Tommy mustered up his courage, took a deep breath and opened the door of the shop.
‘What can I do for you young man? Mrs Blythe folded her arms behind the counter.
‘I was wondering…’ He fiddled with his tie ‘If there was any work going?’
The look she gave him could have curdled milk.
‘I heard you got young Melissa in the family way. I suppose at least you’re not shirking your responsibilities. When’s the wedding?’
‘I don’t know if...’ Tommy’s face grew red, his palms were sweaty.
‘I’ll have a word with the vicar, if she’s not showing we might get away with it, not sure about white mind, maybe something off white or cream.’ She tidied the counter.
‘We might not be getting married…’
‘You scared of her dad? Billy Barker’s a pussy cat.’
Tommy shuffled his feet.
‘No, its not that, we don’t know if we believe in all that?’
She hit the counter.
‘No employee of mine is living over the brush; this is a respectable establishment so think on.’
‘So I have the job then?’
‘Put a ring on Melissa’s finger and I’ll see what I can do.’
‘She might not want to marry me.’
‘She should have thought of that before she let you have your fun. You didn’t force yourself on her, did you?’
‘No, I’d never do that.’
‘No, you don’t seem the type, just had to be sure.’ Mrs Blythe took a note out of the till.
‘I can’t take that.’
‘We’ll call it an advance on your wages. There’s a kiddie to think of now. What either of you want doesn’t come into it. Tidy yourself up a bit, take her some flowers, tell her you’re earning.’
‘What if she says no?’
‘Then she’s dafter than I thought. Decent lad like you, she could do a lot worse.’
‘Billy Barker’ll stand by you if you do right by his daughter. You’re only kids yourselves. That missus of his brought up six so she’ll know a thing or two.’
‘I love her.’
‘Loves got nothing to do with it. You got what you were after, and you were unlucky.’ Mrs Blythe put her hand on his shoulder. 'Things need taking care of even if the horse has bolted. Let’s get you wed and some money in your pocket to keep a roof over the child’s head, clothes on its back and food in its belly.’
‘Yes, well, that goes without saying, but the child comes first.’
‘Now be off with you, get the girl a ring, best you can afford.’ She pushed him towards the door.
Tommy looked at the floor.
Mrs Blythe took more notes out of the till.
‘Here, we’ll call it a bonus.’
Tommy put the money in his wallet.
‘I’ll expect you at 8 sharp on Monday morning. No need for the suit, decent trousers and shirt should do it, jackets get in the way.’ She opened the door.
‘Oh and Tommy…’