obviously upset about something. until I pull myself together. “Josie. and tell her you are coming. shaking the hand he was holding. in an attempt to jolt her back to reality. “Josie…Josie. Your Dad has had a stroke” he said. yet at the same time forcing him to search his mind for justification of his actions. telling him that she would never understand. I would just make her feel worse than she already does. Josie jumped up from the stool.
” he said lamely. I can’t hope to compete with the beloved business. to the bathroom. The following morning after a sleepless night. Josie persisted.” “Oh no. leaving Sam asleep. she looked in the mirror over the 120 . “Surely your appointment can be rearranged. and for the first time in their lives together she did not give a damn about his feelings. He’s on a flight tonight and his schedule has been arranged especially for this meeting. “Don’t worry about it” she replied bitterly. I can’t let him down now.” The look on Sam’s face told her he felt bad. You can’t possibly let a client down. I’m sure your client would understand.” she said sarcastically. And.” Josie held up a hand to silence him as he tried once more to justify himself. really I am.” he added in desperation. I’ve heard it all before.” “You know I would come if I could. “Don’t bother. thinking this would absolve him. but she would not beg for his support ever again. shoulders hunched. but this deal was too important to miss.please. Of that she was certain. give them my love. of course not. “ But I’ll tell you one thing Sam Grainger. but he’s already on his way. shrugging her shoulders sarcastically. determined to make him put her first and see where his priorities should lie. John would be only too happy to accompany her. She could not believe that he would let her down at a time like this. I’m just your wife. feeling more bitter towards him by the minute.” “I’m sorry love. He loved Patrick like a father and he desperately wanted to be there for Josie. but his actions told her he did not feel bad enough. For once Sam really did feel guilty about putting work before family. no matter how important it you might think it is. she need not go to Ireland alone. This was the last straw. Dragging herself. “After all. if it was a member of your client’s family lying sick. Josie rose earlier than usual. I’ll bet he wouldn’t hesitate to cancel your stupid meeting.
He kissed her gently. just the way he always had. then after nibbling on a piece of toast and drinking half a cup of lukewarm coffee. with a man who did not love her. with the sinking feeling that John was going to let her down too. aware now of how much John’s unconditional love meant to her. don’t you think it might be a bit awkward for your Mam and Dad. “No. She was not going to waste any more of her life. she picked up her briefcase as she did every morning and left the house. “They’ve got enough on their plates at the moment. smiling into his eyes. But just knowing that you would have come means everything to me” she added. it was thoughtless of me. if that’s what you want” he said when she asked him. “Come to live with me Josie. “I’ll always be there for you …but…” “But what?” asked Josie. you’re right” she replied. nor would he have made her feel guilty. She did not take her usual route. It was a different kind of love she felt for 121 . She barely recognised the pale face that stared back at her. but headed instead for John’s office. “Well. Had she found it impossible to make a decision and asked for more time. Josie reached up and kissed him lovingly. feeling her pain and as he looked into her eyes he whispered.” she said. “Of course I’ll come with you. Maybe not the way she loved Sam. “When I get back I will move in with you darling. She loved him with all her heart. I take it you haven’t told them about us yet? And are you sure it’s the right time to spring it on them?” he said sensibly. with an emotion she had not previously felt. After bathing she dressed for work. I promise. He would have continued to wait for her to make her own decision and carried on loving her with every ounce of his being. or the swollen eyes surrounded by dark circles.washbasin.” It took only a moment for Josie to make her decision. so that I can always be there for you. I’m sorry John. she knew he would not have pressurised her.
Her mother was waiting. before leading her through to the sitting room. But never mind that. explaining her absence to the staff. she took Josie’s hand in both of hers. but a deep heartfelt love nevertheless.” Josie tried to be patient. how is Dad?” “Come and sit down. I think I misheard you. Her parents house was only a five minute drive away from the harbour. he’s busy as usual. John could not believe his ears. her face lined with sorrow. He didn’t 122 . something she had not felt in a long time. “Say it again Josie. “Is Sam not with you?” Mary asked with a look of surprise. assuring him…and herself. but found herself tapping her foot and twiddling her thumbs nervously. All she could think about was her poor Dad. “No. as she waited for her mother to come back into the room. After spending only a short time in each shop.” “No. Wanting to give what little help he could. looking tired and drawn and as she opened the door she encircled Josie in her arms. who were very sympathetic. gave him a long lingering kiss and then left for work. and it was still dark when she arrived. fearful of what she had to face. Josie did not take in her surroundings as her mother took her suitcase and set it down in the hall. and it made her feel warm and comfortable and serene…and it made her happy. Josie took her car on the overnight ferry to Dunlaoghaire and she lay in her cabin below deck unable to sleep. she returned home to prepare for her journey. Your Dad is very poorly. “It isn’t good news love. When Mary finally returned with a pot of tea and they were both settled on the sofa. John picked up the telephone and made her travel arrangements. you didn’t.John. just as her father had done on his last visit. I promise” she repeated. She thanked him. I’ll make us a cup of tea and then I’ll tell you all about it.
having refused Josie’s offer of help. he’s asleep now. The first thing she noticed was the thick white stone walls and the large fireplace with an oak beam for a mantelpiece. feeling as if she was in a dream. having been too upset to notice anything the night before. “Can I see him please Mam?” “In the morning darling. looking upwards as though he was there in front of her. I thought it best that he came home. ‘It could not be her gentle.want to stay in the hospital. She removed her top clothes and pulled the blanket that her mother had given her up to her chin.’ “It’s not fair God” she said quietly. Josie saw the room properly for the first time. Mary brought in a cup of tea and drew back the curtains in the sitting room. who had always gone to church and led such good lives. it had always been her mother’s way during a crisis and 123 . cleaning the grate and making the fire. so Josie decided to sleep downstairs on the sofa. “It’s just not fair!” Around seven o’clock. Her parents had been very happy living here and in the light of day Josie could well understand why. But I will wake you the minute he opens his eyes. On top of the mantelpiece stood a clock and filling the rest of the space on either side were photographs of herself and Michael at different stages of their childhood. forcing Josie to accept the awful truth. She glanced around the rest of the room to see the familiar furniture from their old house. so when the Doctor said that there was not much more they could do for him. which somehow looked quite different in this room. fun loving father up there dying. He was not old enough to die. She understood Mary’s need to keep busy. so cosy and welcoming. There was also one of herself and Sam on their wedding day. from which she prayed that she would soon wake. Mary busied herself. God would never do that to her Mam and Dad. Father Doyle is coming first thing in the morning. It was a lovely cottage. to give him the last rites” she added.” It was only a couple of hours to daylight.
Josie had been sitting by the bed for ten minutes. As she sat down she took his hand and felt him squeeze. she felt Patrick’s hand touch her hair. “He knows you are here dear” said Mary in a whisper. thinking as she did so. Michael looked as shocked and upset as she had when she had first 124 . Josie burst into tears and as she laid her head on the bed. looking up at him. “He’s still asleep dear. full of trepidation at what may await her behind the bedroom door. not sure whether or not he could hear her. It was an hour later when she finally climbed the stairs and hesitated on the landing. it’s me Josie” she said quietly. which was almost as white as the sheet which covered him and the left side of his face had dropped. As soon as I’ve washed him and got the room ready for Father Doyle.” Josie washed and dressed and tried to eat a slice of toast. “Oh Dad. but he was unable to answer and dribble trickled from the corner of his mouth. how strange it was that people always crept around and whispered to each other when someone is sick. stroking Patrick’s hand and talking to him. “Hello Dad.was her way of coping. I love you so much” she said. “Can I see Dad now?” Josie asked. Mary wiped it away with a tissue and kissed his cheek. you can go in. Patrick was propped up on pillows in the bed. when Michael and Val arrived. Josie sat drinking her tea looking fondly at the back of her mother’s head as it bobbed in time with the sweeping of the ashes in the grate. which Mary had insisted she must have. but he usually wakes around now. Translucent skin stretched over his gaunt face. giving him a downward smile. but bore no resemblance to the father she knew and loved. The more problems she had the more the house shone. His lips tried to move. as if being quiet would somehow make them better. She opened it and crept in.
a crucifix. She thought about the many times he had jumped to Sam’s defence and could almost hear Patrick now. Instead.” Sam arrived with Alice and Amy early on Wednesday morning. She was glad that he had Val with him. The priest approached the bed and began to pray. taking the burden from Mary who was inconsolable. made her all the more aware of her own solitude. listen to his jokes. who had loved him like a son. Patrick took his last breath and Mary. but also for Patrick.entered the room. or feel his comforting arms around them ever again. As Father Doyle left he asked Mary to give him a call if they needed anything. At two fifteen that afternoon. what she would have done to have Sam with her now. but now the priest could not help. On it Mary had arranged two candles in silver candlesticks. making the sign of the cross over Patrick as he did so and when he had finished. Nobody could. All her life Mary had turned to the church for comfort and she and Patrick had instilled this in their children. she felt more angry with Sam than ever before. he told her that he could only manage one day for the funeral. He could not give any of them what they needed. expecting him to say that he would come over to be with her. looking tired after a rough crossing on the Irish sea. Father Doyle arrived at around eight thirty and after giving Mary a blessing and some comforting words. Josie and Michael knew that they would never hear his sweet Irish voice. Josie rang Sam. Oh. Though Mary said nothing. saying. nothing wrong with that. Mary 125 . “the lad works hard. and holy water which was in a glass statue of Our Lady. The funeral was arranged for the Wednesday after Christmas and Michael and Val stayed on to organise it. to tell him that she would not be home for Christmas. this time not just on Josie’s behalf. but observing them together and seeing the comfort and support she gave him. they all said a prayer together. he walked over to the dressing table.
He misread her coldness and 126 .” Josie was devastated as Amy moved away from her and warmly embraced Mary. sending the deceased on their way in a celebratory manner. Alice was the only one who truly understood what Mary was feeling and though they had always liked and respected each other. “Yes he would” said Michael. putting an arm around her. telling anecdotes about their life and remembering the happy times. not only with family. Alice shed a tear. which was bursting at the seams. was a great consolation to Patrick’s family. “I’m only here for Mary and Patrick’s sake. determined not to be hurt by him again. and reliving the sense of loss she had felt. When Josie broke away from Alice and opened her arms to Amy. Having lost her own husband. Mary broke down. I’ll see you when you get back. They stood side by side at the graveside and as Mary tossed a red rose on to her beloved husband’s coffin.” She stiffened and backed away.and Josie welcomed them warmly and Alice took Josie in a tight embrace. remembering the day she had done the same. Alice was beside her immediately. just holding her. After the last neighbour shook hands at the door and left. “Look after yourself darling. before whispering in her ear. “Your Dad would have liked that” she said. The funeral party left the cemetery and went back to the tiny cottage. saying nothing. he was probably up there watching and having a good laugh. on the day of Patrick’s funeral a new bond was forged between the two women. “In fact. The hearse arrived at ten thirty and as the coffin was carried out of the house and placed carefully in the back. she rejected the embrace pecking her on the cheek stiffly. but with the many friends Mary and Patrick had made since moving to Ireland. Mary turned to Josie and Michael smiling sadly. comforting her as she sobbed on her shoulder. The cheery way in which the Irish dealt with bereavement.” Sam and his family left shortly afterwards and as he made to leave he took Josie into his arms. She remained cold and distant for the remainder of the visit.
“Good morning love” said Mary.” Josie screwed up the newspaper and laid the chopped wood on top in a crisscross fashion. “Val and I have been talking Mam” he said. “Well sometimes the body shuts down when we need to block something out” she answered.” “And what good would that do love. everything seemed normal and then she looked around the room and realised where she was and why. “I slept very well. She experienced a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach as she remembered that Patrick was no longer here. “But you go and make us a cuppa and I’ll finish off here. I could do that for you. will it?” “Well no. until Michael and Val came downstairs. “And we have come to a decision. then placed the peat on top. It won’t change anything.” “You shouldn’t be doing that Mam.shocked he picked up his suitcase and left. Josie and Val made breakfast which they just picked at and the rest of the day was spent quietly. as they sat down to their evening meal. By the time her mother came back into the room there was a glowing fire in the hearth and they sat talking quietly as they drank their tea. On Thursday evening. as she opened her eyes. sensing her daughter’s anxiety. with the just the odd neighbour popping in to see how they were and asking if they needed anything. I didn’t think I would” she admitted reluctantly to her mother. who was on her hands and knees raking out the fireplace. Michael announced that he had something to tell them. Did you sleep?” Suddenly Josie felt guilty. At first. “I was exhausted myself last night. you should be resting. The following morning Josie awoke to the sound of the fire being raked. I suppose not” conceded Josie. as she realised that she had slept very soundly. if you are in agreement. We would like to stay on 127 .
and sick with guilt. I don’t want to disrupt your lives. “I didn’t mean to be cruel sweetheart. first to Michael and then to Val. She could not go on with the deception any longer. In fact. I’ve been so unhappy. Oh Michael. and in that moment she made up her mind that Mary had to be told about John. but I’ll get over it. “I have two wonderful children and a wonderful daughter-in-law. Mary began to cry and they surrounded her in a group hug. I’ve spoken to John and he says he can still be my best man. Have you decided what you are going to do about it?” “I think so.” Josie’s heart broke as she realised that Sam was not mentioned in the accolade and as tears filled her eyes Mary touched her cheek. No. so now she can come for the wedding and stay a few days.here with you. embracing them in turn. There’s the wedding and your jobs. whilst Val and his mother were engrossed in conversation. John’s been in love with you for as long as I can remember. He’s still family and I still love him. “I’m so grateful” she said.” “We can get married just as easily here.” “Oh son. if that’s okay. but what about your own plans. I will be fine. I have made a decision to 128 .” As he said this. we can kill two birds with one stone. Taking her arm Michael pulled her to one side. I would love that. “Well I forced it out of him. Your Dad and I have been really blessed. he looked straight at Josie and she knew instinctively that Michael must have known about her and John all along. but I would have to be blind not to know something was going on. She stood up and crossed the room. I’m just angry with him at the moment. That won’t be a problem. “I had no idea you knew” Josie said to him. Val’s Mam was planning on paying you a visit soon anyhow. I can’t carry on like this any longer.” “I know you do Mam” replied Josie.
” “Her reply was not what Michael had hoped to hear. that is not my idea of love Michael. He’s let me down too many times and Dad’s funeral was the last straw. to where Mary and Val were still chatting. but I don’t think he will even notice that I’m gone. I’ve made up my mind now. That’s all he could spare to be with me at a time like this. Kind and nice was not a good enough reason to plan a future with someone. so I just want you both to be happy. “It’s great to see you and Val so happy” she smiled. One day.” “Oh I know. He’s always too busy and anyway. “It’s a big decision and you know I will be here for you no matter what you decide to do. Almost as lucky as she is to have me” he joked. Would you like me to explain to Mam after you have gone home. We’ve been virtually living separate lives for years. The stress has been unbearable. nicest man I know.” “I think I owe it to her to tell her myself. Too many people could get hurt. Well.” “I’m sure you’re wrong Josie. Just one day. He’s the kindest. all his instincts telling him that John was going to end up being hurt. The only difference will be that we won’t be under the same roof.” “Does Sam know about you and John?” “No. I don’t want to see either of you get hurt. what’s the point of loving someone who doesn’t care enough to put our relationship first.move in with John as soon as I’ve sorted things out at home. but just promise me you won’t take such a huge step just to get away from a bad situation. John is my best friend. “Are you sure you don’t still love Sam?” he asked. I’m sure Sam will be distraught.” “Well.” She kissed him lightly on the cheek and glanced over her shoulder. do you love John?” “Yes of course I do. To be honest it will be a relief. But please be sure. tilting his head quizzically. but thanks Michael. But the main thing is. 129 . Have you tried talking to Sam?” “Tried? I’m sick of trying. You are very lucky to have her you know. and that’s that. I hope it works out for you both.
until we talked her out of it. It will take a little time to sort things out at home and both find jobs here. “I would like to have a chat with Mam if you don’t mind Val. Off you go you two. “Mam. Josie interrupted. we could do with some fresh air” she answered. the disgust and the disapproval that she had expected.” She waited for the shocked look. punching him playfully. but I don’t want you to hear it from anyone else. I’ve spoken to her regularly on the telephone and she was going to have a word with Sam. none of it appeared on her mother’s face. “Has Michael said something?” “As your Dad put it dear. your Dad and I knew you were unhappy.” “He wouldn’t have listened anyway. As Mary was about to reply.” Josie sat down on the sofa next to Mary and took her hand. let’s go for a walk along the harbour wall” said Michael. it will be lovely for Mam to have you both here with her. We’ve been waiting for you to tell us. Alice has noticed it too. I just hope we did the right thing.” The two women turned as Josie and Michael rejoined them. but wrap up warm. the light has gone out in your eyes. He’s just so wrapped up 130 . “Come on Val. “Do you two fancy coming with us” she asked Mary and Josie. When I get back. I know it may be a bad time to tell you this. reaching out his hand and pulling her up from the sofa. it can get a bit chilly on that harbour at night. but we didn’t want to make matters worse by interfering. “But seriously. but I’m sure it will be a good move. Is that alright with you Mam?” “Yes of course love. but to her surprise. “Well it will be great for us too. “I’d like that. I’m leaving Sam.“Oh you” Josie laughed. “Josie love. You haven’t been the happy go lucky Josie that we all know and love for a long time.” “But…but…how could you know?” she stammered.
Men are weak where sex is concerned love.” “I’m sorry Mam.” “He’s a good man Josie. Maybe this woman seduced him. “And anyway. Please tell me you don’t mean it. more than ever before. “It’s me who has someone else. I needed someone to turn to. You can never replace what you and 131 . I know he loves you. “I want you to be happy sweetheart. How could he do this to you. but I’ve been so lonely. She buried the feelings of shock and angst that she felt and kissed her cheek. Dad would never have put anything before his wife and family. maybe you can work through it. You poor girl. You and Sam had something really special. but it’s too late now.” Mary‘s heart went out to her daughter as she realised that her love and understanding was what Josie needed now. and so unhappy. just a bit misguided that’s all. “No Mam…” Josie tried to interrupt. I know it’s wrong. sharply this time. I know he loves you. “No Mam. I have tried to talk to Sam. do we know her. Who is this woman. I had no idea. “You can’t mean this Josie. Maybe you can forgive him.in making more and more money. I don’t think he would listen to anybody.” “Oh love. and he loves me. ashamed of what she was about to say. time and time again. like your Dad and me. but please be sure about what you are doing. Please try again. and I know you must be torn apart.” she rambled on. so sorry. if it’s just a fling and I’m sure it is. I’ll bet its that floozy who works for him.” The look of disbelief on Mary’s face made her wince and she took Josie’s hand in hers. but I’m sure Sam wouldn’t hurt you deliberately. Most of them would weaken if it is handed to them on a plate. there is someone else.” She looked down at her hands.” “You’re wrong Mam. isn’t it. “But Josie. Maybe it’s just a fling…….” Josie interrupted again.
Whatever you decide.” Josie’s relief and gratitude welled up inside her like a volcano about to erupt. It was the same way that you have always looked at Sam. He had one or two girlfriends. it suddenly becomes very important. He’s waited a long time for this. I love you. Maybe not in the same way that I love Sam. The whole town knew and you never even noticed. I realised that he still felt the same way as he always had. that whatever happens. I’ll be here for you. I just hope you don’t hurt him again. “And I promise you. her mother read the signs and took her in her arms. but when you haven’t felt loved for a while. but never anyone serious.Sam had. if the feeling isn’t mutual. Then when I saw the way he looked at you at Michaels engagement party. After a short time she pulled away drying her eyes. but he makes me feel special and that’s what I need more than anything right now. He was devastated when you started going out with Sam. 132 . but always knew he had no chance of competing with him. ‘No…not deliberately!’ thought Mary. Everybody wondered why such a good looking young fellow stayed single for so long. rocking her as she used to do when she was a baby. It’s a big responsibility taking on somebody who idolises you Josie. That kind of love does not go away. I would never deliberately hurt John” Josie added sincerely.” “I do love him Mam. As it reached the point where it could not be contained any longer. if you know what I mean. I know that sounds selfish. “John has followed you around like a lapdog since you were knee high to a grasshopper. until her uncontrollable sobbing abated. “I don’t think I need to ask” Mary replied smiling. “Don’t you want to know who the other man is?” she asked. There were the usual rumours. but please think carefully and remember.
and why is it so necessary to keep expanding all the time? We already have more 133 . “Well get used to it. trying to keep the factory going and keeping an eye on the shops” he added. I have no sympathy for you. But she should have known better. feeling drained both physically and emotionally and wanting nothing more than to fall into bed and sleep. “I’ve been absolutely run off my feet.CHAPTER NINE Josie arrived home. because I won’t be here much longer” she said through clenched teeth. he’s more than capable. What would you do if neither of us could be here? Nobody else would have a clue how to run things. Why do you have to be so obsessed with the business Sam. “Anyway. upset that he seemed oblivious to her grief. Josie’s elation was quashed in an instant and fury rose within her. You should delegate more. and could have kicked herself for not anticipating what was to follow. I would have thought by now that we have both earned a rest. and more angry than she had ever felt in her life at his selfishness. Josie’s face lit up immediately. It’s just stupidity to go running yourself ragged. trying to do everything yourself. assuming that he must have missed her.” “I’ve hardly been on a holiday Sam” Josie retorted. as she walked wearily into the sitting room with her suitcase. I don’t see why you can’t promote the foreman to Manager and leave him to run things. wiping the smile off her face. “You don’t have to go back to Ireland do you? I need your help here. Things have got a bit behind while you’ve been away. “Am I glad to have you home” exclaimed Sam.
” As usual her words fell on deaf ears. Her hands shook and her legs turned to jelly. I’m not talking about leaving the shops Sam” she sighed with frustration. Margaret could take your place for a while” he responded. completely misunderstanding what she was saying. together. No tears. You love the business more than you love me. All her instincts told her to back down and put her arms around him. when it was too late. no tantrums. I’m…I’m…leaving. have you? Well let me put it simply. “Why Josie…Why? I love you. They like the personal touch” he argued. And why did he even have to ask why? If he had any sensitivity at all. I need to deal with clients myself. Why was he saying them now? Now. “So do I Sam” she said pointedly.” At last. But I am sick to death of trying Sam and now there is nothing more to say. he would have known what the problem was. She needed more than anything to stay strong. I would give it one more try. “It’s you…I’m leaving you!” The stunned look on his face cut her like a knife. I’ll be leaving at the 134 . “I can’t take any more Sam. “No. as she took a deep breath and prepared herself for what she was about to tell him. “If the shops are getting too much for you. If I thought for one moment I could change things. “I can’t trust other people to do things how I like them done. “but you just see me as someone you can trust to keep the other side of the business running smoothly. just the pure. But that would change nothing. Unable to speak for a moment. What we need now is some time to enjoy what we have worked for. Sam slid down into the armchair. and that is never going to change. “You really have no idea.money that we can possibly spend. Well no more” she said. When I have made sure everything is in order at the shops. unadulterated truth. the words she wanted to hear. and what’s the point in that if we have no leisure time to spend it.
“Who is it?” he demanded. and it was too late.’ He could not bear to think of her with another man. he would show her how much he cared. His initial words of love meant nothing to him. He wanted to get on his hands and knees and convince her just how much he loved her.” Sam desperately wanted to beg her to stay. She could even have stood his anger. instead of speaking from his heart and letting her know his true feelings. Just as he was about to beg her forgiveness. he could see that now. he reacted angrily. If the truth be known. please tell me it isn’t true’ he thought. but his pride would not let him. If only she would give him another chance. he had seen it coming and chosen to ignore the warning signs.” As Sam turned his back and walked silently away from her. his heart broken. She wanted him to take her in his arms and beg her to stay. “Michael’s friend. Josie understood now that there 135 . terrified of the consequences. “There is someone else. “There is one other thing I need to tell you” she said hesitantly. She did not love him anymore and there was nothing he could do about. But he had hurt her too much. But. “It’s John Hughes” she said. looking down at the ground. ‘not my Josie. It was obvious that she had made up her mind and he was too afraid of rejection. His silence had torn her apart more effectively than any bitter angry words could ever have done. ‘Oh no.weekend and I’ll sleep on the sofa until then. his pride hurt. He didn’t even care enough to fight for her. preferring him to rant and rave than to show no emotion at all. “Do I know him?” Josie took in a deep breath. Josie slumped onto the sofa.” The words hit him like an arrow through his heart. they were just platitudes. conceited enough to believe that she would always be there for him. she dealt him the final blow. not trusting himself to speak. His actions told her clearly that she was not worth fighting for. It was as if he had slapped her across the face and the stinging marks from his hand would never cool and fade.
Alice sensed at once that something was wrong. He should have known that there was no point trying to hide anything from her. but he awoke to find that she had already left for work. He descended the stairs. with trembling hands. that he felt he was going to die. Somehow he had to let Josie know that he cared. He experienced such an overwhelming sense of loss. torturing himself with pictures of Josie and John together. It was vital that he did something positive. You certainly don’t sound it. she had been able to read his every mood. how are you?” Alice asked cheerfully when she recognised his voice. called her ‘the witch’.could be no turning back. working out in his mind what to do next. Ever since he was a little boy. Sam went to bed but sleep evaded him. she did not disappoint him. Going over and over in his mind. before he had the chance to tell her and in spite of his anguish. The love of her life was lost forever. attempting in vain to disguise his distress. the events leading up to tonight. He tossed and turned. then paced aimlessly up and down the sitting room. He had lost count of the number of times she had seemed to know what he was about to do next. “Are you sure you are alright love. He decided that tomorrow morning. True to form. “I’m fine Mam thanks” he replied. he picked up the telephone and dialled his mother’s number. “Hello son. instead of letting his pride get in the way again. he would swallow his pride and talk to Josie again. Finally. Has Josie come back from Ireland yet?” she asked anxiously. he realised that all that mattered was getting Josie back. sharing the kind of intimacy that he would never have thought in a million years that she could possibly share with another man. He hesitated a moment. She would never forgive him if she learned about it from 136 . he smiled faintly as he remembered how he had often jokingly. then decided it was better to tell her the truth.
It was more than likely just her sixth sense working overtime again. “What was all that about. It’s going to come as a bit of a shock. but…but. She’s 137 .” Alice said. but Mam will tell you about it later. He’s better off without her. this is very important Amy. I don’t know if I can go on without her. Now.” she assured him. “ I don’t know how to tell you this love. “Has Amy left for work yet?” “Just hold on a minute son. don’t you worry Mam. everything alright?” she asked hesitantly.” “Well. “Well. I won’t forget. she’s leaving me. “No. I just don’t know when. “No.” he replied.” he said firmly. But if she had. “Yes she’s back.” “You stay where you are and I’ll come round.” said Alice. I will be at home all day. It’s Josie. “I want you to do me a favour. When she arrives. and Sam wondered if she already knew. I know she’ll be coming into the store sometime today. sounding desperate. “Hi Sam. If she was shocked by his words. she says she’s leaving Sam.” she asked Alice. “I’m not sure what Josie’s movements are today and I need to get in touch with her. things can change Mam. It’s my problem and I’ll sort it out. he felt sure that his mother would have spoken to him about it.” A minute later Amy picked up the receiver. Tell her there is something very urgent that I need to talk to her about.someone else. sounding concerned but not at all dismayed. she hid it well. before replacing the receiver.” he went on. Maybe Josie had confided in her. stunned by her daughter’s reaction. You won’t forget will you?” “No. I want you to ask her to come home as soon as she can. and so can people. giving further explanations. anxious to avoid wasting time. feeling concerned as she noticed her mother’s worried face. “Oh Mam. I think she’s just about to leave.” he said. it isn’t love.” “Oh Amy! How can you say that? I thought you liked Josie. that doesn’t surprise me.
