Chapter 1 – Doubts
Eunice felt unsettled. Nothing seemed to satisfy her recently and she was becoming more disheartened by the day. She was unhappy at work, even though her boss was pleased with her work; Eunice couldn’t find pleasure in it any more. She’d started making silly mistakes, which made her more frustrated. She sighed heavily as she scraped the untidy icing lattice from the top of a birthday cake.
“Why did you do that?” Mrs Humphrey asked. “There was nothing wrong with it.”
“It was too thin and I wasn’t happy with it.”
“You’re too much of a perfectionist if you ask me, Eunice. That would have done nicely. Don’t make work when you don’t have to.”
“I wouldn’t have been happy with it if I’d been the customer,” Eunice insisted as she smoothed the top of the cake.
It was always the same. Whenever she made a mistake, which was more often these days because she was discontented with the work, Mrs Humphrey either didn’t notice the flawed designs or didn’t think they were bad enough to mention. The customers always seemed happy with their orders of cakes and fancies, but the joy had gone out of the work for Eunice. She craved something more fulfilling than decorating cakes all day.
She had a yearning for something and she couldn’t quite put her finger on what it was she wanted. She knew what she didn’t want. She didn’t want to work in a bakery until she got married and settled down to have a family. She wasn’t sure she wanted to settle down at all.
She had begun to feel restless and stifled when she was with Kenny. Her sweetheart seemed to have only one thing on his mind these days and much as Eunice enjoyed his kissing and caressing, she had no wish to take things further. He was a sweet young man and she thought she’d loved him, but recently she’d found his company bored her. She knew she was lucky to have him, but for her, the spark had gone out of their relationship and she didn’t know how to get it back.
She was also worried about the international situation, and wondered what might happen with Hitler in Europe. If there was going to be a war, what would that mean for her and her friends and family? How would her life change if Britain went to war with Germany?
Most of all, she missed her best friend dreadfully. Hazel was married now and lived miles away in Ossett. Things didn’t seem the same without her friend to talk with every day. She missed the time she’d spent with Hazel when they walked home together after work. She had nobody to confide in now about her troubles. She made the journey by bus to see her friend when she could, but Hazel was living a different life now. Gone were the carefree girls they had once been. With no responsibilities, no ties and enough freedom to enjoy life, the world had seemed an exciting place, especially with Hazel there to share it with her. Everything changed when Hazel met Glenn Bradshaw.
Eunice sighed and reached for her coat. “See you tomorrow,” she called to her boss. “I’ll fix that lattice first thing.”
“Will you be coming in early, love?” Mrs Humphrey asked. “We have that big order for the Walshaw wedding to start.”
Eunice nodded. “I’ll be here at seven.”
She left the shop and started down the road. Hazel used to wait for her at the corner, but it was Kenny who stood there now. She lifted her lips in a smile for her sweetheart. Kenny waved and started walking toward her. She tried to keep the smile on her face but her heart wasn’t in it. The evening was already planned out. They would eat with her family and Kenny would sit holding her hand in the parlour until it was time for him to go home. They might play cards or listen to the radio, and if her parents stayed in the kitchen, he might try to take a few liberties with her and she might let him kiss her and touch her large breasts. She would sigh and gasp in all the right places, but she’d be glad when it was time for him to leave.
She was beginning to have doubts about her feelings for the young man. Kenny was kind and sweet and took pity on her when she started going into town with her older brother and Hazel on Saturday nights. When Hazel began to spend more time with Glenn Bradshaw, Eunice found herself in Kenny’s company more and more. It was a comfortable arrangement, and she’d felt flattered that any lad would show interest in her. She’d always been a plain Jane, especially when compared to Hazel’s striking looks. She didn’t mind. She was happy to make fun of her shortfalls, though Hazel scolded her for putting herself down. Oh, she missed her friend!
“What’s the matter, love?” Kenny asked when he reached her. “Has it been a tough day?”
Eunice threaded her arm through the crook of Kenny’s elbow and nodded. “You could say that. I’ve not stopped since this morning.”
“Then you should tell that Mrs Humphrey to go easy on you.”
“I know, but it I can’t. I need this job.”
“Well, you won’t need to work when we get married, will you?” He pressed her arm against his side. “Why don’t you let us set a date, love? I know you’re only nineteen, but Hazel and Glenn got married and she’s the same age as you. I’m sure your mam and dad would give permission.”
“Hazel was in the family way, Kenny. That’s why she got married so young.”
