He closed his eyes and burrowed down under the quilt, pushing the day away.
05 June 2012
Albion Market Episode 102
The '80s Actual soap.... Dare you return to 1986 and the market place? In this episode, Keith discovers that married life can be hard, Eileen plans to meet Geoff, Morris worries about computers, Lynne and Viv clash - again, the mystery of Dermott's underpants continues for Debbie, Carol gets her sales pitch right, and Chan could be in danger...
As his head blinked into consciousness, Keith's arm snaked out and did a quick circuit of the side of the bed he wasn't occupying. It was cold and empty. He dragged his head from the pillow and looked at the alarm clock on the bedside cabinet: 6:48 am.
Louise wasn't home.
She'd been out all night.
Where was she?
Who was she with?
Keith felt as though an invisible force was pressing him down against the mattress. His body felt heavy - so very heavy...
He closed his eyes and burrowed down under the quilt, pushing the day away.
He closed his eyes and burrowed down under the quilt, pushing the day away.
"So, the food won't go to waste?"
"No, honestly - we can have the pie with salad and tinned potatoes tonight," said Eileen. "And the mash I'll turn into a spud pie for tomorrow."
Lynne looked at her admiringly: "You're really good. I never got into cooking. I think Fanny Cradock put me off at a young age!"
"Me mother taught me," said Eileen. "I enjoy it - it's all simple stuff, with the odd experiment here and there - but I'm happy in the kitchen. Well, most of the time!"
"Sounds good to me! What are your plans for today?" Lynne took a drag on her fag.
"I'll contact the agency I worked for - I'm still on their books, so I should be able to get a bit of work," said Eileen. "Get some money comin' in. Once I've done that, I'll think about Geoff. I should see 'im as soon as possible. I don't want you and Lisa to 'ave to keep up this secrecy about me bein' here."
Lynne looked at her admiringly: truth to tell, much as she liked Eileen, she'd always thought her a bit wet, a bit of a wimp. Yet here she was planning, taking control, thinking things through.
"Don't worry about stoppin' 'ere," Lynne said. "You're welcome for a week or two at least. We could do with somebody who cooks around the place!"
"Ta, Lynne - I appreciate that!" Eileen smiled.
Lisa came in. "Mornin'!" she said, sitting at the table and pouring herself a cuppa."Think that early night did me good."
"Not like you, stayin' in!" Lynne teased. "We didn't 'ear a sound from you after half-nine. I called up about half-ten when we made a cuppa, but you must've been dead to the world!"
"It's what I needed," said Lisa. "I've been burnin' the candle a bit." She reached for a slice of toast from the rack.
"That's cold," said Eileen. "I can make you some fresh..."
"Oooh, no, ta," Lisa grinned. "I've been eatin' cold toast for years, an' I love it. Nice thick scrapin' of marge an' I'm away! How'd you find the settee last night?"
"Went out like a light," said Eileen.
"That's good..." Lisa crunched toast and swilled tea.
"I can't get over what you've been tellin' me about the market," Eileen said to Lynne. "I mean, Geoff went there after he got made redundant and it always seemed quite a steady place..."
"Oh aye, bit of a revolution this past few months," said Lynne.
"And Geoff and the cassette recorder in his shirt pocket..." Eileen shook her head. "Like somethin' out of a spy thriller!"
"The old place has been well shook up," Lynne grinned. "That was Alan Curtis. He saw nowt wrong in wheeler dealin'... it was turnin' into a right little den of intrigue. You know, I still can't believe the Riggs've gone. Larry was bound to come unstuck sooner or later, but I'm sorry about Brenda. She was never in favour of his shady stuff."
"I didn't know them that well, but I enjoyed their wedding reception on the market..." said Eileen.
Lynne sighed: "Whatever made 'em go must've been pretty bad. They'd been there donkey's years. Still, I s'pose they'll survive... I 'ope Alan weren't too rough on 'em, though. Poor old Brenda."
"Not that all Alan's idea were bad," Lynne continued.
"But a lot weren't good, either - especially when he had a bit of encouragement," Lisa broke in, eyeing her mother coldly.
"Lisa, don't start again!" Lynne warned, stubbing her fag out viciously in the ashtray.
There was an uneasy silence. Eileen wondered what on earth had been going on. Something personal. Something that had caused - and was still causing - ill feeling between Lynne and Lisa, that much was obvious.
"I'm glad Morris and Miriam didn't have to retire," she said brightly, to fill the awkward silence.
"Me an' all, " Lynne was smiling again. "Mind you, it's not all good news. Dermot Thornburgh's still about. 'Ere did I tell you about his underpants?"
Eileen smiled and shook her head. As Lynne filled her in, Eileen managed a quick glance at Lisa, quietly finishing her tea and toast, looking slightly sulky. For the sake of a happier atmosphere, even if it was just for her own benefit, Eileen decided she'd try and avoid any topic that might lead to Alan Curtis during her stay.
Keith had put Jenny in her highchair and was feeding her when his mother came downstairs.
"The mornin's are turnin' chilly," she commented, switching on the gas fire. "Oh, my poor old knees..." She hobbled into the kitchen and poured herself a cuppa.
"Did you sleep well?" Keith kept his voice bright.
"Terrible," Mrs Naylor made her way to her favourite armchair with her tea. "State my knees were in, it was like purgatory. What time did Madam get in? I never 'eard 'er."
"Didn't yer?" Keith held out a plastic spoon of goo to Jenny.
Mrs Naylor looked at him hard. "She did GET in, I take it?"
Keith was silent.
Mrs Naylor's voice rose: "You mean she's still OUT?!!"
"Look, don't make a fuss, Mam, she probably missed the bus or somethin' last night."
"Well, she knows we're on the phone!"
"She probably 'asn't memorised the number yet. She must've missed the last bus and stayed at her friend's."
