Authors: Kitty Neale
Tags: #Fiction, #General
Kevin looked up and down the High Street. Seeing nobody about, he rang her bell, a smile plastered on his face when she opened the door. ‘Hello, Pearl. I was just wondering if you’ve seen Nobby Clark.’
‘Er … no.’
‘I was supposed to meet him here at the shop,’ Kevin lied, ‘but so far he ain’t turned up. Do you mind if I come in and wait?’
‘But it’s after ten o’clock. Why would you be meeting him at this time of night?’
‘Now then, Pearl, you know better than to ask questions. Come on, girl, let me in,’ Kevin insisted as he pushed his way past her.
Pearl’s eyes were rounded as she stared at him, but Kevin made for the stairs. ‘Your room is on the first floor, ain’t it?’
He didn’t wait for her answer, or look over his shoulder, convinced that she would follow him.
Kevin wasn’t wrong, and as he walked into her room his face stretched with surprise as he looked around the walls. ‘Well, well, did you draw these?’
‘Yes,’ Pearl said, her face reddening.
‘They’re good – in fact, very good. It seems you’ve got hidden talents.’
‘Thank you,’ she said, obviously pleased.
Kevin hid a smile. So, the way to this girl was through her sketches. He made the most of it. ‘That’s a brilliant one of my mother. You could sell these, Pearl.’
‘Sell them? Oh, no, I don’t think they’re good enough.’
‘Leave it out, of course they are. Blimey, look at that one of Derek. It’s as good as a photograph.’ Kevin sat on the edge of her bed. ‘Have you got any more?’
‘Yes, but you won’t want to see them.’
‘Why not? I’ve got nothing else to do until Nobby shows up.’
Pearl picked up a large folder and without thinking about what she was doing, sat beside him on the bed. ‘Here’s one of Gertie.’
‘Blimey, that’s marvellous,’ and careful not to touch her, he looked at all the drawings in her portfolio. ‘Has anyone else seen these?’
‘No, you’re the first.’
‘Well, love, I feel privileged, but I don’t see one of me.’
‘I … I haven’t got one.’
As she turned, their eyes met, and as though Pearl suddenly realised their close proximity she became agitated, quickly stuffing the drawings back into the folder. He gently touched her arm, saying softly, ‘Any chance of a drink?’
‘I … I’ve only got tea or lemonade.’
‘Lemonade will do me.’
He watched her as she went to the small kitchenette. She was such a meek little thing and he didn’t want to frighten her off, but Christ, he was as hard as a rock and couldn’t wait much longer. When she returned he took the glass, his smile teasing.
‘I still think that drawing of Derek is good, but I don’t know what you see in him.’
‘Derek is lovely, kind and caring.’
‘I could be kind and caring too.’
She flushed and Kevin loved it. God, what an innocent, the daft cow like putty in his hands. She fancied him, there was no doubt about that. Placing the glass on the floor, he made his move. Taking her hand, he pulled her down beside him on the bed, enfolding her in his arms.
‘Pearl,’ he whispered, one of his hands brushing her breast.
‘No, stop it!’ she protested, pulling away.
‘Come on, Pearl, you know you like me. I only want a little cuddle, and there’s no harm in that.’
‘I … I’m going out with Derek and it wouldn’t be right.’
For a moment Kevin wanted to slap her, but resisted, instead planting a sad expression on his face. ‘Yeah, sorry, but I’ve fancied you for ages.’
‘Fancy me! You … you fancy me?’
‘Of course I do. Look, I’ll come clean. I’m not really waiting for Nobby. I came round here to see you.’
Pearl’s eyes were wide. ‘But … but Derek …’
‘Don’t worry about him.’ And on those words Kevin pulled her into his arms again. For a moment she stiffened, but then he raised her chin with one finger, his lips meeting hers. She groaned, and he smiled. He kisses grew deeper, his hands wandering over her body, touching her in places that he knew she’d love.
‘No, don’t,’ she protested as he began to unbutton her blouse.
He stopped, whispering, ‘Sorry,’ as he released her.
