Eileen McHugh - a life remade

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Eileen’s father, Thomas at the font and Tom thereafter, was at least on the surface a very steady sort. His own father died in the final months of the First World War, not long after Tom’s birth. His mother never remarried, a conservative Irish Catholic heritage demanding she devote the rest of her life to her husband’s memory. Tom often said he never knew his parents. Obviously he never even met his father, but though his mother lived until after he left school, his memory was of a woman who said little, hardly ever ventured out of the house, did most of her shopping from the vans that made weekly visits to the estate and had no social life he could remember, though she talked regularly with other women, always women, who visited the house to collect their mending.

She and her husband had come to the north of England for work and the war had severed what contacts remained with the old country, as well as ending their marriage. She worked around the house, cleaned, sewed a lot, but not creatively. She knitted Tom’s cardigans, pullovers and socks, made his trousers and shirts and darned, endlessly darned in silence. She recycled the material of every garment until the fibres were turning to crystal. Tom used to say that while other children played, he unpicked and rewound wool, sorted it into colours and readied it for his mother’s next job. She made a living mending clothes, knitting and making to order and doing laundry in a big boiler over a bottled gas burner they kept in the cellar. She died when Tom was twenty just after he had started seeing Marion, who met her just once, mere weeks before she died, already elderly in her fifties.

Neither Marion nor Tom really knew what problem might have been, Marion because she was new to the family, Tom because men were not supposed to ask about such things of their mothers. But, on that Sunday when Marion visited to take a special tea she had to bring, having prepared it herself from things she had brought from work, they had arrived just as the McHugh’s neighbour arrived home from church. The middle-aged woman looked apologetically at Marion, lifted her right hand to catch Marion’s eye and then pointed emphatically at her own lower abdomen before wagging a clear, frowned, silent “No”. Marion did go to the funeral, but there was no-one else but her and Tom, a priest and the undertakers.

By then Tom was already clerking for the insurance company that would employ him as a salesman after the war. One thing his mother did accomplish for her son, besides his mending, was his education. He could read and write proficiently before his school teachers addressed the issue and, though he would not aspire to public examination via grammar school, his ability with pen, ink and pencil was obvious to the elderly gent in the three-piece suit with gold watch chain who set the assignment to weed out ineligibles from the plethora who had replied to the advert. His mother had schooled him in arithmetic as well, at least enough to take money and give change, so he was utterly suited to his chosen role of trainee bookkeeper. And so, from fifteen onwards, at a time when millions struggled to find work, his employment was steady and dependable, though hardly lucrative.

Tom and Marion had met at the bus stop soon after Marion had started work in town. At the time, they both worked near the centre and they both needed to start by nine. The obvious bus was the one just before half past eight that terminated at the bus station, from where they could walk, he to Westgate and she to Cross Street, near the junction between Wood Street and Marygate. The detour that allowed Tom to accompany Marion to the shop’s door was minimal and, after a month or two of nodding hello and another of sitting side-by-side upstairs on the bus, if there was a seat, he elected as routine to escort her to the door in the mornings and waited there for her to finish in the evenings to repeat the morning trip in reverse. They were both steady types.

Tom asked Marion if she would marry him and she advised him to ask her parents. Her father’s rhyming reply was memorable. “Ee luv, it’s up to thee, not me,” he had said, or words to that effect. She said, “Yes.” Agreement remained a principle without fixed date for a while, since both Tom and Marion thought that Marion’s achieving twenty-one might keep things respectable. And then war broke out and Tom joined up. He did see active service, but spent most of the war in communications work, administering and generally pushing paper. It was an experience, however, of which he would never speak. He was normally a man of few words, but on the subject of his wartime experience he remained perennially silent.

They were married in 1944, a year before Tom was demobbed. And that, I’m afraid is just about as much as I know about Tom’s early life. I can record for definite that he was devastated by Marion’s first miscarriage in 1947 and took a couple of years to recover psychologically. He was overjoyed when Eileen came along in 1952 but was strangely stoical during the illness that Marion suffered after the second miscarriage. It could be argued that she recovered but he did not, that the laconic distance he placed between himself an experience was retained.