"And you believe that?" Mrs Naylor looked hard at the back of her son's neck. He wouldn't turn and face her, not even for a moment.
"Well, what else could it be?"
Mrs Naylor sighed: "I despair, I really do. It's like she's got you under some kind of spell... You deserve better, Keith, you really do!"
Keith's voice revealed his pain: "Look, just leave it, Mam, PLEASE!"
Mrs Naylor sniffed: "I shan't say another word. But if you ask me, you brought trouble into this house the day you married that girl. Big trouble. No good'll come of it, you mark my words. This is just the beginning..."
On the way into work in their old transit van, Lynne decided to clear the air with Lisa.
"Look, Lisa, I know what you were gettin' at in front of Eileen. But I've explained and I've said I'm sorry. I can't do no more."
"And that makes everything OK?"
Lynne found herself losing patience: "Oh, God 'elp me - it's not as if Alan was special to you. You were seein' other blokes. And the way you and a few others were goin' on about me, I felt like Granny Grunt, sat there with the telly every night. When Alan paid me some attention... well, I went a bit mad. I'm sorry, I wouldn't've done it if he'd been your one and only, but you'd said it wasn't serious..."
"Still kind of weird though, isn't it - mother an' daughter sharin' a bloke? I'm not sure I can cope with it!"
"Well, it's done, gone, finished," Lynne sighed. "An' you 'ave my word nothin' like that will ever 'appen again. Can we leave it now, please? Look at the weather - September, but the sun's crackin' the flags and there's not a cloud in the sky!"
Lisa said nothing. Truth was, she didn't want to row with her mother, but whenever the thought of Lynne and Alan together entered he head, she felt annoyed. And odd. Mother and daughter sleeping with the same bloke... she and Lynne had shared many things during Lisa's short life so far, but never a bloke. The rest of the journey to Albion Market was completed in silence.
"You know, I don't know why Julian was so set on getting a computer," sighed Morris over on the crockery stall half an hour later.
"To help with his studies," Miriam sat down after serving their first customer of the day. "They are very helpful, Morris."
"How?" asked Morris.
Miriam sighed, "Well I don't know, but they are. You don't begrudge the money we spent, do you?"
"No, of course not, I just don't understand it, that's all," cried Morris. "I mean, our Julian's going to be a doctor, looking after people, nothing to do with computers."
"Well, you hear quite a lot about computers these days," Miriam picked up the baby bootees she was knitting and set to work. "Things are going to change."
"I think they are changing," Morris was gloomy. "They seem different to how they were even a couple of years ago... They're teaching computers in schools now. Imagine that, kiddies learning computers!"
"It's looking to the future, Morris, the year 2000's not that far off. Can you imagine?" Miriam slowed her knitting and stared into the future. "The Year 2000... People'll probably take computers for granted by then and be havin' day trips to the moon, houses will be made of plastic - and there'll be hundreds of telly channels, not just four."
"I daresay you're right..." Morris sighed again. He didn't like change.
"What do you think, Carol?" Miriam called, as Carol Broadbent walked past the stall.
"Oh, mornin'!" smiled Carol. "What do I think about what?"
"Computers, modern technology, the Year 2000 and how things are going to be?" asked Miriam.
Carol sighed, "Well, to be honest, Miriam, I haven't given it any thought. I'm just concerned with finding some work NOW..."
Miriam was immediately sympathetic: "No luck, lovey?"
Carol sighed: "No."
"Well, don't fret, you only started putting the word round yesterday. Something might turn up."
"Yeah," Carol smiled and shrugged. "Cheers, Miriam, see you later."
Miriam shook her head sadly: "This unemployment's terrible, it really is. Poor Carol..."
"I've heard tell that she helped to lose herself the job at the cafe," said Morris. Miriam shot a look at him, sharply disapproving. Morris noticed and, desiring to be in his wife's good books for once, added hurriedly: "Still, at least she is looking for work - unlike a lot of 'em!"
"Flippin' 'eck, where?" Debbie was thoroughly fed up.
"There!" said Sean. Debbie checked the floor, bending over to give it a close look, and found at most two hairs. She sighed - Sean must have microscopic eyes - and went for the broom.
"Good girl," said Viv, who was pleased that things were settling down. "Remember 'grin and bear it'."
"Yeah, I know," Debbie smiled away her irritation. "I've never worked with a creative type before. Temperamental so-and-sos, aren't they?"
"Always, in my experience," said Viv. "But bookings are up and that's good for all of us. And it doesn't stop here. I've got my eye on another young stylist with a great following."
Debbie sighed: "Don't s'pose I'll be doin' much more than wash hair and make the coffee for a long time to come."
"You'll progress. And, remember, while you're watching me and Sean you're learning. And the atmosphere you create on the phone and when you greet customers coming in is vital. I wanted the right person for the job, I've been observing you, and I think I've got it."
"Thanks!" Debbie grinned. "It's smashin' to 'ave a bit of spendin' money in me pocket."
"Keep this up and you'll have a bit more," said Viv.
Debbie nodded, then passed onto other matters: "Viv, can I ask you something?"
"Depends," Viv smiled.
"Well, what's all this I keep hearing about Dermot Thornburgh's underpants?"
"Oh, that!" Viv laughed. "I'm surprised you don't know. It's all round the place. It was like this..."
The phone rang. Debbie sighed and picked up the receiver. Then, remembering what Viv had just said, she put on her best professional welcoming voice: "Viva Hair Salon, good morning..."
"I wrote to Brenda, but I don't expect I'll hear anything," Miriam and Peggy were discussing the Riggs and their sudden departure at the cafe.
"I wrote too," said Peggy. "And ditto. I suppose they've got their pride. The way they packed up after closin' that evenin' and just disappeared like that... couldn't face us."
