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Changing Patterns

BOOK: Changing Patterns
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Table of Contents

Changing Patterns

by

Judith Barrow

HONNO MODERN FICTION

Also by Judith Barrow

Pattern of Shadows

For David

Acknowledgements

I would like to express my gratitude to those who helped in the publishing of
Changing Patterns

To all the staff at Honno for their individual expertise, advice and help. To Janet Thomas for her thoughtful and empathetic editing.

A special thanks to my dear friend and fellow author, Sharon Tregenza, for her constructive criticism and encouragement throughout.

Lastly, as ever, for David; always by my side, always believing in me.

Chapter 1

16
th
June 1950 Llanroth, Wales

Sometimes Mary couldn’t believe he was there. She would reach out and touch Peter just to reassure herself that after five years apart they were together again. He’d given up a lot to be with her.

‘You are happy?’ He slung his arm around her shoulder and pulled her closer.

The breeze ruffled their hair. The tide was on the turn and Mary watched the waves collide and dissolve. High above, gulls hung motionless, their cries lost in the air currents.

‘Mmm.’ Mary rested against him. The smell of the mown lawn on his skin mingled with the salty tang of spray blown off the sea and the faint smell of pipe tobacco. ‘You?’

‘Of course.’

She turned her head to look at him, brushed a few blades of grass from his cheek. In the four months since he’d found her he’d lost the gaunt pallor, the weariness, and gained a quiet contentment.

‘It is good, the two of us sitting here, alone,’ he said.

‘Tom won’t be long though, he’ll be back from Gwyneth’s soon. He said he was only just digging her vegetable plot over for planting tomorrow.’

‘I do not mean Tom. He is family.’

Mary allowed a beat to pass. ‘I know you didn’t, love. And I know what you really mean. But it’s not our problem. If people don’t like our being together that’s their lookout.’ She kissed him. His mouth was warm; the tip of his tongue traced the inside of her lips. Through the thin cotton of her dress she felt his hand cup her breast.

Smiling she drew back. ‘Tom?’ she murmured, her voice rueful.

They sat peacefully on the doorstep of the cottage, each savouring the other’s closeness.

Gradually the sun disappeared behind the cliffs. The trees became shifting silhouettes and the wind slapped the surface of the sea into rolling metallic arcs and carried the spray towards the cottage. Mary licked her lips, tasted the salt.

‘It’s getting chilly.’ She shivered.

Peter stood, reached down and lifted her to her feet, holding her to him.
‘Ich liebe dich,
my Mary.’

‘And I love you.’

A few moments passed before she forced herself to stand back and, giving him a quick kiss, take in a long breath. ‘Now,’ she said, ‘I’m late sorting tea out. If you put those things away, I’ll go and give that batter a whisk. I’m making Spam fritters to go with that mash from last night.’

She stood on the top step watching him walk down the gravel path to where he’d left the lawnmower and then glanced towards the cottage next door. Although it was only just dusk the window in Gwyneth Griffith’s parlour suddenly lit up and the oblong pattern spilled across the garden. Tom emerged out of the shadows swinging a spade in his hand and turned onto the lane. Mary waved to him and he waggled the spade in acknowledgement. ‘Tom’s coming now,’ she called out to Peter. ‘I’ll stick the kettle on. He’ll want a brew before he eats.’

The van came from nowhere, a flash of white. Mary saw it veer to the right towards Tom. Hurtling close to the side of the lane, it drove along the grass verge, smashing against the overhanging branches of the blackthorn. Caught in the headlights, her brother had no time and nowhere to go. Frozen, Mary watched as he was flung into the air. She heard the squeal of the engine and the heavy thud of his body on the bonnet of the van. The spade clattered along the tarmac. Peter threw open the gate and was running before she could move.

‘Tom,’ she heard him yell. Somewhere, someone was screaming. She was screaming.

The van had gone.

Stumbling towards the inert body of her brother, she passed one of his wellington boots. Looking up she saw the other incongruously dangling from a branch. There was a crunch under her shoe and she bent down to pick up Tom’s spectacles. One lens was shattered and it fell from the frame as she held it to her breast. She didn’t feel the glass cut into her fingers. The van’s engine faded into nothing. The only noise was the awful sound of Tom’s guttural breathing. Peter gently turned him over, cradling his head.