“I know, but don’t you want us to be able to take things further, love? I know you don’t want to end up like your pal, but it’s really hard for me to keep my hands off you and if we were married, we could… well.” He nudged her side as they walked. “You know what I mean. And we wouldn’t have to worry about starting a baby once we’re married, would we?”
“There’s more to life than sex, Kenny!” She lifted her chin and gave him a mischievous smile to show she wasn’t cross with him. “Though I hear it can be a wondrous thing.”
She knew Kenny was desperate to make love to her, and she didn’t know how long she could make him hold out, but she was having second thoughts. She’d enjoyed the kissing and the intimate touches she allowed him sometimes, but as with everything else in her life, Kenny didn’t satisfy the deeper need inside her for something more. It wasn’t that she was a prude. She liked the caressing and the heated fumbles, and her body responded willingly enough, but she wasn’t sure she wanted to take the next step with Kenny. He would be heartbroken if he knew the truth about how she really felt. She couldn’t tell him. She didn’t want to hurt him.
She really needed to discuss her change of heart with Hazel, but didn’t know how she could begin to explain how she felt. She didn’t know whether her friend would understand, even if she could bring herself to mention it.
She also felt guilty for wanting more than Hazel had settled for. Hazel was a married woman. She was expecting her first child and was riding on a wave of happiness with her new husband. Hazel was enjoying her life and seemed perfectly content with her lot. How could she possibly understand Eunice’s inexplicable feelings of longing for more than the life of a dutiful wife and mother? What would her friend think of her?
Kenny bent to kiss her cheek. “I’m sorry, love. I didn’t mean to upset you.”
“I’m not upset, Kenny,” she said a little too quickly.
“You’re too quiet this evening, what’s wrong, love? You know you can tell me anything.”
Eunice suppressed a sigh. Kenny was thoughtful and caring, and any girl would be happy to have him as her sweetheart, if it wasn’t for his unfortunate appearance. The poor lad wasn’t attractive in the conventional meaning of the word. She had always thought they were well suited due to their equally depressing lack of good looks.
He was tall and thin and his long gangly arms and legs gave him a somewhat clumsy gait. His pasty face was topped by a thick mat of unruly ginger hair but his eyes were warm and brown. Another nice feature he had was his mouth. He had generous lips and he smiled often. His amiable nature had attracted her to him at first. He was easy to talk to and he seemed interested in everything she had to say.
Eunice knew they made a strange looking couple. Her sallow face and dark brown hair contrasted sharply with Kenny’s paleness. His slim build seemed to accentuate her well-rounded curves. They were opposites, physically, but had a common sense of humour and the same avid interest in the world around them. He was funny and sweet and she thought she had loved him at first, but now she was discovering that he just wasn’t enough and the thought scared her.
Everyone believed she and Kenny would get married one day. He never gave her a ring, but she hadn’t expected him to. The engagement wasn’t official; it was more of an understanding between them. She remembered feeling elated when he asked her if she would like to marry him, but since then, her feelings had changed and she couldn’t put her finger on the reason for her change of heart. She couldn’t explain why she didn’t love him any longer, and didn’t know how to break off their unofficial engagement.
“Is it work?” Kenny persisted. “Is that what’s upsetting you? Is Mrs Humphrey asking too much of you now she knows how good you are?”
“It’s not her fault,” Eunice admitted. “Word has got around about my cake decorating skills and we’re getting more orders than we can manage.”
As the bakery shop became more popular, her boss seemed reluctant to turn work away. Eunice had shown that she was talented at cake decoration, and her abilities were in demand. She now worked longer hours to keep up with the orders for birthday confections, celebration cakes, and fancy goods.
She did feel some degree of satisfaction from the work, but something was missing. The work didn’t fulfil her as it once had. Icing pretty patterns and making fondant flowers came easy to her, but it wasn’t how she envisaged spending her life.
“I can’t see what the problem is, Eunice,” Kenny said as he continued to walk her home. “She pays well, doesn’t she? You should be proud of your work. Not many can make a cake as pretty as you can. You’ll be set for life with your skill for decorating them. I wouldn’t mind if you wanted to carry on doing it after we get married.”
“But that isn’t what I want to do for the rest of my life, Kenny,” she told her sweetheart.
“Well, you won’t have to do anything if you let me put a ring on your finger.”
“Not this again! You only want to marry me so you can go all the way!” Eunice pulled her arm from his. “I’m only nineteen.”
“But you’ll be twenty next month. I thought you wanted to marry me! I thought you wanted me as much as I want you!”
“I do, but…” She knew she wasn’t being honest with Kenny, but she didn’t want to hurt his feelings. How could she tell him she didn’t want to marry him when it was obvious that marrying her was everything he’d ever wanted?