"It's seems a funny thing to say, and he'd never admit it in a million years, but Morris misses Larry. I know a lot of what Larry did went against everything Morris believes in, but after all these years he was fond of 'im. He's a big softie, my Morris!"
"I sometimes thought they enjoyed their little... er... exchanges!" laughed Peggy.
Derek Owen appeared: "Cup of tea please, Peggy. Make it a strong 'un. I've got a feelin' it's gonna be one of those days!"
"Why, what's up?" Peggy stirred the teabags in the pot, adding a bit more body to the brew.
"Keith's phoned in - he's gonna be late, and then Chan rang - she's down with some sort of bug and won't be in at all today. Lisa is not a happy young woman... I wouldn't mind, but I'm only the messenger!"
Lisa was certainly not happy. "I wouldn't mind," she told Geoff Travis, "but I wanted to take advantage of the good weather - it's still attractin' people out onto the wharf. I don't even know if it'll be profitable to keep the second stall goin' when the cold weather starts."
"I don't know, you young business tycoons!" grinned Geoff.
"It's not funny, Geoff!" Lisa was in no mood to be amused. "Can you think of anybody who might be willing to help out?"
"Sorry, love..." Geoff started.
But then a new voice entered the conversation: "'Ello, Leeze, 'ello, Geoff!"
Lisa turned to find Carol Broadbent standing behind her.
"'Allo!" said Geoff. "It's good to see yer, Carol. How are you gettin' on?"
"Well..." Carol grimaced. "You know, it's not easy..."
Lisa eyed her: "I 'eard you'd been back to see Peggy."
"News travels fast in this place, don't it?" Carol grimaced again.
"You can say that again!" said Lisa, with feeling.
Carol looked at her curiously, then continued: "I've asked Peggy if she'll give me a reference, seems a bit of a cheek, I know, but she's the only one that can. In the meantime, I wondered if I could pick up a few bits and pieces of work here. Just cash in hand. You never know where it might lead..."
"Into trouble if the DHSS find out," said Lisa.
"I'll risk it," said Carol. "Thing is, I wondered if you might have an hour or two goin', Lisa? When you have to nip off to collect clothes you've bought? I'd be glad of anythin'..."
Lisa looked at Carol. With her yellow trousers, pink canvas shoes and stripy T-shirt, not to mention her weird pink-tinged hairdo, she didn't look exactly look like a seller of classic clothing. But she did look keen.
And things were desperate.
"You don't OWN me, you know!" Louise was standing in front of the mantelpiece, sullen and annoyed, last night's outfit rumpled and ugly, last night's make up streaked and fading.
"But you should've said you wouldn't be back. Or phoned!" cried Keith. "I were worried. Anythin' could've 'ad appened to yer!"
I AM a grown-up!"
"Yeah, well, perhaps you should act like it..."
Louise made to sweep out of the room, but Keith grabbed her arm. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry! It's just that I 'aven't slept well... I really was worried, Louise."
"It's like 'avin' a blinkin' nanny!" Louise jeered. "Well, if you must know, I went out to a night club with Sharon and Lorna, 'ad a few, and then kipped at Sharon's. I'm not tied to this place, you know! I don't have a ball and chain round my leg! I'd 'ad Jenny all day. What was wrong with you 'avin' 'er for the evenin'?"
Keith felt so weary and Louise's manipulation of the facts made his head throb. "It's not that. As I say, just let us know in future."
"Humph!" The door slammed and Louise clumped off upstairs.
Mrs Naylor appeared in the kitchen doorway: "She's a right little madam!"
"Just leave it, Mam," Keith reached for his leather jacket. "I've gotta get to work."
"And who'll be seein' to this one all day?" Mrs Naylor indicated Jenny, who was still in her high chair and looking like she was getting ready for a really good howl. "Because it won't be Louise. She'll be dead to't world till at least late afternoon."
"Well, if you wouldn't mind..." Keith edged his way over to the door.
"With my knees?" Mrs Naylor cried. "Little consideration I get!"
Keith closed the door behind him and escaped down the hall just as Jenny began to wail...
"It'd only be while Chan is ill and I couldn't pay you that much..." Lisa was saying in the cafe.
"Oh, Leeze, it'd be brilliant!" Carol was thrilled.
"And if the DHSS should send a snoop out or Derek should ask questions, we'll just say you're doin' it for nowt to gain experience and a reference," said Lisa. "Not that the Social should be on your trail in just a couple of days. After that, I'd like to call you in if I have to go out to look at or collect fresh stock. That'd only be for an hour or so at a time."
"Suits me. I'm really grateful!" beamed Carol.
"But how do I contact you? You're not on the phone, are yer?"
"We are now!" Carol laughed. "Me Mam's workin' at Boots and the first thing she did was have us put on!"
"That was brave of 'er, with you in the 'ouse!" grinned Lisa.
"Oh, she's put a lock on it," Carol sighed. "But I can take incoming calls."
"Well, no lettin' me down if I do take you on," Lisa warned. "No sulkin' or making customers feel unwelcome just because you don't like 'em."
"Cross my heart!" said Carol.
"Right then. What do you know about style?"
"Style? Fashion you mean?" Carol was puzzled. "I like to keep up with fashion trends, you know that. I got some lovely bulldog clips on Saturday as a matter of fact..."
"No, I don't mean fashion," Lisa sighed. "Style's about bein' more mature, about being individualistic, about classic elegance..."
Carol's eyes glazed: "Is it?"
Lisa sighed: "Never mind! If anybody's got any questions, fetch me. We can swap stalls whilst I explain an' hopefully make a sale. You'll be on the outside stall, by the way..."
"So, you're workin' Chan's stall, and it's sellin' your stuff?" asked Carol.
"No, they're both my stalls," said Lisa.
"Yer what?" Carol was puzzled. " 'Owd you manage that then?"
