Her father and she had never got on. He hadn't even wanted her. She'd been an accident. She'd been the cause of his having had to get married. He hadn’t wanted to marry her mother. His family thought she was beneath him.
They saw her as a skivvy, working for her grandfather, at his Newspaper shop and General Stores in Bishopstoke, on the corner of Hamilton Road and Spring Lane stuck out in the back yard, on cold and frosty morning, filling stiff and frozen sacks with coal her fingers throbbing with pain, her eyes filled with tears and her heart filled with grief.
They met in the Spring of 1938, and her mother saw her father, as a saviour come to rescue her from a fate worse than death, but he saw her only as an easy lay and someone to play fast and loose with, but he was careless and in the June made her pregnant and seven months later, had to marry her, to give the baby a name.
And then as if that wasn’t bad enough, after they were married, he had no home for her, and had to take her back to his parents' house to live, at 178 High Street, in Eastleigh, where she wouldn’t have been welcome had she not been pregnant, but where she was a lot less because she was, which put her father off the baby even more.
And then, just when she was starting to become amusing and interesting with her stumbling attempts to walk and talk the Second World War broke out, and her father was taken away, and she didn’t see him again for six years, which did nothing to bring them closer together, but everything to push them further apart, and then, to make matters worse, after he left to join the army, her mother refused to remain living with his family, and went back to live with her own, which greatly antagonised him, because he disliked her family in general, and his wife’s elder half-sister, Lily in particular, for seeing her as a stuck-up snob, because she didn’t have to skivvy for her keep, like the rest of them, because her absent father provided her with a weekly allowance.
And then, to make matters worse still, once her mother was back living with her family, she wasn’t able to look after her baby herself, because she was put back to skivvying and the job was passed over to Lily, who already had a new baby of her own to look after, and so Jill hardly saw anything of her mother and grew closer to her Aunty Lily, who lost no time in turning her against her father, for despising men in general, and him in particular, for the shame he'd brought down on her family, so that by the time he came home from the war in 1945, both she and her little brother, David, born in 1941, as the result of a short spell of leave, thought he was going to be a big, black, terrifying ogre, and were quite surprised to find out that he wasn't black, but weren’t surprised to find that he was a big terrifying ogre, nonetheless, made worse by his doing nothing to endear himself to his family, for feeling resentful at their having become attached to his wife’s family, instead of to him and his, and dragged them off to live on the other side of town, and forbade them from ever seeing his wife’s family again, and instead of winning their affection, lost it, and caused them to conspire against him to visit their real family, whenever they could.
And then when Jill was eleven, she won a place at grammar school, which caused her to feel academically superior and become even more cocky than she was already, for having been brought up the eldest child of four, who'd gone to school first, and done everything else first, and who had got used to bossing everybody else about, including her poor, downtrodden mother, which her father found irritating enough, already.
And then, upon joining her new class at Barton Peveril grammar school in Desborough Road, just up the road from where she lived in Magpie Lane, on the other side of Fleming Park, she found that it contained a boy from Bishopstoke whom she was able to invite back to her house, with a view to having him invite her over to his, so that, with his connivance she was able to visit her Aunty Lily instead, which device her father suspected, which annoyed him even more.
And then, when she was eighteen and her mother died tragically of thrombosis at 41, and her brother left home to escape his father's malicious tyranny for having been the butt of his resentment all his life, for having been the centre of his mother’s affection, which had made his father pathetically jealous, she wondered what to do for the best.
She would have liked to leave home too, and go over to live with her Aunty Lily, but realized that it wasn’t practical, because, since her two cousins had grown up and been given rooms of their own, there wasn't enough room for her and since her Aunty Lily had taken over running the Shop and started to row with everybody about how to do it, there wasn't a lot of peace either, whereas, there was plenty of room at home, and, since her father had decided to be pleasant to her in a sterling attempt to persuade her to stay to do the cooking and the housekeeping, for being unable to do it himself, things had become peaceful too, and so she decided to stay, to enjoy her newfound importance and to see how things would go, and found that they went quite well for two years, until she met her new boyfriend, Bob, and then they didn’t go very well at all.
Upon hearing that Bob was ten years older than she, her father immediately assumed that he was after only one thing, sex, and that once he got it, he would make his immature, naive daughter pregnant, dump her and leave him holding the baby, and so to reduce the danger, tried to make sure that she got in on time at night when she went out on dates, only to find that his attempts didn’t go down very well.