She did not want to talk. but that was before she got herself a fancy man. his stomach churning. If only he had swallowed his pride last night and begged her to stay. whether he wants to hear it or not. After Amy left. Sam waited all day for Josie to come home. that she was not going to give him another chance.” “Oh really! Well.’ she thought out loud. that’s all. He sat with his head in his hands.” . it became clear to him. But he knew one thing for sure. and told himself that no matter what he said or did now. But then he remembered how adamant she had been.” “Amy! How dare you speak like that about Josie. maybe she did once.. he could not stay here to witness her packing and leaving. It was as plain as the nose on his face. just the two of them…. and she loves Sam.” “I don’t believe that for one minute. nervously tapping his feet and twiddling his thumbs. This could not possibly be happening to Sam and Josie. He grabbed his coat and 138 . Maybe if they got away together.” “You are living in cloud cuckoo land Mam. She’s one of the nicest people I know. Alice was distraught. Anyway. They had always been so much in love. I have to go. ‘I must talk to him.” Alice exclaimed. it was too late. “How could you even think such a thing? They are just going through a bad patch. All married couples have ups and downs. I’ll see you tonight. When she had not arrived by five o’clock. he would have noticed the change in Josie. If he had been more attentive. and he realised now. but you’ll find out eventually. that she had no intention of returning home until her work was finished. That’s a wicked thing to say. instead of losing his temper. and jumping up from the armchair to look through the window every time he heard a car.nothing but a trollop and I rue the day I ever introduced her to our Sam. that she was no longer the happy go lucky girl she once was. But Sam had been far too wrapped up in his work.
They looked at each other in puzzlement and then dropped their heads.” she stammered back at him. slamming the door behind him. as he slammed the office door. Sam marched towards the office through the factory. it no longer occurred to Pauline Shaw that she should stop filing her nails. it won’t make any difference now.45 will be in the next post. Since their trip to Harrogate. or applying her make up. Even when he was too busy to chat. He knew each one of them individually. or their sick mother. and would enquire about their children. He grabbed her jacket.” “You…you can’t do that. as he bounded past. when Sam entered the office. “Now get out. Sam never failed to pass the time of day with the girls whenever he came into the factory. or tease the younger girls about boyfriends. She’ll believe every word I say. She had him just where she wanted him. before picking up her bag from the floor and slamming it onto her desk. They looked up from their machines and watched curiously. he would always say good morning or goodnight. smugly believing that she could do whatever she wished. She was totally unprepared for the different Sam who faced her now. pretending to get on with their work.” “Well whatever you do. “Your P. or so she thought. I can be very convincing. The fact that he had ignored them. then threw it fiercely at her. His wild eyes almost protruded from his face. as he marched past her to the coat stand in the corner.left the house. looking straight ahead.” he yelled. arms swinging and raincoat billowing out behind him. “I…I’ll go straight to your wife. almost toppling the stand as he did so. told them that something was wrong. 139 . She did not even consider it necessary to convince him that she was hard at work. without consequence. passing the girls in the machine room without a sideways glance. so hard that it shook the flimsy prefabricated wall of the office.
as he heard the vehemence in his own voice. Sam came to the door calm now.” she demanded. it’s no use. knowing that she had blown it again.” “Is blackmail a good enough reason? You even attempt to fight me on this and I’ll have you in court. you dirty little tart. desperately clutching at straws. Her face crumpled. I will need your co-operation.” “Thank God for that. but then he realised that it was a look of hate. speaking for all of them. He shocked himself. but it’s always puzzled us why you took her on in the first place. “To tell you the truth.” remarked Sally Watson. “Pauline won’t be working here any longer.” “Me too Sally…me too. and he thought for a moment that she was about to burst into tears. Sam decided to stay the night with his mother. and not before time. She obviously doesn’t want to talk to me. I will stop at nothing to make sure you never work again. She snatched her jacket and bag and stormed out of the building. through the machine room.My wife has left. long after everyone else had gone home. I’ve got nothing to lose now. walking around giving orders as if she owned the place. but to his astonishment was not given his usual warm welcome. I’m sorry to say this Mr Grainger.” he said with some satisfaction. “Mam.” Pauline said. I waited all day and she didn’t come home. “You can’t just fire me without reason anyway. using language that would have appalled his mother. so believe me. Our Amy told her that I 140 .” he screamed at her. and would never get another job like this one. “You get back home and talk to your wife. so until I can replace her. “I…I’ll drag your name through the mud. to the astonishment of the machinists. we were all sick and tired of that little madam. so you’ve got no hold on me anymore.” After staying on at the factory. He arrived around eight thirty.
wanted to see her and she just wasn’t interested. She’s made up her mind, and I’m just going to have to accept it.” Amy sat in silence, the blood rushing up her neck and into her face with shame and guilt at what she had done. Not only had she failed to pass on Sam’s message, but when Josie had taken her into the office and told her that she would be leaving, she had given her the impression that Sam would be glad. She said that he had confided in her that he had been unhappy for a long time and now that Josie had someone else, it was an easy way out for him. “And anyway, I think he fancies that secretary of his,” she had added, knowing that this had always been a bone of contention between Sam and Josie. She felt guilty but this was too good an opportunity to miss. With Josie out of the way, maybe her brother would put her in charge of the stores. Amy was as ambitious as he was, and had no intention of waiting for promotion any longer than she had to. This was her golden opportunity and she was going to grab it with both hands. She wanted a position of authority and have people look up to her. It would have happened eventually anyway, but Amy wanted it now, and with Josie gone Sam would need her. Sam broke into her thoughts, as if reading them. “Do you think you can take over the running of the stores for a while Amy? I know it’s asking a lot of you, but I’m sure the staff will help you all they can, given the circumstances and I’m only at the other end of the phone if you run into any problems,” he said. Josie hadn’t told Sam about the trouble between Amy and the girls at the shop, so he had no idea of the animosity that existed between them. “I’ll make sure it’s worth your while,” he added. “Yes, of course I can, but you will need to take on another member of staff to replace me at the Bolton shop. If I’m going to be travelling between the three branches, I won’t be able to do my job there.” “Well, I’ll leave that to you. You just do whatever you think
best.” Amy successfully hid her delight. She had thought that she might have to persuade Sam to put her in charge, but he had made it so easy for her. Her heart pounded with excitement, as she realised she was now in sole charge of three stores and their staff. Her ambition had finally been realised. With all that had happened recently she had begun to have doubts that Josie would ever put her in charge. Well now she did not have to wait for her sister-in-law to retire. Never in her wildest imaginings did she expect that her dream would come true so quickly. She had every intention of proving herself to Sam, and would show him how reliable she could be. ‘After all, Josie’s job is going to be much easier than working as a shop assistant’ she thought mistakenly. “I won’t let you down,” she said, kissing the top of Sam’s head, as she went up to bed. “Sam, I know you don’t want to listen, but you are going to anyway,” Alice said sharply, once they were alone. Her heart was breaking for him, but somebody had to make him see sense. “You cannot carry on like this, walking around with blinkers on, blind to what is going on around you. “When are you going to realise, that this is all your own fault.” “Well, thanks for your vote of confidence,” he said dejectedly, looking at her in disbelief. The look he gave her, hurt her so much, that she almost softened towards him, but that was not what he needed right now. Although at this moment he was unaware of it, he needed her to be strong, and she was the only person who could get away with telling this stubborn son of hers the truth. “For years now, you have been intent on nothing but making money. You have made it your main priority, putting it before everything; including your wife. The more you have, the more you seem to want. I know the business is important to you love, but when you are old and have nobody to share it with, it will become very
unimportant. Believe me, I speak from experience. I know I haven‘t got much in the way of material possessions or money, but what I do have I would give away gladly, if it meant having your father back.” He opened his mouth to interrupt, but she put up a hand in warning, and he closed it again. “You have even put your work before having a family, and Josie would have made a wonderful mother. What good is having all that money, when you have nobody to leave it to? You can’t take it with you. There are no pockets in shrouds you know.” Sam did not say a word, but just sat there deep in thought. He knew she was right. Through his greed, he had lost the one thing he loved most, and all the money in the world could not make up for that. Then suddenly his sorrow turned to anger. “How can you blame me for everything Mam. I’m not the one who has climbed into bed with somebody else at the first sign of trouble. I’m not the one who left. And I did send a message, telling her I wanted to talk. You can’t say I didn’t try and you can’t pretend Josie is a saint. She’s far from it.” “I know love,” Alice sighed, feeling his pain and wondering if she had been unfair. But deep down she still felt that her daughter-inlaw would not have walked out on Sam if she wasn‘t at her wits end. And she also knew that Josie would not fall into the arms of another man easily. Something had gone drastically wrong, something that Josie could not overcome and even though she could not condone what she had done, Alice found it difficult to believe that Josie was a bad person. She knew her Sam inside out and she knew how stubborn he could be; just like his father whom she had loved dearly. Josie was like a daughter to her and she loved her but for now she decided that her son needed her, so she silenced herself from saying any more. Sam walked over to his mother and put his arms around her. “I’m sorry Mam, I didn’t mean to take it out on you.” His anger had subsided and was replaced once again with
sorrow, as he realised that there was no solution; no going back. Josie had already given herself to another man, and he would never be able to erase that picture from his mind, even if he wanted to. It would stay there, locked in his mind, to torment him forever. That would be his punishment, and he deserved it.
Large fluffy snowflakes fell around Josie’s feet, as she stood outside John’s flat, with a suitcase on either side of her on the ground. She wore a warm, cream, woollen coat, and a matching hat with fur trim. The fashionable but totally impractical black leather boots she was wearing, reached almost to her knees, giving the illusion of warmth, but as the thick blanket of snow penetrated their flimsy soles, dampening her feet and numbing her toes with icy coldness, she regretted her impulse purchase, wishing she had gone instead for the chunky fur lined ones. Josie had always loved the snow, and would normally be revelling in it, but not today. Today her mind was on more serious matters. She looked skywards, praying for help and snowflakes drifted delicately onto her lips. Others rested lightly on her eyelashes and as she blinked the snowflakes melted and ran down her face, disguising the teardrops than ran with them. This was the hardest thing she had every done, but there was no going back now. She lingered only a moment, terrified that if she hesitated any longer, she would turn and run. She mentally forced her finger up to the doorbell and rang, then stood shifting from one foot to the other, and clapping her gloved hands together against the cold. Within seconds, half of the double fronted door opened. John’s face lit up with pleasure, at the sight of Josie, standing on the doorstep in the snow. The white background illuminated her, and a winter sun cast a glowing light through the fur on her hat, giving her an almost saintly appearance. He thought he had never seen a more beautiful picture.
he had always been there for her to make things better when she was feeling down. he was always a great comfort to her. ‘Yes I can live with this. Josie immediately felt her depression lift. that it had taken her all these years to realise how important a part he had played in her life. If she had a problem at school.’ she thought. moving into a house that was not her own and feeling that she did not belong. She had always 146 . The sofa and two big armchairs were covered with colourful throws. depicting a battle scene. on which stood a sturdy square coffee table. He had always had this effect on her. giving the room a Mediterranean feel. He had probably spent the whole day before cleaning it up for her arrival.On seeing his beaming smile. It was homely and warm. The plain beige carpet blended into the background. The amazing thing was. on the fourth wall. would at the very least be slightly untidy. “I’ll put the kettle on. hung brightly coloured pictures and plates. In contrast. Whilst he was in the kitchen making the tea.” he said simply. and how much she had taken him for granted. was of great concern to Josie. as she settled into the comfortable sofa. On three of the white painted walls. from out of the blue… or so it seemed…and step in and sort things out. Come and get warm. John would appear on cue. drawing the eye to the huge patterned rug in the centre of the room.” John’s flat spanned the whole ground floor of a large Victorian house. Whatever the problem. Josie looked around. “ You look frozen. as he guided her down the hall and into the living room. but still quite modern. She had imagined that a man living alone. smiling to herself. He gently wiped the tear from her cheek with his thumb. there hung a large tapestry in earthy colours. Even as far back as her childhood. and it came as a surprise to see how neat and clean everything was. Although she was loathe to admit it. or if anyone upset her. then took her hand and kissed it. She liked this room.
and it was too soon to forget completely. She also felt 147 . then on down to her breast. and as her breasts were released from her bra. “Oh alright then. two mugs and a plate with biscuits. if you like. handing her a steaming mug. There is to be no hanky panky in this house. just this once. his breathing becoming heavier. Carried away on a wave of ecstasy. putting down her cup and leaning over to kiss him softly on the lips. But now. pushing the door open with his foot and balancing a tray. I think we had better have some ground rules. John entered the room. Is that clear?” he said. her body responding to his light teasing caresses. more urgent. “Or you can add your own things to mine. they made love there and then on the sofa. she gasped with pleasure. both happy and sad at the same time. a sense of peace washed over her.” Josie replied. except occasionally when she had been thrilled with the purchase of a new picture or piece of furniture and he had appeared totally disinterested. leaving her feeling. He set down the tray and poured them both some tea. “Well. attempting to look stern. She moved closer. then laughingly he added. but sad for what she had lost. But it was a fleeting moment. Josie’s emotions were still in turmoil.” he said. with a pot of tea .” He took her in his arms and pressed his lips more firmly on hers. as if reading her mind. gathering things around her that she loved and arranging them to suit herself.been a home maker. the sadness of the last few weeks forgotten in the heat of the moment. Happy that John loved her so much. playing gently around the nipple with his tongue. “I think it’s lovely.” he added. He brought his soft mouth down to her neck. a feeling she had not experienced in a long time. He expertly removed her sweater. as she began to relax. Sam had left everything concerning the house to her and she did not complain. “Anything you don’t like you can change. and she realised that she need not have worried.
When Josie had spoken to her mother on the phone about her concerns. This tore John apart. and what people don’t know. but in spite of her mother’s reassurance. they would come to terms with it. asking her to reconsider. they have a tendency to make up. that deep down. Their disapproval was not up for discussion. where they were to catch the ferry for Dunlaoghaire. John’s parents would not relent. and Josie stood looking out 148 . she had insisted it would be a nine day wonder. but got no reply. He had expected them to be upset at first. Saturday was Michael and Val’s wedding day and John was to be best man. It would be the first family occasion they had attended together. tearing at her heart. Whilst John did his best to allay her fears. She had even written to John’s mother. with little time to spare. Josie and John. had been very supportive. unsure of their reaction to the situation. for no matter how determined she was to put Sam out of her mind and get on with the rest of her life. that once they got used to the situation. Two weeks later. Mary however. he was just as nervous as she was. he nevertheless had to admit. he would not be a part of their lives.very angry with herself. but had convinced himself. he was still there.” Josie had laughed with her about it. worried in case they were shunned. and then climbed the steps to the upper deck. “They don’t know the full circumstances. she still could not help worrying. But no matter how much he tried to make them understand. and the journey to the port took longer than usual. loaded the car with luggage and headed for Holyhead. but there was nothing more he could do about it. Being Friday evening. After all they had known and liked Josie all her life. the traffic was heavy. They drove the car onto the ferry. and they had made it clear to him. more for John’s sake than her own. that as long as he was with Josie. and Josie was fraught with anxiety at the thought of facing family and friends. The boat left port twenty minutes later. Even his own mother and father had taken the news badly.
“Trust you. which threatened to run her down the deck. looking around at a sea of green faces.” Josie said. “Starving. followed by steak and chips. enjoying a meal of vegetable soup. Once inside they ordered two hot toddies from the bar to warm them up. holding onto the rails. still giggling. without falling off the seat. to stop her being dragged away from him by an unexpected gust of wind. as they valiantly attempted to get from place to place. grabbing hold of anything they could find to hold onto and keeping their heads bent low against the onslaught.” They made their way back to the bar lounge. precariously supporting each other.over the side. Moments later they were in fits of laughter. “I think we had better get inside. the boat was rolling wildly from side to side. They ate hungrily in spite of the rolling swell. laughing as she read his mind. “Hungry?” asked John. with the sea breeze blowing her hair in all directions over her face. John put an arm protectively around her shoulders. and wondering if they were the only people on the boat who weren’t feeling queasy. When they had finished their meal they headed for the upper deck and spent the rest of the journey napping intermittently between conversation… preferring the uncomfortable seats to their cabin below deck…until it was time to dock. when John grabbed the back of Josie’s coat. “I have a feeling this is going to be a rough ride. They headed for the restaurant. They had the restaurant almost to themselves. Doesn’t anything ever put you off your food. An hour later. in mid ocean.” Josie replied.” “Nope!” she answered. with people stumbling around. They arrived at the now familiar front door of her mother’s 149 . with just one or two diehard diners dotted around. and in fits of laughter they attempted to sit down at the table.
After hugging them both warmly. all she could do was hope that she had made the right decision. the thought that Josie was still married to Sam. Mary showed them to their room.cottage in the early hours of Saturday morning and it was opened before they had a chance to lift the knocker by Mary. Mary did not want anything to 150 . But she knew her Patrick so well. On Michael and Val’s wedding day. and she would not have changed him for the world. He would have dug his heels in. she had been unable to erase from her mind. Patrick had not. softest heart of any man she had ever known. and refused to have John in the house. Nevertheless. This conflicted with Mary’s religious beliefs. wearing the same fleecy dressing gown she had worn the last time she had welcomed her daughter. For a fleeting moment. but everything was either black or white with Patrick. and hers. In the end. It brought back memories of the reason for that visit and brought a lump to Josie’s throat as she thought of her father. ending up with everyone getting hurt. wrestling with her conscience. He had the kindest. would have wanted to cause her any embarrassment. and while Mary had been prepared to bend the rules a little. but as they were already living together. but life was not that simple. Josie would have retaliated. A look of relief crossed between them as she left the room. and she had spent many hours. It was either right or it was wrong. This had been his strength. she had been glad that Patrick was not here to see all this happening. and asking for God’s understanding and forgiveness. it seemed hypocritical to keep them apart now. no matter what the circumstances. and there would have been a terrible row. She knew that he would have tried to insist that Josie went home to Sam and sort things out. and he would defend the right. Josie had never discussed the sleeping arrangements with her mother and neither she nor John. The question of whether to put them in separate rooms had also been on Mary’s mind. and then became overwhelmed with feelings of guilt at this thought.
Aunts. and Val understood instinctively. that as a mother herself. sure in the knowledge. and with carnations in their lapels. Most of them were staying at the guest house. she prayed to the Virgin Mary. making them more secure. In bed later. and they all seemed to be talking at once. which was straight at the front. uncles and cousins. She adjusted the flowers in Val’s hair. but extended into a small train at the back. she would understand. It showed off her tiny waist and slim hips to perfection. John followed her shortly after. Josie’s dress was a similar style to Val’s. As the noise built to a crescendo.” she ended her prayer. some of whom they had not seen for years. It had a slashed neckline and a tiny cap sleeve. was to join him later to escort him to the church. Val looked radiant. were out of the front door like grease lightening the moment it was suggested. with delicate lily of the valley falling from it. feeling out of place in the midst of a house full of strangers. where Mary and Patrick had stayed on their first trip to Ireland to look for a house. edged with scalloped lace. so that he would not see the bride on their wedding day. but in pale blue and without the train. She pleaded with her to explain her predicament to Patrick. when Mary had visited the beautiful old house to book the rooms. Mary and Val’s mother could stand it no longer. and it had brought back fond memories. Josie came downstairs on Saturday morning to a scene of complete chaos. They had strict instructions to be back by one thirty. ask him to forgive me. as his best man. And the men. dressed in their wedding suits. that Josie was 151 . She wore fresh flowers in her hair and carried a prayer book. always glad of an excuse to go to the pub. “And please. Tears welled up in her eyes. then stood back to admire the finished result. please. had come over from England for the wedding. They decided to send the men off to Mooney’s bar. and John. in a plain white satin dress.spoil their happiness. Michael had stayed the previous night with a neighbour.
” “I will. She put comforting arms around her and Josie quickly dried her eyes and apologised. “Our Michael is a very lucky fellow. I’m supposed to be here to support you. laughing now. forcing back the deluge of tears that threatened.” “I know. Oh Alice. I only hope you know what you’re letting yourself in for. You understand. “There’s no need to apologise. If I’m late for the wedding. My Mam has been blubbing all morning. he’ll never let me live it down. And Mary!” “Yes?” “Give my love to Josie.” replied Mary. It wasn’t just Josie’s life that was affected by what she had done. But with John being there with Josie.” “Thank you. don’t you Mary?” “Of course I understand.” Alice said in an unsteady voice. Three families were suffering.” she said.” “Some bridesmaid I am. don’t worry about it. Now come on. all sadness forgotten. He’s such a tyrant. You know that Michael is like one of my own family. “I’d just like to wish Michael and his bride every happiness. I’m so glad that you are here. You know what Michael’s like. Give my love to Sam and Amy.” Val said softly. that it was much easier for her to 152 . and I’ll pass your message on.” she said.” “Of course I will. It’s alright. Mary swallowed hard. won’t you.” “Bye love. the telephone rang and she picked up the receiver to hear Alice’s voice. hurry up. so do you. It occurred to her now. Just as Mary was about to leave the house. I would feel as if I were being disloyal to Sam. you look beautiful. not the other way round. “It’s good of you to ring.” Josie replied. as she rang off. as the reality of the situation hit her. “I’m so sorry I can’t be there Mary. and I hope that you and John will be as happy as we are.remembering her own wedding day. thank you.
like Alice and John’s mother did. she felt that they were being totally selfish. left the house and got into the waiting car beside Josie.accept. But it had been much worse for Alice. what had started out as a shoulder to cry on for Josie. that she lay much of the blame at her son’s door. “It’s alright Mam. she would never understand a mother who cut her own son from her life. patting Josie’s hand. She did not have to face her old friends and neighbours. Josie gulped back the tears and kissed her mother. “I’m sorry love. I understand. Mary left Josie at the church door. as she saw the devastated look on her face. He had been a part of her family.” she whispered brusquely and completely out of the blue. But Mary had suffered nevertheless. her fondness for Josie meant that her loyalties were divided. shocking Josie to the core. and she missed him like she would a son. had resulted in heartache for everyone around them. Mary saw the crestfallen look on her daughter’s face and witnessed the tears welling up in her eyes and she suddenly realised she had said the words out loud.” she said. and the culmination of a whole lifetime of love for John. putting their own feelings before those of their son. All they cared about was the shame and the scandal. Mary could not feel the same sympathy for John’s parents that she felt for Alice. Mary adjusted her hat. With a deep sigh.” she said. “I hope you know what you are doing my girl. and no matter how much she tried to empathise with them. and though she had refused to take sides. and went inside. living so far away from her home town. she had confided to Mary. as had Alice and Amy. Much as she loved Sam. But there was no doubt about it. I didn’t mean it. She made 153 . The words had no sooner left her mouth than she regretted them. Though she had been friend and neighbour to them for more years than she cared to remember and had always liked and respected them. She still felt the loss of Sam.
Josie arranged Val’s train in the church foyer. as the couple made their wedding vows. The tears were wiped dry and followed by laughter. but most were warm and friendly. as he went on to tell stories of his and Michael’s exploits. He toasted the bride and groom. She sat in the front pew. she alighted from the car. Then as the organ boomed out the bridal march. where they would spend their wedding night. then made a moving speech. and then lightened things up. 154 . then made her way to the front of the church. and as the evening wore on. the guests made their way to the reception. on the side of the church allocated for the groom’s guests. with all her heart. One or two relatives were politely cool towards Josie and John. and photographs taken outside the church. whilst holding her prayer book in the other. Looking happy and radiant. wishing them every happiness. to see his only son so happy. signalling to the congregation that the bride had arrived. patting the back of her hand in a loving gesture. as John mentioned Patrick. After the service was over. flattening out the creases in the front of her dress with the palm of one hand. remembering the day she had done the same thing on the arm of her own father with nostalgia. and shortly afterwards. Val’s mother kissed her. then entered the church. to witness the marriage of his only son. when John rose to make his speech. He said how happy he would have been.the sign of the cross with holy water from the font. by saying how much he would also have enjoyed the beer. first as children and then teenagers. they became more relaxed and had a wonderful time. that Patrick could be with them today. There was just a moment’s sadness. At ten o’clock the bride and groom left the reception to go to a hotel in Dublin. and as Josie glanced at her mother. as Val’s father put his daughter’s arm through his. Josie knew a moment of pride. Tears flowed. and wishing desperately. a knowing look passed between them. tinged with humour. Josie walked slowly behind her up the aisle. Josie waited outside the church until Val arrived.
and John put an arm around her shoulder. Josie waved goodbye to her family with tears in her eyes. needing to get a good night’s sleep in preparation for their early ferry in the morning.” he said with a smile. She immediately felt her spirit lift. once more drew away from the harbour that she had come to love. 155 . All too soon it was time to say their goodbyes and return home. as usual understanding exactly how she felt. “We’ll come again soon. as the ferry. and she left her father’s homeland feeling happy and content.John and Josie left.
she sensed their unease. the message they conveyed was unmistakable. The atmosphere was strained. it was not with the usual enthusiasm. as both she and John became acutely aware of a hush descending over the room each time they walked through the door. But on Josie’s last visit. had now become few and far between. and when Josie mentioned John’s name. They had always been so welcoming. had always been greeted enthusiastically. knew that they did not mean to be malicious. 156 . they changed the subject immediately. Acutely aware of their discomfort. living in a small town with people she had known all her life. They felt unable to ask after Sam and Amy. enquiring about her life and anxious to know how the business was doing. They were just afraid to be seen as condoning her behaviour and she did not condemn them. Josie still visited the local newsagent where she had once worked so happily. even though they did their best to hide their feelings and still greeted her warmly. she had cut short her visit.CHAPTER ELEVEN Life was far from easy for Josie. Mr and Mrs Johnson couldn’t have been more proud of Josie’s achievements if she had been their own daughter. preferring to pretend he did not exist. more than Josie would admit… even to herself. but it hurt nevertheless. From the moment she entered the shop. as they would normally have done. She understood their feelings. but who now crossed the street to avoid being seen with her. and until she had left Sam and gone to live with John. Their once regular visits to their local The Rose and Crown. as they veered away from their usual topics of conversation. her eyes brimming with tears. Though nobody actually voiced their disapproval.
that John had lain awake hour after hour each night. but what he found it almost impossible to cope with. And they also knew that most of them were good people. telling himself that something had to be done. he doubted that anyone would even have noticed. but he knew instantly that she was just trying to conceal her misery from him. they had both suffered at the hands of friends and neighbours. It had been difficult for him to hold his tongue. They both understood how difficult it was for people to accept a married woman living in sin with another man and John could cope with that. He loved her all the more for the selfless way she had tried to make peace with his family… even though it was to no avail… and prayed that his parents would grow to love her again. begging him not to fall out with them.’ Had they lived in a big city. as they once had. but Josie had held him in check. every time someone she knew passed her by in the street. We haven’t committed a murder or beaten up an old lady. ‘we are just in love. he knew that. Over the last few weeks. “Sweetheart don’t cry. mulling over the situation. was Josie’s pinched pale face and the dark shadows under her eyes. after Josie had gone to sleep. who had made their feelings very clear when he took Josie to visit. He knew 157 . but in a small town people tended to be narrow minded.as she left the shop. When John arrived home that evening. like his parents. He had asked himself so many times lately how people could be so insensitive? They did not mean to be unkind. He had no need to ask what was causing her so much pain. She blew her nose. that’s all. it was to find Josie crying. tell tale signs of her obvious distress. The hurt look on her face. telling him that she had caught a cold.” he said softly. made him want to go out there and scream at them. It was after the visit to his parents. We are guilty only of being in love. They both knew that.
but two months later. people seemed to lay the blame more at Josie’s door than his. losing interest in everything except watching television and reading. in order to make the days seem shorter. She found she was becoming increasingly bored.” Josie told him.it was killing Josie. having to face the disapproving stares everywhere she went. She had always had such a hectic lifestyle. and lazed around for most of the day in her dressing gown. Josie gave up her search for a new job. but he could handle it. she regretted this decision. There is nothing to stop us. smiling at her childish excitement. “I could try to get a job with another newspaper. Relying on housework alone to keep her busy was soul destroying. a feeling he had never experienced before. it’s as simple as that. She rose later and later each day. and gradually she even 158 . when John still had not found a new position. once she knew that they would be moving. she began to lose hope of ever moving house and starting afresh. for some reason that he could not fathom. As time passed. when Josie came home in tears again the following weekend. It got to him too occasionally. and then we can start house hunting. delighted that he had finally found a way to make her happy again. he could not bear the injustice and he was beginning to become bitter. did not sit well upon her shoulders. with no one to talk to. But then. day after day. However. rarely venturing out of the house. Staying at home all day. As far as he was concerned they were both to blame and it was so unfair. is there?” he replied. John had never been chauvinistic and this sexist attitude angered him more than anything else that they had to contend with. flitting constantly between the stores. mainly because it made him feel guilty.” “We can? Do you mean it?” she shrieked excitedly. “Yes we can. “How would you feel about us moving out of the area?” he suggested to Josie the next morning. “It’s because I’m a woman. he made up his mind what he would do.
