Secret - 'Everybody's Got To Die Sometime'

October 1962

The World hangs on the precipice of annihilation. Russian weapons on discovered on Cuban soil. The world holds it's breath as the United States squares up to Russia. It seems we are only seconds away from destruction.

Meanwhile in North Yorkshire, Tom and his Dad are facing life without Toms mother. Meanwhile the new early warning buildings are rising up from the moors above their home. Do they provide security or threat ? Threats seem to be both near and far and dark days roll across Tom's world. His world has been turned inside out leaving him a short step from disaster.

As Tom's Dad says "Everyones got to die sometime".

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14. Sunday Afternoon

October 21st

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Have you ever laid in your bed thinking that you were dying? That ever muscle in your body was crying out for mercy? That’s how I felt the next morning. Spasms hit me when I tried to turn over. It was at that point I wondered how much damage Billy’s boots had done me. My stomach was tender to touch, but at least the blows seemed confined to my torso. Nothing to my head, apart from the blow on my chin, which still felt sore. I knew from biology how many vital organs lay in the stomach region, anyone which if ruptured could kill me.

I lay there for a while afraid to move in case the excruciating pain came back. I’m a coward so it was no big deal not to want to feel the pain. I could hear Dad pottering around in the kitchen below making breakfast. He hadn’t been in when I’d gone to bed thank goodness. Now I had to face him feeling like this. I could smell burning wafting up from downstairs. I wasn’t sure if it was possible to burn a house down from toast, but I wasn’t about to find out in a hurry. I needed to get up before I was toast.

The first effort wasn’t much good. The spasms hit me and I inwardly yelped as if a knife had been stuck into my belly then twisted three hundred and sixty degrees. I lay back for a moment before realising that I had to move. Screwing my face up ready for the onslaught I raised myself to the sitting position. I didn’t move for a while letting the pain subside. The next step was to get up. Raising myself send the same pains and a feeling of light-headedness which made me sway a little adding to the nausea.

This time the pain didn’t last as long. I lifted my pyjama top up and saw an angry mess of blues and purples splattered like a Jackson Pollock abstract all over my stomach. I winced at the sight and quickly covered it up. It scared me just looking. Eventually I managed to put on some clothes. Each time I moved the pain came back but the time it lasted got shorter. By the time I got to the bathroom over half an hour had passed. Luckily there was no blood in my urine, a good sign that I hadn’t any bad internal damage.

The stairs nearly took their toll but now although every step was agonising it got easier. Closing my eyes, I entered the room, trying to appear normal. Dad however wasn’t fooled.

“What’s up with you? It looks like every step is agony.” He asked from the kitchen table, “here sit down and I’ll make you some tea.”

“It’s OK Dad, I can manage.”

“Nonsense, it looks like you’ve had a bad fall,” he said standing up.

I sat down gratefully.

“So Tom, what’s really up. What happened?” he said putting the kettle on the stove.

“I fell down the museum steps yesterday,” I answered, hopefully convincing. I didn’t add that I’d been helped in falling.

He looked at me momentarily weighing up in his eyes whether I was being truthful.

“OK, but you look in agony.”

“It’s OK, just stiff from sleeping. I’ll be OK when I get moving.”

“Should I take you to the hospital?”

“No I’m fine”

He placed the cup in front of me and sat down.

“Oh dad, I’ve invited Joyce and Lily around for tea. For my birthday. Hope that’s OK?”

That had the desired effect in stopping him thinking about my injury. He stroked his chin, as always when he was thinking.

“For tea? Today? Joyce and Lily? Who’s Lily?” he asked.

“She’s one of our friends. She’s staying out at Beck Hole. You were talking to her dad, told me you knew him from the war?”

“Oh yes, I remember.”

“So it’s OK?”

“Yes of course it is, I’ll have to see if Olthwaites have anything in to eat though.”

“We only need a few sandwiches.”

“Right, I’ll go and see. You’ll have to tidy up a bit though, I’m not sure Mrs Hendry came yesterday.”

I smiled.

“That’s fine. I’ll sort it.”

“Have a good day in Whitby?” he asked.

“Yep, Lily wanted to go everywhere so we went up to the Abbey, had fish and chips and then went to the museum.”

“No book shop?”

“No, didn’t have time,” I said realising we were going there but the incident with Billy had stopped us.

“Not like you. Ah well we’ll have a look at the big one in York tomorrow,” he said smiling.

“So, we’re still going?”

“Yes, I managed to wangle a day off. Joshua is covering for me.”

“Is the work going OK?”

“It’ll be fine, they want us online as quickly as possible though. We’re due to start the testing on Wednesday.”

“That’s quick”

“Yes, some sort of flap on. You know what it’s like.”