"Alan Curtis 'ad different rules to Derek," Lisa could feel herself going slightly red. "He wanted to encourage different lines, more upmarket stalls, Chan wasn't doin' so well on her own account, so he came up with the idea of me takin' over and Chan workin' with me. She's more like a partner, really. She does a lot of repair work on the clothes."
"Oh, I see," Carol drained her tea mug. "Well, I'm ready to get started when you are!"
As they left the cafe together, Lisa sighed. It was good to see Carol again. But she hoped she wasn't making a big mistake in unleashing her on O'Shea's Classics.
"Are you all right, lad?" Derek asked Keith when he arrived at the market superintendent's office. Keith looked at him. The darkness under his eyes and his otherwise pale face said otherwise, but nevertheless he replied: "Yeah, fine, thanks, Derek. Things aren't too good at home, but I needed to come into work."
Derek, who had drawn comfort from market routine more than once himself over the years, nodded and said no more.
Louise stared up at the ceiling.
She'd stripped and flung herself into bed, thinking that sleep would come. But now, over two hours later, it hadn't.
She thought of the night before... of Baz... Baz and his designer stubble... Baz and his "I'm gonna be rich one day very soon, girl," patter... Baz and his hands and body, all over her...
Unhappy with her thoughts, she turned over.
She hadn't set out to meet Baz. But it had happened and, "drink's in, wits out" as her mother so often said...
Baz had not been a great success in bed. The whole operation seemed to be geared totally towards him, any pleasure he induced in her simply another boost for his masculine pride. "Make more noise," he'd told her... Today he'd probably be telling his mates at the garage where he worked: "I 'ad 'er screamin' for more!"
Louise had not actually enjoyed it.
But then she didn't really enjoy sex with Keith, either. There, she had to take the lead, and Keith was receptive, warm and tender, wanted to please. But she didn't find that much of a turn-on.
She'd gone out last night because the atmosphere in the house made her feel wild, like screaming, like spitting in the fireplace and smashing Whimsy Wade ornaments or smacking one of Keith's gawping tropical fish in the gob...
She hadn't liked the hurt look on Keith's face when she'd finally arrived home. He cared for her. And yet he was such a wally, so soft... he irritated the life out of her at times...
For a moment, she felt sorry for him, but then the disgruntled feeling twisted inside her again, and she became angry.
Why the hell had she married him? For security for herself and baby Jenny? Because she should have known that wouldn't work. She couldn't settle for just that.
"What's wrong with wantin' a bit of life?" she asked the continental quilt aloud.
Downstairs, Jenny began to cry. Louise put on her dressing gown and went down.
Mrs Naylor was making her painful way over to Jenny's carry cot when Louise entered the living room. "It's all right, I'll take care of her," she said.
Mrs Naylor glared at her: "Just as it should be! All right then, I'm goin' next door for a while. Be back about four..." She struggled into the hall, put on her coat, picked up her handbag and was gone.
Louise stared after her with a look of intense dislike. As the front door slammed, her gaze shifted to the sickly display of Whimsy Wade animal ornaments in the corner cabinet. All presents to Mrs Naylor from Keith and Bernard when they were kids, and greatly prized by Mrs Naylor. Louise held Jenny close to her, and pictured the little animals with their heads brutally chipped off.
Lynne and Viv had just had another skirmish on the market. The two had come face-to-face, Lynne on her way to see how Carol was getting on, Viv on her way to fetch some cakes from Peggy's cafe for her staff's elevenses tea break.
"Ooh, look who it isn't! Shall I stand aside for Lady Muck Heap?!" jeered Lynne.
"Why don't you just shut your mouth?" Viv asked, affecting a bored air.
"Gonna make me, are ya?" Lynne looked like the original street fighting woman.
"I wouldn't soil my hands. You're just plain stupid. Stupid - and jealous!" Viv moved around Lynne and carried on her way.
"JEALOUS? What of YOU? Don't make me laugh!" Lynne called after her. "What would I be jealous of YOU for?!"
Viv turned and spoke calmly and clearly. Stallholders and customers in the vicinity were transfixed. "I've no idea really. Unless it's my success at business. The life I've led so far. The fact that I know how to act in public and couldn't sound like a fishwife if I tried!"
"Ooh, hark at La-De-Dah!" Lynne sneered.
"Perhaps you'd be a bit more la-de-dah yourself if the sum total of your life's achievements wasn't selling Vim!" Viv countered coolly.
"Well, it's better than rippin' people off with over priced poodle cuts!" Lynne was getting thoroughly hot under the collar now. "There's some right frights comin' out of your so-called salon!"
Viv's nostrils flared slightly, but she replied calmly: "Those are modern, sophisticated haircuts for modern, sophisticated people. Of course, you wouldn't appreciate them. You've got no style at all. You look like something the cat dragged in. And you're jealous of anybody who doesn't!"
Lynne saw red: "That's it..." she surged forward, one fist raised, but Geoff was suddenly there, with Morris in attendance.
"Come on now, love, no need for that!"
"I'll bloody kill 'er!" Lynne bellowed.
"Came too close to the truth, did I?" Viv asked quietly, which provoked another forward surge on Lynne's part, but Geoff was too strong for her. Viv walked calmly away.
Lynne turned her anger on Geoff: "Look, just leave me alone, can't yer? Don't interfere!"
"What, and let you start brawlin'?" asked Geoff. "Great way to keep your stall, Lynne, if Derek should happen to be passing!"
Lynne breathed deeply: "One day she'll get what's comin' to 'er!" And, fumbling for her fags, she flung herself through the doors and out onto the wharf.
"What is it with those two?" Morris asked Geoff.
Geoff shrugged: "I've no idea. They're both strong women I suppose... Between you and me, Morris, I wonder if Viv 'ad a point with what she said just now. Lynne's got loads of oomph, who knows where she might've ended up if she hadn't had to look after Lisa? Lynn'll be thirty-seven next birthday... maybe she sees lots of lost opportunities in Viv?"
