Janine 3

29 May

Jeremy arrived at the Club early that evening. Janine had intrigued him mightily and he was excited at the thought of meeting her again. He felt younger, eager – but even so – felt in his bones that it might be better for him if she didn’t turn up. He recognised the danger of getting involved with a young girl. His wife – though indulgent of many of his indiscretions – would never understand this one. he told himself that Janine would not turn up. She had carried off the unexpected meeting this morning with aplomb, but she might think better of meeting him again in more conventional circumstances.
He ordered himself a very large whisky, and was popping up the bar ruminatively when George Lester hove into view. George was a young director – one of the new boys up from Oxford. A real litle live wire. He had made his mark rapidly by working on highly controversial subjects and always managing to be in the right place at the right time.
‘Jeremy, you old reprobate’ he cried.
He had no respect for age and experience – something which stood him good stead in his chosen profession.
Jeremy bought him a St Clements – orange juice and bitter lemon. Young aspiring directors seldom touch alcohol before dinner. They need to keep their minds clear at all times – to stay one jump ahead of the more seasoned Bastians of the Corp..
‘Waiting for somebody?’ he said
‘Yes, as a matter of fact, I am’
George took his St Clements and had a good swallow.
‘Saw you here at lunchtime with that big blonde. What’s her name?’
‘Janine Mulhare.’
‘Trapped you, did she? I should watch out if I were you poison in tights. I can tell her sort a mile off. Out for what she can get’
Jeremy smiled
‘Is that a bad thing? It seems the norm for young people these days.’
Jeremy laughed and George looked at him sharply with narrowed eyes. One of the requirements of young aspiring directors was no sense of humour and he was never quite sure whether people were having a go at him.
Jeremy added quickly to make his point clearer.
‘Nothing personal of course.’
‘Of course not.’ George replied with a puzzled frown. then
‘Have you known her long?’
‘A fairly brief acquaintance.’ said Jeremy with a gurgling laugh.
George obviously thought he’d had too many
‘Well, take my tip. Just watch it old chap.’ he said
Jeremy ordered himself another large one, under George’s disapproving eyes. George refused another St Clements.
‘I’ve hardly started this one.’ he said.
This was obviously meant as some kind of reproof. Jeremy mentally cast his eyes to heaven, and as George showed no sign of moving on, engaged him in further conversation.
‘What brings you here?Working?’
George took Jeremy into his confidence.
‘I have a date with a blonde myself tonight. An old girlfriend from Oxford. She’s a real cracker – bright as hell. She’s in the business now – doing pretty well… working at that Club Theatre.’
The Minerva again!. He must tell Marianne about all the publicity the theatre was receiving today. She was always glad to hear it talked about.
‘The Minerva,’ he said, enunciating the word as clearly as possible, ‘It has a very good reputation.’
‘So I believe – for a little theatre. But my girl won’t be here all that long. She’s destined for bigger and better things.’
The bar was beginning to fill up. Actors were wandering in to unwind after rehearsals and to prepare for early evening recordings. Some of them were talking animatedly with their director or reading scripts or having a nap from after too heavy lunches..BBC secretaries with quiet voices and neat little suits looked lovingly at their charges – their bosses. The actors sat in little groups, some of them already in costume and makeup. Some were just sitting, gazing into space, psyching themselves up for a performance and some were talking animatedly and slightly hysterically, laughing at their own jokes.
At about 7.30 Jeremy decided that Janine was not going to turn up – but George’s girl did. She was – as George had said – a cracker, wearing a slender green dress that emphasised every curve of her voluptuous body. She strolled majestically through the bar as if totally unaware that every eye was turned in her direction. When she reached George, she tossed her long straight Scandinavian blonde hair over her shoulders and gave him a chaste kiss on the cheek.
‘Nice to see you again, darling.’ she breathed in a thrilling cultured voice.
George turned in an instant from the tough, know it all TV director into a besotted lovesick swain.
‘Laura, you look wonderful!’ he stammered.
She gave a short laugh and turned to Jeremy, silently demanding an introduction
George did the honours.
‘Jeremy, this is Laura Jensen, my friend from Oxford. Laura, this is Jeremy Fox – you must have seen some of his films’
‘Yes, of course.’ she said
She looked at him coolly, politely shook his hand and then looked away again as if he was of little significance in her life.
