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Fighting For Love And Glory
Author's note: For a long time I had always had a keen interest in History, and this included the Second World War. I very much admire the courage, pride and determination shown by people all over the United Kingdom who participated in it, and fought for their country. They fought their tomorrow for our today, and that is why I wrote this piece, so that I could show my appreciation of what they did for us.
“I am speaking to you from the Cabinet Room of 10 Downing Street. This morning the British Ambassador in Berlin handed the German government a final note, stating that unless we heard from them by 11 o'clock that they were prepared at once to withdraw their troops from Poland, a state of war would exist between us. I have to tell you now that no such undertaking has been received and that, consequently, this country is at war with Germany.” Mr Chamberlain’s solemn voice boomed down the wireless. We sat in silence listening to it on our Sunday service. The church was always cold, whatever weather but the newest announcement from the prime minister just sent a cold, September breeze rushing through the aisle. Mother tightened her hand around my fathers, and there were a few quiet gasps from the back. The wooden pews were hard and hurt after a while. The vicar cleared his throat before gentily getting up from the end of the front pew, and quietly clicked off the wireless with his nimble fingers.
“We shall end with a prayer,” he bellowed. We all held our hands together as the prayer echoed in the corners of the church. Britain was now at war with Germany. Father had always said it was bound to happen, but Ma always scoffed and hit his arm or rolled her eyes. She was a gentle beauty, caring brown eyes like my own, yet hers had a curious twinkle that always came out as she read her books. It was like the magic of the characters personalities could easily whisk her away into the world of her own. Father was always the tougher man. He kept it all inside him, and told it like it is. That’s where Ma thinks I have my courage from. I was always the ordinary teenage girl, I went to school, learn, read books come home and relax, help Ma with chores all that stuff. Father is always complaining to Ma that I should have more duties around the home, to make me a proper housewife. Ma will never listen to him.
The service all chanted Amen, before the organ played and we all set out to go back outside. The adults were all crowding and worrying about the new announcement from Mr Chamberlain. Young boys ran around outside pretending their hands were guns, running around chasing each other. Ma grabbed hold of my arm.
“Come along now Hayley.” she said as we all took a short walk back home. Down a road past the village shops, of which one of those was my Father’s, and through a small pathway that took us back to a row of medium sized houses, the middle one was ours. Our roof was thatched, like the rest of the houses on our row, with a small wood and fields going around the outside of the entire village. There was a huge willow tree around the back of our house in our garden, opposite the orchard. I say orchard and mean two apple trees. We went inside, and Ma went to the kitchen to boil the kettle and I went up into my bedroom. I sat on the windowsill and read my books, like I always did after church.
We were sat around the table having Sunday dinner, roast potatoes, vegetables with chicken and gravy. The normal really. Ma was always the good cook, but I was really bad. Kept burning my hands or fingers all the time. Ma and Father were bickering at the table about school or some other. Now the summer was over I was done with school, I was 16, which is too old for school anyway. Father says I should stop loitering about the house and get a job, but what is there to do anyway? Nothing, that is what.
“Nora we have to teach her to get out of the house and do something with life, or she’ll end up as nothing in life.” My Father spat out.
“George! Why must you speak like that when she is around? She is a human being with feelings!” My Ma tried to whisper under her breath, even though I heard every word.
“When I was her age I took everything my father had to say and used it as valuable information.” Father spat back out.
“She’s still a little girl!” Ma said again.
“She is 16, 17 in a few days, she’s more grown up than you.” he replied looking at his food. That was probably when Ma realised I was growing up now. All parents are like that at sometime of their children’s lives. Father took the plate and cutlery and took it into the other room. He always retreated from Ma when she was like this.
“Ignore your father he is just…aggravated at the moment, all this war business is stressful on him.” she said leaning her soft hand over and stroking my cheek.
“What’s going to happen now? Are we all going to die?” I asked her. She looked up at me suddenly.
“Hayley! Don’t you dare say that in my house!” She said quickly snapping her hand away.
“Sorry Ma.” I apologised looking down at my food, swivelling my fork through the chicken. She coughed quickly.
“Eat it up before it goes cold.” she said quietly. I finished it off before dumping it into the sink, then going back up into my bedroom.
Hallowed be thy name,
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven,
Give us today our daily bread,
And forgive us of our sins,
As we forgive those who sin against us,
Lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil,
For the power, the glory and kingdom is yours,
I quickly snuck into bed and nestled down into a deep sleep. I woke up to the heavenly sound of Ma and Father fighting again. I got dressed into one of my summer dresses before going to open my curtains. I always try to go into my own worlds while Ma and Father fight. I sat on my windowsill, imagining everything. I looked down at the orchard. Imagine having a tall boy stood in there, pinching an apple or two. That’s when I looked closer and rubbed my eyes. There was actually a boy climbing up our apple tree. I opened my window and leaned out of it. Yes, this time my mind wasn’t making it up, he was there moving and all.
“Hey! Excuse me but that is our apple tree!” I shouted. He looked up at me, unphased he had been caught.
“I know it is.” he replied grabbing for another apple before jumping off a branch.
“What do you think you are doing? That is stealing!” I said again outraged.
“Oh I’m sorry my manners.” He said placing his hand on his chest. He was a tall boy, maybe even slightly stocky, with brown hair that was cropped to his eyes. He was either my age or slightly over, but he was fairly handsome even if I do say so myself.
“That’s better.” I replied resting on the windowsill.
“Do you want one?” he shouted. I gasped. What rudeness! Who was this boy and why was he in my garden!
“No I do not!” I replied disgusted. The back door of my house swung open and Father walked out.
“Bollocks to it! Bye your highness!” he shouted jumping over the stonewall and into the next house. Father yelled at him before going back inside the house. Your highness? Was he referring me to a princess? How romantic…he must have some sort of manners, but he definitely wasn’t from next door, he wasn’t one of the Shelby boys. The house next to us was home to the Shelby’s, Mr and Mrs Shelby, with Thomas and Richard. They were both twins, and younger than me, so he couldn’t have been one of them. Whoever he was, it was a mystery to me.
I went downstairs, with my mind still fizzing with questions about this strange boy. My father was sitting in his chair, scoffing and huffing while Ma was reading her book. When she read books, the pages flew by like when she whisked a cake mixture, round and round, over and over the pages would go, until it was creamy, or in the books case, finished. Father should normally be at work, so what he was doing here was a surprise.
“Father? I thought it was Monday,” I said sitting down on the sofa inbetween both of their armchairs. He scoffed again and Ma sighed.
“Damn evacuees…who do they think they are?” he said again.
“I know dear.” my mother said turning a page of her book.
“Evacuees? What is an evacuee?” I asked completely puzzled by the word.
“Because of the war they are sending all the children out of London and the other big cities because of a load of bombs.” Father said again, still in a huff.
“Out of their homes? Where do they go?” I asked again curious.
“We’re supposed to look after them, its disgraceful.” my Father said angrily.
“George dear, do calm down.” Ma whispered looking up slightly at him. He looked up at Ma and stared at her. She smiled and he sighed.
“There was one in our backyard stealing the damn apples, what are we a free shop to them? Well we must be since they have closed the shop down for the day.” My father said. The boy in the garden, he was one of these evacuee people. A boy from London in the village! How exciting this is! I could befriend him, and he could teach me all about London…
“They’re having to restock the blooming shop because the damn things are walking in their taking things and walking back out again, its like they were raised in a zoo!” Father said again. He helped run the shop with Mr Trucker. I was drifting off slightly thinking about this evacuee boy.
“And don’t you get any ideas, you won’t be mixing with any of the sort.” he said before getting up and probably going into his study. I slunk into the chair. How could he not let me be friends with them? I would be doing something more productive instead of being around the house wouldn’t I? I could be learning about cities, and in return I could teach the boy all about villages, it would be like a geography project. I’ll ignore Father, and befriend the stocky boy. I could even teach him manners and etiquette.
For the following days I kept thinking about the strange evacuee. Did I actually like him? Really and seriously? I had never felt like this about a boy before, I have never really thought of it necessary to be liking boys in that sort of way, or any of the sorts when I had to be studying. But for the strangest reason, this boy in particular was doing something to my mind; I can’t focus anymore without thinking about his London accent or the green eyes. I would sit by my window whenever I could, to try and catch any sight I could of this boy. I hadn’t seen him in ages though. Where was he? Was it all a big dream and there was no evacuees, or war.
“Hayley! Get down here now!” Father yelled. I rushed down into the kitchen.
“What are you doing? We have the Shelby’s coming around in a few hours, you need to be well presented and do the cooking, Nora sort the darn girl out.” Father said looking up and down at me like I was a disgrace to him. I probably was. Ma said how he wanted a boy. Father walked off with a cigar in his mouth and the newspaper under his arm. Ma took my arm and we walked into the kitchen. She set me to do all the vegetables while we practised small talk.
“Now my dear, remember that we will need more portions, Mrs Shelby has took in an evacuee, like we may do, and apparently they eat like pigs.” Ma said taking plates out of the cupboard. It wasn’t a dream, it was real, and this all was real.
“Hayley, one more quick lesson,” Ma started again. I quickly looked up at her giving her my attention again.
“Don’t drift off into a dream world as you talk to them, it is rude, you are Miss Hayley Brookston, a young lady now, you must behave like one.” she said again. She was right, I was coming of age now and I really should grow up a little. Even though I wouldn’t exactly consider myself as immature.
“Yes Ma, I will be polite and a mature young lady.” I replied. Ma chuckled and stroked my cheek.
“You’ve grown so much, it’s hard to think you may be married one day, let alone 17 in the next few weeks.” she said, half in her own dream world. She pulled herself back together quickly before sending me upstairs to get dressed into something appropriate.
As I got changed I heard them arrive. I heard them all greeting each other and introducing themselves to the evacuee. I put on my nicest dress, I usually wear it to church as it is my best one, and then put on some lipstick. I grabbed it from Ma’s room earlier. I really did look different when I was all made up like today.
“Hayley come downstairs and meet our guests.” Father called up. I got up from the dressing table and walked out of the room, and down the stairs. The stairs were next to the doorway, so as I came down they all looked up at me, like I was a princess in one of my storybooks. There he was, the evacuee boy who had somehow stolen my heart in a matter of minutes. He was wearing the same white shirt, but with a jumper and trousers today. His hair brushed over to the side. He smiled cheekily as I walked down the stairs.
“Hayley, introduce yourself please.” Ma asked holding my back. I stepped down the last step and put my hand out to shake Mr Shelby’s.
“Mr and Mrs Shelby, It’s so lovely to see you again.” I said before shaking Mrs Shelby’s hand.
“Very nice to see you again Hayley.” They both said.
“This is Alex, he is our evacuee from London.” Mr Shelby said looking at him. Alex my dear evacuee.
“Good evening Alex.” I said smiling. I could feel myself blushing pink.
“You brush up well don’t you?” he said in a cockney accent. Mr Shelby hit the back of his head.
“Use your manners boy!” he hissed. Brush up well? This boy really wasn’t the type for compliments.
“I did!” he said talking back to him.
“Why I ought to thrash you on your heels…” Mr Shelby said before Ma changed subject and waved us into the dining room. We all walked in, and Alex’s eyes whipped around the room, like he had never seen a dining room before. We all sat down. Father was at the end of the table, with the Shelby’s on his left, Ma, me and Alex on his right. I felt uncomfortable sitting next to him. It was too close for a first proper introduction. Ma and I went into the kitchen to dish out food onto the plates and I took it in carefully, giving each person at the table a plate of food. Alex went to dig into it before Father and Mr Shelby’s eyes scorned at him. He put his hands under the table and looked away quickly. We all said grace before we ate. The table was all split up having separate conversations, apart from me and Alex, who sat eating uncomfortably.
“Miss Hayley, If I may say, but you are looking as pretty as you were the other day.” he said looking up at me. I smiled, he did have manners, but they were just shy.
“Why thank you,” I replied with a smile, and probably blushing cheeks. “I have a small question though.” I said, not thinking about anything. He looked up with one of his eyebrows arched.
“You called me your highness, why?” I asked him again. He smirked.
“Because you’re right posh Miss Hayley.” he said laughing quietly.
“Posh? What are you talking about?” I asked slightly hissing at him.
“There, the way you speak is just so posh, the way you say your sentences.” he said. Posh? I am not posh at all, if I’m posh then so is he, and he certainly isn’t. I rolled my eyes at him before finishing off the rest of the food on my plate.
Once everyone had finished Ma and I collected everyone’s plates before setting out the sponge cake that she had made earlier, and giving everyone a piece.
“Cake? I haven’t had any cake in ages, Mam don’t bother buying it no more.” He said digging into it with his fork. Ma was right; he eats like he has been starved all his life.
“Why doesn’t she bake it? It is very easy, even I can bake cake.” I replied confused. The London people hardly knew anything.
“Make cake? I didn’t know you could make it, she used to buy it in the boxes.” he replied as if he was confused as me.
“Buy it? We make everything ourselves in the country.” I said.
“And there is the posh gloating.” he said again under his breath.
“I am not posh and I do not gloat.” I hissed back to him glaring at him.
“Excuse me a moment…” I said getting off the seat and storming off up the stairs and into my bedroom quickly. How could someone be so mean as to just say those things? Someone stepped into my bedroom. I looked around to see Alex stood on the door. He walked in and sat on the bed.
“Why do you say horrible things like that? It is rude.” I replied refusing to look at him.
“I’m used to it, in London I get that everyday from Mam, and Father was just the same before he went off to war, Mam was glad to see me come out here, she thinks I’m a useless person, and I’m glad to see the back of her.” he said looking at me. I looked up slightly. I could see the pain in his eyes, even if he was too brave to show the pain that was causing him so much grief.
“What are you going to do when the war is over?” I asked curiously.
“I don’t want the war to be over, I want to join the Air Force in a year.” he replied looking excited now.
“How old are you? Surely you’ll be too young” I replied.
“17, I’ll be 18 it’ll be fine, I might fake I’m 18 next year, but I’m going to find Hitler and smash him to pieces.” he said proudly.
“Who’s Hitler?” I asked. He laughed before realising I was serious.
“Hitler is the man who caused all this war, don’t you really know?” he asked curiously. I thought for a while before I remembered about the man’s name on the wireless.
“Actually I have heard him on the wireless once or twice.” I said realising about it.
“Miss Hayley I’m sorry, but I can’t stop looking at your beautiful eyes.” he said looking up at me. He looked like he was scanning them.
“It’s okay.” I replied looking at his. His eyes sparkled greener than grass, and greener than emeralds. I pulled my hand up to his face and stroked his cheekbone, tracing it down to his throat, and his Adam’s apple. His hand stroked through my light brunette hair. I wanted to freeze, keep him next to me forever. He looked at my lips then back at my eyes. I wanted to kiss a boy I’d felt like I had known my whole life.
“I think I…” I whispered.
“Love you…” He finished. I looked at the figure stood at the door. Ma had suddenly come in to see what had happened she stood at the door shocked. She quickly ran back out slamming the door. I snapped back to myself and took my hand away from his cheek quickly but he grabbed my hand back next to his face and kissed it.
There was heavy marching on the stairs before Father barged in and grabbed Alex’s ear and dragged him right off the bed and out of my room. Alex was squirming and kicking around.
“Get the bleedy hell off me!” Alex shouted trying to break free of Father’s grasp.
“Hayley you stay in here and go to bed now, you’ll never ever see this rogue again!” Father said slamming the door.
“No!” I shouted running to the door and hitting it.
“I love him! I love him!” I shouted. Father opened it and slapped me; the impact flung me right over off my feet before the door was slammed again.
