Chapter 5: First Love
I reluctantly returned to my parents house once more. I explained to my father what had been happening and he agreed that I could stay. My mother didn't seem too pleased.
"Do you mind if I stay for a while?" I asked my mother. "I will be moving on again as soon as I can. I'm working and can pay you £20.00 a week, if that's ok with you?"
"No! That's not all right with me, I want £25.00," my mother replied.
"I won't be eating here, I work in a restaurant, so it'll just be the occasional cup of tea or coffee," I explained.
"I said £25.00," she said nastily, "If you don't like it, tough!"
My mother soon showed her disgust at the hours I was coming into the house. I often worked very late, sometimes until 1.00 in the morning, but even when I did finish work early, never went straight home. I regularly went to Bogarts Bier Kellar in New Street, Birmingham and from there often went on to Snobs night club until 2.00am. I had special membership at Snobs which meant I didn't have to pay to get in. The gaffa of Snobs night club was Spanish and a close friend of the gaffa from the restaurant. All the staff from the restaurant were given special membership cards and most of them would go to the night club almost everynight. I really hated it at home and tried to spend as little time there as possible and I suddenly realized this was what my father had done for years, although he was generally home by midnight.
I tried not to let my mother know how much I was earning, but she knew I did have some money because of the number of hours I was working. She asked me, "Do you think you could lend me some money so that I can decorate this place? It hasn't been done in years."
"I will pay you back but it would have to be so much per week. I saw your savings book the other day so I know you can afford it," she said.
"How much do you want?" I asked, not really wanting to give her any money.
"£250.00, if that's all right? I know you can afford it. I could pay you back a little each week," she stated.
I considered this for a while and agreed to lend her the money, thinking it might buy me a slightly more peaceful life, at least for a short term.
A few days later she asked, "Is there any chance you could lend me another £200.00? Most of that other money has gone and I haven't managed to get half the materials I need to do this place the way I want it. I'll pay it back, promise."
I lent my mother another £170.00, which was all the money I had. "That's £420.00 you've lent now," I said, politely reminding her.
"Don't worry, you'll get it all back over the next few months. The place should look nice when it's done, certainly needs it," she concluded.
Soon after this I lost my job in the restaurant following some trouble at Snobs night club. I had been involved in a minor disturbance at the club, nothing serious but the manager of the club complained to the manager of the restaurant. I was not given any reason why I had suddenly been asked to leave but I knew it was to do with the trouble at the club. I had already been offered a job in a pub in town while still working at the restaurant. I went to see the gaffa of the pub to see if the job was still available. I walked out of one job straight into another in the space of a few hours.
I didn't want to tell my mother that I had lost the job in the restaurant. I just started my new job in the pub and carried on working as if nothing had ever happened.
My mother realized I was going out different times and returning different times. "Are you still working in that restaurant?" she asked suspiciously.
"I lost my job over a week ago," I replied, "It doesn't matter though because..."
"I want you out, you lazy good for nothing. Get your stuff packed," she ordered. "You're not sponging off me and your father. And before you open your mouth, your father has already agreed you can't stay here if you're not working, we simply can't afford it."
'What's the point?' I thought, I went upstairs and packed my bags.
"I'll try to find somewhere by the weekend," I offered, to my mother.
"I'm not having you sponge of us until the weekend. I want you out in the morning. Don't you understand? We don't want you here and you can't afford to live here," she said maliciously.
The manager of the pub wanted to know why one of his staff had turned up for work with a suitcase. "Going on holiday already? You've only just started here!" he remarked. I explained to the manager what had happened.
"Tell you what," he said, "You can sleep in here tonight, you'll be all right, just get you head down for a few hours on one of the benches."
"Thanks, I really appreciate it. I don't know what I'm going to do this time," I replied.
"I don't know where I'm going to find lodgings this close to Christmas and I've got no money anyway. I lent her over £400.00 only a few weeks ago. I bet I don't see that again."
"Try not to worry too much about it now. You'll be ok here for a while, now go and get some work done before I change my mind," the gaffa told me.
At the end of the week I was surprised by a tax rebate of about £200.00 on top of my wages, I bought the newspaper and looked for some lodgings.
'I'll never go back again, no-matter what happens, I'll never go back to live there again. She'll never have the pleasure in throwing me out or driving me out again, ' I promised myself.
'Christmas! Another bloody Christmas, I give her all my bloody money and she throws me out penniless with nowhere to go. Never again, ' I thought.
I found myself a flat in a house in the Edgbaston area of the city. I paid the deposit and the rent on my new flat and bought a few towels, saucepans and plates and the money was gone. For the first few days I slept on the floor in front of the gas fire with the curtains pulled over me, trying to keep warm. There was a good ground coverage of snow outside. The old house had been converted into five flats. The water dripped through the roof onto the mattress of the double sized bed. The flats were damp, cold and the mildew separated the wallpaper from the walls. The icy stalactites hung from the inside of the window frames and dripped constantly. Each flat had two rooms, but they were not all the same. In my flat the bedroom was also the living room and the kitchen was also the bathroom. Despite the condition, the flats were very much appreciated by the tenants, most of whom would have otherwise been homeless.