Pearl clutched her blouse together, gasping, her eyes dark with desire as they met his. As he hoped, she made the move this time, leaning into his arms. He struggled to take his time, almost bursting, but at last he could sense that she was ready. Once again she resisted a little as he began to remove her clothes, but as he gently coaxed, she suddenly melted.
Unable to wait any longer, he pushed Pearl onto her back, and as he entered her she cried out, stiffening beneath him. There was some resistance, but unsurprised to find Pearl a virgin, her cries of pain heightened his passion. He was the first!
Kevin took Pearl quickly, ignoring her pain. She was innocent, acquiescent, and he felt like a man, conquering, dominant and in control. Of course, there was an element missing, one that he had to pay for in Soho, but it was still good and for a while he was able to lose himself in her body.
All too soon it was over and, annoyed that he hadn’t lasted longer, Kevin rolled away to light a cigarette, ignoring Pearl’s sniffles until she spoke.
‘You … you shouldn’t have done that, and … and it hurt.’
‘You didn’t put up much of a fight, and anyway, it always hurts the first time,’ he said dismissively, thinking that at least that’s what he’d heard.
When he had finished his cigarette, he turned to look at Pearl again. She looked vulnerable, innocent, her huge eyes tear-filled as they met his. ‘I’m sorry I hurt you, but it’ll be better next time. Come on, give me a cuddle.’
She shook her head, but he settled himself beside her, wrapping her in his arms. For a moment she stiffened, but when he didn’t do anything other than hold her, she relaxed, snuggling against him. They lay like that for a while, but then reliving the moment that confirmed to him that Pearl was a virgin, Kevin found himself hardening again.
Slowly and gently he began to stroke her. She resisted a little, but then became compliant. Kevin smiled. He’d let her enjoy it this time, but in future he’d teach her a trick or two, show her what
liked. He entered her, moving slowly, teasingly. She groaned, this time with pleasure.
‘Well, you certainly enjoyed it that time,’ he leered when it was over.
Pearl lay quietly for a moment but then threw her arms around him. ‘Oh, Kevin, I didn’t realise love could be like this.’
‘Love! It ain’t love, you daft cow. It was just sex, and don’t go reading anything else into it. I ain’t looking for a steady girlfriend.’
Pearl’s eyes were rounded with shock as she stared at him. ‘But—’
Kevin rose to his feet. ‘No buts, Pearl. As I said, it was nothing, and by the way, there’s no need for Derek to find out.’ With a dismissive wave of his hand he added, ‘See ya,’ before walking out.
When Kevin left, Pearl was in tears, going over and over what had happened. He was so handsome, so kind about her sketches, and she’d been flattered by his attention. When he started to fondle her she found her body reacting in ways she’d never felt before. His hands had been gentle, touching her, arousing delicious feelings, and though she had protested at first, in truth she didn’t want him to stop. Despite the initial pain she had never felt so close to anyone before, their bodies fused, as one, and she found herself reaching out for something, a longing. Was this it? Was this how it felt to be loved and in love?
A small sob escaped her lips, remembering how her feelings had been dashed. Kevin had dismissed it as nothing. Oh, what an idiot she’d been. He didn’t love her, didn’t want her, the sex meaningless. He had just used her, and she’d let him.
She felt dirty, soiled, and now dashed to the sink, washing all traces of Kevin from her body.
It was some time before Pearl returned to her bed, tossing and turning all night. She hated herself, hated her treacherous body, at last drifting off to sleep in the early hours of the morning.
It was the doorbell that woke her at nine in the morning but, unable to face the thought of seeing anyone, she curled into a ball. The ringing persisted. Crawling out of bed, Pearl went to the window to see Derek below. Oh God, she couldn’t see him. He would know – he would look at her and know.
He waved frantically, and it was obvious he wouldn’t go away unless she spoke to him. She lifted the window, leaning out a little. ‘Derek, I’m not well. I can’t come down.’
‘When I went into the café, Bernie asked me if I’d seen you. What’s wrong, love?’
