Faith, brought up in isolation by her hypocritical father, finds employment with local Lothario, Leigh and discovers love but stirs jealousy that threatens her life and others.
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Breaking Faith is a romantic thriller on the theme of hypocrisy in religion. It contains some erotic material which is integral to the story and not gratuitous.
When innocent Faith is exposed to the corrupting influence of the local most eligible bachelor, will her honesty and truth overcome the deceit and lust of his world? Or will his misogynist assistant succeed in driving her away as he worries that her openness will put an end to his employment? When she unwittingly introduces her sensuous and attractive younger sister to Leigh as a potential model, will their instant attraction ruin her own chances or realising her burgeoning love?
I had to wait when I went to collect our bread and milk from our village store. The owner was serving the man that Father called ‘the Devil’s Henchman’. He said some really dreadful things to her but she laughed as I had never heard her laugh before. When he left the shop, she frowned at me.
‘What d’you want, girl?’
‘Father says Leighton Longshaw is evil, Mrs Greenhough. But he was making you laugh.’
She twisted her mouth into an ugly shape and sighed. ‘Your good-for-nothing father’s a hypocritical fool, girl. And you’re just a fool; plain and simple.’ She smiled to herself, as if she thought she had said something clever. ‘What do you want?’
‘Father says I’m to tell you I start work at the Dairy next week and can he have a bit of credit until I get my first wages, please? We’ve run out of sugar for his tea, you see.’
She almost threw a bag of sugar at me. ‘You’ll pay as soon as you’ve got your wages, girl. Though, God knows what sort of job an idiot like you’s going to get.’
I bowed my head, as Father had taught me, and took the bag back home. On the way, I passed a cottage with the door open. There was a thing I had never seen before in the far corner of the room. It had moving pictures on it and I was so surprised to see this that I actually stopped and watched to see if it was true. It was only a few seconds before the man who lived there saw me.
‘Bugger off, cretin.’ He started to shut the door.
His wife came and peered at me. She frowned. ‘Oh, it’s only that Heacham girl. She can’t help it, George; probably never seen a telly before, what with livin’ with that ne’er-do-well father of hers. Shouldn’t yell at her; she’s simple.’ She turned to me, her face firm but not unkind. ‘Off you go home, Faith, there’s a good girl. It’s not nice to peer into people’s houses, you know.’
It was as I was moving away that Leighton Longshaw walked past me in the street. He was a tall man with the happiest eyes I have ever seen, a mop of dark hair and a beard. And he smiled at me. Smiled. I remember it because no one ever smiled at me; people generally scowled. Because I was schooled at home, by Father, and lived outside the village in an isolated cottage, I had no friends I could ask about why this bad man should smile at me so nicely. When I got home, I mentioned it to Father but he warned me to have nothing to do with him.
‘Keep well away from him, girl! Evil beyond your worst nightmares. That man’s trouble through and through. You better not have done owt to encourage him or I’ll have to scourge you, girl.’
‘I just passed him in the street, Father.’
‘Make sure that’s all you ever do with Leighton Longshaw, girl. Now get my tea.’
I never argued with Father, of course. But I did think the man’s smile had been kind and friendly. It was such an unusual event for me and it left me feeling the sort of joy I only knew when I was up at the tarn; swimming or watching the birds flying. I very much wanted to experience it again.
~ 1 ~
Monday 9th February
‘You’re having me on!’ I thought one of my former lovers must be playing silly buggers.
‘What do you mean, Mr Longshaw?’ Her voice had an edge of nervousness, almost fear, to it.
‘Pulling my leg. I mean you’re not really Faith Heacham.’ It couldn’t be her.
‘I’m sorry; I don’t know what you mean by pulling your leg.’ Her anxiety was briefly overcome by undisguised frustration. ‘But I am Faith Heacham.’
I struggled to accept that Faith Heacham was on the phone to me, of all people. But her naivety convinced me she was who she claimed to be. I answered the rest of her hesitant questions and, in spite of misgivings from a small warning voice, invited her for interview.
Abby tried to recapture my attention, playing the coquette, shrugging her gorgeous shoulders and bringing beguiling movement to her breasts.
I closed the mouthpiece with my hand. ‘Patience.’
The door from the kitchen opened and, apprehensive at once, Abby flung one arm across her chest. But, seeing it was only Ma, she relaxed again.
‘Yes. Until one o’clock, then. TTFN.’
‘Ta ta for now.’
‘Oh, I see. Good morning, Mr Longshaw.’
The short call finished, I replaced the phone and wondered what had made me agree to interview this strange girl from the village.
Abby saw my puzzled frown. ‘Who was it, Leigh?’
Carrying coffee mugs on a tray, Ma stumbled over Abby’s polyester wrap on the floor and kicked herself free of it.
Ma frowned at the name. ‘Shilling short of a pound.’ Thumping down the tray in emphasis.
I decided against pointing out the anachronism in her expression; Ma didn’t take kindly to that sort of criticism. ‘I’m interviewing her after lunch.’
Abby arched delicate pencilled eyebrows. ‘You’re interviewing the village idiot?’
‘Didn’t sound like an idiot. Local, uncertain, nervous, naive but not stupid. Voice like burgundy silk, with none of the coarseness you’d imagine. Funny, I’ve never heard her speak, you know. Wouldn’t expect that voice from a tiny wench like her.’
