As an antidote to last week’s sombre (although not depressive) article about funeral planning, this is more upbeat. It’s about my favourite (although I like them all) season: spring.
Whereas the summer and winter seasons are pretty much homogenous (here in Europe, anyway), with their beginnings and ends broadly similar, spring and autumn/fall, of course, are transitional. Autumn is a period of inexorable decline from the last warmth of summer down to cold, bleak winter.
But spring is the polar opposite: the optimistic, gradual shift from chilly winter days and dark nights and leafless skeletal trees through a hopeful progression of the first brave green shoots appearing, the sun-coloured joyous trumpets of daffodils at Easter and the bright carpets of May woodland bluebells, to the pageant of early summer gardens.
The mnemonics we use to remind ourselves which way to reset our clocks for summer and wintertime are well put: Spring Forward (the hope and anticipation of spring) and Fall Back (the decline into cold winter).
The question of just when spring (and the other seasons too) begins is debateable. Astronomy would have it that spring this year begins on 20 March, the vernal equinox, when lengths of day and night are equal, and ends on 21 June, the summer solstice, the longest day. But that seems counter-intuitive. 24 June is also called, illogically, Midsummer’s Day, when if you are an astronomer, it clearly isn’t. According to them, it’s only the beginning.
No; although there’s an obvious scientific logic to the astronomicaI convention, I prefer the (British, anyway) meteorological definitions of the seasons, which give summer as June, July and August, autumn/fall as September, October and November and winter as December, January and February. And therefore spring as March, April and May. That’s much more sensible. Apart from talking simply in terms of complete months, the typical temperatures more or less equate to the hot (sometimes, if you live in Britain), getting cooler, cold and getting warmer again connotations we have for the seasons in temperate zones.
Yes, spring is the optimistic season. The season not of ‘mellow fruitfulness’ but rebirth, recovery. New life. Bright spring flowers: daffodils, primroses, bluebells. Tiny lambs, mostly white, gambolling and springing in the fields. Birdsong in the morning and urgent nest-building. Fluffy blossom and fresh, new, lime-green leaves cloaking the trees. Increasingly warmer days and increasingly shorter nights.
Here in Britain these wonders (apart from the lambs) haven’t appeared yet. But they will. That’s the promise. That happy knowledge is the joy, the hope, of spring.
My short anthology of five seasonally-themed short stories, Another Spring, available from Amazon, has two spring stories. In one, Awakening, a young woman is awakened from a barren winter of several loveless years when one day a timid, would-be suitor walks into the flower shop where she works . In the other, hope for the future is kindled for an author after a winter of trauma.
And, nothing whatever to do with the above, here is chapter seven of my novel Secret Shame, which I’m serialising free on here. If you would like to begin reading at the beginning, please go back from here, to this. The first chapter appears at the end of the post.
There was no good time to tell Derek the news. Except that, obviously, it would have to be late at night when all the kids, including Stacey, were in bed. It would be just too cruel on the child to have her present when Derek first got to hear about it. Poor kid; things were bad enough for her now anyway, without feeling the lash of his tongue. Which would be merciless, so it would; she could just imagine. The child would be crucified.
Julie would never forget the look on Stacey’s face, that morning in the bathroom, when the test strip had shown, quite unambiguously, positive. Her face had crumpled; her eyes opened wide with horror and fear.
‘Oh no! No, no, no!’ she’d wailed. ‘Oh Mum! Worram I gonna do! Oh Christ! No!’
And her face had gone deathly pale. She’d looked on the point of fainting. Not that she, Julie, had felt very much better, in spite of more than half expecting the result.
Julie had led her back into her bedroom. She’d slumped down on the bed. Julie had joined her, her arms going around her, holding her tight, hand clasping her head as she sobbed. Julie had felt like doing the same.
She herself was beyond anger now. She’d said her piece; vented it all yesterday. There was no point in keeping on about it. All she felt now was a dull ache, almost like bereavement, except that really, of course, it was quite the opposite situation. But now she had to be practical. Deal with all the problems as they arose, as well as she could. And give her daughter all the support she could, too. Be strong for her. Forget about silly old-fashioned notions like shame. This was the twenty-first century and England, for goodness’ sake, not Sligo, Ireland, a generation ago.