“Are you mad. knowing as he said it. It might only be for a couple of years. and don’t look so worried. called him into his office. It’s a big step up for me. I’m going to give you some time to reconsider. but being editor could lead to a higher position with the bigger papers eventually.lost interest in cleaning the flat. This was what he had always wanted. just like it has been for me. Please think seriously about this.” Frank replied in disbelief. you have cause for celebration too. “Sit down John. I hope you will think it’s good news. But no! She was wrong. I would like to recommend you. “Well. I’ll talk to Josie. My move leaves the editor’s job here to be filled. All he could do was comfort her and reassure her that something would turn up. Frank Lawson. I think you are being a bit hasty John. it was always understood that you were next in line. before you turn it down. I’ve been offered a position in London on a daily paper. Josie’s heart sank. and I have decided to accept it.” “You are right. John was putting his career first. that’s great news. John had made it very 159 . on Monday morning.” he said. John could do nothing as a deep depression descended over her like a black cloud. She could see it all happening again. I never even considered anyone else for the job. “I don’t think I can take the job Frank. At least.” That evening as she listened to John explaining why it would be in their best interests if he took the job.” “Congratulations Frank. He had never felt so helpless in his life. that Frank would not understand.” For a moment John was excited.” exclaimed John. just like Sam had done. if you are interested. Then. I’ve got some good news for you. It was only a local newspaper. Then he remembered his promise to Josie. John’s editor. and then you’ll have the experience to move anywhere you please. “This could be a step up the ladder for you. happy for his friend.
looking lovingly into her eyes. “Tell him you accept.” she said. Suddenly she understood how important this job would be to him. “Now I know why I love you so much. as well as being on the Parish Council. she bumped into a neighbour. wondering what she could do. that eventually. never judging her as others did. in spite of this. Sarah Wilson was Chairman of the Women’s Institute.” he said. She lived in hope. and handing it to John. Now it was her turn to do a totally unselfish act. “I’m so proud of you. and do something about her own situation. and recalled all the times that John had put her feelings before his own. But. but that would not get her out of the house. She scanned the newspapers for suitable work.” she said. that if she did not want him to accept the job. deep in thought. she had taken an instant liking to her. ringing Frank’s number. One morning on her way to the shops. her friends and neighbours would forgive her past. She always passed the time of day when she met her on the street. starting to feel anxious again about being in the house all day. that she would stop wallowing in self pity. She flung her arms around his neck. Once Josie had accepted the fact that they were staying put. as her mother had assured her they would. She could start sewing again. She was a well liked and respected member of the community. before picking up the telephone. But she did not intend to wait around until they did. she invited her back to the 160 .clear. she made a promise to herself. and she desperately needed the company of other people. then just as she was beginning to despair. fate took a hand. Josie decided to take the plunge and do something she had not done in a long time. she was one of the few locals who had remained friendly towards Josie. smiling. then he would not do it. and although Josie did not know her well. She sat for hours. and a member of the league of friends at the local hospital.
and I’m sure you would be made very welcome. have I? Not exactly a good role model.” she exclaimed suddenly.” said Josie. Everyone has skeletons in their cupboard you know.” Sarah replied smiling.flat for coffee. She waited for the usual rebuke. Josie felt that at last she had a friend. pouring out all the things that she had kept bottled up inside for so long. until she left Sam. speak in public? I’d never have the nerve. sitting quietly.” “I doubt that.” “You must be joking. when she finally fell silent. “You have been through a lot Josie and you need friends. are usually the ones with a cupboard full. “Once a month we have a guest speaker. like she had to no one else. You could give a talk. She opened up to Sarah. They won’t want to know the likes of me. but when Sarah accepted. The ladies would find it very interesting. am I?” Maybe not. telling her how bored and lonely she was. even if you are not involved any 161 . so I haven’t ended up with much. one she could confide in and share her life with. making encouraging gestures. Me. Josie was more than a little grateful. “And the people who judge you the most. not relishing the thought of leaving herself wide open to being snubbed ever again. on how you built up your business from nothing. I walked away from the business. I’ve just had a brilliant idea. and giving sympathy when needed. but nobody can take away the fact that you did it. Josie just went on and on. “Why don’t you come along to our meeting at the college on Wednesday evening. As they sat drinking coffee. without hesitation. She was a good listener. We have a nice bunch of ladies.” Sarah said. and the business is still going strong.” “You would be surprised. She had to restrain herself from flinging her arms around her and hugging her. Anyway. and chatting about every subject under the sun. “I just don’t fit in with respectable women anymore. and she missed that part of her life. She had always had women friends.
she had felt as if the whole world was against her.more. you will be doing it for free. How does that sound?” “Oh. That’s settled then. A tempting aroma drifted through the house from the kitchen. I wouldn’t know where to start. I’ve never spoken in public before. and just tell me about it. ‘How could one person make such a difference to another in such a short time?’ she wondered. a few hours later.” she said with a mischievous grin. and you should be proud. like the Josie he used to know.” “Well. Josie seemed happy and animated. It’s an achievement Josie. don’t worry about that. full of optimism and hope. she felt…how did she feel? Cheerful? Yes. but now. The house shone. as if we were having a chat. she definitely felt cheerful. and a Scotch and water was placed into his hand as he walked into the sitting room. I’ll help you. As Josie busied herself in the kitchen. I still don’t know if I can do it. “But.” said Josie laughing. and the table was laid for dinner. “We’ve got a week to do it. “See you tomorrow then. Bye!” Josie felt like a different person after Sarah had left. “It’s nice to know you think so highly of me. didn’t I?” Josie said.” said Sarah enthusiastically. as she had left the house.” “Yes I did. We won’t need to bother getting anyone to speak at the next meeting. suddenly feeling better. he felt as if he had walked into the wrong house. so you will be doing us a favour. thanks very much. And with it being a practice run. put his arms around her waist and nuzzled her neck. John crept up behind her. I’ll take notes. When John arrived home that evening.” she said looking at her watch. This morning. weakening a little. “Oh. like she used to. “Yes you can. Okay? Well I’d better be off. He put down his whisky on the worktop.” she replied. and then we can write a speech from it later.” “We can start tomorrow. She turned and kissed 162 . You can start right at the beginning.
” She pushed him back into the sitting room and finished preparing the meal. Josie was feeling extremely nervous. not wanting to know how many women would be listening to her. Anyone who could put the smile back on her face. On Wednesday evening.him. and argued a little about the content. Whoever this woman was. and was waiting to meet her in the foyer. of steak and salad with new potatoes. now get in there. “You’ll find everybody very friendly. Josie and Sarah worked on her speech. and make her so happy. then as she felt his passion stirring. I promise you. To her surprise. and in the end they compromised. just turn it into a joke.” she said laughing. she pushed him playfully away. and everyone will laugh with you. Josie felt that made her sound too much of a martyr. after writing and rewriting. If you make a mistake. “There is nothing to worry about. they completed the final script. She took both her hands in her own and held them still. Josie looked straight ahead. They juggled around with it. She could not stop her hands from shaking as she entered the building.” As they entered the room. If she could convince herself it was just a small group of friends. she would 163 . but relaxed a little. he was grateful to her.” he said. was alright by him. when she saw that Sarah had already arrived. Finally. unless you want your dinner cremated. Josie told him about Sarah and the suggestion she had made. “I think it’s a wonderful idea. then called him to the table. “No you don’t.” she said. She admired the fact that Josie had sat at her sewing machine into the early hours of the morning. sensing Josie’s anxiety. You can do it Josie. and a boost to her confidence. Josie needed a good friend. as she drove to the college. “Save it for later. grinding away. until she was so exhausted that she fell asleep at her machine. John was as enthusiastic as she was. Sarah was all for telling it as it was. Every morning over the next week. As they sat eating the delicious meal. where the Women’s Institute held their meetings.
although no doubt it would probably have made interesting listening. and forced herself to carry on. But this was not what people had come here to hear. But deep down she knew this to be untrue. in fact. She resisted the urge to tell them that. Josie walked on legs that had turned to jelly up to the microphone. and the good work that they did. but his obsession with making more. The only thing that kept her there. she relaxed even more and began to enjoy herself. was the fact that she would be letting Sarah down if she backed out now. to someone who had more money than she could ever have imagined. with every inch of it uphill. She cleared her throat. as she told stories of incidents and characters that she had encountered during her career. She even did one or two impersonations of awkward clients she had had the misfortune to deal with along the way…without giving names of course. The short distance of just a few strides seemed like miles. rooted to the spot. Then as she became aware of the audience. 164 . So she stood. opening by saying how much she admired their organisation. even when they had reached a stage in their lives when they should have been enjoying the fruits of their labour. Her mouth was dry as she began to speak in a trembling voice. it had been the downfall of her marriage. all trace of nerves gone. She desperately wanted to turn and run as fast as she could out of the room. Sarah took her hand and led her up a small flight of steps onto the stage. She then went on to tell her story. The audience were enthralled. Josie spoke eloquently of her rise from a poor but happy background. then she walked casually over to the microphone. laughing in all the right places. As she settled down. It was not the money that had come between Sam and Josie. as Sarah introduced her as the guest speaker.have a better chance of talking normally. leaving Josie waiting on the side of the stage. convinced that she would trip and fall. She omitted to mention the fact that the money had not made her happy. some of them hilariously funny.
Everyone is delighted with you. it was obvious to John. and tell her how well she had done. Women need other women friends. So. You gave that talk as if you had been doing it for years. Only they understood the intricacies and insecurities of a woman’s mind. she saw that they were all smiling. eating biscuits. She could not wait to do it again. They had enjoyed it immensely and as she walked down the steps from the stage. Please think about it Josie. Not everyone will expect you to do it for nothing. and as she scanned their faces. “I’m absolutely astounded. 165 . No matter how kind and thoughtful. he would always be on a completely different wavelength to a woman. even if she did not get paid. no matter how loving a man was. well that would be the icing on the cake. Sarah took her arm and guided her away from the crowd. She had missed this kind of friendship. Unfortunately there isn’t a lot of money to be made from speaking and there is usually a waiting list.” Josie said frankly. any man. and chatting easily with the other women. although she had not yet admitted it to herself. But if she could make some money too. This was not a criticism. When she arrived home that evening. But travelling around the country? Well. she had already decided what she was going to do. that could be a problem. it was something you could not share with a man. “I must admit. but I could put your name forward and I’m sure that once you have done a couple of talks word will soon spread. and it is possible to make a small income from it. the audience clapped loudly. before she even spoke to John about it. After a few minutes. The rest of the evening was spent drinking tea. I really enjoyed myself.At the end of her talk. just a fact. Would you consider doing it again? We have branches all over Britain. I could see that you really enjoyed yourself tonight.” she added grinning. people were queuing up to shake her hand.
with a lot of help from Sarah and her friends. It was also a chance to see her nephew again. When the opportunity arose to speak in Dublin. who she had seen only once when she was Godmother at his christening.from the way she babbled on about the reception she had received. when her bookings were few and far between. Josie was delighted. Josie had acquired one or two bookings. with a long lingering kiss. Although he would never have let her know. But as word spread and bookings became more frequent. he had not minded too much. He had much more responsibility now that he was editor. but as she became more well known she was frequently out when he returned from work. sitting up in bed with a glass of wine. as they used to. after her father. But he sent his love to her family. To start with. or having an early night. Some areas insisted on an audition before they agreed to a talk. John was becoming slightly resentful of Josie’s work. unfortunately. Her first bookings were reasonably close to home. and whilst he was pleased that she enjoyed 166 . It was mid-week and he had an assignment. but the work was satisfying. Within the next few months. and gave his support. mainly because it was almost always in the evenings. talking together and making passionate love. He did not relish the thought of her travelling around the country. She would be able to combine her work with a visit to her mother. She was not making huge amounts of money. would be unable to accompany her to Dublin. that she had found her new niche in life and he was happy for her. she had to travel further afield. John. but he put his own feelings to the back of his mind. Her mother had been delighted when Val and Michael had decided to call him Terence Patrick. She had one in Southport and a couple in Cheshire. which meant that she had to travel away more often. and wished Josie a safe journey. if not wholeheartedly. when he would like to have spent some time cuddling up on the sofa watching a film.
and John joined in the conversation enthusiastically. so that it would hang above the baby’s head. and this he disliked intensely. with his dark curly hair and a dimple in his chin. 167 . Josie rang Mary the next morning and put the suggestion to her. “You must ask them to bring the baby here for Christmas.” Though Christmas was still weeks away.” said John. but now that she was working all over the country it meant that she had to stay away quite frequently. He could have coped with her being busy most of the time. and attached it to the headboard of the cot. Val’s out at the moment. She said she would love to come. But I’m sure she’ll be thrilled. As Christmas approached. He borrowed a cot from a colleague at work and set it up in the spare bedroom that Michael and Val would be sleeping in. Josie was amazed at how excited John was. then handed the phone to Michael. “I would love to see him.” he said. and so did her visit to see her nephew. “That’s a great idea. asking questions and making her laugh. Oh won’t it be lovely to have a baby in the house over Christmas. Josie’s visit to Dublin went well. John listened intently. and how much he looked like Michael.her work so much. It had been some time since Josie had talked about anything other than her work. I will. Even on the occasions that she was free from speaking or auditioning. but I’ll clear it with her when she gets back. she was planning her next job. by asking her had she taught him to say Aunty Josie yet. It would give her the opportunity to visit her Mam at the same time. or sitting at the kitchen table. then he bought a musical mobile carousel. spending hours on the phone. writing her speeches. Yes. and he was becoming tired of spending his evenings alone. as she told him excitedly how chubby Terence was. he missed their closeness. I’m sure Val would love to come. that’s a wonderful idea. at the prospect of having the baby to stay.” “Oh. When she arrived home she was bursting with news of the baby.
we’ll soon get back to normal. The baby frequently put out his arms to John when he was feeling a little tetchy. Val’s mother and father wanted to see them off at the station so they arranged to pick them up early in the morning. I think we should leave it like this.” he said glancing around the cluttered room. changing his nappy and throwing him around. waving until the car was out of sight. I’ve got quite used to the house looking like a bombsite. “No way. All too soon it was time for them to leave. She was going to miss having the house filled with laughter. Josie could not help noticing that John was completely at ease with the baby. but secretly she agreed with him. it adds to the ambience. Little Terence’s first Christmas was a happy time for all of them.” exclaimed Josie. He bounced around happily in her arms. As they re. and he seemed to have the knack of soothing him when no one else could. feeding him. waiting patiently for the time he would pick them up at the station. They passed him around.entered the house. laughing. As she took the baby from Val’s arms. and he took full advantage of all the fuss that was being made of him. from person to person. his legs kicking furiously. “I feel as if I’ve suddenly gone deaf. and become their live in Nanny.” “Oh I don’t know.He was up early on Christmas Eve morning. playing with him until he was worn out. When John’s car finally drew up outside the house… the suspension groaning under the weight of all the luggage they had to bring for the baby… Josie opened the door to greet them. But never mind. they could not help but notice how quiet and empty it felt. and even 168 . By the end of three days. she was astonished at how much he had grown. making him chuckle.” remarked John. “So do I. Josie and John stood at their front door. In fact. so were they. Val had jokingly suggested. I didn’t realise that babies could be such hard work. that John should go back with them.
being woken in the early mornings to the cry of a hungry baby. 169 .
otherwise they will come to a standstill. right now. I’m going to need you to do some buying for me. You had better pick that phone up. His mother could need him. He reluctantly picked up the receiver.” “If you are so concerned. why don’t you do it. Early the following morning. but then common sense took over. “It’s his loss. We are losing too many orders. “Len.CHAPTER TWELVE Just as Sam was about to pour his fourth glass of whisky. doing some paperwork.” she 170 . and do some serious grovelling. He said the least you could have done. and contemplated not answering it.” “Sam. he’s really angry. He was in no mood to speak to anybody.” she snapped angrily. sounding very irate. you just listen to me. You need to do some buying. before slamming down the phone.” “Sod him!” retorted Sam. the foreman. as he realised the call could be urgent. in the office. where have you been? Mr Simms has been trying to get in touch with you. The girls at the factory tell me. that they will run out of fabric and filling for the cushions soon. “Sam. Amy went straight to the factory. You should have had dinner with him last night. It was Amy. He said we can forget about the order that he was going to place with us. instead of going to the shops. but nothing I can say will calm him down.” “Because I can’t do everything. the telephone rang. was ring to cancel. I’ve tried apologising. or send somebody in your place. You can’t carry on like this. and making excuses for you. in a slurred voice. And he’s right. or at least authorize somebody else to do it. She found Len Forshaw.
but he won’t speak to me.’ she thought. “Is there a supervisor. and I’ll come in and see the Manager as soon as I can. The boss would never let me get involved with that side of things. until the invoices are paid up to date.” “I’m afraid you are going to have to get involved. she banged hard on his front door. as calmly as she could. ‘What has Sam been doing now. “You get back to the factory. or someone you can trust to be in charge while you are out of the factory?” “Well I suppose so. getting straight down to business.” “Don’t worry about that Len. ready to vent her anger on him. That afternoon. I’m at the warehouse. and I’m too tied up with the shops. They have more idea than I have. authorising you to buy for us. that if Sam expressed one word of complaint. she let 171 . but Mr Grainger is er…sick. it’s Len here. Amy received a phone call. not to let Grainger’s have any more stock. at least for the time being Len.’ she muttered under her breath. But don’t expect miracles. as she was checking through the stock book at the Manchester branch. And I don’t want Mr Grainger coming down on me if I get it wrong. she would string him up.” replied Len. it’s not my job.” “There must be some mistake Len.” Amy assured him. I’ve asked to see the gaffer. I’m sorry to spring this on you. I’ll kill him when I get my hands on him. You know how he likes to do everything himself. thinking to herself as she said it. I’ll do my best. It seems the last two orders are still outstanding.” Amy said. but you will have to assess what we need. but I have no idea about buying. Okay?” ‘Oh God. After knocking again and getting no reply. It might be a good idea to ask the girls.said. and I’ve just had a right dust up with the warehouseman. I’ll give you a letter for the warehouse. He says that he’s had instructions. That evening. “Hello.” “Well.
two at a time. but ground to a halt as she walked through the door. conveniently managed to push to the back of her mind. as she saw his stockinged feet. plush carpet. Her anger quickly turned to pity. There was barely a space to walk on the floor.’ she told herself. No…No…It was Josie’s fault. of the part she had played in the collapse of their relationship. As she pushed open the sitting room door. which had spilled out onto the beautiful. but there was no response. her part in the downfall of Sam and Josie’s marriage. Where was Sam? She ran from the kitchen into the dining room. she knelt down beside him. scrupulously clean brother that she knew. Her face ashen with worry. musty smell. as she entered the house. She had somehow. and Amy would never forgive her. She loosened 172 . But she could never admit the awful thing she had done…not even to herself. which had been left on top of the overflowing swing bin. He could never live like this. Amy headed for the kitchen. assailed her nostrils. He was deathly white. at the sight of maggots. ‘That bitch of a wife had done this to him. and it was strewn with beer cans and whisky bottles. Then she stopped dead. if she had passed on to Josie the message that Sam had sent. All Josie’s fault. This was not the proud. She patted his cheek and spoke his name. A stale. then up the stairs. Fear suddenly gripped Amy like a vice. Maybe they would still be together. she was totally unprepared for the mayhem she saw before her. sticking out through the banister on the landing. and glass crunched beneath her feet. as she felt herself retch. There were plates of half eaten food. with the key that her mother always kept.herself in. which must have been there for days on the coffee table. She put a hand up to her mouth. instead of encouraging Josie to believe that he no longer loved her and that something was going on between him and his secretary. as she realised how bad things must be. It was far too painful to remember and what’s more she had no wish to remind herself. as she stepped back in disgust. crawling over opened tins of food. for Sam to have come to this.
He was talking non stop gibberish. I should have kept a closer 173 . he’s drunk. Fifteen minutes later. and you’re probably the only one he’ll listen to. fearful of what she would find inside. But nothing could have prepared her for what she saw. Actually. but she managed to get him to his feet and walk him into the bedroom. and gently wiped his face. Anyway. he’s completely blotto. She put a hand up to her mouth in horror. “Oh Amy.” “Sick with worry. you’ll see for yourself when you get here. She dropped him unceremoniously onto the bed. she would never know. don’t worry. No. As he spoke. ‘He’s just drunk. “But somebody needs to talk to him. and as she entered the hallway. he’s going to be okay. but failing.his collar and put her head to his chest. soaked a face cloth in cold water. Alice grabbed her coat immediately and called for a taxi. pulled off his shirt and trousers. she was outside Sam’s house paying the driver. Unable to make out what he was trying to say. with relief. which made her smile in spite of her concern.’ “Amy. she went back downstairs and phoned her mother.’ she thought. After a few seconds.” Where Amy got the strength from. After she had covered him with the quilt. “Never mind that now. trying to get up.” she said when Alice started to show signs of panic. ‘Thank God. I should have known. She ran into the bathroom. with great difficulty. “Mam. Amy opened the door before Alice could ring the doorbell. and then. what are you doing here?” he asked. his speech was slurred. which seemed like hours to Amy. and his breath smelled strongly of alcohol. He was still breathing. can you come round? It’s Sam. despite Amy’s assurances. just put your arm around my shoulder and I’ll get you into bed. she warned her what to expect. she just kept telling him everything would be fine. he opened his eyes and looked up at her.
But that’s because he always visited me. it’s harder running the shops than I expected.” “He hasn’t been busy at the factory Mam. after waiting for long periods to purchase a small item. “She’s got her own life now. She had thought Josie’s job would be easy. I knew how upset he was about Josie. and we are not doing too well at the moment. In fact the foreman tells me that he’s hardly been in at all lately. And on the rare occasions that he does go in. he ignores any problems that have cropped up. exasperated.eye on him.” snapped Amy. and that all that was required of her.” suggested Alice. that the problems were mainly caused by her own inefficiency. and leaving all the work to the staff. cutting her mother off in mid sentence. They were frequently left short staffed. but to be honest Mam. and the reputation that Josie had so carefully built up. people had walked out of the shops. I haven’t been round here in months. but it’s been so long since she left. that I felt sure he must have got over it by now.. and when I offered to come round. I feel so guilty. and this meant that customers were unable to be served quickly. The overworked and disgruntled staff. but customers are dwindling rapidly. because rotas were not properly thought out.” But that was 174 . looking important. She would be able to show you how to………. The stock is run down and invoices have been left unpaid. I had no idea that he was still so distraught. no longer gave the kind of friendly service that made customers want to come back into the stores. Time and again recently. Meetings with clients have either been cancelled or ignored altogether. “Perhaps you should contact Josie. he just kept saying he was okay. I haven’t told Sam. She was learning the hard way just how much organisation was needed. I’m having staff problems. was to get dressed up and parade around the three shops. When I spoke to him on the phone. he was always too busy. On top of all that. Amy omitted to tell her mother. I’ve done what I can.” “No. was now lost. she won’t want to know.
” she said agitatedly. that she wished it would open up and swallow her. but sometimes we have to rise above them. We all have problems. Sam came downstairs.” she added. she had Amy and himself to look after.” said Alice with a sigh. But I wish the pair of you would stop being so stubborn. and a meal ready for when he wakes up. Alice put a glass of fizzing Alka Seltzer in his hand. and here was he.” Seeing the look of despair in his eyes.” Amy looked down at the floor. instead of letting her walk away. to make a pittance. If he had spoken with Josie in the first place. “It’s the future we’ve got to sort out now. She hadn’t just had herself to think about.” Come on. And anyway. “At least. I won’t let you. letting a thriving business go to 175 . feeling so ashamed. as he remembered what his mother had been through. you mustn’t go under. her voice softened. When he thought of the hours she had worked in that factory. and the look she gave him. you know best. is it?….” was all he could say. let’s start by getting this place cleaned up. All the girl wanted. told him that he would get no sympathy from her. Amy and I will help you. And it isn’t as if she walked out yesterday. You are not on your own.” A couple of hours later. That’s why Sam’s in this mess. “So you should be. “Well. It gets you nowhere.not the real reason Amy did not want to ask Josie for help. wearing a bathrobe and holding his head. The last thing she wanted. he wouldn’t be in this position.or even last month. I hope you do. for Sam’s sake. when his father had died. was for Josie to know that she could not cope. “I know how you feel sweetheart. letting yourself get in this state.” “He suddenly felt ashamed. was to know that he still cared. “Well that’s all in the past. smiling. but never once had she let them see how lonely and frightened she had felt. “Sorry Mam. but you have got to pick yourself up and get on with your life. You’ve got to get over it sometime.
but strange as it seemed. he should not still be torturing himself with this image. She had loved his father like he loved Josie. you’ll be okay now.’ He knew that after all this time. ‘But it’s not the same’ he thought to himself.waste out of self pity.” Alice said soothingly. but she had got over it. but now it was time to let go. and living with another man. the pain kept her in his life. Sam put his head in his hands and cried. now he had to do the same. Up till now he had embraced the pain. ‘Josie’s still alive. 176 . “It’s alright lad.
and all she wanted was her life back. it was the fact that no matter how hard she tried. if only she had not been so greedy and ambitious. Amy was becoming desperately lonely. with her hands behind her head. probably have been manager of the Bolton store. She would. her mind wandering. and worrying herself to sleep every night. working long hours. She could have had it all. she was unable to get the stores thriving again. Pushing these thoughts to the back of her mind. Her whole life was tied up with trying to rebuild the damage she had done. then dressed in her navy blue suit and left the house. but lay in bed. Now she was at the end of her tether. at the thought of one more day. Instead. she was struggling to undo the damage she had done. because she was always too tired to go out. it never lasted very long. Her friends had long since given up calling her. with a good salary and plenty of free time. going over and over in her mind. the more she had come to understand. Though she had had one or two boyfriends. On the drive to work she felt her heart pounding.CHAPTER THIRTEEN Amy awoke to the sun streaming in through her bedroom window. by now. she forced herself to get out of bed and bathe. doing her best to sort out the mess she 177 . She did not get up. It was not just the hard work that was getting to her. if only she had waited. and the more she thought about it. and taking most of the responsibility. with Josie still running things efficiently. what had driven Josie to do what she did. what her life could have been like. A man will only stand so much of playing second fiddle to a girl’s work. She had been doing a lot of thinking recently.