I bought a large Alsatian dog for some company and by Christmas had got to know a few of the other residents in the house. Christmas for me was generally a very depressing and lonely time and this was no exception.
My fridge was full of booze so I just sat in my room with the dog, drinking. A can of lager fell over and the dog started lapping it up so I poured him a can in his dish. We both got drunk. The ghostly hunger and slopping lager sounds that emerged from my stomach prompted me to cook myself a Christmas dinner. I opened a tin of new potatoes and a tin of processed peas, emptied both tins in the same pan and added a couple of eggs from the fridge. I just cooked the lot together. The eggs burst and the spuds turned to green sloppy mush, but something was better than nothing. I felt quite sorry for the dog, seeing him drunk, trying to walk about. At the end of the day nothing seemed to matter, I just felt so very lonely and very much alone.
The year of 1980 seemed to be a different sort of year than I had grown used to. Working in the pub, I very rarely walked out sober at the end of the night. I got to know a few of the customers who drank regularly at the pub, but this was not one of the better pubs in the town. The pub had quite a bad name. In reality it wasn't that bad although I considered many of the customers to be awkward and ill mannered.
When I wasn't working I sometimes went drinking socially with my neighbours, Pete and Sue. "You just need to find yourself a good woman," they said.
"You'll feel much better in yourself when you have someone to share your life with." They were right. Life on the streets and in institutions had deeply embedded its effects on me and I still found mixing with people very difficult.
Soon after moving into this house I saw a familiar face from my past. "Hello Carol," I said. "What are you doing around here? I haven't seen you in ages."
"Oh hello Billy, I only live up the road. That house just there. I've been living up here for a few months now. How you keeping?"
"So where are you living these days?" Carol asked. This was the girl who I had been caught in bed with while in Highcroft Hospital.
"I live just here, flat 3, I've only just moved in and don't know this area too well. Why don't you come round later? I've got some cans in the fridge," I said.
"Yeah ok. I'll see you later then, I've got to go now," she replied.
The next morning I took Carol a cup of tea in bed. "I'm going to have to go," she stated.
"Why don't you stay for a while? There's no need to rush off," I said.
"You don't understand, what we had was good, but I should have told you, I'm married now. My husband often works away and he's due back today," she explained.
I didn't think there was any point in asking her to come round again. I was not the sort to get involved with other mens wives.
A few doors along the street lived a bunch of kids that I had seen pinching bottles of milk and anything else they could get their hands on. There were nine kids in the family, all scruffy little tearaways. I got to know most of this family and knew in some ways that I was once like them. They would bring milk and food to my flat which they had undoubtably pinched from somewhere. Sometimes they bought these goods for my own use, but more often than not, they just wanted someone to cook them something to eat. These kids had problems at home. Their mother was an alcoholic and their father was in prison. The older children in this family were quite capable of cooking their younger brothers and sisters something to eat but were usually out and up to no good. I really didn't mind these kids coming round to the flat. It was company for me and I felt as if I really understood these kids and tried to help them in any way that I could.
"I don't mind you all coming round here," I told them, "but I'm telling you all straight, if I catch any one of you stealing from me, I will break your fingers. Never steal off anyone who tries to help you, that's my unwritten law."
Working in the pub, I sometimes found the attitudes of some of the customers very aggravating. The pub had a large group of skinheads who were regular customers and they were very well behaved. Some of the skinheads were friends of mine and they were a good bunch of lads. They usually spent most of the time releasing their aggressive images on the space invader machine, shooting little green aliens with electronic missiles. They never caused any trouble in the pub, but were often involved in gang fights after closing time in the streets. They usually didn't start the trouble but they usually did finish it. There was also a large group of black guys, with long Dreadlock hairstyles, who would sit drinking and smoking drugs. One black guy often caused a disturbance in the pub.
He would walk up to the bar and lean over the counter, "Hey you, gimme pinta lager."
The gaffa always requested he speak to the staff properly and would not serve him until he did. The staff would just remain wherever they were at the time, not moving to serve him.
One Saturday lunch time the black guy approached the bar with his girlfriend and his usual manner, calling out to me, "You, Rarse clart, gimmie lager now!" I was already serving someone else and would have ignored him anyway.
I couldn't help but smile at the black guys game with us but on this occasion he was not in a particularly friendly mood. He turned to his nicely dressed, attractive white girlfriend, "You, buy me lager, me waitin'!"
"I haven't got any more money," she said calmly.
His facial expression changed suddenly. He coldly, grabbed her hair and smashed her face into the bar, then lifted her head and I heard the horrible sound as he headbutted her in the face.
