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Please Welcome Ch4

by Jubbly 

Posted: 22 January 2004
Word Count: 2838

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This piece and/or subsequent comments may contain strong language.

Chapter 4

"What you singing tonight Tina?"

I rolled my eyes, trying to give the impression that my choice was both tongue in cheek and emotionally resonant.

"The Greatest Love of all." I replied weakly.

Rick Mann, the KJ or Karaoke Jockey, pulled a face that suggested I might be on the brink of committing amateur suicide.

"Great, right, see you up there."

We limped through Christmas somehow, we went round my mums and my sister and her lot came over and we drank and ate and even laughed, in fact for a brief moment you could be forgiven for thinking everything was normal. Pete had popped down the week before, he took the girls shopping and spent the day with Joe, took him to one of those soft play places they invented so kiddies can run about and scream their lungs out and parents can read the papers and get through another weekend without killing their children.
He turned up early on a Saturday morning to pick up the kids, didn't use his key - had the decency to ring the front door bell.

"Mum, dad's here. Shall I let him in?" asked Sammy, the prospect of a guilt inspired shopping spree with her father had suddenly brought out the Mother Teresa in her. Even Laura had softened since he rang and spoke to them both. He said all the right things, reassured them that none of this was their fault, told them how he and their mum had been drifting apart for years now and how he still loved them all but we'd all be better off if he went his way and me mine.
What a speech, right out of the do it Yourself Divorce Handbook. Strangely I was unaware of any drifting apart, sure we both had different friends but that's only natural, I don't like to spend my time talking about rugby, computer systems and debating whether or not professional footballers should be drug tested as a matter of course - but then again I'm in denial don't forget.
I've spoken to him since he left, had to. But we hadn't really touched on the core of the problem, we hadn't mentioned her, Madeline. You see for all my brashness and hard exterior when something really hurts, me, really gets inside me and pulls and tugs and ties knots in everything I've ever trusted as safe, I keep quiet, I bottle things up. When someone says are you all right Tina? I push all my anger and pain and desire for justice right to the bottom of my soul and smile, my face hardening like a statue, "Yes, fine. "I say, hating myself again for betraying my very essence. So when Pete called again, he caught me out.

"Tina, Hi it's me, don't put the phone down we need to talk."

"Do we?"

"You know we do, how are the kids?"


"I know you must be angry Tina, and I'm really sorry..

'Are you?

"You've every right to hate me..

Oh no that was too easy, I wasn't giving him the satisfaction.

"I don't hate you Pete, I feel sorry for you, I'd feel sorry for anyone who could walk out on their family, because they must have something missing, something not functioning properly, what is it Pete, a mid life crisis?"

I stayed calm, the anger settled and I wanted to be in control.

"Can I talk to the kids?"

I wanted to say no, no you can't not ever again, in fact they'd don't want to speak to you, they hate you. I wanted him to be in as much pain as me, then I caught sight of little Joe, playing with his Bob the Builder digger on the kitchen floor, a little miniature Pete, would he do this one day, destroy some poor girl, take her heart and wrench it into shapes then roll it into a ball and throw it away, poor little daddy-less boy but instead I just called he girls to the phone and they made up with their estranged father there and then.

Now he was here as large as life, I hadn't seen him since the morning he left and when I struggled to recall that day everything was blank.

"Yeah, well I suppose you better let him in, I'm going out back for a fag."

I thought I'd just stay there, in the garden shivering and breathing Marlboro lights for air, that way he needn't see me, not notice that I'd lost half a stone and aged 10 years, perhaps that's how we'd do it. Hand the kids over like governments exchanging hostages, have everything drawn up in a contract and leave it to the officials to negotiate a deal.
But no, he opened the back door and stood there, staring; I looked up at him and nearly forgot he'd ruined my life.

I stood rigid as he tried to hug me, his soggy big man tears drenching the back of my neck.

"I still care about you Tee, I always will, you're the mother of my kids, please let's try and be civil to each other."

He fooled me for a second, was he coming back, had he left her, would he fall to his knees and tell me the whole thing was one bloody big mistake and it didn't matter how nice her Shepherds pie was because she wasn't a patch on me in any other way. But when he stepped back and the disappointment and betrayal were still so visible in his treacherous eyes, I knew the truth.

"Where are you staying?" I asked.

"With a mate from work, not far, up Crouch end way."

"Oh yes, very nice."