As Derek shouted up at her, several heads lifted, and Pearl cringed. They were all staring at her. Could they tell? Did it show?
‘I’ve got an upset tummy,’ she called desperately. ‘Will you tell Bernie? I … I may see you tomorrow, but it depends how I’m feeling.’
‘Is there anything I can get you?’
‘No, but thanks.’ Pearl lifted her hand to give Derek a small wave, anxious to shut the window and get away from the prying eyes.
She crawled back into bed, just wanting to hide away, and soon, exhausted, she escaped into sleep.
It was half an hour later when Trevor Bardington parked his car, smiling as he pulled out a bag of shopping. He’d bought cereals, some fruit, a bar of chocolate, and with the girl downstairs at work, he had the place to himself.
It had been a pain keeping him quiet when Pearl Button was in, but the drugs had done the trick. Now, though, he would make sure the boy was fully awake.
Trevor went up to his room, smiling fondly at the child tied to his bed. The boy had been in a drug-induced sleep, but as his eyelids fluttered, Trevor could see that he was waking up.
Those wonderful emerald-green eyes flickered open, looking glazed at first, but seeing Trevor, they rounded with fear.
‘So, you’re awake, and as a treat I’ve got you some chocolate,’ Trevor said as he untied the bindings. ‘Now, if you’re really good, I’ll take the gag off. You will be quiet, won’t you?’
The boy nodded, but his eyes filled with tears. Trevor knew that, tempting as it was, he couldn’t keep him much longer. He tousled the boy’s hair, annoyed when he flinched. Why did they have to pretend?
He heaved a sigh. Yes, the lad would have to go soon, but he’d get a good price when he passed him on.
When Pearl awoke again it was after ten o’clock. Something had disturbed her, a sound, and she sat up groggily. Had somebody rang the doorbell? She rubbed her eyes, becoming still when she heard a cry.
Another cry, muffled, and her eyes went to the ceiling. Surely it wasn’t Mr Bardington making that noise?
For a moment the house was silent, the only sound street noises outside. Another faint cry, a yell, and suddenly Pearl flew out of bed. Please God, no, she thought frantically as she pulled on some clothes.
Barefoot, she tiptoed upstairs, struggling to stay calm. Surely she was wrong? Surely she was imagining things? It couldn’t be – it just couldn’t!
Softly Pearl crept along the landing, and reaching Mr Bardington’s door she pressed her ear against it.
At first she heard nothing, but then, as the cry came again, Pearl’s stomach turned a somersault.
For a moment she froze, stiff with panic. She had to do something, had to find help. Derek, she’d get Derek! Without coherent thought, Pearl flew back downstairs, her bare feet making little sound. She dashed outside, leaving the street door wide open behind her, eyes wild as she made for Derek’s stall.
The pavement was sharp underfoot, but Pearl was hardly aware of it. ‘Derek!’ she screamed.
‘What is it? What’s the matter?’
‘Eric … I think I know who’s got Eric! Quick, you’ve got to come!’
‘Come where? Who’s got him?’
‘It’s the man living in the room upstairs. I think Eric’s in there with him. I … I heard a child crying.’
‘Charlie! Denis! Rick! Bob!’ Derek yelled. ‘Quick, come with me.’
‘What’s going on?’ one called.
‘Pearl thinks she knows where Eric is!’
Abandoning customers, the men ran to his side, other costermongers alerted and joining them.
Derek quickly explained, their faces darkening with fury as they all ran to the open door, Pearl behind as they thudded upstairs.
Everything happened so quickly that Pearl could barely take it in. Derek’s shoulder crashed into Mr Bardington’s door, wood splintering, and still in momentum he almost fell into the room, the other men followed in his wake. Mr Bardington yelled, and as all hell let loose, she craned to see over their heads. There was a scream of fear, and then the man was on the floor, a sea of heavy boots kicking him again and again, each one landing with a sickening crunch. He shrieked, and as Pearl ducked low she had a brief glimpse of him, his nose shattered and his face running with blood. She swallowed, wanting to protest, but then Derek appeared with Eric in his arms and bile rose in her throat. Oh, no! Oh God!
