|The English Roses: Hearts of Gold
Author: aims80 PM
Mary is forced onto the streets when her Mum remarries & works as a prostitute. An ugly incident sees her enter "Belle's Brothel" where she meets Adam Hamilton- the man destined to change her life forever. The only question is: for better or for worse?Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Romance - Chapters: 10 - Words: 37,320 - Reviews: 6 - Favs: 4 - Follows: 3 - Updated: 10-29-10 - Published: 08-25-10 - id: 2841608
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
[Author's note: Originally I was going to do "Annie" or "Sarah's" story next but when I was almost finished writing "Brenda" I wrote about an article Brenda read in the paper which was related to Mary and it made me feel excited about writing Mary's story next.
Mary wasn't really mentioned much in "Nellie" ("Sins of the Mother"), "Jenny" ("A brand new world") or Brenda "(A field of Green) so readers of the series do not know a whole lot about Mary. Which is why I feel like writing her story next is the right thing to do.
If you've read either "Sins of the Mother" or "A field of green" you will know of her. You'll know she was at the Hamilton's home before Nellie and Jenny but while Brenda was working there, however Mary worked there for such a short time that she did not make much of an impact on Brenda, especially considering Brenda was, at that time, not making friends with any of her co-workers after having been hurt by other girls she'd befriended. And you'll know that Mary was fired from the Hamilton's because the mistress thought she was trying to trap her son, Adam, or even her husband, by being intimate with them. And you'll know that Mary claimed to in fact already be expecting Adam's child but the mistress chose not to believe her- which I find understandable considering Mary had been at the Hamilton home for such a short time she would not have known she was pregnant even if she conceived the baby the night she arrived at the house. You'll also know that Nellie's story went differently- the mistress believed her when she was found to be expecting a child. Whether or not Mary was lucky that the mistress chose not to believe her and throw her out of the house is something you'll find out in this story.
I am not sure whether I've correctly put the information about Mary into Nellie and Brenda but I will fix that in edit if I am mistaken. If you can remember what I said about Nellie and Brenda knowing Mary or knowing part of her story, please let me know, or point me to the relevant chapter.
And, finally, I hope you'll enjoy book number four in "The English Roses" series as much as you did the three previous ones. I've actually self-published "Sins of the Mother" on lulu which is an awesome site if you are a writer and want to publish your book without needing to lay out money for an original print run of a pretty high number that may not even sell.]
THE ENGLISH ROSES:
I knew my father was home the minute I turned into our street. Despite the fact that the weather was very fine for a mid-spring day, and there was no breeze blowing, my father's voice still carried down the street, wafting towards me like a bad smell, in an area of London where bad smells were the norm rather than the exception. Automatically I picked up my pace, thinking only of getting inside the house to try and stop the argument- to protect my mum, and to stop the neighbours from listening in with the kind of relish you get when you are a nosey gossip like everyone in the street, my mum included. Although I didn't know how long it had already been going. And it wasn't like they didn't hear this same argument, or a version of it, every time my father's ship got into port.
I'd found myself in some trouble in church because during confession I admitted that I was thankful my father was off at sea for much of the year. I'd had to pay my penance for not loving, honouring and obeying my father. But bad opinion of me from God, and my priest, didn't prevent me from still wishing my father back at sea almost as soon as he'd got back to London. My father wasn't exactly the easiest man to live with. And, while he never laid a hand on me, I'd seen him get so furious with mum that he'd give her a clip across the ears, a slap across the face, or even on occasions more of a punch than a smack.
The fact that he drank away a lot of his pay when he was on shore leave meant he'd stumble into the house at all hours, barely able to walk or talk from being so drunk, and then pass out on the floor or the couch if he could not make it back to his bedroom. And, naturally, the day afterwards he'd be grumpy and mean. I'd often thought it remarkable that my parents had managed to be close enough to conceive me since Mum had long ago stopped loving Dad, and he seemed to feel the same way. I thought it likely that his absences at sea were more to blame for this than his temper towards her.
"Looks like 'imself's home, eh?" Judy, who lived across and eight doors down from us, hailed me as I practically ran past- no easy task with the basket of foodstuffs I was carrying from the weekly shopping trip Mum had asked me to do.
"Sounds like." I agreed.
"Did yer know he was gettin' in?" Judy asked.
"No, I guess it's a surprise." I said wryly.