She flashed a dazzling smile at George, who tremulously smiled back. Neither of them spoke. Jeremy leapt into the breach.
‘Would you like a drink?’
As he spoke he felt his tongue swell and fill his mouth – this girl somehow made him feel he had too much alcohol, as he certainly had.
‘A Perrier, with ice and lemon would be divine.’ she said with a gracious nod.
Jeremy turned to the bar, to see the barman gazing awestruck at the vision Laura presented.
‘Mineral – Perrier water.’ Jeremy ordered, trying to control his tongue.
The barman handed the drink to him, and he turned to Laura with the drink in his hand. As he gave it, he was surprised to find he had to stoop a little. She was a tiny creature, but her long neck and legs gave the impression of tallness.
‘I’ve seen your work at the Minerva,’ he said, ‘Marianne Lacy is an old friend of mine. You’ve worked there a lot, haven’t you?’
‘yes,’ she said, smiling.
‘I thought you were wonderful in “View From the Bridge”‘
‘Thank you’ she said and smiled again. The conversation came to a standstill.
At this moment, Janine Mulhare entered the room.
She had changed into a lain Navy blue dress, which somehow made her seem taller than ever. Her thick blonde hair curls tumbled about her face and she had made up her already enormous eyes to look even bigger. The dress was starkly puritan plain, but somehow, nest to Laura, she looked gauche, over made up awkwardly tall.
Jeremy warmed to her.
She came over to them, her eyes shining like a child at a picnic.
‘Sorry I’m late.’ she said, ‘I couldn’t decide what to wear.’
‘You look enchanting’ said Jeremy in his best avuncular manner, aware that George Lester was regarding him with undisguised horror.
Jeremy felt a whole lot better. The curious feeling of inadequacy caused by the perfection of the ravishing Laura had disappeared. Janine of the shining face and tumbled hair really rated him.
With Janine he was an important person. It gave him a great deal of pleasure to introduce her to George Lester, who acknowledged the introduction with a nod. Jeremy introduced the two ladies. Janine gazed at Laura with undisguised admiration. Laura looked Janine ujp and down as if assessing the cost o her frock and dismissed her as someone of little importance.
‘Maybe we should go now, George. It’s awfully smokey in here.’
So saying, she picked up her purse and made her way out of the room. Again all eyes followed her -as did Lester, sweating profusely.
Jeremy and Janice watched them go, Jeremy laughing to himself.
‘He won’t get much change out of that one’ he muttered. Janine looked at him in astonishment.
‘What do you mean?, she said,’ She’s so beautiful.’
‘And you are so naive’ he looked at her, ‘and a joy to behold.’
Janine kissed him prettily on the cheek.
‘Thank you, Uncle,’ she said,’ Where are you taking me?’
‘Somewhere extremely private, where we can talk unobserved by the madding throng.’ he said.

Janine 4
In the taxi Janine chattered excitedly about her meeting with George Lester and the ravishing Laura.
‘It was really interesting to meet him. He’s one of the new boys, you know. He went to Oxford’
‘Big fucking deal’ replied Jeremy inelegantly.
‘Did you go to University?’ asked Janine.
‘No, my education was cut short@, he replied, ‘National Service’
‘What’s that?’
‘I was a soldier for two years – after the war when I was eighteen. Then I went to RADA..’
The taxi drew up outside a tiny discreet restaurant on the outskirts of Chelsea.
The waiter put them in a corner tale tucked away out of sight.
‘You don’t mind not being looked at by the rest of the customers I hope.’
‘Of course not,’ said Janine, ‘It must be awful people recognising you all the time.’
Jeremy shrugged.
‘It’s really nice of you to take me out,’ said Janine as she tucked her long legs under the tale, ‘Won’t your wife mind?’
‘She’s away at the moment in Cambridge, with my son. He wanted to show her around. I was going with her, but had to see my agent.’
‘And she doesn’t mind you picking up stray girls and taking them to posh restaurants?’
He felt a small qualm in the pit of his stomach and quickly suppressed it.
‘I wasn’t actually planning on telling her. But – no I don’t think she’d mind.’