"Look Tina, we need to talk," oh that old song again. "Can you get your mum to look after Joe tonight, we could go for a drink, what do you say?"

"If my mum claps eyes on you you're dead Pete."

He looked quite frightened actually.

I caved in and suggested he come round here instead. But he said that wasn't a good idea, might be confusing for the kids. I agreed and against my better judgement we decided to meet up later in a pub in Islington.

I called my mum and she agreed to come round.

"He's got a bloody hide, turning up, expecting you to drop everything, what's he want to talk about anyway? "

I had no idea - he probably wanted to discuss finances, make sure I didn't get a brief that was going to take him to the cleaners, or maybe, just maybe.....

He brought the kids back around five; they raced in the front door, arms bulging with presents, no surprises for Christmas then, everything hand picked and paid for with blood money. Save on gift-wrapping anyway.

Joe was muckier than usual, toffee mingled with snot and dirt stuck to his face like a modern artists collage hoping for an exhibition in a trendy gallery.

"He was great Tina, really well behaved, he only wee'ed himself twice, I couldn't find any spares so I bought him something from Kids gap, think it might be a bit big,

Joe promptly tripped over his trouser legs and fell crashing to the floor in the hallway.


"See you then, the Parrs Head, about 8."

Typical as soon as he's needed he's off, maybe that's the way it's always been and I was just too blinkered to notice. Blinded by love, like some poor cow lying to the police to cover up for her serial killer boyfriend's terrible deeds. Whining all the time, "You don't understand, I really love him."

Yeah, yeah, heard it all before darling, the man's murdered 6 women, slit their throats and dumped their broken bodies in a ditch, my oh my now there's a catch. Wake up you silly fool. I slapped the idiot in my mind, realising I was actually trying to knock sense into myself.

Mum arrived a bit later, face like thunder - the great maternal oracle, all seeing all knowing, the Queen of 'I told you so land.' She arrived with her finger outstretched and pointing warning all the way from the front door through to the kitchen.

"I hope you're not thinking of taking him back Tina, you know what they say, once a cheater always a cheater, just like my brother Ken, couldn't keep it in his trousers, even on their wedding day when the vicar asked if anyone had any objections, our mother stood up and pleaded with his bride to be to come to her senses. Did she listen did she heck."

Mum prattled on and on dumping doom and gloom in my tidy little kitchen while I slipped upstairs to change.

I took ages to get ready, just seemed I didn't know how to dress anymore. What does a suddenly single woman in her mid forties wear these days? I didn't want to look like I was on the make, I didn't want him thinking every time I went to the loo I was looking for a replacement husband but at the same time I didn't want to turn up looking like an old dog just waiting for the vet to announce the date I was going to be humanely put down.

I plumped for an A line black skirt made out of that shiny material that's not quite satin and not quite silk, 100 percent synthetic in fact. I wore a pale pink Marks vest with a built in bra for my sagging third baby breasts and a plain cotton black shirt over the top. Sheer tights and knee length black leather boots, three seasons out of date. Finally I was ready, widows garb and he wasn't even dead. I painted on my makeup, trying not to be too subtle nor too garish and ended up looking like I hadn't bothered.

I made a point of wearing the one perfume I know makes him sneeze and had been consigned to the back of my dressing table for the past three years then descended the stairs for my so called date.

"Why you all dressed up." asked Sammy, looking up from her new computer game to take in the full effect.

"I'm not." I said defensively.

Now mum joined in.

"I thought you were meant to be discussing your pending divorce, you don't want him getting wrong idea."

I shrugged, " No one's mentioned divorce okay."

She grunted in response?

"You know full well what I mean."

I did and I didn't.

"Going anywhere nice luv?" asked the cabbie- Frank Sinatra crooning from his radio.

'It was great fun, but it was just one of those things'....sang Frank.

"Just to meet a...friend."

"Nice one luv."

He chatted on and on about the speed humps and the weather and I ummed and aad and nodded, my heart beating faster with each turn in the road.

