This is the eighth part of a fiction serial, in 790 words.
What followed was something of a quiet period, in my recollection. Helen didn’t mention her mum going on holiday, though she was much friendlier at work, and occasionally touchy-feely when nobody was looking. I presumed she had decided to throw all of her eggs into Trev’s basket, and trust to luck.
But there was still time.
The next time I spotted Janice, she went red-faced and tried to pretend she hadn’t seen me. But I crossed the road to tell her that she had made the wrong choice. I said I knew for sure that Johnny would dump her in due course, as he would never get past her background, whether that was gossip or not. She looked sad when I said that, almost teary-eyed. As she walked away, she turned and said “Sorry”. She said it very quietly, and that was the last time we ever spoke to each other.
So I was left with Susan, though she wasn’t a bad option to be left with.
Susan was as keen as mustard, and happy to keep me on side with some delightful feminine wiles that I enjoyed immensely. She was also teaching me things that would keep me in good stead when I was older. The icing on the cake was that she looked amazing, and everyone who found out we were a couple thought I was punching above my weight.
Of course, she didn’t stop talking about us getting married, but she was also very sensible. Her idea was to save the deposit on a house somewhere, have a cheap Registry Office wedding, and no expensive honeymoon. The more time I spent in her company, the more I liked her. And the five years age difference didn’t matter to me at all.
We had to use precautions of course. No point her getting pregnant and ending up with a shotgun wedding. Especially with her brother riding high. She was on The Pill, and Keith had exceeded all expectations by being offered a place at Oxford. Bye bye, London University. Keith was going up in the world. He was getting a scholarship to study with the toffs and rich kids. At the time, I was really pleased for him. When I told him that, he hugged me.
I told him to calm down. The Four Musketeers were not huggers.
Even Johnny was delighted for Keith. We had a drink to celebrate his acceptance to Oxford, meeting up at The Anchor.
That’s when Terry stole Keith’s thunder. He announced he was getting married. We were all eighteen, and Terry had jumped the gun on all of us. He had met a girl on a plumbing job down in Sydenham, the daughter of the house. She was nineteen, and chubby would have been a compliment. But she adored Terry’s awful jokes, and they were both besotted.
It was a match made in heaven, as the saying goes.
Maria was from a family with a Spanish background, and they had welcomed Terry into the fold like you would not believe. The black-haired fat girl adored our idiot of a friend, but her welcome had been a bit too warm for our inexperienced Musketeer, and she was three months gone.
When we were supposed to be celebrating Keith’s rise in English society, Terry was asking Johnny to be the Best Man at his wedding. We bought another round, and toasted Terry and Maria. Keith looked a bit put out, but joined in. As for me, I was thinking about Terry’s mum, Alice. I often wondered if his dad had worked out she must have gone over the side to get pregnant. I doubted her and Georgie were up to much bed action back then.
Still, it was a rare night at the pub for the original Four Musketeers. Even Susan was okay with it. “Keith has done so well, he needs a celebration with his mates, Danny”. Naturally, where her younger brother was concerned, she was happy for us to all be out on a Friday night. And for my part, I was happy to be reunited with Johnny, and no mention of Janice. He hinted that he was going to finish with her soon, as the business was exceeding all expectations.
“To be honest, Danny. I have more money than I know what to do with. Janice is no more than a habit that I can do without. The stolen gear is coming in vanloads. Me and dad are minted, and I don’t see why a slag like Janice should benefit. I’m setting my sights higher than her, I tell ya.”
Well, as you might suspect, he should never had told me that.
Then again, he had drunk seven pints of beer.