"You're startin' to sound like a regular Marje Proops!" said Morris.
"I'm probably wide of the mark as well," smiled Geoff. "I'm no expert when it comes to women..."
Jaz, taking a breather on the wharf an hour or so later, was confused. Staring across the river at him was the scene of Oliver's death... but without the snow and the freezing damp permeating through to his bones, it looked and felt like a totally different place. September was being so kind, the sun shining, the breeze gentle... the Irwell and the bank opposite looked like nowhere remotely resembling THAT day earlier in the year... the river was still there, the steps leading down from the bank... but he could feel no link...
What a difference the seasons made... but with the return of autumn and then winter, the terrible events would be so much easier to place...
"'Allo, Jaz!" Jaz was startled. He turned to find Carol Broadbent standing beside him.
"Carol... I... What are YOU doin' 'ere?"
"Don't worry, love, nowt stupid" Carol smiled.
"Nowt stupid?" Jaz repeated.
Carol smiled again and moved closer to him. "You know! I accepted what you said before, and truth to tell I was bein' daft. Got all wrapped up in me own dreams and the way you fitted in to 'em. I'm sorry I put you through it."
Jaz smiled. Despite everything, he'd missed Carol. "In a way I was flattered... anyway, it's good to see yer back! What brings you here? Lookin' up old friends?"
"I'm helpin' Lisa run the second stall here," Carol said. "Chan's off sick for the day. I'm just lookin' for a bit of money, some work experience and references. The official story is I'm helpin' Lisa out for nowt, just for the experience and a reference - that's in case the gossips get 'old of it!"
"There's quite a few here, fiddling the Social," said Jaz. "I don't think anybody'd tell on you even if they knew. People tend to stick together when it comes to things like that."
"I've missed this place," said Carol. "I've been catchin' up on the gossip. Morris gave me a blow by blow account of the tale of Dermot Thornburgh's underpants! 'Ow are yer, anyway?"
Jaz smiled: "I'm fine..," he saw by the look on Carol's face that she wasn't fooled by this, and genuinely wanted to know. He backtracked: "Well, to be honest, I can't say it's been easy. I've felt so tired. And I can't stop thinkin' about Oliver and the trial and being locked up and reportin' to the police station and everythin'... I reckon I'll feel better as time goes on. In the meantime, I've had a couple of lads' nights out, and I've been takin' things slow... Things don't feel as safe 'ere as they did."
Carol touched his arm sympathetically. "I think yer do right, takin' it slow. Time's a great healer, well, that's what me gran always says."
Jaz smiled at her, genuinely. Whatever else, Carol had been an excellent support to him during the run-up to the trial, and he detected a new-found maturity in her now which eased the memory of some of her stroppier moments.
"So, how are you findin' the world of classic fashion?" asked Jaz.
Carol looked around and lowered her voice: "Well, to be honest, these clothes give me the creeps a bit. Just imagine, somebody could have died in them! I should think the owners are mostly dead now anyway... it scares me if I get thinkin' about it!"
"You're not supposed to think like that!" grinned Jaz. "These things are actual relics from the age of style. Think Bette Davis..."
"Ooh, I think she's really creepy an' all," said Carol. " She got really big eyeballs. There was this film I saw her in one Sunday afternoon: she ended up gettin' murdered because..."
"Excuse me, are you serving?" A woman looking at the crafts jewellery display, previously unnoticed by either Jaz or Carol, broke in.
"Oh, yes, love. Can I 'elp?" Carol turned to her.
"See yer, Carol," said Jaz quietly.
"Yeah, see yer, Jaz," said Carol.
He made his way back into the bustling hall. It was good to see Carol again. And she did seem to have grown-up a bit. He spotted Geoff Travis, having a quiet moment on his stall, apparently deep in thought, and made his way over. "How are you, Geoff?"
Geoff jerked out of his reverie. "Oh, fine, mate..."
Jaz hadn't had much chance to talk to Geoff over the last few weeks, and said now: "Any news of Eileen?"
Geoff shook his head. No. But things are settlin' down with me now. Maybe they've worked out for the best... we couldn't go on as we were doin'..."
"Good. Look after yourself," said Jaz and passed on, heading towards his own stall.
Seeing Carol, and then seeing Geoff and hearing his positive attitude - maybe things have worked out for the best... Jaz felt cheered by his encounters. Maybe things WOULD work out for the best in his life, too... after all, he was young, he had friends, and the sun was shining... Time was a great healer...
He suddenly became aware of somebody looking at him over to the left. Turning, he saw Simon Walker, standing near Lynne's stall, Oliver's old stall, subjecting him to that familiar level gaze - eyes cold and hard. As Jaz forced himself to meet that gaze, Simon turned slowly away and made his way over towards the cafe.
Jaz felt fear grip him. The sun seemed to have vanished and once more Oliver was floating, face-down, in the water, as the snow drifted down...
Shaking himself back into the present, Jaz hurried back to Raju and his own stall, all thought of things working out for the best for him personally now many miles away...
"Two grown women like that, almost brawlin' in the middle of the market!" Morris was saying.
"They don't seem to get on at all, do they?" Miriam sighed.
"But they could conduct themselves with dignity," cried Morris. "Instead of turning the market into a cheap entertainment!"
"Sounds more like a one o' them flippin' disco places at the moment," winced Miriam as the sound of The Smiths' How Soon Is Now? assailed her ears from the salon.
Morris scowled at her: "We 'ave to move with the times, Miriam. I reckon that Miss Harker's done us a favour with that salon. We've 'ad a few customers of a very different class to usual buyin' here recently..."
"One or two," Miriam concentrated on the baby bootees she was knitting for a moment and pondered with amusement Morris's sudden "got to move with the times" attitude after their conversation about computers earlier that day. Then: "Anyway, what do you think lays behind all this bad feeling with Lynne and Viv Harker?"
