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Illingworth House: Chance Child - Part One: 7 – Dreaming Of Freedom

...She saw Bradford in a new light. The grim black buildings gleamed like a heavenly city. Its gaunt Victorian Town Hall and chimneys reached like church spires to the blue sky. This was to be her new place of work, her new home, and she rejoiced...

Helen Greenwood has just landed a good job at Illingworths, and the whole world glows with promise.

To read earlier chapters of John Waddington-Feather’s novel please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/illingworth_house/

Helen Greenwood's journey back to Keighworth was very different from the one she'd made to Bradford earlier that day. All the way home she could hardly believe she'd landed the job. Her dream had come true and she was on cloud nine. She was in another world.

She saw Bradford in a new light. The grim black buildings gleamed like a heavenly city. Its gaunt Victorian Town Hall and chimneys reached like church spires to the blue sky. This was to be her new place of work, her new home, and she rejoiced. At long last she'd broken free from Prospect Street, from Grayson's garage, from Keighworth itself and all they stood for. And she couldn't get home fast enough to break the news.

There weren't many people about, for the offices and mills were still working. The few folk there were ambled slowly through the sticky heat. Shoppers for the most part, they could barely cope and trudged slowly lugging their baskets and carrier bags as if they weighed a ton. Sunshine in Bradford was a rare commodity at the best of times and this surfeit floored them.

As she rushed past, folk turned and stared. She was flushed but not by the heat. That chance meeting with John Illingworth had also had its effect. She couldn't get him out of her mind all the way home. He was being more than simply polite the way he danced attention on her when he'd helped her to her feet. She could tell that by the way he looked at her, the way he'd helped her up.

There was chemistry in his looks, which had begun working in her. They produced effects she'd never felt before. She found herself wanting to see him again and couldn't wait to begin work.

The bus station was a climb from the centre of town, and she was sweating heavily by the time she reached it. She got there early and sat inside the waiting bus, trying to read the evening paper she had bought to while away the time. Although it was hot, at least she was in the shade.

But there was little relief from the heat, and she soon stopped reading and began to fan herself with the paper, thinking yet again of John Illingworth and trying to picture his face.

The engine roared to life and the bus crawled away, almost as if it, too, was affected by the heat and couldn't go faster. It became a furnace and the heat grew unbearable. Dust hung everywhere, attaching itself to skin and clothes alike. And as they progressed up the valley, the mills finished for the day, and workers flavoured the air with mill weft and rancid grease. If she hadn't have landed the job it would have been hell travelling back to Keighworth.

But nothing could dampen Helen's excitement - neither the heat nor her sodden clothes, nor the stench of weft. She savoured success, sitting alone in a single seat right at the front with only her reflection and those of the passengers behind to stare at. To pass the time she looked idly out of the window. This would now be her daily journey to work ... till she could get lodgings in Bradford.

The very idea thrilled her. To have her own room in a house where there was no Joe or Mary! Where she could be her own boss! Where she could come and go as she wished! Where she could entertain whom she wanted! That, indeed, was freedom!

Her eyes were alight all the way back - through the leafy suburbs where the rich woolmen had their houses, then out of the city proper into Saltley Village, built by a textile tycoon a century before. The houses were solidly built, and the village still fostered all the ideals its builder had dreamed when he'd built it six clear miles from the slums of Bradford.

She might not have wanted to leave Keighworth so badly had the town been built like Saltley. But Keighworth had spawned too many mills, too many carelessly-built houses and slums.

Each time the bus stopped, the heat increased. The windows were all open and gave some relief when the bus was moving; but as soon as it squealed to a halt, it became a cauldron. Helen switched from staring at the dusty, grey buildings outside, to casually looking in the window at the reflections of the other passengers behind.

Someone else was doing the same, but he was staring only at her. Someone three seats behind. She vaguely recognised him and glanced round furtively. The stranger grinned and nodded.
But she didn't know him and pretended she was looking at someone further back, ignoring him before she turned back blushing. He went on trying to catch her attention, but she stared studiously out of the side window, praying that he wouldn't move up behind if the seat there became empty.

Her prayer was answered and the fat couple of women, who had been to Bradford shopping, stayed put all the way into Keighworth. Nevertheless, she felt the eyes of the guy behind boring into her the whole journey.

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