My reflex action came into play faster than my brain. I hit the guy over the head with the pint beer mug I was holding, but it was obviously a big mistake. The black guy was real mad and started trying to climb over the bar to get at me.
I stepped back from the counter and was real scared, "Leave it," I said, "Just leave it."
"Ya blood clart, me gonna carve you up."
His girlfriend was still sat on the floor with the blood pouring from her broken nose. The pub was full of football supporters and most of the skins were in the pub with only a few of the regular black guys. A beer mug came flying across the room from another black guy who was about to join in. One of the skins pulled the guy off the bar and pulled out a stanley knife and held it to the black guys throat. He didn't say a word. The gaffa had seen everything and had gone over to talk to the other black guy. I knew what to do and took my chance to run up the fire escape and out the emergency exit of the pub. The black guy was arrested for what he had done to his girlfriend. He told the police about being bashed on the head and about being held down at knife point.
"Where's the guy who hit him on the head?" The police asked casually.
"What guy?" came the reply.
The whole pub suddenly developed permanent memory loss. I had such a respect among the skins, they all backed me up but that was the end of another job.
I went out one night with Pete to the Crown pub in the city. Pete seemed to know everyone in the place, whereas I didn't know anyone. The D.J. was playing some music from the charts and a few Motown sounds from the past. I looked around the room taking mental note of the people around me and my eyes become fixed on one girl wearing a black satin dress. She had noticed me staring but I couldn't find the courage to approach her. I didn't know what to say and was afraid of making a fool of myself, I just kept looking and couldn't keep my eyes off her.
This girl knew Pete and most of the other people in the pub. She came over to Pete and myself, standing at the bar and started talking to Pete. She put ice cubes down the front of Pete's and my shirts and walked away, returning to her seat. Pete just ignored it and removed the ice. I went over to her and returned the ice down her dress. That certainly did break the ice between us and I fell in love with her right there and then. I invited Stella back to my flat. She had lovely eyes and a lovely smile and I liked the way she moved when she walked. I thought she looked very ellegant and sexy, but thought she would get up the next morning and leave my life forever.
When we woke up the next morning, it appeared the dog also wanted her to stay. The dog did not usually like people coming into the flat and would constantly growl at them every time they went to move. The dog had responded differently to Stella, almost as if he had known her for years. He allowed her to move about freely in the flat, without growling at her and even obeyed her commands. I had never before known the dog to obey anyone but me. Rebel, the dog, wanted her to stay and made sure she did.
Stella and I made love a few times before going to sleep and while we slept the dog chewed up Stella's shoes, he obviously wanted her to stay. Stella didn't get upset about it and I certainly didn't. We spent the next few days together before buying some new shoes. We were in no hurry to go anywhere and spent most of the time in bed, making love. Stella had not only entered my flat, but had also entered my heart. Despite the fact that we had only just met we both knew we were definitely in love.
Eventually we decided to get dressed. I went out and bought Stella some new shoes and we went to Stella's nans flat in Smethwick. We explained to her grandparents that we had decided to live together. We collected Stella's clothes and returned to our flat. I really loved this girl and we were very happy together.
Stella and I visited her grandparents regularly, sometimes three or four times a week. Stella was emotionally very close to her nan and we often went out with them to play bingo at the local social club. We never had much money but usually managed to go out a few times a week.
We regularly went to the Horsetrader pub in the city, where Stella knew the disc jockey. She had once been involved with a DJ named Carl and he often worked as a 'Roadie' type DJ at this pub. Stella knew quite a few of the disc jockeys and often spent half the night talking to the DJ when we went out. I really didn't like her standing around talking to the DJ while I sat on my own like a prize idiot. I tried not to cause too much fuss as I knew we did love each other and at the end of the night she would be coming home with me.
After living together for a few months I asked Stella if she would do me the honour of becoming my wife. She proudly and happily said that she would. We loved each other so very much. I bought her a nice engagement ring and placed it on her finger, with all the love I had.
I started a training course at Handsworth skill centre in Birmingham. I decided that I wanted to train for a job with a future, to provide for my wife to be and hopefully a family. So I went on a steel fabricator and welding training course for six months. Stella would usually have the evening meal ready when I got home, but even if it wasn't I didn't mind helping and sometimes liked to surprise Stella with my own cooking. At the weekends we would prepare the meals together. I liked to take Stella breakfast in bed and treated her like royalty. We were a good team and were very happy doing things together.
When Stella announced that she was pregnant I was overjoyed and so was she. We wrapped our arms around each other, in a warm embrace and looked lovingly into each others eyes. "Ever since leaving school, I have wanted to settle down with someone to love and have a few children," I told her."I truly love you with all my heart. This is my dream come true."
"I love you too with all my heart. I've never been so happy," she said. "I want to spend the rest of my life with you and can't wait for us to get married."