I spotted my husband immediately; he was leaning against the bar - pint in hand, naturally he hadn't bothered to get a table and being a Saturday the place was already heaving. I was damned if I was going to perch on a stool or lean against a crowded bar all night, but how long would I be there any way, an hour? Two? Five minutes? I took a moment, unnoticed to watch him; this man, this stranger - perhaps he was right, we had drifted apart, slowly, unintentionally, like the signs of old age - acutely obvious to someone who hasn't seen you in a while but unseen in your daily reflection. When was the last time we'd enjoyed each others company? We were all show, fine when we had people round, tolerable in front of the kids or with the telly acting as a third party but when it was just the two of us - an invisible wall was well and truly bricked up between us.
He saw me. An uncertain smile crossed his face and he hurried forward to take my coat.

"Have you eaten?" he asked.
A glimmer of hope jumped at me.
Was this the plan, a curry, or a Thai, maybe we'd dine at the fancy French restaurant on the high street, order champagne, then fall into each others arms and share a taxi back, snogging and fondling all the way home?

Before I could answer he'd decided for the both of us.

"I got myself some fish and chips on the way back, so I'm fine."

"Oh, " I gulped.

"Yeah, " I lied, "I ate with the kids."

On queue my stomach rumbled threatening to give me away, suddenly dry roasted peanuts seemed like a good idea.

We sat in at a beer stained table by the window recently vacated by a young couple on their way to extend their date to another level.

After several rounds of small talk and big pauses I asked him straight up.

"Are you sleeping with her?"

Of course I knew the answer before he nodded guiltily.

"When? When was the first time?" I asked torturing myself for some reason.

"It doesn't matter Tina."

"It matters to me!" I said.

"A few months back, during the summer holidays I think."

The pain of betrayal washed over me as I thought back to that time, that long hot summer when I tried in vain to get a tan, but what with looking after Joe 24/7 the best I could manage was red shoulders and a peeling nose. That summer when every other weekend he'd had to go up to the Manchester office, now that summer will always be the summer when my husband turned into a bastard.

"Do you love her ?" I asked him.

He shifted in his seat and helped himself to one of my cigarettes and he knows I hate it when anyone does that.

"I still love you Tina I always will, but I'm in love with Madeline."

Oh no, not that old bollocks. How many times had I heard that corny line on the soaps? Next thing he'd be telling me how it wasn't meant to happen and sure enough right on queue....

"It wasn't meant to...

"Stop!" I cut him off.

"What about the kids, Joe's just a baby, he hardly knows you. Have you given any thought to them at all or just your own selfish feelings?"

I'd raised my voice and people were looking now, I didn't care.

"What am I doing here anyway Pete, what's to talk about huh? Looks like you've made up your mind for me!"

He leaned across the table.
"We need to sort out the details, I want to make sure you're going to be alright."

I started to cry and he reached out to touch me.

"Come on Tina, let's get you home."

I'd knocked back five glasses of white wine and a vodka and tonic in the time it had taken for him to close the door on our life together.

" I'll take you back in a cab on my way to Crouch End."

He sat as far away from me as possible, even in my inebriated state I could feel the barrier.

The light was on in the front room but mum didn't twitch the curtain.

"Right then Tina, I'll give you a call, you know - let you know my plans."

This was it then.

"Can you walk me in? " I said, immediately sorry I'd spoken.

I could hear the meter ticking and wondered briefly if the cabbie knew we were separated, was he rolling his eyes, in empathy with Pete, were they both paid up members of The Dump Wives over Forty club?

"Come on then, "
Pete helped me out and held my arm as we made our way along the path, the taxi was out of view now, hidden behind a tree, I fumbled for my keys and Pete tried to help me.

'Ring the bell."
No, don't want to wake up Joe.

As he brushed against my arm, I grabbed hold of him and pulled my body into his.
"Oh Pete, please, come in, stay the night, let's just go to bed, everything will be alright, I know it will.

But he pulled away - his body rigid and I could have sworn I saw a look of disgust shiver across his face.

"No, Tina no! " he raised his voice then lowered it. "Go in, make yourself a cuppa, I'll be in touch."

I opened the door and went straight into the downstairs bathroom. I steadied myself against the wall and threw up, vomit and tears and deep deep shame surged into the lavatory bowl. As I flushed I wished that could be it all over, but I knew in my heart that my downward spiral was just beginning.

"Oh dear, oh dear Tina, " I could hear Simon Cowell now, " I'm afraid you look like you feel, distinctly average."

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Comments by other Members

Nell at 15:37 on 22 January 2004  Report this post
Julie, loved this, you've really found Tina's voice now. There were lots more telling phrases than the following but I didn't stop to note them: eg.{i] 'She arrived with her finger outstretched and pointing warning all the way from the front door through to the kitchen.' and 'Finally I was ready, widows garb and he wasn't even dead.'

