The Man on the Train
THE MAN ON THE TRAIN
A true love story
by Sarah Byron
Copyright 2010 by Valerie Byron
Sandown Drive branched off from the main Avenue which comprised the estate built in 1939, occupied by young married couples rising in financial status, which was accelerated by the War. The men were professionals, in law, science, medicine, and directors of businesses, textiles being the main source of production in the County of Lancashire, England.
My husband, Lawrence, had chosen this up-and-coming community for us at the onset of World War II, having considered its close proximity to Manchester, where he had acquired a small factory to manufacture small parts for aircraft. He had a Master of Science degree from London University, which he had been unable to use during the depression period, when engineering activities were at a standstill. He had gone into business with my brother, Morrie, managing the lighting accessory warehouse while my brother was established in New York, importing china and gift items from the Potteries in Stoke-on-Trent. He entrusted Lawrence with all the responsibilities of licenses, book-keeping and the supervision of local trade. When conscription became more imminent, Lawrence bought the engineering works to keep him on “Work of National Importance”, and out of the Army.
We had made friends with two couples who had, with us, bought the last remaining houses for sale at the end of the cul-de-sac on Sandown Drive. Mary and Maurice Shevloff and Bonnie and Ted Smithies occupied the last two houses. Lawrence and I were directly opposite, on the other side, at 26 Sandown Drive, Sale, Cheshire.
Mary, Bonnie and I spent a great deal of time together during the day. My son attended a private school on the Avenue and, when the blitz strafed Manchester, the school moved to safety in a small town in North Wales. Mary had a three year old daughter, Pauline, when my Valerie was born in 1942, which gave us another interest in common. Bonnie had a daughter of sixteen from a prior marriage, but gave up custody to her former husband. Maurice had a textile business in Manchester, and Ted, formerly an insurance salesman, formed a partnership with my husband in the small arms work, leaving Lawrence freer to conduct his job in my brother’s warehouse.
In war time, opportunities for making money were many, and Lawrence took advantage of his carte blanche management of my brother’s finances to further his own venture. He started to make a lot of money.
There was a rift in our relationship when my brother, concerned for his own interests, returned to confront Lawrence as to his means of financing his own business venture. As a result, my absolute trust in him faltered, and he refused to explain or defend his actions.
His habits of ten years of marriage changed. He did not return home at the usual time, nor did he give me any reason or explanation for his return home in the early hours of the morning. It never occurred to me that he might be having an affair. Always reticent, given to few words, my innocent questions as to why he had not let me know he was not coming home at his usual hour, where he had been, were met with a stony stare and no answers.
Bonnie, too, was suffering similar treatment from Ted. During the whole of my pregnancy, and for a year after, he went his own way, ignoring my distress, and refusing to explain. It was only when I received an anonymous telephone call, informing me that my husband was having an affair with his secretary, Barbara Sant (which call I later learned was from Barbara’s own mother!) – and advising me that I would find evidence in the hotel register of the Royal George Hotel – that a confession was wrung from him. It appeared that nine months after my daughter was born, Barbara gave birth to a baby girl, Julie, named for the month of conception, July. Both had spent time together at the hotel while I was in the nursing home after my daughter was born.
Barbara, who was Bonnie’s god-child, had used Bonnie’s influence to get a job in Lawrence’s office. She was aware of the situation between us, having heard the story from Bonnie and Ted. She coveted the affluence we enjoyed and made plans to widen the rift and take Lawrence for herself.
Lawrence was not a womanizer. He professed a strict code of morality. Many of the women in our circle complained to me of his apparent rudeness, never acknowledging them when we would meet, and ignoring them entirely. He must have been deeply hurt at the loss of my hitherto patent hero worship for him. I would always champion him if any question arose in debates. “Wait until Lawrence comes home, he will know the answer,” I would proudly announce - and the raised eyebrows at my confidence in his ...