Sunday 15th January
Growing Up Can be Painful…
Jane grew up in this protected and protective bubble, which she never even knew was around her. They just were; her sister Harriet and she, there, safe inside the bubble. Her father the solicitor, unbeknownst then to the girls, was becoming more and more involved in sorting out the financial irregularities of his cronies. And the long hours he spent in his office meant there must have been a lot of irregularities to sort out; and even when he was home, at weekends or holidays, there were always those late-night phone calls and visits he had to make – when, even on a Sunday evening – he would disappear for hours with some unnamed client or other.
“Spot of business to sort out, don’t wait up for me.” He would remark as he got into the Bentley at some ridiculous hour.
The girls never questioned this, (nor did their mother wait up, as far as the girls could tell, they would hear the click of her bedroom door closing shortly after tucking them in) it was just what Daddy did; maybe everyone’s Daddy did it too, who knew? And their mother; she just ignored him, acted as if it was perfectly normal to get up halfway through a meal, and drive for miles down winding country lanes to sort out ‘a little bit of business’. But their mother had always seemed as if nothing mattered that much to her, June seemd a bit semi-detached about most things, she had her friends she would meet in town, or most likely in Ipswich or Norwich, and she simply never seemed that concerned whether their father was around or not. Likewise, she seemed content to leave the two girls, often with her sister, their aunt Julie, but sometimes even the cleaning lady would be dragooned in to be a quasi-childminder, while she sauntered off for lunch or drinks with her friends.
* * *
But June, though appearing so nonchalant was always watching and waiting, she knew it would happen sometime soon; she had seen the way Ted looked at her. The family used to see her sister quite a bit while the children were small, sometimes at their tiny terraced Council house in Bury Road, but more often at their own place. Phil liked to entertain, and even if it was just June’s sister and mother over for Sunday lunch he would open a bottle of red wine, and always liked the table to be set properly, with a white damask table cloth and their best cutlery. He would go and collect them all in the Bentley, his pride and joy.
June had passed her test and was quite happy to use the old Austin, until Phil traded this in for a little Morris Oxford which suited her better with its dark green leather seats and shiny walnut dashboard. She loved the freedom having her own car gave her. As soon as the girls were off to school she would just get in the car and drive, often with absolutely no destination at all, just driving for the heck of it, just to get away. Anywhere away from the house, this too large house with its far too many rooms to get lost in; it was always Phil’s house and she was feeling increasingly a stranger in it, even the girls seemed strangers to her some days. But secretly she was always hoping she might see Ted – just a glimpse would do. She would deliberately drive past Spikes lane in the hope of seeing him, sometimes stripped to the waist working in the fields, his bronzed shoulders shining and turning in the sunlight; she would sit in the car, bewitched and simply watching him go about his daily work. He would be on the tractor, bouncing along in the hard metal seat as the big wheels slithered and slipped over the freshly ploughed furrows, quite oblivious of June driving past (and driving herself to distraction too, by the way). Occasionally he would spot her, and wave and smile, but he never came over. Was he deliberately ignoring her? Was he simply playing her along, keeping her safely at a distance but dangling on a string, just waiting for him to give a tug? She was never sure, and that was the mystical hold he had over her; he always had that mischievous glint in his eye anyway, as if you never knew, but might well suspect, just what he was thinking..
* * *
Jane was Harriet’s responsibility, especially as June was almost neglecting the girls; she had to take her to school and collect her, and often look after her until either her mother or her father got home. She didn’t really mind, Jane was more fun than the other girls at school, and she would always let Harriet decide what they were playing. Harriet used to make up the games and Jane would sit there and expect Harriet to come up with all the ideas, sometimes she would ask if they could play a favourite of hers, and then out of kindness Harriet might let her have her game; it didn’t really matter; they were all Harriet’s games really. Jane liked it best when Harriet made up a story and they would pretend to be other people, like in a play. Harriet would be the Princess, with her flowing gown and a tiara (an Alice band) of real diamonds, Jane would be the huntsman who falls in love with her. Sometimes Harriet would have to prompt her with the right lines, or show her how it was done, but Jane was always happy to follow her lead. Or they would play chase through the bedrooms upstairs, or hide and seek all over the house and garden. They never played with other children after school, they were always alone, together alone. Their house was in the middle of town, near the shops and there was too much traffic, and besides Jane was her best friend as well as her sister, so they felt they only needed each other, sisters and best friends forever.
* * *