"Eee, I'm blowed if I know," Morris puffed out his cheeks. "Geoff reckons Lynne may be jealous of Miss Harker, but I can't see that meself."
"Hmmm...," Miriam considered the idea. "Well... Geoff may 'ave a point. After all, Viv's had a glamorous life and achieved a lot. Lynne's had no chance."
"I don't see why Lynne should be jealous," said Morris. "She's got something a lot more precious than Miss Harker's salon: a daughter. Miss Harker doesn't have children, you know, she told me the other day."
"Yes, but Lynne didn't plan her daughter, did she?" asked Miriam. "I mean, Lisa was completely unplanned, born out of wedlock."
"I wish you wouldn't talk like that!" snapped Morris.
"But it's the truth," Miriam insisted. "Lynne had her life taken away from her at a very young age if you stop and think about it. Maybe she sees Viv Harker as something she might've been if she'd 'ad chance?"
"I never knew Lynne wanted to be a hairdresser..." Morris was puzzled.
Miriam sighed. "I don't necessarily mean a hairdresser. I mean a businesswoman, or a success in some other area of life. Lynne never got a chance to explore the possibilities, Morris. She's got a lot of energy, lots of what they call 'drive' nowadays."
Morris sniffed: "You women and your pyscho-wotsit. Life would be a lot simpler if you stopped reading things in... And now Geoff's started... I'm getting worried..."
"He's probably becoming one of them Eighties Men ," said Miriam, innocently.
"Eighties... whatever's that?!!"
"Some people call 'em New Men, lovey. I read about 'em a while back. They're a new breed of sensitive, caring men," Miriam hid her smile. "Able to do housework, look after kiddies, explore emotions... a lot more like women. It's a good trend if you ask me."
Morris was horrified.
"You SOLD it?!!" Lisa was incredulous.
"Yeah, not half an hour since," said Carol.
"HOW?!" Lisa gaped.
"Well, this woman were lookin' at it, and she asked me what I thought of it, an' I said, 'Puts me in mind of Bette Davis,' an the woman said, 'Do you think I'd look like Bette Davis in it?' an' I said, 'Depends what you do with yer 'air, but yer could do. Mind you, I don't know what colour Bette's 'air was back in the '40s, I've only ever seen 'er in black and white, but I'm sure there are colour photos around,' an' the woman said, 'Right, I'll take it!' "
Lisa let out a whoop of joy. The item in question, a black evening dress, had apparently been a bad buy on her part. She'd regretted buying it as soon as she got it home. It was so ugly, it momentarily destroyed her faith in '40s dress styles. She'd put it on the stall for twenty-five quid, and there it had hung for over a fortnight. Over the last few days, Lisa had finally begun to face the painful truth - that she would have to sell the dress at a loss.
And now this. Carol, guiless Carol with her oh-so-honest approach to selling had sold something in a day that she, Lisa, with her growing knowledge of the vintage clothing market and increasingly honed and refined sales patter had failed to in a fortnight...
And not only that, Carol had also sold another dress, two blouses and a stack of the crafts jewellery. Carol had sold one lady a pair of large round black studded ear rings by simply telling her they'd make her ears look a lot smaller.
"She 'ad a bit of a thing about her ears - went on and on about 'em," said Carol.
"Well, I wasn't convinced I was doin' right havin' you here, but, going by today, you're priceless!" Lisa laughed, giving Carol a hug. She lowered her voice: "I was gonna pay you ten quid as we arranged. I've still gotta pay Chan somethin' cos she put in a lot of work on some of the clothes, but I'll make it £15 for you to celebrate gettin' rid of me worst buy!"
"Cheers, Leeze!" grinned Carol. "It's good to be back on the market!"
Debbie Taylor had popped into the cafe for a cheese roll to scoff on the way home. She'd be having an evening meal almost as soon as she got home, but was far too hungry to wait for that...
"How's business, then?" asked Peggy.
"Seems to be goin' great," said Debbie. "Viv's talkin' about takin' on another stylist soon."
"Oh, well, that's good," said Peggy, who never seemed terribly happy when discussing the salon. Debbie got the idea that Peggy still didn't quite know what to make of Viv.
Peggy popped a cheese roll in to a brown paper bag. "That's thirty five, please, love," she said.
As Debbie handed over the money, Paul emerged from the back with his coat on. "I'll be off now, Peggy!"
"All right then - and for 'eaven's sake 'ave an early night tonight!" cried Peggy. "You were worse than useless first thing this morning!"
"PAUL!" called Debbie. "Walk along with me."
Paul sighed but, as he and Debbie were walking in the same direction, saw no polite way out of it.
"'Ow are you gettin' on then?" Debbie asked as they made their way through the nearly deserted market, peopled only by a few stallholders taking stock out to their vans or drawing covers round their stalls.
"I'm fine," said Paul. "Busy. A slave to the hotplate!"
"I couldn't do that," said Debbie chattily. "I think I'd faint with the heat!"
"I always have a pint glass of water on-hand," said Paul, sounding all scientific. "It's essential to avoid dehydration!"
Dermot Thornburgh passed them on his way out. "Night!" he called, with that big cheesy grin of his.
Paul and Debbie replied in kind minus the grins, and Debbie suddenly remembered something: "'Ere, Paul, what's all this I've been 'earin' about Dermot's underpants?"
Paul looked at her soulfully: "You poor, poor child. An innocent cast upon the waters, coming to dock in this seedy place, and already you're craving cheap gossip!"
"I'm just curious, that's all," said Debbie as they emerged on to the main road.
"Fight it, Debbie, resist!" said Paul mock seriously: "Or gain the curse of the Albion Market Mind, a mind never questing for the higher truths, the secrets of creation, the beauties of poetry and art, but instead, ceaselessly seeking an endless supply of trivial drivel..."
