10 August 2012

Albion Market Episode 103

 Dare you return to 1986 and the market place? In this episode, Sita is suspicious, Raju is afraid, Eileen is horrified, and Chan is terrified ...

The Story So Far... 

Eileen Travis has returned to England after a stay with her sister in Canada, determined to take control of her life. Her husband, Geoff,  is as yet unaware of her return and she is staying with Albion Market stallholders Lynne Harrison and Lisa O'Shea.

Lisa is still finding it hard to come to terms with the fact that her mother, Lynne, slept with her boyfriend, ex-market superintendent Alan Curtis. The gossip going around the market about her is also giving her grief as several people believe that her getting a stall was simply because Alan was "on a promise".

Lynne continues to clash with market hairdresser Viv Harker.

Carol Broadbent has returned to the market and requested a reference from her former employer, cafe owner Peggy Sagar. She has landed temporary work as an assistant on Lisa's classic clothes stall. 

Jaz Sharma is feeling exhausted after his recent traumas and no longer feels safe on the market. Simon Walker is worrying him. Is Simon planning something?

Both Miriam Ransome and Peggy Sagar have written to Brenda Rigg to try and find out how she and Larry are faring after being kicked off the market by Alan Curtis.

For Keith and Louise Naylor, married life is proving difficult. Keith's domineering mother is still causing problems and Louise has had a one-night stand after a boozy night out.

Derek Owen and Ly Nhu Chan have resumed their affair, but both are unaware that somebody else has discovered their secret. Chan has flu and is currently at home, confined to bed. But the "somebody" who has discovered her secret affair also knows where she lives...

And Now READ ON!!

"I can't put it off, Lynne," said Eileen. "It's time Geoff knew I was back!"

"I suppose so, it just took the wind out of me sails the way you came out with it last night," Lynne stirred her tea. "Will you go to the market?"

"No," said Eileen. "I don't want a public show. I'll go to the 'ouse tonight. I'll ring first."

"Will you stay there tonight?" asked Lynne. She drew on her fag. 

Eileen frowned: "Well... I don't know!"

"It's 'alf your 'ouse after all," said Lynne.

"It's my intention to move back in while we sort things out," said Eileen. "But not for a day or two, if that's OK with you."

"'Course it is, I reckon we're gonna miss you when you go," Lynne smiled. "Oh, and don't go lookin' for the last chunk of that meat pie you made, by the way. Lisa had an attack of the munchies in the night and crept down!"

"Ah, well, glad it wasn't wasted. An' tonight we've got spud 'n' cheese pie made out of left-over mash!" laughed Eileen. "I'll get some sausages to go with it."

Lisa came thundering downstairs, through the front room and into the kitchen, all ready for tea and toast. "I think you're dead brave seein' Geoff tonight," she told Eileen as she sat down.

"Well, a woman's gotta do what a woman's gotta do!" Eileen smiled. She didn't actually feel like smiling much, but she was determined not to be a miserable cow about things. She'd had enough misery. This was the new, positive Eileen Travis, taking possession of her own life... she could do it... she hoped.

"Good on yer!" cried Lynne. "Don't let the buggers grind yer down!"

"Did you come back last night?" Leaning against four pillows, Chan looked a little better than the day before. Derek had insisted that Lucazade was best for what ailed her, and she forced a little between her dry lips.

"No, why?"

"Oh, I thought I heard somebody outside the front door," said Chan, "but I had many odd dreams last night so I am not sure at all."

"Probably somebody goin' next door," said Derek. "As it was, I didn't actually 'ave to leave you quite so early last night as it turned out: Barbara was out when I got in - round at a neighbour's. She didn't get back till after ten."

"Oh," Chan closed her eyes. Truth to tell, she still felt wretched. "You get off to the market now, Derek - I will have Lisa here soon to see if I am fit for work, and then I must have some more sleep."

Derek gently kissed her hot forehead. "I'll bring you a tin of that cream of mushroom soup tonight," he promised. "It'll help if you can eat something. And do you have a contact number for Hoa?"

Chan smiled: "I think a lot of my cousin, Derek, but he is not a very good person to have around when there is sickness. It will be lovely to see him in a day or so."

"Okay, then. You gonna be all right?"

Chan nodded. "I will see Lisa and sleep some more. I may even listen to the radio for a while later. At the moment, it is just nice to lie here with the sun coming through the window."

Derek kissed her forehead again: "I'll be back tonight. Keep the fluid intake up, won't yer?"

Chan smiled and nodded slightly: "I will. Make sure the front door is properly closed when you go out, please, Derek."

Derek looked at her slightly curious: "Did you really hear somebody out there last night?"

"No, I think I was just dreaming. But it has made me think a little of security."

"Right then. I'm off," and with a further kiss, Derek left the flat.

Chan waited a moment, then got painfully out of bed. She went to the tiny hallway. Lisa would be calling soon for a health update, but until then Chan decided to draw the two bolts on the front door and put the chain on. She had had a restless night, and several odd dreams, but was almost certain that the furious hammering she'd heard at the front door just after Derek left was reality.