A consequence of the depth of his loss, however, was the growing tendency he demonstrated to accede to Eileen’s every wish. Though he never showered her with either money or gifts, he always sided with his daughter whenever any disagreement arose between her and her mother. Marion felt this deeply but matters never became serious because disagreements in the McHugh household were never allowed to be anything other than minor. It may be assumed, however, that Tom was the prime mover in insisting Eileen should take a place in a private school rather than a secondary modern. It seems that he could not cope with even the suggestion that she was not ‘something special’. Which is why, when he had to admit that she was really special, Tom’s image of his daughter did not merely chip but shattered into unremakeable shards.

Tom was not a bigot and he was not religious, having lost his own habit of church-going when his mother effectively lost her faith. He was, however, intensely moral, correct and respectable and regarded the concept of fairness as a rod to straighten his spine, a rod that would divine right from wrong with complete, confident certainty. He was also a racist. It had been his decision, not Marion’s, that the family should move away from Agbrigg when the character of the area changed. If you were out at work all day, you couldn’t be sure your family was safe when the area was full of people with dark skins, who spoke languages that sounded like they were perpetually arguing. It was the last straw when one of them took over the running of their corner shop.

He had already been selling insurance for several years to the posh end of Wakefield, a suburb called Sandal on the south side of the city, a suburb with a castle left in ruins by the Civil War, a rugby union club and large, comfortable houses. One of his customers there was a local builder whose fortunes were on the up by the end of the fifties. It was a time when construction projects could still be local and specific. There was a copy of a document from the Land Registry on the kitchen table when Tom called by to collect a premium of a long-standing life assurance policy for the live-in mother-in-law. An hour later Tom had all but paid the deposit on their plot on Weavers Rise. Finance still had to be sorted, but he was sure that would be a formality, since his insurance company had a preferential mortgage scheme for employees. It would be a struggle, but they could cope. And so they moved, Eileen went to her new school and Tom was gratified that he had sorted things out.

Which is why, those years later, Tom’s words, “Get out and don’t ever fucking well come back” chased her with such confusion as she strode, crying, past the family car in the drive of that same house.

Tom was not the type to express himself, usually favouring the words of others above his own thoughts. In fact, there were many of these, but he seemed consciously determined to keep them hidden behind a high impenetrable wall made of thin phrases which, though miniscule in themselves bonded to a rigid, crystalline lattice that described his mind. He was an avid watcher of the news on television, always arriving home a few minutes before six o’clock to catch the BBC, as he put it. He would watch again at nine, eagerly reabsorbing essentially the same stories he had heard three hours earlier, issuing an occasional “Well said,” or “That’s right,” interspersed with an occasional “I don’t believe it,” punctuated by little grunted comments and finger wags. He had already heard most of the content that morning in the eight o’clock news on the Home Service before starting out for work at ten past. He was no slave to his clock, but he was reassured by the normality of doing the same things each day at the same times.

He was always well turned out in a three-piece suit and sturdy, black, toe-capped shoes he shined himself each night before going to bed at ten. He would read a newspaper for half an hour after tea, usually preferring the evening paper printed in Leeds he brought home from work to any national rag. A special hour was set aside each Saturday morning when, after visiting the vegetable market in Wakefield soon after nine, he used habitually to settle down with a mug of instant coffee made entirely with milk to read the weekly local, the Wakefield Express, concentrating on reports from the parish councils, the columns that detailed events in each nearby village and then he absorbed the detail of births, marriages and deaths. He knew a lot of people in the area, since he had customers throughout the town and its surrounding villages, save for Horbury, which was covered from the Dewsbury office. Unlike his hours at home, when doing business, he tended towards the prolix and voluminous, always apparently infinitely interested in any local gossip his clients might want to share. When doing business, he practised the art of perpetual agreement, where the customer could never be wrong. He would often compensate for this strain when he got home.

Marion still worked on Saturdays and, by virtue of his privilege of having a car, he carried on the well-established routine of running her to work before nine and picking her up at five-thirty, the strict no-parking rules that extended during the decade to cover all of the city centre streets always ignored for the five minutes or so he would need to wait there, according to their well-rehearsed routine. When the McHughs had lived at Agbrigg, they were proud to be like the rest of the people there. And then, gradually, they sensed difference, a change that prompted them to become mortgage owners in Crofton. In their new house on the Ashdene Estate, they felt they had reclaimed their sense of privilege and restored their faith that normality could be preserved.

