This is the eleventh part of a fiction serial, in 772 words.
While Johnny was away in jail, I learned to drive. Susan did it at the same time, and we used the same instructor. We both passed our tests one wekk apart, and because Susan passed first, she never let me forget that. My dad was in the process of part exchanging his old Ford Escort Estate for a new Cortina, so I offered him cash for it instead. The car was cheap, but the insurance for me and Susan to drive it was very expensive.
We left the car parked outside my parents’ house, and started to get out and about in it at the weekends. Most of our trips were house-hunting, checking out affordable areas where we could buy a house once we were married. As we already lived in Deptford, south London was our first choice. We didn’t want to venture too far from what we knew, and we would need to be near a train station to get into work. Susan was still at the factory, but hoping to change jobs. There was a rumour the factory was closing down and moving far away from London, and she was keen to get out before that happened.
Johnny got out too late for our wedding. As planned, it was a small affair at the Registry Office, followed by a buffet and drinks in the upstairs function room of The Anchor. There were some cousins on both sides we hadn’t seen for years, an elderly great aunt of Susan, and some friends. Terry and Maria showed up, but they left little Sophia at home with Maria’s parents. Keith came, and he brought his girlfriend too.
Madeleine was introduced as Maddy. She was very tall, taller than any of us, and stick-thin. Her accent was so posh, I had trouble understanding some of what she said. And I had to smile at how Keith had adopted a very similar accent, making him sound completely ridiculous to the rest of us. Maddy spent the evening sticking close to Mr and Mrs Rainsford, and declined to eat most of the buffet food on offer. I saw her nibbling a bridge roll containing gammon ham and gherkins, then wrapping it in a paper napkin and leaving it behind a chair.
Keith had his degree, and there was talk of him going to work as an assistant to an M.P. We had never really discussed politics, but my dad told me the M.P. in question was a Conservative. Dad didn’t approve of that party. Keith’s parents were suitably chuffed, as their son would now be working in an office inside the Houses of Parliament. They spent the wedding party telling that to anyone who would listen
The house we had decided on was an old two-bed terrace in Brockley. Not far from from the cemetery, and an easy walk to the station. It would have been three beds at one time, before the smallest one had been converted into an inside bathroom. Parking was on the street, and the small garden was just big enough for sitting outside in the summer. With no honeymoon arranged, we were going to spend our wedding night in that house, then we would both be back at work on the Monday.
The previous owners had done a good job of making the house nice, and all we had to do was get our furniture in before the wedding. We had bought everything from the same department store, and taken their credit option over three years of easy payments. My mum and dad had been over to see it, and were so proud that their son had his own house, and would not be renting from the council like them. Susan’s parents said they would come for tea once we were settled in. I told them there was no rush.
With Johnny back at home and out of work, my visits to Jeannie had to stop. Besides, it wouldn’t have been so easy once we were in Brockley. We had managed an enjoyable few months though, and Susan had never found out about what happened on my visits to console Jeannie.
The next time I saw Johhny I was visiting my parents and he was standing outside the corner shop. I stopped the car and spoke to him through the window. He looked ill. He had lost a lot of weight, and all of his confidence. Prison had taught him a lesson, right enough. He congratulated me on the wedding, wished me all the best, then walked across the street without looking back.
Maybe I should have felt guilty, but I didn’t.