The Betrayer
Tommy shook his hand.
    ‘Good luck on the outside, son.’
    Tommy smiled at him. ‘I’ll let you into a little secret, shall I, Bri? It’s not luck that’s needed to survive the outside world. All yer need is knowledge.’
    ‘What do you mean? Education and stuff?’
    Looking Brian in the eyes, Tommy winked at him. ‘You’ll have to work that one out for yourself.’
    ‘I dunno where you’re coming from. Explain what you mean, Tom.’
    Roaring with laughter, Tommy walked away.

    Maureen put the finishing touches to the icing, stood back and proudly admired her cake. ‘Welcome Home Tommy’ stood out boldly in bright blue writing. She had spent weeks organising her son’s homecoming and couldn’t believe the day had finally arrived. Thanks to her friends and neighbours, who had all kindly chipped in, she had a fantastic selection of food. Turkey, roast ham, beef – for once they had the works.
    Ethel had been her usual light-fingered self and had turned up every day that week with a bag full of goodies. The drink was plentiful, thanks to a fifty-pound gift from uncle Kenny. Knowing Maureen would refuse the gift, he’d sent the money via Ethel. He couldn’t make the party, because he and Wendy were on holiday, but he’d sent a lovely card saying that he’d be thinking of them and hoped they had a great night. At the bottom he’d put a PS telling Tommy to ring him and he’d sort him out with a job.
    The money Maureen was grateful for, yet it was her son’s job offer that made her day. She’d often worried about how Tommy would survive after prison. Would anyone want to employ a lad of twenty-five who had spent over a third of his life in clink?
    Over the years the ill feeling surrounding Terry Smith’s murder had died down. His mum, Mary, had left the area yonks ago. Unable to deal with her son’s death, she’d moved her family away to make a fresh start. A lot of stories about Terry had surfaced since Mary’s departure. He’d had an awful reputation and had made many people’s lives a misery. Maureen listened, but never commented on the tittle-tattle. Whatever the lad was, he didn’t deserve his bad end at the hands of her son. Nevertheless, she still took some comfort from being told over and over again that her Tommy wasn’t to blame.
    ‘Terry Smith was bad rubbish, he was due his comeuppance and he got it,’ people said more than once. Even Mary’s old pals from the bingo hall were now Maureen’s friends again. In fact, most of the stories had come from them. Living in Bethnal Green, they’d known young Terry better than most.
    Taking a break from her food preparation, Maureen made herself a well-earned brew. Tommy’s surprise party had been all her idea. While inside, he’d changed so much that, surprisingly, she’d become proud of him. He was no longer the obnoxious, skinny little runt he’d once been. He was now six foot tall, handsome, polite and built like a brick shithouse.
    While he’d been in Feltham, she’d rarely had a chance to visit him. Kenny had taken her a few times, but the train journey was far too expensive for her to afford on a regular basis. She’d seen much more of him when he’d been moved to the Ville. For the first four years, she’d gone up there once a week. Sometimes she’d go alone, but most of the time either James or Ethel would accompany her.
    Her trips to see him had dwindled to once a month after his mate Freddie had been released. Tommy was only allowed one visit a week and, although hurt at first, Maureen fully understood why he’d rather have his mate’s company than that of his boring old mum.
    Sipping her tea, Maureen smiled. That Freddie Adams was such a nice lad, and he’d certainly had a positive effect on her Tommy.
    ‘You watch me, Mum. When I get out of here I’m gonna make something of meself. I might even go into business with Freddie. We’ve often spoken about it,’ Tommy told her.
    Maureen savoured her last drop of tea.

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