Aside
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– 1 –

“Tea’s ready!” Mum was shouting from the kitchen, Monica pretended not to hear, Grange Hill only had another 3 or 4 minutes and she didn’t want to miss the end.

The living room door opened and Mum stood there looking hot and flustered. “Come on love, it’s going cold and I have to get to work.”

“I’ll be there in a minute I just want to see the end of this” Monica didn’t even glance at her mother.

Janet sighed and turned back to the kitchen, she wasn’t in the mood for another argument with her daughter.  She covered the plate on the table and went to the hallway to get her coat.

Monica flounced into the hallway looking sulky “Mum, you know I hate mushy peas, I told you last week and the week before!”  Lucy looked at her watch “Just eat what you want and leave the rest, I’ve got to go or I’ll be late again”

Monica stomped back into the kitchen and slammed the door behind her. Lucy knew she should stay and talk to her but if she was late again she would lose her job.

It was late when Lucy got home and she expected Monica to be in bed so she was surprised to hear voices coming from the living room.  Quietly hanging up her coat and slipping of her shoes she went over to the door and paused with her hand on the handle.  She could only hear Monica and she realised that she was talking on the phone.

Monica jumped and looked guilty as Lucy walked in – glancing at the clock above the mantelpiece she realised she had lost track of time “must go,” she whispered into the mouthpiece “see you tomorrow”, she hung up the phone.

“Who was that?” Lucy asked whilst wondering how long she had been talking and how much the phone bill was likely to be.  “Just a friend from school, sorry, I didn’t realise the time, I’ll get off to bed now” she scurried from the room and up the stairs in record time.

Lucy followed her up after deciding she really couldn’t be bothered to make the cup of coffee she had really wanted whilst walking home from the pub where she worked 4 nights a week and Sunday lunch-times.

She wasn’t surprised to see the bed was empty – Martin hardly ever made it home before her any more.  Lying in bed waiting for sleep to come she wondered if this was her lot in life – it certainly wasn’t what she had imagined during the heady days of her teenage years, then she had dreams then of college or even university but that was before Ben came along.

– 2 –

Ben turned up at ColesworthHigh School half way through the spring term of 1978 – he joined the 5th Year and was in three of Lucy’s classes; English, Biology and History.

Of course all the girls fancied him, with his black, glossy hair flopping down over one eye and his irresistible, cheeky grin it was inevitable. He was the tallest boy in the year and had already got the hint of a 5 o’clock shadow whilst his contemporaries were still sporting black-heads and ever-greasy hair.

Lucy never expected Ben to take any notice of her, she was pretty ordinary looking and she didn’t smoke or bunk-off classes like the so-called “cool” girls in her year.  She wanted to do well in her exams so that she could get into college so she was a little taken aback when he sauntered over to her in the lunch-hall one Thursday and asked her how she was getting on with the Biology homework from yesterday.

The following week Sarah and Debs persuaded Lucy to come to the youth club disco – she had been once or twice but hadn’t really enjoyed herself being left alone most of the time whilst her friends were dancing with the boys.

This week it was Sarah’s 16th birthday though so she felt she should make the effort. Sarah, Deb’s and Lucy were all going to Sarah’s house straight from school and her mum was making a birthday tea – Sarah’s dad was going to drive them to the youth club and collect them at the end of the evening.

Lucy had checked her watch at least ten times in the last half an hour – Sarah’s dad had said he would collect them at ten minutes past eleven “on the dot!” it was just approaching ten thirty and Lucy was wishing it was later. It was just like every other time and she had been sat with just her bottle of coke for company for at least forty minutes now.

Checking her watch again she jumped when someone touched her shoulder – “Fancy a dance?” Ben was smiling down at her and she could feel herself blushing furiously. “Come on, you’ve been sat there looking sad for ages” Lucy couldn’t think of a reasonable excuse to refuse so she stood up and followed Ben to the dance floor.

Over the next few months Lucy and Ben were almost joined at the hip, like all young lovers the world only existed for them and her mother was getting more and more agitated as teachers kept phoning her to say that Lucy had been late again or, worse, hadn’t turned up at all! She had tried talking to Lucy but Lucy just shrugged her shoulders and said that she would be fine and to stop hassling her.

It was in August of 1978 that it became apparent to Lucy’s mum that all was not fine and the unexpectedly poor exam results were not the only issue Lucy had to deal with.  Just 7 weeks since her 16th birthday and it was obvious that it wasn’t just too many sweets and chips that were causing Lucy’s weight gain.