Stella carried the baby for four months and had a miscarriage. We were devastated. I looked up towards the Heavens, "Why us? Why do you have to do this to us? We really wanted this child."
We had already started buying baby clothes and had a few names short listed. We were really looking forward to becoming parents. The dream had been shattered.
After the miscarriage, Stella decided to wait for a while before we tried for another baby and she went on the contraceptive pill. We continued a full and loving sex life and were just as close, maybe even closer than ever
. I was doing fairly well with my training at the skill centre and quite enjoyed learning the trade. During this training course, I got myself into a panic situation one day by setting fire to my overalls, while wearing them! I was flame cutting a large piece of steel plate, when the red-hot swarf went into my turn-ups on my overalls, setting them alight. I tried patting out the flame to no avail and was looking around desperately for a bucket of water, but there never seemed to be a bucket of water around when I needed one! I pulled out a Stanley knife from my pocket and cut the leg off my overall. Seeing a slowly moving flame growing up my leg was a most frightening experience and things did get a little warm for a few seconds but I wasn't burned. The training itself was very interesting but many of the trainees thought they were trying to rush two years training into a very short six month course.
In November 1980 while working on the training course, I received a telephone call from my mother. I had no idea of how she had come to find me and after hearing what she had to say did not ask.
"Hello Son," she said, in a distressful voice.
"What's wrong?" I asked.
"I suggest you sit down," she said, "I have some bad news."
"Your sister, Michele is dead. She passed away at 11:00 o'clock last night. Will you come home and pay your respects to your sister? We need you to come home."
I asked a member of staff from the centre if someone could give me a lift in a car and explained what had happened. One of the instructors from the centre gave me a lift to Edgbaston to fetch a few things from the flat, where I quickly explained to Stella what my mother had told me.
"I'm sorry but I have to go. I'll be back after the funeral and after I have found out how she died. I love you Stella. I have to go," I said.
The instructor took me to my mothers house. The front door opened and my mother stood there waiting for a some comfort from me, the tears rolling down her face. I put my arms around her and she wept bitterly on my shoulder.
"Come inside. I think you had better sit down," I said. "Come on, I'll make you a cup of tea."
I helped my mother back inside the house, sat her down and made her a cup of tea. She didn't take sugar but I put two spoons in her cup.
"Drink it," I suggested. "You're in shock. Just drink it, sugar is supposed to be good for people in shock."
"How did she die?" I asked.
"She died of Pneumonia. After all she's survived through, she died of Pneumonia," my mother told me through her tears.
The whole family were very upset. My father was in a terrible state and Beverley kept bursting into tears. Michele died while in the care of a Social Services residential home for the disabled, where my mother had placed her several months earlier. My mother was finding it increasingly difficult to cope with my sister, who had been both physically and mentally handicapped since the fall when she was a baby. In many ways, Michele had deteriorated in her abilities and behaviour in the few years prior to her death and had started rebelling against my mothers acts of cruelty.
Michele had walked with a limp all her life and found most things fairly difficult in comparison to most able-bodied people, but she always made every endeavour to do whatever was asked of her. She was quite willing and able to do most things for herself, it just took her a little longer to get the things done. My mother often showed very little patience with her and often lost her temper with my sister simply because she wasn't quick enough.
I didn't know that my sister had been admitted into a home and when I heard this, I felt that Michele hadn't really died of Pneumonia. I believed she had simply lost her will to live. Michele was twenty one years old when she died and there were twenty-one wreathes at her funeral. My sisters coffin was brought to the house for us to pay our respects. I was disgusted at the way the coffin bearers had to upend the coffin to bring it into the house. I felt that my sister deserved more respect than to be tipped up in a box, but said nothing. The coffin was placed in my mothers living room, with the top removed. I remember how cold my sister was, the paleness of her face, the look of peace in her face. She was surely going to a better place.
My sister was cremated at Yardley Crematorium on Thursday, 20th November 1980. As her coffin was lowered to be cremated my mother yelled out after my dead sister, but it was obvious to everyone it was nothing but an act. Just a masquerade for the people from the home, who had come to pay their respects and none of the family ever forgot or forgave my mother for that.
"Mother killed Michele," Laurence told me, a few days after the funeral.
"Give it a rest Loz," I told him.
"No! It's true. Mother killed Michele," he insisted.
"What are you talking about?" I said. "I thought Michele died in a home, but I do find it a bit hard to believe that she died of Pneumonia."
"So what are you going on about?" I asked.
"I'm telling you the truth," he said, "Mother killed her. Last week, Michele came home for a weekend leave. Mother asked her to peel some potatoes and then started moaning that Michele was peeling them too slow. Mother hit her in the chest (Solar-Plexus) with such force that Michele stopped breathing and her heart stopped beating."