“Hayley!” I heard Alex shout before he let out a tiny cry and the front door slammed. The slap had stung my cheek and I felt like I was dizzy and heartbroken. I sat at my wall next to the door and held my cheek. A cold tear slowly flew down my cheek. Forbidden to see my love. Forbidden to be near to my love again. Forbidden to keep my heart beating every second. Ma came back into the room.
“If you dare to see him then you will stay in this room all your life.” she said utterly disgraced. I didn’t look at her; I looked down to my feet still crying.
“Why can’t I love him?” I whispered looking up at her.
“He is a rogue from London, with disgusting manners and he isn’t a well enough young man. I will find you an approving boy, and it won’t be him.” She said before shutting the door. I sat and cried again before crawling over to my window.
Ma and Father wouldn’t let me see Alex, and my heart broke every second away from him. Because I was being irresponsible, and immature with him; and also committed sins with him. That was what Ma and Father thought, even though we didn’t do anything but chat and what I thought was fall in love. The Lord was angry with me and him now, so I have to pay off my sins till I can go to heaven. Father made me work at his shop, and I was sat next to the till. Father and Mr Trucker were out the back dealing with a load of new arrivals. There were new rationing laws, so people could only buy a small amount of food per week. It was my birthday in a few more days, and Ma was saving up her rations to make a cake for me. Father had asked what I wanted, but I didn’t want anything apart from one thing. Which was Alex. I didn’t say anything to him, so he just shrugged before reading the paper again. I sat on the stool, which was next to the counter and till, and was reading a book that I brought along with me everyday. Because of rationing, the shop was quieter than normal. Father and Mr Trucker came back out from the storeroom and laid out cardboard boxes on the floor in a pile.
“Hayley sort all these out.” Father said before they went back in to have a break. I got up slowly and tried to drag one of the boxes behind the counter to unpack it. It was unbelievably heavy. Someone came into the shop and looked around, I could hear their feet on the lino floor. I got to up drag another one of the boxes over when I looked up.
“Miss Hayley!” Alex whispered running to me and taking me in his arms. I knew I should’ve tried to shrug him off quickly, but I couldn’t help but stay in his arms.
“You can’t be here, if Father catches you, he’ll do awful things to you again.” I whispered holding his face in my hands.
“I don’t care I’d face a thousand of him for a quick moment with you Miss Hayley.” he said again looking into my eyes.
“Then you must meet me later, away from here.” I replied hugging him tightly.
“I need to get the butter first though.” he said laughing. I shushed him quickly in case Father came out of the storeroom. I grabbed the butter quickly before marking his ration book. My heart felt like it was recovered by his presence. He took the book and butter before standing there smiling at me. He bent forward and kissed my cheek before smirking.
“Who cares if I won’t go to Heaven? I’m in it already.” I whispered before leaning forward to him. Our lips touched and we kissed each other. Pure heaven. We both giggled before he went out of the shop.
I sat back on the stool smiling. There was a sudden cough from behind me. I turned around quickly. Mr Trucker was stood at the doorway, leaning on the wood. Father stood behind him, both staring at me. Darn it.
“Father…please let me explain…” I whimpered before he shoved Mr Trucker out of the way and grabbed hold of my arm, yanking me straight off from the stool.
“I’ll give you bleedy explain you’re a sinning child I always knew you were!” Father shouted me. He was dragging me through the storeroom and then into the back street. His grip was strong on my arm.
“Father please you’re hurting me!” I shouted trying to get away from him. He ignored me, still dragging me as if I was a bag, pulling me down past the fence and towards the church. He threw me down onto the top step outside the church door before walking away from me. I got up in anger.
“Why can’t I just love him?” I screamed over in my Father’s direction. He kept walking onwards, as if he didn’t hear me at all. I fell backwards onto the door again and cried my eyes out. There is no sin in being in love is there? Surely not. Else everyone would be living in hell. I am to ignore Ma and Father, I don’t care what they say anymore, I am a young independent woman. But am I really too scared to disobey them? I got up from the church steps and walked down them. I walked behind the church and into the field. Behind the church was a row of fields, on the outskirts grew wild daisies and poppies in November. In the middle of the bushes and flowers, there was a small break, where you could sit and gaze at the fields. It was sheltered from the wind and rain under a huge tree, and it was also hidden so you couldn’t be seen. The trees and fields were behind our other neighbours house, so you could easily cut around and get home easily. The cool September wind brushed through my hair making it dance in the wind. I walked over to the tree, as it just came into sight.
I sat down beneath the tree and wiped the final tears from my cheeks. I breathed in and out heavily. I looked across the fields of corn admiring its open spaces. It was getting windier, and cooler, and grey clouds were gathering across the sky. I didn’t have a jacket so I shivered and rubbed my cold arms.
“Miss Hayley?” A voice from above me said. I jumped suddenly at the heavenly voice coming from above me and looked up. Alex was sat perched in the tree, with on of his legs swinging around underneath him.
“Alex!” I said happily. I climbed up into the tree and he helped me up onto the branch. The huge branches completely hid us both.
“How did you know about this place?” He asked pulling me to him.
“Since I was a kid, how did you find it?” I asked him back cuddling him.
“I get bored.” he replied holding me closer to him. We both sat in silence for a tiny while, indulged into the moment together. There was a rumble in the sky like thunder. Alex looked up suddenly, and got me up.
“Get off the tree now.” He said jumping off before helping me down.
“What? It’s a storm Alex.” I said holding his face. He smiled.
“Yepp, definitely a storm coming…” he said happily. The thunder was ongoing and getting louder.
“What?” I asked. He perched me down and we sat on the bottom of the tree. It got louder and louder. Suddenly from out of the tree two large fighter planes came out of the tree, swerving and swirling around in the sky. They shot at each other having dogfights in the sky. I clung onto Alex as he sat fascinated watching them. It wasn’t much of a thrill at all; it scared me, especially when it looked like the planes would crash into the ground, just to swoop up firing at the other plane again. Suddenly One of the wings got blown off the hurricane, and it went flying down into the ground, there was a huge almighty crash, as the other plane flew off, just as more joined it in the air and followed it off, all a mix of German and English planes. They flew completely out of sight, and the sound went to a gentle hum to complete silence.
“He might need help.” Alex said getting up about to run to where the plane had landed behind some trees. I grabbed him quickly.
“No! Remember what it says on the wireless? We can’t trust anything anymore, keep mum and save Dad!” I said pulling him back under the tree.
“Hayley it’s an English plane.” he said easily getting out of my grip and running across the field. I stood there terrified of what could happen. I watched him run behind the big thicket of trees before suddenly running over to him and hugging him. He was examining the plane.
“Must of parachuted out somewhere…No sign of life.” he said jumping up and into the drivers seat.
“Be careful! It might explode!” I said timidly. He looked at all the buttons in the cockpit. He saw the radio and picked it up and pretended to speak into it.
“This is Private Cox, repeat, repeat.” he laughed before making a sound like a wireless hissing.
“Private Cox, get out of that plane right now!” I said trying to get him out. He looked at me and laughed.
“Calm down, this’ll be the real me one day, can you imagine it?” he said looking excited.
“I never want you to go back to London…And I don’t want you to go to war, I need you here with me forever.” I said suddenly. He sighed and jumped down from the cockpit, before joining me on ground and kissing my forehead.
“It’s my duty Miss Hayley.” Alex started.
“It’s not your duty! There’s millions of boys who can go, you have to stay with me, I don’t want to loose you in this war.” I said quickly looking right at him.
“You won’t loose me, I promise.” he said hooking his pinky finger around mine. I looked down at the floor away from him, concentrating hard to keep the tiny tears that wanted to slip out of my eyes at bay. I didn’t want to loose him, and I won’t. He got a hold of my face in his hands.
“And one day, when the world is free, I will come home to my beautiful Miss Hayley.” he said brushing a small hair from my face.
“Mrs Hayley by then thank you very much.” I said trying to cheer myself up.
“Oh I’m sorry Mrs Hayley.” he said picking me up and kissing me. I blushed and smiled. Suddenly there was a big clunk from the bushes behind us and a figure came out covered in twigs and leaves.
I yelped as we darted around to see the village ‘jock’. William Dunsworth. He was my age, and our parents had been keen friends. He was considered handsome and charming, but his arrogance and snobbery had always made me want to punch him. He had apparently always liked me, which annoyed me so much.
“Miss Hayley Brookston, it’s so lovely to make your acquaintance again.” he said walking over to us but stumbling slightly.
“Okay…” I said uncomfortably. He took my hand and tried to kiss it but I moved it away quickly. Alex laughed.
“He sounds just like you, well posh.” Alex laughed. William huffed. Before looking at us both.
“You hang out with an evacuee?” he spat out looking disgusted at Alex. I scowled at him. Alex scowled this time and stared at him. I held Alex’s hand to calm him down, and he took a deep breath and tried to calm himself down.
“Hayley! You’re not!” William shouted looking at us both again.
“I love him, and he loves me back.” I said smiling looking up at Alex again. I was proud of what we had, and Alex was as well. William looked absolutely gobsmacked.
“What’s so bad?” Alex asked.
“Well, look at the state of you, Hayley, your parents probably don’t approve of this at all…” William exclaimed pacing around us.
“They don’t.” I replied.
“You’re in love with a boy who you aren’t supposed to be with? I could use this to my advantage…I think I’m going to tell them.” William said again smirking.
“Don’t they aren’t supposed to know!” I blurted out quickly. William laughed. He stopped pacing around and leant on the plane staring at us.
“I’m going to tell everyone that you are going against your Father’s wishes as well.” he said.
“No please don’t! I’ll do anything just don’t tell them!” I said angrily. Alex stepped in front of me and pulled his sleeves up. I pulled him back quickly.
“Do me a favour and maybe then I won’t tell.” William said again. Alex shook his head at me and I sighed.
“Fine, I’ll do anything.” I replied. He looked right at me.
“You’re Mother has been at my house earlier, talking with my Mother about a matter of things, you in particular though. She said how she needs a fine young man to show you what love actually is,” he started again pacing towards us. I could see what was coming. Please don’t say what I think he was going to say…
“A young man like me. I was given instructions to find you, and, since both of our parents approve, it appears you, belong with me.” His words were cold and like daggers as they flew from his mouth.
“No I don’t! I’m not something my parents can sell off, I have a right as a British citizen to love and marry whom ever I choose!” I shouted at him. William laughed.
“Hayley I could seriously punch this guy if you wanted me too, it really isn’t a problem.” Alex said looking at me.
“Go ahead.” I nodded gesturing towards William. Alex pulled his sleeve up before taking a step towards William.
“Hold on!” William shrieked cowardly before cowering over.
“What?” Alex said staying still for a moment.
“We could make a civilised deal…” William said quickly. His breathing was getting quicker by the second. Alex stood still for a moment and looked at me.
“Can’t you just leave us alone?” Alex asked looking at the trembling boy.
“I will, but only if Hayley tells her parents that we are together, if she,” he looked at me. “You do, then I won’t tell anyone about,” he looked at us disgusted again, “This.” he finished. I was aware that he was blackmailing me, but I had no choice but to say yes, since it would keep me and Alex’s romance under wraps. I sighed deeply and looked at my feet.
“Fine.” I mumbled. William laughed before going to walk off.
“Until we meet again my dear.” he shouted still laughing. His stocky figure disappeared into the distance. I felt so cowardly I didn’t bear to look at Alex. He held my face in his hands to make me look at him.
“I’m still free to punch him you know Miss Hayley.” he said smiling.
Alex and I walked back to the tree in silence, but not an awkward silence, a happy silence, if you can even get them. My hand was in tuned with his, and our footsteps quiet as the corn swished around our movements. I turned around to look at the field once more, before noticing how darker it was getting.
“I’ve got to get home, Father is going to hate me even more!” I said kissing his cheek before running over towards the small path and jumped over the small ditch.
“Hayley don’t sprint off!” Alex shouted grabbing hold of my wrist. He pulled me back, which made me do a 360° turn on my ankles and fall over onto my back, I dragged Alex down with me, and he fell on top of me. For a light looking boy he really did hit you hard.
“I’m sorry Miss Hayley.” he said looking in my eyes.
“I’d hit your arm but you have my arms trapped.” I replied laughing quietly. The way those vivid, green eyes would look at mine could have me hypnotised for days. It was quiet apart from the wind gentily whistling around us. He rolled off from me, and lay next to me instead. I gathered my head together and got up. Thank goodness that it hadn’t been raining else the path would’ve been fairly muddy. I brushed myself down as he tried to scramble to his knees.
“You keep leaving me in the dark, can’t you stay with me more?” He said walking after me.
“Trust me I want too, but my Father will try to kill me.” I replied to him going through the small lane and onto the street.
It started to seem darker now the field and sunset was being covered by a row of houses.
“My lady!” William suddenly said loudly grabbing my arm around his and practically dragging me off towards my house.
“Urm, what?” I said trying to stop. Alex came walking after us.
“What are you up to now?” Alex said grabbing at my other arm and pulling me straight into his. William rolled his eyes and sighed.
“Remember the deal? I have taken you to church where we both read the bible and prayed, and now I am making sure you get home safely by taking you back to your father.” William exclaimed. Words rolled off from his tongue like he had been planning it since his life began. William grabbed me back over and onto his arm.
“Bye city boy!” He said walking off. I tried to stutter anything. Alex walked after us again and grabbed hold of me.
“Hold on two bloody minutes.” he said quickly.
“Look, do you want me to keep this under wraps or not? I could easily tell your Father Hayley.” William said again. He was getting annoyed and agitated.
“We never agreed with that!” Alex tried. As much as he tried he failed as William pulled me off again. I looked back around and Alex was standing there motionless. He shrugged his arms in the air before jumping over the wall and going into his own house.
“I love you…” I managed to say under my breath.
“Of course you do.” William replied proudly. I scowled at him as he pulled me through the fence and down the path. He cleared his throat before knocking on the door. He looked proud and triumphant, while I felt as if I was withering by his side. The door suddenly swung open as Father stood and inspected us both. His mouth opened but I couldn’t hear the words coming out of his mouth, I looked around at William and his mouth was doing the same. My knees went shaky.
“Thank you for bringing me home.” I murmured, but the words came out as a crackle before I let go of his arm and went inside my house. I felt my legs give in as I fell onto my bed. My eyes shut fast and I feel straight into a deep sleep. What had just happened? Did I actually make a deal with William? My heart drooped like my heavy eyes. My deal with the devil was now done and in practice. Feeling ashamed of myself, I curled my legs underneath me and left everything until tomorrow morning.
“Hayley.” My Mothers calm voice echoed through my head. I rolled over and felt her sitting on the edge of the bed. I rubbed my eyes and looked up at her. It was a fairly bright morning, but I could hear the drops of rain falling onto the window.
“Ma?” I asked tiredly. She tucked some strands of hair from my face behind my ear while smiling.
“It’s your birthday tomorrow, did you want to have a birthday tea for your sixteenth?” She asked happily. I had completely forgotten about everything since falling asleep last night, even my birthday.
“You won’t have enough rations to make a big meal though Ma.” I said realising the fact we were still in a war. Everything really had flown out of one ear after yesterday.
“I have been saving up all the rations for everything, it’ll be lovely.” she insisted before standing up.
“Thank you Ma.” I replied watching her leave the room. I got up slowly and sat with my back against the bed head. So tomorrow I was to have a party like tea for my birthday. I only wanted Alex to come though, no one else, but Father will most definitely invite William and his parents I should think. I got up and got changed before I heard Father calling me downstairs again. I slipped the pin into my hair to pin back my fringe before leaving my bedroom and going downstairs.
I swung around the door to the living room and looked around. Father was nowhere to be seen. I carried on into the dining room where I saw him sitting on his chair reading the paper.