“She’s at it again. on his way home from the factory. Sam on the other hand. The night Amy found him unconscious and in despair. but left all that to Amy. His mother seemed to have made it her mission in life. He had contacted the clients that he had lost. He began to enjoy this more relaxed way of working. to feed him up every time he visited. He was a little concerned about the performance of the shops. but with a more moderate desire to keep the factory running profitably. All the same he would call in at his mother’s to see how they both were. Sam had learned a lot from his past mistakes. and maybe just bring the subject up in conversation. with clients who were now also his friends. realising that he was happier dealing with people that he had come to know and like personally. “Sit down lad. This hadn’t really bothered him. but some of the bigger companies had been ruthless and unforgiving. He was now back at the factory. he had convinced himself. and insisting on dividing hers and Amy’s meal between the three of them. pulling out a chair and pushing him into it. with an assurance that the business was back on track.” She also came round to his house once or twice a week. He was not going to get involved.” said Alice. and he was content with that. and given him another chance. and prepared a meal large enough to feed a family of four. when Sam called in. He had objected on several 178 . seemed to be getting his life back together. She would sort things out eventually.had created. before setting an extra place at the table. Alice and Amy were just about to sit down to their evening meal. Most of them had accepted his word. whilst he was out at work. and did his washing and ironing. whispering to Amy. and he patted his slight paunch behind her back. had been a turning point for him. He did not want her to think he did not trust her. You’re just in time to join us. His old clients and local businesses had stood by him. determined to build up the business again. It made life much less complicated.
struggling to carry a tray. I’ve been trying to persuade her for ages. She can’t rush around like she used to. He smiled. But this evening. when he was worrying about his mother.” said Sam.. you’re welcome to try. she has to stop halfway for a rest. Then for no apparent reason it flashed through his mind…. and when she climbs the stairs. if I offer to help. “I can manage thank you. both stubborn. but she’s having none of it. “Is she alright. Sam stood up and went to take the tray from her. with three dishes of sponge pudding and a jug of custard. you know what she’s like. sitting there with a grin on his face.‘like someone else I know. Then the answer came to him. but he may as well have saved his breath. this mother of his. but she won’t give in. She was so stubborn. nothing could stop her.” he whispered to Amy. It was because they were so alike Josie and Alice.” They fell silent as Alice walked slowly into the room.” “I think she should see a doctor. slightly embarrassed. “Oh. she gets really annoyed with me. Why had Josie flashed so unexpectedly into his mind.’ He was shocked.occasions.” she snapped at him. The trouble is. without realising it. both kind and caring. When his mother was determined. and both beautiful. but I’ve noticed a big difference in her lately. “What are you grinning at. She would 179 . nothing. Both proud.” asked Alice. He found himself wishing that Josie was here now. he noticed that she was moving slower than usual. He must have looked a complete idiot. if you think you can get her to go. She gets so short of breath when she does any work. She looked tired and her breathing was laboured. when Alice went into the kitchen to get the pudding. “She says she is. especially now.” he replied. “Well. telling her that he was quite capable of looking after himself.
180 . stubbornly refusing to admit that she was exhausted. in spite of the age difference. He would never understand it.” Amy said hysterically. without argument. hopping on one leg as he pulled on his trousers hastily. A monitor had been placed by the side of the bed. as he watched his mother. I thought she was dead.have taken the situation in hand. Theirs had been a friendship more akin to sisters. even if she had to take her by force. where Alice had been dressed in a white hospital gown and settled into bed. even if he had to do it by force. he knew that he would have given anything for Josie to walk through the door. Sam was still desperately worried about his mother’s condition. when the phone rang as he was dressing.” He finished dressing. shakily placing the tray on the table. Amy met him at the entrance to Ward four. I’m at the Royal Hospital with Mam. She would insist that Alice went to see a doctor immediately. even bribing her with a new coat. but it had always given him pleasure to watch them together. just staring. then was in the car and on his way to the hospital within minutes. “It was awful Sam. Sam had always been fascinated by Alice’s relationship with her. but also for his mother’s. you’ve got to get here straight away. and take her to see the doctor. Her face was frighteningly grey and she was dragging herself doggedly around the house. coaxing. and her eyes were wide open. and there was no doubt that his mother would have done as Josie wished. sobbing as she spoke. Three days later. He would go to the house today. but all to no avail. cajoling. which she placed at the end of the bed. and a nurse was making notes on a clipboard. not just for his own sake. The matter was taken out of his hands however. to get her to visit the doctor. He had tried everything he could think of. In the end Sam decided that the only way was to take a firm stance with her. trusting her judgement implicitly. “Oh Sam. Now. put her in the car. She was as white as a sheet.
“What is all this then? I was told that I had a sick patient.. You can talk to the organ grinder.” said a stern sounding voice. nor am I invisible.” “There you go again. with a refined accent. “I may be ill.” “Sorry about that son. “I’m sorry to cause so much fuss. Oh Mam. but she will need some medication. “I’m sorry I didn’t listen to you Sam. “Er. not the monkey. you’ll never change. as Sam bent to kiss her. The doctor laughed with them. even treated like something of a deity in the hospital.” she said.” she chuckled. It was very inconsiderate of you. 181 . they saw that their mother was now awake.” apologised Alice again. I should have gone to see the doctor. and they fell about laughing once more. Cheek!” she added.As Sam and Amy approached. Only you would think of apologising for being ill. and used to being held in high esteem. a voice behind them interrupted. Sam was quite shocked at how frail and helpless she looked. and we would just like to be sure that she gets the correct treatment. “We would like to keep your mother here for a couple more days. Mr Simmons was a top consultant. She seems much better now.” he said laughing. young man. “Well so you should be. “As they were laughing. giving us all a fright. Then he addressed Sam on a more serious note. A smile came to her lips and she laughed weakly with him. “Sorry Doctor.” interrupted Alice. in order to carry out some more tests. Anything else you would like to apologise for? The weather is bad outside. but Amy assured him that she seemed much better than when she was first brought in. A little colour had come back to her face and she was able to speak.Excuse me. collapsing like that. even though he did not understand the joke. but I’m not deaf or daft.
as he walked around the wards with an air of authority. that the person who first applied the name ‘patient. She had been given medication. whilst he and Amy took charge of the cooking and housework. convinced that it was easier to do it herself. and looking fondly at his mother. it occurred to Sam and Amy. his nervous entourage of medical students. Then. As she began to feel stronger.” “We’re all going to miss your mother in here. she graduated into the kitchen.Both staff and patients alike were in awe of him.” Sam replied. as Alice gave him one of her looks. In the end she took over. make sure that she takes it won’t you Amy. 182 . it was with great relief. Getting her to rest. he found it a refreshing change. having been told…in person. forgetting himself for a moment. Suddenly a loud roar of a laugh burst forth.” said Mr Simmons.’ to people who required nursing. proved more difficult with each passing day. that Alice was discharged from the hospital. having to obey orders. There could not have been a more inappropriate term. as she pushed Alice’s wheelchair. he sheepishly added. out through the double doors and towards Sam’s car. with strict instructions that it must be taken every day. and needed to take things easy. hanging on his every word. by Mr Simmons…that she had had a mild Angina attack. but then. The nurses and students looked on in disbelief. in her case. “whoops!…sorry Alice. Though a little taken aback by Alice’s telling off. and disliked intensely. had never met Alice. at first just giving instructions. “Now. before joining in uncertainly.” said the nurse. to deal with someone so honest and down to earth. Over the following two weeks. on more than one occasion. A few days later. She had always been used to being in charge of the household. smiling. becoming agitated because her instructions were not carried out to the letter. “I’ve no doubt you will.
and eventually they decided.Some discussion took place between Sam and Amy. Sighing heavily. it was to find that she had cleaned his house and done his ironing. By the end of the second week she was almost back to normal. about what to do for the best. only insisting on taking over. whenever they noticed the slightest sign of tiredness. So they just let her do whatever she felt capable of doing. and on Friday when he arrived home from work. and realising that he would never change her…nor would he want to…he picked up the telephone and called to thank her. Sam moved back home. 183 . On Monday of the third week. that there was no point arguing with her.
Wide mahogany doors. Others were interested in setting up their own companies and hoping to gain an insight into the complicated world of business and maybe pick up some valuable pieces of advice. The event.CHAPTER FOURTEEN Carved oak doors led into the huge entrance hall of Bolton Town Hall. fascinated and encouraged by the way Josie had worked her way to being a success. Some were students from a local college doing a project. Josie’s speech had been well rehearsed and though she was now an experienced speaker. which led up to the Mayor’s parlour and the function rooms above. Sarah had advised her to imagine that it was just 184 . dressed in various types of regalia. which had been arranged by Sarah. consisted of people from all walks of life. it was the volume of people that overwhelmed her. chatting and laughing. so high that they dwarfed the people walking through them. in spite of her femininity. rarely used because it was icy cold to the touch. in one of the function rooms. and had taken several months to organise. This was to be the largest audience that Josie had ever spoken to. Other people were making their way up the magnificent marble staircase. forming a circular gallery. she shook with apprehension. led off the gallery into a variety of grand rooms. which was crowded with people. The wide marble balustrade on either side of the stairs. and as she waited with Sarah. standing around in small groups. but mostly they were Women’s Institute members from all over the country. some adorned with medals. others with heavy chains around their necks. hung around the walls. Ornate gold framed pictures of dignitaries. continued outwards at the top.
They are just concerned about you.” “Now don’t you worry about a thing. and a feeling of nausea overwhelmed her. “Well. and the tremble in her voice disappeared. It was almost seven thirty and the buzz of chattering people grew louder as the room filled to capacity.” the woman remarked to Sarah. It was just the same as any other talk. as she lay motionless on the parquet floor. The next thing she knew. but that was going to be easier said than done. taking her arm. Promise me you will see a 185 . The audience clapped and she sensed a friendly atmosphere as she took her place behind the microphone. “But you must make sure she sees a doctor tomorrow. “Josie! Josie! Come on dear.like any other talk. “I’ve let everybody down.” she said to Sarah and the woman. She began to speak and almost immediately. Within seconds she was enjoying herself as she always did. appeared to be fading away from her.” As she gradually recovered. her heart stopped pounding. as Josie sipped the water. Josie’s words began to sound as if they were being played at slow speed on a record player. she wondered if the people at the back would be able to hear. drink this. “I’m so sorry. As Josie made her way to the front of the enormous room. She experienced a humming sensation in her ears. her hands stopped shaking. Her legs turned to jelly. she was opening her eyes to a sea of faces hovering over her. and then the room. holding a glass of water to her lips.” said a kindly middle aged woman. Josie attempted to sit up and the woman ordered someone to bring a chair. and felt someone beside her on the stage. Sarah had been right. as in the distance she heard whispers from the crowd. About two thirds into her speech. and the audience. Josie was overcome with embarrassment. and then gently helped her onto it. Everybody understands. at least she has got a little colour back now. And some people have come such a long way.
doctor. darling. I’ll drive you home.” she replied weakly. John’s heart pounded as he sat in the car. He was stricken suddenly with fear. then left for home. Then Josie took his hand. as she walked towards him. first thing tomorrow. as he saw the stunned look on her face. when the doctor had delivered the news to her. adding to his concern. convincing himself that she was seriously ill. looking paler than ever. If you’re not.” said Sarah. as stunned as Josie had been. And no argument. if you’re well enough. “Are you prepared for a shock?” she asked. Josie walked back into the waiting room from the doctor’s office. The feeling that enveloped him was unique.” she whispered.” he said sternly.” “I’m pregnant. waiting for what he was sure would be bad news. I think you have been overdoing things. He guided her straight to bed. and then John can bring you to collect the car tomorrow. then I’ll come with him. whatever it is. when she looked as if she was about to object. and then brought her a comforting drink of hot milk.” he insisted. “Just tell me. “Josie. John just sat there. helped her to undress. what’s happened? What did the doctor say?” “When we get outside.” “Thank you. John was surprised to see Josie home so early. “Come on. smiling happily at him. and shocked when he noticed how pale she looked. “Stop it Josie. You are going to be a father. glancing around at the inquisitive faces in the surgery. John jumped up from his seat. Sarah explained what had happened. with a drop of brandy in it. worried sick at what she was about to say.” she said at last. The following morning. He could never have envisaged the happiness that he felt 186 . still feeling slightly disorientated. “I’m taking you to the see the doctor.
“He’s driving me round the bend already and we only heard the news yesterday. She had just put down the phone for the umpteenth time. She hadn’t even had time to get dressed. He had insisted that she go to bed early the previous night.” He grabbed her and kissed her.” replied Josie. When I had my three. with friends and neighbours wanting to congratulate her. ‘Oh no. The following morning.” she answered with a chuckle. “What can I say. “Good morning.” Sarah said. laughing. I might have to kill him!” “You think John’s bad. to make sure that she was fully recovered. and has even been thinking about names.” said Sarah. He seems to have told everyone else. a long lingering kiss. giggling. It’s wonderful news Josie. I’m just so happy. to enrol the baby into a school. after John had left for work.” she laughed. much to the amusement of passers by.” “Yes. that’s the first time I’ve ever seen you speechless. when she saw that it was Sarah. when the doorbell rang. Josie heaved a sigh of relief. Are you pleased?” “I’m thrilled. how are you? Feeling better I hope?” she said brightly. “Well. I think he must have some jungle drums hidden away in the spare room. “He rang me from his office early this morning. “I’m fine. I suppose John has told you the news. He’s decided how we will decorate the nursery. the telephone never stopped ringing. Arthur suffered from morning sickness for the first three 187 . I don’t think I can cope with another seven months of it Sarah. but not as thrilled as John. informing everyone he could think of about their good news. I’ve never known news to spread so fast.at this moment. who’s this?’ she thought. It’s a wonder he hasn’t taken the day off work. and he had obviously been very busy after she went upstairs.
” “It wouldn’t do any good love. maybe in the Outer Hebrides.months.” she added nostalgically.” he added hugging her. Then she asked him. Do you think we should go looking at prams this weekend?” “Oh no. even though the kids are adults now. But do you know. of when she was pregnant.” she groaned. she and Sarah sat in cosy camaraderie. Would you like me to have a word with her. “Sarcasm does not become you Josie.” “No.” 188 . if he was sure that he had managed to inform everyone about the baby. and the mistakes she had made as an inexperienced mother. Then. and he found them just as funny as she did. when her children were babies. “John. have you told your mother?” John looked downcast. It was gone two o’clock by the time Sarah finally left. slapping her forehead in despair. While eating dinner that evening. and neither of them had noticed the time flying by. I’m so sorry. “Yes…yes I have and I don’t want to discuss it. she asked him tentatively. Perhaps you could send a radio message. But thanks. it still seems like yesterday. “Right now back to the matter of whether we should go looking at prams this weekend. the picture of health. There was I. All I will say is that our news wasn’t exactly greeted with enthusiasm. doing his best to look serious. I don’t think so. tongue in cheek. Poor Arthur. and their sides ached.” “Oh sweetheart. They laughed until the tears ran down their faces.” Then looking serious.” he replied. Josie told John some of Sarah’s stories. “There must be someone you have forgotten. with Sarah relating more hilarious tales. Josie disappeared into the kitchen and made a pot of tea and two slices of toast. “Maybe I will have to kill him after all. while he had his head down the toilet every morning.
She had resorted to threading an elastic band. and although Sarah had kept a close eye on her. John found this hilarious. Also. but dreaded having to break the news. In fact she was blooming. Josie began to feel much better. The last thing she wanted was for Sam to hear it from anyone else. Only one problem marred Josie’s happiness. she could put it off no longer. without dragging her inside. why she was avoiding doing what she knew to be inevitable. John was not the type of man to live without full commitment and she knew that she should be grateful for that. in order to hold it together. secretly she enjoyed it just as much as he did. John had naturally assumed that she would eventually file for divorce. and though she pretended to be annoyed with him. For some reason that Josie could not explain…even to herself… she had avoided the subject for as long as possible. but now with a baby on the way. through the buttonhole of her skirt and around the button. Her stomach was now rounded and her waist had expanded by a few inches.” Josie chortled. to make sure that she did not overdo it. but she did not yet need to buy maternity clothes. She had known all along that he would want to marry her. She felt it her duty to tell Alice about her pregnancy. She had asked herself over and over. and her hair shone like never before.“You are the limit John Hughes you really are. she was more or less back to normal. He had always made his intentions clear. she had made the decision to return to her work. He could not pass a baby shop. but had been unable to come up with an answer. Her skin was clear. He took great pleasure in seeing his baby growing inside her. especially when she was so happy with John. Since Josie was now feeling better. After another three of four weeks of dizziness and morning sickness. It was not in Josie’s nature to be cruel and she realised that she was 189 .
thoughtful?” “Oh yes.” 190 .” “Are you happy with him?” “Yes. before somebody else does. of course I do. not only for John’s sake. as no one else would have been. Josie had expected her to understand. based on honest answers. you have a new family now. She asked straightforward. putting everything into perspective. She had been outspoken. Confiding her feelings to Sarah. kind. generous. Now the time had come for her to take the final step. very.” “Do you want him as the father of your child?” “Yes. she had to do something about it. ‘It’s over. “Do you love John?” “Yes. she had been totally unsympathetic.” “Well what the hell more do you want girl? Get divorced and marry the man. I don’t know why you are even hesitating. by saying that she would get a divorce soon. But to her surprise. Now she had no choice. He will make a wonderful father. nobody could be kinder than John. and then gave her opinion. He had asked her to marry him on numerous occasions and she had pacified him. no nonsense questions.” “Is he good to you.’ she told herself sternly. but for the sake of their child.being unfair.
and he prayed silently. so early on a Saturday morning. “Right. He had no idea that her concern was on his behalf. “Mam. it had to be something serious. it had nothing to do with her health. and then took down two mugs from the hooks on the pine dresser. he needed to know now. whatever it is Mam. “Well let me in before I get soaked. what are you doing here at this time of the morning? Is everything alright?” he asked. I’ll bring the tea through. “Go and sit down Sam. She switched on the kettle. If she had something to tell him. spit it out. to see his mother. now. After putting her dripping umbrella in the hall stand. and hanging her raincoat on the banister. He took the mugs from her hands and pulled her into the sitting room. pushing past him in the doorway. that whatever it was.CHAPTER FIFTEEN Sam answered the door on a bleak Saturday morning.” But Sam could not wait to find out what the news was.” she said. she made her way into the kitchen. Judging by the worried look on her face. which threatened to blow inside out in the gusting wind. She 191 .“ he said. and then I’ll tell you. She folded the umbrella and shook the rain from it.” she answered. It was only nine thirty and Sam was surprised to get a visit so early. “I’ve had a letter from Josie this morning son. that was so important as to warrant a visit from his mother. standing bent against the rain and battling with her umbrella. and then we can talk. where he pushed her down gently onto the sofa. in a hurry to get inside. sensing that she had some kind of a problem.
Josie had done the right thing in contacting her. getting up to go into the kitchen. she can’t stay married to you. after a shocked pause. that the only woman he had ever loved.” Oh Lord. “Yes. So that it wouldn’t be too much of a shock. But she hasn’t much choice now. has she? If she’s pregnant.’ she thought. “I’ll go and make the tea. not wanting his mother to know how much he still cared. shrugging his shoulders and doing his best to seem unconcerned.” he said. how was she going to tell him. trying to make Sam feel better. I know Josie wouldn’t divorce you under any other circumstances. He had never spoken to his mother in that tone before. but she wanted me to tell you. but she understood and let him go on. She knew what a devastating effect it would have on him.” “How considerate. She wants a divorce. Josie is expecting a baby. than from a neighbour.” he retorted bitterly. believing every word that she said.” he said angrily. I’m certain of that. that’s not all. was pregnant by another man. His initial look of despair had told her what he really felt.” Alice blurted out without taking a breath. “I’m sure this was never what she wanted Sam. She always hoped you would get back together eventually. but at the same time.noticed the colour drain from his face. “Is she okay?” he asked nonchalantly. before you receive the papers through the post. and her heart went out to him. But Alice was not fooled. then immediately felt contrite.” he snapped. “You do talk twaddle sometimes Mam. but it was better that he should hear it from her. and Alice was grateful. “Wait Sam. ‘This will destroy him.” “So what? It’s none of my business. she’s okay. hesitating for a moment before speaking. or in the pub. “There is no easy way to tell you this love. She steeled herself. 192 .
The more women he went to bed with. He accepted every invitation that came his way. one day. and he must accept that this was final. she gets herself another man. only to wake the following morning. Alice and Amy had become more and more concerned about Sam’s lifestyle. to move on with his life. he had always harboured the hope. and then she gets herself pregnant. praying that he had dreamt what she had just told him. and had lost count of the number of women he had brought back to the house. with a banging headache. And. beside a stranger. But no. he had fooled himself into believing. she’s made a damn good job of making sure that it can never happen. get back together again. or at least he would try to.” Alice replied sadly. tell her to send the papers and I will sign them. somehow. he met 193 . His life had become sordid. is there?” “No sweetheart. but had long since given up trying to advise him. Up to then. there isn’t. that really sounds like someone desperate to reconcile with her husband. it was true! Josie was carrying another man’s child. There’s no point putting up a fight now. that he and Josie would somehow. When Alice had gone. Then. Sam sat with his head in his hands for a long time. who meant nothing to him. but for a short while it took away his pain. that he was punishing Josie. Oh yeah. were a whirlwind of nightclubs and parties. *** The next few months for Sam. and rarely had a night at home. He did his best to drown out his past with drink. He decided in that moment. just when they thought things could not get any worse. and fulfilled his bodily needs. the more he felt he was taking revenge. Anyway. First.“For someone who wants to get back with her husband.” he said vehemently. Now he had to accept that it would never happen.
Karen.” he was pleading.” “Nothing new there then. during which Karen’s demands had grown evermore outrageous. “Please Karen. when he had had a few drinks. giving them even more cause for concern. she became more and more demanding. “Look Sam. meant nothing to Sam. He was happy to turn a blind eye to her faults. common. The fact that she was unkind. Unfortunately. Are you sure there is no other reason?” “I’ve told you haven’t I. as long as. With her mass of auburn hair and deep blue eyes. She’s…she’s sick. I’ll see you when I get back. At first she had been as keen as he was. and you’re going to get hurt.” Amy tried to warn him. You can take me out for a meal. she bore a striking resemblance to Josie. and dishonest. I’ve told you. It was Friday afternoon and Sam was on the telephone with Karen. trying to persuade her to come out with him that evening. Okay?” 194 .” “Oh. After six tempestuous weeks.” he answered bitterly. he seemed to be blind to the real reason why he was so infatuated with her. I’ve got to visit my sister this weekend. “She’s well known for taking men for a ride. but as time went by. Sam was almost at the end of his tether and when she began to make excuses not to see him he became suspicious. To them it could not have been more obvious. well. But you always seem to be making excuses lately. she’s just using you. He was smitten with her from day one. “Sam. and she needs help with the children. he could make believe he was with Josie. Look. I suppose you must go then. and showered her with gifts. She also had the same height and build. I’ve got to go. “Why can’t he see it?“ Amy asked Alice. buying her jewellery and clothes and paying the bills for her flat. But her personality could not have been more different. and the arguments had become more frequent than the love making.
’ he told himself. calling in at the Red Lion en route. and sod her. she would want to see him every available minute. Sam placed the phone back onto the receiver and leaned back in his chair. Sam left the house and walked the short distance into town.“Well it will have to be I suppose. before taking it through to the living room and switching on the television. He had thought he had found that with Karen. one special woman in his life and that had eluded him. then checked himself in the mirror before leaving the house. but now he knew he was just fooling himself and he despaired of ever finding true love again. he had made up his mind that something had to be done about it. thinking only of how lonely he felt. He doubted now that he could ever feel that way for anyone else. Maybe you were only allowed to love that strongly once in a lifetime. 195 . Sam arrived home that evening around six o’clock and went straight to the kitchen where he made a ham sandwich and poured himself a beer. But he could still turn heads and had no trouble attracting women. Either way. not just when it was convenient for her or when he was buying her gifts and paying her bills. The trouble was he wanted only one woman. ‘Why should I have to sit in just because I don’t have a woman. The man who looked back at him was slim…too slim. deep in thought.’ He bathed quickly and put on a charcoal grey suit with a crisp white shirt. barely aware of what he was watching. If she loved him too. He would sort it out with her once and for all when she got back. Finally he put down his plate and went upstairs to the bathroom. He watched the evening news as he ate his sandwich. He thought about the love he had felt for Josie. He had convinced himself that he loved Karen. but he was not so blind that he could not see when he was being taken for a fool. He would have a bath and go out.” he sighed. ‘Sod it. his mother said…and the face was pale and slightly gaunt.
They bought tickets and entered. then walked the half mile to the Casino nightclub. carried on the night air. So did I. But you know what it’s like. I must admit. Ease up on the work and beg Irene to come back to you. Anyway what are you doing tonight? Fancy a nightclub? We can both drown our sorrows. Can’t seem to make her understand though.” He laughed sardonically. really love her. the usual. “Well. Maybe I’ll give her a ring. Take it from me George. As he took his pint from the landlord. take my advice. long time no see. Didn’t work out. They can’t seem to handle the job. then I’ll be able to take things a bit easier.“Hi Sam. but it’s only until the business gets on it’s feet properly. You seemed really suited you two. don’t give her up like I did Josie. positioning himself at the bar and looking around for familiar faces. great to see you. I know. I thought you had it sorted this time. “Hi Sam. the business won’t keep you warm on a cold night.” “Oh George. “George. I of all people know what I’m talking about.” “What? You of all people advising me to ease up on the work. Says I care more about the business than I do about her. If you love Irene. shouting to each other over the noise. a hand touched his shoulder. then pushed their way to 196 . I just thought she was being unreasonable. what can I get you.” “I do miss her.” Sam replied. You know me?” “Sorry George. Where’s Irene?” “Oh. I don’t seem to have much time for anything else these days.” asked the landlord. “A pint of bitter please Eddie. Outside the club the voice of a compere bringing to a close the first half of the show and promising an entertaining second half.” “Yeah. As they bought a drink from the bar.” Sam and George set their empty glasses on the bar and left the pub.” Sam looked seriously at his friend.