They had stayed like that for ages, until Stacey had calmed herself. Then Emma and Darren had appeared, looking frightened too by all the commotion, wanting to know what was going on, and she’d had to reassure them that it was nothing, really; nothing to worry about. Just Stacey being a bit upset about something. She’d told them to go and start getting themselves ready for school. Finally she’d bestirred herself. This wouldn’t do. There were phone calls to make; white lies to tell. The other two to see off to school. Thankfully, Emma’s friend Katy’s mum always took them all: her two, Katy and Katy’s little sister Daisy (Stacey of course making her own way to the comprehensive school), in her own posh car, which was better than Derek’s. So that had been one thing less to think about, at least.
There had been no way that she could have gone to work either, with suddenly so much to think about; so many consequences to contemplate. And so many implications to confront. Not to mention so much simple raw worrying, like how Derek would react. But first things first. She’d cast around for a plausible-sounding sickie reason and come up with food poisoning. That was a good one; it could apply to both of them, and at nine o’ clock she’d rung both school and work to spread the lie.
And then, after a breakfast that neither really had the stomach for, the two of them had simply sat glumly side by side on the sofa, for much of the time each wrapped in their own disconsolate thoughts. But when Stacey had broken it now and then with frightened questions (the poor child must be terrified out of her wits), like about the act of childbirth, how much it would hurt, she’d been quick to reassure her that it was more a matter of being very hard work than anything else, like having severe constipation. And when Stacey had fretted that she just didn’t know how to look after a baby, hadn’t got a clue about it; again she’d been ready with the reassurance that it would be okay; she’d be there for her, with lots of support and love. She really needn’t worry on that score.
Stacey had also worried about her school career. She might as well forget about GCSEs now, she’d reflected, miserably; could give up any notions of getting a decent career. And it was true. It was such a waste of potential; Stacey was a bright and intelligent girl who could do well (which made it all the more difficult to understand why she’d done what she had). She, Julie, had had to secretly agree that Stacey had a point. A baby, and then a toddler, and then a small child and then a bigger one with its own educational needs, would certainly disrupt the remainder of her schooling and possibly further education, that was certain.
But again, and although she was on uncertain ground now, she’d had to find positive words. Well, you did hear of single mums doing home study, didn’t you? Like the Open University? Or even night school, for that matter. After all, Stacey would have no problems on the finding-a-babysitter front, obviously.
Or, for that matter, a babysitter whilst she completed her schooling, come to think of it. Although that would be a little more problematical, as she’d clearly have to give up her own work in that case. Which would be a bit of a blow, having not long since been able to return to it after the loosening of the ties of her own kids. But still, it would only be for a short period, probably. Yes, if you looked at it like that, it wasn’t such a major disaster. It would still have been better, far better, by the Saints, if the silly child hadn’t got herself into this mess, but it wasn’t the end of the world.
She’d done the maths. Eight-and-a-half months (say) from now, it would June next year. So Stacey would be well past her fifteenth birthday by then, anyway. Fifteen years and about four months. If you said it like that it didn’t sound quite so bad. And what about this Luke boy? What would his involvement be, if anything? He might be a few years older than Stacey and a man in the eyes of the law, but surely he was in no position to actually support a partner (‘wife’ would be out of the question) and child? Not that she, Julie, would really want that situation, anyway. No; Stacey would be far better off in the parental home, where she could be properly looked after, not cast to the wolves and an uncertain future with some not-very-responsible-sounding, it seemed, youth.
There would be a few practical issues, of course. She’d found herself going over them, feeling slightly ridiculous about it. But perhaps it was easier to wrap yourself in practicalities than get in a state about imagined problems. For one thing there’d not be enough bedrooms for everyone to have their own. The baby would need his or her own, of course, so there would have to be some rearrangement. Darren currently had the smallest bedroom and it, logically, would have to be the baby’s room. Stacey had the next-largest room after hers and Derek’s, and she and Emma would just have to share, with Darren taking Emma’s room. The girls would probably grumble about that, but there was no other realistic alternative. Yes, that would be alright.