In their Agbrigg terrace, they had no garden so, when the prospect of twenty square yards both back and front became a reality, he rose to the challenge with an enthusiasm he would never lose. Sunday was gardening day, though in summer he would supplement the weekend with an occasional hour between seven and eight in the evening. He would often work through light rain, protecting himself with a shoulder to floor Pac a Mac, but if the weather intervened prohibitively, he displayed no personal reserves of patience and would spend much of such days ruefully gazing out of the lounge window over a newspaper, muttering, “It’s still coming down. Isn’t it?”

Tom had no interest in sport, except when his clients wanted to discuss it, and would often use the quiet of Saturday afternoons, when he would have the dining room table to himself, to “Set his stall out”, unbuckle his briefcase and complete his paperwork for the previous week’s payments, before double-checking his timetable for visits in the coming week. He was lucky his daughter was so self-contained, with her homework, her television and her friends. The music did become a problem after a while, but at least you could turn a radio down.

But the sixties were years of radical transformation for lives of even the socially conservative, such as Tom McHugh. If the fifties had witnessed graduation from bicycle clips to a Standard Eight, then ten years later he was already the proud owner of a Riley Elf, under two years old, two-tone. It might have been a small car, but then there were only the three of them and the mildly exclusive brand name fit well with the acquired status of home ownership. But we must remember that by the end of that decade, Tom was already fifty-two years old, and the thirty years difference in their ages was a veritable gulf that neither father nor daughter were capable of bridging, especially at a time when change was generally perceived as both rapid and welcome.

We can only speculate at the relationship Tom had with his daughter. We do know he was in the habit of letting her have her own way, of siding with her if disputes arose. But it is also clear that Tom, Marion and Eileen rarely discussed anything other than the basic commonplace of daily life. The parents rarely looked at Eileen’s schoolwork, believing, falsely on both counts, that they were not qualified to do so and that having paid for a service then quality would look after itself. They had both become resigned to Eileen’s non-academic status and, as she reached puberty, introduced the idea that her future might involve “Meeting someone nice and settling down.” As secondary school years came and went, Eileen’s increasing interest in art was hardly even noticed by either parent since, “After all, you can’t live off art, can you? It’ll pass.”

Slowly, however, as Eileen approached school-leaving age, she did raise the idea of going to art college. Marion thought there might be a place for her daughter in the shop and Tom was sure there would be opportunities for “Bright, young things,” in his own company as a trainee, probably secretarial work. Eileen would have to learn to type and do shorthand, of course. Helen Wallace did once visit her pupil’s home, which was up the hill, only minutes away from Browns School to discuss Eileen’s preference with her parents. Eileen had been insistent she could help in the process of introducing such foreign ideas into her parents’ consciousness. The tactic worked, because Marion and especially Tom had been so impressed with the demeanour, appearance and, most important of all, accent of this middle-class art teacher that they were persuaded, in a single evening over a cup of tea, to support Eileen in whatever she decided, at least Tom did and then Marion agreed. It was the Colbrookes, Martin’s parents, who recalled Marion’s much later description of the encounter.

“Marion and Tom knew that Eileen was not much of an academic. Let me rephrase that. She was in a school where her parents were paying to achieve a status they could not attain by other means. Kids in that school were not going to get A-levels and go to university. Most of them got an O-level or two at best, and the parents had to pay all the exam fees on top of what the school was charging. The only route back into state education was to get a transfer to the grammar school. Now that was not impossible. But in the nearly twenty years I was caretaker there, I heard of only a handful of students, maybe five or six, who made that move. And Eileen was not going to be one of them.

“Like most of the parents of Browns students, Tom and Marion had accepted that years before at eleven-plus time. What they, and most of the others did not recognise, was what the consequences might be. Many of the kids had parents who were in business of some kind, so a lot of them were destined to work alongside a father or mother. But this was not the case for the McHughs. They simply reverted to type, which was the most common response, in that they separately envisaged Eileen reliving their own lives.

“Marion was convinced that Eileen would work in a shop. Tom thought she would work in insurance. They thought they could pull strings. But, when push came to shove, they had no idea. We could see, however, that they privately but very obviously saw marriage to our Martin as the ultimate goal. It was the perfect way out, because it made the problem go away by ignoring it. Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t a problem. We were supportive as well. Whatever those young people wanted, we would all have backed them.