She’s already done that. “Never mind George.” he asked.” Sam replied bitterly. “Sam.” George grinned. but just sat transfixed.” They laughed hysterically. I’m not that desperate. a look of horror on his face. “Sam. As the man released Karen and asked Sam angrily what he wanted. staring in the direction of a couple on the dance floor.” Sam did not answer. the compere left the stage and dance music filled the club.” “On yer bike. “I wish I’d never set eyes on her. “Do you know her. eager to enjoy the break in the entertainment.” Sam joked. whatever is the matter. Sam watched. sad that he had no partner to dance with. “Yeah. don’t go making a fool of yourself. I know her. Please Sam. 197 . and then suddenly Sam stopped. what are you doing here?” she asked. until he became acutely aware of his gaze. she spun around. the pleasure that Sam had once enjoyed.” “Makes no difference now. They were wrapped around each other. rubbing against each other. She’s not worth it. It was Karen! The man she was with was oblivious to everything but his own pleasure. stopping just short of making love in full view of everyone.” “Bugger off. You look like you have seen a ghost. Sam stood beside the couple staring into the face of the man. “Yes. “Sam leave it. so am I. George’s gaze wandered in the same direction as Sam’s. “I am.a table.” he sighed. Dancers piled onto the small dance floor.” As he rose from his seat George grabbed his arm. “You’ll just have to dance with me.” he said making his way across the dance floor.
weak and ashamed. he would feel nothing. It was too late to make arrangements with you. 198 . Just don’t insult me with your lame excuses. once she realised that she was getting nothing from the relationship. He felt nothing for her now but contempt. No harm in that is there. She would leave anyway.” He turned to the man she was dancing with. “She…she’s better.” Sam walked away leaving the man open mouthed and Karen chasing after him. We’re through. So…so…I decided to come out on my own. she could do no more to hurt him. She’ll bleed you dry like she did me. Don’t be taken in by her. Well what the hell. One night when he was feeling particularly lonely he caved in to her childishly pleading voice and she stayed the night. the way she had done at the beginning of their relationship. Now that his feelings for her were only of lust. He would not shower her with gifts.“I might well ask the same question. Why shouldn’t he use her. then drop you for some other mug. yet he had allowed her to think he had forgiven her. This your sick sister is it?” he said sarcastically. begging his forgiveness. like she had used him. he would just use her. Every night for the next week Karen called him. wheedling her way back into his affections with the promise of mind blowing sex. But this time he had the upper hand. “Some friendly advice mate. telling him it was all a mistake and panicking because her meal ticket was heading for the door.” “Save it Karen. The following morning he felt dirty. And when she did leave. begging him to forgive her. He brushed her hand roughly off his arm and stormed out of the club with George in hot pursuit.
do something. forgetting everything they had practised so often. what a stupid question that was. Fortunately she had a case already packed. looked questioningly into her contorted face. He sat bolt upright and adjusting his eyes to the semi darkness. before phoning the hospital. to know that she could not have mistaken this kind of pain for anything else. making matters even worse. shouting orders at him. “It’s coming John. and John eventually managed to pull himself together sufficiently to get it down from the wardrobe.” she yelled back at him. Josie took charge. then threw the case on the back seat.” she yelled. Exasperated. then realised that he was awake. realising as soon as the words were out of his mouth. Are you sure?” he asked. stop arguing and get me to the hospital. gripping his arm with amazing strength. She was ashen and grimacing with pain. don’t just lie there. and that Josie was shouting at him.” she pleaded. “It can’t be. He carefully helped her into the passenger seat. doubling over in agony. “Now for God’s sake.CHAPTER SIXTEEN John felt his arm being shaken violently and thought he was having a bad dream.” Panic set in and John ran around frantically. “The baby.” he added. not wanting 199 . Carrying the suitcase in one hand and with the other supporting Josie. He only had to look at her. tell the baby. John led her to the car. “But…but…you are only seven months pregnant. to say that they were on their way. as she tried to get herself dressed. it’s coming. For goodness sake. it’s too early. “Don’t tell me it’s too early.
for what seemed like hours. a nurse was waiting at the entrance with a wheelchair. By the time they reached the hospital.” 200 . Now he was being denied his part in the most important event of their lives. then pushed a protesting John unceremoniously through the door into the corridor. trying to keep hold of Josie’s hand. “The umbilical cord was around the baby’s neck. He was left standing alone. “And Josie?” John said tentatively. unable to take in the awful truth. He paced the corridor in angst. and we were unable to get him out in time I’m afraid. then just as he was about to burst into the labour room and demand to be present. As the nurse ran towards the lift. then up to the third floor and into the labour room. he led him to a nearby chair. not realising how important it was. He had been in such a turmoil before they left home. and he was beginning to get very angry. I am afraid your baby was still born. “Your wife is going to be fine. a doctor came out. without an explanation. almost afraid to ask. “I’m very sorry to have to tell you this Mr Hughes. John wanted so much to be with Josie when she gave birth to their baby. feeling helpless and totally excluded.” “But how? Why?” John asked. that he had not really taken note. He did not understand why they had dismissed him from the room. so he just took a rough guess at the time. two nurses lifted Josie onto a bed. she was unable to speak. Once inside the labour room. looking at the door that had been closed to him.” he announced sympathetically. Taking John by the arm. John ran alongside. Josie was in so much pain. and John answered the nurse’s questions about the length of the contractions and the time between each one.to waste time opening the boot.
he was totally oblivious to the unfamiliar surroundings. who left discreetly as he walked in. She refused to see anyone. cradling her head on his shoulder. then discreetly removed them. and grateful that she had come. He took her hands and kissed them. and praying that she would not be angry with her. even close family. Mary was mortified. “Of course. Josie barely spoke a word for about three weeks after she returned home. as the nurses were getting her settled into bed. 201 . but Josie was adamant that she wanted to be alone. “May I see my wife. and were now recovering on the main ward. he was helpless. John packed up the baby clothes. An hour later Josie was moved into a private room. not knowing whether Josie would send her straight back home again. But she was unable to bear being so far away when one of her children was grieving. Two days later he collected her from the hospital and brought her home.” John asked calmly. then held her tight.“Him? You mean it was a boy?” “Yes Mr Hughes. Even Sarah had been unable to penetrate the invisible barrier that she had put up between herself and the world. *** Mary boarded the ferry for England. Neither of them said a word. or to the nurses. I won’t need to tell you. that she is obviously very distressed. For once he could do nothing. in shock and disbelief. almost pleading with him to do something.” As John entered the labour room.” the doctor replied quietly. so that she would have no contact with the mothers who had given birth to healthy babies. When her mother’s offer of help was refused. staring at him. so she had decided that it was a risk worth taking. She rang John from the station. without her knowledge. He was aware only of Josie’s eyes. to bring her baby back. that she had brought to carry the baby home in.
he collected her. When she entered the house and encircled Josie in her arms, she knew she had made the right decision. Even so, no matter how hard she tried, Mary had been unable to coax her to speak about her feelings. Even more worrying, was the fact that she had not shed a tear. In desperation, Mary suggested to John, that maybe she should contact Alice. “No, definitely not,” he said angrily. “The last person I want here at the moment is Sam’s mother. Don’t you think I’ve got enough to cope with,” he added, with a bitterness that was uncharacteristic. Mary understood his feelings and let the matter drop, but after a few more days, he could see that Josie was in need of any help she could get, and, willing to try anything now, he asked Mary to ring Alice. Alice picked up the phone, delighted to hear Mary’s voice, but sensed that something was wrong immediately. Alice could always tell when her friend was worried or anxious. “Hi Mary, how are you. Is everything alright.” I’m fine Alice…but no…everything is far from alright,” Mary replied on a sob. “Oh Mary, whatever is it. Are you upset love?” “It’s..it’s..Josie, she’s lost the baby Alice. The baby was stillborn.” “Oh no. Oh poor girl. Thank you for telling me Mary. Please give her my love won’t you. Oh, I feel so terrible for her.” “Well, that’s not the only reason I rang you Alice. I…I think it might help if you came to see her.” “Mary you know I would be there in a shot under normal circumstances, but I’ll be the last person Josie wants to see at the moment. It will just make things difficult for her with John. I’m sure he won’t appreciate my interference.” “Well that’s where you’re wrong Alice. He’s desperate to try anything that will help. She’s in a terrible state and nothing any of us
can say or do seems to help. I’m not saying he’s exactly thrilled at asking for your help, but when I suggested that she might listen to you, he asked me to ring.” “Okay then,” Alice said on a sigh. If you’re sure I can help. But I hope you’re right, because if Josie gets even more depressed after my visit, I would never forgive myself. Alice placed the phone back on its cradle then picked it up again immediately and dialled Sam’s number. She could not visit Josie without telling him, it would be disloyal. As she told him what she was planning to do, she prepared herself for his anger. She explained quietly, with a nervous tremble in her voice. To Alice’s astonishment and relief, he was sympathetic. He said he understood and asked her to tell Josie how sorry he was about the baby. The bitterness was no longer in his voice, just concern and acceptance. *** Mary opened the door and hugged Alice affectionately. “Thank you so much for coming Alice. I know it can’t be easy for you. But I’m at my wits end, and didn’t know what else to do. You always had a way with our Josie, and if anybody can help her you can.” “Well, I hope so. But I’m not so sure that she’ll see me Mary, if she’s refusing to see everybody else. All I can do is try, if you think it will help.” Mary took Alice through to the sitting room, saying as she entered, “you’ve got a visitor Josie.” Alice was nervous, as she followed Mary into the lovely bright room, wondering what kind of a reception she would receive. She noticed immediately, Josie’s influence in the room, making it comfortable and homely. There were certain little touches, which were reminiscent of Sam’s sitting room, a room that he had left completely unchanged since Josie had left.
In answer to her mother’s voice, Josie turned around and saw Alice. She jumped up from the sofa, and, as Alice opened her arms, Josie fell into them sobbing. Mary was taken aback, even a little jealous. Though she had held Josie and comforted her, never doubting for one moment that Josie loved her, there was something special about her relationship with Alice. It was more than a friendship; it was a deep and lasting bond, which only they understood. Perhaps it lay in the similarity between the two women. Sam had often commented to Mary, that the likeness between Josie and his mother was uncanny. She had also heard him say to Josie, when she was being unreasonable, “you are just like my mother.” Though it had been said in jest, Mary now knew what he meant. Mary left them alone, closing the door quietly, then went to join John in his study, taking him a cup of tea. She told him that Josie was crying and he was astounded. After three weeks of bottling up all her grief, she was finally venting her feelings. John too, experienced a slight pang of jealousy, that it was not he who was responsible for her first step to recovery. They were however, both greatly relieved, and grateful to Alice, even though, secretly envious of the effect her presence had on Josie. After Alice’s visit, Josie made slow progress. She was accepting phone calls from friends, and had one or two visits from Sarah. Gradually, she regained her old sparkle, and as John was in the kitchen one morning, making tea for Sarah and Josie, who were chatting in the sitting room, he heard Josie’s infectious giggle. He smiled to himself, happy in the knowledge that his Josie was back with him at last. Now he too was free to grieve for the child he had lost. John went quietly to their bedroom, and wept for his baby, and for himself. He then went downstairs and walked into the sitting room, with a smile on his face as usual.
“That’s forty packs of cushions in the shop area, and one hundred more in the stock room. There are five of each size and tog in the Duvets, and twenty more of each in the stock room. Have you got that Anne?” asked Amy. “Yes, that all tallies perfectly,” Anne answered. “That’s the lot now Amy. Thanks ever so much for your help. It would have taken twice as long without you.” “You’re welcome. Now go and get some lunch with Sue. I’ll hold the fort here until you get back.” “Thanks Amy, see you later,” they both echoed as they left the store. It had taken quite a while for Amy to get business back on track in the stores, but with patience and not a little hard work, she had finally managed it. The staff were happy, and customers were once again being welcomed into a friendly, comfortable atmosphere. Amy had learned the hard way, that if she worked alongside her staff, giving them the respect they deserved, she could rely on them to do anything for her. They no longer dashed out of the shops on the dot at closing time. Neither did they grumble, when required to work longer hours during busy periods. She had also come to understand, what had made Josie so popular and successful at her job. Unfortunately, most of the old staff were no longer working for her, but after taking considerable care in choosing new staff, Amy had made a fresh start, with a completely different attitude, and it had paid off. Though it had been hard work, the rewards were well worth the effort, and she had found to her delight, that she now had more
free time, and was much happier in her work. She was respected by her staff and customers, and the stores were now showing a healthy profit. ‘If only I had known earlier,’ Amy had often thought to herself. But there was no point dwelling on the past, and at least she had come to her senses in time to do something about it. Amy also had a new development in her private life. Harry Dobson. She had been standing in a corner, waiting for her friend to come back from the bar, at a pub in the centre of town, when her eyes were drawn across the room, to a man she had never see before. She knew most of the people who came into the local, but this man was different. He was the most attractive man she had ever seen, not conventionally handsome, but with a hard, masculine strength, concealing a hint of danger. He was unlike anyone she had known before, and she was fascinated by him. He stood at least six feet tall, with blue black hair, slicked back off his face. His piercing dark eyes were surrounded by thick black lashes and he had a scar across one eyebrow, which added to, rather than detracted from his appeal. Immaculately dressed, in a navy suit and sparkling white shirt, with gold cuff links at the wrist and a large gold watch, he oozed sexuality, and Amy found herself unable to take her eyes off him. As she stared at him he glanced across the room, as if sensing her eyes on him. He displayed perfect white teeth in a lopsided grin, that made her go weak at the knees, and she averted her eyes in embarrassment, as she felt the colour rise, from her neck to her face. ‘Stop acting like a sixteen year old,’ Amy’s head told her. But her body was saying something completely different. As he walked casually over to where she stood, Amy was rooted to the spot. “Hello beautiful,” he said with a false American drawl. “On your own?” “N..no. M..my friend is at the bar getting drinks,” she
I care about you and I don’t want you to get hurt. “We’ve got to go. She was lonely for a man.” Amy didn’t want to listen.” “You don’t even know him. nor resisted. you are my friend Rose. Amy knew she was making a fool of herself. ‘He’s smarmy. that’s what gives me the right.” Amy retaliated. Her immediate instincts told her that there was something about this man she did not like. maybe not. and all she could think of. “It’s too early yet Rose. those hot searing feelings that reached every part of her body and could not be ignored.” Amy almost weakened. Common sense did not come into it. but I know his type. “He’s not to be trusted Amy. Rose was a good friend and deep down she knew that she had her interests at heart. was that this drop dead gorgeous man. But she needed more than a friend. but she was too far gone. Rose returned to her friend’s side. storming towards the bus stop.” she said lamely. She almost dragged an infuriated Amy away.” “Well. and she hated the familiar way he ran his finger along her bare arm as he spoke to her.’ she thought. a lover. but none of them gave her the feelings that had been aroused in her tonight. All her common sense had flown out of the window. with Rose following in 207 . She did not like the intimate way he looked at Amy. His obvious line in patter should have been a warning to her. who made all her senses reel. was calling her beautiful…not any other girl in the room…but her. What do you think you’re doing.stammered. undressing her with his eyes. “Just what gives you the right to make my decisions for me. unable to come up with an excuse.” Amy ranted when they were outside. taking her arm protectively. not my mother. “Yes that’s right. She had had one or two boyfriends.” “You’re my friend Amy.
who they usually relied on for transport when they were too late for the bus. when they had finished their drinks. Apart from dragging Amy bodily from the pub. and she was anxious to get away. determined to protect her friend against this smooth character. Rose was helpless to do anything more about the situation. Harry Dobson was in the pub again the following week and Rose decided that it would just make matters worse to interfere and would probably make Amy more determined.” Rose sighed in exasperation. As far as Rose was concerned.” she said sharply. to make sure she was okay. The pub was calling time. In fact. “Come on Amy. “I’ll be okay. when he asked to take Amy home she could not help herself.” Amy replied firmly. her feelings towards him had not changed one bit. angering Rose.hot pursuit. and Ray has said he’ll give us a lift.” Amy replied. She tried just once more to persuade Amy to leave. Amy’s heart began to pound.” she said. deciding that the only thing she could do. the more they intensified. if you’ll take my advice……. Now come on. as she 208 . let’s go. She had to do something to stop her friend making a fool of herself. She decided to risk upsetting her friend again…for her own good. As he took the car off the main road and down a narrow dirt track. “I’ve already got a lift. see you tomorrow.” “If I want your advice I’ll ask for it. was ring the following morning. But the week after that. Harry led Amy to his car. Shortly after Rose had left. “I’m not leaving you. and drove her the long way home. Ray was an old friend. you go home. okay.” “Okay. the more she got to know him. we’ve missed the last bus. on your own head be it. “Well. then gave in and left.
You do something to me. This time she surrendered more willingly. I didn’t think you were that kind of girl. A lot. giving herself to a man she thought she knew. groaning as he pressed his hard muscular body against her. this time coaxing her more gently into response. he dropped the passenger seat into a prone position. In spite of herself. But the animal excitement this man stirred in her. He turned off the ignition. his crooked smile sending shivers up her spine.” He realised he had the upper hand and cajoled. But it was too late now. and turned towards her. “Are you a tease. She was always so in control. pulling away from her. as his eyes devoured the contours of her slim body and his manicured hand lifted her silky blonde hair from her neck. “No…no…of course not. that you were different.” he said angrily. She made no objections as he seized her roughly and tugged at her clothing. why was she letting this man use her like this. Warning bells rang and every fibre of Amy’s being made her want to open the door and run. Then. coming to her senses. “I like you too sweetheart.suddenly realised the risk she had taken. kept her glued to her seat. “No…No…I like you. “No. His feelings 209 . one eyebrow raised. I think we could be really good for each other. I knew from the first moment I saw you.” she stammered. With a flick of the wrist. but this is different.” He looked at her quizzically. Was she so desperate that she took love on any level. I’d like to think that this is not just a one night stand. I…I. she pushed him away. I wouldn’t normally do this on a first date either. and she was gazing up into his eyes. don’t do this on a first date.. No man had ever had this effect on her before. I just can’t keep my hands off you.” He took her in his arms and kissed her neck. What was wrong with her. honest I do. that no other woman has ever done. she felt her body respond. It’s just too soon.
this had been his excuse. I know one thing. which he did on a regular basis. what kind of businessman he did not say. It was only a suspicion. Hadn’t he just said so? He wanted their relationship to continue. that he just got carried away sometimes. Amy would dig her heels in. was respect Amy’s choice. He often worked away from home and was frequently unavailable and unable to be contacted. She knew her daughter well enough to know. and in the end. was that he was a businessman. worrying herself sick about Amy. that’s for sure. and just be all the more determined to carry on seeing him. as she had on that first night. it would just make matters worse. Hadn’t he just said so? Amy believed every word he told her. but she did not trust him.” Rose said. Hadn’t he just said so? He had never felt so strongly for anybody else. she decided to confide in Alice. and she 210 .matched her own. Rose became more and more concerned for her friend.” Alice thought long and hard about what to do for the best. She had managed to convince herself. Harry was clearly an experienced lover. she’ll get badly hurt. Amy soon learned not to ask too many questions. I’ve heard so many stories about him. Naively Amy chose to believe him. that if she tried to interfere. I don’t know what more I can do. But their time together made up for everything. even when he sometimes left her sore and bruised. and she won’t listen to anybody. Something was not quite right about him. She needed someone to love her and she was sure that what she felt for him could not just be lust. but what he did tell her. decided that all she could do. “I hate what he’s doing to her Mrs Grainger. but occasionally he frightened her with the ferocity of his lovemaking. that he loved her so much. but nothing I say will convince her that he’s no good. if she carries on seeing him. whenever he let her down. He’s a real creep Mrs Grainger. At least. After nights of lying awake. He did not mean to be rough. She wanted to believe every word.
She had taken extra care when dressing. it looked and tasted delicious. without consulting Amy. Rose had been right. The result was striking. When their meal of Dover sole and asparagus. Harry let out a long low whistle as she approached the table. with duchesse potatoes arrived. despite his efforts to be gushingly polite. which was the last thing she wanted. and Amy and Harry had arranged to have dinner in a romantic Italian restaurant. A moment later the straight faced waiter came over with a menu. because it was obvious that Amy was smitten with him. relishing every tasty mouthful. She felt a pang of irritation and toyed with the idea of standing up to him. But all she could do now. She held her tongue. He stood and pulled out a chair. before her daughter was badly hurt. She decided to ask Amy if she could meet him. but try as she might. believing this to be a special occasion. It was Saturday evening. Unfortunately. Tiny matching earrings set off perfectly the slinky little black dress she had chosen. was hope that their relationship cooled. she could not rid herself of the deep distrust she felt. but no sooner had they finished than 211 . as the other diners stared. Harry seemed oblivious to the waiter’s obvious annoyance and continued to order a meal for them both. And one thing she was sure of…this man would hurt her. From the moment Amy introduced Harry Dobson to Alice. almost to the point of grovelling. Amy ate hungrily. She wanted this evening to be perfect and to be fair the meal he had ordered would probably have been her choice anyway. but taken off her face with two diamante combs. then clicked his fingers to summon the waiter… a gesture which she secretly disapproved of.would do it behind Alice’s back. as Amy went to sit down. she disliked him intensely. She wore her long blonde hair loose. Harry had never taken her anywhere like this before. and Amy blushed with embarrassment. placing it down none too gently on the table. then buried the idea as quickly as it came to her.
put on her coat.” he said selfishly. “Can’t we go for a drink. she was often left feeling this way. when Harry sped away.” “Sorry. 212 . “I don’t want to go home yet. to a secluded spot on the edge of farmland. please Harry.” she whispered. when she asked if they could stay a little longer. but he gave her no time to savour the moment. and wondering why. then pulled her towards him. He pulled the lever. “Slowly. when she loved him with all her being.” he said coldly. They hastily rearranged their clothing. she felt as if he was in a world of his own.” he said. He took her quickly. Her body responded. “Where are we going. “Got an early start tomorrow.Harry called for the bill and got Amy’s coat to leave. interested only in self gratification. but he was too aroused to listen. She climbed into the passenger seat. got to get back. his tyres screeching on the tarmac of the car park. Amy rose from her seat. taking her hand across the table. She had dreamed of him wooing her. and barely had time to close the car door. without a word. pressing harder than she liked.” she asked. a little afraid. This was the perfect setting. without another word of explanation. dropping Amy’s seat back non too gently. and followed him forlornly out to the car. but headed out of town. but Harry had other things on his mind. then Harry drove her back to her car and opened the door. leaving Amy feeling half satisfied. “Let’s not waste time. like they did in the movies and whispering that he loved her. He turned off the ignition. As on previous occasions. Her heart sank with disappointment. but used. then tore at her clothes.” Amy argued. He did not answer. He planted a passionate kiss on her lips. Not wanting to cause a scene. maybe even proposing. it’s still early.
she drove onto the road behind him. She saw that it said Hanley Street. But. After driving for around fifteen minutes. only after Amy had pressed him to tell her where he lived. She wanted to know where he was going tonight. before pulling onto a driveway. she would query that later. then dropped back as Harry’s car slowed down and indicated. She was pleased that he was making an effort. to Amy’s delight. and taking such an interest in her work. and not for the first time. why he chose to make love in the car. They had driven past a house that he had pointed out as his home. Amy made a sudden decision. The thought crossed her mind. She drove past the house and went home.Something about Harry’s manner made Amy suspicious. or at least another woman. that maybe he had a wife. He never stayed long with her when they met. Harry called in at the shops regularly to see her. in front of an old house with bay windows. Well. She watched as he rang the doorbell. Amy continued to follow at a safe distance. She waited for his car to pull away from the car park. Never mind. and marvelled at the amount of authority and responsibility she had Having suggested that he may be able to put regular business 213 . and when a man answered the door. and she had wondered time and again. She slowed down and squinted to read it in the semi darkness. ‘Just long enough to get what he wants. when they could have a comfortable bed. at least it wasn’t a woman. leaving a safe distance between them. Over the next two weeks. He turned sharp left and she followed. she could see in the dim light of the hall.’ she thought bitterly now. He always had to be somewhere in a hurry. He was impressed by her position in the company. that he was small with a beard. she had never been invited back for a drink. she realised he was not heading for home. and then. Amy parked across the road and turned off the engine and the lights. noticing a nameplate on a low wall as she turned.
before Amy had time to speak. her mother was by her side. Before she had time to pick up her case from the pavement. How? When?” Amy asked. They had never spent a whole night together. In fact. as they walked down the promenade. “Oh no.” she said. Amy felt giddy after going on the big dipper and the waltzer.” Sam explained. sharing a sticky candyfloss. to find Alice waiting at the door as they drew up outside the house. and Amy naturally jumped at the chance. It rang only once before Sam’s voice answered. She was even more delighted.” she went on. spending the whole of Saturday on the pleasure beach. saying that he would book them into a Hotel. The burglars must have had keys. the hotel turned out to be a guesthouse in Blackpool. but you need to ring Sam urgently. have been broken into. or managed somehow to get 214 . “There are no signs of a break in at any of the stores. but that did not matter to Amy. She took her suitcase out of the boot and kissed Harry before he drove away rapidly.” Amy hurried into the house and dropped her suitcase in the hall. indicating that he was waiting for her call.her way. Amy had been only too happy to answer his never ending questions. he will give you the details. and giggled happily. At last she felt that their relationship was making some progress. then picked up the telephone before she had even taken off her coat. when he asked if she would go away with him for a weekend. as a real couple. They had a wonderful time. and was sorry when they had to leave. Amy arrived home late Sunday morning. and the factory. was that she was with Harry at last. They arranged to meet at the factory. and very obviously upset about something. “Ring Sam. looking flustered. “I’m sorry to greet you with bad news. All that mattered. She had never felt so happy. “All three of the stores. “The police say it must be somebody with inside knowledge.
the sewing machines and over lockers have all gone. “Thousands of pounds worth of fabric has been taken. If they are left hanging around.” replied Amy. you can’t blame me for wondering if he has something to do with it. right now. But deep down. “Well. to get all that lot away. but how well do you know this boyfriend of yours?” “What’s that supposed to mean?” she snapped. that he had taken more than a passing interest in the business. “Well. but now this has happened. and one or two people have warned me about him. but worse still.” she replied adamantly.” he continued. They must have needed a fleet of vans. before he arranged for their weekend away. Steeling herself as she got out of the car. Do any of the staff ever take the keys home with them?” “Oh no. “No Sam.” she retorted. maybe they did it without taking the keys home. It’s not a one man job. Whoever has done this is a big time crook. anyone could take an imprint very easily. Amy left the factory. I’m absolutely sure it’s not my staff. she made her way to the house that he had said was his home. or an enormous container. I know Mam doesn’t trust him. she had to admit. I was prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt.” “Well you can forget that idea. There was so much about him that he kept from her. she 215 . if she was honest with herself. horrified at the thought of any of her trusted staff stealing from her. “Amy. And. and I can prove it.duplicates. So many things did not add up.” he said tentatively. she could not say she trusted Harry completely. He’s been with me all weekend. Determined to prove Sam wrong about Harry. “I don’t like to ask you this. Her mind in turmoil. I could trust them with my life Sam. but even if they did. “The factory has the most serious loss.
he never has before. To her relief the officer she spoke to was kind and understanding. I can tell you.stood for a moment. that she had followed Harry to. she made up her mind to go straight to the police station and tell them everything she knew. But it’s empty again now. plucking up the courage to walk up the drive. All her suspicions were confirmed. but it seems to me that he hadn’t planned to rob you from the start. Amy made her way there next. She knocked on the door. a neighbour came to her front gate. but when the woman told her adamantly. Never had Amy been in such turmoil. and was walking down the drive towards her car. Amy knew that everything he had ever told her had been a lie. She was torn. He had never lived here. and rang the bell repeatedly. Had some real unsavoury looking characters in and out all the time. by a woman carrying a baby on her hip. The only thing he seemed surprised about.” 216 . determined to find out who lived here. “I know it’s probably no consolation. Feeling dirty and humiliated. so where did he live. she wondered. Remembering the house in Hanley Street. Been empty for about two years it has. Just as she was about to give up. that she had never heard of Harry Dobson. “You won’t get any answer there love. between relief at finding that the woman was not his wife. She went around the back and peered in through the windows. If he had he wouldn’t have been honest about his name. “He usually works under an alias. that she had been used. and when it was answered. even when she banged hard on the door. and anger. Thank God!” she added. and there was no point denying it any longer. not blaming her for trusting Harry.” he told her. Had some right comings and goings over the last few weeks though. as she had expected. was that Harry had used his real name. but could get no answer. her heart leapt into her chest.
He poured her a brandy and guided her to the sofa. People like Harry Dobson have no real feelings for anybody but themselves.” “Well. We all make mistakes. sobbing. but I just wouldn’t listen. Didn’t give much thought to your feelings then love. as she remembered the lies. Maybe he didn’t set out to rob you. Once a thief.” she confided. I’ve been so stupid. I don’t know what possessed me to ever get involved with him. just a little naïve. without taking a breath. we have been unable to pin anything on him. almost to herself. the secrecy and the selfish lovemaking. we’ll get him this time. while they do the dirty work. “I’m sorry Sam. and placed the glass in her hand. “How could I have been so stupid. so sorry. to be honest. He sat down with her.” “You weren’t stupid love.” *** Sam answered the front door. But don’t worry. That’s why. until now. He’ll never change. It’s all my fault. and Amy fell into his arms. his comforting arm 217 .“So at least he had some feelings for me. We know quite a lot about our Mr Dobson. while Sam tried to calm her down. Everybody tried to warn me. handing her a handkerchief as tears flowed down her cheeks. He has a gang working for him. is that we track him down and I don’t think that will be too difficult. did he?” he said kindly. “The temptation just proved too great. and usually manages to get himself an alibi. “Don’t waste your pity on him Miss.” She went on and on. he never gave much thought to my feelings. Everything fell into place now. sadness replacing her anger. but that was when he thought you had nothing. It was a different story once he found out that you and your brother had a business.” Amy said quietly. Anyway the important thing now. always a thief I’m afraid.
