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Open Features: Great'ma - Part 12

...The past began to capture her again, taking her back to before Judith and Albert had married.

"Mother and Father so against her; she had seemed to me so strong because of the way she stood up to them. I took hold of her hand and she smiled at me. Mother ordered me from the room.''...

Jackie Wearing's novel concerns a family which harbours secrets. At the centre of the story is Great'ma, and her fund of memories.

To read earlier chapters of Great'ma please click on http://www.openwriting.com/cgi-bin/mt-search.cgi?IncludeBlogs=1&search=great%27ma

When left once more to herself Great'ma began to remember seeing Albert with Margaret. It had always made people comment on how he was with her.

The past began to capture her again, taking her back to before Judith and Albert had married.

"Mother and Father so against her; she had seemed to me so strong because of the way she stood up to them. I took hold of her hand and she smiled at me. Mother ordered me from the room. I left very slowly hearing Father say "Are you sure he is not Jewish?" I didn't hear clearly what Judith said, but her voice was very cutting. And she soon followed me into the passage. She saw me and, unusually, gave me a hug. I told her how good I thought she was and she said it was what she had expected. She showed me her ring and said with a sudden smile. 'I think it was the largest diamond Albert could find. He's waiting outside for me now. I wouldn't let him come in with me, as I knew it would make things even more difficult. We are getting married next week. Mother and Father are not coming. David is giving me away.'

"I want to be there", I said.

"I'll get David to bring you."

"Do you think they'll let me?"

"You are eighteen now. Make your own decisions."

I thought about that and how easy it was for Judith to say that at the age of twenty-eight.

But I did get to the wedding. How well I remember that. Albert having grown up in the East-End of London had invited anyone who had been even slightly good to him. I was surprised to find out that Judith had already met those closest to him. She told me of Madge who had taken him food when he was on the street. He had never known his father, and his mother had died when he was eight. His aunt had let him sleep on the floor for a week after the funeral and then taken him to the orphanage. He had escaped, as he always put it, within a month and from then on shifted for himself. Madge had been very close to her own father, but she had to leave school at thirteen while her brothers they managed to keep on. She got a job in the corner shop, but the owner, she told Judith, was a dirty old man. The trust in her father had disappeared when she had told him about this and he said to keep out of his way. The family obviously needed the money, small though it might have been. As soon as Albert was in a position to employ Madge he did so.

Edward was there . of course, and we spent all the day together.

The wedding party was like nothing I had ever experienced - a mix of people of all types, no single dress code, but all very much there to enjoy themselves. Judith quiet and collected among the throng and Albert introducing her everywhere.
I said to David that the new brother-in-law seemed to drink a lot and he said he had noticed and would see that he was alright. I saw him go to Judith and they talked and watched together for a while.

Later David came and asked Edward to go with him. I sat and waited for their return. They brought Albert and Judith with them and we all had one last drink to wish them joy and then they left together.

I asked David where they were going to live and he told me of the house that he, Albert and Edward had bought together. When I eventually saw this house it was quite a surprise. Edward and David took me there to have tea with Judith and they all laughed at my astonishment when Judith showed me the bathroom. It was so large and had gilded chairs to sit on.

Albert arrived back while I was there and asked me when I was going to marry Edward and move in to my part of the house, then realised that no one had told me of the future plans. The house was not exactly divided into three, though they had arranged things so that we would have our own areas.
When I did marry Edward, my father gave me away, much to Albert's amusement. Money talks he had said. It was a very different affair compared to Judith's wedding. Edward's sisters came and his younger brother. Albert arranged for them to stay in an hotel where he was very well known. They said they were treated like royalty. I was now beginning to understand just how wealthy Albert was and after our honeymoon which we spent in Cornwall, when we moved into the house, this became even more apparent.

Yes Margaret, Albert larger than life - the parties, the gramophone, all the open house times. The clothes that we wore. Judith taking delight in dressing me. She said how well I suited all these new styles. Mother came sometimes to tea and even our father came at Christmas time. The house was decorated beyond anything we had known at home before we married. Judith said that Albert wanted everything overdone to make up for the past.

The relationship between the two of them, so different really, reflected that. Albert, always moving in haste, sometimes singing to himself, sometimes angry about something that had happened in the day, would put his hand out to Judith and look intently at her.