I did read chapter three a few days ago, but had to go out and forgot to come back to it, but as far as I remember there was less of Tina's resilience - superficial though it is - and humour in that part, and I prefer her vulnerability covered with a veneer of wit.

Your dialogue is realistic and her mum provides an extra conflict - looking forward to more of her too. Love the way she hears Simon Cowell in her head - although I think his words were probably kinder than they would have been in reality, but of course that was Tina's wit was coming through again.

Keep writing,

Best, Nell.


Someone please fix my italics!

Jubbly at 19:05 on 22 January 2004  Report this post
Ta Nell, I'm glad you like old Tina Girl, she's coming to life for me too. I've re titled the whole thing and sent it off to Lit Idol, so here's hoping.


Nell at 20:19 on 22 January 2004  Report this post
Good luck Julie.

Ralph at 22:23 on 22 January 2004  Report this post

I'm starting to see a much darker side to Tina here - still some wonderful humour and some resonant imagery (you are a master of this), but as Nell says you've really found Tina's voice, all sides of it - and it seems apt that as her hopes diminish and her self esteem keeps tumbling the things she says take a downward path as well. Brilliantly done.
There are some incredible lines in this, too many to write them all out - but the one I'd pin to the wall has to be : "As I flushed I wished that could be it all over, but I knew in my heart that my downward spiral was just beginning."
Wherever you take this, all the very best with it

Jubbly at 06:45 on 23 January 2004  Report this post
Thanks Ralph, thw whole thing began as a dream, quite literally, so I think I'll just await inspiration and of course, comp results.



Account Closed at 12:09 on 24 January 2004  Report this post
Hi Julie,
I agree with what has already been said about Tina coming alive. I have started empathising with her (remember how hard she seemed at the beginning?!) Not sure about Pete, though. He seems too nice at the moment - needs a bit of flawing (for me)
Just read the 10 writer's cock ups list (and realised i was guilty of a good few) so this line stood out: "He looked quite frightened actually."
In fact, i think the actually could go here "He actually looked..."

Fingers crossed for Lit Idol...

Elsie at 13:47 on 24 January 2004  Report this post
Jubbly, I wish I'd written this. So real, so may lovely lovely lines. What a bastard - she's better off without out, as my mum would say! (Funny Elspeth think's he's too nice, maybe I'm putting my own memories into it. ) Took me back in time, brought lots of diiferent emotions..love the bitterness of the "Dump the wives club." And the dresing up to go out..

I must go and read the other chapters. How long does it take you..you seem very prolific..this and Rose Lane..


Jubbly at 14:00 on 24 January 2004  Report this post
Thanks Elsie, I'm great at writing to deadlines but left to my own device who knows. I've had so many rejections with Rose Lane I think I'm going to put it to bed and remember it as a cathartic experience. When youngest goes to nursery the week after next, yay!! I'm hoping to get more done, but I can work in intense bursts when I need to, and Please Welcome, which is now called Karaoke Queen takes a few hours for a first draft chapter then I'll rewrite over time for as long as it takes. The first two chapters have been rewritten but not posted yet. The old ones are still there though.



JohnK at 00:12 on 26 January 2004  Report this post
Julie -

I've just read the four chapters, and I loved it. The new title is great, too. 'Karaoke Queen' has a great ring to it.

Perfect line: 'acutely obvious to someone who hasn't seen you in a while but unseen in your daily reflection' when it is applied to the aging process and to the drifting apart. Also 'complete with a rather unsuccessful undulating head' as if 'trying to catch a butterfly'. This is just the way guests in American talk shows gesticulate, when they use that insulting 'hello?' way of putting a person down. You have taken it even further, by describing it as a failed gesture, Excellent.

There's more here than skilled construction and storytelling, though. Tina is a real person, with faults and dreams, struggles and problems. I'd put money on this becoming widely read and appreciated. Thanks very much for letting us see it.

May I put in a plea for her finally managing to make a life for her and her children? Perhaps some revenge on Pete, too, please.

All the very best, JohnK.

Jubbly at 07:21 on 26 January 2004  Report this post
Thanks so much John, yes Tina does find happiness in the form of plumber Jonathan another Karaoke wannabee, just as Pete realises the grass isn't always greener, I'll keep you posted.


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