"I guess it is at that. Good one or bad?" She asked.
I shook my head. "I'll know in a minute…oh, how long have they been going at it?" I asked as the thought occurred to me.
Judy looked thoughtful. "Erm…maybe about 'our." She guessed.
I nodded my thanks and kept moving. I startled a rat that was scrounging along the street for food and, as it scampered towards safety, I thought it likely it had been less scared than me. It wasn't like this area wasn't infested with rats due to poor people, poor drainage, poor sewerage and food scraps that the rats had to fight the stray dogs and cats for, and it wasn't like I wasn't used to it having lived in the street for almost four years now. But I still jumped when one I hadn't seen or heard moved suddenly right near me.
"Hiya Mary, ya lookin' good today." Richard, who lived four doors down from me, offered me as I went past. I hesitated, wanting to go back and tell him to get lost, but I had more important things to do than work out how to not only keep away from Richard's leering smile and crude comments but also convince him to stop. After all I was only eleven years old and Richard was more like twenty-five. Mind you even at eleven I was used to people like Richard. They were all too common in the areas of London I frequented. I thought Richard was all talk but if it got too out of hand I could always tell my father about him and I knew he'd fix the situation. But I wanted to sort it out myself, or at least try to, first.
As I arrived at the three story house where we lived I could easily hear exactly what my parents were yelling about. I hesitated as I listened, feeling uncomfortable at my listening in to their argument and almost wanting to turn around and walk away, give them the privacy to sort it out themselves and pretend I knew nothing about it. Unfortunately I knew that I had to go inside. Because if I didn't it would get louder and louder, crueler, and ultimately it would end in physical violence. That was another thing I was used to in my area: father's laying into their wives and children. It was common enough for people to turn a blind eye when a woman had a patently obvious black eye, or a child had bruises down his or her arm. So common that the police would also turn a blind eye to a case of a man disciplining his family. This was the one thing that was almost the same for poorer people as it was for richer people.
"If yer even cared about yer bloody daughter-" Mum was complaining.
Dad interrupted her. "Don't say I don't care about 'er!" He snapped.
"Well yer got a funny way of showin' it! The Church pay for a lot of 'er school things but we've gotta' put some money towards it. And if yer keep drinkin' and gamblin' yer pay away we won't be able to afford to keep sendin' her to school." Mum said.
"So? She's twelve. She could go into service now. Start 'er way at the bottom as a scullery maid and work 'er way up. She could be a housemaid by the time she's twenty." Dad said.
Mum was silent for a moment. "Yer'd be happy with that, would you?" She asked, her voice very cold.
"There's worse ways to earn a livin'." Dad replied.
"No. Mary ain't goin' into service. She's better than that." Mum said decidedly.
"Yer shouldn't keep puttin' these ideas into 'er head. Makin' out she's fancier than she really is." Dad complained.
"There's nothin' wrong with havin' standards…God knows I wish I'd a' had some when it came to yer." Mum replied.
I knew that was when I had to get inside. I could anticipate Dad's response to that comment though. I often thought it ironic that a man who would drink and gamble practically everything he had took his religion so seriously. When he was home on leave we'd attend more church services than we did when he was at sea. But even when my father wasn't in port Mum and I attended church every Sunday and I went to church with school every Wednesday as well as short masses for the start of every school day in my Catholic Church ran school. The school was aimed at the poorer children of our area of London. They knew many of our parents couldn't afford to send us to school and usually didn't care if we even went so the church provided much of the things we needed. A lot of the richer members of the Church in London donated large sums of money to the project.
I opened the front door and headed for the stairs. Mum, Dad and I lived on the top floor of the boarding house. The bottom floor was occupied by an elderly couple who rarely left the house. Thankfully they were both deaf as posts.
"Never, ever, take the Lord's name in vein. Yer hear me woman?" Dad said. I had to strain to make out the words as his voice had gone lower and more ominous. For the most part when Dad yelled you were relatively safe, but when he lowered his voice and spoke so seriously you knew you were in trouble.
I rounded the landing on the second floor and started up towards the attic. The second floor was occupied by a family of four- three children and one father. He worked long hours to support his family and while he was at work the three children ran amuck. They'd long since left school- which admittedly was very common in this area where children rarely continued at school much past their tenth or eleventh birthday- but whilst the eldest girl, Patricia, worked in service as a live-out landrymaid, the other two did not work and thankfully were rarely home, preferring instead to roam the streets and seek out adventure and trouble.