Edward could be with my father in the same way as he was with his own. Not close, but with respect for another person. Albert had that way of looking very straight and hard at people. When I asked Judith how she had met him she told me it was in the street. She had dropped something and he had retrieved it for her.

"You know how he looks at people, well, that look made me smile. He said that my smile had stayed with him and later in the day he kept finding himself singing. He made sure he saw me again and it developed into us wanting to marry."
I said that he gets angry sometimes and Judith placidly said yes.

At this point in her reveries, Great'ma frowned. She was on her way out and stopped on the steps of the house waiting for Albert who was giving her a lift. A man came up the short drive just as he came out through the front door. The approaching man held out his hand and said his name.
"Come begging have you." Albert's tone of voice made me step back. "Get out and don't come back."

In the car he had said, "That upset you?" "Well, you seemed rather hard on him."

"Yes especially as he is my cousin. His mother took me to the orphanage, which I can understand a bit." There was a long pause... "Madge used to get me food and milk to drink sometimes. That lout back there in the drive used to watch out for us and take it from me. Till I got bigger that is..."

"Why are you smiling?"

"Well, if that was me I would be feeling really good now. Don't you?"

"No. I can see what you mean, but he was probably desperate. Times can be very hard for some people. But I won't give him anything."

He brushed my hair with his hand as he often did. "Little Sister" he called me.

Yes, one learnt a lot from Albert. Different sides to his character became apparent. Hearing him ask Judith to hold him tight, "I sometimes get in a bit of a panic," he said and that surprised me as it probably would have done most people.
Coming back to the present, Great'ma said aloud, "Those times were so alive

The dog, who had moved to the side of her chair again, put his head on her lap and she absently stroked him thinking at the same time of Amelia. My first baby, the first in the house, growing into a bewitching toddler. Very much petted by them all. Edward all tenderness. His sisters had visited at this time. They were full of laughter, saying they had never had a holiday like it. They teased their brother, saying he had become all southern and soft. The house full of music with them singing duets, after Albert, who found out that they both played the piano, went and bought one for them.

The dog licked at her hand reminding her of their own shaggy animal. Judith throwing balls for him. "We just called him dog, she thought. Edward and Albert would take him off walking. The two men got on well together, especially when David began to disappear quite often for weekends.

After one such time, when Albert had also been away, there were angry words between the two men, or so it seemed to us overhearing them. Then they had appeared together and David had delivered the bombshell - that he was married. His wife, Alice, had no wish to leave the seaside town she lived in, but that seemed hardly the reason for not telling anyone, or not having a wedding here with us.

Later we realised why. They had met while both walking on the beach in Sussex. She had stumbled and fallen and David had helped her up, only to find she walked in a lopsided fashion. It turned out she had had polio when younger and that had left her very lame. The walk on the beach had been a dream for some time. David said it was providence. When we did meet her what we saw, and talked about a lot, was that David's gentleness with her, gave her confidence. But it wasn't till she had become pregnant that we did meet.

It was Albert who collected them from Sussex. We knew that David was to be a father, but at that point knew no more.
Somehow it was Albert again, who seemed now to feel responsible for everyone connected with him, who found out that help was needed. She was quite pretty and until she stood up we were not aware of her problems. She was not only lame, but had a sort of twist to her left shoulder. We all probably tried too hard to make her feel comfortable at first and she was not happy.

As far as Albert was concerned she needed to have the best treatment available and in his direct way told her so and that we could afford to give her all the benefits that money could buy. Judith told him to go away, which he grudgingly did.
She had been with us a few days and we were now getting used to her physical awkwardness. It was in the afternoon and Judith went off to arrange for some tea for us. Left alone with her she began to look as if he was going to cry and I just went and sat by her and held her hand. Then I turned her face to me, looked into her eyes for a moment, and smiled. It was all instinctual, but it did the trick. The answering smile I can still remember, with a tear still in the corner of her eye.

I gave her all the details of Albert's life as a child so that she would understand him a bit more. Judith came back while I was talking. She looked a bit unhappy about what I was saying, but seemed alright when Alice then smiled at her. The house became her home from then until the baby as born.
Great'ma sat, remembering the smile and the baby, before Hilda came to see her back to her bed.


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