The Factory Girls – Episode 12

Helen let herself quietly into the house and paused in the lounge doorway. Kevin was diligently ironing, his tongue caught between his teeth as he concentrated on some tricky pleats in Ellie’s new skirt. A delicious smell was wafting through from the kitchen and the baby monitor perched on the side told her Harry must be having his nap. She felt a dizzying rush of love for her husband. He’d coped so well with redundancy and taken to his new domestic role so positively. But now . . . Helen choked on a tear and Kevin jumped and turned.“Lennie? Lennie, love, what is it? What’s happened?” He was over to her in a flash, enfolding her in his arms. “Why are you home early? Are you hurt?”He pulled back to look into her face with such concern that for a moment Helen hated herself for what she was going to have to tell him.“I’m not hurt,” she managed.“Good. That’s very good. So . . .?”“They’re going to close Cardill’s!”It sounded so much worse, somehow, when she said it herself.“Close Cardill’s?” She nodded. “But half of Deveroe works there.”“I know.”“And most of the other half have been made redundant already.”“I know that, too.”“It will be like a graveyard around here. Oh, Helen, what are we going to do?”“I’m so sorry, Kev.”“Don’t be silly.” He hugged her tight once more. “It’s not your fault. It’s governments and banks and collapsing economies and all that stuff. Nothing little you or me can do against that, eh?”“We’re the ones who have to do something, though. We’re the ones who have to live through it, bring up our kids through it.”They both glanced at the baby monitor and instinctively their fingers clenched together.“We’ll think of something,” Kevin promised. “Together we’ll think of something.” But his voice was shaky and again Helen hated to think that she’d made it that way.* * * * Next morning, after a troubled night’s sleep, Helen blinked awake to find the bed empty and a strange noise coming from downstairs. She started out of bed, then she realised the sound was, in fact, singing. She stared at the clock. Half-past five. What on earth was going on?She staggered blearily down to the kitchen to find her husband whisking eggs with an apron tied jauntily over his pyjamas, and the iron warming up in the corner.“Kev, what are you doing?”He came over and kissed her.“Just making your breakfast, my love. I imagine you’ll need all your strength today.”That much was true. The factory would continue to function for the rest of the month but the workforce was unlikely to be in a co-operative mood.“Thank you,” she said cautiously, edging forward to give Kevin a squeeze. “And the iron?”He glanced over.“I want to get my nice shirt spruced up.”“Why?”“I thought I’d get down to the job centre once the kids are in school. There’s got to be some work about, and I’ll need to get in quick.”Helen blinked.“Right. Maybe I could come, too. I’m sure Carol won’t mind. After all . . .”“No, love, it’s fine. You’ve done your bit and done it very well. I’m proud of you, really I am, but it’s time I stepped up to the mark again.”“Kevin, it’s not like that. We’re equally responsible. We . . .”He put a hand to her lips.“I know, love, but whilst you’re still caught up in all the closure I can get out there into the workforce. I shouldn’t ever have stopped looking, I see that now, but I’m all Action Man from here on in, don’t you worry.”He scooped eggs on to toast with such a flourish that Helen had little choice but to take both breakfast and assurances with a smile. Inside, though, thoughts were swirling madly in her brain. She’d loved her work and now she’d be back to being a housewife. Not that there was anything wrong with that. She just wanted more.“Maybe if I’d done a better job . . .” she started but Kevin shushed her instantly.“It’s nothing to do with that. You go and get a decent redundancy package and leave the rest to me, OK?”Helen nodded obediently and shovelled egg into her mouth, though it tasted like cardboard and she had to work hard to swallow. She thought about how hopefully she’d shot out the door this time yesterday and felt her insides contract once again. She wasn’t going to let go of working life this easily no way.


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