Friday 11th August
Just keep walking, that’s the way to do it, just keep on placing one stupid foot in front of the other, and maybe all of this madness will disappear, maybe the world will fall back into place. Perhaps she will wake up back in that little single bed in Leeds and none of this will have happened. What on earth was her mother thinking of, had she gone mad? Had she. Harriet, gone mad? Had she really seen her naked in bed? And with Uncle Ted of all people. Her Uncle!!! Her fucking mother was fucking her uncle. And in her Daddy’s bed, of all places. What on earth were they thinking of, were they drunk – or was it some silly sort of game and if she had opened another bedroom door she would have found her Daddy with Aunt Julie. She just couldn’t get her head round it. She kept replaying the scene over and over again in her head. Neither of them had said a word, they just looked shocked, and scared. Her mother l0ooked absolutely petrified.
Another corner, left or right? Who gives a fuck, just keep on walking. Just keep on placing one stupid foot in front of the other. That’s right, just keep on walking and maybe this nightmare will be over. On and on she trudged, mechanically walking, forcing herself to keep going and she knew the town so well, she just kept going round and round in a circuit, turn left, turn right, cross at the traffic lights, up Combs Ford Hill, right at the top or you are in the fields, back down again and into the town. Pounding out the streets, and trying to pound some sense into her brain. What could it mean, what would happen next? Should she just get a train back to Leeds and say nothing. Not enough money to do that even, she would have to go back to the house, that hateful house where they were doing it, her mother, her beloved serene fucking mother and Uncle Ted. Uncle Ted, for Christ; sake, couldn’t she have thought of someone a bit more original. He was her uncle for fuck’s sake. Oh my God, she has been screwing her own sister’s husband. Whatever will Auntie Julie think? What will her Dad say when he finds out? Oh my God, Oh my God, Oh my God. Just keep on walking and it will all start to make sense, just keep on walking.
* * *
Jane is still amazed that it was Harriet who caught them, it just had to be Harriet, didn’t it? What would have happened if Jane had been poorly and been sent home early from school, or if Aunt Julie had popped in to see her sister un-announced, or even more unlikely her own father dashing back for some reason or other. But no, none of these quite possible situations happened, it was Harriet. In her completely careless, or possibly drug-fuddled way, she just turned up out of the blue, she hadn’t even been expected that Tuesday, she had only gone back to University two days before, and so that was the last thing they expected. And how remarkable that they hadn’t been caught before; they had been at it for years. After the storm broke, her mother admitted it had been going on even before the girls were born, and who knows maybe even before Julie and Ted had married.
Of course,Jane was at school the day that Harriet caught them, so she didn’t know all the details, but apparently she had simply let herself in the back door, as they all used to; the front door was hardly ever used. She had gone into the kitchen and poured herself a glass of water and then decided to go to her room for something. She hadn’t even consciously heard anything, maybe it had just been idle curiosity, or was she just nosy, but for some inexplicable reason before she got to her own room she wandered into her parent’s bedroom and there actually doing it was Uncle Ted and her mother.
Harriet told Jane that evening, as all hell was breaking loose in the kitchen, that she had quietly closed the door, calmly walked downstairs and drank that lovely cool glass of water. Then, as upstairs she could hear them scrambling into their hastily discarded clothes and panicking and talking to each other, she put the glass down in the sink and quietly closing the back door, she left the house and just walked and walked. She wasn’t sure where or what she was doing, no plans at all, she just wandered those well-trodden streets, doubling back every now and then, only making decisions as another corner loomed into view.
She walked for a couple of hours, not even thinking what she was going to do next, or at all, and certainly not about what she would do about her mother and Uncle Ted. All that was going through her mind was that her mother had betrayed them all; their father, obviously; Aunt Julie, her own sister; and mostly them; Harriet and Jane. That was why she had been so absent-minded during their childhood, her mind had always been somewhere else; she had constantly been imagining being back in Uncle Ted’s arms again.
And how often could they have possibly managed it? Jane’s mother had no money of her own, certainly not her own bank account; her father paid for everything and she only ever had food shopping money in her purse, and Uncle Ted earned very little and had a family to fend for, so they could hardly have afforded hotels. The only chance they would have had would have been in each other’s houses, and how dangerous that would have been, surely too dangerous to have tried too often, though that hadn’t stopped them this time. Probably their old Morris Oxford had played its part, with its’ cramped back seat and leaky windows, or maybe it had been old outhouses or barns at the farm, or even in the summer al fresco liaisons down quiet country lanes, or in secluded copses.
The wonder is that they had managed it at all, and that they had kept it secret for so long, or even that they had kept it up for so many years. Looking back, though everyone condemned them for wrecking two marriages, it was only the getting caught that wrecked the marriages, not the loving each other. Because whatever Jane may feel now, and despite the hot indignation that she, along with everyone else, felt at the time, there was no doubting that they had really loved each other; and far more than most married couples too. It must have been some undying passion to have seen them through more than twenty years of illicit meetings and secret passionate couplings, far more truly a love than either of them felt for their respective partners, or Jane’s mother for her own sister, or come to that for her own children. Maybe Ted was the only thing she ever cared about; her husband, her sister, her children even, were nothing compared to her overwhelming desire for Ted.