Mum took a long moment to respond to Dad's order. "Don't preach to me. Yer gotta' be the most unlikely Catholic in the world. Wonder what God thinks of yer gettin' thrown outta' the pub ever night yer home from sea, and throwin' yer money away on cards when yer are at sea." She said.
Dad laughed, but it was a humourless laugh. "Yer really want to go there?" He asked.
I reached the third floor. Our space was smaller than the space on the first and second floor but, as Mum reminded me regularly, it was cheaper and with Dad at sea for much of the time we didn't need a whole lot of space. So we had a bedroom, a small kitchen, and a decent sized living room, part of which was portioned off with a curtain to provide my bedroom and my own little bit of space. To bring water up for baths, use in the kitchen or for laundry we had to haul it up three flights of stairs, which was quite a hassle. But Mum was very strict on the idea of frequent bathing, and having a little wash on the days between our weekly baths. For a woman who lived in this part of London Mum was something of an oddity.
She was clean, worked hard, insisted I go to school and speak properly, and looked after me better than most of my friends were looked after. She'd been raised in a small village in countryside Kent where she was the only daughter of the Rector of the Parish Church of England. Mum had had Protestant views forced down her throat so that as soon as she was old enough she started to drift away from religion, constantly battling with her parents and her two older brothers. Until she finally ran away from home, after hoarding some money which she stole from the collection plate at church- just skimming a little off the top for almost a year. She also stole a couple of things her parents had that were worth money and sold them once in London. Her plan had not gone far enough to decide what she was actually going to do when she got to London. It had taken her awhile with no experience and no references but eventually she got a job in a grocery store and she worked there for three years before she met my father.
Mum told me the story of her meeting Dad regularly when I was younger and I nagged her to tell me, despite knowing the story word for word and being able to recite it for myself with complete accuracy. But, as I got older and she and Dad began to grow apart, she stopped telling me of the strong, young, handsome, funny man she met. Dad was in London for two weeks before setting sail again, but two weeks was enough for the two of them to fall madly in love. Dad swept her off her feet. And the next time he was back in port he proposed. The time after they got married. And nine months later I was born. Mum's parents were horrified when, in a letter, she told them she was marrying a Catholic, and they promptly disowned her.
As I opened our front door I heard a loud noise; the sound of a hand striking flesh. And Mum gave a strangled cry of pain.
"DAD!" I cried.
Mum was standing against the sink, her hand raised to her face where there was already a red mark forming on her cheek. Dad stood a few feet away, his head drooped. But at the sound of my voice his head shot up and a smile graced his face. "Mary. Mary, baby." He said happily.
I crossed the space in two long strides and went straight into Dad's arms. Sometimes I thought it was disloyal to Mum for me to always show such excitement at seeing Dad, especially considering their feelings for each other and Dad's temper often being directed at her. And I knew it was certainly a little strange considering I was grateful that Dad was at sea for most of the year and Mum and I were left to our own. But he was my father, and I loved him as much as I loved Mum.
"Daddy's home." Dad said as I wrapped my arms around him and rested my head on his chest.
"Dad, I'm not a kid anymore. I don't call you Daddy." I told him.
Dad laughed loudly; he has a great laugh, loud, deep, and long. He moved back so he could look at me from arm's length. "I'm noticing that. Yer growin' up too fast my girl. Next time I get back yer goin' to be a little lady. With all the boys chasin' yer down the street and me needin' to sort them out for botherin' my girl."
Embarrassed I moved out of his embrace and went to Mum's side. "How long are you going to be here Dad?" I inquired.
"Just a short leave this time. I've gotta' be back on the ship in three days." Dad replied.
I sensed Mum relax a little beside me, some of the tension draining away from her body.
"So what do yer say? Yer Mum makes us somethin' nice for dinner and then we go to mass? And then you an' me catch up on some quality time?" Dad asked me.
I could hardly say no, but I did manage to convince Dad it would be better if I helped Mum with making dinner while he relaxed. When Dad was out of earshot I whispered to Mum, "Did he hit you more than that one time?"