“You called?” I asked leaning on the table. He looked up quickly at me and sat in silence. The paper most probably distracted him so he forgot what he was going to ask me.
“Young William, smashing boy.” he said finally closing the paper. He dropped it onto the table and looked over at me.
“Urm…yes I guess so.” I replied. I wanted to huff but I knew I shouldn’t.
“And I am guessing that you are, lets say, more than just friends.” Father asked. I was being interrogated. A huge lump got caught in my throat and I felt like I was about to choke.
“Well, urm…” I replied trying to find any words and not choke to death.
“Don’t strain yourself dear.” Ma said as she walked in took the paper from Father and flicked through it herself. I tried to sit up straight. They both sat next to each other opposite me, making me feel very uncomfortable.
“The poor girl is so loved up she doesn’t know a left from a right” Father said chuckling slightly. Loved up? I want to be sick and get this lump out of my throat. I tried to smile and laugh a little but it came out all crackled.
“Reminds me of when we were young.” Ma said smiling. Her eyes twinkled brightly as she looked up to me. Father smiled to himself. I started to walk away slowly and before I knew it Father called back to me again. I walked back into the room.
“We have a bloody evacuee staying later. No where else to go so we have to open up to them.” He scoffed.
“Where will they be staying? In my room?” I asked quickly.
“No dear, in the spare room, I have cleaned it all down ready for them.” Ma said passing the paper back to Father and smiling. She was most probably excited about it all, while I guess I wasn’t that excited. I didn’t really mind to be honest. I nodded and smiled before going back up to my room. I sat on the window ledge and looked out over the fields. In a few weeks time they would be ready for harvest, as they were just reaching that golden colour. The rain was about stopping but it was still grey and overcast in the sky, just like in my mind. I looked over to where Alex was, but just to see an empty garden. I was craving to talk to him, just to hear his voice or his handclasp gentily around mine would be heaven. Getting comfy on the ledge, I got out a book I was yet to start and turned over the first page. I read the small black words quickly, keeping a small part of my eye fixed onto the garden. I had finished a whole chapter before I heard our front door knock and Ma run to open it.
It had all been such a big change. Tilly had never seen a train this big before, and it scared her how packed up it was, with children her own age and older, all the same scruffy uniforms and faces. All she could do was look up at them timidly, afraid of them all as they towered above her. Like her Mammy, she was only small for her age, and was always worried she might be picked on. Occasionally a woman would walk up and down the train corridors to see if the boys were behaving, and they all quietened down as she walked past. She sat looking out the window, surrounded by two girls that looked much older than her and two other boys that looked the same as age the girls. Sometimes they would randomly talk to each other, but it was about things that she couldn’t get her head around. Green fields and trees flew past her slowly and her head spun around. She closed her eyes and sighed. This was a long way away from Mammy, and she wouldn’t be able to see her for a long time.
I sat at the top of the stairs waiting to see if I could get a glimpse of the new evacuee. Ma was talking to a stout looking woman, with a small hat and no hair out of place. She pushed a small, timid child in front of her and left. Ma was looking completely excited. I got up and went down the stairs. It was a small girl, only young, maybe around the age of 6. She had a school uniform on with dark blonde hair, which reached her shoulders.
“Hayley, this is Tilly, she’ll be staying with us.” Ma said as she saw me come down the stairs.
“Hi Tilly.” I replied looking down at the small child. She was only a little thing, and compared to me looked like a toddler. She tried to smile but blushed and stayed silent instead.
“Your Father has gone out to work, so why don’t you go and get Tilly settled into her room? You can help her unpack her things.” Ma said smiling caringly. She nudged the back of Tilly as she followed me up the stairs. I walked down the corridor. I opened the door into the small guest room that we had. My Grandmother normally used it when she came over by train from Wales, where she lived, but since the start of the war it would be hard to travel across the country when there were spitfires zipping around the skies of Britain. She stood at the door and looked inside, before looking up at me. She had the most innocent face.
“This will be your new bedroom, it’s pretty in here right?” I said trying to break the ice. She nodded and put her pillowcase onto the bed. Lots of evacuees didn’t have suitcases or anything so they had to pack things in their pillowcases. That’s what Alex had to use anyway.
“I’m Hayley by the way.” I said again, trying to get some sort of response from her. She smiled before going to the window and looking through it.
“Look, you have apples on trees!” she said pointing at the window. She went onto her tiptoes to try and get a better look.
“Yeah, they grow on trees…didn’t you know that?” I asked curiously. She shook her head and carried on looking out the window.
“There aren’t many of trees around in Birmingham, it just feels like its all houses and tall buildings.” Her tiny voice said. It was like a bell ringing as she spoke. Pretty and high. I thought of the cities that they came from, and tried to remind myself about how many of the evacuees haven’t seen any of this before, like I haven’t seen any tall buildings before.
“Where’s your bomb shelter?” she asked turning around to me.
“We don’t have one yet, because we haven’t had any bombings, but the war is getting worse and we’ll probably need one soon.” I replied, my head thrown into thoughts about how much worse this war could get. Imagining all the fields and woods were gone, and blown up, it could be just unreal to see plains of wasteland, as I’d look through the window.
“There are a lot of buildings that have gone boom and have fire inside them.” She said looking at me.
“I know, it is bad, but our boys will serve them right and this war will be over by Christmas.” I replied trying to cheer her up. I was partly hoping that I was going to be right, because if I wasn’t, then who knows what will be happening in the next few years. I looked over to see next-doors garden and my eyes snapped onto Alex’s lanky body frame. There he was, digging up a garden patch for Mr Shelby for vegetables. I watched as Mr Shelby went off inside his house.
“Why don’t we go and see those apple trees? You said you liked them just now didn’t you?” I asked grabbing a chance at going outside to see Alex. She nodded and took my hand and I lead her back downstairs and into the garden. Father was at work and Ma was reading, so I was in the clear. Tilly ran over to the tree and immediately started to climb it. I ran over to the wall and leaned on it.
“You missed a spot.” I called watching him. He looked around before looking up at me.
“Miss Hayley! How the devil are you?” he laughed throwing the spade down and coming over to me.
“If someone heard you say that you’d be dead meat.” I replied kissing him quickly.
“It’ll be worth it when I’m in heaven with you.” He replied winking. He looked over at the tree to see Tilly sitting at the top eating a huge red apple; it could’ve been the size of both her hands cupped together.
“Who’s this then?” He asked waving at her. She smiled a timid smile before eating again.
“It’s Tilly, she’s an evacuee from Birmingham, timid little thing.” I replied sighing.
“She’s a cutie, it’s your birthday tomorrow right?” he asked putting hair from my eyes.
“Yeah, you want to come over for a bit? My mum is making tea and stuff and more exciting people will be there…Well, they’ll all be boring but it will be fun if you’re there.” I replied smiling. He pulled a let down face, like I had asked him to not to be there, when it was quite the opposite.
“I’m not getting you into trouble.” he said. I looked down at my feet and sighed and he held my chin up to look at him again.
“Why don’t you meet me at the tree? Really late at night?” He asked smiling.
“I’ll think about it.” I replied. Tilly came running over to us and hugged onto my waist. I looked down surprised.
“You okay?” I asked looking down at her. She nodded and stared up at Alex. He was like a giant compared to her. Mr Shelby’s cough could be heard from a mile away so Alex quickly grabbed the spade and got back to work as I ran over to the tree to pick some apples. Mr Shelby came outside, still coughing, and looked at him. He snarled as Alex tried to keep shovelling the soil around. I picked a few more apples before going back inside. Tilly was kept close at my side though. I dumped the apples in the kitchen before going into the living room. Ma was still in there reading. She looked up and put her book down before patting on the sofa. I sat down and Tilly sat down next to me, clinging onto me like she was going to fall off the sofa at any minute.
“How about, I read to my girls, like I used too with you Hayley?” Ma said happily. Tilly smiled and nodded. She had the sweetest smile. Ma started reading to us both as if I was young again, She had the most amazing way with words, and it was like it came ever so natural to her to tell stories.
I picked up the small child in my arms and took her upstairs. She was fast asleep, and it was still early. Ma’s gentle words had made her fall asleep, and since she would’ve had a long journey, Ma and I decided that it was best to let her get some sleep. I went into the small bedroom and put her in the bed, taking off her cardigan and shoes, before slipping her under the duvet and tucking her in. I looked at the small child and sighed before drawing the curtains and going out the door, shutting it slightly. It was sad to think that such a small child had gone through so much, and was about to go through a lot more. I walked along the hall way and down the stairs as Father walked in the door. He was muffling and scoffing as he wiped his feet. He glanced up at me before pushing me over so I lost balance and fell on a step hurting my back. He snarled at me before going into the living room. I sat on the stairs trying to get over the stinging in my back, and staying still trying to breathe. That was one of the first times my Father has struck me, after the slap of course. Even though he always took his anger out on me verbally, he had been starting to strike me a lot recently. I took deep breaths and tried to stand up again, using the handrail for support. I tried to get back upstairs but my back hurt a lot, I closed my bedroom door gentily then collapsed onto my bed.
Tiny thuds of small feet came running towards me as I gentily eased my eyes open. Tilly climbed onto my bed and snuggled into me, her tiny feet were freezing and she was shaking. My eyes got used to the lightning as I realised it was dark outside. I picked her up and winced at my back before tucking her into my bed before getting some of my socks that Ma had knitted me for winter one year. I quietly slipped them onto her feet before getting in my bed carefully and hugging her.
“It’s Mammy, I miss Mammy.” She whispered.
“Your Mammy is okay, I promise.” I whispered back hugging onto her tightly.
“She’s like an angel, she has brown hair and she is tall like you, you’re like my Mammy.” she whispered again stroking her small cold hands on my cheek. I couldn’t say anything but look at her. The poor, innocent child. She fell asleep quickly and as did I.
“Rise and shine girlies.” Ma sang happily while opening my curtains. I eased my eyes open again before sitting up. Tilly rolled over onto me before waking up.
“Happy birthday.” Ma sang again smiling. She rushed over to the bed and hugged me.
“Seventeen at last.” I said smiling. I brought Tilly onto my knee and she pulled my mum onto the bed closer so we were all closer together. Ma pulled out some cards from behind her back and gave them to me. I smiled as I took them from her and opened them. There was one from Ma and Father, then one from William sadly. Tilly leaned up and kissed my cheek.
“Happy birthday Hayley!” she said cuddling into me. Ma’s eyes lit up happily as she then kissed my other cheek before leaving the room. I read the cards again smiling.
“When’s your birthday?” I asked looking down at her. She thought for a moment.
“17th July.” she replied coming out of her deep thought.
“I will buy you a present then.” I smiled kissing the top of her head. I hadn’t known her for long, but something about her was appealing, she was like a tiny daughter, but a sister as well. Ma came back in with a basket covered with a blanket, with a ribbon going up the top of the handle.
“How did you get that ribbon Ma?” I asked taking the basket and admiring its packaging. She giggled before touching her nose.
“That’s for me to know…open it up then, you’ll get your other present later.” she said happily. I laughed a little before taking the ribbon off slowly then taking the blanket off and putting on top of Tilly playfully. She laughed and Ma smiled. I pulled out a light pink dress with a red flowery pattern on it. It was all hitched at the waist and was a very pretty dress. I got up and put it against me so I could see it properly.
“Ma, it’s beautiful!” I said happily looking at it again.
“I made it from an old dress of mine, I thought you’d like it, you could wear it to the village dances.” Ma happily added. Tilly looked into the basket and pulled out something else.
“What are these?” She asked looking at Ma.
“Nylons!” Ma and I said at the same time. I picked them up and looked at them in awe. These were going to be so hard to come by in future, so I was going to keep these as my pride and joy.
“Ohh Ma, thank you!” I squealed hugging her. I put them back in the basket ready for my party tonight as Ma got up.
“I’ll make some breakfast for us all, your Father is at work, he wanted more hours apparently.” she said sighing then going downstairs. I giggled before laying it onto my chair and taking Tilly downstairs with me.
“Where’s the outhouse?” Tilly asked my tugging on my skirt.
“It’s outside, come along I’ll show you.” I said taking her and guiding her outside. We went outside onto the patio and then to the outhouse.
“Do you want me to wait out here for you?” I asked as she walked in. She nodded before closing the door. I leaned on the wall before looking over at the wall. There was the top of a vegetable patch popping over the wall with a shovel and flash of soil every now and then.
“Ohh bleedy hell.” I heard a mumble come from over there and laughed. It could only be Alex over there. I let out a loud chuckle before realising how loud I was. Alex suddenly leant up onto the wall and looked at me.
“Must you chuckle at me so loud Miss birthday girl?” he said smirking.
“Why yes I must!” I said loudly laughing. There was a banging and knocking on the door behind me before I realised I had been leaning on the door to the outhouse. I got up quickly as Tilly came out in a ruffle.
“Hayley you scared me.” she said clinging onto me. I picked her up and then walked over to Alex and sat her on the wall.
“Hello Young’un.” Alex said ruffling her hair. I couldn’t help laughing at his attempt for a country accent.
“You are not from the country, so stop talking like one.” I replied laughing.
“You’re lucky it’s your birthday.” he said winking at me. I laughed again and hugged him over the wall.
“He looks like my Pa.” Tilly said looking up at him.
“I doubt that my dear.” He chuckled laughing. I couldn’t help but giggle a little. She was glancing up at him still.
“He is quite handsome though.” Tilly said blushing. We both laughed again as I then perched onto the wall now.
“Yes I quite agree with that.” I replied laughing. Alex smirked and flicked back his fringe. His skin was starting to look much more of a better colour now I concentrated on it. He looked across to the house before perching back up and grabbing the shovel.
“Tree tonight?” He said winking before getting back to work. I nodded smiling before picking myself off from the wall.
“Come on then Tilly.” I said picking her up and walking back inside the house.
I swirled around in my new dress for the hundredth time. It was a perfect fit, and was beautiful. Tilly was sat on my dressing table chair swirling the lipstick up and down out of the case. I giggled at her fascination before realising; she’d been wearing her school uniform for two days straight. Hadn’t she brought any other clothes with her? I pondered for a while before asking her.
“I have some underwear and a cardigan, I haven’t got anything else, just them.” she replied looking down at her feet. I couldn’t get over what she had said at first, but then a smile spread on my face.
“Stay here for a moment.” I said before hurrying downstairs. Ma looked up as I tore into the living room.
“What’s the rush?” she asked laughing slightly.
“I want an extra birthday present.” I asked pulling her up. She looked confused.
“What? Right now?” she asked confused. I nodded before pulling her upstairs.
“Hayley what are you doing, what’s going on?” she asked still confused. I pulled her into my bedroom and sat her onto the bed. Before pulling out my sewing bow from under my bed and putting it next to her. Tilly came over and sat on Ma’s lap.
“We need to make a party dress for Tilly, she hasn’t got one.” I said smiling. Ma smiled at me.
“Why didn’t you say so?” she said putting Tilly onto my bed before disappearing off. Tilly smiled at me and I smiled back before picking her up. Father hadn’t even met her yet but she was already a firm member of the family. Ma came back inside with a trunk and plonked them onto the bed.
“What’s this?” I asked curiously touching it. It triggered some sort of memory, but I couldn’t remember what. Tilly touched it and gasped.
“It’s such a pretty box.” She said as Ma opened it. It had all my old clothes from when I was younger, with dresses and coats and skirts.
“Wow!” I gasped staring at it. I couldn’t believe Ma had managed to keep all my other clothes from when I was younger.
“It’s all yours now Tilly, these clothes will keep you going for a few winters.” Ma smiled stroking her cheek. Tilly was absolutely gobsmacked. She could hardly believe it.