"Dad heard the almighty thud of Michele hitting the floor from in the living room and came rushing into the kitchen. He realized that her heart had stopped beating and had to pump her chest with his hands and give her mouth to mouth to bring her back to life. But I'm telling you, she was dead. That's why she's dead now, she never recovered from it. Mother fucking killed her," he cried.
I did not remain at home for very long after the funeral as I felt quite sick at what my brother had told me. I returned to Stella at the flat and she tried to ease the feelings of sorrow and guilt from my heart.
I was filled with bitterness and hatred towards my mother and believed every word of what my brother had said. I thought if only I had been at home, I may have been able to prevent my sisters death. I still feel guilty. The authorities and I failed my sister and she paid the Ultimate Price.
I returned to my training within a few days and tried to keep my mind occupied, trying to put everything to the back of my mind.
Stella and I spent that Christmas at Stella's grandparents flat. We had a nice Christmas, totally different from any Christmas I had ever known. I had someone I loved very much and someone who loved me. I no longer felt lonely or depressed, for once I felt a sense of belonging. I had never been close to anyone before, not in any emotional sense. I had learned how to switch off my emotions, sometimes not being able to switch them back on. For years my heart had been full of bitterness and misery, a painful life filled with empty emotions. Stella had been allowed inside my defensive wall, which prevented anyone from getting close to me. She had brought to the surface feelings I never believed I had.
Stella and I had now been together for one happy year, it was March 1981. We went out to celebrate and talked about trying for another baby. We had always had a very active and loving sex life. Stella stopped taking her contraceptive pill and soon after announced to me that she had become pregnant. I quietly and privately prayed to God that everything would work out this time, we were very happy but just a little worried.
About three months into the pregnancy, we were still visiting the discos and Stella met what she considered to be a new friend. Her name was Tracey and I took an instant disliking to her.
"I don't know why or what it is about her, but I can sense trouble in her and know she's bad news. I just don't like the girl," I said. "She's going to bring us trouble, I can smell it coming."
"Don't be silly. She's all right. She just likes dancing, that's all. You don't like any of my friends. You're just being silly," Stella replied.
Stella went out with Tracey a few times and I could feel something was going wrong. Tracey was slowly but surely disrupting our lives, but Stella couldn't see it.
"Billy, You know I love you very much don't you?" Stella lovingly declared.
"Yes," I said, "and I love you too, very much."
She looked at me through her sad sorrowful eyes. I smiled at her appealing face, wearing its 'sad puppy' expression. I could see in her eyes that she did love me, but I could tell by the sound of her voice that she had something on her mind.
"Come on spit it out, I know I'm not going to like it by the sound of your voice," I commented, removing the smile from my face.
"Tracey has asked me to stop at her house tonight. I told her I would have to ask you first. So would you mind if I stopped at Tracey's tonight?" Stella asked. "It's just for tonight. She's having a few problems at home. All right?"
I wasn't really surprised at what she was asking. I was just upset at her wanting to spend the night with this, 'lager supping pig' in preference to me. I couldn't understand what Stella admired in this creature.
I turned away, unable to look Stella in the face, "To be honest," I said, "Yes I do mind and no it's not all right. She's big enough and ugly enough to sort out her own problems, without you sleeping at her house."
Stella had the ability to wind me round her finger and persuaded me to agree with something I didn't agree with, to her staying at Tracey's house. Stella was overjoyed which was usually something pleasant to see. She said she would be back first thing in the morning. I knew I had to give this girl something that I had never given anyone else in my life before, trust!
The street riots started that night, in nearby Handsworth and I was worried for Stella's safety. I had seen the television pictures of the rioting and some of the aftermath the next morning on my way to work. I decided to turn back. I telephoned Tracey's mother to make sure Stella was ok.
"They didn't come back here last night," Tracey's mother said, "I was told they were both stopping at your house. I'm sorry Billy, but I don't know where they are."
Stella returned later in the day. I was glad to see she was safe, but wanted to know where she had been. "Did you have a good time last night?" I asked.
"Yeah, not too bad. You don't mind do you?" she replied.
"So what time did you get back to Tracey's moms house?" I asked.
"I can't remember now. We just went when the pub shut. We got a taxi," she replied.
"Do you want a cup of tea?" I asked, not letting on to the fact I knew she was telling me lies. "So what did you have to do, sleep on her mothers settee?"
"Yes please," she said. "Yes, her moms really nice and she's got a nice place too."
"I know! I spoke to her this morning. She told me you two told her you were stopping here. So where the fuck have you been and why all the lies?" I said, straight faced.
Stella would not change her story and insisted that they had been at Tracey's mothers house. I didn't believe a word of it.
"Her mother was asleep when we went in. She probably didn't hear us go in," Stella said.
Tracey later called at the flat and they both stood telling me lies. They went out again and Stella did not return until the next day.
"I just thought I would give you time to cool down," Stella told me. "I know you don't like Tracey but she's done nothing wrong. You're causing a lot of fuss over nothing. Don't you believe me when I tell you I love you, or is it that you don't trust me?"