"No. Yer came in time." Mum replied shortly and coldly. I was surprised at the tone in her voice that sounded remarkably like blame. Was it because the fight was over my continued education versus my going into service? But, as we worked alongside one another with few words spoken I thought it was more likely that she was embarrassed about having to have her daughter save her from her husband yet again. Would she prefer I let him hit her?
As the service was drawing to a close at our local Church we all followed the priest's words, intoned our own gravely and made the sign of the cross over our breasts and then the priest was done and mass was essentially over for the day. He stepped down off the podium and began to walk down the aisle, greeting each member of the congregation individually. Some he stopped at longer than others, some were perfunctory nice to see you's, some were offers of help, and some more still were words of prayer or wisdom.
"Mr. Cormack! How wonderful to see you back home again. I hope you had no problems while at sea." Father O'Harrison said to my father, clasping his hand firmly and shaking a few times.
"Praise God, no." Dad replied.
"And how long are you home this time?" Father O'Harrison inquired.
"Not long enough father. But a man 'as to do his duty and look after his family." Dad said. I had to bite my lip to resist letting out a little giggle at the look of complete piousness on my father's face. If it was a sin to lie, and a priest was God's representative on earth, was my father lying to God?
"Ah, true indeed. But so many don't. It breaks the heart of a man of God to see so many neglected children. Perhaps you would like to make a donation to those poor children?" Father O'Harrison asked.
I saw Dad hesitate. I knew he'd put a small sum into the collection plate and any other donation towards the Church would be one less drink he'd be able to have. "Actually, Father O'Harrison I was hopin' yer would hear me confession. It's been six months." Dad asked.
The priest didn't hesitate. "Go to the confession box, my son, and I will join you shortly. And Mrs. Cormack, how nice to see you too. It's been a little while since you've been to Friday mass, hasn't it?" He asked Mum.
I saw Dad store that information in the back of his mind but before Mum could respond I said, "That was a lovely service Father."
"Thank you Mary. And I hear you are doing very well in our school. In fact Sister Elizabeth made a point of telling me since she knew you were part of my congregation." Father O'Harrison said.
I nodded. I didn't think Dad overheard that comment but I doubted it would make any difference. Sooner or later Dad would get his own way and I would have to leave school and work. I'd been at school longer than many of my neighbours and friends. Most of them had been forced to leave school and earn their keep before now. It was only Mum's upbringing and own meager education that had kept me at school this long.
The priest made his goodbyes so he could greet the rest of his congregation- which was not a large one at this service- and make his way back to the confessional. Mum and I went outside to wait for Dad.
"Mum…did I do something to anger or upset you earlier?" I asked, broaching the subject gently.
"No. Like what?" Mum asked, but her eyes didn't meet mine.
I shrugged. "Never mind. It isn't important." I lied.
The sun had come along a fair bit in its descent and the sunset colours were marvelous reds and oranges. There was a slight breeze but it was a sea breeze rather than the usual breeze that blew the disgusting odors of parts of London poorer than ours into our faces. I noticed a man who kept looking at Mum, meeting her eyes and smiling, and then looking away as we and a few other members waited while our loved ones took confession or the person we wanted to walk home with confessed their sins for the week.
I didn't think I'd seen the man before so he was either not a regular- or even less of a regular for the Friday night mass than we were- or he was new to the area. I studied him covertly. He wasn't an unattractive man, but he looked like he'd lived a hard life for the thirty or forty years he'd lived. And while there was a smile on his face, and an easygoing expression too, it didn't quite reach his eyes. His eyes suggested it was highly possible he was somewhat of a cold person and maybe also a cunning one.
An elderly man came out of the church and walked towards the stranger and the two of them walked off together. But not before the stranger inclined his head towards Mum and, looking out the side of my eye, I saw her smile and blush slightly as she returned the nod. I was about to ask her who this strange man was when Dad came out of the church.
"Now I feel a lot better. And if didn't even take me as long as I expected neither." Dad said. "Now if yer two ladies don't mind me not escortin' yer both home I'm thinkin' I might head down the pub to catch up with all the lads."
Mum's lips pressed tightly together but she nodded curtly. "They'll all be glad to see yer 'ome again." She said.
Dad gave us a theatrical bow and then turned and walked the opposite direction than the one Mum and I would take. Mum sighed heavily and I knew what she was thinking: about what she might be in for tonight. Seeing her resigned but unhappy face I decided now was not the time to ask her about the strange man. Instead I fell into step beside her and we made our way home.