Mary sat her daughter down and asked her outright; “When is it due, do you know?”  Lucy looked down at her bump and said nothing.  “Lucy, you can’t just ignore it and hope it will go away and I can’t hide it from your dad for much longer, we have to talk about what you plan to do.”

Lucy wiped the back of her hand across her face as the tears started to flow, Mary stroked her hair like she used to when she was a baby “don’t worry love we’ll get through this”  Lucy was sobbing hard now and she hugged her mother until Mary could barely draw breath.  “First thing tomorrow we’ll get you to the doctors and then we’ll tell your father. Have you told Ben yet?”

Lucy shook her head, “He has too much to worry about with his Army training, I didn’t want to worry him; he’s really struggling as it is.”

“Oh Lucy, love, you must tell him, he needs to know and you need him.”

Lucy and Ben were married on December 16th 1978 and Monica was born February 19th 1979 on a wet, windy Monday evening.

On May 27th 1982, Ben was killed in action during the Battle of Goose Green as 2 Para attacked the Argentine 12th Infantry Regiment during the Falklands conflict.

– 3 –

Lucy heard the front door and glanced at the clock radio on the bedside table; 12:49 the red lights glowed.  Martin was coming noisily up the stairs and she knew that he was probably drunk again; she rolled over and pretended to be asleep.

Next morning as Monica was rushing around looking for her English homework whilst munching on a piece of toast, Lucy asked Martin if he was going to be home tonight.

He had the decency to look sheepish as he answered “I should be finished on time tonight love, but I may pop down the Dog and Duck for a couple with lads after work. Don’t worry about any tea for me I’ll grab something while I’m out”

He patted Monica on the head, grabbed his lunch box and left. Monica pecked her mum on the cheek as she rushed out of the door “I’m going to Trudy’s after school so I don’t need any tea either, bye mum, love you!”

Lucy was stood at the kitchen sink donned in rubber gloves and a pink apron that Monica had bought for her last Christmas when the doorbell rang.

The postman gave her a cheery smile as she opened the door with the hand not now wearing a yellow Marigold.

“Morning! You’ve got one to sign for today!” he said as she fumbled to remove the second glove. Intrigued Lucy scribbled her name and took the blue air-mail letter from him.

Walking into the kitchen and throwing the gloves on the draining board she turned the letter over to see if there was a sender’s address.  Nothing to indicate who it was from just that it was posted in Cyprus 4 days before.

Dear Lucy,

 

We have never met but I have often thought about you, Ben used to describe you as “his little ray of sunshine” and he was always talking about you and Monica.

 

I have refrained from writing to you for so long (almost twelve years now in fact) but a turn of events in my own life has prompted me to write now. 

Ben and I served together during the Falklands and we were good friends right through training.  I was at his funeral but you were far too distraught to notice me and I left straight after the service. 

My army life is over now and I married a girl in Cyprus some 8 years ago. I chose to make Cyprus my home; there was nothing to keep me in England – Ben and I had something else which bound us together and that was a lack of any real family.

 My wife died a few weeks ago from cervical cancer and it was at her funeral last week that your haunted face drifted into my subconscious. It takes the death of someone you truly love to make you appreciate the pain of others and I now know just how you felt on that day. I wish to belatedly apologise for not staying that day when I could, maybe, have offered some comfort. 

I am coming to England next month to visit a distant aunt who has recently been admitted to a nursing home and I would very much like to meet you – if you are amenable to the idea. 

I do hope that this does not come as too much of a shock and I sincerely hope you agree to meet with me,

 I will await your reply.

 Respectfully yours,

 Jim South.

 

Lucy read the letter a number of times and tears were flowing that she was not even aware of. He was right it was twelve years since Ben’s death but she still thought of him every day, she decided almost immediately that she would love to have someone to talk to about Ben.

Lucy sat nervously at the restaurant table, twiddling with the knife that was laid on the napkin by her arm.  Every time the door opened she glanced up through her fringe to see if it was a man alone entering.

Then, suddenly, there he was – looking every bit as nervous as she was – looking around the restaurant for a lady alone.

Jim and Lucy met regularly over the next few weeks and they found they had so many things in common.  She loved the stories he told about the antics him and Ben had got up to and she knew when to just be silent as his grief over his wife’s death hit him at odd moments.

When the time came for him to return to Cyprus she felt that she had known him all her life and was sad that he had to leave.

– 4 –

Martin walked through the door at ten to five that evening and both Monica and Lucy looked up in surprise.  “You’re early, love” Lucy remarked “is everything OK?”