"I love you very much and I have given you trust. As for Tracey, I wouldn't trust her to put my rubbish out. I just know there is something wrong," I replied.
They went out again the following week. I knew where they would go and later turned up unexpected. I saw Stella sitting with Gary in the cozy corner of the pub. Stella and I had both known Gary for some time as he often helped Carl with the discos. I bought myself a pint and went over towards them. Gary removed his arm from around Stella and went downstairs to the toilet to try to avoid facing me.
"Have you been sleeping with him?" I asked Stella.
"No, I haven't. He's just a friend," she snapped.
I went downstairs. Gary was washing his face in the sink, the heat from the disco making him sweat or maybe worry having a strange effect on him. Maybe he was washing Stella's lipstick off his face?
I could feel the adrenaline pumping round my body, my heart racing and my legs shaking. I had the overwhelming need and burning desire to hurt this greasy little slime ball.
"Have you been sleeping with Stella?" I asked him.
He raised his head only slightly and turned his face towards me, "Go and ask her!"
I viciously grabbed the back of his greasy black hair and lifted his head, "Wrong answer!" Bang! I bashed his face into the sink and his legs gave way, buckling from under him.
I dragged him across the floor and stuck his head down the toilet, "I'll ask you again, have you been sleeping with Stella?" I flushed the toilet with Gary's head down the pan.
I dragged him into the next toilet, "I can't hear you!" I said angrily and flushed his head down the next pan.
Gary finally answered, "Yeah, but it was just the once."
I lifted his head very slowly and brought it down sharply and felt the vibration through the floor of the solid crash of his head against the porcelain toilet bowl. "Once is once too often, you bastard."
I left him lying on the floor soaking wet and covered in blood and went back upstairs to Stella. "I'll ask you once more. Have you been sleeping with him?"
"No," she answered.
"You Liar!" I slapped her across the face and walked out of the pub.
Heartbroken and betrayed, she had abused the one thing nobody had ever had the chance to abuse, my trust. I was devastated. I walked the streets trying to hide the sorrow in my heart, which was visible in my face. I had never hit a woman before. I worshipped this girl. I loved this girl with all my heart and she was ripping me apart.
Stella went to live with Gary and it started a war. I wanted Stella back and was prepared to do anything to get her back. Several people who Stella knew were encouraging her to stay away from me and this made me even more angry. I had calmed down tremendously over the previous few years and I had matured into a respectable living human being, I had become civilized. Now I was hurt, like a wounded wild animal and I went on the rampage.
The knives that had been put away years before came out once more and were sharpened. I practised throwing a 4" Bowie knife and a 6" Bowie knife with both my left and right hands and I walked around with them both.
I turned up at the Horsetrader pub and Gary was sat with his arm around Stella with a group of his mates. They sat laughing and passing comments among themselves.
'Gary thinks he's tough with a few mates around, does he? I'll bloody teach him to laugh at me.'
I walked over to Gary and Stella, straight through the middle of all Gary's mates. Gary suddenly lost his smug grin. I picked up his pint glass and held it under his nose, "Laugh at me now and I'll rip your disgusting face off! Come on laugh, I dare you to laugh," I said, glaring into his eyes.
"That's my child in her belly, not yours! There's no way you are going to rear my child. I will rear my own kids. Do you understand?" I said.
I kept the glass under Gary's nose while I turned my head slightly to speak to Stella, "I still love you very much and I still want you back. I trusted you and you abused it. I have told you before I always wanted kids and I mean what I say, I will rear my own kids."
I turned my attentions back to the slimey greaseball who sat next to her, "If you think your mates frighten me your wrong, because you wouldn't live long enough to see them do anything to me."
I considered this my own private war, the likes of which they would have never seen, me against Gary, all his mates, all the DJs and all their mates. Months of trouble followed. One DJ had his transit van rigged to explode right outside his house. The van did get a little burned but didn't explode and the same guy had his customised Capri wrecked. I was arrested on suspicion. I didn't admit to it and nobody could prove a thing.
Stella started visiting me at the flat as we still had very strong feelings for each other, but for some reason this was no longer enough to hold us together. I begged her constantly to come back to me but she just returned to Gary. After causing months of trouble I decided to try some different tactic. I realized I might have been frightening her too much for her to consider returning to me, so I let things cool down altogether and stopped turning up at places that Stella went to.
"I blame Tracey for most of this," I told Stella. "You wouldn't have gone off if she hadn't lead you astray. Well, I'm telling you, if she ever has the nerve to ring my doorbell I'm going to drop the telly out of the window, onto her head."
During one of Stella's visits, when she was about seven months pregnant, she started to haemorrhage. I called for the ambulance and went with her to the hospital. I saw our son born dead. Stella was in a very bad way, she had lost a lot of blood.