She shivered at the thought, and went back to bed.

Paul O'Donnell found it was no use trying to get information out of Peggy. It didn't stop him trying, but he was fast learning when to stop.

"Paul, one more mention of Carol and you're out!" bellowed Peggy. 

And that was that.

Paul hadn't had chance to catch up with Carol himself, and couldn't help wondering what she wanted with his boss after her departure from the cafe staff. He was fond of Carol, had found her warmer and funnier to work with than Louise, and cherished a hope that one day she would return to the cafe to work.

Today, Paul was in one of his dreamy, philosophical moods. Staring at the sizzling food on the hotplate, he declared: "I was reading this article the other day. It said the whole universe is an endless reflection of itself. I can even see it here. The egg is the sun. The burgers planets..."

"And what are them two sausages there?" Peggy asked, pointing. "Honestly, Paul, if the food in this cafe reflected the way you talk, we'd be servin' nothin' but tripe all day long! Now, get on with it - there's folk waiting!"

Pleased with her wit, Peggy turned to the counter to find Carol on the other side of it.

"Oh, mornin'!" she said. "You're workin' for Lisa again today, aren't yer?"

"That's right!" Carol smiled.

"Well, take a break around 11.30 if you can, I'll give you me decision about your reference then."

Carol noted that Peggy was still cold with her, but she now fully realised just how much she'd let her down and just how much Peggy had been hurt by it. "Okay, Peggy, thanks. Can I have a cuppa to take out on the stall?"

As Peggy poured the tea, Sita Sharma appeared, looking somewhat ill at ease.

"'Allo, love," cried Peggy. "What brings you 'ere?"

"Oh, I'm helping out on the stall," said Sita. "Jaz isn't well today."

"I thought he was looking a bit peaky yesterday," Peggy took Carol's money and made for the till. "There's a lot goin' around. Now, what can I get you?"

"Just two teas, please," Sita saw Carol: "Oh, hello! How are you?"

"Fine, thanks, nice to see yer, Sita" said Carol. "I'm sorry to 'ear Jaz is poorly. Tell 'im to get well soon from me, will yer?"

"I will," Sita smiled, paid for the teas, and left.

Carol looked thoughtful. Despite herself, Peggy found herself asking: "What's up?"

"Oh, it's nowt, Peggy, just 'opin' he's all right," said Carol. "He were sayin' yesterday 'ow tired he is after everything's that's 'appened."

"Well, that's only to be expected."

"Yeah, I know. See yer later," and Carol left, still looking thoughtful.

"The kettle's on the blink again," said Keith.

"Flippin' thing's worse than the last one. We've only had it three weeks an' all," said Derek. "Nip over to Peggy's an' fetch us a couple of teas, will yer?" He rifled his trouser pocket for change.

"Right," Keith got up.

"And by the way, things any better at home?"

Keith sighed. "Not really. Louise went out last night, second night on the trot, and never came back. Last time she turned up just before I left for work. Today, there were still no sign of 'er when I left the house."

Derek wondered how long the marriage would last. He'd gone along with it all, attended the wedding and the reception with a smile on his face, but he'd never been convinced: Louise was too hard, too immature, too manipulative; Keith too soft, too naive.

"Oh, well, everybody needs a night out now and then!"

"Yeah, but two on the trot? And her a young mother?"

"It's early days yet..." Derek found himself falling back on a cliché.

"I think it shows Louise won't change..." said Keith. "I'm not sure she can, Derek. Underneath, there's something... wonderful... but she's so hard on the surface... and I can't get through any more."

Derek didn't know what to say. "You'd better get us a couple of chocolate biscuits each with that tea. Looks like we'll need the energy."

"How's Chan?"

"A bit better than she was yesterday... Go on, lad, get the tea. No sense in broodin'." Keith left the office and Derek sighed. With his own life in such a ruddy mess, what right had he to give advice to his assistant?

On his way to the cafe, Keith saw Lynne Harrison, proudly doing a spot of dusting and sweeping around her stall. The novelty of having a permanent stall still hadn't quite worn off.

"Hello, young lover!" cried Lynne. "How's married life treatin' yer?"

Keith stopped, momentarily defensive, wondering if she was taking the mickey, but realised she wasn't.

"Things aren't that good, Lynne," he said. "Louise isn't gettin' on with me mother and she's taken to stoppin' out nights..."

"Oh, Keith, I am sorry!" Lynne was startled by the news. OK, she'd never believed that the marriage was going to last, but she hadn't reckoned on it cracking up this fast! "What's she playin' at?"

"I dunno... but out all night she's been the last two nights... I think she's got somebody else..."

Or several somebodies, thought Lynne, wondering if Louise had started up in her old profession again. "Sounds like you need to thrash things out," she said. "Some serious talkin' needs to be done if you ask me."

"Yeah... yeah... you're right... it's just that I never see 'er much... an' I feel frightened of what she might 'ave to tell me..."

