WAITING FOR JANICE | By: Terry Collett | | Category: Short Story - Children Bookmark and Share


Benedict waited patiently(as patiently as a nine year old boy can wait) for Janice at the end of Bath Terrace where she lived with her grandmother in the block of flats behind somewhere on the third floor where he‭'‬d been once or twice to see the yellow canary and stay for tea and why she lived with her grandmother and not her parents he never asked although it puzzled him often especially at night when he lay awake kept awake by the coal shunting railway engine opposite the flats of Banks House where he lived with his parents and sister and brother but Janice's grandmother was a strict disciplinarian and even Benedict was wary of her when he saw her out or when he visited the flat and recalled her saying I’ll slap your behind my girl if you misbehave‭ she would often say in his hearing and he'd see Janice blush and stare wide eyed at her grandmother he stared back up Bath Terrace and saw Janice walking quickly towards him her blonde hair long and fine coming out beneath the red beret her creamy coat buttoned up to her neck he watched her walking she was late she hurried forward he was dressed in his blue jeans and jumper and a pocketful of coins his mother had given him for an ice cream for the both of them sorry I’m late Janice said Gran kept me behind said I had to help with the washing and I had to hold the washing through the ringer while Gran turned the big handle she said I  was too weak to do that bit but I had to do something Benedict nodded he knew her grandmother was a determined woman and knew that when she do something you did it or else‭ does she know where we are going‭? ‬he asked yes I asked her yesterday she said yes if I was with you and to stay with you and to behave don't think she would have let me go if you weren't with me Janice said so they walked along Rockingham Street under the railway bridge and down the street that went by the Trocadero cinema and out into the New Kent Road she chattering about her canary the one he'd seen a few times a yellow bird that sometimes talked if it was in the mood and once when he visited the flat he tried to teach the bird to repeat a four letter word but Janice said don't or I’ll get the blame and be for it so he didn't but he thought it would have been fun have the bird come out with the four letter word to an unsuspecting grandmother are we walking or getting a bus‭? ‬he asked we can walk she said it's just passed our school ok he said so they walked down the subway along the echoing tunnel he singing a few bars of a Frankie Vaughan song she looking at him despairingly he singing it in a country music kind of voice playing an imaginary guitar and making a guitar sound in between singing and then they came out at the other side of the subway and they walked along St George's Road towards the Imperial War Museum where he had suggested they go the previous day‭ ‬he had been there many times especially after school sometimes just to see a particular set of guns or bombs or see the WW1‭ ‬set out in glass cases the small figures of soldiers in trenches and painted backgrounds of trees blown up or no man's land how long are we staying‭? ‬she asked as long as we want he said I may have a go at the air plane controls or see the machine guns and grenades and bayonets she thought it could be boring seeing all that she didn't like guns or bombs or the huge figures of soldiers by walls she only said she'd come to be out and to be him and maybe he would buy her an ice cream or a drink of pop or something she had wanted to go swimming but her grandmother said she didn't like the idea and she thought it indecent to go around in swimwear in the public eye but others do Janice had pleaded I don't care what others do the grandmother said it is you I am thinking about I promised your parents I’d take care of you and keep you safe and I am determined to keep my promise swimming indeed with all those people hardly clothed and some O my God in skimpy swimwear so one can see their parts Benedict laughed when Janice told him his mother had no problems about him going swimming but to be on the look out for children who peed in the water if you see yellow water she said keep away from it get out one can get diseases from pee his mother said but they were going to the War Museum and as they approached the steps he sensed her thin hand reach out for his and he hoped no one especially any boys from school saw him and her and her hand touching his and he hoped that if she decided to give him a nervous kiss it would be the one thing he hoped the boys from school would certainly miss.

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