"So, you're not going to tell me then?"
"I wouldn't sully you with the sordid banality of it all," said Paul.
Debbie sighed. "You going out with Sean tonight?"
"You heard my boss. Tonight I am early for bed!" said Paul.
"Do you always do what Peggy says?"
"It is sensible to take the advice of those older and wiser."
"Why are you in such a daft mood?"
"Me?" Paul turned wide innocent eyes on her. "Daft mood? I assure you I speak with all seriousness."
There was no talking to Paul when he was like this. Debbie munched on her cheese roll and was almost glad when they reached Bolton Road - the parting of the ways for them.
"See you tomorrow!" she said.
Paul sighed at the darkening sky: "When I return to the market and continue my quest for the perfectly prepared black pudding and you continue your intensive exploration of mousse and gel and the impact of beautifully shiny and manageable hair on the human soul..."
He strolled away, hands in pockets, apparently pondering.
"What a prannock!" Debbie muttered to herself.
A cute prannock though...
Keith managed to leave work early, somewhere in his jangled thoughts the notion of trying to have a talk with Louise. When he arrived home, Mrs Naylor was in the kitchen. Jenny was gurgling happily in her carry cot. Mrs Naylor had had a lovely day nattering with her friend, Mrs Bennett, and had returned home seeing herself in a new light: as a heroine determined to make life as happy and comfortable as she could for her dear son, who had been led astray be a wicked Jezabel.
"I'm doin' all I can," she'd told Mrs Bennett. "I don't interfere, but I do try an' see that Keith's well fed and gets some relaxation. Poor little lamb..."
And having painted herself in that light to Mrs Bennett, it was in that guise that Mrs Naylor had returned home. She'd snubbed Louise, disregarded her aching knees, and set about making dinner. At just after six, Louise had gone out, slamming the front door behind her.
Now, Mrs Naylor told Keith: "I'm afraid she's gone out again, son, but I've got your favourite dinner, shepherd's pie. It'll be on the table in ten minutes."
"Did Louise say where she were goin'?" asked Keith.
"I'm afraid not, son, she tells me nowt. But never mind. Go an' wash your 'ands and I'll serve up. We'll get the baby settled and then watch the telly. That programme we like is on at nine. It'll be just like when you were little. I used to get you settled, your dad used to nip out to the Labour Club, and me an' Bernard used to settle down an' watch Googie Withers. Of course, he was a lot younger back then than you are now..." She pinched Keith's cheek affectionately. "Go on, son, don't let your dinner spoil."
"But Louise..." Keith faltered.
"Never mind about 'er," said Mrs Naylor. "We'll 'ave a lovely time tonight, just the two of us..."
Lynne went home unhappy, knowing that Lisa had stayed on for a drink at The Waterman's with Lady Cowpot - Viv Harker.
Sitting down to a delicious plate of salad, cold meat pie and tinned potatoes with Eileen, she began to unburden herself: "I don't know what it is about that woman, Eileen, but she really gets on my wick."
"Sounds a bit flash to me," said Eileen.
"Yeah, she is, but it's more than that... And Lisa 'avin' these heart-to-hearts with 'er. I mean, what can she talk to 'ER about that she can't talk to ME about?!"
"Well... I think it's often easier talkin' to an outsider," said Eileen. "They stand back more and it's sometimes easier to tell them things. That's why I wanted to come 'ere rather than stay with me mam."
"Yeah..." Lynne sighed. "I know what you're sayin'. An' it's not like me, gettin' the needle into somebody like this. Live an' let live, that's always been my motto. I'm gonna have to watch meself or I'll be turnin' into a bitter old biddie. 'Ere, what are these red things in the salad by the way?"
"Peppers," said Eileen. "Do you like 'em?"
"I DO!" grinned Lynne, to whom salad had always meant a bit of lettuce, cucumber and tomato and a blob of salad cream. "Wonderful what you can get these days - and this pie's a treat. Anyway, 'ow 'ave you been gettin' on, love?"
"Oh, fine. Contacted the agency, they say there's plenty of work on so I'll phone in each day. Thought a bit more about me 'n' Geoff, did me washin' and ironin'... I've enjoyed bein' able to potter about the place."
"Well, thanks a lot for the hooverin' an' dustin'!" said Lynne, munching on a mouthful of red pepper and lettuce.
"Least I could do," Eileen steeled herself: " 'Ow's Geoff?"
"He seems fine," Lynne wolfed down a chunk of pie. "Makin' the best of things."
"I'm goin' to see 'im tomorrow," said Eileen.
"Well, Carol's return appears to have pleased you, brother!" Raju smiled as he drove the van home that evening. "It's good to see you smiling!"
"Yeah, it was good to see her, and I'm glad she's OK," said Jaz. "But just after that, I saw Simon Walker. I'm sure he's watchin' me, Raju."
"Simon watches EVERYBODY," said Raju soothingly.
"But I'm not sure I can take it," Jaz was trembling. "Day in, day out... and working where Oliver died... I don't think I can stay at the market, Raju..."
"But you can't leave!" said Raju. "We're a partnership, and when it comes to the ladies you sell by far the most. We only get our own stall last year... we worked so hard for it... we can't throw it away, Jaz..."
"I know what you're sayin', and it's all very logical," Jaz took deep breaths so that he could continue speaking: "But I'm scared, Raju, I'm so scared..."
"Good evenin', ladies, and may I say how pleased I am to see two such fine specimans of the female form adorning my humble hostelry this fine evenin'?"
It was Ted Pilkington, collecting glasses, stopping off at Viv and Lisa's table to deliver a great dollop of his own personal brand of charm. Bound to make their evening, he reasoned.
"Cheers!" said Viv with a cool smile.
"Yeah, er, thanks, Ted!" said Lisa.
