Excerpt: Dreaming of America: A Journey of Betrayal by Glenis Stott
Title: Dreaming of America: A Journey of Betrayal (based on a true story)
Author: Glenis Stott
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'Will you be seeing him again?'
'He's coming to collect my money next Tuesday.' Clara was trying not to think about it.
'And then will you be paid up?'
'No, I owe him five shillings. That's another ten weeks.'
'Do you want to keep seeing him for ten weeks?'
The overworked, unhappy Clara wanted to keep on seeing him for the next ten weeks, wanted to keep on seeing him forever, but the sensible, moral Clara knew that she shouldn't, that this thing should stop.
'Could you pay him up? Have you got the money? Or maybe ask Walter for an extra sixpence each week and pay him up in five weeks. Walter wouldn't mind, would he? You could tell him you were saving up for a family treat in the summer.'
'I can't ask Walter for the money, but maybe there's another way ...'
After dinner on the following Tuesday, Clara sent the girls down to Bertha's for the afternoon. She'd thought of keeping them there for 'protection' but didn't want them to see or hear anything.
As soon as they'd left the house she went up to her bedroom, moved the bed to one side and pulled up a loose floorboard to her secret hiding place. She took out a small bundle wrapped in one of her old aprons. She stood up and then sat down on the bed. She opened the bundle and looked at the coins inside; she didn't need to count it, she knew exactly how much there was. Ten shillings and sixpence; the emergency savings that no-one, not even Bertha, knew anything about.
Her heart beating loudly she counted out five shillings onto the bed. Then she wrapped the remaining money in the apron, put it back in its hiding place, replaced the floorboard and slid the bed back over.
She put the five shillings in her apron pocket and went back downstairs to do some darning until George, no, Mr Waddington, arrived. She picked up her darning basket and, choosing a pair of Walter's socks, began darning. Her stitches were uneven and too large but at least she was doing something she told herself. At one point she placed the sock back in the basket, went to lock both the front and back doors, hung the keys on their hooks and returned to her darning.
She was on the third sock, one of John's, when she heard the back gate open. Mr Waddington peered through the window, lifting his hand up to shade his eyes. It looked like a salute and Clara wondered if he'd been a military man. Then she realised she'd never know.
She pulled the key off the hook, went into the scullery and closed the door firmly behind her before unlocking and opening the back door. George, Mr Waddington, put one foot on the step as if to enter but she blocked his way.
'Good afternoon, Mr Waddington,' she said in a voice that had as much confidence as she could muster.
'Have I done something wrong, Clara? I came to the back door like you asked. We don't want Mrs Hacking gossiping, do we?'
Clara fished in her apron for the money. One sixpence rolled into the corner and she struggled to pick it out with her trembling fingers. When she had all the money together she took a deep breath and held it out towards him, keeping her hand as still as she could.
'I've got your money here, Mr Waddington. I think you'll find that's right. Five shillings for ten weeks' payments.'
'You don't need to pay me off like this. Let me come in and we'll talk about it.'
She bent out her elbows to block the doorway again and then moved the money back towards him.
'Five shillings for ten weeks' payments. Please don't call again.'
He didn't take the money off her. He tried to fix her eyes with his but she was looking over his shoulder to a damaged brick on the wall.
'Is it because of last week?'
'Five shillings. Here. Please take it.'
'It doesn't need to happen again.'
'It won't happen again because you won't be calling here again. Take it.'
He made no move to take the money. She opened her hand, the money scattered on the floor and she stepped back into the house, locking the door behind her. She rested her back on the door and felt the vibrations through her chest as he knocked, once, twice, three times calling out, 'Clara, Clara.'
She stood there until it went quiet, then went back into the kitchen and looked through the kitchen window. He was on his hands and knees picking up the scattered money. He looked so undignified, crawling about on the dirty floor.
Glenis live in St Annes, Lancashire with her husband and two black cats. She started writing in 1999 after her daughter died. At first, it helped her deal with the loss but, in time, she began to enjoy writing for its own sake. She has had a variety of jobs, ranging from Radiographer to Information and Advice Worker on a young person's helpline. Now she is retired. In theory, that means more time for writing but it has to be said that she spends a lot of time walking along the beach or drinking lattes in coffee shops with her husband.