For Better For Worse


Gwayne, an electrician, had come to England from Jamaica on a three-month holiday several years earlier, over-stayed and never returned to his native Kingston.  Handsome and a body building fanatic, his relationships with women invariably hit the buffers when they met Winsome, his mother, a formidable woman who’d scrimped and scraped to better herself and buy a small flat in a London suburb. When Gwayne was a small boy, she’d come to England alone and found work as a hospital nurse, leaving him and siblings back home in the care of their maternal grandparents.

Eventually, Gwayne manoeuvred himself out of Winsome’s place on the pretext that he needed to live close to his job, and rented lodgings elsewhere. As an illegal, with no immigration status, he was careful not to get involved in drugs or pimping because that was a one-way ticket to a prison cell and deportation.

It was Christmas Eve and Gwayne slumped at the bar in The Dog and Duck, drinking draught beer. It was deserted as most of the regulars were at home celebrating the festive season with sworn enemies — family.  He was depressed. Shandee, his girlfriend, had just walked out on him after screaming that she couldn’t stand Winsome.  Winsome, too, had delivered an ultimatum — Shandee or me. There’s no room for us both.

As he downed his second pint and reached for another, his gaze settled on the slim, blonde, porcelain skinned woman he’d spotted last week. She was by herself. Gwayne, who’d cultivated a highly honed technique to reel in any girl he fancied, rose to his feet and approached.  Very soon they were deep in conversation. He learned that her name was Danuta and that she was Polish.  She’d arrived to England a month previously and was working in the neighbourhood fish and chip shop run by Greek Cypriots.

Marooned in London, Danuta told Gwayne she knew no one there. Her best friend with whom she’d travelled to the UK was busy waitressing in an hotel in Aberdeen over the Christmas period. On the promise of being treated to the best jerk chicken that had ever crossed her lips — it hadn’t— Danuta accompanied Gwayne to his bedsit.

Jerk chicken was not the only item on the menu. Jamaican rum punch had them falling into each other’s arms and Gwayne had his wicked way with Danuta.  It was consensual but the next morning seeing Danuta lying curled up, her hair splayed over the pillow like the leading lady in a French film, Gwayne panicked. Suppose she accused him of rape?  He hastened to the bathroom and filled the tub. He rummaged in his toolbox and took out cables and a switch and rigged up a lethal device. He ran back to the bed and started trussing her up. At this point she woke up and he kissed her, telling her she needed a long, hot soak and, cuddling her, lowered her into the bath, surprised that such a delicate woman could put up such a struggle. She was hollering as well and when he shushed her, she spat in his face.

As he was about to pull the switch that would launch Danuta into eternity, the doorbell rang. Gwayne hesitated, shut the bathroom door and went to answer it.

‘Happy Christmas, son,’ Winsome boomed. Bearing gifts, she was on her way to church and expected Gwayne to accompany her as he usually did.  Sniffing the lingering aroma of allspice, ginger and thyme, Winsome shoved past him and looked round suspiciously. She spotted a pile of unwashed dishes— the two dinner plates were like a red rag to a bull — and, clicking her tongue, rolled up her sleeves and dumped them in the kitchen sink.

About to turn on the tap, she cocked her head and turned round. ‘What’s that noise then?’

Danuta had succeeded in freeing herself and stood there stark naked and dripping.

Winsome bellowed at Gwayne. ‘Didn’t I tell you not to entertain strange women?’ She slapped him across the face — one, two three.

Danuta wrenched open the front door and fled into the street. Winsome and Gwayne sprang to the window and peered out, watching with dismay as she thumbed down a passing car.

Gwayne was convicted, given a stiff sentence and served with a deportation notice.

Eight years after being paroled, Gwayne was back in court, this time battling removal to Jamaica, the heavy hand of the authorities having eventually fallen on him when his immigration file, together with thousands upon thousand of others, was found abandoned in the labyrinth of sewers below London’s streets. This sparked a public outcry, heads rolled and the relevant Ministry, ducking and diving, who could offer no explanation as to how the hoard got there, was forced from its customary torpor into action.

Gwayne told the Judge that he’d established a strong family life in the UK and that if the government deported him it would be in breach of its obligations under the Human Rights Act. He gestured to the public gallery where Danuta, pregnant with their third child, waved and blew him kisses.

As he’d languished in gaol, filling the unforgiving hours undertaking courses in writing poetry, macramé and making toy soldiers — a role model to his violent compatriots — Danuta, as part of an experiment in restorative justice, had become a regular visitor.  When he was released after serving half his sentence, they’d married and happily set up home with Winsome who, tamed by the arrival of grandkids, reluctantly found herself beginning to tolerate her daughter-in-law.








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