‘Beats me why you want a Girl Friday anyway.’
‘Answer the phone when I’m working, amongst other things.’
‘Stick an extension in the Perv’s darkroom and get him to take messages.’
‘Of course! I never thought. Merv’s unique and candid misogyny would be perfect. Work like a charm on every secretary, receptionist and potential model who called. Good idea, Abby.’
I tripped the shutter. ‘Shift your lovely bum a tad to the left. Beautiful.’ Another work of genius captured on film.
‘Can’t Ma take messages?’
‘I do.’ Ma’s face said all she needed to on that subject and she left without another word.
‘She does. It’s not just that. Takes me hours to type a letter. Paperwork clogs up my creative cogs, I’m forever running out of film and paper, and the tax return’s murder. Anyway, a good pair of legs under a mini or micro and some bold boobs in a see-through might keep those damned reps out of my hair. Do wonders when clients visit in person.’
‘All three of them.’
‘Cheek. If I had some glamour here to greet them, there’d be more.’
‘Faith Heacham hasn’t got legs or tits. She’s not glam. She’s skinny and square. I’m glam. I’ve got legs and tits.’ She displayed to best advantage.
‘And very beautiful they are, Abby. But you’ve all the organisational skills of a bramble bush, and your idea of accounting is, “Any money? Yes, stroke no. Spend it”. Anyway, you’d not work the hours I want for the wages I’m offering.’
She yawned her boredom again and I prepared to finish the session with a last couple of shots. ‘Move a bit further over, honey, and don’t pose. It’s “Housework au Naturel.” remember? You’re supposed to be actually doing the hoovering.’
‘As if I’d get involved in housework. I’m not a skivvy. Anyway, if it’s supposed to be au naturel, shouldn’t I be completely nude?’
‘They’d never publish it. And I’d never get you on page three like that.’
‘Even so, wouldn’t you like…?’
‘Of course, even if it’s just for my personal collection.’
She did; leaving just the shoes to enhance the length and shape of her legs. I repeated the poses I’d already done.
The roll finished, Abby decided she’d had enough. She took my hand off the film magazine I was about to remove from the ‘Blad. ‘That’ll wait. I won’t.’ She dragged me into the sitting room, where Uncle Fred’s framed sepia parents, stiff in matching gilt frames, glared Victorian disapproval at us from the ancient oak mantelpiece. The roaring fire countered the ice in their stares, making the sheepskin rug yet more inviting. Abby rested her lovely skin on the soft wool and pulled me down to join her.
An hour or so later, I left her glowing inside and out, languorous on the creamy fibres. At her request, I stuck a stack of singles on the radiogram and wandered off as Hot Chocolate sang ‘You Sexy Thing’, appropriately enough.
Back in the office, I replaced denim flares and the psychedelic shirt Abby had insisted on removing from me during the shoot, and then took the films to the darkroom for processing.
Merv, however, was not lurking in the orange glow of his domain. The stockroom door was ajar and, fixated by his view through the tiny window, he didn’t hear my approach. I loathed his attitude to women.
‘Stripping another unfortunate female?’
‘You do it.’
‘Merv, comparing my photography of women with your lewd mental despoiling is like placing Velazquez in the same frame as Vargas.’
‘Like you’re a great master, Leigh.’
‘Could be, given the chance.’
He grunted. ‘Seen that ‘un starkers.’
I peered over his shoulder, down through the white-encrusted skeletal sycamore to the lane end where a small, anxious young woman stood ankle deep in fresh snow. It took me a moment to recognize her, though she wore her usual cast-offs and was expected.
‘Not that one, Merv. I doubt even the doctor’s seen that little body.’
‘I ‘ave! Seen the lot. Outside it were an’ all. Doesn’t shave its armpits. All ‘airy they was. Mucky little twat.’
I left Merv his fantasy, unwilling to explore or argue and suddenly aware of the dangers of his corruption and loathing meeting with her reputed purity. ‘Depending how things go this afternoon, you may soon see her; face to face.’
‘I’m interviewing her in twenty minutes.’
‘It’ll never effin’ model for you!’
‘Girl Friday, Merv.’
‘Waste o’ time. Less brains than a shagged sheep.’
‘I’ll accept your expert assessment of the sheep, Merv, but have you actually met the girl, spoken with her?’
‘Everyone knows. Even its effin’ dad says it’s thick as cow dung.’
‘I admit he seemed determined to brand her an idiot before he sent her out to work. Anyway, I’ve nowt to lose by giving her a hearing. The only other two who responded were great to look at and fun in bed but the blonde had all the mathematical aptitude of an artichoke and the redhead thought typewriter keys were arranged alphabetically.’
‘You’ll not gerrit in bed, Leigh. Never tecks its knickers off. It’ll not even teck off its coat if it knows a man’s lookin’ at it.’
I turned him away from the window to face me but he couldn’t meet my eyes, despite our equal height. ‘I want that order printed and finished, Merv. I’ll deliver it after the interview.’
‘Waste of effin’ time if you ask me. It’s got nothing you want.’
I left Merv to it; confident he’d do his usual perfect job. As a photographic printer and technician, he was brilliant; as a man… I shuddered.
At my desk, I picked up the morning paper and waited for Faith Heacham to knock at my door. Recalling her, apprehensive in the snow, I wondered again how the skinny, ragged, village idiot had persuaded me to interview her.