“Re-really?” she said, barely getting the words out her mouth with excitement. She picked a blouse up from the top of the trunk and looked at it. Ma nodded before digging out some more clothes from there.
“Lets pick a dress for my party tonight.” I said digging in to the trunk. Tilly smiled and looked inside as well.
After giving Tilly a bath she chose a dress and I brushed through her hair. She sat smiling and relaxed as I did. In one of my old dresses made us both look quite familiar, apart from her lighter hair colour, you’d think we were really related. Ma came in the room in a hustle.
“What’s wrong Ma?” I asked.
“Your Father just exploded at me for no reason.” she said closing the door and standing against it.
“He did that with me the other day…” I replied confused. Ma looked disappointed.
“He must be coming down with something…but he’s gone to he pub with Mr Shelby, so he’ll be out till late.” Ma said. She sounded like she was relieved about it. I just nodded and continued brushing Tilly’s hair. Ma sat on the bed and gazed at us both.
“You look like sisters.” she said smiling. Tilly smiled before jumping off the chair. I then sat down and put on the lipstick. Tilly sat next to Ma and rested her head on her lap. They really did have a connection.
“So, the boy from next door is quite handsome isn’t he?” Ma said suddenly. I choked a little and had to get my breath back.
“She likes him, everytime he is digging she swishes her hair at him.” Tilly said giggling.
“She does!” Ma said laughing. Her opinion had changed a lot since that dreadful night when he was in my room.
“Well, yes I do like him…” I said quietly.
“You don’t like the William boy at all do you Hayley? I can tell, because I wouldn’t either.” she said laughing gentily. I couldn’t hide it from her; she looked like she was okay with it all. I came over and sat on my bed. She looked at me smiling waiting for me to own up. Tilly was just watching to see my reaction too.
“Fine! I like Alex, very much in fact.” I said blushing. Ma laughed.
“Are you meeting him later?” She asked combing through Tilly’s hair again.
“On the tree very late at night.” Tilly answered again. I nodded and laughed before telling her our plans and the tree. She smiled as if remembering her own love experiences. I explained all about my deal with the devil, William, and how we were hiding it. She just giggled and smiled through it.
“I’ll cover you for tonight, you go and have a nice time with your prince charming.” she said kissing my forehead.
“Yes?” she said smiling and stood at the door.
“Why the change of heart?” I asked curiously. She smiled to herself.
“I know young love when I see it, and I think Tilly has softened me.” She answered, and I smiled as she went out of the room.
I blew out the candles with Tilly as she sat on my lap. Ma and William both clapped in celebration. Ma cut up the cake then and gave everyone a slice, saving a few more slices for my Father. The sponge was soft and light, and the jam was sweet. I glanced outside the window to see Alex perched over on the wall eating an apple. He was facing the over direction, so he wouldn’t be able to see me. He looked funny all hunched over, with his lanky shoulders hiding his neck from this view. Tilly started looking over now.
“Daddy is out there.” Tilly said giggling. I giggled quickly as Ma shushed her.
“You can’t call him that.” I whispered tickling her ribs. She giggled as William, at the other end of the table, frowned.
“Something caught your attention?” William said quickly. He sounded like he was about to pass out.
“No, no, it’s just a little joke we share.” I replied. I smirked a little accidentally. He stared at me like I just pulled a gun out at him or something. I looked down and continued to eat my cake before I finished. Tilly had got more on her hands then anything else. She was coming out of her shell now, which was very good.
“Hayley, why don’t you go and get some apples with Tilly while I get washed up? William would you mind bringing in the dishes and taking them into the kitchen?” Ma said smiling.
“Of course Mrs Brookston.” William sighed. I got up and took Tilly outside. Ma had given me an excuse to go out to see Alex, so I would make the most of it. Tilly ran up to him and was quietly laughing trying to hide behind him. He turned around and looked at me with a smirk.
“Evening birthday girl, where is that little tinker that is normally stuck to yerip?” he asked laughing. ‘Yerip’? Was he trying to talk in a country accent again?
“Talk English and I will give you a straight answer!” I laughed.
“Where’s Tilly?” he laughed.
“Ohh I haven’t seen her around in quite a while actually.” I said giggling again. Tilly was crouching down under the wall giggling. She was nearly bright red.
“What a mystery.” he said laughing.
“Very, very mysterious.” I replied giggling. Tilly jumped up suddenly and grabbed onto his waist, wrapping her tiny arms around him.
“There she is!” he said laughing. He did a 360° turn so he was facing both of us properly. Tilly crawled onto him and perched onto his knee.
“You having a good birthday so far?” He asked smiling.
“Yes it’s been a good day.” I replied smiling.
“Good, I’m glad you are enjoying yourself.” he replied happily.
“Are we still meeting at the tree later?” I asked him.
“Yes, if you can shake off William.” Alex replied looking over to the window. William was stood there frowning at us both.
“I will try my best.” I said back to him giggling. He smiled at me. How I wanted to lean over and kiss his soft lips.
“Come on you, grab some apples and we better get inside.” I sighed as William tapped on the window. Tilly kissed his cheek before running off to the tree.
“I want to kiss you right now.” Alex announced laughing.
“So do I…” I giggled again blushing. I brushed a strand of hair from his eyes before going back inside with Tilly, whom was tucking into an apple again. I looked back as he swivelled over the wall and back into his house, humming, and content with himself.
William eventually left, and he was in a mood as he went. Ma was reading to Tilly and Father wouldn’t be home from the pub till very late tonight, I had plenty of time to be out with Alex. I was letting the wind blow through my hair as me and Alex sat on the branch. The air was cool, and crisp, as the dusk was getting darker and darker.
“Come on show me my present!” I said tugging on his sleeves.
“Hold on!” he said laughing.
“No you have kept me waiting for the last twenty minutes!” I shouted grabbing hold of him now. I had been sat there for the last half an hour trying to get him to give me the present he got me. He laughed.
“Okay, promise me something first though?” he asked seriously now.
“Anything.” I said. I was trying not to let out a giggle.
“You’ve got to wear it every single day right?” he said with a straight face.
“I’ll do anything for you!” I replied happily while gazing into his green eyes. He smiled and began to calm down a little and loosen up before reaching into his pocket and pulling out a small box. It was like the jewellery boxes I find in Ma’s drawer.
“Happy Birthday Miss Hayley.” he smiled passing me the box. I smiled back and took it from him and opened it slowly. It was a silver chain with a small crystal heart charm attached to the end. It was beautiful, especially as it glittered in the descending sun. I put it on and looked down at it. How could he of got hold of something like this at such short notice unless he…
“Don’t you like it?” he asked looking hurt.
“I love it but, you didn’t did you?” I asked looking up at him.
“It’s not stealing it, it’s permanently borrowing it per say…” he said truefully. I rolled my eyes. He had obviously taken it from Mrs Shelby. I looked into his eyes. I can’t believe I was going to let myself keep it. God will not be pleased.
“I’ll wear it but keep it hidden, just because I love you, and because it is beautiful.” I said looking up at him. He smiled and hugged me. I held him in my arms. It was a wonderful end to a wonderful day. The sun drifted down lazily below the clouds leaving the sky darker and darker each second.
The corn had all been harvested and now the fields were just full of mud. Birds were now going back to their nests and there was a cold nip in the air. Thank goodness I had brought my cardigan. We were both sitting opposite each other, I was leaning against the tree trunk will he was using a higher branch behind to lean on, and we both just gazed at each other in silence.
“When I win the war and become a well known war hero, and it is over, where shall we set up camp?” he said smiling.
“Set up camp?” I asked laughing slightly. What was he talking about now?
“You know, where would you like to live?” he replied laughing with me now.
“Ah…I see what you mean now. Well, it has to be in the countryside.” I answered smiling, slightly drifting off in the thought of my dream home.
“What’s wrong with living in a city? It’s way too boring around here.” He huffed.
“It’s no place to bring up children, it’s healthier in the country!” I said proving my point. He looked down at the branch and sighed.
“I’m not saying anything about you or how you were brought up-” I added in quickly.
He covered my mouth with his finger before laughing to himself.
“You looked so worried just then.” He smirked before we heard a sharp cough and some jolly laughter. I gasped before clinging onto Alex as we looked down and watched my Father drunkenly try to urinate against the tree. My heart pounded as I prayed he wouldn’t look up. It was fairly dark; maybe if he did look up he might not see us. But what would happen if he did? The worst thoughts flooded my head, as I stayed clung onto Alex. He zipped his trousers back up and stumbled before another man from the village laughed with him and grabbed a hold of his shoulder before they all went walking off singing. We waited till all we could hear was tiny mumbling before we dared to whisper. I let out a breath I had been holding.
“That was close.” I whispered to afraid to let go of Alex. He looked at me and nodded.
“Where is he going to be going now?” Alex whispered back to me. I shrugged my shoulders not having a clue.
“You better go home, Just in case.” He whispered jumping down silently and checking that it was clear before I came down and joined him. We walked away from the tree and towards our houses hand in hand. I kissed him as my last birthday treat before going into my house. Father wasn’t home yet, and Ma was reading. She asked me how it was and questioned me about it all. I told her everything about the necklace and how we nearly got caught. She understood it all. Once we had a whole conversation about it I gave her a hug before going up into my room. Tilly was curled up in my bed again so I simply put on my bedclothes and got in with her. I heard Ma’s light footsteps come to bed a little while after me also.
Winter came faster upon us as each week flew by, and as it did Britain got more and more drowned into the war, even though it was starting to be a phoney war after all. If it stayed like this then maybe it would be over much quicker. I pray it will. It was the second week in December, and it was very quiet, as it would normally be hustling and bustling because of Christmas. There were hardly ever any dogfights from planes in the sky and bombings in big cities had become very quiet. However, Fathers attitude was quite the opposite. He would find more and more reasons why he should be angry, and mad, which would make him aggressive towards Ma and Tilly, as well as me. Although he was hardly ever home he was either at the pub or the shop. He was clearly developing a drinking problem. Tilly had come out of her shell more and was starting to look much more healthier. She has lost her pale and ghostly colour and was becoming much more lifelike. Alex was also looking much better, he wasn’t lanky anymore and like Tilly, his colour was much better. He had also ‘thickened up’, he wasn’t as thin as he was when we first met, he was a healthier weight and so was Tilly. He had also grown a few centimetres.
“Girls!” Ma called from downstairs. She always referred to Tilly as her own daughter. We both were sat in my room on our beds. We had brought the spare bed into my room so we could both be in my room. We got up and went downstairs. In the living room our artificial green Christmas tree stood up proudly in the corner of the living room near to the fire. Ma was stood with her sleeves rolled up to her elbows and a small break of sweat on her forehead.
“Wow it is so big…” Tilly said amazed. I nodded.
“I would’ve helped if you needed it Ma.” I replied stroking its leaves. Ma shook her head.
“No, no, it was fine.” She said with a smile. I looked inside a cardboard box that was set on the sofa. It had all the candles and glass baubles inside it. It had a gold star on top of the box also. I pulled out a string of streamers that I had made last year and Ma glanced down at them.
“Ohh yes, get on with decorating while I start on the dinner.” She said before going into the kitchen humming. Tilly dived right into the box and pulled out the glass baubles. She carefully stuck the first one onto the tree’s branch and smiled. We then went mad I decorated the top and she decorated the bottom where she could reach. After half an hour Ma came back in the room and gasped.
“How beautiful!” she sang happily coming over and joining us.
“I can’t reach to get the star on though.” I said folding my arms.
“Well neither can I, I’m only a centimetre taller than you.” Ma chuckled.
“Then who is going to put it on?” I asked laughing.
“Alex is tall, why don’t we ask him?” Ma said nudging me.
“He won’t be allowed to leave next door will he?” I replied sighing. Ma walked over and took her coat from the pegs and walked out of the front door. Tilly ran to the front window and I joined her.
“Ma always has her ways…” I laughed watching her go next door. We watched as before we knew it she had linked arms with Alex and was strolling through the gate. I went and opened the door.
“Miss Hayley, your Mother’s kidnapped me.” Alex said as he wiped his feet on the welcome mat.
“That does not surprise me.” I replied laughing. Tilly jumped up onto him and hugged him before he could take off his coat. Ma laughed before unbuttoning her own coat and going to the kitchen again. I hugged Alex before shivering.
“You’re freezing!” I said rubbing his hands to make them warm.
“Well it is close to snowing out there.” He laughed.
“Snow?” Tilly asked confused.
“Yes snow, I haven’t seen it before except in pictures, but it sounds great!” Alex said happily.
“You both haven’t seen snow before?” I replied confused. The both shook their heads.
“We aren’t all from around here Hayley.” Alex chuckled before looking at the tree and whistling.
“It looks magnificent.” He said happily. Ma’s head popped around the corner.
“We need you to put the star on the top of the tree, none of us can reach.” She chuckled. Alex laughed.
“That’s the only reason I am here? I feel loved.” He said laughing as Ma came in with five cups of hot chocolate. Alex took the golden star out of the box and gave it to Tilly and put her on his shoulders so she could reach. She put it on gentily before he brought her down onto his hip again.
“That looks much better now.” He said putting her down before taking a cup of coca. We all did so and settled down onto the sofas.
“So, have you settled down in the village now?” Ma asked kindly. Alex nodded.
“I never really took to the idea in the first place, but everytime I said no to me Mam it broke her poor heart, so I came in the end to make her happy.” He said with a smile.
“She’ll be safe and well, and till then I’ll take good care of you.” Ma replied stroking his cheek. She barely knew him but her caring nature had already taken place. He smiled before sipping from the cup. I noticed his cheeky pinky finger was raised high in the air. Another inside joke between us two, stating the obvious, as he thought I was posh. I couldn’t help but let out a small giggle. Ma looked at me confused before chuckling to herself.
Ma sat down again after prodding the fire with the prodder before throwing in another piece of coal from the coal scuttle and watching the flickers rise. She wiped her hands on her pinafore and sat down again. Tilly came over and snuggled into her. The crackles and pops filled the room with a Christmas like atmosphere, and made the silence more homely then awquard. The fire warmed up the room and I wriggled my toes like a cat stretching to show my appreciation for this lovely moment. Me and Alex couldn’t glance away from each other. Even though we were sitting opposite each other. His green eyes were enchanting, and constantly trapped me into looking at them. It was like a jam jar to an ant. I could stay like this forever. There was a shuffling from the sofa before Tilly jumped up and ran to the window and sat on the windowsill that we had made into a small chair. She prodded at the window continually and gasped.
“Snow!” she cried happily and we all came tumbling over to join her. There was a tiny layering of snow on the ground, and it was falling slowly but surely making a bigger layer.
“What a perfect day…” Alex said smiling. We all agreed and watched as it fall to the ground. Alex’s words were like a narration to a story. Our story, a story of love and hate and crazy weather.
“Aren’t they just adorable?” Ma whispered as Tilly giggled. I blushed as I looked over to her before looking up at Alex again. We were stood by the front door and he was just about to go back home in case Father came back in.
“See you soon Miss Hayley.” He said smiling. He pulled my hands up to his mouth and kissed both of them slowly.
“Have fun in the snow on your way home!” I replied laughing. He rubbed his hands together laughing before he kissed my forehead.
“Thanks for everything Mam.” He said winking over to Ma. She simply giggled to herself and waved as he left and shut the door behind him. I sighed to myself and nearly fell over. He was just so perfect! It was still snowing and it was getting heavier now. I came back over by the fire and Ma and Tilly just looked at me. I blushed again.
