'And if your Dad was 'ere today…'
Sylvia glared down at the pavement. Her Uncle Bill hadn't stopped ranting all the way home, and the worst of it was, she hadn't even done what he was going on about. She was annoyed at the simple injustice of it all, but there was something else that was unfair about it, that she couldn't really put her finger on just now.
'…and you're not going back to Catterick,' he continued, as they reached her mother's house. 'Not if that's the kind of behaviour you're picking up! I said this would 'appen, young girls off on their own with a load of men!'
'I got to go back,' she replied wearily. He knew that. This really wasn't what she needed right now.
As soon as they stepped through the door however, Hodges felt himself shoved into the umbrella stand by Sylvia's mother, who pulled her daughter into a hug that felt like she'd never let go.
'Oh Sylvia, what on Earth happened to you?' she cried. 'The Police have been here and everything – there could have been a raid on, or a prowler – do you remember a while back when women thought they were being followed along the Prom?'
'I'll tell you what happened to her!' Hodges jumped in. 'She was out all night with Mavis Pike's boy!'
Ada Hodges loosened her hold slightly. 'Sylvia?' she asked. 'Is that true?'
'Nothing happened, Mum,' Sylvia said, wanting nothing more than to be in bed and forget the whole thing.
'But you was gone all night! Even he must've worked it out in that time!' Hodges was working himself up again. She was not having his kid – she couldn't!
'It didn't,' Sylvia repeated, anger colouring her words now. 'We went to the Pictures in Eastgate, he said he was in charge of this car, so we took it, and on the way back it ran out of petrol. That's it!'
'So…you?' Ada was still confused.
'It took all night to get it home,' Sylvia said, flicking her eyes between the two of them. If Uncle Bill had listened to a word she'd been saying, he'd know that by now. 'And I just want to go to bed,' she finished, suddenly feeling quite tearful.
Ada took a good look at her daughter, and then looked over at her near apoplectic brother in law.
'Right. Sylvia, you go to bed. And Bill, you're going to go home, and let my girl get some sleep.'
Hodges wasn't a man to back down, but Ada had married his brother, and as such, was no pushover.
'But what about 'im?' he managed. 'He hasn't heard the last of this!'
'I daresay…' Ada replied, folding her arms. Never a good sign. '…but my Sylvia says nothing went on, and I believe her. Don't you think that's the sort of thing a mother would know?'
Hodges conceded the point, even if he still wasn't happy about it. As he left the house, both he and his sister in law hoped to God they were right. Ada turned away from the door and started to make her way upstairs. She had questions of her own, but they could wait. They both needed their sleep.
It was late in the afternoon before Sylvia woke up. As she remembered why she was there, she groaned and turned over. Oh yeah…the whole town probably thought she was no better than she should be, and there was absolutely no reason for them to…no reason at all…she reflected bitterly. And he didn't like her…certainly not now…She wrapped her arms around her pillow at that, and felt a stab of disappointment and hurt that had nothing to do with gossip about her reputation.
It was strange, Sylvia thought, that she'd noticed him. The boys on camp weren't like him – well, they could come up with some rubbish to impress the girls like he had…She smiled at that. She hadn't believed that Secret Service stuff for a minute, but it had been sweet that he was trying to get her attention. And it worked. Since she'd caught sight of him earlier, she'd been interested, and when she ran into him again, just so giddy any time she was near him. So she'd tried everything she could – Elsie and Jean said it worked for them – but it didn't. And then she'd said those things. She hadn't meant them, but she was tired and upset and not thinking straight, and wouldn't blame him if he never wanted to speak to her again.
Yeah…she could understand it, but that didn't mean she was happy about it, and couldn't stop the hot, angry tears any more as she remembered the details of what she'd done. He wouldn't speak to her again…and that hurt more than she wanted to admit. You couldn't fall for someone that quickly, could you?
There was a knock at her door then. Sylvia hurriedly dried her eyes, and sat up slowly, uncertain what was to come.
'Sylvia? Are you up, love?' It was her mother. 'I've got you a cup of tea.'
'Oh, thanks Mum,' she said, taking it gratefully.
Ada sat herself down on her daughter's bed, and was quiet for a moment as she sipped at her drink.
'There. I'll bet that's better,' smiled Ada. 'Now you've had your sleep.'
'Yeah…' Sylvia paused. 'Mum? What are people going to say about me?'
'Don't you worry about that,' Ada replied briskly. 'They don't have any reason to say such things.'
The unspoken question 'Have they?' hung in the air.
'No.' Sylvia answered it, her eyes meeting her mother's and then looking away. 'Mum?'
Ada looked up.
'He didn't even kiss me. I don't think he even really liked me.' Her admission was quiet, disappointed.
Inwardly, Ada breathed a sigh of relief.
'Well, that sounds like he's a decent boy to me then, brought up right. There's plenty who'd take what they could in that situation, and leave you high and dry,' she said, by way of comfort.
'I know.' Sylvia took another sip of her tea. 'But…he was nice…' There. She'd said it.
Ada nodded slowly. So that was what it was…
'I know. He got you home safe as best he could, and sounds to me like he was either being respectful or you got him in such a state he didn't know what to do with himself, or both.'
'You think he liked me?' It didn't seem possible now.
'Well, I think you ought to find out.'
'How? What if he doesn't want to talk to me? I wasn't…very nice, later on…'
Ada shifted position slightly. 'We all say things in the heat of the moment. Doesn't mean we mean them. Now, why don't I go and see him tomorrow, he works at the bank in the High Street, and let him know you'll meet him lunchtime?'
Sylvia smiled, and blushed. 'He'll say no.'
'Maybe, maybe not. If you don't ask, you don't get. The Marigold Tea Rooms is nice…oh, and wear your best dress, not that dreadful uniform, how they have women wear that I don't know, and we'll see…'