“Our Martin was a studious sort. I don’t know where he got it from, because neither of us was any good at school. But he had it in his head from around eight years old that he wanted to be a doctor. And the idea simply got stronger. I think it must have been that - what’s his name - Chamberlain, Richard Chamberlain on the tele, Doctor Kildare. It’s one of those programmes we never missed. Along with Popeye. Good job Martin didn’t become a sailor! Doctor Kildare was successful, neat, clean, respectable. I can remember how we used to say to Martin that if he grew up like that then we would have no complaints. Get yourself qualified was our message. Pass your exams, get some letters behind your name, get yourself a job like that, a profession, where people respect you, and pay you a proper wage.

“We never pushed him. We didn’t have to. We used to buy that magazine every week, Knowledge, it was called. In those days, a set of encyclopaedias could cost a year’s pay. This Knowledge built up into an encyclopaedia if you kept them. They used to sell a binder each year, a big arch file where you could keep them. Martin had about five years’ worth and he used to read them cover to cover. There wasn’t a subject he didn’t know. He was full of facts. He read all the time, and he seemed to remember everything he read, which is something I have never been able to do. Which is why, obviously, why I - we - always had to move from one job to another as chances arose. I was never qualified to be a school caretaker, but I became one. I’ve mucked out pigs, humped sacks of coal on a delivery wagon. But as soon as that job at Browns School was ours, I knew that I’d do everything in my power to keep it.

“It was the house, you see. It came with the house. We had to pay rent, of course, but I could make a few bob on the side as well. We did all the cleaning, so I saved money on the school’s budget and the owner turned a blind eye. It saved him a lot of money, because he didn’t pay stamps for people he didn’t need. It meant that my missus didn’t have her own old age pension, but she had years of cash in hand, cash that meant I could save from my pay, money that eventually bought this house for us in Ashdene.

“Martin knew our lives were precarious. He knew we had never got any money. But Martin’s way of making sure he did not end up like us was to study. When other parents were forking out for record players, bikes, new clothes and holidays, all he ever wanted was books., and you could get them for free from the library up in Crofton village. We bought him a stethoscope and a thermometer for Christmas when other kids were having football boots, kites, pogo sticks and the like. They were toys, but they worked. And by the time he had done a year or two at grammar school, there was no stopping him. He was an adult by the time he was thirteen, sensible, straight, focused. Eileen was different.

“Don’t get me wrong, because she was a lovely girl, bright, full of energy. She was a bit of a tomboy, I remember. They used to call her Nazrat, for some reason. But she soon grew out of that phase. She was never a tearaway. She was never a problem, at least in those days. But she was, let’s say, unpredictable. She would take something up and do it to death, and then a week later she had forgotten it and taken up something else.

“Martin took up with her and it seemed like it would last. They seemed very happy together. Eileen was the flighty one and he was the quiet, steady side. And the two of them, as a couple, seemed to gel. They complemented rather than conflicted. As a result, we got to know Marion and Tom quite well. We would meet one another on occasions, usually when Martin and Eileen were around as well, but when they weren’t there, we would always end up talking about them. Apart from small talk, it was the kids that always preoccupied us. But one thing we did talk about, I distinctly remember, was the visit that Helen Wallace made to their house.

“Now I worked in that school over those years and all I can say about her as a person is that I could never quite weigh her up. She was different. She didn’t belong with the likes of us. She was very middle-class. She had a big house in Pontefract and always dressed expensively. Now I wouldn’t notice names and labels on clothes, at least I wouldn’t have then, but my wife always does and it wasn’t a daily event, but it was at least weekly when my wife would come to my office at the school’s main entrance and say, ‘Have you seen what that Miss Wallace has on today? It’s a something-or-other two piece.’ As I say, I can’t remember the names and these days I think my wife can’t either. But you will get the flavour of what I mean. Miss Wallace used to strut up and down the corridors as if she owned the place.

“She taught art and that was Eileen’s favourite subject. While she was in the school, there was always something of Eileen’s on display, because it was Miss Wallace who was responsible for all the displays around school and she clearly regarded Eileen as a potential star. Now I don’t know much about art, but I do know what I like, and personally I had no idea what it was she saw in any of it. But then, as I said, I don’t know about such things.

