people. If only everyone, including and especially his father, would accept him for what he was. But then, it wasn’t only his father. It was the so-called family friends who were forever calling into the house on the pretext of enquiring after his father’s health and his sister’s well-being so they could whisper scandal and innuendo into his father’s ears, telling him that they had seen his son around town with this or that man, or boy. Even their wives added to his problems with their sly hints and endless questions.
‘Isn’t it time you married, Wyn? A wife would take some of the load off poor Myrtle’s shoulders. It’s very hard on her, you know, having to look after you and your father the way he is. Do tell, is there a young lady you’re hiding from us? But then there must be, a tall, good-looking, strapping young fellow like you.’ Nudge nudge, wink wink.
Tall, good-looking and living a lifestyle that could bring him a jail sentence if he approached the wrong man, or was seen showing affection to one of his men friends in a private or public place. Which was why his relationships rarely lasted more than a week or two. It was simply too dangerous to risk anything approaching permanency lest the police notice and start following them. Some of the older constables, like Diana’s Uncle Huw Davies, were prone to turning a blind eye to discreet behaviour, but not the younger, keener ones. And then there had been the ultimatum from his father last night, which still burned, raw and painful in his mind.
‘You and Myrtle can stop pussyfooting around me, boy. I know I haven’t long to go. But I’m giving you fair warning. I’m not stupid. I know what you are, and you’re to put a stop to it right now. Do you hear me? Either you find yourself a girl and get married, or you lose the businesses. Because as sure as God made little apples, I won’t leave you the shops, the van or a penny piece until you change your ways. I won’t have mine or Myrtle’s name held up to mockery in this town a moment longer because of your filthy, unnatural habits.’
It wasn’t the first time his father had tried to lay down the law about the way he lived, and he didn’t doubt for a minute that his father was serious. But then, perhaps that was the best way things could work out for all of them. Myrtle would get the businesses and Diana to run them if he could keep her on that long. He would go into the army, and if this show was anything like the last one he’d get killed. And with his death everyone’s problems would be solved, especially his father’s. He’d have a heroic son he could be proud of for the first time in his life. The more he thought about the idea, and remembered his closest friend, and lover, who had gassed himself after being caught with a vicar in the park toilets, the more the solution appealed to him.
Tony Ronconi left the café after the midday rush and walked up High Street to Rees’s sweet shop. Relieved to find it empty apart from Diana, he produced a card that had circles of various sizes punched along its length. ‘Find your ring size,’ he ordered as he pushed it over the counter.
Diana’s eyes sparkled as she slipped the third finger of her left hand through the first hole.
‘I thought I’d go into the jeweller’s and see what they had.’
‘You’ve told your parents?’
‘Not yet. It might be better if we bought the ring first and present them with a fait accompli. It worked for Ronnie.’
‘It did?’ she asked sceptically.
‘I’m over twenty-one,’ he said airily with a certain amount of bravado.
‘It’s important for us to get your father and mother’s blessing.’
‘If it will make you feel better I’ll tell them tonight.’
‘Wait until tomorrow.’ She realised that the ring card and his promise to tell his parents was his way of assuring her that whatever happened between them that night was a prelude to marriage.