"No sense in carrying on as you are. Things need sortin'," said Lynne firmly. "Take my word for it, Keith, buryin' yer head in the sand never works, cos sooner or later..."

"Yeah... yeah, you're right. I know you're right. If she's home tonight I'll tell her we've gotta talk..."

"You do that. If she thinks anythin' of you, and I think she does in 'er way, it won't be as bad as you think, an' it's all part of bein' a grown-up, facin' up to things and knowing where you stand."

"Yeah, ta, Lynne!" Keith went into the cafe with the vague glimmerings of a new resolve to try and sort things out beginning inside him.

Lynne sighed to herself and wondered if she'd ever be a grown-up.

Lisa bumped into Colette in the market yard. She had been out to the van to get some more dresses for her stall, and Colette, walking back to The Waterman's having paid a quick visit to the market for some air freshener, was on her way back. There had been rain in the night, but the sky was now a cloudless blue, and the warmth and the gentle breeze had dried the cobbles. Colette was looking up at the sky, her thoughts miles away...

She was thinking about Phil.

Phil, the father of her child

Phil, so far away down South.

Phil, the man who had told her it was all over when he found out she'd slept with his mate, Tony Fraser.

He'd spared no thought for how lonely she'd been without him, moving away from her old friends in Moss Side and into The Waterman's. Looking after Greg. Feeling so flaming isolated she could have screamed.

He'd spared no thought for just how persistent Tony Fraser had been, nor how vulnerable she'd been feeling.

Just told her it was over.

"Ooh, 'allo!" said Lisa. She indicated the can in Colette's hand: "Headin' for a floral moment are we?"

"Somethin's gotta lift the atmosphere in that bar!" replied Colette, with feeling, coming back to the here and now abruptly. "It's terrible first thing in the morning! Ted wouldn't bother, but it turns my stomach it does honestly! Stale beer an' fags!"

"Can't say I'd fancy it!" Lisa grinned. "Anyway, how are yer? And, what's more to the point, how's Sean?"

"Fine, as far as I know!" said Colette.

"And how well do you know?" Lisa dug. "When did you last see 'im?"

"A couple of nights ago," Colette began to smile. "But I think I won't be seein' too much of 'im in future!"

"Oh, why?"

"Well, he took me out to this lovely night club very 'in' - all black walls an' fancy lights and full length mirrors, and then spent most of the evening admirin' himself!" said Colette. "Honestly, if I caught him lookin' at himself once in them mirrors while we were dancin', I caught him a dozen times. And he kept nippin' off to the loo and every time he came back, his hair looked freshly brushed!"

"Male groomings all the rage," said Lisa. "Nothin' wrong with a fella takin' pride in his appearance. Better than some of the lads I've been out with!"

"Yeah... and I shouldn't be slaggin' him off, but it was a bit over the top all the same," sighed Colette. "Don't get me wrong, he's good lookin' and I love his fashion sense - dead Miami Vice. But he seemed a bit kind of... well... prissy to me. Kept talkin' about what he'd like to do with my hair!"

"Don't think he's gay, do you?" asked Lisa.

"No, in fact he's got a bit of a reputation for the women apparently," said Colette.

"Could be a put on, keep people off the scent!" Lisa grinned.

"I don't think so," said Colette. "I think there's only one bloke he's ever fancied - himself! No, I shouldn't talk like that. But he didn't do anything for me. Definitely not my type..."

"Oh, well, plenty more fish in the sea!" Lisa laughed.

"Yeah," sighed Colette. "But I'm not up to anything serious. Not yet."

"Thinkin' about Phil?" Lisa was sympathetic.

"Yeah, we were together a long time. An' Greg misses his dad. But it's over between Phil an' me. I just need some breathin' space."

"Sounds sensible," Lisa approved.

Colette took a deep breath: "Yeah. Thing is, I 'ad a letter from Phil this mornin'. He wants to meet up to talk things over..."

In the market superintendent's office, Keith and Derek were enjoying their tea and chocolate biscuits from Peggy's cafe. Derek was rewiring the kettle plug - it was worth a try -  whilst Keith sat quietly, and wondered.

Finally, he said: "Derek, Alan Curtis said we'd have a computer in here one day. Do you think we will?"

Derek sighed. The sudden increase in computers everywhere was not something he felt at home with, but he admitted: "It's almost a dead cert. Probably within the next five years. And we'll have everything on there and be able to communicate with the Town Hall through it an' all. It'll be like something out of Star Trek."

"And do you think we'll have a kettle that works?"

Derek sighed: "God knows!"

 "I hate working on the stall, Raju," said Sita. "I don't know the fashions these kids are after, don't know where to look on the stall for items, and generally I think I just hold things up."

"You don't, Sita, honestly," said Raju. "Tomorrow is busy - Saturdays always are - and today I have to go to the wholesalers and restock the jeans. Without you here, I couldn't cope."

"Mmm..." Sita sipped her tea.

"It's the family business, we must all chip in at times," said Raju.