“Stop looking at me like that!” I said laughing and picking up a book I had been half way through. It was about a few interesting characters that get into the most humorous yet dangerous situations. They both just laughed before Ma started to read for Tilly again. Tilly couldn’t read that well, and could barely write her own name. She was going to be six years old in May, but even so she wasn’t that educated. Maybe we could add her to the primary school down the road? We could even teach her in the meantime. I raised my head from my book and looked at the fire while thinking about that idea.
“Ma…” I said peering over at her.
“Yes?” She replied not looking away from the book.
“Why don’t we enrol Tilly into the primary school?” I pondered still half in my own imagination. They both looked up from reading.
“I guess that could be a good idea, and you could have an education too.” Ma said. She had a tone in her voice that was like she was agreeing with me. I knew she would, she cares about her too much, so she was going to let her have an education.
“School?” Tilly spat out with a worried face.
“I went there and it is really nice, you can learn how to read and write.” I said quickly, trying to change the worried look on her face.
“But, but, I am very bad at school…” She said cuddling onto Ma more.
“Once you go a few times you will fit in and it will be okay.” Ma said trying to persuade her to go. I nodded in agreement.
“Will you be with me?” she asked us both.
“No, but we will walk you to school and then walk you back home.” I answered. She still looked worried.
“After Christmas there will be other new children, we can enrol you then and you can make lots of new friends!” Ma said squeezing her.
“Okay, I’ll go aslong as you don’t go away while I’m there.” She said whimpering.
“We’ll stay here in the house at all times.” I replied smiling.
“Until we come and pick you up and bring you home.” Ma added in. She looked up at us timidly. I hadn’t seen her like this since I first met her. That had been three months ago. She eventually nodded and agreed to go back to school. She didn’t perk up until Ma was reading to her again.
I came downstairs as it thundered outside. Ma had called me and then I nearly walked straight into Father, who was whistling joyfully. Was he happy? He stared down at me. The whistling stopped immediately and his mouth became a straight line. My heart started to thump heavily, faster and faster as his old grey eyes looked deep into mine. The wrinkles under his eyes had grown deeper like his temper. He towered over me easily. He exhaled slowly through his nose. We kept eye contact, never backing down. I clenched my fists as they shook. They shook out of fear and anger. The man in front of me had changed. He was foul; he stunk of alcohol and the smell of damp, moulding cardboard. He hadn’t shaved in days, so he had odd bits of grey and black tufts of stubble coming from his chin. We were stood there like two magnets; two opposite magnets. A cold draft came through the passageway and whipped around us. I couldn’t stand the thought of him anymore, let alone the thought of being this close to him. I couldn’t take this anymore. I raised my right hand up ready to take a swing at the man in front of me.
“Don’t even try it.” He whispered with his coarse voice. His voice stabbed into me like every syllable was a tiny and lethal dagger. He grabbed my wrist quickly like a snake and held it, squeezing my hand till it hurt. I whimpered slightly before breathing in and out. He went to let go of my hand. I flew it away from him swinging my left clenched fist hurling into his face. It hit with an impact and he yelped as I then kicked his shin. He nearly went flying letting complete go of me. There was a huge roll of thunder as I sprang back wards nearly falling over the first step but I tried to scramble back up them. He grabbed onto my ankle with a swoop and pulled me back down. I kicked out at him with my other foot and hit his chest before he let go and I went scrambling up the stairs quicker. I ran quickly into my room clasping onto the stair rail and tried to use it to make me get upstairs quicker, the varnish was cold and peeling off in each handful. My bare feet skidded into my room as I closed the door quickly, the ground was also cold, and my bedroom was dark and a damp smell lingered around. As the door slammed lightening flashed through the windows. He banged on it repeatedly as I sat in front of it so he wouldn’t get in. Everytime he thumped on the door it would open more, and the windows rattled intensively. It was like being on a swing. That was when I realised Tilly was sat on the bed looking at me like a deer being surrounded by hunters.
“Get under the bed now.” I said sternly looking at her. My back was going to give in at any minute I just knew it, and I was going to get a thrashing of a lifetime. She whimpered before crawling underneath the bed. The door flew open making me crash into the wall. It whipped around quickly as if it was only just hanging onto the hinges. He darted inside and his eyes flew around the room till he could see me. He yanked hold of my hair before dragging me into the centre of the room. The floor felt damp with coldness as my body scraped against it.
“You struck me, and now you will be struck as well.” He said with an evil smirk. Fear fizzed inside me like an electric shock. He looked down at me glaring. I covered my face as he undid his belt. I could hear the buckle of the belt, then the slow whizzing noise as it came out of the loops on his trousers. Sharp and sickening pain filled my stomach and knees as he hit me repeatedly over and over again. Each hit wakening up my senses and paralysing them all. It was like the lightening outside was the whip, and Father was God trying to punish me. I screamed and screamed though it would seem to make no use at all. The cold tears dripped down my hot cheeks furiously, like they were trying to get away from me. The top of my head was next to the bottom of Tilly’s bed and I felt a small kiss on the top of my head. It somehow comforted me to know someone was here for me. ‘The man’ kept whipping me until he gave one last quick whip into my ribs before walking out of the room and slamming the door. I could feel the blood leaking slowly drip by drips on my arms and knees. Slow but loud plods followed each other down the stairs before the front door slammed. Tilly crawled out quietly from the bed like a silent angel and kissed both of my cheeks and head before clinging onto me, her tiny hands were cold, calming my red-hot cheeks, with her salty tears pouring onto us both.
We haven’t seen him in a whole week. He had left me with bruises and cuts, which stung worse than nettles. When my clothes rubbed against them it’s like rubbing lemon into them. Ma couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw me. She thought my screams were just Tilly and I playing. I can’t get the memories away from my mind; it is like they have been stained in there. I don’t think Tilly can either, she won’t stay still in bed, and ends up sleeping with me. But one thing, we don’t want him anywhere near us anymore. Ma, Tilly and I were all sat around eating lunch, as there was a knock on the door. All of our heads jerked up. We all prayed it wasn’t Father coming home. We all stayed still and silent. Suddenly Alex looked into the window and waved. For once he wasn’t happy, or smiling outrageously.
“Ohh thank goodness!” I cried happily running to the door and flinging it open. I jumped onto him as he hugged me back. My cuts were hurting but I needed to be near him, when I was I felt safe. I jumped down from him and he closed the front door before wiping his shoes on the mat. He was holding a letter in his hands. It had a scribbled address over the front of the envelope and had been opened into quite messily.
“Would you like some lunch?” Ma asked coming over and locking the front door. He shook his head.
“No thank you Mam.” He said with a sigh.
“What’s the matter? What is the letter?” I asked curiously. He took my hand before guiding me towards the kitchen. He closed the door behind us and hugged me again.
“Alex…what’s happened?” I asked. I was getting more curious and worried now. He passed me the letter.
“I just don’t want to read it again.” He said. I looked at him again before taking the tattered letter from the envelope. I gazed upon it quickly, reading between the lines.
My Dear Son,
Please answer my prayers and come home, this war is turning out to be phoney, and most Mother’s are getting their children back home. Marge across the road got her two youngest back with no problems. I want to be near my baby boy for Christmas. Please come back home to me, I, I miss you.
With more love you could ever understand,
The letter was one of the most touching things I’d ever seen or read in my life. Not even authors in novels could put passion into words as well as his Mother did. I breathed slowly. If he was sent back, what if the war suddenly started and I lost him forever? I couldn’t lose him; I just wouldn’t be able to bear it. Or what if he got sent somewhere else just in time, but ended up in Glasgow or something? I’d never see him again. I looked up at him and into his eyes. He took the letter from me and put it onto the counter.
“Then I got this in a different letter…” he said weakly and quietly, passing me another letter. His hand was shaking slightly as I took it from him. I didn’t dare to read it, I know what it was going to say. I unfolded the yellow telegram and looked at the printed letters.
Miss Jessica Cox,
Crushed to death under rubble.
London, 5th December 1939.
I dropped the letter immediately. I couldn’t touch it or look at it at all. I wanted to burn it but I couldn’t. I stood there gasping and trying to get my breath back. He had no other place to go, and he didn’t like being next door at all.
“I just don’t understand it…” he said looking out the window.
“I know, it’s just one of those things…” I said trying to comfort him by hugging him. He hugged me back and sighed.
“No, I really don’t get it, that isn’t my Mam’s name.” He said scrunching up his forehead. I looked up confused.
“What?” I asked.
“Mam’s name is Valerie, not Jessica, I don’t know a Jessica.” He said picking it up and reading it.
“Alex…That isn’t your Mam, she is safe, and she is still alive!” I said smiling. Thank the Lord she was well.
“What?” He said confused.
“A Jessica has died, not your Mam, she’s fine! You can go and see her for Christmas and come back to me!” I said hugging him. He took a moment to realise before he picked me up and swung me around.
“Miss Hayley, what would I do without you?” he laughed putting a strand of brunette hair behind my ear.
“Who blooming knows with you.” I replied laughing. He joined in the laughter before kissing me. We both gazed into each other’s eyes happily.
“When I come back, can I stay here? Next-door don’t take too kindly to me.” he said with a snigger.
“Of course! Ma would love you to stay here!” I said jumping up onto him again. My cuts suddenly stung as I jumped off and leaned onto the kitchen surface. I breathed slowly trying to make the stinging go away.
“Miss Hayley? Are you okay?” Alex said frantically. He touched the bottom of my forearm.
“Ow, ow, ow! Don’t touch me there.” I said quickly throwing my arms away from him. I could feel that the cuts had opened and could feel the blood on my cardigan. I turned away from him quickly and checked my arms. There were tiny droplets of blood on the arm. Alex put an arm around my waist and his head on my shoulder, before taking my right arm in his and looking at it.
“What’s this?” he asked frowning.
“Nothing…” I whispered trying to get out of his grasp. He turned me around and stared at me.
“Hayley.” He said again like an interrogator. I didn’t say anything as he took my arms and rolled down my sleeves. Some of my cuts were bleeding. He stared at them in awe. His eyes showed signs of worry and frustration, as well as bemused.
“What are these?” he said sternly. He looked angry as well now.
“It’s nothing!” I blurted out rolling my sleeves back down and walking away from him.
“You’ve got bruises and cuts all over you, it’s not exactly nothing.” He said leaning on the counter. The tone in is voice was stern.
“It’s easy to get…hurt.” I replied still not facing him.
“Hayley I’m not stupid. Who did that to you?” he said coming over to me now. I sighed as he came and stood next to me. He was mixed between worried and angry.
“I went to punch my Father, but I got the consequences instead.” I said remembering that day.
“He did this with his hands!” Alex said angered.
“No his…his belt.” I cried hugging him and covering my face as the tears poured down my face.
“I’ll kill him next time I see him, no one can do this to you again, never.” His word was final as I cuddled him crying into his arms.
Christmas Eve 1939
Alex got on a train back to London a few days ago, and I was hoping that he was going to get there okay. I couldn’t stop worrying at all. Even Ma had noticed and told me to calm down. I was just praying that nothing would happen to him, if anything did…I couldn’t even bring myself to think about the consequences. Maybe he would write to me? I hope he does because I just want to know if he is okay.
The fire was roaring and warm to sit next too. We had the radio on to listen to the reports. My ears were listening to the man announcing everything. Ma got up and switched it off.
“We need to stop worrying, Alex will be fine.” she announced. I nodded as she went into the kitchen. Tilly came over and sat next to me and cuddled me.
“Do you think Santa Claus will come tonight?” she asked hopefully. I smiled down at her angelic face.
“Of course he will! But only if you are fast asleep!” I said squeezing her a little before hugging her. How did Ma and I ever survive without her? She laughed as I tickled her.
“I am too excited to sleep tonight!” She said happily, her small face was glowing.
“Well you will just have to count some sheep then.” Ma sang as she came back in with some biscuits. We both laughed as we reached onto the plate and pulled out the digestives. I crunched through mine silently as my mind flew off like the ember sparks from the fire. I could imagine sitting here in year’s time holding onto my own small daughter, Alex prodding the fire as Ma is sat on the sofa reading with Alex’s Mother. With the fire warming us all up, and the magnificent tree in the corner with presents waiting to be put safely and snug underneath. Our son running around excitedly about Christmas as our other baby daughter drifts off in her Moses basket.
“She has completely zoned out.” Ma’s voice said as she and Tilly laughed.
“Huh, what, sorry, pardon?” I asked turning around to see what they were looking at.
“You started dreaming in the day again Hayley.” Tilly laughed.
“Ohh…okay.” I mumbled smiling thinking about the future Christmas again.
“She’ll be in her own world for a while I should think.” Ma laughed. Tilly nodded and laughed with her.
“Dreaming about her Prince Charming!” Tilly shouted laughing. Ma laughed with her as well and it made me giggle a bit too. I felt my cheeks cover with red as I looked down at my feet.
“Is it still snowing?” I asked quickly trying to change subject. I couldn’t help but smirk as I said it. Ma laughed at my tactic to change subject while Tilly ran over to the window. She sat on the windowsill as we watched her. She looked around nodding and smiling.
“It’s still snowing! Maybe we will get snowed in tomorrow and it will be huge!” she imagined with an excited look on her face.
“Well you’ll have to wait till tomorrow now, so up you go up them stairs little’un.” Ma said. I laughed at her attempt of a country accent. Ma was originally from a big town north of here, but moved down her when she was Tilly’s age, it was where she got her more less common accent from, which evidently rubbed onto me, but since the people from around here were more slang-like with their words, she always pretended to sound like it for a joke. Tilly moped as she went upstairs, followed by Ma to get washed I supposed.
I went over to the radio and put it on again, scanning for the news before lowering the volume slightly so Ma didn’t hear me. The man’s voice was back as I crouched next to the table. It was crackly to start then it was clear again.
“Earlier today there was a train crash caused by the driver being distracted by an English aircraft,” the man’s voice said solemnly. I grabbed a firm hold of the table and began to listen.
“The train that was heading to Dover fell off the rails nearly falling down a steep hill.” He continued. Dover! Thank goodness, it wasn’t Alex; he would be in London by this time and would be safe. I hoped. I switched it off quickly and leapt back to where I was sitting as Ma came back in.
“I doubt that girl will sleep tonight.” Ma said smiling.
“I’ve just realised something Ma,” I said in deep thought. She peered around to me again.
“And what is that?” She asked curiously.
“Alex got a letter from his Mother asking him to come home, and she said that other Mothers had asked for their children to come, Tilly hasn’t heard anything from her Mother.” I realised looking at her. She looked at me frowning.
“You’ve got a point there actually, we haven’t had anything like that in the mail, but then again Tilly hasn’t wrote to her, so her Mother has probably wrote a lot of letters, she just doesn’t know where to send them too.” She said in deep thought as well. The penny dropped for me as I thought about that. I simply agreed before watching the fire start to burn down. I eyes grew heavy and I nearly nodded off again.
“I think I’ll be off to Bedfordshire, I hear it is a very nice place to visit.” I smiled hugging Ma. The fire was nearly out so Ma simply put the fireguard around it and called it a day as well.
Christmas day flew past so quickly like it always does. It was an amazing day and we all had such a good time. We all played games and had such fun. And now, it was the run up to the New Year and we were all excited to be heading into 1940. We are all hoping that the war will stop this year, so all of our boys can come home. Tilly didn’t receive any Christmas mail, and I didn’t get any from Alex either, then again I should think he doesn’t know our address that well anyway. He was going to be coming back a few days after new years, so I would soon have him back in my arms. Ma was arranging some flowers into a vase on the dining table and I was helping her by cutting off the ends and any unnecessary leaves. Tilly was sat with us drawing. I think she was attempting to draw the apple tree in the garden, as she kept looking up out the window. As I snipped the end of another carnation the front door was being bashed over and over again. I dropped everything and grabbed Tilly in my arms. Ma grabbed me. The door was locked but the way it was being bashed it would be broken down soon.