And Ted sailed happily on his way. That was one of the most important things about running a pub, he thought - knowing how to talk to the customers.
Lisa and Viv laughed. "He's such a wally!" said Lisa.
Viv got her cigarettes out and toyed with them. Then took one from the packet and lit it. "I'm trying to give these up, trouble is they seem too much like old friends..."
"I never took it up," said Lisa. "Well, I tried 'em a couple of times at the back of the school playin' field, but they just made me cough. Janice, one of my mates at school, said they wouldn't if I stuck with 'em... but it didn't seem to make any sense."
"Sensible girl," said Viv. "Now, what did you want to talk to me about?"
"Well, firstly, I'm sorry me mam started up again today..."
"Not up to you to do her apologising," Viv replied firmly, "and what your mum says doesn't affect our friendship."
Lisa smiled gratefully.
"So, what did you want to talk about?"
"It's... well... Oh, Viv, it sounds a bit daft, but it's just that I'm bein' talked about. On the market. Have you heard anything?"
Viv blew out smoke and shook her head. "Me? No. I'm still very much an outsider."
"Well, it concerns something' I said to Alan Curtis weeks ago when me mam got 'er own stall," said Lisa. "I gave him a hug and he asked if that was his reward or summat. I said somethin' like: 'Just wait and see what you get when I get me own stall...' I was carried away... jokin'. But it's not the sort of thing you should say stood in the middle of the market. Of course, it was just after that I GOT me own stall an' then I DID have a bit of a fling with Alan..."
"And now people are talking?" asked Viv.
Lisa nodded. "A couple of people I used to talk to, be quite friendly with, are ignoring me now and talkin' behind my back, and a couple of others 'ave been givin' me some very frosty looks..."
"Does it bother you?"
"I'd like to say 'No', but it does a bit. More than a bit," said Lisa. "It's as if they think I sold my favours for a stall, like some whore. It wasn't like that, Viv. I was attracted to Alan anyway, I'm not that cold blooded. And I don't regard my body as a useful commodity."
"Well... I think I can see how it happened," said Viv. "At your age, everything's a rush of excitement and youthful hormones. Nothing's thought through that well. Well, at least that's how it was for ME when I was twenty-one."
"I still don't want to be regarded as the bike of Albion Market," Lisa whispered.
"And you won't be. Not for long anyhow," Viv reassured her. "Just let it blow over. They'll soon find somebody else to pick to pieces. And, in future, if what the gossips are saying is likely to bother you, just be more discreet."
Lisa was bright red: "I just can't get over 'ow I came across - to Alan as well!"
"You can't undo what's done," Viv flicked ash into the ashtray. "It's over. Just try and learn by it. You're still finding out about yourself - what you are, what you want to be, how you want others to see you. It all seems really difficult to you now, but I'm telling you, Lisa, the time I spent in my late teens and early twenties is now my favourite period to look back on of my whole life. It's a magical time, and it goes far too quickly. Don't let one slip-up and a few old gossips spoil things for you. Just learn by your experiences, sort out what you want and whether you give a damn how others see you. I chose not to, by the way."
"You're a really good listener," said Lisa. "As you know, things got really messed up with Alan, thanks to my mother... I was surprised when you told Alan that me and me mam were gonna tick him off in 'ere afterwards though."
"Too right," said Viv. "Alan used to be a good mate of mine. A very good mate. As the three of you weren't behaving very well - Lynne sleeping with Alan, Alan sleeping with Lynne, you seeing other blokes without telling Alan, I didn't think it was fair that Alan was singled out for a wigging."
"And yet you didn't tell Alan the other stuff - what Derek, Geoff and them had planned to get him off the market...," said Lisa. "I reckon you're really into people, Viv. I mean, you saw what Alan was doing, watched the Riggs and Morris and Miriam being thrown off, and you came down on our side."
"You could be right, Lisa," Viv grinned. "But just as likely is the notion that I could see which way the wind was blowing, see that Alan was going to come unstuck, and so kept my mouth shut for the sake of my own popularity. It's not easy setting up a business in the midst of united hostility, you know: opens the way to the possibility of broken windows, slogan daubing, break-ins, petrol all over the furnishings - and with a lighted match thrown in for good measure, it could all turn very nasty!"
"I don't think anybody on the market would do owt like that," said Lisa. "I still think you kept quiet 'cos seein' what Alan was doin', folk being chucked off 'ere and all that, went against what you believe in. I think you're very caring."
"Maybe!" Viv smiled. "Just maybe! Remember, you've only known me five minutes. It doesn't pay to be too trusting. Now, how about a last drink and then I'm for home?"
Derek left the small block of 1950s council flats where Chan lived and climbed into his car. There was no doubt about it, she had the flu good and proper. He'd hated leaving her. She'd lain there in bed, face flushed, breathing heavy: "Oh, Derek! Every bone in my body seems to ache..."
"Can I contact your family? Maybe get Hoa to come over?"
Chan shook her head weakly on the pillow. "No. It is the flu. The doctor has been in, I have my prescription to ease things. Now it is just a matter of time. If anybody was here, I would just want to sleep anyway..."
He'd sat on the chair beside the bed, holding her hand, staying with her for as long as he possibly could. He'd make some excuse to Barbara tomorrow and leave for work early so that he could call back in.
Seated behind the steering wheel, he looked up at Chan's unlighted window and almost got out of the car and went back up to her. It seemed so cruel to leave her there, in the dark, ill and all alone... but Chan was right. It was a matter of time. Now she needed rest and plenty of it.
Derek struggled with his conscience, but finally started the car and drove away - unaware that he was being watched. Somebody was peering at him from behind a scrubby looking bush, growing in the middle of a threadbare patch of grass by the flats. As the car swept away down the quiet side road, the watching figure scurried up the concrete steps to Chan's front door...