“It was Miss Wallace who wanted Eileen to go to art college. Without her, I doubt the McHughs, even Eileen herself, would have considered it. Of course, neither Tom nor Marion had any idea about art, art college or anything else in that field. So Miss Wallace went to visit them, just to explain what was involved, where Eileen might go, what qualifications she might need and what she would finish up with at the end. Our Martin wasn’t there that night, of course, but he did get to hear what happened from all three of them, from Eileen, from Marion and especially from Tom.

“Now I can honestly say I am doing nobody an injustice by saying this. You would never have thought it, but Tom was a bit of a ladies’ man. After all, he’d spent years going round to those houses in the middle of the day collecting his insurance premiums and, I reckon, in some of those houses he was inserting more than new entries in passbooks, if you see what I mean. Marion never had the slightest inkling, and I can be sure that neither did Eileen. But I could tell. It was the passing comments he made on the rare occasions we were together. It wasn’t often, I can tell you. But we did go to an occasional football game or rugby match. “Bit of all right over there,” he’d say to the side with a nod towards a seat a couple of rows away in the stand.

“But after this Miss Wallace visit to the McHughs, some months after, I remember Martin came home one night saying that Tom had been talking to him while he had been hosing down their garden in Weavers Rise. It must have been in the summer. Why would Martin have said anything to me? The answer was that he was a very bright lad. He would forget nothing, and a memory of a conversation I had with his mother from weeks before had lodged in his memory.

“Tom was mowing the lawn and Martin had the hosepipe on the hydrangeas. Tom had just finished and was taking the clippings to the compost when Martin said, ‘Your flowers are very good this year, Mr McHugh. How do you get your hydrangeas to go blue?’

“Tom answered his question. Then they talked more about the garden and the colours and they started talking about how Eileen ought to paint what she could see, rather than making up her art from her imagination. They talked about Eileen, O-levels, which were probably a non-starter, and then Tom had asked Martin what he thought about art college. He really did value Martin’s opinion. It was Martin who mentioned Miss Wallace’s opinion of Eileen’s work and suddenly Tom had started talking about Miss Wallace, saying she was ’something of a stunner’, ‘a real floozie’ and the like. He had certainly been impressed. Then he added, without pause that ‘she was worth a bunch of flowers.’

“Now our Martin put two and two together and made about six. It was a few months after the visit to their house, and Tom was obviously still besotted with her.

“During the third term that year, so it must have been the summer, Miss Wallace became convinced someone was stalking her. She became completely paranoid. She lived in a big house and had invited students there at weekends to do extra classes. Personally, I think that was a mistake, but it was her decision and her own time. There was an investigation in school. A number of the senior boys were interviewed by the headmaster to see if they knew anything. One particular boy had been passed by Helen Wallace in the corridor. He had turned round and followed her, making lewd gestures behind her back to make his mates laugh. A teacher, who knew what was going on, saw him and hauled him in front of the head. The lad’s parents kicked up a real fuss, saying he was being falsely accused and took him out of the school. There was a particular teacher who was suspended as well. It flared up again after holiday. The accused teacher was suspended again, went to court, and won.

“Unfortunately, I hadn’t put two and two together. I poo-pooed what Martin said those weeks earlier during the summer break, thinking it might have been coincidence. But when it carried on into that next term, I knew it was Tom.

“You see, Miss Wallace generally stayed late, often with Eileen, doing their art. Eileen would always be home by six. But Miss Wallace would spend half an hour or so clearing up, so it was usually around quarter past by the time she got down to the car park. She often had to ask me to re-open the gates at the main entrance to let her out, because I closed them at six, on the dot. So I nearly always saw the evidence. It wasn’t every day, but someone was leaving a bunch of flowers on the bonnet of her car. Once or twice, you laugh and chuck them away. But if it goes on for weeks and then months, then it’s different. Also, however, there were notes saying things like, ‘I’ll call you’ or ‘Heard your voice last night’ or, more seriously, ‘Just say call round and give me one.’ I saw them all. She showed me to make sure she would be believed. At that time, there was nobody else around but me.

“It could have been Tom, arriving home from work a few minutes early and stopping off at the school. Nobody drove in through the main entrance, of that I am sure. I knew the McHugh’s car and it was never in the school grounds. But there was a footpath by the beck that ran between the school and the estate. The boundary fence was always just a line of posts, because the school never had money for that kind of thing. The beck was no more than a trickle and a grown man could just step over it. From where he could have parked to the staff car park was probably only twenty yards. He could be in and out in under half a minute. And if seen by anyone, he could always have said he was picking up Eileen, on the way up the hill. That was the ‘how’, but it’s no more than a theory.