“He’s found us!” I shrieked looking at Ma. He suddenly barged in and the lock on the door went flying across the room. He grunted as he looked at us before shutting the door. He looked even worse than he did before; the wrinkles were hard set into is face. He came in and grabbed the newspaper from off the coffee table and snarled at us.
“You’re still here? I would’ve thought you’d run off to Wales or something like that, and why is that girl here? I don’t want her in my house, and Hayley…I thought you had gone to Hell ages ago. Why aren’t you in the kitchen preparing dinner for tonight? I have invited John and Madge from next door over and we are celebrating New Year together, now start cooking!” He yelled loudly throwing the newspaper at the floor and stamping his feet in a temper. I stood up and stared at him. He turned around to look at me and arched his eyebrow.
“Hayley kitchen now.” Ma said under her breath dragging me into the kitchen as Tilly ran inside. Ma closed the door behind her and rubbed her temples.
“Why is he back? Make him bugger off out of here!” I hissed at Ma. She gasped and put soap into my mouth.
“Don’t use language like that with me. And just do as your father tells you too.” She said sounding defeated. I wretched as I took the soap out and spat into the sink. It tasted horrid. Ma was running around the kitchen finding anything to make a roast dinner, even though we were low on rations. She laid some green beans in front of Tilly and I. I cut the ends off before passing them towards Tilly who put them into a saucepan of water. Ma carefully wrapped up a small chicken and put it into the oven before moving onto the potatoes in a rush.
We eventually pulled it all off with all the food as Mr and Mrs Shelby arrived. I rushed Tilly upstairs to get ready and we quickly got changed and did our hair then went back downstairs. It was weird not having Alex around. Everyone sat down as Ma and I set out all the plates and gave everyone their meals. Father was at the head of the table, with ma at the opposite end, Mr and Mrs Shelby were opposite Tilly and I. Father just looked like he was in a huff again. It was just silent, but Mrs Shelby kept watching me. She sent strange looks from over the table to me. I just dodge them and look back at my plate.
“May I just say, but your necklace is very nice Miss.” Mrs Shelby said looking at me again. My forehead began to sweat a little.
“T-Thank you.” I said uncomfortably. It was the one from Alex and Mrs Shelby must of clicked and realised. Oh Gosh I’m in for it if she says anything else.
“I had one just like that actually.” She replied. Her eyes were staring me down. I swallowed and choked a little and coughed. Everyone on the table was looking at me now.
“How delightful…” I tried to say but it came out all croakily.
“Why it went missing just after we had that boy stay with us, it’s a shame really.” She said. Her beady little eyes were staring at me still.
“Oh what a shame…” I said quietly trying to keep out of her eyesight.
“Is it a golden chain?” she asked again.
“Excuse me?” I asked partly squeaking.
“The necklace, is it a golden chain?” She asked again sternly. I stared at her. She had most definitely realised.
“Yes, it’s golden.” I replied.
“That is my necklace! I can see it all over your lying little face and the words you say! You hellish girl, you liar!” she shrieked standing up and pointing at me. Father’s face turned around as he stood up and examined the situation. Ma and Mr Shelby looked as equally confused and I felt as if I would pass out at any moment.
“I’m not a liar!” I said quickly. What was I going to do? Father was going to kill me and it looks like Mrs Shelby wouldn’t mind striking me either.
“This little thing, I brought it from the market Madge, I’m sure there has been a mistake…” Ma said trying to settle everything down.
“It’s mine, that boy gave it to you!” Mrs Shelby cried accusingly.
“Which boy?” Father said staring at me in anger.
“No boy!” Ma shrieked standing up as well.
“Ohh please Vera! You’re as bad as your daughter! Alex gave the necklace to you, his thieving hands took it from my draw and gave it to you!” Mrs Shelby yelled again. Ma gasped at the words.
“You’ve been with that evacuee?” Father snapped banging the table with his fists.
“No I swear!” I lied. I was pretty much digging myself my own grave.
“Liar!” Mrs Shelby cried louder. Her eyes were fuming, and she was red like my Father.
Mr Shelby remained quiet throughout all of this, which was quite surprising, but I felt like I was going to scream. Maybe I was lying, and that I had been with Alex, and this necklace was Mrs Shelby’s but if I admitted it then it was sure that Father would most definitely try to kill me. In front of everyone. Father kicked his chair back with the brute force of his right foot before walking over to my chair. I got up and edged over towards my mother. She stood up in front of me to protect me.
“George stop.” She said looking into his eyes. He pushed her shoulder onto one side before grabbing the necklace off my neck and flinging it in at the wall. It hit the wall and flew down behind the cabinet. My necklace was now lost forever.
“I don’t want it now that whore has worn it!” Mrs Shelby cried before storming out of the house followed by Mr Shelby. They slammed the door with a grudge as the letterbox flapped and swung a little from the aftershock. I gasped at the thought of Mrs Shelby calling me what she said.
Father was stood in silence breathing heavily. He looked around at us all. Ma was stood by the stairs. I was stood next to the table. Tilly was still sat in her chair quietly shaking. The clock struck slowly and you could hear the small ticks of the clock hands as they climbed towards the 12 at the top. I kept eyes on my Father to see what his next movement would be. He looked over at me.
“You’re a liar. You’re a thief. You’re a useless. You are nothing to this family. Nothing!” He yelled walking over and grabbing my arm.
“George!” Ma screamed grabbing onto his arm as well.
“You think I’m nothing to this family? You’re more of a disgrace then I’ll ever be!” I screamed back at him punching his face with my right hand. His face flew into a rightwards direction from the impact. He yelped and looked back at me grabbing both of my wrists into his hands.
“Don’t you dare try that again, or I will throw you out of that window.” he growled snarling.
“I’d rather be out there than next to you.” I replied expressionless. The anger was building up in the back of my throat and I wanted to let it out.
“Both of you please just stop!” Ma screamed and begged at us. I ignored her as did Father. He suddenly threw her away from him and let go of my wrists and grabbing onto the cuff of my dress. He flung me towards the table and I hit it with and impact, rolling over a bit of it and onto the floor on my face. It was cold on my warm, adrenaline rushed cheeks. I looked around realising Tilly had scampered away into the kitchen to hide. I got up quickly onto my dizzy feet and swivelled around on my heels nearly falling over. I looked up at the vase. Father was coming straight for me. Ma was stood petrified of what she was seeing. I screamed in anger and with a quick reaction I grabbed hold of the vase with both hands and smashed it over the man’s head with a swing of my arms. His screams filling the air, before he fell onto the floor from the hit with dizziness and an almighty impact. I jumped onto the table before he could grab me and threw plates at him. He dodged them and pulled the table cloth, which sent me flying backwards onto my back, hitting the back of my head again onto the cold floor. I swore fluently in my head before holding my head in my hands. I took a quick glance over to see Father was stood straight above me. His forehead and nose bloodstained. His expression was bloodcurdling and would stay in my mind forever; his dark eyes looked black as night, and his mouth was an arch. We both screamed with anger as an unknown strength came into my scrawny arms and I gasped out quickly grabbing his shirt towards me and I kicked out hitting his gut repeatedly. He fell over next to me and I rolled over and crawled under the table before he could drag me back over. I got up from under the table and ran across the room.
“Hayley don’t you dare do anything else get in the kitchen now!” Ma screamed at me from across the room. I shook my head as I unzipped Father’s golfing bag. I pulled out the huge driver and looked at it. It was stainless silver, and if I weren’t careful, it would be splattered with my blood. I swung around swinging it away at arms length, just missing his stomach. He grabbed it jerking my body into it, as it bashed against my own stomach. I shrieked quietly to myself before grabbing a golf ball from the bag and throwing it into his face, it hit his chest instead and winded him, making him gasp and breath even heavier.
“Die in hell!” I screamed kicking him over and sprinting over to the kitchen closing the door behind me and locking it. Ma pulled chair in front of it and locked the bolts.
“Don’t you dare do anything like that again, you scared me half to death!” she hissed grabbing hold of me and stroking my hair. Her heartbeat was fast as I listened to it.
“I won’t, we won’t have to anymore, after this he is going, I will kick him out myself if I have too.” I said calmly. Tilly joined us both as we tried to listen for any movement. It was weirdly quiet. All we could hear was our own breathing and heartbeats.
“Stay in here, I will check to see if it is safe.” I said feeling the strongest out of the three, and the biggest need to keep both Ma and Tilly safe. I removed the chair before grabbing a saucepan from on the counter. I opened the door slowly, and it creaked as if to tell me to stay in the kitchen. I looked around quickly examining every spec of the room. It was empty. Then I saw his feet shaking and shuddering, and his uneven breathing as if he was desperate to get air in. I walked slightly closer. Was this true? He must have been having a heart attack of some kind. I hope he’ll die from it. Suddenly the shaking stopped, as did the breathing. The clock bonged, as it was six o’clock exact. Then, after the twelve strikes, all was silent. Not even a shuffle, or heartbeat. I took another step forward to see if this was real, holding the saucepan firmly in my right hand, the strongest hand, I walked slowly over to the sofa. I peered over it to see the truth.
I washed my face to get rid of the small trickle of blood coming from a cut underneath my eye. The water was cool, and refreshing on my steaming hot face. If anyone touched my face I felt like they’d be burnt. My cheeks were bright red and my eyes looked tired. Every drop of the water made me feel better, they washed away my worries, they washed away the bad memories, leaving me feeling human again. They made me feel strong, as if the fire was eternally burning, and it was going to stay like that from now on. It had been a stressful day, and now, it was all gone. All the bad days had all gone. Freedom spread around my body without a care and I welcomed it with open arms. War or no war, this really was the start of a happy new year. 1940 would be a year of strength for Britain, I could feel it in my fingers, and I was determined to do my best with it all. I dried off my face and let the water go, before going into my bedroom quietly, to get dressed into my nightgown. Tilly had fallen instantly asleep because of all the stress and she wouldn’t be awake till next morning, so Ma and I equally decided that we would call it a day and have an early night. As I laid in bed I pondered about everything. For some reason this day had changed all my opinions, had changed the way I thought. There was something inside of me that would never settle for second best, and at this moment in time, I wouldn’t have too. But I guess there was one small thing praying on my mind, my necklace. I wanted it back, it felt like my own child, and I had to find it. But where had it gone…I got out of bed and lit a small candle as I crept downstairs quietly. I glanced around the room, Ma, Tilly and I had had a tiny clean up, but the room was still a pigsty. I feel a big guilty about that too actually, but I would sort it in the next few days. I walked over to the cabinet and looked on top of it. It wasn’t on there. I grabbed both sides and pulled the cabinet away from the wall gentily, to avoid knocking off pictures and the lamp on top of it. I heard a small clunk from the bottom and assumed that that was my necklace. I bent over the cabinet carefully and looked into the small gap. There it was, the small heart pendant glittered at me in the candlelight. I reached down avoiding a small spiders web and grabbed onto it and brought it back up to me. I smiled as I sat down on the floor and felt its gold chain on my rough fingers. I felt like there was only one more piece to the puzzle, and he would be home any day now. The clip hadn’t been broken thankfully, so I put my necklace back on and pushed the cabinet back towards the wall. I was about to walk back upstairs when I stopped. I looked at a photo of my Father back when he was my age and in the Great War in his uniform. That was the man I loved. The man he had become was the one I despised, but this man, looking brave and proud in his badges, this was my proper Father.
“Goodnight Daddy.” I whispered stroking the picture. I walked back up the stairs blowing out the candle as I went. I got back into my bed and got settled down as my eyelids drooped down slowly. I let myself drift off into a beautiful sleep.
We all brushed up broken pieces of glass the next morning being careful of our hands. They made a small twinkling noise as they were swept up into the dustpan.
“We’ll have this place looking great in no time Ma.” I said cheerily. Ma laughed.
“It’ll take some time, but yes I completely agree!” she laughed joyfully. Tilly joined in as she swept up the rug.
“This is tiring and hungry work.” Tilly said sighing but laughing at the same time.
“Is there any chance of a tea break Ma?” I laughed looking at Tilly’s exhausted look.
“There is always time for a tea break!” Ma said happily getting up from sewing together my broken collar on my dress. She laid it to one side before going into the kitchen. Tilly flopped onto the sofa like she had been bricklaying. I laughed before putting the glass into the bin and joining her. I hugged her while looking out the window. The local bus drove past the window as normal leaving a trail of dust as per usual. A tall figure stood coughing in the trail of dust and flapping his arm around to try and get rid of it all. As it started to settle I looked at the man, he appeared to look much younger than a man, but more of a boy. A very handsome, scrawny boy who I had sworn I’d seen before. He looked like he mouthed the words ‘bloody hell’ before walking towards the house. No way! I jumped off from the sofa and towards the front door I swung it open before running down the path, still in bare foot. He threw his suitcase onto the grass as I jumped up onto him. He held me in his arms laughing and swinging me around.
“Miss Hayley I ain’t ‘alf missed you girl!” Alex exclaimed happily. I was too happy to say anything. I tried, trust me I tried, but only laughter came out. I put my hand through his brown hair and brushed through it while jumping down from him. Those green eyes were as shiny as ever. I brushed his cheek before he cupped my face in his hands. I went up onto tiptoe as our lips touched. My happiness level burst into flames and sparks of all kind as the stars danced around us. Now my puzzle was complete.
“Ohh I missed you so much!” I said hugging him tightly.
“I missed you more my love.” He said kissing me again before Tilly came running out. She did the same by jumping up onto him.
“And I missed you too!” he said laughing and sticking her on his hip. We all went inside as Ma came out of the kitchen.
“Hayley there’s another one here for you.” She said laughing and putting down the tray of tea and coming over to hug him.
“That’s a worrying sign.” He laughed hugging us all. We all shared a laugh before going over to the sofa.
“Alex you’ve left your suitcase outside.” I said laughing. He laughed before going back to get it then coming back inside again. He placed it buy the door as he closed it behind him and joined us on the sofa. Ma handed him a cup of tea and he sighed happily.
“Proper tea.” He said happily taking a long gulp of it. I laughed and put my head on his shoulder.
“Did you miss me?” Tilly said giggling.
“Miss you? Urgh no way.” He winked at her. He was a tease to her at times.
“I bet you did!” she said back laughing. He raised his hands in the air.
“Okay, you got me, I missed you more than Hayley.” He said laughing.
“Hey!” I said prodding his ribs and laughing with him.
“I didn’t miss you because you are very mean and violent missy.” He laughed kissing my forehead.
“How was your journey then?” Ma asked giggling herself.
“It was okay I guess, it was raining in London when I got there though, so I had to walk fifteen minutes in the rain, I then gave my poor mother a cold.” He said smiling.
“How is your Mother by the way?” I asked.
“She’s fine, it’s funny actually because she was excited to see all these bomb raids but there hasn’t been that much.” He replied back to us.
“That’s a new response.” Ma laughed. The rest of the night we simply talked and caught up on all the new stuff. But, we all avoided what happened the previous day.
I was in the kitchen with Alex washing the dishes from our supper, we had just had some simple soup, and now we were washing and drying up the dishes while Ma and Tilly was in the room relaxing. He kept looking at me suspiciously. I glanced at him again to see him looking back at me.
“What’s the matter?” I asked passing him a plate to dry. He accepted it and started wiping it with the towel.
“I’m wondering.” He replied. It was as if he was examining me.
“About what?” I asked passing him another plate.
“Things, recent things.” He said not taking his eyes off me. I raised an eyebrow as I tried to understand what he was talking about it. Was there something that had happened recently at his home?
“Mr Cox, tell me now.” I said dropping the plate back into the water and turning to face him.