‘I expect she’s a really nice person. She must be.’
‘To put up with me? Yes, she is – very special indeed. A lovely wife and a wonderful mother.’
‘Not much like my Mother,’ said Janine with a laugh, ‘nobody’s like my mother.’
‘She sounds so interesting. Tell me more about her.’
Janine shook her head.
‘I wouldn’t know where to start.’
The waiter arrived. Janine left the ordering to Jeremy. H ordered mushrooms a la Greque, the speciality of the house and a simple steak Diane for both of them.
‘I just love dining in posh restaurants,’ said Janine looking around her, ‘I spent so much time as a kid eating leftovers from the kitchens where my mother worked. It’s so nice to see them from the customers’ side. It’s all so clean and tidy. You should see the kitchens – Ugh, and the food was always a bit crumpled and mixed up by the time it got to us.’
‘Why did your mother work in restaurants?’
‘Oh she worked everywhere – factories, shops, kitchens, garages.’
‘And your father?’
Janine gave a little squeal as the waiter brought their first course.
‘Gosh just look at those big fat mushrooms – and the garlic – I love garlic, don’t you?’
‘Yes, I’m fond of garlic.’
‘You can’t just be fond of garlic. Either you love it or you hate it. There’s no inbetween.’ and she attacked them with relish.
‘Your father?’ prompted Jeremy.
‘Oh him. He pissed off – disappeared when we were four years old. That’s me and my brother – Jake.’
‘Your twin?’
‘Yup, He was a real loser, my dad. He just went – no message, not so much as a kiss my arse.’
‘Another woman?’
‘No one ever knew. As I said, he just went. Of course, he was a compulsive gambler. Left Mum in a whole lot of debt.’
‘How did she pay it back?’
Janine looked at him open-mouthed.
‘Pay it back? No, she just packed up everything. Including her kids me and Jake and sailed for America.’
‘Where she made her way gambling too?’
Janine laughed scornfully
‘You gotta be joking. Gambling’s a mug’s game. Mum played poker, yes, but only to win money. Dad was a dumb gambler – he bet on horses, dogs, the stock market. He was an idiot. But poker isn’t gambling. It’s scientific.’
Mm. So, having arrived in the States?’
‘She worked, did anything, cleaning, waitressing, factory work, garage mechanic, anything – and of course – played poker.’
‘She made a living then.’
‘yeah, but like I said. She played scientifically. She taught that if you’re not going to win, you don’t play.’
She watched the waiter cook their steak at the table, clapping her hands and giving a cry of “‘Flambe” as the pan burst into flame.
The waiter laughed indulgently, giving his best performance and Jeremy found himself joining in the excitement. It was like taking a kid to see a firework display.
‘So where did you go to school?’
‘All over the place. Mum taught us a lot herself but was too busy most of the time. We just went to whatever school was at whatever place we were at. We didn’t stop anywhere too long of course. Quite often we got expelled and had to leave the town quite quickly.’
‘For playing poker?’
‘Mm sometimes. but sometimes we had to leave town because of some man’s wife. Know what I mean?’
‘I think I understand.’
‘No you don’t – Oh Jeremy, this wine is like raspberries. Let me tell you about the children’s parties.’
‘The parties?’
Yes, we were never invited to private homes of course, but we used to go just the same whenever we could scramble in and more often than not we got chucked out again. Church Socials and things were really our bag – they couldn’t very well keep us out of those. We used to get a good game going with the other kids. Rummy or Hearts, you know. kid’s games. We usually managed to win all their pocket money before we got thrown out.’
Janine caught his quizzical look. Was this another fabrication?
‘I know what you’re thinking. I promised to tell the truth.’
I believe you.’
‘People are so funny. They don’t complain when they are winning do they? They object when they start to lose. Then we got called all sorts of names. We always let them win a bit at the beginning of course.’
‘to get them hooked?’
Janine laughed
‘You understand.’
‘Your mother. she never remarried?’
‘No bloody fear. She’d had enough the first time. She used to say women were exploited long enough – and it was her turn to do the exploiting. She had a lot of gentleman friends of course. I had a regular gang of uncles. They stalked us everywhere we went.’