All thought of protest died on Pearl’s lips as anger threatened to overwhelm her. She wanted to join the men, to kick Trevor Bardington, to punch him, beat him, to make him suffer for what he had done to an innocent child. He was an animal, a monster! A wall of redness formed in front of her eyes, but then Derek yelled in her ear.
‘Pearl, come on, we’ve got to get Eric out of here! We’ll take him to the café and someone can run for Frank and Lucy.’
Derek’s voice somehow penetrated her fury and she reacted quickly. ‘Yes, of course. I’ll get something to cover him.’
As they went down to the next landing, Pearl dashed into her room, grabbing a blanket from her bed to cover Eric’s naked body. The small crowd that had gathered hushed as they stepped outside, but then a cry went up. ‘Good on yer, Derek.’
‘It was Pearl who found him, not me. Now let me pass. This child needs his mother. Madge, will you run and get her?’
The woman nodded, hurrying away.
As the crowd parted, Derek carried Eric to the café. Dolly must have been alerted, and as they walked in she motioned them upstairs to her flat. ‘Take him to my bedroom.’
As soon as Eric saw Dolly’s bed he went into a panic, fighting to get out of Derek’s arms.
‘It’s all right, darling,’ Pearl said, and as Eric held out his arms in appeal, she took him, holding him closely.
The blanket slipped and there was a gasp. Dolly held a hand over her mouth in horror. ‘Oh my God,’ she whispered. ‘His … his little bottom is covered in blood.’
Pearl sat on the edge of the bed, but as she lowered Eric onto her lap he cried out in pain. Tears flowed then, rolling unchecked down her cheeks as she managed to lay the child gently on his side. She had barely covered him with the blanket when Lucy and Frank Hanwell flew into the room.
‘Eric! Eric!’ Lucy sobbed, thrusting Pearl aside. For a moment she gazed down at her son, but then she lay beside him on the bed, pulling him into her arms.
Frank watched, his face drained of colour, and as Dolly whispered her concerns, his fists balled. ‘Yeah, ring the doctor, but where is the bastard who did this? I’ll kill him with my bare hands.’
‘Don’t worry. I think you’ll find he’s already been taken care of,’ Derek murmured.
As Dolly left to make the telephone call, Frank dropped to his knees by the bed, but Eric turned his head away, refusing to look at his father.
‘Oh, son. Oh, son …’ With a strangled sound in his throat, Frank rose to his feet.
For a while nobody spoke as Lucy continued to rock the boy in her arms.
Then Frank turned to Derek. ‘You found my son and I don’t know how to thank you.’
‘It wasn’t me, mate. As I told the others, it was Pearl who found him.’
Frank’s eyes were moist as he looked at her. ‘Well, love, I don’t know how to thank you either, but I’m deeply indebted to you.’
The doctor arrived and asked all but Eric’s parents to leave. Derek and Pearl went downstairs.
‘Pearl, your feet are bare,’ Dolly said brusquely, ‘and you look awful. You’d best take her home again, Derek.’
‘Yes, Mrs D.’
Pearl was led outside, but then shock set in and she was hardly aware of anything as Derek walked her home. Many stallholders and locals patted her back as they trod the short distance, but when Pearl winced as she stood on something sharp, Derek picked her up, carrying her to the still-open street door.
The house was silent as they went in and suddenly Pearl stiffened in Derek’s arms. It felt like a house of horrors now, the thought of living there abhorrent.
‘I … can’t stay here. I just can’t.’
‘All right, love, I’ll take you round to my place. Connie will take care of you.’
Pearl didn’t argue, but as Derek carried her outside again she saw Kevin Dolby amongst the crowd. As their eyes met his smile was like a leer and Pearl looked quickly away, feeling sick inside.
Her arms tightened around Derek’s neck. Oh God, she had betrayed this lovely man. Instead of being cared for and treated like a hero, she should be stoned.