Gary is a man who has not worked for some time and looks unlikely to get employment in the near future. He has a penchant – some might say a talent – for writing short stories. We think they deserve a wider audience and together they will constitute Gary’s blog (we would really prefer a nice title such as ‘Gary’s compositions’ but blog seems to be the word of the moment.
Here is the first one – Angela
1948 – three years after the end of the Second World War, when most of the poor in inner cities lived in back-to-back terraced housing hardly fit for human habitation, where life was tough and the dirt beneath the feet of the residents was almost worth as much as life itself. Angela lived in this place of despair along with her mother, father and nine brothers. She worked in the local cotton mill, where the constant click-clacking of cogs and bobbins in her ears sucked her mind of will and seemed to deprive the heart of all hope, but her parents needed her wages.
By good fortune, Angela had one prize asset. She was beautiful – very beautiful indeed. She needed no cosmetics to enhance her looks and chestnut hair fell deep and dark like a swirling stream to the curve of her waist. Angelo knew what she wanted from life and it wasn’t cold water and carbolic soap, or mutton stew and stale bread for tea. She could not wait but realised she had to move fast before her looks might vanish like mist on a spring morning.
Things turned up for Angela on one rain-sodden Sunday afternoon when she saw a notice in a shop window –‘New Beauty Contest’ – with a footnote asking people to apply to the local council. It gave information about a valuable prize and a special bonus for the winner to be invited to important local events. ‘That is for me’, Angela said to herself. As soon as the shop was open she picked up an entrance form and applied to enter the fray.
Little did she know, but seeing the leaflet changed her life in ways she could never imagine. She borrowed a pink flared dress and matching shoes for the big day and chatted with the other contestants awaiting her turn to shine. Three members of the council committee and a local dignitary were the judges and Angela decided to put on the show her young life to woo and win them over. She then stood nervously by the panel as they deliberated about the winner. The judges all agreed that Angela was by far the most beautiful and so a golden sash was placed over her shoulder, together with the sum of £5 in prize money and an invitation to the Mayor’s grand ball.
Angela spent some of the money on a new outfit for the ball and before long she stood proudly in the foyer greeting the guest on their arrival at the Ball. Before long she was invited herself to enter the grand ballroom where invitations to dance came quick and fast like April showers on a breezy day. She chatted to each partner as the evening wore on, but her eyes were fixed firmly on one of the participants, local millionaire philanthropist, Barclay Fitzgerald. He was much older than Angela but this did not matter to her. The important thing was that he was single. To her delight her dance with him turned out to be a waltz and a the lights dimmed and the glitter ball shone down, Angela took the opportunity to hold him close and shivered as his hands gripped her body tightly as he moved closer in response. At the end of the evening a waiter placed a small envelope next to Angela’s champagne flute and she opened it with fingers trembling delicately like a butterfly’s wing. To her joy, Barclay had asked to meet her the following night and, if she agreed, he would send his limousine round to her street in the slums.
Exactly on time the car arrived to pick her up as a s the chauffeur opened the door, she glanced down the street to notice admiring glances from neighbours who would always be denied the joy that she was now experiencing.
Barclay was waiting for her outside his mansion and he tenderly kissed her hand before leading her inside for a sumptuous meal. Angela’s mind was turbulent like a river in flow, carrying her fast and wild towards a sea of changing possibilities. She and Barclay strolled in the grounds and gazed at the warm sympathetic shining down upon them. She so wanted this life rather than the one that she had been living.
She did not have to wait long; Barclay proposed on their sixth date and Angela, of course, gleefully answered the question tha she had been hoping for from the beginning. She quickly settled into her life as the “Lady of the Manor “, but before long she became just a little bored. She asked Barclay if he could get her involved in other activities such as small acting roles in amateur dramatics. Barclay of course ‘knew some people “ and would ask around. He dutifully arranged acting lessons and some small parts for Angela in local plays.
But Angela wanted more than bit parts in local dramas and before long she had thoughts of stardom. Eventually she was approached by an agent. Robert was young and handsome and encouraged her acting abilities, offering the possibility of starring roles. Not surprisingly, she began to see quite a lot of Robert. True to his word he obtained roles for her in more upmarket productions, featuring top actors and actresses. Life with Robert was exciting and often rather more so than the staid existence that she was living with Barclay. Was it possible to continue an exciting life with Robert and maintain a marriage? Angela had the future to think of and this was more important than anything else. But as she walked out more and more with Robert in the evenings the moon glinted more coldly than before and this she could not understand.
Soon afterwards Angela was able to play the biggest role of her life. Indeed, her whole career depended on it. Before the occasion she looked into the mirror but somehow her looks had changed a little. The soft innocence of youth had gone and she reached out for face cream to cover the imperfections that were beginning to appear. ‘It’s time Angela, called out an attendant. ‘I’m ready’, she replied and turned to the mirror again. As they passed through the street people stared as the succession passed by. She was still the star. On arrival at its destination a gaggle of photographers rushed forward to photograph her and as she entered the stage there were gasps of excitement from the assembled audience. She looked around and was pleased to note that no seat had remained empty. Angela took her place. She was not quite the top star of the show but when she appeared the audience were as one in apparent quiet appreciation of her performance. Angela played her part to perfection and showed no nervousness. When called for she wept real tears, as she had done many times when life was hard. Just as quickly she could charm and captivate with her large doe eyes. Her co-stars toyed with her emotion, one minute displaying anger, the next changing to softer tones, and Angela responded with great aplomb to each situation as it played out. When it ended Robert said ‘you were great, Angela, just as I taught you’.
The show went on for weeks to packed audiences. On the final day Angela stepped outside to see the street filled with people. ‘Show as a leg, Angela’, cried out one of the photographers, and the cameras flashed like stars on a clear night. But Angela stood perplexed with her entourage around. And suddenly and an egg hit her in the face, then more eggs and rotten fruit followed. The cry rose up from the depths of the crowd – ‘Murderer, you deserve everything that is coming to you’. Barkley was gone and Angela knew, as she was brought into the Black Maria to await the hangman’s rope, that she would soon follow him.