” “That’s exactly what the officer said. Fortunately. We can’t both be wrong… can we? Now come on. but the staff had surprised them. Gradually her sobbing subsided. and looking calmer than he felt. Sam and Amy had been touched by their loyalty. until they could purchase new ones with the insurance money. by promising that they would not seek other work and would work without payment. One thing is for sure. Sewing machines and over lockers had been hired. until things were back to normal.” he said firmly. and although it was going to take some time to get things back to normal. together. if necessary. “It could be a lot worse. allowing him extra time to get their deliveries out.” The following weeks were hectic. smiling. pull yourself together. with Sam and Amy constantly on the telephone. and then we’ll work this thing out. we will not let that worm ruin us. “You may have been a bit naïve. Sam’s heart went out to her. tell me everything. was add to her sorrow. His friendship with his clients had also paid off. “Now. He realised how ashamed and humiliated she must feel.” “Well then. letting Sam have unlimited supplies of materials.around her shoulder. “It isn’t your fault Amy. patting her hand. She had been foolish.” he said gently. and extending the time they normally allowed for payment.’ he recalled. they now knew. but that isn’t a crime. the manufacturers had also been understanding. that at least they would not go under. at some time or another. As Amy poured out the whole story. and they had been very patient. 218 . trying desperately to rebuild what they had lost. Will we?” he asked. and the last thing he wanted to do now. at least we are insured. They had been unable to open the stores until the factory was up and running again. ‘but haven’t we all.
as Michael and Val now called their son. Mary’s eyes were filled with tears. He was now almost two years old. They had hours of fun. he also had a mind of his own. It was amazing how quickly he had developed his own little personality. His efforts at talking. taking in the air after an enjoyable two week holiday in Ireland.CHAPTER EIGHTEEN The sea was like a millpond. was the sight of Terry. but as Josie had explained to her. It was the sloppy kiss from Terry that finally broke down Josie’s resolve not to cry. clinging to John’s neck as he tried to hand him 219 . But this mood never lasted for long.’ The hardest thing. he would throw himself to the ground and stamp his heels in temper. whatever he was doing. were hilarious. with barely a ripple disturbing it’s glass like surface. listening to his gibberish. It had been a tearful farewell at Dunlaoghaire harbour. Spending time with family. with a promise to visit again soon. but she bravely held them back. and especially with Michael’s baby Terence. sunny nature. which seemed to shine through. had been leaving little Terry. as Josie and John sat on the deck. It had not been easy leaving Josie’s mother. and watching his antics as he played. or at least attempting to. who had done her utmost to persuade them to stay longer. that it was impossible to be sad when he was around. ‘the sooner they got back to a normal life the better. and everything he said had to be interpreted by Val. But in spite of his bright. On occasion. and he could soon be distracted with a spot of tickling. had helped them through their grief. and such a happy little soul. but what touched them all the most. when things did not go his way. Josie held her mother tight as she kissed her goodbye. and they now felt refreshed and eager to return to work.
As the family waved goodbye. “You’re looking better. especially with the baby. I’ve done you a casserole. You both look the picture of health.” he cried frantically. and a bag of provisions on the kitchen table. “We’ve had a lovely time.” “I wondered what the delicious smell was. “Well. hugging them warmly.” said Josie laughing. How was your journey?” “Amazingly calm. 220 .” she added. She’s been on a cooking marathon. Now back to work lazybones. until they were out of sight. I hope you’re ready for work. What a slave driver!” Sarah laughed.” “We should be going on a diet.” she said. Uncy Yon. The abandoned look on his chubby face broke their hearts. and made them feel guilty. for the Irish sea. “You’ve had quite enough time off. whatever she’s done. He squealed and kicked. “I’ve missed you.back to Michael.” replied John.” she added. always fit as a fiddle.” said Josie. who grinned back at her.” said John. It’s a wonder we don’t weigh a ton. it has worked. Sarah was waiting at the house to greet them. How’s Arthur?” “Oh he’s fine. but it’s good to be home. cracking an imaginary whip. Never stopped pushing food down our necks the whole time we’ve been there. You know Arthur. “Uncy Yon. with a casserole in the oven. “I’m starving. “I’ve missed you too.” she said. You know what my Mam is like. as they boarded the Princess Maud. “Give me a chance to get home for heavens sake. On their arrival home. winking at John. making John reluctant to leave him. I hope you are hungry. “I’ve got one or two definite talks lined up for you and a list of possible venues for future work that you need to follow up. Michael took Terry’s dimpled little arm and waved it for him. looking at Josie. So you had better get yourself organised. Josie groaned.
It did not take long for Josie to get back into her usual work routine. decided that the least she could do. If he had tried the same approach at work. clutching a letter he had received from Mike Logan. Josie fell in love with the place immediately. he would have a mutiny on his hands. as they drove through the little village of Sonning. how Sarah could be so bossy. she was the one who had wanted to move away in the first place. 221 . ‘It’s like travelling back in time. He often wished he could have the same effect on people. Josie also had her own career to think of. an editor friend of his in Reading. not wanting to miss anything. some of them dating back hundreds of years. with it’s narrow streets and quaint cottages. But this was not a valid argument.’ he muttered to himself.” she argued. “No promises mind. including Arthur. Josie refused to even consider John’s proposition. Initially. offering him a job on his newspaper.” she stated firmly. and she was settled now. She did not make a fortune from her talks and it was far from regular work. ‘Now there’s a thought. she could do her talks anywhere in the country now that she was an established speaker. then realising how selfish she was being. would be to agree to go with him to see the area. gazing through the car window. but she enjoyed it and it had gained her a wide circle of friends. “But the cost of living is so much higher in the South. and yet so lovable at the same time. that’s all. ‘Maybe he should give Sarah a position in management on the newspaper. how everyone just did as they were told with good grace. After all. “It will be a big increase in salary. That was until John returned home from work one evening. gasping at the beauty of the thatched roofs and the old inns.It never ceased to amaze John. And even more so.’ he pondered with amusement.” he told Josie.” The sun shone brightly. As Sarah had frequently pointed out to her. life was more or less back to normal.’ she thought. “Just a look around. and within a couple of weeks.
letting her imagination run away with her.” she said.” John chided. “I love it.Then. teasing him now. set in acre upon acre of land. John plucked up the courage to ask the question he had been avoiding for the whole of the journey.” she added.” remarked Josie. “This is wonderful.” “Nosey parker. pointing to the largest of the houses. 222 . two enormous mansions. “If we come to live here I can ask around. Her head turned in every direction as she determined to take in every detail. extended out over the water. “Would you like to come to see it with me?” “Well. John asked her how she liked the area. Relieved. I suppose. As they drove on into Henley on Thames. yet upmarket shops and the small tea shops and cafes on the main street came into view. maybe. At the bottom of the High Street.” “We might.” she replied. as they passed through the tree lined countryside. the river stretched out before them. “Mike has arranged for us to see a house on the outskirts of Henley. “I wonder who lives there. John glanced in her direction once more. “Well. “John. as they followed the road round to the right. Looking across to the other side of the river. as they got out of the car and walked along the waters edge. there’s no harm in looking.” he ventured. Though she spoke not a word.” she answered honestly. she spotted between the trees. trying to assess her reaction. glancing sideways at her as he drove. but unusual houses. but I don’t suppose we’ll ever know. do you think it could be someone famous?” John laughed at her childlike excitement.” Josie answered. which he had now grown used to. Along the riverbank was a row of impressive. Josie fell silent. “It could be someone famous. beneath which boats were moored. further on. with first floor balconies. her delight could not have been more obvious as the quaint. and without hesitation.
onto a curved driveway. which was covered by a porch. with a black and white inn on the corner. Though neglected and dull. There were three doors leading off the hall. In front of the door. Drive you mad.” “You already do that. stood a tall. before turning onto a track lined with trees. they reached a crossroads. which housed a large white Aga cooker. This led up to the front door. They passed a couple of houses and a farm. “Ouch! Our appointment to see the property is in about twenty minutes. “This is the turn off. heading back towards Sonning.” he said looking at his watch.” she said.“Huh. but pleasant voice. another into a study. and the third one into the kitchen. We had better make our way there. over the top of which could be seen the roof of a large house. 223 . set into a niche beneath a brass hood. listen who’s talking. You’ll be the first to want to know when I find out who it is. John drove slowly through a break in the hedge. Josie immediately imagined it gleaming white. They travelled out of Henley.” he said. “Oh you. As they walked up the stone steps to the porch. And I shall refuse to tell you.” he replied grinning. waiting to meet them. “Nice to meet you. and paint flaked off the surrounding walls. and with the brass sparkling. checking the name of the inn with his instructions. My name is Shaun Robinson. they saw a tall hedge. Please follow me.” John informed her. he held out his hand to each of them in turn. and after a couple of miles. then as they came to the bottom of the track. supported by two stone pillars. A large worn rug. in a plumy. fair haired man. I’ll be showing you around. slapping his arm affectionately. One into the dining room. covered the centre of the floor in the huge entrance hall.
unaware that she and John were not yet married. The effect was magical. The house was going to need a lot of work.” she said. they got into the car. “Oh John. From an inner hall off the dining room.At the end of the hall. she knew that. Shaun rang to say that it had been accepted. The view was stunning. before they left their hotel the following morning. almost covering the whole wall. feeling strangely emotional. But it was already renovated and furnished in her mind.” Shaun said.’ as John called it. all of which had walk in wardrobes. with old fashioned. After one last tour of the ground floor. ‘nightmare plumbing. which looked out over the overgrown garden and rolling hills at the back of the house. but two days later. as the sun reflected colours onto the other walls.” said John. 224 . and as they smiled at each other. the only thing to be decided now. Shaun went on to show them the four enormous bedrooms. As she wandered around the ground floor for a second time. which had a stained glass window at the end. wondering if they had been a touch too optimistic with their offer. “Well. the stairs led up to a landing. But. Josie could not take her eyes from the spectacle. to their delight. telling Shaun that they would think it over.” “Me neither. and the bathroom. They arrived home excited but nervous. A large inglenook fireplace dominated the centre of the wall opposite the door and it was flanked on either side by two floor to ceiling leaded windows. It was this room that made up Josie’s mind. Georgian double doors led into the most stunning sitting room Josie had ever seen. “Would you like to see upstairs now Mrs Hughes. he had contacted Shaun and put in their offer.” he replied smiling. “I’ve never seen anything so beautiful. her imagination ran riot. The next few days were spent in a whirl of frenzied planning. an unspoken agreement was made. is whether we can afford it.
When John tried to get involved. she was best left to get on with it.Propped up with pillows in bed. contracts were exchanged and a date set for the move. the first step being a visit to a solicitor. It had seemed to take forever to get things through. and land searches done. When Josie had a mission. unable to sleep. Everything had happened so quickly. on which someone else’s pictures would hang. with the slightly daunting excitement and anticipation of it all. they both heaved a sigh of 225 . Giles Cosgrave put them at ease almost immediately. Within a month a tenant had been found. that they would have to use their existing furniture for the time being. leaving them no time to sell the flat. Josie could not help remembering the time when she and Sam had bought their house. they talked well into the night. but would replace it with more suitable pieces as each room was completed. so they arranged for it to be rented out. They had decided on one of their midnight discussions. not that he argued very convincingly against the idea. in a remarkably short time. On Saturday morning. and as they spoke. The surveyors were sent in. Josie began organising with military precision. As the van pulled away and began its journey to their new home. but maybe it only seemed forever. until it could be sold. because they had been so anxious to move in. advising them each step of the way. their voices echoed around the empty rooms. and within two months. the removal van arrived. who enquired how the move was going. he told the barman. This move seemed to be happening alarmingly quickly. At last the flat was just a shell with blank walls. putting everything in boxes and labelling them carefully. and their possessions were carefully loaded onto it. he was promptly banished to the pub. and there was so much to do.
he spotted something in the corner of the porch. “From your neighbours at Little Brow Farm. don’t start crying before we start working on the house. get your own tea. and make me one while you’re at it. Welcome to our community. cutting through pipes. tears welling up in her eyes. Opening it. She put the kettle on. John took out the key and opened the front door. You’ll be doing enough of that. and make me a cup of tea woman. They were confined to living in their bedroom. making her laugh. but feeling just as touched as she was by the kind gesture. trying to cheer her up again.” “Oh. which had an envelope resting on the top. He picked her up again. “well just this once. he read the message on the card inside. having overtaken it on the way.relief. 226 . “Right. knocking down walls. now find that kettle. “Ooh. They had intended to carry out a lot of the work themselves. drilling. “Come on soppy. He put her down. Now I really do feel at home.I love it when you are masterful.” Josie remarked. then carried her into their new home. and everything they possessed was piled up in there with them. “But even so. then as he bent down to sweep Josie up into his arms and carry her over the threshold. when you see how much work there is to be done. as he placed her down in the kitchen.” he said in a deep macho voice.” she said with pouted lips.” The builders began work on the house within days of moving in. and generally causing mayhem.” said Josie. Josie ran around with cups of tea and sandwiches. saying. how lovely. and picked up the large bouquet of flowers. staggering as he did so.” she added.. They arrived at the house before the van. “It will probably look like doll’s furniture in those huge rooms.” John said. and John came home each evening to a pile of rubble. John grabbed her and tickled her into submission.
but until the major jobs were completed. It had been a long hard task. But they gained experience as they worked. stirring her into response. “Oh John. and used the occasional swear word. and the new furniture moved into it. without any shadow of a doubt. “And what’s more we’ve got it all to ourselves from now on. “Fancy making love sweetheart?” John asked teasingly one night. Amazingly. embracing her contentedly.” One month later. the last room was completed. Josie awoke one 227 . that it had been worth every back breaking moment. they painted ceilings. as they wandered through the house. it was virtually impossible. making each room easier than the last. His arms went around her and his lips came down softly on hers. Six weeks after the work was completed.” “Yes. They also gained momentum. when their lack of expertise became evident. she turned to face him. Then becoming aware of his warm body pressing against her.” For the next three months. They had completely underestimated the work that was needed. But now. totally exhausted. grinning as he snuggled up to her back. both exhausted. There had been times when. they knew. climbed up and down ladders hanging it. than they did at the beginning.” Josie sighed happily after the last of the workmen had left. “ Okay. it is.” she replied sleepily. “it’s going to be so beautiful. as they worked as a team. “Fancy two black eyes. they had a very clear view of what the completed house would look like. once the builders had cleared away the debris. As their bodies moved. standing back and admiring each room in turn. But eventually. they could see a light at the end of a very dusty tunnel. and their cosmetic work could commence. scraped and pasted wallpaper. isn’t it?” he replied. completing jobs much more quickly. They fell into bed each night. but be gentle with me. just as Josie was drifting off the sleep. they had wondered if it was worth it. she whispered in his ear.
” “Well. wanting this child so much. to their relief. she told no one. That night she told John. Josie understood. until. we’ll keep a very close eye on you. Two days later. without waking Sam.” she assured him. She crept out of bed. when she became light headed and shaky. “Don’t you want this baby. lots of women lose one baby. that he did not want to tempt fate. where she was violently sick. and bought a cot and pram. and sped to the bathroom. if I lost this baby too. And stop worrying. and though he was delighted.morning with a feeling of nausea. they prepared a beautiful nursery in bright colours.” His kind smile inspired confidence in him and Josie felt reassured. or dragging her into toy shops. more than anything. Afraid to let herself get too excited.” the doctor asked. He also wanted to wait a while before telling anybody. and everything should be fine. Feeling more optimistic now. 228 . He seemed as apprehensive as she was. she sensed that things would not be the same as during her previous pregnancy. but so terrified of losing it. “But I’m so frightened. “Oh yes. because of what happened the last time. then waited patiently for the birth of their much wanted second child. seeing her concern and misreading her reaction. she had to return early from a shopping trip. So. then go on to have more.” she confided. There was no impulsive buying of baby clothes. by making too many plans for its future. She recognised the symptoms immediately. until she had consulted the doctor. Josie passed seven months without incidence. “I don’t think I could cope. His feelings were exactly the same as her own. they quietly got on with their lives. without any problems at all. and it was confirmed that she was pregnant again.
He had lost his usual 229 . As he walked to his car. holding on to her for a moment. and blooming. you are just a smidge tubby. John had an unexplained restless feeling. to which I would like to become accustomed. almost to the point where he wanted to turn the car around and go home. as she waddled around the house. less of the fatty. “Hey.CHAPTER NINETEEN “Give me a kiss fatty. if you want to keep me in the manner. he resented every single minute he spent away from Josie. with feigned annoyance. Josie was eight months pregnant now. He made fun of her constantly.” she said finally. I won’t ever call you fatty again. John loved to watch her. I take it back. patting her bump affectionately. and they both enjoyed the good humoured banter that passed between them.” he answered.” he laughed. then you’ll be sorry. or I’ll sit on you. that first time I set eyes on you. anything but that.” said John. As the birth of the baby drew near. smiling at her with so much love in his eyes. with a regretful sigh. “Oh no. John turned and kissed her again. looking more beautiful than he had ever seen her. “Go on.” Josie retorted. not wanting to leave. you had better get out there and earn some money. as he picked up his briefcase in the hall. “Well. “You’ll be late for work.” he replied. that it brought a lump to her throat. On the way to the office.” “It’s worth it. But you must admit.” Josie said jokingly. “I just knew you were too expensive for me.
for some reason. “It…it can’t be John. it had been particularly difficult to leave her. It was over in an instant.” he answered quickly. shaking their heads in agreement. They tried anyway. Visibility was diminished as the rain came down heavier and he did not see the car that skidded as it overtook him at speed. and no doubt. Please sit down. with his face covered against the prying eyes of the world. glanced at each other knowingly.” she pleaded.’ The windscreen wipers of his car sang an even rhythm. “Could we come in please. looking serious. The ambulance crew who pulled him from the mangled wreck.” said the male officer. “No. and was interested only in returning home to her at the end of each day.” 230 .enthusiasm for his work. to find two police officers standing on her doorstep. panic stricken. Is he hurt?” “I’m afraid he had been in a car accident. Josie’s heart pounded with fear. as they realised that there was no hope of reviving him. it isn’t your mother. beautiful baby. is she ill?” It was the first thing that crossed her mind. By the time the ambulance arrived at the hospital. “Please tell me what has happened. and John knew nothing about it. but their efforts were futile. he could think of nothing but his beautiful wife. as she answered the door. a very serious one. Please tell me that it isn’t John. This morning. As she led them inside. ‘pull yourself together man. “Is it my mother. people did sometimes fight back and recover. knocking his car off the road into the brick wall of the railway bank. and as he drove down Station Road. John was dead. Laughing to himself. towards the newspaper offices. “What is it? What has happened?” asked Josie. They carried him into the hospital on a stretcher. swishing the pouring rain from the glass. knowing that against all the odds. he muttered.
Her hands shook as she reached out to touch him. “Do you feel well enough to identify the body. it was obvious that there was no point. Josie jumped up from the sofa and went to grab her coat. “I’ll never feel better again. Let’s get it over with.” Josie steeled herself. Oh no.” After going into the kitchen to make some tea. deep into her heart. Josie shook her head. The days and nights that followed were a blur.” he asked gently. I’ll bring you a cup of tea and then we can try again. but the woman understood and took no offence. the detective’s arm around her shoulders supporting her. She stroked his beloved face and kissed it gently.” She stood outside the mortuary doors. “are you alright love?” to which Josie answered a dishonest “yes. But the woman gently put a hand on her shoulder. He looked at her deathly white face and placed a protective hand under her elbow. “Would you like to go and sit down for a few moments. “Not my John. and from the look on her face. and groaned. She sank back down onto the sofa. As she looked down on the bruised grey face and nodded her head to the detective. ready to go to the hospital. shaking with fear at the task before her. “Drink this. with her head in her hands. apart from the occasional. the policeman sat down beside her. her heart torn apart with grief. The officer guided her to the waiting car and drove her to the hospital in total silence. the woman officer put a cup into Josie’s hand. “Are you ready. then walked sobbing from the room. As Josie sipped at the tea. Josie’s legs almost gave way. with Josie 231 . not my John.” she said kindly. it will make you feel better.said the woman officer quietly. No…thank you.” the detective who accompanied her asked.” Josie snapped at her. The chilling words struck like a knife.
she refused to believe it was John laying in that coffin. but Josie needed to keep busy. Then she felt guilty and sobbed into her pillow. but after the doctor had explained that it was a very mild one. sent for the doctor. kicking and moving the whole time. or that she would never see him again. She was angry with God. but fearing rejection. The worst thing was. and slept for the first time since John’s death. she took it gratefully. She stood opposite John’s mother at the graveside. it was the only thing that was keeping her sane. angry with John. In her bed that night. Eventually. and her heart went out to the woman who had given him life. contacting the necessary people and sorting out her financial affairs. She shouted at him in the blackness. that she still kept expecting John to walk in through the door at the end of his working day. The day after the funeral. Even on the day of the funeral. Even the baby seemed to sense her distress. Mary tried everything to persuade Josie to go back with her. her mother. Her mother came to stay. cursing him for leaving her. Illogically. after her brother and his wife had returned home. all she could do. and could do no harm. without consulting her. but nothing would budge her determination to stay in the house that she and John had shared. giving her no rest. who gave her a sedative. Josie insisted that her mother should go home to Ireland. Two weeks later. She tried to take over the arrangements. because she feared that it might harm the baby. as if in a dream. She seemed to be on automatic pilot. robotically doing what was required of her. was leave her to grieve in her own way. telling her that everything would be alright. she wondered if their child knew that it had lost its father. she felt more angry than she had ever felt in her life. with his reassuring smile. Mary gave in and 232 . to come back this minute. and desperately wanted to be of some help. At first she refused it. after Josie explained that she needed to get used to being on her own. organising the funeral.rushing around.
until after the baby is born. by hiding her feelings and pretending that she was okay.” said Sarah firmly. And I may as well tell you. “Your mother asked me to come. providing you can put up with black moods that is. that I have no intention of leaving. She rubbed her eyes and looked at the clock. She sat down in the beautiful drawing room. they shared each others grief. “Hello love.” said Josie. of which she and John had been so proud. Mary was getting old now. “And then you can come and stay with us for a couple of weeks. I’ll be fine. “In fact I would 233 .” “You haven’t changed a bit. Mam shouldn’t have bothered you.” said Sarah. don’t worry about that. and at times it had been too intense. Josie was awakened with a start by the front doorbell.” Josie argued. and looking serious for once. I think he’s secretly glad to get rid of me for a few weeks. as she walked through the hall to the door. The old man is very domesticated. and need feel no guilt at using her to lean on. and Josie had tried to protect her.” “I think you’re entitled to a few black moods at the moment. What about Arthur?” “Oh. With Sarah she could be herself. She ran her fingers through her hair and straightened her crumpled skirt. “It’s going to be like a breath of fresh air having you here. laughing for the first time since John had died. Josie felt that she could finally give vent to her feelings.” Sarah replied quietly. In fact. and cried until she was so exhausted that she fell asleep.left. or until you feel strong enough to cope. Josie was glad to see her friend. Even though Josie had loved having her mother to stay.” “No Sarah. She had been asleep for six hours. In spite of wanting to be alone. After driving Mary to the station and waving her off with a forced smile. as she held her arms wide and Josie fell into them. It was five thirty.
” said Josie. Where do I sleep?” 234 . Well now.” “You just being here helps. taking Sarah’s face in her hands affectionately. that’s all the soppy stuff out of the way. “Good.be very surprised if you didn’t. I just hope that I can help you through them.
She rushed downstairs. She’s been through the mill that girl. panting heavily as she attempted to speak. Sarah has just rung me to say that our Josie has gone into labour. to attend the funeral of your daughter-in-law’s new…er…partner. hasn’t she? I’ve hardly been able to get her out of my mind. I’m sorry to ring you so early. but I thought you would want to know. since you rang to tell me about John. It was six thirty. “Alice? It’s Mary.CHAPTER TWENTY Alice awoke to the sound of the telephone ringing downstairs. But before she had got out the words. I know how much you care about Josie. They were not married. It’s hardly the done thing. ‘Who can possibly want to speak to me at this time of the morning?” she wondered apprehensively. but at the end of the day. It’s good of you to let me know. she squinted through sleepy eyes at the alarm clock. Switching on the lamp. and so does Josie. 235 . holding tightly onto the banister. before it stopped ringing. which stood on the bedside table. waiting to hear something. unsteady on her feet and afraid of falling. But you do understand. now is it. so she could not call him Josie’s husband. she heard the familiar voice at the other end of the line.” “Oh Mary love. Especially when she left your son for him. She picked up the receiver. We’re all on tenterhooks here. I’ve been so worried about her. It’s been an awful situation for you Alice. You must be worried sick. “Of course I do. It was funny how Mary never quite knew how to refer to John. your loyalties must lie with Sam. why I couldn’t come to the funeral don’t you Mary. but anxious to reach the phone.
“But.” “I will. Poor mite. or ring the doctor?” Alice realised how thoughtless she had been. “No. “Do you need me to come round.” Alice sympathised.” she added. “I just thought you might want to know. putting his mind at rest. But Mary had to admit. with this being her second time. She should have realised that by ringing him so early in the morning. she would be giving him cause for concern. and automatically dial Sam’s number. I’d completely forgotten. because they were not even engaged. won’t you?” Alice asked.” “Oh. that despite the fact that she had grown to love John like a son. I’m just ringing to tell you that Josie has gone into hospital to have her baby. I’m sure everything will be fine this time. then just as she was about to replace the receiver. of course.” She had no idea what made her pick up the phone. Speak to you soon.” she added weakly. “I’m sorry love. 236 . that they did not need a piece of paper to confirm their relationship. “And give Josie my love. she still found their arrangement an embarrassment. “You will let me know the minute you hear some news. Josie would have accepted. “Anyway love.Nor could she call him her fiancé. It shouldn’t be too long. ringing her son at just gone six in the morning.” she exclaimed quickly. and she was sure that this time. As it rang out she was plagued by second thoughts. Josie had always insisted. Bye love. to tell him that his wife is in hospital having another man’s child. The sad thing was. you’d better get off the line. after the birth of their baby. in case someone is trying to get through with some news. that he had intended proposing to Josie again. he answered. are you alright?” he asked panicking. I didn’t mean to give you a fright. no. What a thing to do.” She suddenly realised how stupid she sounded. “Mam.
“It was thoughtless of me.” “It’s alright Mam. and just because they were split up. Whatever possessed you to do a thing like that?” “I don’t know.” Then. he’s 237 . except that floozy. he added. yawning as she spoke. was because she bore such a close resemblance to Josie. I rang him to tell him that Josie is in the hospital having the baby. But that’s my problem not yours…and I’m sorry.” he answered.” she explained.“And why would you think that Mam? For heavens sake. Josie had been like a daughter to her during their marriage. “Okay. She thought about his life since they had parted. pacifying her. “Oh Mam? If you want to go to visit Josie and the baby. He understood how she felt. no matter how long you’ve been apart. But there had never been anyone special. I just had a brainstorm I think. “Who was that. Sam had come a long way.” a voice behind her said.” Sam said softening.” These words confirmed what Alice had always suspected. “I can’t seem to separate the two of you in my mind.” he retorted angrily. thankful that she did not have to be estranged from Josie any longer. “I hope Josie will be okay. Just to make his mother feel better…or so he told himself…he added. I’ll understand. He had never been short of female company. “I’ll ring the minute I know how she is love. “It was Sam. “Bye Mam. before she could ring off. he could not expect Alice to turn against her. It was just an automatic reaction.” “Mam!” she said shocked. But. and the only reason he had thought she was special. but then. men who have money never are. do you think I have no pride.” Alice put down the phone. I don’t know what came over me. who took him for a ride. that Sam still had feelings for Josie. Okay?” she asked tentatively.
and Sam who had chosen to spend all his time working. Amy had known for a long time that Sam wasn’t the husband he should be. and in spite of being ashamed of her suspicions. how is Josie?” she asked sheepishly as she walked towards the kitchen to put the kettle on. she had at least tried to understand both sides. Although Alice could not condone what Josie had done. Alice could not help but wonder if Amy had some ulterior motive behind her venom.” “Really Mam. Why don’t you give her a call when she comes home? I’m sure she would love to hear from you. especially with losing John too. It had been Sam who had refused to discuss their problems. and nobody who knew the truth could have blamed Josie entirely for what she did.alright about it now. as Alice had expected her to do. after she lost the other baby. It was bad enough for him. 238 . totally unlike the daughter Alice had known so well. Amy had almost seemed to welcome Josie’s departure. whereas her daughter had been adamant that Sam had done no wrong. Anyway. but she was mature enough now to understand that there was no black and white in a relationship. At the time of their split she had been hard and callous.” Alice had never understood what had caused Amy to feel such animosity towards Josie. Amy was the one who introduced her to Sam. “I don’t know love. It couldn’t be just that Josie had left Sam. that Josie had tried desperately to save their marriage. Alice understood how deeply Amy felt about Josie being unfaithful. I dread to think how she must be feeling. She and Josie used to be so close. I don’t know what you were thinking about. when you went to see her. Surely she could see. instead of with his wife. nor did she encourage him to fight for his marriage. It’s a bit worrying after the last time. In fact. and couldn’t wait for them to marry. She certainly did not seem to be upset on her brother’s behalf. She had always been so happy to have her as a sister-in-law.
