Queen of the Mersey 8

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The book moves forward in time.

It is 1954. Laura finally forgave Roddy and is living with her family in the house that Roddy bought. She admits that things are not the same as when she and Roddy were first in love. That time when he went with another woman has clearly damaged their relationship, and the pure love she felt is now polluted, so to speak.

Queenie surprised us at the end of the last part when she told Laura she wasn’t marrying Jimmy but living with Theo in the flat on the attic of the store. Well, it was not such a surprise, as there were clues that showed us that Queenie was not indifferent to her boss. We learn that Vera was right. Theo promoted her because he fancied her, and from then on he visited regularly, and in one of the shopping trips Theo was there, and he hinted that he was interested in her, and Queenie gave him free rein. In 1954 Queenie is 29, and she is blissful with Theo, who spoils her rotten. He has even bought her a boat, the Queen of Mersey. Things are not perfect. Queenie would like to marry him, but his wife refuses to grant him a divorce, and apart from Steven, neither of his daughter talk to Theo. It is curious how the same situation repeats itself. When Roddy left Laura, she refused to give him a divorce, and now the same case happens with Theo’s wife. That is why Queenie understands the woman’s attitude to some extent. Theo, though, tells her that the situation is different because Laura loved Roddy, but Irene, his wife, has never loved him, and his marriage was arranged by their parents. Maybe he is right, but I think the situation is roughly the same. It is not love what pushed Laura to refuse to grant him a divorce; it was her way to get back at him, and get one over him.

When Theo and Queenie travel to his island in Greece, he tells him about his father and his lovers. Queenie notices that the housekeeper is quite sombre, and Theo explains that his father and the woman were engaged once, but then his father left for England where he met Theo’s wife, who he married. Then when he returned to the island, he took this woman as a lover, and that is why Theo thinks she is embittered. She wasn’t the only lover, and Patricia James, who hired Queenie, also was the man’s mistress. Queenie learns that the reason why Patricia James changed shortly afterwards was that he could sense that Theo had designs on, and she wanted to protect her from the destiny she had suffered. After this conversation, Theo tells Queenie that they should have a child. He can’t promise her marriage, and if they were to have a child, she would have somebody for her. Actually, Queenie hasn’t used her Dutch cap  for a while, but nothing has happened yer. She is not worried because it is early days, but I can’t help to think that maybe Queenie can’t have children as that miscarriage when she was little more than a child ruined her chances to become a mother.

Things are quite stormy with Hester and Mary. They are now sixteen. Hester is dating a young teacher, Duncan, who she met through her mother, who is now a school teacher. On her part, Mary has had a string of boyfriends but none has lasted even if she has gone all the way with a few of them. Mary is feeling down, especially as she feels that her mother doesn’t love her as much as before since Vera has a passel of grandchildren to spoil. THen when she goes to see Laura for some company, Duncan turns up, and when he is on his way to pick up Hester from work, Laura suggests that they go to the amusement park together since Hester doesn’t enjoy the rides. They have a lovely time and Duncan is strangely intoxicated by Mary’s sophisticated presence, so when she suggests they do this again, he agrees.

Duncan feels guilty for agreeing to see Mary again, but the day they are supposed to meet dawns with heavy rain, so he is relieved as he now has an excuse not to turn up. However, Mary appears in his flat, and she practically seduces. After that, Duncan swears never to see Mary again. He and Hester go to see his very traditional parents in Scotland, and he is glad that his father, who is very strict, has taken a shine to Hester. When they return, Duncan proposes to her, and they make love for the first time. Duncan knows in his heart that Hester is the woman of his dreams and wants to spend his life with her. Yet, things are ruined when Mary calls him, telling him that she is pregnant. So Duncan has no option but tell Hester and marry Mary.

This event changes things for everybody. Mary and Hester fall out, and as a consequence, Vera and Laura have stopped their friendship. I imagine that Laura feels that if she continued seeing the mother of the woman who has brought so much misery to her daughter, it would feel like a betrayal. Things in Mary’s marriage are not happy; the wedding was a sad affair in a registry office, and Duncan is depressed and refuses to sleep with her. This doesn’t bode well. I feel sorry Mary has turned out like this. Even though she was always quite cheeky as a little child, I’ve always liked her, but it’s a pity she has destroyed the only thing that has been steady in her life for so many years: her friendship with Hester.

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