And of course there’d be another aspect: there’d be the question of their reputation with the neighbours, not least Janet, Katy’s mum. No doubt there’d be a barely-concealed told-you-so smirk when she admitted the situation to her. She was quite like big sister Maeve in that respect: a little bit of a snob, living in the ‘executive’ part of the estate that bordered theirs, with her solicitor husband, and probably inclined to be judgemental, although (unlike Maeve) she’d probably be far too polite to say anything openly.
Indeed she wondered what Maeve would make of it all; Maeve with her own cosy, morally comfortable, middle-class existence with her Tony. Maeve was family and didn’t need to be polite, and certainly wouldn’t mince words. And what about Frank and Doreen, Derek’s mam and dad? They were as conservative as they came, always doting proudly on their getting-on-in-the world elder son. It had taken them quite a while to accept, after they’d gotten over the shame-by-association of his first marriage failing, that he’d wanted to marry a single (and never been married) mother, ten years ago. Well, they’d just have to like it or lump it, unfortunately. You couldn’t choose your in-laws, after all.
And then, for that matter, and obviously much more importantly, there was Derek himself to consider. He’d hit the roof; she had no doubt about that. Yes, it would certainly have to be a case of breaking it to him gently, and not with Stacey present. But how would he be after he’d calmed down and the altered future reality had sunk in? How would he feel about supporting his stepdaughter’s illegitimate child? Supposing, that was, that Luke couldn’t or wouldn’t take financial responsibility for the fruit of his actions? But surely he, Derek, would, wouldn’t he? How could he not? He was a good and decent man, sure he was.
She would have to take Stacey to the doctor’s very soon, to have the pregnancy absolutely confirmed and the wheels of pre-natal care set in motion. Perhaps there was just the faintest possibility that the test had shown a false positive, but she knew it was a slender hope, really. Those things were usually pretty reliable.
Julie pondered all this now, as she prepared the vegetables for dinner. At eight thirty-five Derek arrived home slightly earlier, for once. He didn’t look to be in a very good mood, not that he ever did the effusive ‘Honey I’m home!’ thing, beloved of American sitcoms, anyway. She would have to tread very gingerly when she told him.
After dinner, when they were on their own, she asked how his day had been. His reply was morose. ‘Not good, really. We’re definitely going to have to scale the enquiry down, by the look of things. We’re not really getting anywhere.’
‘But didn’t you say yesterday that you had a bit of a lead?’
He grinned ruefully. ‘Well, yeah, but only a really slender one. So someone tells us they’ve seen some bloke going in and out of the woman’s place a few times. Big deal! But that gives us nothing we can really get a handle on. We can’t arrest and question every bloke in Liverpool who’s dark, longish-haired, a bit above average height, average build and wears denims, Loov.’
‘Oh,’ Julie said, ‘No, I suppose not. That’s disappointing though, isn’t it?’
Derek sighed. ‘It’s bloody frustrating, that’s what it is. We really want to get this bugger, I’ll tell you!’
‘You don’t think it was a robbery gone wrong or something like that, perhaps?’
Derek looked at her as if she were a dimwit. ‘No, Jules! Of course not! Do you think we haven’t thought of that? We know what burglaries look like. Nothing seems to have been taken. The telly and everything was still there. Even her purse with money in it. Not that the poor woman seemed to have very much stuff anyway.’
‘Oh,’ Julie said, chastened. ‘Just asking. It was just a thought.’
He grinned. ‘Okay; sorry to snap. No, it doesn’t have the hallmarks of robbery at all.’
His smile evaporated. ‘It was clearly an uncontrolled attack, a rage, as if someone had simply lost it completely. I won’t tell you what was done; you’d have nightmares. It’s the worst case I’ve seen though.’