"Oh, I know you're right," said Sita, sighing heavily. "All right, I'll stop moaning!"

"Good girl!" Raju kissed her on the cheek. "I'll have this tea, then get off to the wholesalers. I'll be back well before things get busy."

Sita nodded.

"Good morning, Raju, and hello to your lady wife."

It was Simon Walker, he seemed to have conjured himself up out of nowhere.

"Simon," Raju nodded guardedly.

"Hello again," the last time Sita had seen Simon had been just after the trial. She forced a smile now.

"Jaz not here today?" enquired Simon.

"No, he's a bit under the weather," said Raju.

"Oh, so much going around," cooed Simon. "And we can't be too careful, can we? Can't be too careful... No indeed...  Mrs Sharma," and he nodded at Sita before moving away.

Raju wondered... was there some sort of menace in Simon's words?

"...we can't be too careful..."

Had they been said rather heavily?

"That man gives me the creeps," said Sita, feeling suddenly chill and clasping her tea mug tighter for warmth. "He reminds me of an undertaker - an undertaker that thoroughly enjoys his job..."

Peggy sat down with Carol at a cafe table just after 11.30 to deliver her decision on the reference.

"I won't keep yer in suspense, Carol, I'll give yer a reference. It won't be the best reference in the world, but it should see to yer gettin' a job!"

Carol beamed at her: "Oh, Peggy, thanks! Thanks a lot! It'll make all the difference 'avin' a reference!"

"Well, it might not," said Peggy. "There's millions out there lookin' for work, yer know."

"Yeah, I know. But it still improves my chances."

"I still can't forgive what you did here, abusin' my trust an' everythin'," said Peggy. "But you're young. And judging by the way you're behavin' now, I think there's a chance you've learnt better. I wouldn't want to stand in the way of you gettin' started elsewhere. Now, I'd better get back!"

The two women stood. Unexpectedly, Carol leant forward and gave Peggy a smacking kiss on the cheek. "You won't regret it!" she said. "Thanks again!" and she went bounding out of the cafe.

Peggy found herself smiling as she watched Carol leave via the wharf doors to return to Lisa's stall. There was good in Carol. Peggy hoped the lass would be OK.

"I take it you're gettin' on better now?" Paul called from the hotplate.

"Well, I'm not takin' 'er back on 'ere if that's what you mean!" said Peggy.

"Brightens the place up though, Carol, doesn't she?" asked Paul, mournfully.

"Paul, we've two people waitin' for sausage butties, and if you don't get those sausages browned double quick I'll be brightenin' YOU up!" Peggy threatened. "Now GET ON WITH IT!"

Paul got on with it.

Keith heaved a sigh of relief as he hung up the phone in the market superintendent's office, just as Derek came in.

"That was me mother. She says Louise got in about half an hour ago. She's gone to bed."

"Oh, great," said Derek. "At least you know she's safe."

"Yeah," said Keith. "I 'ope she's stoppin' in tonight, Derek. We really need to talk..."

Raju had left for the wholesalers and Sita was having a visit from Sally Vickers at the Sharma brothers' stall.

"It's nice to see yer, love," Sally whined. "Not been 'ere for ages, 'ave yer? 'Ow are yer?"

"Oh, I'm well thanks," Sita couldn't even remember seeing Sally before, but politeness demanded she returned the question: "And you?"

"Not bad. Not bad. Indigestion playin' up again, but then I've been a martyr to that since I was eleven!"

"Oh, I'm sorry..."

"Oh, yes. But then I don't like to dwell. You didn't come to young Keith's weddin' reception the other week then?"

"No, I don't actually know him that well. Raju and Jaz attended though."

"Ooh, yes, I saw 'em there. I wasn't invited meself but I was in The Waterman's 'avin' a drink."

"Yes, I heard it was very nice," Sita wished this woman would go away. Her whiny voice and mean little eyes were not good to have around.

"Oh, it was, it was - the reception was lovely, for what it was. Not a marriage made in heaven, if you get my meaning. Nice to see your Raju gettin' on so well with Miss Harker, the new 'airdresser on 'ere. Very pally indeed. Talked for... oooh, at least a couple of hours and seemed very relaxed together. Did Raju know 'er before she came 'ere?"

Sita immediately saw what Sally's game was. Her face became hard and closed. "No. But I know Raju's interested in what's happening with the salon..."

"VERY interested," said Sally, pleased to see that her poison had gone in.

Fortunately, a young customer arrived at that very moment in search of stone washed jeans, so Sita was able to escape: "Yes, well, nice seeing you again. Goodbye!"

"Bye, love!" trilled Sally satisfied with her handiwork.

"So, Jaz is poorly, then?" asked Peggy as she poured two afternoon cuppas for Raju to take back to his stall.

"Well... tired, certainly... possibly a bit overwrought..."

"He ought to see the doctor - get a tonic..."

"Maybe...," Raju lowered his voice: "but I don't think it would do much good, Peggy. He says he hasn't felt safe here since the van went up, and he thinks Simon Walker may have something up his sleeve..."