“Tell you what?” he said with a small laugh.
“What are you thinking about? What’s happened?” I replied.
“Ohh nothing bad, everything’s fine…I’m just thinking about things, possibilities etc.” he said putting a plate into the rack and putting his hand out ready for the next one.
“What possibilities?” I questioned him again passing him another plate.
“Random possibilities…” he replied.
“Okay, seriously what are you talking about? And why do you keep staring at my face?” I said suddenly bored of this silly game that was going nowhere.
“As I said, I’m thinking about possible ways of you getting that-” he touched the small cut under my eye “and why on earth you have it.” He said still studying it.
“That? That is just nothing…ignore it.” I said quickly changing the subject.
“How’d you get it?” he said, now dropping everything and interrogating me.
“I cut it obviously…” I replied quietly drying my hands.
“On what?” he said again quickly.
“I can’t remember…something silly.” I said hoping he would get off the subject. There was a silence.
“Where’s your Father?” he said bluntly.
“Gone forever. Isn’t coming back. End of.” I replied rolling my eyes. When will all these questions be finished? He looked at me with the same blunt look. I tried to keep my gaze away from him. He suddenly brought me into a hug. I thought he was going to apologise or something. His hand slowly moved down my spine, starting at the neck and going towards my coccyx. It was heading for a bruise I had got when I fell onto the floor from the table in the fight with my Father; I had also got a bump on my head from it too. I realised he was trying to find other bruises and stepped away from him quickly.
“Hayley what the heck happened while I was away?” he said raising his voice and bashing his palm onto the edge of the counter in anger. I stared at him.
“Could you not raise your voice, else we aren’t going to get anywhere in this conversation.” I replied looking into the green iris’ I loved so much.
“Just tell me. Now.” He replied. His mouth was curved into a slant. I sighed and gave in. Turning my body towards him, I tried to begin what happened.
“There was a fight. A bad one. I got hurt, and,” – stopped and shuddered – “he did too. But, as bad injuries as I received, he is gone, and my life is better now.” I replied stroking his cheek before looking out of the window awaiting his response.
“What?” he choked as in disbelief.
“Mrs Shelby found the necklace, and the rest of it pretty much unravelled itself, everyone found out who didn’t know before.” I started before he interrupted me.
“How did you get hurt?” he said. It was the only thing he wanted to know. I took a while to think back to moments, as it was all really just a flash to me.
“I smashed a vase over his head,” I was interrupted as he swore under his breath. I was taken back by the language but continued again.
“He then fell over, I got on the table, threw plates at him, but he pulled the table cover so I went flying onto the floor, hitting the back of my head and the bottom of my back, I hurt my foot repeatedly kicking him, then crawled under the table, ran across the room, went to hit him with a golf club, he grabbed it, jabbed me in the stomach, I threw a golf ball at his chest and ran for the kitchen, next thing I know, he was gone.” I replied remembering it all. Alex stood looking at me gobsmacked.
“I’m not surprised if you don’t believe me.” I said chuckling at myself quietly. He cleared his throat still shocked.
“I just can’t get over the fact that you pretty much had a physical fight with a man stronger than you…” he said still in astonishment.
“It’s not about how strong you are, it’s how brave you are.” I replied smiling to myself before hugging him. He put his arms around me tightly.
“Just don’t let go of me okay?” I said happily.
Tilly came running out of school and into my arms. Her tiny sobs were all I could hear as I hugged her.
“Another bad day?” I asked as I picked her up. I put her bag over my shoulder and walked home with her on my hip. We walked into the house and Alex looked up from what he was doing.
“Hey, Why the tears Tilly?” he asked coming over to us.
“There are these girls at her school, not exactly the nicest.” I replied as Tilly hugged Alex.
“You’re getting picked on?” Alex exclaimed looking at her. All the small girl could do was nod.
“How long has that gone on for?” he asked.
“For a while, you were always working when we got home.” I replied.
“Who are these girls?” he asked again. I love how he was being so concerned about her; he was perfect with her, and perfect in general.
“Martha, Rosie and Annie.” Tilly sobbed again blowing her nose.
“They live near to the church, on that side of the village, where the phone box is.” I added.
“They teased me about my hand writing, then stole my ribbons…” Tilly added in as well breathing heavily.
“Right.” He announced rolling up his sleeves. He headed for the door.
“Where are you going?” I asked confused as he grabbed his coat.
“I’m teaching them a lesson!” he said walking out the door. I ran towards it.
“Alex they’re six years old!” I shouted as he paced off down the street. I rubbed my forehead. That boy had no first reactions whatsoever. I couldn’t help let out a small giggle.
“If anyone can sort them out, Alex can.” I said laughing with her as she dried her tears.
Tilly arrived at school the following morning with a cheer in her step, but there was a small feeling in the back of her head telling her to run back to Hayley, Alex and Ma. Ma had just walked away from the gates after waving and was walking back home. Tilly gulped before she went onto the playground. From the corner of the playground she saw them, Marsha, Annie and Rosie all huddling together staring at her. She didn’t dare go over to anybody, so she sat down next to the tree and started to read a book Ma had given her. She read a page, struggling with a few big words, before three shadows loomed above her. She looked up timidly to find the three girls standing with her.
“You wanna come play? I brought my skip rope and it’s a game for four people.” Annie asked, her black long hair gentily floating in the January breeze. Tilly thought hesitantly before smiling and nodding. The four girls ran off to another corner of the playground and took it in turns to jump over the rope. They sang and laughed, and Tilly felt happier than ever before.
This was the first sunniest day we had had in February. There was a small breeze in the air, but the sun was bright and shining for us. I had a spring in my step and was ready for anything. I wrapped a cardigan around my shoulders, and as Ma was out at her friend’s house, Tilly was at school and Alex was at the shop working, I decided to go for a bike ride, which I hadn’t done in such a long time. I went out into the shed and peered around before attempting to pull the bike out of it. It was an old bike, and covered in clutter, but I managed to pull it out from under it all. Surprisingly the wheels were in good shape, so without any hesitation, I sat on it and pedalled out to the village square. The breeze flew my hair back as I rode down the hill into the centre of the village, I went down the small alley way that lead to a huge park and the village hall. In the summer and at Christmas there were fates, all selling the best homemade food and trinkets as well as having games to play for children. Ma would bring me down most of the time and I’d run around with the other children, as children do. Around the edge of the field were lots of wild flower, including poppies in November and daisies would be popping through soon enough. The grass looked fairly green and looked as if it had been kept well during the winter.
I peddled on down the path before I saw a small puppy come into the horizon. I got off my bike and perched it against a fence as the small bundle plopped happily up to me. The small jet-black Labrador had small brown eyes and was happily wagging its tail. I patted its head before looking around for an owner.
“Hayley you found Bailey!” I heard the voice from behind me. I sighed and hoped for the ground to swallow me up.
“Morning William.” I replied standing up and picking up the playful puppy. It lay still in my arms apart from its pink tongue leaving sloppy licks on my arm. And there he was, he had barely changed.
“You look radiant in the sun’s glow my darling.” He said. I couldn’t help but roll my eyes.
“I hope you are talking to the puppy.” I replied passing him the small bundle. He had a sudden laugh outburst, which was obviously put on.
“Ohh you have such wit!” he said. He talked as if he was born into royalty, instead of the son of a farmer.
“I bet I do, but William, I want to say that the deal is off. Everyone knows about Alex and I, so you can leave us alone now, like you should’ve done ages ago.” I said realising about the whole deal. His face made an annoyed look.
“It won’t last long darling, we were born to be married, it’s only time till it happens.” He sniggered.
“Keep dreaming, bye William old chum!” I laughed as I patted the puppy and got back onto the bike. I couldn’t help but laugh as I rode away back the way I came towards the square again. I could imagine him still stood there annoyed.
I leant the bike against the wall before going into the shop. I opened the door and the wind closed it for me. I rubbed my hands together to warm them up before walking up to the checkout.
“Morning Miss Hayley.” Alex said from behind the desk. I laughed. Every other morning we would meet here for a while.
“Morning Mr Cox, how are you today?” I asked laughing.
“Good, bit chilly in here though.” He replied. I laughed with him before adding to that.
“Try being out there, and plus I had to talk to William, apparently I have quite a bit of wit to him.” I laughed. That sentence then made Alex laugh more.
“Well he is simply delightful in his own ways anyway.” He replied with a smirk.
“Just darling, just. How’s business?”
“Same old same old, I didn’t know it would be this boring working in a shop.” He replied dully. I chuckled before a customer walked in. I turned around to see the postman.
“Here you are Mr Cox,” The man said passing him the letter, “Let’s hope it is from family instead of someone else eh?” he added before leaving the shop again. Alex examined it carefully, scanning the handwriting and stamp.
“Is it from your Mother?” I asked leaning over to look at it. He smiled inwardly before folding it into his back pocket. He regained consciousness before answering the question with a nod of his head.
“Good, well I hope she is well, but I must get going, it’s going all cloudy outside.” I told him while peering out the window. That’s when all the doubt started. That wasn’t a handwritten address, and even if it was it was way too neat to be written by Alex’s mother.
“See you at home Miss Hayley.” He said kissing my hand and smiling.
“It’s been quite a few months, you don’t have to call me Miss anymore.” I giggled quickly trying to change subject before turning around and walking out of the shop.
“Hayley!” he called. I faced towards him.
“I love you.” He smiled.
“Miss Brookston?” a voice said from behind me. I turned around to face the same postman I saw earlier.
“Yes?” I replied curiously. He handed an important looking letter. The minute it left his hand rain poured down from the skies on top of me, soaking me completely. I watched as he drifted off vanishing down my street, in no rush at all.
“But what is it? Are you sure it’s for me!” I shouted but he was out of sight. I examined the fine printing again. Giving up with the postman I went to open the front door. I turned the handle repeatedly but it wouldn’t budge. I banged and knocked on the door.
“Ma! Tilly!” I shouted hoping they would hear me. How strange a day this was. I waited silently waiting for someone to open the door but no one came. I sighed before leaning on the door and opening the letter neatly. I smelt Alex’s scent as it flew from the letter as if fleeing it. I took it out carefully and opened it. My heart started racing. It was from the army. My eyes skimmed the letter from side to side trying to find the relevant information. It was just blank. I breathed quickly as I emptied the envelope and a picture floated out from it and landed upside down in a puddle. What was this? I knelt down reluctantly and picked up the photo, slowly turning it around. My heart skipped a beat and I gasped for air at the sight. My hand trembled as I dropped the photograph. It couldn’t be? This wasn’t true; it was all a trick, or a dream. The rain continued to fall everywhere and soon enough small tears from my eyes joined it. The photograph fell slowly back into the puddle, but facing upwards towards me this time. A spark flew from it and soon embers and flames burst up into the air around me. All I could see was the proud smile and the blue uniform. I could recognise those green eyes even from behind a mask. I scrambled to find the letter again and I picked it up. This time the rain had smudged all the words. Blue Ink Rivers curved down the page and fell onto my lap. This couldn’t be happening. The smoke from the fire then started to collect in my lungs and windpipe, leaving me coughing and choking, before my eyes slid shut and my senses body became paralysed. My eyes opened again slowly and my body came back to life. Two strong hands were around my shoulders. My vision focused. An old pale face was snarling at me. His forehead was bleeding and he looked dead.
“You’re dead.” He snarled.
I sat up suddenly in bed gasping and panting for air. I looked around the dark room realising it had all been a dream.
“Thank goodness…” I muttered under my breath. I looked over and Tilly was fast asleep. She hadn’t been woken up which was good. I rubbed my eyes and forehead. I was wet with sweat and way too hot to get comfortable. I got out of bed and tried to walk as quietly as I could towards the door. I crept quietly towards Alex’s room. That letter was agitating me now, and I had to find out what it was about. I opened the door slowly, hoping it would be quiet. There was a small creak but I crept inside. I saw the letter on his bedside table. I tip toed up to it and picked it up to examine the address. This was the letter he got given earlier. I just had the worst feeling from what the postman said, and my dream that it was going to be my worst fear. I turned it around and he had opened it already. I went to pull it open before Alex shuffled around in the bed. I quickly dropped the letter as his eyes slowly opened.
“You okay?” he asked rubbing his eyes and sitting up.
“I had a nightmare, that’s all.” I replied quietly. He held his arms out and I hugged him, holding onto him harder than I’d ever done before.
“It’s okay, I’m not going anywhere.” He hushed before kissing my forehead. I prayed it was true, but in my gut, I felt it was a complete lie.
Since that dream every morning the post came I got more and more scared. It was mid May and Britain was truly throwing themselves fully into the war. Rationing had properly started and it was strange to see so little food in the pantry. More and more young boys were being sucked up into this war and spat out again if they were lucky. They were giving their lives to this war and it seemed as if it wasn’t going to end. Bombings were happening in the south and were gradually moving towards London. Occasionally we would get planes zooming overhead, and we’d get an occasional siren, but we all knew it was going to get worse. The summer sun was warm as it warmed up our faces. Alex was at work and we three girls were tending the plants. Ma leaned back on her heels and wiped her forehead.
“I never realised the garden got so crowded by weeds!” She laughed. Tilly and I both laughed and sat with her. It had been a quiet morning so far, but with the war as it was, everything was unpredictable.
“It is nice seeing flowers everyday.” Tilly said bringing us to her attention.
“Did you not have any in Birmingham Tilly?” I asked curiously. The small girl shook her head before smelling a daffodil lightly.
“Hayley why don’t you go and make us some drinks while we take a rest?” Ma said sitting on the grass in a more comfortable position.
“Of course.” I smiled before getting up and heading for the kitchen. I walked through the kitchen door and went to the cupboard to pull out three glasses. I put them on the counter before running the tap to make sure it was cold. There was a gentle knock on the door.
“I’m just running the tap so the water is nice and cold Ma.” I said turning around. I suddenly choked and gasped as I looked over the strong figure.
Grabbing onto the side of the kitchen counter I trembled and my hands and arms shook; my heartbeat increasing in speed. I couldn’t process the image I was seeing. I tried to blink it away and pretend it was my mind playing tricks on me, but it stayed there, permanently standing still, and proud. I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t move.
“Miss Hayley.” The figure said, with a mixture of worry and curiousness. He stepped forward towards me, the black shoes’ heels tapping the ground with a click. His strong hands held my waist as he looked down at my face. A small tear trickled down my cheek as I examined the small stitching of the blue uniform. I shook my head trying to deny it. As one tear came down the others followed one by one.
“What’s the matter? Are you so proud of me you are crying?” he said with a small chuckle. Horror shook my body. Proud? He was going away to war, leaving me here, he could get killed. He was still underage for it also.
“Proud?!” I spat out with disgust, “How can I be proud of you, you have just broken my heart by putting on that uniform! How could you just sign up for the air force like that!” I continued walking away from him in a rage. He looked quite taken by back by the comment, before frowning.
“I’m helping our country, I’m doing my bit to help with this damned war!” He retaliated back. I turned around to face him again.
“Helping your country? Doing your own little bit, eh? They are going to drag you into this war and let it take your life willingly! You think I’m going to be proud of you leaving me, Tilly and Ma, to add to the violence and destruction? If I didn’t love you as much as I did I would spit on that uniform!” I yelled. My hazel eyes set in a scowl with tears staining my once rosy cheeks.
“Us boys aren’t adding nowt to this war, we are stopping Hitler and his troops from attacking us! We are standing up for what we believe in, so cushy little people like you can sit in your gardens, drinking your drinks, laughing and living life, I’m going to be the one protecting you, and you don’t care at all, do you?” He replied sternly with a creased brow.
