THE CLOCK MAN.
Chapter Twenty-Six. Jane Spencer
One wedding may have been spoilt by a death, but the other one, that between Darren and Jane, wasn't.
The ceremony was led by Father Damien Crudleigh who turned a blind eye to the fact that Darren wasn't of the same faith as he and his church. He liked and respected Jane, and her choice was good enough for him.
And that good priest had two complementary thoughts on his mind as he stood there in his vestment, waiting for the bride to make her way to the front of the church.
I'll have to be looking for a new face to wash my pots and iron my shirts, he thought with half of his mind. She's been good, and that's a fact, especially after such an inauspicious start, with old Mr Johnson's bones emerging into the light of day after so long. Yet my place has never been so clean, and I know that I haven't paid her enough. But best of luck to her, that's what I say. That young policeman Darren is as good as they come and I hope they're happy together.
But the other half of his mind dwelt on more human matters. It's been good having a young lady about the house, his mind ran, and it's been especially pleasant for a single man like myself! She's a pretty one, that's for sure, and it's been enough to try a saint's patience when she's been wearing something short in cotton and bending down so low that I could almost see everything she's got! I can just about understand how some men in my position might go astray with a lass that like around, for the fashions these days are getting mighty attractive yet still manage to leave enough to the imagination...
When it came to the priest, though, Jane had done one thing, though. She had put Ada Spencer's mind at ease.
“You watch the priest doesn't touch you up,” Ada had said. “Irene Pugh had a thing or three to say about him and his wandering hands!”
“He's not done anything I wouldn't be happy for my mother to know about,” Jane told her, “and my mother's a most particular woman when it comes to such matters!”
“Maybe Mrs Pugh got the wrong end of the stick, then,” murmured Ada, “she could, you know. Had an active imagination did our Irene. And it could have been wishful thinking on her part, her being a single woman all her life … nobody to cuddle up to, nobody to love … it wasn't easy being a single woman in her day, what with all the young men lost in wars...”
“Well, Damien's a decent man as well as a priest,” said Jane.
She had got to call him Damien rather than Father. He preferred it that way. As he said, being celibate he was never going to be anyone's father, which was something he almost regretted.
The wedding ceremony went as well as any wedding ceremony anywhere and by the end of it the two newly-weds were as happy as two newly-weds have ever been. Their kiss at the invitation of Father Damien was a little longer than some but not so long as to be showy and their smiles were both warm and generous to each other.
It might have been Ricky standing with me, flashed through Jane's mind, it might have been, but it wasn't and I guess it was never meant to be. And anyway, I've got the best bargain a girl could get. A handsome young policeman with a heart of gold. Now for the rest of our lives together.
The only downside, if downside it was, lay in the absence of her parents even though, in her letters, she'd made sure it was understood that the service was to be held in a Catholic church. She'd been quite sure that her mother would have approved of that! But what she didn't understand was the anger in her mother's heart at the notion that her precious Jane was going to be married at all. As for her father, it is doubtful that he even heard of the forthcoming wedding. All of Jane's correspondence had been with her mother.
In her head that good woman had worked out a warped version of reality in which the only state worthy of the female was one of virginity. Anything else was somehow soiled and an obstacle to an eternity in Heaven. How she managed to incorporate her own state of motherhood into her vision of light and the Hereafter is uncertain, but somehow she did. The end result, though, was the absence of both of Jane's parents from the most precious day in her life.
I would like to have seen them, she told herself, but I'm not really surprised. What I do know, though, is that God can't think much of my mum because everything she says or does goes directly against my understanding of everything He stands for... I guess it was because I shamed her by running away. She probably decided that I was pregnant, which I would never have been, not unmarried as I was until today, she must have known that. But then, there was a great deal more going on in her head that had nothing to do with reality or any truth that exists anywhere in Heaven or on Earth.
Darren and Jane had the same little police round the corner from his mother that he had lived in since before they met. It had two bedrooms, which was just as well because they hadn't been married for a year when Jane fell pregnant.
Geraldine was born and thrived, and though Jane wrote to her mother again, telling her that she was now a grandparent, she heard nothing in reply, and was shocked when she received the letter back, saying that there was nobody of that name at that address. Yet the biggest shock was that the return was signed by Mrs Annie Shepherd.
Shepherd! That was Ricky's surname! What's someone with that name doing at my old home, at that address, and not my parents? Are they alive or has something dreadful happened? Surely not! But what if it has...
In the end she got Darren to drive her up there one Sunday, a few weeks after the baby Geraldine was born, and she saw her first love almost immediately. Ricky was there, the Ricky she remembered so well, and he was in the small front garden with a spade in his hand and a scowl on his face.
He looks miserable, she thought.
“That's my first boyfriend,” she pointed Ricky out to Darren.
“Do you want to go and have a word with him, love?” he asked, secure in the strength of their relationship.
She shook her head. “I just wanted to know where my parents were, but they're clearly not there,” she said.
“I'll go and ask if you like,” grinned Darren. “I'm not in uniform, so they won't think anything's wrong. I'll just ask about Mr and Mrs Summers, that's all.”
“Of course. And then you won't have to tread over old ground with an ex-boyfriend.”
“Don't say I'm here...” she begged.
“Of course not, silly!”
And he walked across to the house and she watched him talking to Ricky. She saw Ricky shake his head, though she was too far away to hear what he was saying. But all the time she stared at Ricky and every time his head moved in the special way she remembered her own heart lurched. Sometimes bits and pieces of old loves never die, she told herself, guiltily. Sometimes there are precious things we never properly forget...
When Darren climbed back in the car he winked at her. “They moved,” he said, shortly, “they moved ages ago, apparently. The bloke doesn't know where they moved to. Ricky, you said his name is? Well, I've known some folks in my time but not many quite as fed up as he sounded. I'd guess you're better off without him in your life!”
She smiled at Darren, and for a spooky moment, as he was driving off, she imagined she could feel Ricky's teenage fingers moving round to the back of her bra, and fumbling, inexperienced, shaking, unfastening it. She shivered, and the feeling went.
“I know I am, darling,” she said quietly, and she squirmed as she added “I've got the best of every possible world with you.”
“Our lives are so good,” he sighed as he drove off.
Their lives together were, indeed, glorious. It happens only too rarely that two people are so in tune with each other that there is no need for disputes, and life for Jane with her Darren was like that. Not even the shadow of a first love, briefly as it had fallen over her heart, could change that.
Yet, as the warm years passed slowly along, she never forgot that first love of her life. She never forgot her Ricky. It was as if even in the Heaven of her life now there had been, somewhen and somehow and never quite forgotten, a brighter heaven in which diamanté stars shone forever, brighter than real stars, and love was real heart-stopping, bra-undoing love.
Yet at the same time she was deliriously happy.
If I hadn't run away from home I'd never have met Darren and I'd never have been like that, she told herself as she was feeding Geraldine. I think I'll always be happy.
And it seemed that was her destiny. Her baby was becoming a child and all the time she was happy, and so it seemed that was how she would always be.
But there's always a black night after even the brightest day, and so it was for Jane.
For she was in her laughing, loving Heaven until one dark night when Darren was shot during a chase through the dark after a shadow that had just robbed a bank.
It was an occupational hazard, and he was shot dead.
© Peter Rogerson 13.08.13
This is the twenty-sixth chapter of a little love story I'm quite enjoying writing (not very manly is it, to admit that?) and because Gather is in a parlous state these days here are links to the first 25 chapters in case you've missed out.