Julie shuddered. ‘No, don’t. Poor woman. To think she came over here trying to get away from stuff like that, and it still happened.’
‘Yeah.’ Derek thought about that. ‘Sadly though, there are some wicked, evil bastards around, wherever you go. Some blokes seem to have far too much testosterone, if that’s what it is that causes violence. Maybe there’s something to be said for chemical castration sometimes. But then we can’t do that. You’d get all the liberal bleeding-hearts lot whining about civil rights then. What about the rights of the victims, the women, though? That’s what I always say.’
Julie couldn’t help but agree. ‘Anyway,’ she said, mentally crossing everything and indicating the television, ‘are you watching this? Shall we have an early night?’
Derek looked at her, pleasantly surprised, if the inference of that remark was what he thought it was. ‘No, not really. Yes, fine.’
Julie lay waiting, tense as a coiled spring. Holy Mother; it’s the moment of truth now! She’d put her nightie on, not wishing to give Derek the wrong idea. It was going to be difficult enough without him thinking she was trying to soften the blow with preliminary sex. He had got the wrong idea though; back from the bathroom, smelling minty of toothpaste, he climbed in beside her, naked. She inhaled deeply, nervously; took his already-exploring hand in both of hers. ‘Derry, there’s something I’ve got to tell you. About our Stace.’
She felt his body stiffen immediately. ‘Oh? What’s that?’
She tried to summon the words, say them straight out, without preamble. Get it over with straight away. But they wouldn’t come.
‘Well? Come on then!’
There was an edge to the encouraging prod.
‘Well . . . she’s in a bit of trouble.’
‘What sort . . . bloody hell, Jules! What is it?’ The proposal to come to bed early clearly wasn’t for the purpose Derek had hoped. He was a little irritated.
Julie forced the reluctant words out, her voice barely above a whisper. ‘Okay. Here it is. She’s . . . pregnant.’
‘What!? What did you say?’ He wrenched his hand out of hers, violently.
Julie put an anxious hand to his lips. ‘Shush! Not so loud!’
The ice broken, the evil deed done, she ploughed on. ‘Yes; she told me she thought she might be on Sunday. I got a test kit yesterday and we tested this morning. It was positive.’
‘Oh, bloody HELL!’ Derek exploded again, trying but not succeeding to keep his voice down. ‘How the fuck can she be? What’s she been up to?’
‘Well it’s obvious what, Derry,’ Julie said tiredly. ‘When she told us she’s been seeing her friend Grace on Saturday afternoons, she’s actually been with some boy.’
‘The devious little bitch!’
‘Yes; that’s what I told her.’
‘Oh, CHRIST!’ Derek rolled away from Julie, onto his back, staring up at the artex-swirled ceiling.
‘Yes, it seems the boy is the brother of Grace’s boyfriend, or something.’
‘And how old is the kid; did she say?’
‘Nineteen, apparently. He’s got a car. That’s how they got the opportunity. You know; drive out into the country. Find somewhere nice and secluded . . .’
‘Nineteen? Jesus! It gets worse!’
‘Apart from anything else, it’s illegal. She’s way under age. He could be done for it. Nasty little bastard. He must have known her age!’
‘Julie sighed. ‘Well, not necessarily, Derry. You know how much older she looks when she’s dolled up and wearing makeup and everything.’
‘But he could have asked. Little cradle-snatching twat!’
‘Well I get the impression he was misled. She told him she was seventeen.’
‘Did she now? The little tart! And we thought we could trust her!’
‘Yes I know,’ Julie agreed, tiredly. ‘I just don’t know what got into her.’
‘Well I do,’ Derek muttered, still quietly seething. ‘I’ll chop the bloody thing off for him if I find him!’
‘Anyway, it’s done now,’ Julie said, ‘It’s happened. We have to make the best of things.’
But Derek didn’t want to leave it at that. He wanted someone to blame. ‘I just don’t get why she would do it, anyway. We’ve always tried to teach her to be responsible, haven’t we? I thought they did that in school too, nowadays. Teach relationships as well as sex.’
