Links to part one and two.
THE SEWING CIRCLE – PART THREE
The next morning the rumours started within the various communities around the estate.
Sharon Jackson was having an affair with a police officer from the narcotic division.
Nobody suspected that the whispers that infested the bingo hall, corner shop, post office and surgery waiting room were started by five old women as they went about their business. Those who dealt drugs on the estate were understandably nervous and tried to find out more information without much success. This only served to make them even more paranoid and soon the rumour mill was working overtime on the stairways until it reached the ears of Sharon Jackson.
She was furious but did not have the intelligence to work out how to combat the growing tide of speculation and false accusations about her. The one thing she did have was a healthy respect for her husband’s fists and as the days passed she became increasingly terrified that word would reach Archie. Even though he was banged up inside, she knew he had a long reach; time was not on her side.
She was definitely right about that one. A week after the gossip started, Sylvia Ross left the estate and took a taxi to the Docklands. In a wine bar there, she met with an elderly man who despite his walking stick, still strode confidently across the floor to the table where she sat, beautifully dressed and made-up.
An hour later Sylvia left and returned to a meeting at Betty’s flat. She said little but she nodded to Big Sal and they both knew that the toughest part of their plan was in play.
Three weeks later Sharon Jackson went missing. A concerned elderly woman rang the social services and mentioned that there were four young children living alone in a flat in Grange House. By the end of the day, with no sign of their mother, the police had been informed and the children were taken into temporary care. Darren, who was still at his aunt’s house in Epping Forest, was alerted by one of his gang members and he got his cousin to bring him home on his bike where he let himself into the now deserted flat.
He was not bothered by losing his entire family in the slightest. He now had the freedom to live and do as he pleased, even though Sharon’s idea of parenting had been relaxed to say the least. He could get up when he wanted, eat what and when he liked and best of all he could drink his favourite tipple, vodka, all day without his mother sharing the contents of the bottle. His friends all came round to sample the delights of the new gang headquarters and the neighbours were subjected to noisy parties into the small hours and harassment on the walkways and stairs.
The social services came around, but their hands were tied, as Darren had turned sixteen while away at his aunts and could not be persuaded to give up his freedom and go into some form of care. The council promised to re-house the boy, as he couldn’t remain in a three bed roomed flat on his own, but were not sure how quickly this would happen. On the fourth day, two large men in suits appeared and the residents on that landing assumed that they were from the council, who had been called that morning with further complaints and requests for assistance.
The two men knocked on the door to the Jackson’s flat and one of Darren’s mates, on his way out to collect more vodka, inadvertently opened it and admitted them into the confined hall. He took one look at their faces and hurriedly left, glancing nervously over his shoulder as he ran down the landing. Within minutes he was followed by the rest of the gang, one of them nursing his right ear and trying to hold back unmanly tears.
The neighbours on each side of the flat listened with ears pressed to their lounge walls but they couldn’t hear a word. They were beginning to doubt that the two men were from the council after all and their suspicions were confirmed when sounds of a more physical nature were heard from the Jackson’s living room.
Twenty minutes later, the two men left, carefully closing the door of the flat behind them. All was silent and the neighbours on either side settled down to enjoy their after lunch television programmes and a well-deserved nap.
Several hours later, just as they were settling down again for the evening, the neighbours heard someone falling around inside the Jacksons’ flat. It sounded as though furniture and ornaments were being knocked over and then a crash as something heavy such as a television smashed to the floor. Not wishing to get involved in anything to do with the family, the police were not called and anyway after half an hour, the front door was opened. On both sides of the flat, curtains were twitched and eyes followed the progress of the figure that emerged onto the landing.
It was an astonishing sight. It was Darren, but barely recognisable as he stumbled in high-heeled shoes, drunkenly down the landing. He was wearing a tight satin dress, fishnet tights and he was wearing make-up and jewellery. The neighbours found themselves tittering and laughing at the spectacle as Darren staggered towards the stairs. A man returning from work stood one of the stairwells, transfixed by the vision before him. Darren stared glassily back at him and then grabbing the handrail almost slid to the bottom of the steps. He did not even appear to see the man in front of him and tottering on his stilettos he swung around the corner and down the next flight.
Unfortunately for Darren, he was inexperienced in the management of high heels and as he reached the top of the last flight of stairs leading to the car park, he slipped and fell untidily to the bottom landing in a crumpled heap.
He lay motionless as a crowd of residents clustered around him. One daring soul prodded the supine body with the toe of his shoe and then leapt back as the body began to twitch and jerk before going rigid and collapsing back onto the dusty surface of the pavement.
The post mortem showed that Darren had a great deal of alcohol in his system as well as a considerable amount of recreational drugs. No one else was suspected in his death although the residents of the estate had their own ideas. Darren’s gang were not bothered by the nature of Darren’s death but were mortified to think that their leader, and the terror of the neighbourhood, was secretly a lover of fine clothes, high heels, make up and jewellery.
Those gang members that lived on other estates were never seen again and those that remained on the Redgrave kept a very low profile. Some even went as far as to go to school on a regular basis and one graduated to college where he trained as a social worker.
A month after Sharon’s disappearance and Darren’s death, Archie Jackson apparently slipped on a bar of soap in the prison shower and hit his head on the tiles. His death was ruled as accidental by the authorities.
The sewing circle continued to meet although they were not only missing the lovely Flo but Sylvia too on some occasions. In the weeks following their successful campaign, she could be seen getting into an elegant black car one or two mornings a week. One day as the friends sat around working on their latest projects, she looked up and smiled at them gently.
“I have some news.” They all turned to her expectantly.
“I am getting married.” She announced to her open-mouthed audience.
“It’s someone I have known for years, a widower living in Chingford. He has got a lovely house and he says it is too big and empty for him on his own.”
She drew a handful of envelopes out of her handbag and distributed them around the stunned women.
“I hope you will all come to the wedding, and be my bridesmaids, and when we get back from honeymoon I would like you to come out to me every week for our meetings as I don’t want to give them up.”
Big Sal who was sitting next to Sylvia grabbed her in her ample embrace and kissed her resoundingly on her powdered cheek.
“You just try and stop us you sly old floozy. Perhaps you can set us all up with mates of his at the wedding? We could all do with a bit of a fling!”
The others all laughed and Betty rushed to the kitchen for the sherry bottle and five glasses.
As they toasted the future Mrs Mitchell, they also raised their glasses to their beloved friend Flo and prayed that she could now rest in peace.
©sallycronin The Sewing Circle 2004
I hope you have enjoyed the short stories and novella and your feedback is always welcome.. thanks Sally