Jemermy sipped his wine reflectively.
‘So I’m not the first?’
Janine snapped at him
‘Don’t get me wrong. She wasn;’t a whore you understand. She was a survivor.’
Jeremy cleared his throat.
Do you think you resemble her in anyway?’
‘Don’t know. I’m proud of her of course. She had a lot of the right ideas, but I don’t think I could be as single-minded as that. I’m a bit of a softie sometimes. Jake is more like her really.’
‘He shares the flat with you in Hammersmith?’
Janine considered before answering.
‘Occasionally, sometimes he is working n France. He has a friend there – a Marquis no less with a real live chateau. Jake is an artist, he went to St Martin’s. He’s very talented.’
‘Did you go there?’
‘No I went to the Webber D.’
‘But how did you get in? Didn’t you need a Matriculation? or some thing?’
‘I lied,’ she said ,’I said I’d got Australian A levels. Jake did the same. They didn’t check. I guess our talent carried us through.’
She stopped and looked at him.
‘That sounds big headed maybe. But I am talented. I do know that.’
‘But why Australia?’
‘It’s true. We did go to Australia. They like gambling over there, but not playing with women, so we didn’t do too well. We came back here.’
‘And she worked as a waitress over here to help you with your studies?’
‘No. All the girls at Drama school were really rich. They felt sorry for me – gave me all their old clothes. I cleaned up! Jake used to sell them to the girls at St Martin’s. And Mum bought a market stall in the Portobello Road. We used to sell the leftovers. Then the dressmaking students at St Martin’s made crazy frocks for the drama students. They’d wear anything a bit peculiar. We copped the commission.’
Jeremy had begun to feel that his own life had passed by without incident. A thought struck him.
‘Tell me, if it’s not a rude question,’ he said, ‘ That dress you are wearing. Is it a Webber D cast off or a St Martins number?’
‘Selfridges. I got it this afternoon. That is why I was late.’
Jeremy gave a sigh of relief. But his relief was shortlived.
‘I promise I’ll take it back tomorrow. I only borrowed it.’
He had to laugh. ‘You are incorrigible.’
She looked at him with her innocent blue eyes.
‘You wanted the truth. I’ve never been so honest with anybody in my life.’
And Janine attacked her profiteroles with gusto.
‘Janine, will you promise me something?’
She looked at him with trust in her eyes and chocolate on her chin. He laughed and gently wiped it off.
‘I know I asked you to tell me the truth. but for Christ’s sake, don’t make a habit of it. Don’t do it with anybody else. Promise?’
‘Of course, I wouldn’t dream of it. I’m old poker face, remember.’
He groaned, what had he got into?.
‘Well have you finished your enormous meal or would you like something else?’
‘Oh sorry. Have I cost you too much money?’
‘Of course not. But I think its time I took you home.’
‘ I thought you’d never ask.’ she said with a suggestive grin.
He realised with sick horror that she had misunderstood him, but he didn’t want to carry on the conversation any further. He asked the Maitre D to call a cab. It came as soon as he settled the bill. They climbed in and he gave Janine’s address to the driver.
On the drive back they w ere quiet – each occupied with their own private thoughts. Janine was trying to remember whether her sheets were clean, and Jeremy working out how he was going to get away without hurting her feelings.
They arrived at Janine’s flat and he told the cabby to wait.
Janine turned to him, sincerely astonished.
‘Don’t you want coffee?’ she asked
‘I don’t drink coffee late at night. Keeps me awake. And I have a rehearsal in the morning.’
‘That’s not true. They don’t need you till Wednesday. There’s nobody here; Jake is away. Mum’s in Brighton. It’s perfectly all right.’
Jeremy sighed
‘You don’t understand. I’m an old man. I need my sleep.’
She bowed her head.
‘Don’t you like me?’
‘Yes I do, very much. Why don’t you give me your number. I’ll telephone you very soon.’
She brightened slightly
‘I’ll come and meet you at the Club’
‘No’ he said hastily, ‘I absolutely forbid it.’
He took out his pen and wrote her number on his cuff.
‘You are sure?’ she asked once more.
‘Positive,’ he kissed her on the cheek, ‘Sleep well, Niece.’

.’

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