"There was nothing we could do for the baby," the doctor told me. "It was already dead when she got to the hospital. We are now doing all we can for your girlfriend, but I must tell you, she might not survive."
Stella asked me to phone Gary and tell him what had happened. She knew how I felt about Gary but thought he had the right to know what had happened to her. I was in no fit state and no mood for arguing with him, or anyone else, I did as Stella asked.
"What are you telling me for?" Gary said, "It's not my baby, it's nothing to do with me."
"She might not last the night," I explained. "She has lost a lot of blood and she's asked me to ask you to come to the hospital. I'm not going to start any trouble and I'll go if Stella asks me to." I spoke to him calmly and explained everything to him.
"Like I said it's not my baby, so why the fuck should I care?" Gary replied.
I went back to Stella's bedside and announced, "I've told him but he's not sure if he can make it over to the hospital tonight. I told him there would be no trouble, but he just said he might not be able to make it," not wanting to upset her any more than she already was.
She later phoned him herself from the hospital portable phone and he repeated everything directly to her. I stayed by Stella's bedside until morning, sitting on the armchair, holding her hand with my head resting on the bed. Stella appeared to be a little better by morning and the drip was removed from her arm.
"You will be all right now," the doctors told her." Things will settle down on there own in due course. You will be able to go home in a few days."
"I'm going home now," I told her, "I will let your Nan and granddad know what's happened. I still love you and I still need you, I still want you and I still care for you very much, but I won't be coming back to the hospital again. It's up to you what you do now. You know where I am if you want me." I gave her a kiss on the cheek and left her with the tears running down her face.
Stella's grandparents knew something was wrong, when they saw me standing at their door, at 7.00am. I told them the bad news and returned home. Unknown to Stella, I phoned the hospital twice each day to see how she was, until one morning I was told that she had been discharged. I kept looking out of my flat window, wandering what she would do now. Wandering if she would call at the flat, wandering if she would come back, wandering if she loved me as I still loved her. I didn't have long to wait. Stella came to see me later that day and we finally got back together. I was happy that she had come back but just wished it had been under different circumstances, or more to the point, wished it had never gone wrong in the first place. I really did love her very much but I no longer trusted her and that put a lot of pressure on the relationship.
About a month later my brother appeared at our door, "Is there any chance I can stay here for a while?" Laurence said, "Mother's thrown me out."
"I had just finished doing the polishing for her and she started saying that I had missed half the furniture, which I hadn't. I put the polish in the kitchen and she come out into the hall and threw it at me with such force it smashed the glass in the front door," he explained.
"So you just walked out then," I commented.
"No," he said, "After she threw the can at me she started blaming me for the door being smashed. I told her it wasn't my fault so she just come over and started hitting me and I hit her back. That's why I'm here."
"Where about did you hit her and how did you hit her?" I asked.
"I didn't really mean it, she just kept hitting me and I punched her in the arm," he replied.
"I don't think you're very clever," I told him, "but I can't say I blame you. I know what she can be like. If you promise that's all you've done you can stay, but if I find out you have beat her up you're out of here."
I later talked to Stella and told her what my mother was like and a little about the way she used to treat me as a child. I knew that my brother and sisters never took the sort of beatings that I took but even those they had were severe.
"I remember when I was about six or seven years old, Beverley was crying in her pram in the living room and my mother grabbed her and shook her like a rag doll. Her head was going backwards and forwards, I thought my mother was going to break her neck. Then my mother stopped shaking her and looked at me staring at her and said, 'catch'. She threw my sister across the room. Luckily, I did catch her before she hit the brick wall. The force of catching her knocked me to the ground but if I hadn't, she too would be dead now. So I don't really blame Loz for retaliating. I just hope he hasn't gone too far and end up in prison."
Stella did not object to me putting my brother up in the flat for a while but none of us stayed there for much longer.
The long hard winter of that year caused all the water pipes in the house to freeze up. When the pipes thawed, they burst, flooding the whole building. A housing inspector called at the house. He entered one of the flats and found a fridge that had fallen through the rotten floor boards. There was water in the electricity circuits. The only fire exit was through a flat, which was securely locked. He condemned the building as unsafe for people to live in. We soon moved into a council flat in the Ladywood area of Birmingham.
I had acquired, by various means, a fair amount of furniture by this time. We were keen to move, but could not afford a removal van. I persuaded my brother to help me move house manually, on foot. We carried most of the furniture to the new flat walking around Edgbaston reservoir. My brother and I worked throughout the day and through the night, carrying things from one flat to another, while Stella continued packing things into boxes and anything else that seemed suitable.
We were stopped by the police on the last trip, pulling a shopping trolley and carrying a few boxes."Bit early in the morning for doing your shopping, isn't it lads? What's in the trolley and where are you off to?" the officer said.
"Don't tell me, you're moving house," the officer remarked, placing his hand on the trolley.