‘I really don’t know about what they do in English schools,’ Julie said, beginning to feel a little irritated too. ‘I do remember the nuns teaching us back in Ireland that sex before marriage was an absolute sin, which only made us all the keener to try it, of course. And I do know that my sex education as such was completely non-existent.’
‘Yes, well, things are different over here, I reckon. And you’ve talked to her about it, haven’t you?’
‘Yes, of course I have, Derek!’ I was so doing years ago, so I was!’
‘What; the actual mechanics of it?’
‘Well, no; not exactly. Not the actual act as such. But about how babies are created, and periods, obviously,’ Julie said, annoyed to find herself blushing.
A sullen silence fell, like a Mersey fog.
‘But anyway,’ Julie resumed, ‘I certainly did tell her to steer well clear of it, until she was old enough!’
‘Well it didn’t bloody work then, did it?’ Derek sneered. ‘And how old is “old enough”? And you just said yourself: when you were told not to, it made no difference!’
‘Yes, and that’s just my point, you eejit, isn’t it! Jesus!’
‘Well a parent talking it through, giving sensible guidance, ought to be better than some frustrated old nun getting all moral about it!’ Derek grumbled, unwilling to concede the point.
‘Oh, for crying out feckin’ loud, Derek! You’re the one who’s being moral! I haven’t noticed you having any heart-to-heart chats with Stacey! You ought to just try it –’
‘I have done! I think it’s better father-to-son and mother-to-daughter though, really. I have a long chat with Jack, about responsibility and treating girls properly. More than one, actually! And I reckon he’s got the message.’
‘Well good for you!’ Julie blazed, angry now. ‘That’ll be alright then. So no worries there! What’re you trying to say: that I can’t parent my daughter though? It’s alright for you, with your good-as-gold Jack. But Stacey’s always been wilful. You know that. I did try to tell her!’
‘She took no bloody notice, it seems, Derek said acidly. ‘Like daughter like mother, it looks like to me!’
‘And what the hell’s that supposed to mean?’
‘Well, you were an unmarried mother too, if you remember!’
Julie was close to tears; tears of outrage. ‘And you were a single dad too, sort of, when I met you! Don’t be a sanctimonious twat!’
Then the tears did come, hotly and angrily. Julie covered her face as Derek lay beside her separated by inches, separated by a mile, fuming.
Eventually Derek said, quietly, conciliatorily, ‘Ah, come on now Jules. Why are we fighting about this? Whatever the rights and wrongs, it’s happened. There’s no point in keep throwing “what ifs” around, is there? You’re right. We have to deal with it. Do the best thing for Stacey.’
Julie stopped crying. ‘Well, there’s just the possibility that she might not be pregnant, I suppose. Maybe it was a – what do you call it? – false positive, or something?’
‘Mm. Perhaps.’ Derek didn’t sound convinced though.
Julie said, ‘Well anyway, I’ll ring the doctor’s tomorrow and book an appointment. That should definitely tell us one way or the other.’
‘Yes, good idea,’ Derek agreed. Perhaps we shouldn’t look too much on the black side just yet.’
‘Right, I’ll do that.’
‘Anyway,’ Derek said, as if the thought had only just occurred. ‘How is Stacey? Very upset?’
‘Well what do you think? Of course she is! The poor kid’s been out of her mind with worry. She’s eleven – no, thirteen days now – late with her period. She knows what that often means, if nothing else. And she’s terrified of what you’ll say.’
‘Yeah. Poor Stace.’ Derek had rediscovered sympathy. ‘I’ll go easy with her. You say you did the test this morning? She didn’t go to school, after getting that positive result, did she?’
Julie smiled mirthlessly. ‘No, I phoned in to say she had food poisoning. That’ll be good for two or three days. In fact, I’ve got it, officially, too. I couldn’t face going in this morning either.’
‘Mm, don’t blame you, Derek said. ‘I wouldn’t have been able to concentrate either, if I’d known.’