Trembling Mary dropped to her knees. Tom’s eyes were closed, his face a blank mask.

‘Help him, Peter.’ Mary forced the words past the hard lump in her throat, all her nursing training deserting her. ‘Help him. Please…’

Tom took a long shuddering breath.

In the fading light Mary watched the dark pool of blood spread.

Chapter 2

Ashford, North of England

‘You think all you need to do is flutter your eyelashes and Ted will let you do anything. Well, let me
tell you, my lady, one day, you’ll come unstuck.’ Hannah Booth narrowed her eyes as she glared at her daughter-in-law and took a long noisy slurp of tea.

Ellen chopped the onions with quick impatient cuts, willing herself not to react to the constant carping.

‘Leaving me to look after William and…’ Hannah wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. ‘And the other one.’

‘She’s called Linda. God above, can’t you even say her name? My – our daughter is called Linda. L-i-n-d-a.’ Ellen glared at Hannah.

There was a moment of apprehension on the older woman’s face before she spoke again, this time with triumph.

‘Don’t think I won’t tell him how long you were out this morning, doing the so-called shopping…’

‘What else do you think I was doing, Hannah?’ Ellen clenched her jaw. ‘I was in that queue outside the butcher’s over an hour.’ Her feet still tingled with pins and needles from standing so long.

‘And what did you bring home?’ Hannah pushed a fat forefinger at the small brown paper parcel on the kitchen table, the blood already seeping through. ‘Two ounces of lamb’s liver. Hardly enough for one.’

‘That one being you, of course.’

‘Well, why not? I need the iron, the doctor said.’ Hannah banged her mug of tea down on the table and crossed her arms across her large bosom.

‘Because it’s Ted’s money that bought it and it’s Ted that’ll be coming home from work hungry.’ It was an automatic response. But to be honest, the way Ellen was feeling about him these days, he could whistle for his tea. She was sick to death of him going on about how good his new shop assistant was. Anybody would think he fancied her.

A small chill settled in her stomach. She pushed it away, aware that Hannah was still watching her.

‘And you’ll cook it before you go off gallivanting, will you?’

‘It’s work. My singing … is my work.’ Ellen ground out the words as she threw the onions into the frying pan and gave then a stir.

Hannah snorted. ‘Work? Prancing about in front of some blokes with nothing better to do? In a frock that leaves nothing to the imagination?’

‘I sing in a respectable club.’

‘Huh!’

Ellen turned the gas off on the cooker. She couldn’t bear to be in the same room as the woman any longer. She washed her hands, getting as much lather as she could from the hard green bar of soap; she wasn’t leaving the house stinking of onions. ‘I’m going to get ready.’ Sod the liver. They could fight over who would have it when he came home. And his mother could cook it. It would make her get up off her fat backside. ‘I’m not having this argument again, Hannah.’

‘You’re not leaving before Ted gets home?’ It was as much a challenge as a question.

Ellen stopped on the first tread of the stairs, holding back the heavy green curtain. She didn’t turn around. ‘The kids are in bed if that’s what you’re worrying about.’

‘I’m not. I don’t mind looking out for William.’

‘There are two children up there.’ Ellen’s fingernails dug into her palm. ‘Are you saying you won’t look out for Linda? Should I tell Ted you said that?’ She spun around to face Hannah.

Hannah scowled. ‘I just said…’

‘Yes?’

‘Nothing.’

‘Good.’

When Ellen came back downstairs she wore the new black satin strapless dress her friend Edna had made for her in exchange for two summer frocks that were too big for her. She sat down carefully at the table; the dress was a little tight but looked all the better for that. There was a stony silence in the room. She defied her mother-in-law, setting out her make-up. Pulling the top off the small tube of red lipstick, she held up the thin Yardley compact and peered into the mirror.

‘I don’t know why you think you need all that slap.’ Hannah watched Ellen. ‘I never bothered much with tutty myself. Eddie didn’t like it. Very old-fashioned my hubby. And neither does my Ted. He says he likes a girl to be natural.’

Ellen pressed her lips together, moving them from side to side to even out the lipstick. ‘Does he? He’s never said anything like that to me. He always says I look beautiful.’ Her glance at Hannah was defiant.

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