"Simon?" Peggy raised her eyebrows in surprise. " Well, I've no doubt that man's as big a snake as Oliver was - bigger even, but whatever makes Jaz think that? I'd've thought Simon'd be keepin' a low profile on this market for a good long while."

"Jaz reckons Simon's been lookin' at him, following him around a bit..."

"Well, Simon LOOKS at everybody. Eyes like a dead haddock. You don't think Jaz might be feling a bit paranoid, do you?"

"I thought so at first... but now... I dunno, Peggy... Simon was at the stall earlier asking where Jaz was. I said he was poorly, resting, you know, and Simon said it was better to be safe than sorry... I may have imagined it myself, but I thought there was something funny in the way he said it... a bit...sort of... heavy. Maybe some sort of double meaning..."

"Meaning Jaz is safer off the market?"


Carol, who'd popped in for a doughnut and a coffee for her lunch, broke in: "I were talkin' to Jaz yesterday on the wharf. When he went back to the stall, I stood watchin' him in the doorway. Simon were standin' near Lynne's stall, you know, Oliver's old stall, starin' at 'im... it was creepy. Jaz kind of paused before walkin' on. He looked scared. Well, from where I were standin' anyway."

"Hmmm, I don't like the sound of that," said Peggy. She turned back to Raju: "Perhaps you should talk to Derek?"

"And tell him what? Simon's been going around looking at Jaz as he looks at everybody else, and said 'better safe than sorry' when I told him Jaz was poorly and takin' it easy at home?"

Peggy considered: "I see what you mean. Well, put the word around, Raju. You've got friends on here. I think Lynne and Geoff will be happy to keep an eye on Simon and I certainly shall."

"Yeah, maybe..." Raju looked decidedly unhappy. "But I don't want to CREATE trouble if there isn't any."

"No question of that," said Peggy. "Just tell 'em there might be nowt to it, but ask if they'll keep an eye, see if THEY spot anythin' unusual in Simon's behaviour towards Jaz or overhear anything odd. Simon does tend to go around muttering to people. I know he's careful - extremely careful, but you never know, one day Lynne or Geoff might be in earshot of one of his little muttering sessions. Or I might. If there is owt in the wind, one of us might pick up on it. I reckon it's wearing a belt and braces, mind, I don't think Simon would dream of starting anythin' after what's 'appened. Not for a good long while anyway. But you never know!"

Raju paused to think over what Peggy had said. The way Simon had been earlier worried him deeply. He was now sure there'd been an air of menace just below the surface of what Simon had said.

"... we can't be too careful, can we? Can't be too careful... No indeed..."

Raju made his mind up: "Perhaps you're right. I will talk to Lynne and Geoff, and perhaps to the Ransomes...!"

"And Colette too. Simon's often in The Waterman's," said Peggy. "If he IS up to somethin', and I can't for the life of me think what it might be, we need to find out what it is as quickly as possible and squash it!"

"I'll keep me ears open as well," said Carol. "I didn't like the look of what I saw yesterday at all..."

At one of the cafe tables, Debbie was enjoying her dinner hour with one of her old schoolmates, Mandy Binks. Mandy was a plump girl, currently attired in a large yellow jacket with shoulders like nissen huts, and a pair of pink trousers. In her large permed hairdo perched a huge blue ribbon, and overall she looked like a cartoon character.

"What do you think of 'im?" Debbie was asking.

Mandy glanced over at Paul, who was dishing up bacon at the hotplate, and sniffed: "Got eyes like a dog, en't 'e?"

"What, puppy dog, yer mean?"

"No, just dog! Looks docile to me. Not all there!" Mandy took a swig from her Coke can.

"He isn't! He's sweet... well, sort of!" Debbie defended her man.

"Got a right big nose on 'im, en't 'e?" said Mandy, spitefully. Truth to tell, she was jealous that Debbie had landed a glamorous job at a salon, whilst she was stuck at the local Co-op. And she wasn't going to praise Paul for anything.

"His face is full of character!" said Debbie.

Mandy changed the subject. "What's it like workin' on 'ere? I couldn't fancy workin' on a market!"

"Well, it's not as if I'm workin' a stall!" said Debbie. "No, it's dead borin'. Nothin' ever 'appens much. There's this bloke, Dermott Thornburgh, dead ugly, big cheesy grin, a right creep. Anyway, somethin' was going around about his underpants..."

Mandy raised an eyebrow, trying to look like Alexis Colby-Carrington: "Bit kinky, are they?"

"Well, I thought it might be summat like that," Debbie sighed. "But I finally got to the bottom of it this morning..."

Michelle spluttered as her coke went straight up her nose, and then fell back in her chair, helpless with laughter. Realising what she'd said, Debbie giggled herself. Then: "But it were dead boring really. Turned out he'd been selling Andy and Fergie union jack underpants on his stall for the Royal wedding, did a roaring trade in 'em, but most of 'em got brought back cos they kept comin' apart. There was uproar, apparently, some of the customers were threatening to report the market to trading standards... everybody were talkin' about it... but they'll talk about owt on 'ere."

