Friday 21st July
14) The Sequence of Events…
Sometimes it is hard to recall the exact sequence of events. One remembers not in a straight line but in a jagged array of little snippets, and then just as you are sure you have pieced together how it happened, you suddenly recall something else that was happening at the time, which maybe puts a different slant on everything.
There was a wonderful series of TV plays, a quartet, called ‘Talking to Strangers’. It was written by John Osborne and I think it was in ‘67 but I’m not really sure. It starred Judi Dench, a very young and beautiful Judi Dench back then, and the most marvelous thing about it was that it was exactly the same story told from four different viewpoints. And Jane was really knocked out by it. It was on consecutive weeks, and she couldn’t wait to see next week’s play, and so discover the light shifting as the spotlight fell onto a different character’s viewpoint. One startling feature was that in one play as two characters would leave a room, and we would hear and concentrate on the two remaining; in next week’s play we would follow the two characters who had left the room last week and hear what they were saying while we had been so engaged with our first two. Anyway I am probably boring you; you really had to have seen it. The point I am trying, so awkwardly, to make is that we only ever really see things from our own perspective – we never really consider what is happening in other people’s lives. While Jane was so busy relegating and in fact negating her mother for her simply not being around, or not in any real sense, she didn’t realise what was going on in her world, or even that she had a world for things to go on in.
* * *
It couldn’t have been more than a couple of minutes between June hearing the sound of the back door opening – and then with such a sickening thud realizing that indeed someone was actually in the house. She had half-dismissed that first click, but now there was no mistake about it, someone was there in the house. They had nearly been caught once before by Phil, but we had both been dressed at the time. Now Ted and she were both naked in bed, there was no way they could just pretend that he had popped round for a cup of tea and a chat.
And June was feeling so down and depressed anyway, she had finally accepted that Ted and she had no future, unless you can call these occasional stolen moments of rapture a future. She was lost in her own desperately miserable thoughts and had almost forgotten what she now knew must have been the back door being unlocked and opened. And then she heard what were unmistakable footsteps coming up the stairs, they always creaked unless you knew where to tread right on the edges, but then why would you do that in your own home.
The family kept the key under a flower pot just to the left of the step. June had at least taken this precaution after their last scare, and only Phil and Jane knew where the key was – and Harriet of course, but she was away at University. Jane was at school and wouldn’t be leaving until nearly four, it must be Phil.
‘Oh shit, not Phil.’ she thought in desperation – she grabbed at the sheet to at least hide her nakedness, even from her own husband, who she was sure it must be. She couldn’t bear him to see her laying there naked. Ted was almost asleep and lay half covered by some bedclothes at least. She held her breath as the footsteps got to the top of the stairs and came closer and closer. Quiet little footsteps, hardly footsteps at all, they got closer and closer and holding her breath, too scared to even breathe, her heart was in her mouth and she involuntarily brought up her hand to stop it falling out. June waited and waited, hoping and praying it was just her imagination after all.
* * *
Along with the inner turmoil Jane was feeling at Harriet’s betrayal of her; her choosing her drug over Jane, and her own sense of insecurity and loveless-ness, which had resulted in her hurting herself; there were other things coming to the boil too. How long it would have all carried on for if Harriet hadn’t discovered them she couldn’t say, and also how long her father’s shenanigans could have continued to be covered up is another unknown. Jane tends to think that it would all have come out in the open anyway, but maybe; no, surely not in such a dramatic and climactic way.
* * *
Harriet had let herself in with the backdoor key as her mother must have been out. She had of course tried the handle but you knew straightaway when the door was locked, so she bent down and retrieved the key from under the big flower pot with the dying iris in it and quietly turned it in the lock. She knew that this didn’t make much sense, but she didn’t really want anyone to know she was back, and if the back door was locked it must mean her mother was out; Dad would be at work of course, and Jane at school, but still Harriet was quiet. She was on a bit of a mission, no-one knew she was coming home today, She had been back for the weekend and this was only Tuesday.
She had boarded the train to London as usual on Sunday afternoon, fully intending to change for Kings Cross and the equally shitty drag up to Leeds, but somehow she just couldn’t face it. She hated the fucking place, the whole draggy scene and smacked-out Jim even more. He had introduced her to all this shit, and now she was feeling trapped; trapped by her own body’s need for a chemical that she at last realised was doing her no good at all. Harriet knew she had to get away, from Jim and all that temptation, but also away from Leeds. She reckoned she could still catch a later train and so she just started walking around London.
She had no real idea what she was doing; just drifting aimlessly from street to street until she was both lost and had missed her last connection for Leeds. She looked around anxiously for somewhere to stay the night. She was in Whitechapel, a really run-down part of London, full of small backstreet sweatshops and black and brown faces staring at her, as if she was the stranger here. It was getting late and dark and she only had about eight pounds on her, and she was beginning to get worried. At last as if by magic she saw a sign for a Hotel, though that might be a bit of a generous description of the shithole she ended up in. It was two pound- fifty for a bed in a tiny damp and grotty room that looked out over ugly sooty rooftops and old outbuildings. The lino had holes in it and the wardrobe door was falling off but it was a bed, and in minutes, fully dressed but under all the manky blankets she was fast asleep.