I didn’t but agreed with him. It was nice to have a Sunday at home like this.

“Well I’ll go and see Bert. If your girlfriends coming, then we better push the boat out.” Dad said smiling.

“She’s not my girlfriend Dad,” I said wearily. Why did he always refer to her like that? I knew he was teasing but I still could feel myself redden up.

“You like her though, don’t you?”

“No dad, we’re just good friends.” I said.

“Well take my advice son, don’t leave it too long. She’s a good one, like your mother.”

He went quiet, struggling with his memories. Mine too were drawn back to that fateful evening at Ravenscar. I knew I should remember the good times, god knows they were so many more, but I still saw her gossamer white skin, the glazed look in her eyes as life passed from her body.

“I miss her,” I said with tears in my eyes. If she was here now the kitchen would be full of life, full of baking smells, maybe even a Sunday dinner, something we hadn’t had in ages. There were times when it all got too much again. It was almost a year, yet the pain was still so hard when I remembered. Then there were the days I didn’t remember and her vision entered my head, that made me feel worse. How could I forget myself and not think of her?

“She’d be proud of you,” he said patting my shoulder, “now come on, you clean the room and I’ll get some food.”

There were tears in his eyes when he left. I guess he went through the same thing, the memories, the pain. I guess we’d be haunted by those events for the rest of our lives.

I struggled to tidy the front room. The pain was still there and each movement seemed agony. How I would survive a day walking around York I didn’t know.

I’d finished by the time dad got back from the shop. Obviously, Ma Olthwaite had kept him talking, no doubt with a cup of tea. She survived on gossip, it was her currency, so she’d want to know everything about Fylingdales.

“If talking was a sport, that woman would win an Olympic gold medal,” Dad said as he placed the box on the table, a delicious smell coming out of it.

From it he produced, like a magician, the most delicious looking sausage rolls, freshly baked.

“That’s why I was a while. I was telling her it was your birthday and she insisted I wait while she knocked up some sausage rolls. Who was I to argue,” he said winking.

“Oh that was nice of her,” I said smiling.

“Well when she heard it was your eighteenth, she said she’d be over later with a trifle. So a lucky break.” He said, “heart of gold that woman. Come on let’s make the sandwiches for tea, I got potted ‘dog’, hope that’s OK?”

Potted meat was OK, one of my favourites and I knew Joyce liked it. We opened a tin of ham as well. He’d got a few bags of crisps as well and a packet of chocolate biscuits. That with the sausage rolls and maybe a trifle would be a feast. I was so glad I’d invited them over. Otherwise all we’d have had to eat was the usual sausage and mash dinner. Not that I disliked it, but it was never as nice as mums was.

We listened to the radio, why we listened to Gardeners Question Time I don’t know, I guess it was down to what Mum liked to listen to and we just carried on. As usual Dad fell asleep and I read my book. I was looking forward to seeing if the York bookshop had more to offer. The Whitby store was good and could get anything but didn’t have much to browse that I hadn’t already seen.

I turned the radio over after a while for Pick of the Pops. Joyce would be proud of me, although she didn’t like Buddy Holly but these new singers like Cliff Richard and Little Eva. I did like Telstar though. The sound was great and made me want to be able to play the guitar. I wouldn’t admit to Joyce but I did quite like the song by the Beatles, although I think they’ll be a one hit wonder.

As Telstar came on, Dad woke up.

“What time is it?” he mumbled.

“Just before five,” I replied, “they’ll be here soon.”

“I’ll just have a shave then and be back down, you should have woken me.”

He disappeared upstairs just as the doorbell rang.

Joyce, her mother and Lily were stood there.

“Joyce’s mum made a cake,” Lily blurted out excitedly.

“Ah is that what that is,” I said laughing as I could see the decorated cake Joyce was trying to carry.

“You know sarcasm doesn’t become you Tom,” Joyce said haughtily as she pushed past me.

“You don’t say,” I said smiling.

“I’ll let it go this time, you’re excited because it’s your birthday but watch the lip in future,” she smiled.

“It’s my birthday tomorrow.”

“So, no excuses, jeez I wonder why I’m still friends with you.”

“I’ve always wondered that as well?”

“Well it’s not for your sparkling wit, that’s for sure.”

“Must be my handsome looks”

“In your dreams Hukin, I just feel sorry for you, that’s all.”

“Stop it you two, you both know you couldn’t be without each other,” Joyce’s mother said, “one day you’ll both realise that you like each other. It’s obvious to us isn’t it?”

We both reddened up. Why were parents so intent on us getting together?

“How are you Tom?” Lily asked.

“I’m OK,” I replied.

“Are you sure, the way that bully hit you yesterday must have really hurt. I couldn’t stop thinking about it all last night.”