We stood still, appreciating the overdue rest, the sweat turning cold on our backs. Laurence commented to me, "I hope we don't have to unpack all this in the street."
I showed the coppers my old rent book and the new rent book. "We are trying to move house. That's where I'm living now and that's where I'm moving to. I can't afford what they're asking to hire a van so we're moving what we can ourselves. We started this morning."
The officer looked at the rent books, "You mean yesterday morning, don't you? It's Sunday now! So, what's in the trolley?" he asked.
"To be honest, I have no idea," I said. "My girlfriend is in the old flat packing things into boxes and two trolleys and we are just running backwards and forwards with them. I just unpack them at the other end. I think it's mainly clothes and a few ornaments this trip."
The officer had a quick look in the trolley. "Go on, but make this your last trip," he said. "If we see you again, we will run you in. Just think yourselves lucky, if you were carrying a stereo we would have run you in already."
A grin appeared on my face, "We took the stereo first. I think we have done enough for one day anyway and thanks a lot."
The following day Stella's granddad helped by providing some transport to move the fridge and cooker and the job was finished. We moved into the flat that day and got everything arranged in the new flat. We moved in very quickly and were settled in time for the Christmas. We had been shopping and I thought the turkeys were very much overpriced. When I noticed a 14lb turkey with two prices attached I removed one of them and paid a fiver for the huge bird. I managed to burn the turkey on Christmas day. I guess this was justice for my needless dishonesty. It was like a leather football. I salvaged what I could and nobody went hungry, it was a big enough bird and there was plenty of other food available. We all had a fairly nice quiet Christmas and Stella and I saw in the new year with Stella's grandparents at a social club in Smethwick.
In the early part of 1982 Stella started seeing another guy again and I was not prepared to go through the trouble all over again. Since she had returned, I had found it impossible to give her back the trust she once had and abused. Stella denied any knowledge of this other guy. I had been told by one of Stella's friends and decided to believe them rather than her. We had a big argument and I threw my dinner up the wall and Stella left. This time I didn't chase after her. I just had to let it end. It took me a very long time to get over Stella, that's if I ever did.
I started working in a restaurant in the city, employed as a kitchen porter. I didn't like working at this restaurant as many of the staff were homosexual. I made it crystal clear to everyone that I was straight. None of them ever tried anything and seemed quite happy at the fact that I had told them, with no uncertain terms, that I was strictly heterosexual.
Most of these guys were ok to speak to, some of them didn't appear to be gay at all. Others didn't try to hide the fact and went around very 'camp'. I did feel very uncomfortable at times and I thought about my reputation working in a place like this.
'I hope people outside don't think I'm a gay, ' I thought. 'Most of the customers are probably gay anyway. I'm glad I don't have to work upstairs where people can see me.'
I spoke to them with respect, never looking any of them in the eye, but it was very rare I ever looked anyone in the eye at any time. I did object very strongly if any of them appeared to enter my invisible `personal space', the space where only close friends or relatives could enter. One day one of the guys came up behind me, quite innocently, to put something in the sink, in which I was working. The guy just brushed passed me.
"Next time you want to get to the bloody sink don't just brush up against me," I said. "If you do it again, I'll sit you on the cooker."
The chef, who was also gay, came over to the sink. "What's going on here?" he asked. I told him what had happened and what I had said.
The other guy remarked, "We don't need this sort of attitude in here. We have just as much rights as him to be here."
"I think you were in the wrong," the chef told him, "and you have no rights to be in my kitchen. You work upstairs. It doesn't excuse what he has said but you shouldn't have just brushed passed him. He has told us where we stand and you should have the same respect for him. I think you were pushing your luck. Now go back upstairs."
"You can hurry up!" the chef told me, "You should have finished those pans by now. I want the cold room cleared out before you finish today."
While working in the restaurant I bought myself a disco deck. I planned, designed, wired and built my own light show and set up the finished light towers in the flat.
'This is the best light show I have ever seen for a mobile disco, ' I thought. 'I'll show 'em. Let's see how they respond to a bit of class competition.'
I had seen the attention some DJs got while working the discos. 'If you can't beat 'em, join 'em, ' I thought.
My plan was really just to make Stella jealous. I bought myself an old Vauxhall victor estate car for £50.00, which I thought was a real bargain. I taught myself to drive in a car park. It took me a while to realize that I had in fact bought a scrap car, with a scrap engine. It served the purpose for which it was bought and that was all that mattered. I started doing discos at pubs and clubs. I had worked hard at the idea but soon found there was more to doing discos than just playing loads of records. Most DJs have an outgoing personality and the 'gift of the gab', which was something I didn't have. I managed to get a few bookings and most of the people thought my light show was brilliant. The bookings I got didn't even cover the cost of the records I was buying each week. I did one disco at a club where Stella was with her new boyfriend, Trevor. By the end of the night she had not become jealous or hurt, I had.
Chapter 6: Falling Apart