Chapter 34

Gus and Jo were splitting up. Jenny had just gotten word from Cass, who was naturally sympathetic. Jenny doubted she knew about the beatings. She couldn’t tell her either, any more than she could tell Jim about Rawley’s vicious game. Gus was a man who didn’t like being pushed the way Jo had pushed him. What kind of man was Jim? What would he do if she ever got the chance to tell him her side of the story? If the story came from Rawley, who would he believe?

Jenny turned the eggs and called Jim. She seemed stiff and unresponsive when he planted a kiss on her cheek. Trish made her customary dash for the school bus.

“I wish you’d reconsider,” Jim sat down and picked at his breakfast.
“Oh, that again. I hate to take Mike in when we didn’t do it for my Mother.”
“I thought it was all decided. I even got a trunk for Trish, and I started moving some of our bedroom stuff, the things we really need, before I came down for breakfast.”

“You what?”

“We only have a few days. There isn’t anyone else.”

“You’re already helping him by working sixty hours a week or more. Besides that it’s an extra mouth to feed. We can’t afford it.”

“I thought you were okay with it the day we told Trish. I already told Mike. Now you’ve changed your mind. Mike wouldn’t expect to stay for nothing.”
“Friend or not, Mike is up against it. I bet it took his last cent to make up the payroll, and that didn’t even include your salary. Don’t ask me again.” She rested her head in her hands. “Cass just told me that Gus has left Jo.”

“It doesn’t surprise me.”

“Doesn’t it bother you that so many people on our side of town are calling it quits? The poor children.”

“They’re probably better off than with bickering parents,” he said flatly.

“You are going to punish me forever for not wanting to take Mike in. You can’t even look me I the eye anymore Jim. We can’t go on like this.”

“If you weren’t working all night to pay for that damned coat, you wouldn’t be so tired and irritable, and you wouldn’t drink so much.” He added softly.

Her head snapped back. She threw her toast onto the plate. “Well, if you’re going to dredge everything up from the bottom, how about this one? You don’t owe Mike Farrell a thing. Why don’t you turn in your time card, get what’s coming to you, and find another job? That damned foundry is going to ruin us.” Her eyes were brimming but she tried to keep a steady voice.

He grabbed her wrist. ”There’s a lot more than us who will go down if that foundry goes under. We have got to try to keep it running. The men are 100 percent behind us. It’s rats like Rawley that worry me. He says he’s doing all he can, but I only know since he came here things have been going downhill. Every time he sees me there’s a dirty grin on his face, and I have the rotten feeling that he’s just waiting to put the knife in my back.” He stood up and put his working cap onto his neatly combed hair. He didn’t notice how pale Jenny had become and how her hands shook when she handed him his lunch pail. His final words to her as he went out the door were, “Get yourself ready. Mike’s coming in about three days.”