Once again, life happens.
As autumn fading into winter, the work on the rooms was nearly completed, and Morrie was getting itchy to rent them out. We had a few talks over the months, and I’d come to understand that he was only just keeping his head above water financially. With the majority of the work now completed, he started to look for other jobs to do outside the house, and it wasn’t long before he called Betty and me together in the kitchen.
“I want to thank you guys for all the hard work on the house.” He started. Betty had been lending a hand too on the days she wasn’t at college and her eye for decorating complemented the grunt work that I had been doing.
“I’m putting an ad in the paper next week, and hopefully, we can get some of the college kids who will be starting next term. Betty, we’ve talked about you running the business side of this, and if you’re still willing, I’d like you to take that on. Of course, I’ll pay you for your time at the amount we talked about.”
Betty smiled and said she’d love to take it on, and how it would be a good experience to go along with the business course she was taking.
Marie turned his eyes in my direction. “Tony, you’ve been great to work with, and I would not have been able to finish so fast without you. But I think now that we’re turning this into a real business, I really need to ask you for rent on your room. You’re almost like family now, but I have to be practical too, so I’d be happy to reduce the rent for you, but I feel I need to charge something.”
I could see that Morrie was having trouble even raising the issue of money, so I told him I quite understood, and that I’d be more than willing to pay full market price for my room. I said that hoping against hope that he’d not take me up on the offer because I really didn’t know how I could afford it. Luckily, he insisted, and I “reluctantly” agreed to his offer of reduced rent.
With my mornings free now I started to see what other casual work I could find. The people that ran the various holiday attractions along the beach were something of a close-knit community and I soon found that my time with Uncle Jake had paid off. When asked what experience I’d had I always mentioned Jake, and although that didn’t guarantee me a job, I could see that it eased the way.
I picked up a few jobs here and there, and I got the reputation for being a reliable worker. Part of working the seafront was working the people. There had come to the seaside to have fun, and I felt like we were a real part of providing that, not just the food and the amusement machines and the fun-fair rides – but to be the happy face of the community. As I got more used to the work itself, which was normally tiring and tedious, I started to love chatting with the punters.
A lot of the people that come to Hunstanton were in family groups, but there were a good number of young people, either there with their parents or in groups with others of around the same age. I found that I was able to easily strike up a conversation with these kids, who seemed fascinated by my life working on the coast. Some of the teenage girls seemed keen to get to know me better, and I was impressionable enough to find that flattering. Maybe once or twice a week, that interest was more than just casual, and I got invited back to a holiday chalet while the parents were out at bingo or whatever it was older people did for fun.
I was in love with Ruby, I really was, but I was also a young man who couldn’t turn down an offer of casual sex; what boy of my age could have? I knew somewhere in my heart-of-hearts that this was not a sensible thing to be doing, but it was easier to listen to my hormones than any idea of good sense.
For most of the following summer, all was well. I got adept at juggling the various parts of my life, and I was starting to feel invincible and on top of the world. I continued my job at the Harbor Inn, and Ruby still had a few shifts there too. It was on one of the nights that we were both working that disaster struck.
A group of teenagers came in and started enjoying themselves, and I played along and had a good time with them. One of the girls seemed vaguely familiar, but, to be honest, all the holidaymakers appeared to be the same to me after a while. They had a few drinks, and the girl I vaguely recalled motioned me over to her table and started wanting to make out with me. I knew better than to start anything with Ruby the other side of the bar, so tried to get away without seeming too rude, but at the same time, I was starting to react.
Just then Ruby appeared at my side and said: “Listen bitch, get your grubby paws off my boyfriend.” There was a sudden silence. “Boyfriend?” the girl said. “Well, you’re welcome to him, he’s only got a tiny dick anyway. Although I must say, he does know what to do with it, I bet he never learned that from a fat slapper like you.”
There was a moment when it felt like the whole world held its breath before the inevitable storm started. Ruby laid into the girl as she went into too much detail about what we’d done, where, and how many times. Then the hitting and slapping started, at which point the manager and one of the guys from the party pulled them apart.
“And as for you, you worthless pile of shit.” Ruby spat at me. “You can forget about anything between us. You never were any good, and you’ll never amount to anything. I never want to see you again.”
Ruby was as good as her word, and although I tried to call her in the days that followed, all my calls went unanswered. I went round to her house, but Ma Jones made it clear that Ruby didn’t want to talk to me. “Probably best if you don’t call on us anymore, at least for the time being,” she said as she closed the door in my face.