"I thought you were gonna say he was a flasher or summat," Mandy sighed. Then, she smiled, evilly: "Jason's been in the Co-op askin' after you, by the way!"

Debbie shuddered. Big fat and spotty Jason Bagnell had haunted the last two years of her school career. She could see his spotty, doughy-looking face floating in front of her, and it quite put her off her sausage buttie for a moment. "Well, you can tell him I'm fine and definitely not available!"

"Aw, but he likes you!" Mandy enjoyed winding Debbie up.

"Don't be a cow!" said Debbie.

Mandy wondered whether to order a bacon buttie. She was still starving, even after having wolfed down two cheeseburgers, and the smell of bacon cooking was driving her mad. But she remembered her waistline and decided not to. Women had to suffer for their beauty, as her Aunt Lou always said. Mind you, she weighed sixteen stone...

"I tell you who is dishy," said Mandy. "That Sean you work with. Dead good lookin' - and so trendy!"

"Yeah and a real moan arse," said Debbie. "You should've heard them this morning: 'Debbie, if you think that's coffee you've made, I think you've been being robbed all your life! Try again, please!' 'Debbie,must you constantly utter slang words and drop your aitches when there are customers present? Mrs Brookes-Whittaker is a very cultured lady and she was not impressed!' 'Debbie...' "

"Oh my gawd, one of them!" Mandy was sympathetic. "It's like old Ma Prescott where I work: 'Mandy, do you really think those tinned peaches look pulled forward?' 'Mandy, don't slouch over the fag counter like that, you look like a tired suet pudding'..."

"It's an 'ard life," Debbie groaned. She rose. "Well, I'd better get back! What you got planned for this afternoon?"

"I thought I might 'ave a bath, do me nails, read me Smash Hits and listen to the Top 40," said Mandy. "I taped it on Sunday."

"I 'ate workin'," sighed Debbie. "You finished your dinner?"

Mandy's face crumpled. "Well, I thought I might have a bacon buttie...!"

Debbie grinned: "Typical! See yer later! An' remember - 'ands off Paul!"

Mandy wrinkled her nose: "Don't worry, I wouldn't 'ave 'im gift wrapped!"

All the same, she refreshed her lipstick before making her way to the counter.

Lynne just couldn't resist testing the waters with Geoff. Pausing for a natter at his stall, she said: "Those pot plants look a treat, Geoff."

"Ta, love," said Geoff. "Each the product of hard graft, my love of the soil and the sweat of me brow!"

"An' here's me thinkin' you bought 'em wholesale," Lynne grinned.

"Listen, Geoff, I've just been readin' this magazine story about this woman who walked out on her 'usband."

Geoff suddenly looked wary: "Oh aye?"

"Then, three months' later, she walks back in!"


Lynne steeled herself: "What would you do if Eileen walked in here right now?"

"Probably tell 'er to bugger off," said Geoff, then, seeing Lynne looking horror-struck: "No, probably not... I'd probably say... I'd... well..." There was a long pause.Geoff gave up: "How the hell do I know what I'd probably say? Bit of a sick question, that, Lynne, if you don't mind me sayin' so."

"Yeah... sorry - me an' my big gob!" said Lynne. "It's just that the story I read set me thinkin' about you and Eileen."

I'm getting to be too good a liar, she thought.

"Do you really think your marriage is over, Geoff? I mean, I know what you said a couple of weeks back, but you've slept on things since then."

"I've no idea, love," Geoff sighed. "I don't think I'd welcome 'er back with open arms, though. I don't think we 'ave any future. And this isn't some True Romance magazine story."

Sita had seemed off with Raju since he'd returned to the stall from the wholesalers, but he'd put it down to her unhappiness at working on the market.

But, suddenly, it seemed it might be more than that.

"That woman from the hair dresser's, the one with the big shoulder pads," said Sita out of the blue.

"Viv? What about her?" Raju asked, his stomach sinking.

"Get on well with her, do you?"

"I hardly know her!"

"And that's why you were virtually hanging around her neck at the wedding reception a couple of weeks back?"

"What?! I wasn't... that's nonsense... look, who told you that?"

"It doesn't matter," said Sita icily.

"I had a chat with her, that's all. She's very interesting, done lots of things in her life, and now she's set up business on the market..."

"So, you just chatted?"


"For how long?"

"What? Oh, I don't know... I didn't time us... We just talked!"

"And made yourself the subject of gossip!"

"Gossip? I don't see how. Who's gossiping?"

Sita didn't answer that: "Never  make a fool of me, Raju!"

Jaz was in bed, reading. His old, comfortable bedroom, clothes strewn here and there, sunlight streaming through the window... home.

There was a knock at the door and Mrs Sharma entered, carrying a cup of tea and a plateful of biscuits on a tray.

"I thought you might like something," she said.

"Oh, Maarji, thanks!" said Jaz. "Just what I could do with!"