My Dad and Joyce’s mum stopped and looked at me.

“What happened Tom?” Dad asked.

“Oh nothing” I said glaring at Lily.

She was oblivious to my look though and carried on.

“This boy pushed me and Tom stood in the way and ended up getting beaten up.”

“Is that right Tom?” Dad asked.

“Oh yes, he was such a hero, but the other lad was bigger and knocked Tom to the floor. Then he kept kicking him before some men pulled him away. He must be black and blue under his shirt.” Lily continued still oblivious to my protestations.

“Let’s see,” Dad said pulling my shirt up. I tied to stop him, but winced with pain as I tried to move too quickly.

He pulled up and I looked straight at Joyce looking for her reaction. I saw her grimace as she saw the purple blotches that covered my belly. Her eyes bulged, and hand went to mouth.

“Who the hell did this to you?” Dad asked.

I kept silent.

“Billy,” Joyce said, “Billy Barker. He’s an animal. Goodness Tom I didn’t think it was that bad, you looked ok.”

I shrugged.

“Billy… Phil’s son?” Dad said.

I nodded.

“I’m going to have a word with Phil about this. He needs to be punished for this.”

“I’ll come with you Reg,” Joyce’s mum said.

“You should have told me last night,” Dad said as he got to the door, “He could have killed you.”

The door shut behind them as I pushed the shirt back into my trousers.

“Goodness Tom, that looks awful” Joyce said, “Billy is such a beast. I’m glad I said no to him now.”

I looked at her tilting my head.

“Said no to what?”

“Oh, he asked me out the other week, glad I said no now.” She replied.

“You’d have gone out with him?” I asked incredulity.

“Yes … maybe … no, oh I don’t know” she said sensing my rising anger, “well probably no but he is kind of a beefcake. I mean he is good looking.”

I shook my head unable to come up with words to describe how I felt about her and Billy. I hated him even more now.

“Well I think Tom is much better, Billy is a brute and I wouldn’t go out with him. How could you think of going out with him?” Lily said.

“Yes I know you prefer Tom,” Joyce said, “but sometimes you can’t keep waiting to be as…”

“What?” I said.

“Oh nothing, just it was nice to be asked,” she replied slowly, “anyway did you listen to Pick of the Pops? Did you hear the Beatles?”

The conversation went around to music now with Joyce and Lily singing and dancing to Locomotion and trying to get me to join in. That was never going to happen. I feigned the bruising was too bad as an excuse. It fooled Lily but Joyce knew of old my reluctance to dance.

The door went again to announce Dad was back. By the sounds of his voice, he wasn’t too happy. We could hear the conversation taking place in the

“I’ll swing for him Mabel, I really will.”

“Reg, just calm down. Don’t be like that family. You aren’t a violent person,” Joyce’s mum said.

“You saw the bruises, that lads an animal and no mistake. Think of what Flo would have said, she wouldn’t have gone steaming in.”

It went silent.

“It’s just not right.”

The door opened and in they walked.

“They were out.” Joyces mum said by way of explanation.

“I’ll see him tomorrow,” Dad retorted sitting down.

“It’s OK Dad, don’t make it worse,” I said.

I didn’t want Billy thinking my Dad looked after me. He’d just taunt me more. At least I had a week off school and wouldn’t have to catch that bus in again for that long.

“His dad is a drunken bully, he’s just taking after him. I’ll go and see Phil tomorrow and tell him what he did to you,”

“Leave it Dad, I’ll fight my own battles.”

“Reg, leave it,” Joyce’s mum said, “he’ll ask for help if he needs it. Now where are those sandwiches…”

The mood for the rest of the afternoon and evening was strained. I could see Dad’s anger simmering under the surface like a sunken volcano, ready to erupt any minute. We sat around the table amicably enough but there was a slight tension below the surface. Lily was oblivious to this though and chatted incessantly swinging her legs back and forth.

“So, what are you doing tomorrow then Tom?” Joyce’s mum asked.

“We’re off to York for the day.” I answered looking at Dad to make sure he’d arranged for a day off.

“Yes, I have remembered,” Dad said softening a little, “I have the full day off. Still got to get some train tickets though…”

“We can get those in the morning,” I said relieved.

“I’ve never been to York,” Lily said in between mouthfuls of cake. For such a little figure, she managed to tuck away plenty of food.

“Would you two girls like to come along?” Dad asked, “I’m sure Tom would like to spend his birthday with you two.”

“Yes I’d love to,” Lily said, “ I’m sure Mum would let me.”

“Well if you’re sure Mr Hukin,” Joyce said politely.

“Yes, the more the merrier. It will be fun.”

Everyone smiled. As we ate yet more cake little did we know that the next time we’d sit around this table together, the world would have changed beyond recognition. 

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