Back from the doctor’s, two days later, Julie’s mood was still leaden. She’d run out of words of consolation or reassurance or optimism for Stacey. The doctor had been kind enough, gently confirming after examination and further testing that Stacey was indeed (as she knew she would be) pregnant. And the doctor had been carefully non-judgemental – no doubt she saw it frequently: young girls who were still only children parading the familiar tell-tale signs, their lives soon to be at best circumscribed by premature and single parenthood and all too often ruined at worst. Unless, of course, there were medical intervention.
But it had been humiliating, all the same. There was the unmissable (or so it felt) accusatory look in the doctor’s eyes, after Stacey had got dressed and the two of them had sat before her, like misbehaving schoolchildren, being taken through the familiar schedule of pre-natal care. And the unspoken accusation directed at herself: why did you allow your child to get into this so-easily avoidable situation? Which the NHS and the Welfare State will now have to pick up the tab for? What sort of irresponsible parent are you? It was made worse by the fact that she and Stacey were not in the lowest socio-economic group, or whatever it was called; were not typical – and very obviously not benefits claimants. They were respectable, middle class people (with Derek in the police, for Heaven’s sake) in a stable, married, nuclear family situation. She really hadn’t got the excuse of societal deprivation or disadvantage. This sort of thing wasn’t supposed to happen to people like them.
So now, with the diagnosis confirmed, there really could be no denial of Stacey’s situation. It was absolutely real, not some kind of bad dream. It would just have to be faced.
Derek was home even earlier that evening, saying that with the enquiry running out of steam, there was really not a lot of point in doing very much more overtime. But she suspected it wasn’t just that. He knew that today was doctor’s-day. He would be as anxious to know the result as her. He walked in before she’d begun to prepare dinner, as she was settling to half-heartedly watch Coronation Street. Stacey sprang to her feet, scurrying up to her room. She’d been avoiding him since he’d been told of her condition two evenings ago, as she’d lain in bed listening to the raised, angry voices from their bedroom, expecting him to burst in on her, furious, at any moment.
His eyes met hers immediately. ‘Well?’
She couldn’t hold his stare. ‘Bad news. She really is. I’m sorry.’
Why am I apologising? She thought. But then it is my fault, I suppose. The guilt, the shame, is mine. It began with me.
Derek’s shoulders slumped. ‘Oh, shit. Oh bloody hell.’ He seemed to have run out of anger. The words were dull, weary, resigned.
Julie said, trying to put on a brave face, ‘Well never mind, Love. We’ll get through this. All of us. It’ll be alright.’
He seemed not to hear her. ‘We’ll talk about it later, okay? I’m starving. What’s for dinner?’
Julie lay in bed waiting again. Derek joined her, wearing his pyjamas. Obviously, lovemaking was out of the question. They could have discussed things downstairs, but oddly, they both seemed to find it easier in bed, in the dark, as if the setting for greatest physical intimacy were the appropriate one for difficult discussion too. She clicked off her bedside lamp and he did the same with his. He didn’t reach to touch her. Now it was her turn for the opening question. ‘Well, so where do we go from here?’
He sighed; a long, sad sigh. ‘Well, she can’t keep it, obviously, can she?’
An icy fist gripped Julie’s chest again, painfully. ‘What do you mean? What if she wants to? We can’t give the baby away if she wants to keep it!’
Derek sighed again, in that irritating, patronising way he sometimes had. ‘That wasn’t what I meant, Jules,’ he said quietly.
‘Then what do you mean?’ But Julie knew. Knew very well.
‘You don’t mean . . . ?
‘Yes. Abortion. It’s the only sensible option really, isn’t it?’
Julie’s heart began to race. ‘No! No, Derek! No it isn’t!’
‘Oh come on now, Julie, be reasonable! She’s only a kid. She doesn’t want to have a pregnancy even, never mind giving a baby for adoption. It’s much better this way!’
‘No it isn’t!’ Julie flared. ‘And anyway; what about what she wants? She may be still a child, but it’s what she wants in the end! It’s her baby!’