Mrs Sharma smiled: "What is that you are reading?"

"William Again - one of the books I used to love when I was a kid. It's still making me smile."

"It was one of the first books we were given when we arrived in England...," Mrs Sharma looked at her son, his tousled head against the pillow, and saw him clearly as the boy he had been. It was so good to have him home, safe, under her care. She felt sure that was what he needed - some time with her, some time to rest, to loiter in the past, think about the present and the future...

He'd been through so much in his life.

There was so much in the past that wasn't good, yet so much that was. At least the family had survived, clung together.

She had been shocked in the courtroom by Jaz's memories of how they had come to leave home. He had been through so much that your average English man of his age could not begin to imagine. And he remembered. And yet he'd always been so positive...

Mrs Sharma had had high hopes for the girl, Meena, that Mr Vyass had found, and the prospect of an arranged marriage. Jaz had fought so hard against it, and yet had developed feelings for the girl. When she had left, ironically fired by Jaz's talk of modern English ways as opposed to the ways of their parents, he had been so hurt...

Now, Mrs Sharma said: "You enjoy your book. You will come down to eat later?"

"Yes," Jaz smiled.

Mrs Sharma patted his hand, and left the bedroom.

Jaz settled back with his tea and his book, happy to be reunited with William, the fictitous middle class schoolboy, and his adventures of long ago...

Lynne was chatting to Carol out on the wharf: "I'm pleased to see yer back, love."

"Yeah, me too, not that it's permanent, but it's a start," said Carol.

"What brought about your change of heart if I'm not noseyin' too much?" asked Lynne. "I mean, last I heard of you was from Paul. He said you left in a floods of tears after Peggy gave you your cards."

"That were about the extent of it," said Carol. "When I got home and told me mam what had happened, she went up the wall. I made it all out to be Peggy's fault, and me mam were comin' down here for a slangin' match, so I 'ad to tell the truth - I'd lost me job for lyin' and stirrin' up trouble."

"Lot to face up to, love," said Lynne, sympathetically.

"Yeah, it was. Me Dad was ever so disappointed. Far as he could see, I'd thrown away a really good chance. I went down the Social, mooned around a bit..."

"Not a lot goin' in the way of jobs, is there?" Lynne was sympathetic.

Carol sighed: "You can say that again! Anyway,  I felt angry - angry with Peggy, angry with Jaz... Then I got angry with meself... started to see that I was the only one to blame. Peggy 'ad been really good to me. I know when she took me on she wasn't even sure she could afford it..."

"She's a good old stick, Peggy," said Lynne. 

Carol nodded: "I know.  So, I decided to make the best of a bad job, ask Peggy if she'd give me a reference an' see if I could get a bit of work 'ere to get more experience. An' that's it."

"Sounds to me like you're growin' up," said Lynne. "An' our Lisa says you're doin' ever so well on 'ere."

"I just babble on at the customers about Bette Davis an' stuff like that an' things sometimes sell," said Carol. "I'm gonna have to read up on Bette Davis a bit... when I finish reading me love letters from Simon Le Bon, of course!"

"You do that, love," Lynne laughed, and took her leave.

Louise needed somebody to talk to. She knew that. Another night out last night, another one night stand. Another hangover today. Another "I wish you was dead" look from Mrs Naylor when she'd arrived home.

And on Monday, she was to return to the crappy cafe at Albion Market.

And that didn't thrill her either.

And deep down she knew it couldn't go on.

None of it.

She needed to talk.

She'd come in and gone to bed. Throughout the day she'd slept fitfully, aware of Mrs Naylor moving about the house, Jenny crying and Mrs Naylor attending to her, traffic in the street, somebody going past with a ghetto blaster blaring out...

Now, as the day turned into early evening, she was ready to get up. Ready to start facing things.

She needed to talk.

Over the excellent spud pie, sausages and green beans cooked up by Eileen, Lynne asked:

"So, are you still contactin' Geoff tonight?"

"Yes," said Eileen, "I'll get ready after this and pop down the phone box. Wish me luck!"

"Oh, I do, I do!" said Lynne.

"Me an' all!" said Lisa.

"I'm stayin' in, preparin' a few eye catchin' pricings for the stall tonight," said Lynne. "So, if you fancy a natter later..."

Eileen smiled at her gratefully.

Keith arrived home desperate to see Louise. He had the idea that if they didn't talk soon, all hope for their union would be gone. And he didn't want that. He didn't want to lose her.

"Where's Louise?" he called when he reached the living room.

"She's gone out again, son," replied Mrs Naylor from the kitchen. "Now, get your hands washed, toad in the hole for dinner..."

Geoff Travis was startled when he opened his front door to find Louise Todd, no, Naylor, on the doorstep.

"What the 'ell are you doin' 'ere?"

"It's all right, Geoff, I don't want to stop here or anythin'," Louise tried a smile. "I just need somebody to talk to..."


"Yes, I really do, Geoff. You were the only person I could think of that might help me work things out..."