Since the Harry Dobson affair. and maybe they could all be friends again. And her kindness was not confined to herself and Sam. “Or maybe I could write her a letter. things were different.Today though. Nothing would have made Alice happier. her daughter had gradually returned to her. From what she had heard it was extended to her staff at the stores and had earned her a great deal of respect. she had become her Amy again. “Perhaps I will phone Josie.” Amy broke into her thoughts.” 239 . Perhaps now. she would think again about her relationship with Josie. She had become loving and caring again.
Push harder. The next few minutes were unbearable for Josie. behind the gas and air mask. She knew that from now on. Both she and Sarah sobbed uncontrollably. and was tired and bad tempered.” With one final. Sarah continued to encourage her. and Josie would make sure that her child knew everything there was to know. The midwife and nurses in attendance also had great difficulty controlling their emotions. she heaved a huge sigh of relief. As long as their child lived. She was the product of the love that she and John had shared. about the man who had given her life. The child was carried back across the room and placed in Josie’s arms. examining every part of her. 240 . Josie looked down at the tiny bundle that was her daughter. knowing as they did about John’s death. you’re nearly there. They had made her together. and slipped a fine tube down it’s throat to remove the mucus. Then she shouted excitedly. as the nurse took the child away to the other side of the room.CHAPTER TWENTY ONE Sarah gritted her teeth. it won’t be long now. which seemed to grasp her index finger in recognition. breathing and panting with her as directed by the midwife. She had been in labour for six hours. every time she looked into that perfect little face. Josie gave birth to a seven pound baby girl. and then a loud wail of a cry. to her dimpled fingers. from her wrinkled feet. “I can see its head! Josie. “That’s easy for you to say. she would be reminded of him. as Josie’s fingernails dug deep into her hand. As she heard the choking cough. I can see it! Oh my God.” Josie retorted furiously.” she shouted. excruciating push. “Push. which she was trying desperately to hold on to.
to be insulted. and put her finger inside the child’s curled up fist. “I’m going to call her Leah. And that was something she felt every time she held their child. her voice breaking as she spoke. when Josie explained that she needed to get used to coping alone. “Oh thanks a lot! I come all this way. As she took the baby back from her mother. A week later. To be told I’m too old to be of help.” said Sarah.” she said smiling. The old humour was back. and there stood Mary. like nothing she had ever felt before. As her mother looked down at the tiny screwed up face.” she said. a surge of love welled up inside Josie. she knew that she could cope. But she understood. Sarah collected Josie and the baby from the hospital and took them home. that Josie should go with her. Sarah reluctantly returned home. I should have known you couldn’t keep away. as long as she had the comforting feeling that John was still with her. That’s the name John and I had agreed on for a little girl. with her arms wide open to receive her grandchild. arguing up until the last moment. One week later. and Josie could not help laughing. She was determined to be independent. not meaning to cause offence. as soon as possible. and held her tight.” said Josie out of concern. but it’s such a long way for you to come. was also going to be a great joy. and though glad of all the help she had received. Josie looked forward to her time alone with the baby. Nervous though she was. and she realised that the fear she had. of being responsible for another human being.so did John. 241 . at the prospect of bringing up her child alone. As she got out the key to open the front door it opened. “Oh Mam. Come here and give me a kiss…and in future watch your mouth. “That’s a beautiful name. she was happy at the same time. And you’re not getting any younger.
and the child looked up into her eyes. before she could finish. Josie felt desperately lonely. “Look. a small voice said. I didn’t mean to frighten you. 242 . as if she understood every word. She had been told at the hospital. hello. sure that there was someone on the other end of the line. Amy was the last person she expected to call. the house felt quiet. when Mary also left a week after Sarah. and tell her that she would come to stay after all. I don’t know which asylum you escaped from. expecting it to be her mother. Josie tucked Leah into her cot. but she was going to have to face being alone sometime. her stomach turned over. “Amy. and she was still very nervous. it’s me. she felt a sudden glow of contentment.” For a moment Josie was silent. If she heard a strange sound. She was tempted to call Sarah. gently kissing Leah’s forehead. don’t you my sweet?” she said. Watching the tiny mouth as it suckled.’ she told herself firmly. the phone rang. As she sat in the rocking chair feeding the baby. For the first time since John’s death. and as she bent down to kiss her for the umpteenth time. She pulled herself together.” she said softly. and watched her eyes following Josie’s movements. it’s so nice to hear your voice. but you can’t frighten……… Then. she felt the warmth of the child at her breast. Josie had underestimated just how much she would miss them. It was going to be quite a while before Josie got used to living alone in this big house. that the baby would be unable to see clearly for a while. “You see more than they give you credit for. or pipes creaked. “Hello. ‘It may as well be now. After changing her nappy. Amy. and beginning to panic.” she whispered. I’m sorry. but she doubted that as she sang quietly.” she said chirpily. “Hello.However.” she said again. “Josie. There was no reply. “Your daddy would have loved you so much.
when I didn’t feel guilty about what I did. it was all my fault. with a sob in her voice. apart from my Mam. She was so relieved at her friendly manner. “Oh Josie. or at the very least. I didn’t give you the message. asking you to go home and talk things over with him. I’m so sorry. Totally taken aback by what Amy had just told her. You would never have left if you had thought that Sam cared. I did go off with another man. I did it all for greed and ambition. left her completely numb. don’t worry.” Then she realised she was being tactless. I would like us to be friends again. forgetting that Josie knew nothing of her deceit at the time of Josie and Sam’s break up. because I wanted your position in the business. But I’ve paid the penalty Josie.” Amy blurted out. We are all really sorry.” “It wasn’t your fault Josie.” she rambled on.Amy had expected Josie to put down the phone.” “It’s alright Amy.” “Would you really. I’m sorry. it’s so good to talk to you. “I hurt the two people I loved most in the world. that she began to ramble on. He gave me a message. Without saying a word. to be offhand with her. Sam too! He asks about you all the time. It’s all a long time ago. Josie found herself unable to speak. But I’m so glad you rang. After all. There’s no problem with Sam and I now. The shock of knowing that she could have done such a dreadful thing. barely taking a breath between sentences. it must be awful for you. But. “Oh Josie. After all the things I’ve done?” asked Amy. I can’t blame you for that. How are you? I’m so sorry about John. leaving Amy sobbing on the 243 . And he did care. He was so distraught that you were leaving. Josie put down the phone. Never a day has passed since then. “What are you talking about Amy? All you did was take your brother’s side during our split. and you thought he didn’t care. and he waited all day for you to come home. I shouldn’t have mentioned Sam. “Oh.
You can see the baby.other end. After sitting for over half an hour. just like old times. Can we be friends?” “Oh Josie… oh yes please.” “I will. Before she had time to defend herself. like they used to be. turning over and over in her mind. You’re the best friend anyone could ever have. “I’ll get her. “Hello Alice. “Bye love. but I think everything will be okay now.” said Alice without questioning any further. and we all do silly things sometimes. the events leading up to her and Sam’s break up. “I’ll arrange that. Sinking down into an armchair. Her mother was right about Josie.” Her hands shaking. I would like that more than anything. “Well. come and spend a weekend with me. keep in touch. “Whatever happened.” she answered softly. Goodbye Josie…and Josie…thanks.” Amy meant every word. that she was sure would follow. Amy took the receiver from her mother. They kept in touch by telephone. She doubted that she could ever have forgiven such a betrayal. then 244 . speaking to each other at least once a week. she was one of the nicest people they had ever known. can I speak to Amy please?” “She’s in a terrible state Josie.” replied Amy gratefully. desperately trying to understand the turmoil that the whole family was going through. Josie spoke. You were very young at the time. whatever has happened? She won’t tell me anything. Speak to you later. Josie tried to comprehend what she had just heard. and I think we should put it all behind us and start again. becoming close again.” she said. she once again picked up the telephone.” “We’ve just sorted out our differences. and prepared herself for the onslaught. and we can have a good chat. it was a long time ago.
laughing. and Josie basked in the warmth and closeness of family life once again. it seemed perfectly natural. she had shown no interest at all in her grandchild. cooing and making baby noises.” she exclaimed. she smiled. “Did you hear that? She just said it. to keep in touch. as they fell straight back into the old. because. just thrown into the conversation. Josie had written to her once or twice. as she watched Alice and Amy. It soon became obvious that they were absolutely smitten with Leah.” “You just try it. Without realising it. began to slip Sam’s name into the conversation. and had gradually taken over the role of grandmother and aunt. don’t you?” cooed Amy in a silly voice. and as they gradually. How he could never settle down with anyone else. when the baby made a gurgling noise. Josie had been informed about Sam’s life since she had left. Which they always seemed…quite accidentally…to bring round to the same subject. This had all been disclosed. and how he never stopped asking about her. she did not bother to write again. “Amy…Amy…Amy. “No she did not. Now. in spite of John’s mother’s promises at his funeral. or there will be no doing any good with her. Josie was grateful for this. “That child is going to grow up as daft as you are.” said Alice.” she kept repeating. “I’m going to have to stop these visits. It’s wishful thinking. they began to visit on a regular basis. but having received no reply. and giving an account of Leah’s progress. Josie was beginning to feel as if she was a part of their family again.” she said. How he had almost had a breakdown after she had gone. chiding them. “She loves her Aunty Amy. There was no trace of awkwardness. 245 . comfortable friendship. very cleverly and diplomatically. enclosing photographs. After their first visit.finally it was arranged for both Amy and Alice to visit for a weekend.” Josie replied laughing.
she would be reminded of this unique. unable to get Sam out of her mind. and would always remember the happiness they had shared. Her one and only John. So why did she find herself. that she was not thinking about John. Every time she looked at Leah. and what he was doing. and the love he had given her. thinking about him. No. She had cried for John until she had no tears left to shed. She even lay in bed at night. felt an overwhelming guilt.Eventually. but then. she would never forget her John. gentle man. who could never be replaced. Josie began to wonder how Sam was. 246 .
and grandma will write one too. “You write a letter. standing on tiptoe and grabbing the pen from the table.” she replied. “You be a good boy. that they were 247 . giving him a sheet of paper and sitting him on a chair. But he was learning fast. not for the first time. his tongue sticking out. telling him off each time for pointing at the nuns with the big hats. It was hopeless trying to write. Most days she took him for a walk along the harbour wall. held like a dagger. after making three attempts at writing a letter to Josie. playing aeroplanes.” he said. “Yes. “I write Auntie Josie?” he asked.’ she thought. and with a look of deep concentration on his face. She swept him up onto her knee. whilst Val worked part time. He scribbled unreadable words. “Am good boy. There you are. fascinated.CHAPTER TWENTY TWO Mary put down her pen. when the small hand. charging around the house. kept pulling at her cardigan sleeve. Terry was into everything. and generally making a nuisance of himself. and Mary watched.” He wriggled and she put him down. and though it had proved to be harder work than she had imagined. She had explained to him. ‘How Patrick would have loved him. with his b’s and d’s back to front. and the letters in between. as he patiently did his best to express himself on the paper.” “He sat quietly for the first time that day. looking as if a spider had crawled across the page. Grandma is trying to write to Auntie Josie. she would have been lost without him. Mary looked after Terry. that’s a good idea. with the pen gripped tightly in his fist.
that they now knew him by name and came over to speak to him. who doted on her. but as she came to realise that the nuns were amused by him. today was pouring with rain. the way that Patrick had explained to her. while he stared up at them. Mary had been embarrassed by this to start with. Josie was a constant worry to Mary. and felt lonely and depressed. and she knew that there must have been times when she missed John. It bothered Mary a little. and the strong wind would have blown them over. no matter how many times she told him that it was rude to point. They were plotting. She felt shut out of her daughters life. It took her mind back to when Amy was a small girl. but at the 248 . more than she would ever admit…even to herself. and it hurt. she pieced together what they were up to. and she suspected that Alice and Amy had a hand in it. and tried to press her to speak about how she felt. But. that Alice and Amy had kept a close eye on them. But whenever She rang. She knew they meant well. and how her matchmaking had brought Sam and Josie together initially. mainly because she never confided in her about how she really felt. giving her a regular report on their progress. so they were stuck indoors. still not quite sure that they were human. Mary thought about her daughter. and felt sad that she was unable to visit as often as she would like. From little snippets of information that she had forced out of Alice. The nuns got so used to his curiosity. But recently. But she could at least be thankful. honestly I am. but this had the opposite effect. But. “I’m fine Mam. Josie did seem brighter. according to Alice. It was only natural. he could not help but stare at them.” Mary was sensible enough to know that Josie was trying to spare her feelings. and blossoming. and her other grandchild in Henley. on their first visit to Ireland.sisters of charity. The baby was three months old now. she just laughed with them. the only reply she ever got was.
and he still loved her. when she got over enthusiastic. Another man’s child. “I’ll do it later.’ she thought. and would be more discreet from now on. smiling indulgently at him.” she said with a sigh.” He raced ahead of her down the hall. of a union between his wife and the man she left him for. Even though he had enquired about Josie. but Mary was under no illusions that this would be the end of their scheming.” he snapped. And. he had lost his temper. Even if her love for Sam was still there. head bent low. but before she had written two lines. his hand on top of hers. as long as Josie is alright. Terry’s little hand.” he had said gruffly. what have you brought me? “Well now. causing her to laugh. I’m not interested. Josie had been through more than most women twice her age. ‘when you are in bed. she had a child now. and scribbled over the page. flinging himself into his mother’s legs and hugging them lovingly. It would take a very extraordinary man.” 249 . “Well.” he said. “Mummy’s home.age of thirty. when Alice waxed lyrical about the beautiful little girl. “You are spoiling that lad you know. when his mother had tried to press the matter. They had just changed their tactics. Mummy. Since then. Mummy. Alice appeared to have left well alone. And Sam was a very proud man. he had never once mentioned the child. In fact. and she was afraid that she might get hurt again. Mary heard Val’s key in the door and took Terry’s hand. “Leave it Mam. as Mary had pointed out to Alice. took hold of the pen. “I help grandma. in an attempt to force the issue. let me see. Mary reproached Val gently. Mary picked up her pen and attempted to continue with her letter.” she answered. he turned away. just because Sam had asked how Josie was. Shall we go and look in my bag. to take on the child.
” “Oh Mam. It’s just that with all she’s been through. I’m going to have to stop mixing with them.” he parroted. He would melt the heart of the devil. now you sit down Mam and I’ll make us some tea. gazing into his big blue eyes. 250 .” Val put a finger under Terry’s chin and lifted his face. “I agree.” “Nobody could ever take your place. we pine. Anyway it’s not as if they live round the corner from her is it. All mothers feel guilty.” she said bending down and kissing her mother-in-law affectionately. aren’t we sweetheart?” “We pine. “I miss Josie so much and I feel as if Alice and Amy have taken over my role. you should know that.” “I know. “Right.” Tears filled her eyes. remembering fondly Patrick’s Irish lilt. You must be exhausted looking after him all day. Not that I’m not grateful to them for keeping an eye on her. so they don’t see her all that often. I feel guilty.” “Well that means not mixing with this little one.” Mary laughed. It’s a heck of a journey to Henley from Leigh. I feel I should see her more often. But for you being here I don’t know what I would do. we are fine. I do appreciate it you know.” “That would suit me fine.” said Mary. He’s beginning to sound like his grandfather. sure he would.” “Oh you don’t need to worry about us.“I know. “What can you do when he looks at you like that. you are sounding more Irish by the day. “I know you do love and I’m glad to have him. but look at that angelic little face. Sure you would indeed.” “I know.” “That comes with the job. I feel guilty for going to work every day and leaving Terry with you. If it’s not one thing it’s the other.
don’t go. after promising himself that he never would.” “Well. “I’m sorry love.” Sam felt guilty and turned back to kiss her. Shirley was a nice woman and deserved to be treated better than this. but out of the situation. Shirley did not deserve to be treated like this. tell her that it was over. “What’s wrong?” asked the woman beside him. I’ll give you a ring. and lips kissed his shoulder. but he could not bring himself to hurt her even more.” He stood up and grabbed his trousers. cringing at finding himself in this position again. really I am. Every fibre of his being wanted to be out of this room and on his way home. “You’re not going? Please Sam. He shot up and sat on the edge of the bed. Please stay the night. But she wanted what he could not give. Not just out of the room. “Look. An arm slid slowly across him. at the faded chintz curtains and shabby mahogany dressing table. It’s my problem. The worst thing was that he could not understand them either. You…you can’t do this to me again. It was always the same. She wanted marriage and a family and all that went with it and he had let her believe that she could have that 251 . “Nothing love. which groaned under the piles of make up and cheap scent bottles cluttering the top of it. but I must go. pulling them on hurriedly. it seems like it’s mine too.” she retorted angrily. I’m sorry. okay. He knew he should finish it. hurt by his sudden rejection.CHAPTER TWENTY THREE Sam turned over and looked around the familiar room. She had done nothing wrong and could not understand his moods.
that he could not put it off forever. “Because I’m still married. you know I do. with the same postmark. and Sam knew it. The words seemed to leap from the page at him.” he said. before finally plucking up the courage to open the large envelope first. Now he owed it to her to be honest.’ Unable to face what was inside. The words.eventually. “Get out. that wasn’t quite true. his stomach churning at the tortured look on her face.” *** Sam had mentioned nothing to his mother about the documents that had dropped through his letterbox six months earlier. A month later. The large brown envelope had a Henley on Thames postmark. If he had not 252 . Sam took the easy way out. unopened. the two brown envelopes in the other.” “But why?” she sobbed. “Look Shirley. Bitterness welled up inside him. Sitting down.’ he thought.” she yelled. which he had placed in the drawer with the first one. ‘This is it. he placed his glass on the coffee table in front of him. he had received another letter. But. but it’s only fair to tell you that we don’t have a future. and he had known what it contained. But for him. ‘This is the end. Now he stood. knowing that she would be devastated. he had stuffed it into the sideboard drawer in the sitting room. the more he felt he was punishing Josie and John. before he opened it. He knew that the delay would make no difference. “Get out and don’t come back. I like you a lot. Sam and Josie may have stood a chance of working out their problems. glass of whisky in one hand. He stared at the envelopes long and hard. but thinking that it would end things quickly. which named John Hughes as co-respondent. but the longer he did.
wallowing in his own self pity had refused to open them. So many ifs. Now. all he felt. and who had made her happy. But deep down he knew the truth. She and John could have been married by now. ranting and raving at him to sign. She had not even asked for her share of the business. was falling in love with Josie. He wanted her to ask him for it. and he could hardly blame him for that. who had loved Josie deeply. He was the injured party and unless he agreed. where he had failed. He knew that they could do nothing without his consent. She wanted nothing else from him. Josie could not divorce him. If he had not been so proud. He opened the smaller envelope next. admitting to adultery and citing John as co-respondent. All John had really been guilty of. In spite of his feelings. not wanting to face what was inside and definitely not wanting to make things easy for them. that he failed to notice Josie’s despair. consoling himself by blaming John. Sam knew he should have sent her a cheque each month for her share of the profits. He had expected her to contact him. How she must hate him. She had even taken the blame for their split. All he had to do was sign the documents. no half share of the house. 253 . was sadness for Josie. and he had conceitedly taken this as a sign that she did not really want to divorce him.been so stubborn. but she hadn’t. If he had not been so tied up in his work. It was he who had driven her into his arms. All she had ever asked of him was to sign these papers and he. Sam got no satisfaction from the fact that John was dead. which she still owned. he acknowledged that John was a decent man. For the first time. He found it difficult to admit his guilt. but she never had. if he had signed this document. no money. In his confused mind he had deprived her of a new life with the man she loved. It contained a letter.
I’m sure you will not want to cause Josie any further distress than is absolutely necessary. which lay over the back of a chair. as his compassionate nature took over. even knowing how much anguish he must have caused. He acknowledged now. that Josie was already John’s wife in all but name. tears streaming down his face. frantically attempting to justify his actions. It was only natural that they should want to be married. would it?’ he told himself. hit Sam hard. before realising that he was speaking in the present tense. knocking over his glass as he did so. He had tried so desperately to hold on to her. Yours faithfully John Hughes Sam felt his anger rise. it would not help Josie now. He paced the room. and I would be obliged if you would sign the divorce papers which our solicitor sent to you. He stood up. that he should have signed the documents. The realisation. ‘And anyway. poised to sign his name. when he first received them. angrier than he had ever been. by trying to control her life. then dropped into a chair. ‘Who the hell does he think he is. so that we may make appropriate arrangements. and anyway they were already living as man and wife. He still could not do it. and sat. as though John was still alive.Dear Sam. They had a child together. His anger subsided. He took a pen from his jacket pocket. Josie and I will become engaged after the birth of our child. then paced the floor. his head in his hands. he slammed down the pen and tore up the document. Then. by refusing to sign. 254 .’ he muttered to himself.
she finally agreed to go back with them the following day. and so did he. like the one she had grown up in. whilst Josie was upstairs packing a suitcase. You could come back with us tomorrow if you like. wouldn’t it Mam?” “Oh yes.” Josie’s first instinct was to refuse. I would love that. It was far too big for her anyway. so after much persuasion. Josie had already made the decision to put the house up for sale. The only reason she hesitated was Sam. “It will do her good to get away from this house for a while. towards the end of one of their visits. Please say you will Josie. and the happy times they had renovating the place. She had been unable to settle in the house since John had died. 255 . Not wishing to be influenced by family or friends. prevented them from being a real community. She had thought that she could cope with it eventually. without consulting anyone.” suggested Amy to Josie.” Alice whispered to Amy.CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR “How would you like to come and stay with us for a change. and even though her neighbours had been kind. Every room reminded her of the day they moved in. but she had to put that behind her sometime.” This was a thought that had often crossed Josie’s mind too. “There are too many memories here. “It would be nice for Mam to have some company during the day when I’m at work. and perhaps pay Sarah a visit too. but the more she thought about it. she had come to realise that she never would. but recently. the more she yearned to see her old town again. the distance between the large houses.
she’s got more luggage than the rest of us put together.At home in Leigh…strange how she still referred to it as home…neighbours lived close by and would rally round in times of crisis. and a chance to consider her course of action. with the baby’s pushchair in one hand and a heaving bag. was where she was going to live.” Alice walked through to the kitchen. If she had an intruder there would be no one on the spot to help her. before going back to the car and carrying in the numerous pieces of baby equipment. but with this amount of money. Amy’s invitation would be a welcome respite. Amy carried a case containing baby clothes into the hall. around nine thirty. but she insisted on driving back in her car. “Are you sure you will need all this lot?” “You’ll soon find out. struggling through the front door. and still have a large amount to spare. whilst they were sorting out the luggage. Alice and Amy usually travelled by train on their visits to see her. She knew that the house had increased in value and was worth far more than she and John had paid for it. containing bottles and sterilising equipment in the other.” exclaimed Amy. and found a light hearted note propped up by the 256 . with no hold ups. I’d say she’s got more clothes than the queen. the three women set off for Leigh in Josie’s car. she could well afford to buy another smaller property. Here she felt isolated and insecure. “For such a little person. The following morning. And she missed family too. Feeling weary. “By the weight of this case. The journey was trouble free. when he quoted a figure far larger than she had expected. Josie wasted no time in calling an estate agent to value the property and was astounded. The only decision left to make now. more than she cared to admit Her decision made. and they arrived outside Alice’s house at around two o’clock. So. Josie and Amy unloaded the car and dropped the cases in the hall.” laughed Josie.
” he stopped in his tracks. heading for the door. Alice heard Sam’s key turn in the front door. She had decided not to inform Sam that Josie would be coming back with them. as if it was a complete surprise. saying cheerily. “I can’t stay. “Hi. except to tell Amy that they needn’t go to the shops. with fruit and cream to follow. with a tray of tea and biscuits. even when you’re working. and there was an awkward silence. “Oh. He smiled across at her as if reading her mind.” she said nonchalantly. of ham salad and new potatoes. calling. come and sit at the table.kettle. here’s our Sam. and Josie stifled a giggle. she said nothing of the note.” Sam glanced across the room. at the pram containing the sleeping baby. “Sit down. I…I’ve got loads of paperwork to do. but if he knew that Josie was visiting. at the sight of Sam. still not daring to disobey his mother. making Josie jump.” “He sat at once. broken by Amy bouncing in. He came round for tea almost every Sunday.’ This was a ritual Sam had adopted whenever they were away for the weekend and Alice. feeling tired after her journey. he may decide to stay away. “tea’s almost ready. ‘Have stocked up the fridge and put loaf in breadbin. simple meal. and the strained atmosphere was immediately dispelled. for a very good reason.” he said. As Alice walked into the sitting room. almost middle aged. As he walked through the sitting room door. was grateful that she would not need to go out to the shops. Josie’s heart leapt into her throat. Just before five o’clock. Amy understood Alice’s wink. and did not say a word.” boomed Alice. Please make sure my tea is ready by five o’clock…or else. I’ll give you a ring tomorrow. it’s only me. “You’ve got to eat. 257 . The four of them talked easily throughout the delicious.
which would have been ideal for Leah and it was a short distance from town. she had never considered Sam to be a cruel man. as she trudged around as many local estate agents as she could find. would you mind looking after Leah for an hour or two tomorrow?” she asked on arriving home that evening.Josie asked how the business was doing. “Silly question!” Alice replied smiling. and attending a Women’s Institute meeting with her in the evening. who welcomed her back with open arms. or even acknowledge that she was in the room. We’ll be okay. Her feet ached. won’t we sweetheart. and while she understood how he felt about John. After a visit to Sarah. 258 . Only one thing marred their renewed friendship. during which she met many of her old acquaintances. “Alice. Josie set off early. It was opposite a large park. The following morning. “You just take as much time as you want. A few days later. bouncing Leah on her knee. It was like she had never been away. she was in no doubt as to what she should do. Josie put the thought out of her mind and carried on with her search. that she would move back to her hometown. The trouble was she could not find a better location than that of her old home.” she said. just to find out what was available to her and maybe come to a decision about the type of area she wanted. Not once did he enquire about the baby. but Josie felt a little hurt. and they caught up on all the local gossip. She didn’t intend to rush into anything. Josie hade made up her mind. you can’t possibly live in the same area as Sam.” she chided herself as she sat in the car studying the details of a house in Pennington Road. She had slept peacefully throughout the meal. containing details of possible suitable properties. It was as if Leah did not exist. and she was surprised to feel slightly disappointed when the meal came to an end and Sam excused himself and left. She emerged carrying handfuls of brochures. that he had not gone over to the pram. “Don’t be stupid.
