Sunday 22nd January
Jane quite liked school but looked forward mostly to her sister Harriet collecting her. They would often return to an empty and dark house, and do for themselves until one or other of their busy and slightly negligent parents would return. A cursory check that they were okay would suffice and then they would be left on their own again to get on with it until called down for dinner. They had learned to be pretty self-sufficient – Harriet a dab hand at making sandwiches from whatever leftovers she could glean from the pantry. This was the late fifties, so although there was a television, this was an adult-operated machine, only to be switched on by one or other of their parents; the girls wouldn’t have dared do it themselves. It would take an age to warm-up too, and there was only the single channel to watch, so they would invariably play in their bedroom together.
Harriet would take the lead, coming up with the ideas and Jane forever happy to go along with them. She sometimes made up the games and the rules as she went along, but was so inventive and confident that Jane never questioned her right to be right. And they were content in their little world, isolated by their very isolation in that too-large house; they would lose themselves in cold spare bedrooms that were only used at Christmas. They would lay under the big metal bedsteads looking up at the rusty springs and the fluff balls that floated around in the recently disturbed air, or bury themselves in their parents wardrobes, burrowing deeper and deeper through the multiple layers of coats and dresses until in opposite corners they were in total and muffled darkness, the musty smell of mothballs and clothes overpowering them and bringing on fits of giggling, until one or the other of them would break for air.
* * *
Phil was juggling money every day, he seemed to have his finger in so many pies he could hardly keep on top of it. When his bank statement hit the doormat he was almost afraid to open it, could he have really spent that much last month. He would be forever starting new exercise books and writing down all his commitments, and receipts, he had several accounts with different banks by now and a couple of deposit accounts in building societies too, and he was forever slipping out at lunchtime to transfer money from one bank into another. It was a real headache trying to keep track of it all. It seemed that he was just expected to come up with money by everyone; the girls’ school fees to be paid or June needing money for clothes or her mother needing a new carpet which he, Phil, was expected to provide; everyone just assumed he could afford it and would pay for it all. But somehow he always managed to smile and find the money somewhere.
He should have been able to manage, he knew that. On paper it all made sense; his salary plus the rents he was receiving on the shops more than exceeded the loans and the bills. But that was on paper, and he always seemed to forget something, like the Rates bill every year, or the car’s service every six months. As soon as one loan was paid off he seemed to need another, though the bank managers were more than happy to advance him a couple of thousand, they didn’t even ask Phil what he needed it for after a while. That was the way they did things in those days, it was all done on trust, everyone knew you, you were a valuable customer – and trust was everything.
The Practice was doing well too; they were busier than ever, they had two trainees now and an assistant for Janet, but that didn’t stop Phil having to work late far too often for comfort. Jones was much better at running the show than Jameson had been, far more efficient. He would send out reminders about unpaid bills, and insist on monies being paid upfront by their business clients whereas Jameson had been happy to wait months to be paid for the work.
“No good harrying our regular clients for our fees, they’ll be needing us again soon enough, and we don’t want them going elsewhere next time do we?” he had been heard to say.
But Jones’s mantra was “Can’t pay? Sorry, can’t do the work.” And sure enough, they usually coughed up.
* * *
And then, all of a sudden, Ted rang June one morning. Phil had just left for work and Jane and Harriet were almost ready to leave for school. Ted and Julie didn’t have a phone so he must have been ringing from the phone box at the bottom of their road.
“Hello June” he said in that deep and sexy voice of his. June was so surprised, she hadn’t been expecting him to phone; hardly anyone did actually – during the day anyway. She couldn’t see why Phil had wanted the thing installed, but he was always getting calls, at all hours of the night too, so she supposed he needed it for his work.
“Oh, hello Ted, is everything alright? Hang on a minute, I’m just seeing Harriet and Jane out of the door, I won’t be a tick.”
“So, June, are you on your own?” he asked almost conspiratorially.
“Well yes, you know that Ted, I am always here on my own.” And she was – the being alone was half her problem.
“So, is it okay if I pops round this morning, just for a chat like.” He said, so casually.
“Yes Ted, that would be lovely.”
Lovely? ‘My God,’ she thought, ‘it would be more than lovely.’
“See you in about an hour then June.” And he rung off, it was as simple as that. It hadn’t crossed her mind to ask what he really wanted. She knew what might happen of course, she had been thinking of little else. She knew that she wanted it, and she knew how wrong it was to be wanting him too. She just had no way of stopping herself. The sensible part of her knew that this was stupid, this was the last thing she should be doing, but then when did that ever stop anyone.