Geoff sighed, but found himself opening the door to admit her: "You'd better come in..."

"Well, whatever 'appens, I'm keepin' a cool head!" said Eileen, all ready to set out.

Lynne, felt tips and cardboard at the ready, was having a fag before beginning work on the pricings for her stall.

ANDREX - 75p - GO FOR IT! - she was thinking.

"No, sounds dead common, yer silly cow," she muttered.

"Good luck, love," she turned to Eileen. "See yer later."

"I'm shakin'!" said Eileen. "Like some daft teenager!"

"Look, would you like me to come as far as the phone box with yer? I know you're reclaimin' your life an' all that, but a little back up might not hurt!"

"Oh, would yer, Lynne? Yeah, I would appreciate it!"

"I'll get me coat!"

"I'm just really fed up," Louise was telling Geoff. "I don't know 'ow to cope with Keith or that witch of a mother of his! So, I've been goin' out..."

Her eyes lit up at the thought of shocking Geoff and she continued with a glint in her eye:  "Drinkin', sleepin' around..."

"You've been married, what, a couple of weeks, and you've already been unfaithful?" Geoff could hardly believe his ears.

"Look, Geoff, don't start all that moralisin' stuff," Louise cried. "I came to you to try and sort things out in my head, work out what to do, not a bloody lecture!"

There was a silence, then Geoff asked: "Have you eaten?"

"No. I'm not hungry."

"Well, I am, and I reckon we'll both think better on full stomachs... I was planning on getting a Chinese. That OK with you?"

Louise suddenly realised that she hadn't eaten all day.

"Yeah, ta, it does sound like a good idea."

"Right," Geoff slung his coat on and grabbed the van keys from the coffee table. "You put the plates to warm and make a pot of tea. I'll be back in a jiffy!" and he left the house.

It was nearly twenty minutes walk from Lynne's little terraced council house to Eileen and Geoff's nice, privately owned semi-detached. And about midway between them was a telephone box which usually worked. "I'll wait while you phone," said Lynne as Eileen fumbled in her purse outside the box. "I'll even walk the rest of the way with yer if you want."

"Thanks, Lynne. You're a good friend." Eileen stepped into the box, put a coin ready in the slot, and dialled.

Louise was pouring boiling water into the teapot when the phone rang. Probably Geoff, she thought, wanting to know if she wanted noodles or special fried rice. She hurried across to the phone.


Eileen thrust the receiver away from her as if it had just slapped her. She heard Louise's voice again - "Hello?" - and slammed the reciever down onto its rest.

Outside, Lynne, sensing there was something wrong, swung the door open: "Eileen? What's up, love?"

Eileen turned to her, dazed: "Louise is there!"

"What? Don't talk daft, I told you, she married Keith, she'll be at 'ome!" And then Lynne stopped short as she remembered what Keith had told her that morning.

"She's there, Lynne, she just answered the phone!" Eileen was shaking again.

"But... I don't understand..." said Lynne, who, despite her hidden knowledge, was trying not to jump to any conclusions.

"Neither do I," said Eileen.

And then she began to cry.

Peggy was at home. She'd just had a Bejam  meal and had to admit, those frozen cubes of bubble and squeak cooked up nice. With a couple of burgers and some tomato ketchup it was pretty good grub. There was no point in going to the trouble of cooking from scratch when there was just the one of you - "Big one though I might be!" Peggy muttered to herself as she plonked herself in front of the telly and reached for the TV and Radio Times magazines on the coffee table. She wasn't expecting a knock at her front door and wasn't terribly pleased when it happened.

"Oh, flippin' 'eck!!"

She hoisted herself out of her chair and went to answer the door. Who was it? Keith with some pressing problem? Lynne, needing a bit of company? The woman from upstairs wanting to borrow milk? Jehovah's Witnesses? She was tired and could, quite frankly, do without any of 'em!

She pulled the door open a slit - it was on the chain - and asked somewhat testily: "Who is it?"

"It's me, Peggy," came a familiar voice. "Brenda Rigg."

Derek had been in to see Chan on his way home from work and was relieved to find her looking much brighter.

"Another day or two, and I shall be quite well," she told him, smiling.

They'd chatted over the day's doings on the market, and then Derek had left her, first extracting a promise from her that she'd eat the tin of cream of mushroom soup he'd bought her that evening.

"It'll stengthen you," he said.

She lay in bed, listening to the car driving away, she would have another sleep...

Then came the sound of scurrying footsteps on the concrete stairs outside and then a bang...

At first Chan thought the front door had been broken open: "Who is there?" she called, fearfully.

There was no reply.

She got out of bed, trembling with fear and fatigue, and made her way through to the hallway. The door was still on its hinges.

"Who is there?" she called again.


Chan rushed forward and drew the bolts at the top and bottom of the door.

"Who is there?!"

She heard a voice coming to her through the door: "You might well be scared, you bitch!"

Male? Female? The voice was a hoarse whisper and she couldn't be sure.

"Who are you?" she called.

But this time there was no reply.

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