“On the other hand, the ‘what’ was completely real. She was also getting anonymous calls at home. The phone would ring and there would be silence at the other end, or sometimes heavy breathing. The staff were briefed about what was happening. We were told that Miss Wallace had changed her number and gone ex-directory. We assumed that would solve the problem, but the calls continued as before. And the flowers kept arriving. Her number was now only known to those people to whom she had specifically given it and, of course, Eileen was one of them, because she still needed to ring to arrange her visits to Pontefract. I’m afraid, looking back, Martin’s two plus two did make six. But I said nothing to anyone, until today.

“The problem eventually did just go away. When Eileen left school, the calls continued for a while and then Miss Wallace changed her number again and everything stopped. But not before it had an enormous effect on her. She got ill, took time off, lost weight. And we know what happened.

“And it was a hard time over at the McHughs as well. Eileen and Martin fell out, Eileen started going off the rails. Then, a couple of years later, after Eileen had gone to London, Tom got his cancer diagnosis, lung cancer he had. A couple of years later they had the bust up with Eileen and then, when Eileen had her accident, I think it was the last straw for Marion.”

“We kept in contact for years after that, as you know, but she was never the same again. It was very sad.”

We know that the Colbrookes supported Marion throughout those years, right up to her admission to the care home. Marion never learned to drive, so it had been the Colbrookes who took her to Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield to visit Tom. It was they who helped to nurse him at home in those few weeks before he died at the end of the seventies. And it was the Colbrookes who helped to clear Marion’s home, who carefully sifted through her possessions to find anything and everything she had kept that might relate to Eileen, her lost daughter, and created that mixed collection of papers, letters, books and objects that the home lodged in Marion’s name, the same box I later inherited.

The link connecting Tom McHugh with Helen Wallace is published here for the first time. The Colbrookes told me they had never mentioned this theory to anyone, their motive always being to protect Marion from further pressure. With her death, however, there seemed to be no need to guard the secret. They did answer my specific question.

“She died of starvation. She stopped eating. We could see it at the time. She lost weight. She looked ill. She took time off school and didn’t visit. All the head received were doctor’s notes saying that her weight loss was under investigation and that she was on a course of medication that made it impossible for her to work. She was on tranquilisers, or something for depression. There was a rumour that it might be schizophrenia, lithium. But when the school eventually closed, there was still one staff member who had been around at that time. This was fifteen years later, of course, but she told me without hesitation that Helen Wallace had starved herself to death. She simply stopped eating. She lost weight. She lost more weight, and then she stopped drinking as well, and was dead two weeks later.

“As far as I know, the McHughs did not keep any contact with Miss Wallace or the school after Eileen left. And during those intervening years, we kept a certain amount of contact with them. But Tom was poorly, and what we did was practical rather than social, until Tom died, and then we started to visit Marion again and, eventually, as you know, moved to a house nearby. We never even mentioned Helen Wallace’s name and certainly never once even hinted at what we suspected. With Marion, it was always a bit like walking on eggshells. There were other things we couldn’t talk about as well, such as Eileen, or what had happened that day our Martin met her on Cock Lane.

“To this day, we don’t know why they had their bust up, but we have our suspicions. Tom was not a flexible man. He had fixed ideas about most things, and he was certainly not a liberal thinker. Paradoxically, given what we have just said, he was especially strict in his views on sex, which was for a man and a woman in marriage. At least that was the public view.

“They had their big bust up at the end of Eileen’s second year in London. The neighbours heard the noise. Tom was very, very angry, but they had no memory of hearing Marion’s voice at all. The shouting came and went for an hour. They heard doors slammed, things being smashed. They were ready to call the police, they said.

“It seems that Eileen was going on holiday for the summer with her friend. It also seems she had failed her course. But what the neighbours remembered being repeated many times was ‘girlfriend’, specifically, ‘girlfriend’. They also remember Tom shouting repeatedly, ‘Gillette blade’. They knew what it meant. Tom was taunting Eileen with his fifties slang. ‘My daughter’s a Gillette blade,’ is what they heard, many times.”

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