Martin was grinning as he reached over and ruffled Monica’s hair and then he started to actually laugh.

“Dad, what are you so happy about?” Monica was genuinely surprised – it seemed to her that her parents were never really happy and she couldn’t really remember her dad laughing out loud in, well in forever!

“My lovely ladies” he said, cryptically as he sat down at the kitchen table “You are just not going to believe this” he started grinning again and this time it was Lucy who said “Well, are you going to let us in on the joke?”

“What would you say if I were to tell you that the works syndicate had won the biggy on the lottery?”

Both Monica and Lucy looked at Martin in disbelief;  “Are you sure” Lucy asked dubiously, she knew that Martin could get carried away at times and she had visions of him being told about a win which would turn out to be nothing more than a tenner!

“One hundred percent – we have won two point eight million between 14 of us, that’s two hundred thousand pounds each!”

Monica started running around the table whooping like a five year old “We’re rich, we’re rich!”  She hugged her mum and kissed her dad and then started running around again.

“Can I tell my friends mum? Please?” she begged. Lucy looked at Martin and knew that it wouldn’t be a secret for long “Yes, I don’t think it will matter if you do!” Lucy smiled at her daughter.

– 5 –

The flight to Cyprus was a little bumpy but the Jarvis family didn’t mind – to them it was a great adventure – it being the first time they had flown as a family.

Monica rushed down the steps leading to the runway; Lucy and Martin could barely keep up with her.

The hotel was fantastic and Monica kept running through the door connecting the two rooms exclaiming “The bathroom is amazing” and “Have you been on the balcony yet?”

Lucy unpacked the cases whilst Martin went out onto their balcony – he started calling to Monica to come out onto her balcony and Lucy smiled. He wasn’t a bad dad and he had always treated Monica as his own she thought.

Lucy took the passports from her handbag and placed Martin’s and Monica’s in a drawer next to the bed.  She tucked hers back in her handbag and continued unpacking.

Martin and Monica both looked at their watches, their flight was due to leave in a couple of hours and they really needed to be leaving for the airport soon.

“Where’s mum got to? She only popped out to get some water for the journey.”  “She is certainly taking her time” replied Martin “If she doesn’t get her skates on we’ll miss the plane”

They both looked at each other when there was a knock on the hotel door a few minutes later and then the door opened and one of the porters popped his head around the door.  “Thiz izza note for you, sir” he said with a heavy accent. Martin took the note, looking perplexed “Who would send us a note here?” Monica said, equally puzzled.

Martin sat heavily on the bed as he read it’s contents and Monica began to feel nervous.  “What is it dad? You’re starting to scare me”

“It’s from your mum, she says she’s not coming back to England – she is staying here in Cyprus with an old friend”  “Mum hasn’t got any friends in Cyprus has she?” Monica was even more confused now.

“There have been some strange phone calls over the last few months and I noticed she had an airmail letter in her bag the other day but I didn’t think to ask her who it was from”

“The note says that our passports are in the drawer next to the bed and she has taken the small suitcase for her own stuff.” Martin was starting to shake and Monica started to cry, “Why is she not coming home, she has to, she’s my mum, she can’t just stay here!”

Jim smiled as Lucy climbed out of the taxi, she looked every bit a lovely as he remembered and her tanned arms and legs gave her a healthy glow and her smile seemed to make everything around her appear bathed in sunshine.

She lifted the case from the car and paid the driver “Hello” she said as he walked over and took the case from her.

“Hello” he replied as he bent to kiss her gently.

– 6 –

Jim and Lucy were married on June 14th 1997, six months after her Decree Absolute was granted. Monica was over the moon to be a bridesmaid and Martin, whilst not completely thrilled to be there, was pleased to see Lucy so very happy at last.

Martin had taken a while to come to terms with the events of the last couple of years – your wife leaving you, just when everything seemed to be going so well, took some adjusting to.  He was glad, though that Monica had chosen to live with him in England to complete her A levels.

Monica had excelled in sciences and had been offered a place at University to study chemistry; she was looking forward to starting out on her own life and was pleased to have a choice of holiday options both in England and Cyprus!

As the newlyweds made their way past their guests Martin looked at Lucy and Jim he knew that he could never have made her that happy.

He caught hold of Monica’s hand as she walked past and squeezed; she turned and snuggled up to him.

“They look so happy, dad, just like a couple of young lovers, I hope they always look at each other that way.”  “I think they will, love” he replied, “I think they will.”

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