4 – extract. Jessica naively, has fallen in love with a charismatic trawlerman and becomes pregnant.
‘We’re getting married,’ cried an excited Jessica.
Elsie disappeared, returning with a tray bearing three glasses of rum. ‘A toast to your good news,’ Elsie beamed. ‘Where will you live?’ she asked.
‘With Mam!’ exclaimed Rick. ‘Won’t she mind?’ Jessica asked, not sure if she wanted to start married life with her mother-in-law.
‘Mam’s the salt of the earth; she’ll welcome you with open arms.’
‘Then I have to meet her. She sounds lovely.’
The next day hurried arrangements were made for Jessica to meet Bertha Gallager and she’d made a special effort with her appearance. She applied a touch of powder and lipstick, teased out the curls of her freshly washed hair and wore a navy-blue dress with a white collar and tiny pearl buttons down the front of the bodice. Glancing in the mirror at her reflection, she hoped she’d created the right impression for her prospective mother-in-law to approve of her.
She smelt the Dutch courage on Rick’s breath as the taxi drew up outside Bertha’s house on Cambridge Street. Jessica cast her eyes over the neat-looking house in a row of identical ones. There were cream net curtains covering the lower part of the sash windows. With a jerk, the brown-painted front door opened and a woman wearing a floral crossover pinafore stood on the well-scrubbed step with arms akimbo and her thin lips set. She reminded Jessica of Claude and she shuddered.
Rick helped her out of the taxi and with his arm possessively around her shoulders, swaggered towards his mother. ‘Hello, Mam, got the kettle on?’
Jessica felt the woman’s cold, flint-grey eyes assessing her. ‘You best come in, the neighbours will have enough to gossip about,’ said the woman.
This wasn’t quite the welcome Jessica had anticipated, having in her mind a kind, caring woman. Perhaps it was the shock of hearing she was expecting a baby. Once in the kitchen, Bertha made a fuss of Rick and ignored Jessica. For once in her life, Jessica felt tongue-tied and wished she’d thought to bring flowers for Bertha.
As they sat round the table drinking tea, Jessica forced herself to speak and said, ‘It’s nice of you to let Rick and I live here after our wedding.’
Bertha gave her a cold stare and replied, ‘Where else would my son live?’
An icy-cold blast ran through Jessica’s body making her shiver.
Rick excused himself and went out to the lavatory in the backyard. Then Bertha pounced. ‘What the hell game are you playing? Trapping my son with a bairn. He doesn’t need a wife, he’s got me to look after him, and he can have a bit of other anytime with any girl. So why would he need you? You’re nowt but trouble. I bet yer a wrong’un. Why else would yer mother chuck you out? Money or not, I don’t want my Rick tied up with the likes of you.’ With that outburst, Bertha grabbed a cigarette from Rick’s packet, lit it and turned her back on Jessica.
Jessica opened her mouth, but no words came. She wished she smoked to help steady the growing uneasiness within her. Instead, she stared into her half-empty cup of tea. So it was common knowledge she’d left Glenlochy House.