Jill didn’t like being bossed about and couldn’t understand what was going on. Her father was treating her like a child, when she was nearly 21, and ran the house, and was an adult who was entitled to stay out late sometimes if she wanted to, especially at weekends and so ignored him, until one Saturday, when she came in a bit later than usual, for having got involved with Tom in a long conversation, sitting in his car, outside of the house, after coming home from a dance she found her father waiting up for her, absolutely fuming, and saying that if she didn’t start to get in on time, he would kick her out, which she understood, even less.
How could he kick her out?
He couldn’t. He needed her to do the cooking and the housework.
What was wrong with him? She didn’t know, and so went over to her Auntie Lily’s to see what she thought, and was shocked to hear her say.
'Oh well, that's typical of him. Just because he got your mother pregnant, when she was your age, and didn't want to marry her, he thinks everybody else is the same, and that Bob is going to make you pregnant, and not want to marry you. It's a complete insult. I wouldn't put up with it, if I were you. You should go back now and collect your things and come over here and live with us. Uncle **** will give you a lift in the car if you like.'
Jill couldn't believe it. It was indeed a complete insult. How could her father think that she would sink to the same depths of depravity as her grandmother, her mother, and he, and have sex with a man to whom she wasn’t married, when she was a devout Christian and a Sunday-School teacher, who went to Church every Sunday and condemned immorality wherever she found it? She didn't know. It didn't make sense.
'Are you sure he's thinking that?' she asked, doubtfully.
'What else could he be thinking?' Lily replied, contentiously, only too pleased at being able to cause trouble for her hated enemy. 'He's not going to kick you out for nothing, is he? He won't be able to cope without you. He must think you're up to something serious, mustn’t he, and what else is there?'
'What else, indeed?' Jill thought, unhappily. 'Nothing. It had to be that. She felt sick. She'd never got any affection or credit from her father. All she'd ever got was criticism and neglect, and now he was suspecting her of depravity, as well. It was terrible.
'So what am I going to do then?' she asked plaintively, 'I can't start getting in on time, can I, or it will just seem like an admission of guilt, won’t it?'
'Yes it will,' Lily replied, divisively, ‘the best thing you can do is tell him the truth, without letting him know that you're aware of his depraved suspicions, and just say quite genuinely, "It's very kind of you to show so much concern for my welfare but you don't need to worry, because when I go out with Bob he’s so protective and caring that I’m in no danger at all." and he should be completely reassured and stop worrying', knowing precisely the opposite would be the case.
'Oh yes,' Jill said, 'I hadn't thought of that. That should do the trick. I'll do that then', completely unaware of the trap she was walking into.
Len was fuming. His daughter was driving him right round the bend. Instead of coming in on time, as he’d told her to, she’d just come up with some lame excuse about being in no danger when she went out with Tom because he was so protective and caring, as if that was likely!
It was utterly infuriating. He was on the horns of a dilemma. He was being forced to choose between letting his naive daughter stay out late, and carry on with an older man, and get pregnant, with all the trouble that would cause, and throwing her out and losing his cook and housekeeper, with all the trouble that would cause.
He couldn’t believe it. What was he supposed to do? He had no idea, but found a few days later that he didn’t have to worry about it anymore because the problem solved itself, but not in the way he would have liked, but precisely the opposite. Jill came home so late the following Saturday, that he was so fuming when she came in through the front door at 2am. that he completely lost his temper, and, before he knew what he was saying, told her to leave.
Jill was completely stunned. Despite her genuine reassurances that she was in no danger at all when she went out with Tom, her father had still kicked her out. He didn't care about her, at all. All he cared about was his own pathetic suspicions. But she could see that he didn’t really want her to leave.
He didn't really want to lose his cook and housekeeper. He really wanted her to go down on her bended knees and apologize for staying out so late and beg him to let her stay, but she wasn’t going to.
She hadn’t done anything wrong and she wasn’t going to pretend that she had, and if she left, it wouldn’t be she who suffered, but he, for having to do all his cooking and housekeeping himself, and then, in the fullness of time, when he found that she hadn’t got pregnant, he would suffer even more for realizing that he’d kicked her out for nothing, which would be hilarious.
She couldn’t help laughing. It would be poetic justice.
But that had been ten years earlier and now the shoe was on the other foot and she had become pregnant by a man to whom she wasn’t married, and not just as a single woman, but as a married one, which was a thousand times worse, and so now it wouldn’t be she who was going to think it hilarious that her father had got everything wrong, but his family and he who were going to think it was hilarious because he had got everything right.
She would become a laughing stock.
It would be anathema.
It couldn't happen and she could hardly believe what had. How had she got pregnant so easily? She hardly knew.