‘No, Jules, it isn’t.’ Derek was really getting annoying now, with his calm logic. They’d been through this argument before, more than once, but then it had only been theoretical. Not a real-life, personal issue, like this.
He continued, ‘No, it isn’t a baby, not yet. Potentially it’d become a child, yes, but it’s not at the moment. It’s just a number of cells.’
‘But you just said; it’ll become one! And what if Stace does want to keep it?’
‘Has she said she does?’
‘Well, no, not exactly,’ Julie admitted. She’s quite alarmed by it all, at the moment. Doesn’t think she’ll be able to cope. But I’ll help her!’
‘Ah, I see. So this is more about what you want to happen then, really, is it? Or what your church says should happen. Sanctity of life, at all costs, and all that!’
‘Don’t sneer, Derek.’ Julie spat the words. ‘It’s what I was brought up to believe. My faith is my business, not yours!’
She fumed, silently.
Then she said: ‘And anyway, I’m not saying that foetuses should always be allowed to go to term. Of course there are exceptions. Like if it was severely disabled and would have a really poor quality of life. Or if it were the result of rape. Of course not.’
‘Well that’s my point, really,’ Derek said. ‘It might have virtually been rape with Stacey, or grooming, the nasty little tow-rag. Or coercion, at any rate. I doubt whether it was really mutual, somehow. He probably took advantage of her. Well, he certainly took advantage of her age, even if he does claim she said she was older than she is. She might look older but she certainly doesn’t act it, does she?’
‘No,’ Julie had to admit, with a sinking feeling that she was losing the argument.
‘Quite. And think how disruptive having a child so young would be for Stacey. It’ll completely fuck up her education, for a start. She’s a bright kid. She could make something of herself. She doesn’t want a kid of her own hanging round her neck, dragging her down.’
Derek’s self-assured certainty was riling Julie. ‘There’s another angle you’re forgetting, Derek.’
‘And what’s that?’
‘This Luke. We haven’t met him. He might be a nice lad, for all we know. He might want to keep the baby. It’s his too, after all. He should have some say in things.’
Derek snorted. ‘Oh yes? Really? You’re seriously suggesting our fourteen – well, fifteen-year-old daughter by the time she had the kid, should shack up with a spotty-faced nineteen-year-old? Come on, Julie! I doubt whether the little bastard would want it anyway. He’s dipped his wick and now he just wants to walk away from all responsibility.’
He paused; continued. ‘And besides, how the hell could he afford to support a partner and child. What does he do, if anything, do you know?’
‘I think Stacey said he was an apprentice bricklayer, or something.’
‘Quite! Derek repeated. ‘There you are then. He couldn’t support them, could he? They’d be living on sodding benefit!’
‘And another thing.’ Derek was in full rant now. Quite apart from having a kid, Stacey’s far too young to be having a proper relationship. Let alone getting married, God forbid. She shouldn’t be doing that until eighteen, at the very earliest. And I’d have doubts even about that. It just wouldn’t work.’
‘Well, they might want to wait a few years and get married when Stacey’s old enough,’ Julie offered.
‘Oh, for Christ’s sake Julie; get real!’ Derek was getting angry again. ‘Which century are you living in? Kids nowadays just don’t do that anymore. They live in the present; want everything now. Bloody hell, I reckon I got married too young at twenty-two, never mind eighteen. Well yes; obviously I did, as it turned out.’
‘But even so, I still say Stacey should make her own mind up about whether she wants to keep the baby,’ Julie insisted, stubbornly.
‘Yes, and you just told me she didn’t want to keep it, for crying out loud!’ Derek seethed. ‘You can’t have it both ways! I still maintain this is the best thing, everything considered.’
‘Okay; you’re going to get your own way then, I can see,’ Julie said, disconsolately.
‘Well I’m sure you’ll come to see it’s in Stacey’s best interests too, Loov.’ Derek put his hand on her shoulder. She shook it angrily away.
He continued, ‘So will you make an appointment at the birth control place tomorrow then?’
Julie sighed and turned her back on him. ‘Yeah, I suppose so.’