Here. and was just about to prepare a bottle for her. on her chubby cheek.” he said. It could have been Josie’s eyes staring at him. I’ve brought us a pastie and a cream cake. and kissed her tenderly. A moment later. hearing the baby gurgling happily. “I’ve got an hour to spare. He could not help himself. as he looked at the sparse auburn curls and the long eyelashes. but I’ll have to feed the baby first. as he walked past her into the sitting room. that’s lovely. Alice peeked around the kitchen door. surrounding the deep blue eyes. Poking her head around the sitting room door. “Hello son. while I get her bottle. then marching into the kitchen. she saw Sam walking down the narrow hallway. She played with her all morning. just hold her for a minute. Then. The baby looked intently at him. putting it in her mouth. 259 . Leah grabbed his tie. seemingly held together with a frilly pink dress and knickers. it’s easy to see what you think of me. but hers was not unfamiliar to him. Sam’s face was unfamiliar to her. “Ooh. gummy smile.’ he thought. when she heard a key in the front door.” she said. he sat down on the sofa. as Sam spoke quietly to the child. spraying his face with dribble. She was a friendly.Alice was in her element being left alone with the baby. she gripped his finger for security. ‘She’s just like Josie.” she said. otherwise she will scream the house down. so I thought I would come and have lunch with you. he had to laugh. not in the least bit fretful. and as Sam stared back at her she blew a loud raspberry. Holding her awkwardly. I was just wondering what to have. studying his face with huge blue eyes. As he spoke. ignoring the baby in her arms. scrutinising every line on his face. She stood and watched in wonderment. amiable child. leaving a soggy mess at the end. thrusting the child into Sam’s arms before he had a chance to object. This is a nice surprise. “Well. He had no idea what to do with the small bundle of chubby arms and legs. as he jostled her into a more comfortable position. she gave him a broad.
260 . before taking Leah’s bottle in.Alice decided to wait just a little longer.
She had to admit that it was beautiful. Josie felt no pleasure in her beautiful surroundings. appearing to follow her as she emerged from the car and made her way to the front door. in fact she used to find them exciting. the first spots of rain plopped against the windows and was quickly followed by a deluge. It belonged to them both. But without John it meant nothing to her. then put it in the lock hurriedly and scrambled through the door with Leah under one arm. Now. Josie picked up the key. The clouds emulated her mood as they slid across the sky. it was not intended to be hers. a loud roar of thunder made her almost jump out of her skin. She collected a few provisions from the village shop. then cursed herself for being so on edge. Josie glanced around at her once loved kitchen.CHAPTER TWENTY FIVE It was a bleak Monday morning and sinister black clouds loomed overhead as Josie arrived back in Henley. then made her way home. feeling lonelier than she had ever felt in her life. It had never been hers. When she heard a clap of thunder she would rush to the window. This house had been their dream and when they had set about restoring it so lovingly. seated around the inglenook fireplace with their grandchildren. She had never been afraid of storms before. waiting patiently for the lightening to zig zag across the sky. they had imagined growing old together. As she stood in the porch fumbling for her key. She dropped the key in fright. only an agonising sadness which tore deep into her 261 . making it impossible to see out. leaving the pushchair in the porch. As she closed the door behind her and made her way through to the kitchen. But that was before she lived in the secluded house with just Leah for company.
surveying once more the home she was about to give up.heart. all she had to do. every one with a memory of happier times. after spending time in Alice’s tiny terraced house. giving up the house that she and John had spent so much time and energy making into their dream home. made one thing clear in her mind. “Won’t be a minute sweetheart. Now. she could take with her. But when she had covered the whole of the house. the more difficult it had been to return home. She had wallowed in the comfort of people who loved her and had almost begun to feel normal again. she stood for a moment. no matter where she lived. Josie wondered from room to room. assuring her that she was doing the right thing. secure in the 262 . and the happiness they had shared. it had only served to exacerbate her loneliness. but she needed to move on. Josie strapped Leah into her highchair and placed a rattle in front of her. It was not going to be easy. The longer she had stayed. The memories of their life together. The visit had however. It seemed even larger and grander than ever to her now. she felt strangely calm. as if John was with her. She now questioned her decision to stay on with Alice and Amy. Distractedly.” she said. Feeling much better she walked back downstairs. It was going to be harder than she had imagined. kissing her forehead. She went back into the hall to collect the stack of mail that she had stepped over as she entered the house After picking up the mixture of brown and white envelopes. was organise the sale of the house here. Suddenly. leaving all this behind. and John would remain in her heart forever. she realised that nothing could take away their memories. She was now certain that she wanted to return to her hometown. For a while she had felt part of a family again and she had gratefully welcomed the warm feeling it gave her. This house was merely bricks and mortar. But instead of helping as she had expected.
“Hello Josie.’ answered her question. After feeding Leah and putting her down for a nap. and yet it was clearly addressed to her. only because I thought I would be long gone myself by the time John died.” “Well. Then another thought crossed her mind. for informing the insurance company about John’s death.’ was the name at the top of the letter. Hands shaking. Most of it was bills or advertisements. no you don’t. but one official looking envelope caught her eye. ‘Lifeline Assurance. “Hello Mrs Hughes. and that you would be married to him by then anyway. that she was the beneficiary of a life insurance policy in the name of Mr John Hughes. do you?” she added with a sob in her voice. So why had she done this on her behalf. Who had informed them of John’s death? As she read on. She had been convinced that John’s mother hated her. I can’t pretend I approved of everything you did Josie. “No. that I will put the money into a trust fund for Leah. How is the baby?” “She’s fine thank you. it’s Josie.” Josie replied. The letter went on to say. Josie sank into an armchair and began to open the mail. and she opened it hastily. Josie stared at the letter in disbelief. I have to be honest with you. she picked up the phone and dialled. the part that read. and tell you that I agreed.” Josie said.” she said nervously. that she was now free to get on with her life. ‘Mrs Hughes. You don’t expect your children to die before you. The policy was worth thirty thousand pounds. but you made John very happy and he made me promise to do this if anything should happen to him. Josie was puzzled. “I’m ringing to thank you.knowledge. I had absolutely no idea he had done this. I…I just didn’t expect it to be so soon. She had never dealt with this company. John had never mentioned any such policy. mother of the deceased. and I just want you to know. remembering the loss of her 263 . But.
” “I would love to. especially to John.” she whispered. Please come to see us occasionally with the baby. “I know how you feel. but now. So many people don’t stand by their principles. I wouldn’t blame him if he never spoke to me again. she remembered her own father. warmth came into the voice on the other end of the line. I’ve been so selfish. Now 264 . I feel so ashamed. you will both be able to come and see the baby as often as you want to soon. we did try to understand. even more sure now. I couldn’t bear to face the hurt I had caused. Now I can see why our John loved you so much. As Josie put down the phone.” Josie said comfortingly. that she had made the right decision.” “He must love you very much.” “You are such a good person Josie. he too would have found the situation difficult to accept. It must be awful for you. And we respected you for it. “Anyway.” she added. You did. and we both understood why you felt as you did. as one mother to another. “Of course you do. and though it was difficult.” replied Josie. and that’s something else I feel guilty about. and the pain it caused. “But wouldn’t Mr Hughes object?” “Oh Josie. her heart went out to her. When I think of what I put you and John through.own child.” “He never stopped loving you Mrs Hughes. I kept him away from his son. even though he was one of the kindest people that ever lived. it would make him so happy. “I’m so sorry. won’t you. Suddenly. Had he lived. and how strong his principles had been.” Josie had given up trying to be friends with John’s mother. Josie would have made allowances for her own father. I had almost forgotten that you lost a child too. I’m moving back to Leigh. He has always disagreed with me over this. That’s why I didn’t keep in touch after he died.
265 . With forgiveness came relief…for both women.she would make them for John’s parents.
It would be much easier to carry on her search. Not wanting to rush into buying.” 266 . At last documents were signed and contracts exchanged. Five hours later. once she had moved. with Josie dashing around seeing solicitors and estate agents. “I’ve missed you too. packing up possessions.” said Alice. Then. and putting her suitcases. greeting Josie with a hug and kissing the baby. it’s so good to have you back. she knocked on Alice’s door.CHAPTER TWENTY SIX The following three months were hectic. The new owners were anxious to move in as quickly as possible. with tears rolling down her face. “Oh. Josie was grateful when Alice asked her to stay with them until she found what she was looking for. and a few boxes containing her most treasured possessions into the boot of the car. so Josie made arrangements to put her furniture into storage. and set a date to move in with Alice.” Josie blinked back tears of joy and relief. “Come on in love. after strapping the baby into a travelling seat. with Alice sending her the local paper. and showing viewers around. She took one last nostalgic look around. but getting things finalised took much longer. She had also carried on her search for a house. and lists of properties for sale dropping through the letter box almost daily. in or on the outskirts of Leigh. The house had sold quicker than she had expected. after stopping off at a roadside cafe to feed the baby and get a cup of tea and a sandwich for herself. before handing over her keys to the estate agent. I’ve missed you. she drove away.
the way she had always done when she was married to Sam.” Josie looked around at the large but cosy room.” “You’ll do no such thing. You leave that to me.” she added.” she said walking across the room and sniffing the flowers. “Thanks for everything. Come on. Now let’s see if we can fathom out how to put up this cot.” Josie laughed. “How long have your known me? Don’t you know by now that you can’t win? If not you should.” They climbed the stairs. “These are beautiful. What do I need this great big room for anyway?” Alice put up a hand and tried to look stern as Josie opened her mouth to speak. I’ll show you to your room and then we can have a good old chinwag over a cup of tea. And don’t you worry about me. On the opposite wall to the bed was a black cast iron fireplace and in the alcove to the side of it was a tallboy. Thank you so much.” 267 .” “You’re very welcome my love. Even our Sam knows better than to argue with me. I couldn’t. Alice puffing with each step she took. on top of which stood a cut glass vase containing yellow roses. definitely not. A lump came to Alice’s throat as she heard Josie call her Mum. you should be quite comfortable in here. You don’t know how grateful I am. I numbered each piece when I dismantled it to make it easier to assemble.“You must be exhausted.” Josie smiled gratefully at Alice. no. Josie should have known better. determined not to cry. I’ll be as snug as a bug in a rug in there. waving her hand in a slicing movement intending to terminate the argument. She swallowed it back. thank you. On the landing she opened the door to a room at the front of the house “There you are dear. we‘ll be fine in the spare room. No. with it‘s mahogany bed and rose patterned satin quilt and matching curtains. “But. It shouldn’t take long. This is your room. I’ve spent days getting this room ready and you are going to sleep in here if I have to tie you to the bed. Anyway the spare room is nowhere near big enough to take the cot. “Oh Mum. “Now look.
when she arrived home to find Josie waiting.“I’ll go and put the kettle on. she needed to help them. if you’re sure you can manage. It was this trust and love from her family and friends that made her feel fulfilled. “I’m not ready for the scrap heap yet!” “What are you grinning at Josie?” Alice asked quizzically. you haven’t got a smudge on your nose. Josie decided not to press the point.” Alice sniffed. Amy was delighted. “Have I got a smudge on my nose or something?” “No. we’ll eat then. and nothing has been done yet. Alice could be trusted implicitly and her friends knew that. “Right. She not only wanted to help the people she cared about. Amy will be home from work around five. or emotional comfort. I’m afraid you will have to go. one that they could trust not to betray a confidence.” replied Josie.” “Well…I love you too.” “Oh no you won‘t. As they sat down to their evening meal.” Josie laughed loudly. not wanting to offend her. and I’m quite happy for you to be here. while you finish off up here then. when he tried to help. that’s all. but if you start trying to take over my kitchen. Her main role in life was looking after her family. Alice would never allow anyone to do anything for her. Maybe a neighbour would need a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on. the three women 268 . whether it be practical help. I was just thinking how much I love you. now come on. She smiled fondly at her. But not just her family. She would gladly help anybody who needed her. We’ll have it going dark. “I’ll be happy to do the cooking while I’m here. Is that okay?” “Fine thanks. I know I asked you to stay. It was what made her life complete and the people closest to her understood and accepted that. But I don’t expect you to wait on me. She pulled a lace handkerchief from up her cardigan sleeve and blew her nose. as she remembered her once saying to Sam. She prided herself on her independence.
He lowered his head and stood up. she still thought of Alice as family. she was awakened by voices downstairs. It had not gone unnoticed. she saw the baby through the cot rail. before climbing into bed exhausted. You’re nothing but skin and bone. And they carried on chatting until it was time for bed. see you on Sunday. that Josie still addressed Alice as Mum. she went downstairs. I will weigh a ton by the time I leave here. It had been a long and eventful day. what are you trying to do to me.” she asked.” she said.” 269 . she saw the table. As she turned her head. It will do you good. into a deep contented sleep. “I’ll feed the baby. Next morning.” said Alice. and Sam found this strangely moving. set for breakfast. Now eat. and picking Leah from her cot. “Good morning sweetheart. and sitting drinking a cup of coffee. bending. gurgling happily. and removing a plate from the oven. and the baby joined in with her infectious giggle. bacon. After all these years. almost immediately. placing the plate in front of Josie. and put up her arms. “Good morning love.” “Good grief Mum. Leah beamed at her. glancing at the clock. and seeing that it was seven thirty. patting his slight paunch. “I’m off to work. containing egg. Why do you think I’m this shape.” said Sam. “Get that down you.” “There’s no point arguing. She sank gratefully into the soft warm bed and fell.talked non-stop. if you carry on feeding me like this. They all laughed. and taking Leah from her arms. was Sam. After putting on a dressing gown. Leah was already in her cot by the side of Josie’s bed. and tomatoes. and she looked down at her lovingly.” “Well you need feeding up. As she followed the voices into the kitchen. are you hungry.
and then kissed her dimpled hand. Alice had volunteered to look after Leah. to let him know she was there. When she finally arrived home. I just call in if I’m passing. after bathing and dressing herself and the baby. She’ll be having hiccups.Josie spoke hesitantly. Smiling. as you know. Horsey. 270 . Mam has just gone to the shop. I’m sorry. to get back in time for her feeds. then coughed. I didn’t realise you were home. “Horsey. and hung her coat in the hall. I don’t know anything about babies. and Leah put out her arms to him. She let herself in. with the key which Alice had had made for her. but I always come for Sunday dinner. “Josie. she saw Sam.” he added smiling. sensing the change in his mood. Embarrassed. “No.” she said. which meant that she did not have to rush. I was just keeping her amused. Just let your feet go clippety clop. I don’t want you to stop coming round for breakfast because I’m here. don’t you stop. bouncing Leah up and down on his lap.” “I can see that. with his back to her on the sofa. and a very good job you’re doing too. teasing him.” he said. The following day. Josie waited a moment and watched. into the sitting room.” “Having a good time?” she asked. “Er…well.” “Oh. As she walked through. by the sound of the giggles coming from her. “See you too beautiful. He was about to leave.” he was singing. Startled. then turned to the baby in Alice’s arms. don’t worry about it. “I hope this isn’t awkward for you Sam. he turned around. until Mam gets back. Josie set off on her search for a property. he wiggled his fingers. Josie was exhausted. before leaving. So I’ll see you then.
I’m beginning to think I’m too fussy. Please forgive me. being close to you again. Josie’s shock was visible.” Realising that he had said more than he had intended.” “No comment!” Josie remarked playfully. “I…I’ll go now. I shouldn’t have done that. or too big. closing it loudly behind him. She’s really enjoying herself.” he said laughing. placing the baby on her lap. before dashing down the hall and out of the front door. I might have to make a compromise on what I’m looking for. “Not very well I’m afraid. puzzled. taking her hand.” he lied. Josie sat where Sam had left her.” he said. “I think you’re right. I’m going to miss her. “I…I’m sorry.” “You don’t have to find somewhere else to live Josie.” he asked.” Then digging himself into a hole again. but I don’t intend moving too far away. sitting down beside him. what?” she replied. even deeper than the one he had just climbed out of. has made me realise. I’ve never stopped loving you. “It’s just that. but they are either in the wrong location. or too small. What was that song again?” “Now you’re teasing.“It doesn’t show. with the baby patting her face.” he said impulsively. and pulling at the curls in her neck. and Sam withdrew his hand. you know Josie. “I think Mam has made you too comfortable here.” she replied. don’t you?. I was just joking. I’ve been to look at one or two houses. he added. he jumped up. “I must have sounded like a real idiot. You could always come back home to me. when their laughter had subsided. as if she had been frozen into 271 .” he said jokingly. “How did you get on with your house hunting. how much I have missed you.” “You know what the problem is. “No.
still in a daze. hanging over their horizon. she would not have had her time with John.” 272 . she could not get Sam’s words out of her mind. to the real world. no matter how hard she tried. Now. She rose from the sofa and went into the kitchen where she put Leah in her highchair. to know that Sam loved her. leaving in its wake a deep depression. He had said that he still loved her. and that he had never stopped loving her. Leah cried.the position. a love that could never be replaced. and brought Josie back with a start. as it had done when they first met. Her love for Sam was in the past and that was where it must stay. just when she was beginning to feel happy again. She was deep in thought. comfortable love. She prepared baby food robotically. please don’t do this to me again. “Please God. enduring. She was so confused. and she could never wish that. God knows she had tried. She could never betray John’s memory. Josie’s happiness at being back in her home town with people she knew and loved faded into the distance. willing herself to carry on as normal. so soon after John’s death. If only she had known. Her love for John had been different to the love she felt for Sam. But her love for Sam was something over which she had no control. After ten minutes of getting no response from her mother. She would never stop loving him. was too much to take. and so had John. John’s had been a deep. His presence disturbed her now. His acceptance of her love for Sam was always an unspoken cloud. She looked upwards in prayer. But. Why did this have to happen now. If she had known all along that Sam still loved her. and never once had he thrown it in her face. turning his words over and over in her mind. He had known it from the start. She had always known that.
It was not like Sam to stay away from his mother’s house. Don’t you think you’ve done enough damage in the past. Nothing had happened that she knew about. You’re going into your shell again. unable to understand. But after two weeks. dreading having to face. why he had made. Her tone when she rang him told him exactly how she felt. She had questioned him time and again. excuse after excuse. “I’ve got too much work to do. wondering what had upset him. her concern had turned to anger and she could hide her feelings no longer. but he just came up with the same lame excuse about being busy. and he nervously picked it up. and as the days went on. I shouldn’t have said that. how can I help you?” 273 . yet another tongue lashing from Alice. she was contrite. putting work before family.” “You know exactly what I mean Sam Grainger.” “Oh! Starting that old caper again.” he answered sheepishly. “I’m so sorry love. and if you won’t tell me what the problem is. she became very concerned.” As soon as the words left her mouth. “Are you coming for dinner tomorrow Sam? “I don’t think so Mam. or tied up with something or other. as to why he was unable to visit. are we?” “What caper. I don’t know what you mean. It’s just that I’m so worried about you. She had phoned him on numerous occasions over the last two weeks. or tired.CHAPTER TWENTY SEVEN Sam’s phone rang for the umpteenth time. but her instincts told her. that it was something to do with Josie.
” she said. and Alice jumped up to answer it. please don’t.“You can’t help me Mam. and I know there must be something wrong. I’m sorry Josie. realising she was being tactless. Alice’s face crumpled and she burst into tears.” 274 . Whatever was troubling him. and we’ll talk.” “That’s the trouble. “Mam. “H…hello. and taking Alice protectively in her arms. you’re right. but I just can’t help interfering. I’m sorry. It’s only because I love him Josie. And. you shouldn’t have said that.. Nothing else could ever have had that effect on him. Then. and it must have something to do with Josie. still sobbing a little.” said Josie angrily. Me and my big mouth. Our Sam hasn’t been to visit for over two weeks now. whatever is the matter.” “Oh no. it’s Sam. because I can’t keep my mouth shut. I’ll ring him back and give him a piece of my mind. but I don’t blame him for being annoyed with me. just like he was after you left. I never learn do I? That’s why Sam has put the phone down on me. really sorry. but he won’t tell me what it is. “Come and sit down and tell me all about it.” sobbed Alice.” “Well.” he retorted abrasively. I’ve a good mind to………. “Oh. “Mum. before slamming down the phone. she added. jumping to Alice’s defence.” “Well. putting the baby in her pram. Alice was devastated. I was only trying to help. As Josie entered the room. Can you come round. “How dare he go upsetting you like this.” she said. He’s become withdrawn again.” Before she could finish the sentence the phone rang.” she said. “I wish I knew what the problem was. Sam had never spoken to her like that before. It will only make matters worse. it must be serious.
trying to lighten the atmosphere.” “It’s Josie. After taking a sip.” “Well.” His mother sat silently.” she said.” “Well. and enfolded his mother in his arms. but that’s to be expected. Give me half an hour. She doesn’t need to. “I’m in love with her again. of course I will. listening without interrupting. She can’t let her feelings show. You should have seen the look of horror on her face Mam. He’s apologised. I should have known. why don’t you just tell her how you feel. she said. And she probably feels guilty too. whatever you said it couldn’t have been that bad. not that I ever stopped loving her.” “I’ve tried telling her. Mam. she still loves you. was a different person to the one who had picked it up just a minute earlier. You can’t just switch feelings on and off like that. her face bright with joy. Has she said something to you?” “No. I don’t know what in God’s name to do about it. “How do you know Mam. She wiped her eyes and gulped back her tears. but I went about it all the wrong way. as he hesitantly confessed his feelings. But.” The Alice who put down the phone. I’d have to 275 . “Our Sam wants to see me. I must admit she’s been a bit quiet lately. “Now tell me all about it. But one thing I am sure of. I should have given her more time. I’m sure she still has feelings for you. because that would be betraying John’s memory. she hasn’t said a word. without warning. I’m sure I have. “But. I think I frightened her off. Half an hour later. before leading her into the sitting room and pouring her a small glass of sherry. I just blurted it out.” she said happily.“Oh son. seriously son. Instead of picking the right moment.” Josie replied smiling. Will you drop me off at his house love?” “Of course I will. She’s still grieving son. In fact. It’s too soon. Sam opened his front door. you can stop blaspheming for a start.
because no matter how much she loves you. “There are all kinds of love Sam.” she said. I asked her straight out to come and live with me. you will have to be able to love her child with all your heart.” Sam looked down at the ground. it will never work. He did not want to hear that Josie loved another man. “Well you certainly know how to woo a girl. The guilt that goes with those feelings must be unbearable.be blind not to see the way her face lights up every time you walk through the door. You need to consider her feelings before your own. then forget her. But she needs time to come to terms with John’s death. “I must admit. She had made a new life and had a child on the way. but she was happy with John. She never expected to be back here again you know. but Alice stopped him. feeling his sorrow. that it was almost like a slap in the face. How ridiculous is that? She looked so shocked. but never the same way she loved you. Josie loved John. I just imagined that because I love her and she is free again. but the kind of love you and Josie shared only comes once in a lifetime. that it was 276 .” “I’ve been so stupid. The thought of you and her ever getting back together was never in her mind. out of the blue. Just like that Mam. If you can’t do that. “Just one more thing love. especially when somebody dies. She never expected him to be snatched away from her so young.” Sam was about to speak. And I know it hurts to hear it love.” Alice laughed. a gut wrenching sickness tearing at him. Alice took his hand. trying to lighten the moment. I know that and so does she. All he wanted to hear was that she still loved him. I just jumped in with my size tens as usual and ruined everything. You need to be patient and understanding. As far as Josie was concerned it was over… forever. Yes. that we could get back together and hey presto. He did not need to hear that she was grieving for John. If you are ever to win Josie back.
” Alice said. Alice did what she had made Sam promise that he would not do. to ensure that Josie had no chance to reply. you never will. They exchanged glances as she sat down. and placed it on the table. more than any man ever could. with a sigh. ever again. whatever you say. “That lad loves you. But it’s only six months 277 .” Alice replied. And I love him too. but it was better than saying nothing at all.” “Me? Tactless?” he laughed. “We’ll give you another half an hour…and then we torture you until you tell us.” “Okay son. what do we do about it?” “Now Mam. “Well?” “I’m sworn to secrecy. and let Josie make up her own mind.just a little lacking in the tact department. When Alice arrived home. the table was set.” “I do know. “Well?” asked Amy. feeling better. I don’t want you to go interfering again.” said Amy. the problem now is. and if you don’t know it by now. “I wonder who I inherited that trait from!” “I’ve no idea.” Alice answered. I think it’s better to just leave things as they are for the time being. “Well what?” “What’s the problem with our Sam?” Amy sighed impatiently. having confided in someone. as she lifted the stew from the oven. and Amy was home from work. “I don’t know what you’re laughing at young lady. this is all your fault. to Josie’s astonishment. Anyway. She then put up a hand. Josie chuckled. Look what happened the last time she did that. But she had no intentions of leaving these two to work things out for themselves. All her good intentions to let nature take it’s course flew out of the window.
everything is okay. blowing one last final kiss. I shouldn’t have said what I did. “I‘ve kept it warm for you. He smiled at her lovingly. I should be used to you by now. What I said. Josie awoke with a start.” it said in a familiarly gentle voice. She sobbed until she could find no more tears. “Goodbye my love. She opened her eyes and saw John. Anyway. unsure if she had been dreaming. I couldn’t Mum.” she went on.” “It’s okay Mum. She realised now that even if it was just a dream.” Josie drifted weightlessly across the room towards him. “Okay. She felt better. But seriously Josie. encouraged now by Josie’s good mood. where Alice was taking Josie’s dinner from the oven. “It’s okay my love. The vision had seemed so real.” Josie kissed Alice on the cheek. so he’s made mistakes in the past. you’re starting again. She wanted it to be real. And for Sam’s. Really it is. Her heart was torn in two. calmer and at peace with herself.” “Mum. smiling at her. She threw herself on the bed and cried. then drifted off into an exhausted sleep. That was all he ever wanted. “Josie. honestly. her heart breaking for the love she had lost and for the love that could not be. “It is okay.” “Never mind that. it’s not okay. but he’s 278 .” “You cheeky madam. his arms outstretched. I didn’t mean to upset you. I just couldn’t. He would have wanted her to be happy. comfortingly. the words were exactly what John would have said to her if he could come back. after what you’ve just said. I said for your own good.” he whispered.since John died. I can’t believe you’re starting again. Josie ran sobbing from the room and up the stairs. I want you to be happy. before fading into the darkness. Josie. A voice disturbed her troubled mind.” “No. I’m sorry love. Josie descended the stairs and walked into the kitchen.
I’ve considered what he said the other day. Leah and 279 . without a word. and that would be a tragedy.Josie attempted again to speak. “But I haven’t come alone. now I have. But.” she asked simply.” With his hands in pockets. “I’m sick and tired of the pair of you. Not one thing had changed. which is more than can be said for a lot of people.” she said quietly.” she said quietly. and then. and I am going to do something about it. later. “Well. I couldn’t bring myself to believe that you would not be coming back. Sam looked embarrassed. He felt the blood drain from his face. I always lived in the hope. She stood just inside the doorway. looking more beautiful than he had ever seen her.” Sam was just about to return to the factory after lunch. into the sitting room of the house that was once her home.learned from them. bright eyed child in her arms. taking in the familiar furnishings.” “But……………. We come as a package. Everything was exactly as she had left it. and looking down at the floor. I’ve said my piece. He made his way down the hall and opened the door. you’ll lose each other again. I felt that if I kept it like this. that you might come home one day. all I was going to say…if you will let me get a word in…is that I love him too. when the doorbell rang. “May I come in. If you don’t do something about it. but gesturing with his arm as she walked past him. to see Josie standing before him. Silly I know. and I won’t say another word on the subject. “At first. He stood aside. shocking him into silence. you were still with me in some peculiar way. carrying her plump. “You haven’t changed a thing.” “But Mum. Now. “It’s still the same.
“There are no pockets in shrouds. and Leah. He held out his arms. He suddenly remembered his mother’s words. and enfolded both Josie. and in that moment. he pulled away. and she was right. Do you still want me?” “I always have. smiling. The baby gurgled at him. he knew that he had been given a second chance. I just hope she doesn’t cause me quite so much trouble. THE END 280 . put work or money before his family. and as the baby patted his nose.” he answered.” she had said. He would never again. with tears rolling down his face. Sam’s lips came down softly on Josie’s. “She’s almost as beautiful as her mother.” he said.I.
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