“You’re going to die Alex! Don’t you understand that! You have barely lived and you are just going to stroll up to that plane get inside and never come out again! Don’t you get that? Are you not aware of the fact that the government is using young innocent boys like you? You’ve been sucked into the world of glory, and bravery, when it isn’t going to be like that at all.” I replied, spitting on every syllable.
“This war is going to be all about bravery! Atleast I am brave enough to stand up for my country, where I was born and bred and not let someone take it, not without a fight atleast, they could take me from my country and bury me in a patch of soil in France, but I am the brave one here!” He yelled adding to the tension.
“You don’t know what being brave is all about! You boys go off with your minds set that you will be home before Christmas, that blighty will be happy again, with everyone strolling around with summer hats on and brightly coloured clothes? I’m being clever and staying where I am because that is the safest place to be anywhere in this war!” I yelled in anger, the words easily flowing from my mouth and crashing into his. There was a silence. We looked at each other in silence. In all honesty both of us were too young, and too naïve to realise the real truth behind everything. I leaned on the counter and looked away from him, brushing my hands through my hair, not wanting anymore to be said.
“Well atleast I am going to try and protect our country, isn’t that enough? I’m not sitting back and watching everyone else get involved. I told you from the start that I was going into the air force, and I’ve signed up now. We’ll meet again, but next time we do, I hope you can appreciate what is happening around you.” He spat back to me. I had never seen this side of him before, and likewise, this was the first time that I myself had ever bared my teeth to him.
“Go. If you feel like you have to leave everything you have and start elsewhere, then bye. I just hope one day you are going to realise what big mistake you have made before it is too late.” I ended with a solemn tone closing my eyes to stop the tears. I could imagine those green eyes, deep, deep down inside them; they would’ve lost their almost permanent sparkle. I heard him sigh.
“I have three days until I get called up. On Wednesday I will be picked up here and be sent to my training. I hope by that time you’ll come to your senses and realise that I’m putting in an effort.” And with the last comment he stormed out of the kitchen and I heard his black shoes hit the steps with a vengeance. A door closed and I knew for a fact he was in his room. I let out a whimpering sigh before falling down onto the floor and holding my head in my hands. Breathing heavily, the tears poured down once more. I couldn’t believe he had done it. He joined the air force, after everything we ever went through he did it anyway. He was going away. Far away from where I was, and I wasn’t going to be able to see him everyday, I couldn’t see those perfect eyes and dimples gleam with delight every morning. What was going to happen?
Hearing the racket Ma and Tilly had walked inside to see what had happened. Seeing me in such a state Ma had almost instantly realised what had happened. Ma had sat me down with some weak tea. Tilly had sat next to me; her face showed sadness and her tiny eyes full of tears. Ma just looked shaken. She filled another cup before putting it on a tray with some biscuits. She gave the tray to Tilly, and she took them upstairs to Alex. Ma watched her go before going into a cupboard. I could hear jars being clunked together before she sighed and brought out a bottle.
“This’ll put some strength in your tea young’un, you’re going to need it.” She said pouring a tiny amount of the mixture into the tea before screwing the lid back on and putting it back in the cupboard.
“Drink up.” She said closing the cupboard and sitting back down. I sipped the tea before wincing at the sour taste. Ma had somehow managed to keep a bottle of whisky in the cupboard, and was now using it to strengthen up the tea.
Her small hands shook as she carefully carried the tray upstairs. She watched as the tea splashed around in the cup. She tried her best to not let it spill by walking slowly along the corridor. She got to Alex’s door and tapped it carefully with her foot, waiting for it to open. All was quiet except from some shuffling of paper in the room.
“Alex?” Tilly asked hoping for some response. The door then opened as he looked down at her. He seemed taller than normally, and he was wearing blue trousers that made him looked exceptionally smart. He tried to smile down at her before taking the tray from her hands and walking inside. She followed him in and saw the blue blazer and tried to figure out what had happened.
“Thanks love.” He said with a sigh before handing her a biscuit. She smiled and took it and sat on the bed. He sat next to her, and even though this was the smartest she had ever seen him, he looked defeated in a way.
“What is the matter?” Tilly asked patting his hand.
“Me ‘n’ Miss Hayley had a fight, she doesn’t like me wanting to go to war, because she is scared of losing me. I just wish she would understand that nothing’ll happen to me.” Alex said looking to the floor. Tilly then realised what all the commotion had been about and why Hayley was so upset.
“She just loves you very much, and doesn’t like the thought of you leaving. It is a scary thought to see someone you love go away for a long while.” Tilly spoke from her heart before kissing his cheek and leaving the room to leave Alex to his own thoughts. She felt as if this would be a sensible move.
I took a few more sips of the strong taste before Tilly came plopping back into the kitchen. Her face was saddened even more, as she had now realised why we were all upset. That night none of us had any tea or supper, and we went to bed early. I watched Tilly drift to sleep and heard her small breaths as she dreamt. I sat up and looked out of the blacked out window. I could see a small glimpse of the moon, but it was mostly covered up. I sighed heavily thinking of Alex. I could imagine him also sitting up in bed, trying to look out the window, deep in thought about the future. How he would be able to cope in a high-pressure situation in the sky, if he would do well at training, or even if he was thinking about me, like I was thinking about him. I lied back down and pulled my blankets around me more. I closed my eyes and tried to drift off to as much sleep as I could. It felt like I was in deep sleep yet wide-awake.
A cool wind came through me and made me shiver as I came back to consciousness. I opened my eyes as my ears got more in tune to the whining siren in the distance, getting louder the more I woke up. I looked around to see Alex carrying me down the stairs as Tilly was in front of us and Ma was at the backdoor, and was holding it open. Tilly was clutching to the Air raid box, which had all of our important paperwork in it, and Ma was clutching a small candle and another box, with some tea, a few biscuits and a few other boredom savers to do in the shelter outside. As we got to the bottom of the stairs I got down from Alex before taking my gas mask and going out of the door. The wind was cool and we could hear the fierce droning of the Gerry’s planes overhead. Tilly quickly burst open the door and we all rushed into the shelter with Ma coming in last and locking the door. There were a few blankets and pillows in here already, so Tilly cuddled up and tried to get some sleep. The Anderson shelter wasn’t the most glamorous place, but it was better than nothing at all. The planes were fairly loud as they flew overhead. There might not be many bombs tonight; they’ll be saving them up for the cities more in land. I leaned on Alex’s shoulder and hugged him. He pulled the blanket over us both and rested his chin above my head. I held onto him tightly as the planes started to get louder and louder. Kissing my forehead, he assured me it was okay.
In the morning we had managed to get to go back to our house, with no bombings. We went back inside at around five o’clock in the morning. Tilly was fast asleep and Alex had been asleep as well in there. I had been dozing in the shelter like Ma had. We all went straight upstairs, and as Alex tucked Tilly into her bed, he came and sat on the edge of mine. I grabbed him closer and held him again in silence. The hug was like reconciliation, and even though I was sorry for the fight, I still didn’t want him to go. Of course I didn’t. But if he was going to go, then I had to let him. As much as I didn’t want too.
“Ohh my Miss Hayley.” He whispered stroking my hair.
“I can’t lose you Alex, I couldn’t bare it, I can barely bare the thought of it…” I replied back looking into his eyes.
“You aren’t going to lose me, I’m not that bad at being a pilot you know.” He smiled before hugging me tightly. It didn’t matter about skill, or agility, it was about life or death, and I needed this boy to stay with me forever. I wanted to ask him if he had to go, if he really needed to or if he could wait a while atleast till he was of the rightful age of 18 and not 17. But I knew the answer already; nothing was going to stop him now. I stayed silent and simply just hugged him. Not wanting to talk or risk another argument. He took my face in his rough hands and looked into my eyes. His were green and glittering.
“You are a brave girl Hayley, a very brave girl in fact. You’ll be okay without me around I swear. I know it for a fact.” He said quietly stroking the tip of my cheek down to my chin.
“You think I’m brave, but I’m not, I just have to be strong when others around me aren’t, because if one person is brave, then everyone around them will soon follow.” I said hugging him again, whispering the words slowly and putting my rough hands through his hair. At this moment in time I came to the conclusion that this was how much I needed him. How could I try to survive without him? And with the weird days on leave, how could I ever make time around his schedule, and anything that may change in our own home. He smiled at me again before walking out of the room and closing the door behind him. I saw another glimpse of his eyes before the door was shut. I sighed before leaning my head back on my pillow. What was I to do?
The following days were all paranoid filled ones. Everytime I looked into Alex’s green eyes I wouldn’t know how long they’d be there for. I couldn’t stop thinking about it all, and it stuck in my mind, preying on it constantly. My dream also lingered in my head, which was on a constant replay. I just didn’t know what I was going to do about anything. I wanted to grab his arm and never let go, barricade the house so no one could get in or out. I just couldn’t let him go when he was around. It was finally here, the third day. Wednesday 20th May. I shot up in bed and went straight into his room. There he was, fast asleep, ruffled hair, looking peaceful. I closed the door and went to sit on his bed next to him. Stroking his hair out of his face. My amazing boy.
“Why can’t you stay here?” I whispered sighing before leaving the room. I went into my room before getting dressed and going downstairs. The stairs creaked slowly as the early morning sun shone through the curtains. I glanced over to the clock on the wall before realising how early I was. Six o’clock exactly. This was early for me. I sat on the sofa in silence. Waiting, wondering for any response, if I would get some. Keeping my ears in tune to every sound or movement that could possibly be heard from upstairs. Breathing slowly and heavily my eyes not focusing on a particular object, but just my shaking hands which were holding my chin, so my mouth could reach my nails and bite them. Ma had always told me to not bite my nails, but I couldn’t help it. I was nervous, and scared. I had anger welling inside me, as well as a collection of tears.
The floorboard slowly, and finally, creaked. I shot up and listened more; grabbing hold closely to the edge of the sofa, not even letting my breaths be too loud. I listened into the small sounds that were tuning into my ears. Another creak, a rustle and a sigh. I closed my eyes as I listened to the small chirp of the swinging door before the boots came clicking quietly along the corridor. My heart rate raced as each click came, quicker and quicker, with more of a punch than the last. My heart felt like it was gradually being ripped as the solemn sound of the clicking of the shoes echoed in my head. Another step, followed by symmetry of more. Click, click, click. With each click like a puzzle piece, slowly being discarded from the others. The clicking reached to the second to last step and I flew myself at the door without a recollection from my head. I swung the door open as he stood there, high shoulders, smart hair with his uniform. However handsome, or smart he could’ve looked in his uniform, I could never of felt proud to see him wear it. He looked down at me shocked at first.
“Miss Hayley? I mean, Hayley…” He said correcting himself. The tears trickled down my cheeks. The sound of his voice say my name had just made me the most vulnerable object in this house. I wanted him to close his mouth, to stop him from talking but I couldn’t. I held onto his arms and looked into his green eyes.
“Hayley please don’t do this…” he said, taking my hands and placing them into his. His hands were bigger in comparison, but I had never seen them looking more preen or neater since I met him. I managed to raise a hand to his face, moving it down from his cheekbone over his lips.
“Say it again.” I whispered closing my eyes and holding onto him with such a grip, such a force that I couldn’t let go.
“What?” he replied still confused.
“Say. It. Again. My name, please say my name.” I whispered breathlessly and slowly, pronouncing each word, each vowel and consonant.
“Hayley. Your name is Hayley…” he said. I could sense his eyes on me, but I couldn’t open my eyes. I shook my head as a tear rolled over my cheekbone rolling onto the curve of my mouth. He reached his hands up to my face and embraced it gentily, rubbing the edge of his thumb over my cheek.
“Miss Hayley. You are my Miss Hayley.” He replied back to me, slowly pronouncing each word in turn like I had done before. His voice was low and rough, as if longing for something. I fell into his arms and felt his arms wrap around me, holding me in place, like a perfect jigsaw puzzle. My tears trickled down my eyes onto his uniform. My hands held firmly around his back, like concrete. His words whispered in my ear and echoed into my empty mind. Time flicked by so fastly, even though we were stood there for what seemed seconds, he checked his watch and it showed 8:02am exact. How two hours had flown by so easily was unreal. He kissed the top of my head before sitting me onto the sofa.
“When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid.” He whispered into my ear before my eyes closed and his vision disappeared. A door shut quietly. When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. Where had he found that? I thought back to the bible I read after a Sunday service and how I always kept it on my dresser table. He must have taken it with him.
I lunged up quickly before running out of the house. The gate swung open and I let it swing back into place as I raced down the road. It was a cloudy day, yet with some sun shining through the clouds at points. My shoe was close to falling off when I saw Alex and a few other boys perching against the town memorial. They all wore the same uniform, and looked almost similar, one boy was a head taller than Alex, and the other boy next to him was roughly Alex’s size, but with a broader body structure. I sighed in thanks that they hadn’t left yet. Alex was sat on the edge of a bench reading a small book, which looked like my bible. A truck rolled up and the three boys gathered their packs.
“Alex!” I shouted at the top of my voice, my feet now feeling numb, and I could barely feel anything but the light-headed feeling in my head. He turned around suddenly. I knew I wouldn’t be able to make it. He looked helpless as he looked at me and handed someone his bag. I stopped and looked back at him helplessly, my eyes clouded with dust from the truck and the tears that were smudged in my pupils. I was stood around ten metres away from the truck, and my feet felt paralysed, as if they were about to give in. His green eyes were still noticeable from where I was.
“I love you…” I whispered, not able to conger up a louder tone. He looked at me as the truck honked his horn and a bunch of rowdy boys started shouting and whistling. He blew a kiss before placing his hand on his heart and mouthing he loved me too. He climbed into the back of the truck and it drove away, from then it was all a vision. The truck falling away into the distance, as my tears danced down my cheeks. I paced over to the bench where he was sat and curled up on it. The sun hid behind the clouds as a breeze flew through my hair.
“Come back to me…” I whispered placing my head onto my knees. My eyes wept a million tears. Each tear as cold, and sharp as the last one as it traced a path onto my hot cheek. They felt as if they were hot, as if my tears and heart were burning, yearning for him to come back, for the truck to pull back into the village and have him jump off, and take me into his arms, promising to not leave me. To never leave me. Not if both of our lives depended on it. The only image that lingered in my mind was one of his green eyes, that contagious twinkle that would never fade, however he felt it was there. I wanted to see it again, atleast one last time. I wanted to see the smile, the row of teeth that seemed so perfect, the lips that kept those teeth safe, his cheeks and eyes. His eyes, how could I cope without them? The breeze flew onto me, taking away all of my happy emotion as it went. As if it was clearing me of any joy or cheeriness I could attempt to find at the bottom of my heart. My eyes stung as the sharp breeze whipped them, it making the wet lines on my cheek sting in apprehension. It felt as if the winds long, feeble claws clutched around me, plunging me into loneliness.
“I bloody well dunno how your chap sorts you’s out!” Hattie shrieked as the dormitory lit up in laughter. I wiped the tear that was crawling out of my eye as my ribs hurt. Hattie was on the floor chuckling and the rest of the girls were equally the same. I had met them all when I had joined the Woman’s Land Army at the start of June. I had put my name down to try and take my mind off things at home. With Ma and Tilly coping alright, and with me sending a few of the remaining parts of my pay back home to them, as after my training I had got sent, luckily as well as my new friends, down to Lincolnshire. It was full of fields and trees, just like at home, but most of the new girls I had met were all from big cities like London, and Manchester. My new friend Harriet, Hattie for short, was from the centre of Manchester, her accent as strong as it could be. I had immediately taken to her after she dramatically introduced herself, and her friend Lorna to me.
“Excuse me duck, but you see that lad giving you the old eye over there?” a strong accent came from behind me. I looked around to see a smiling girl with ginger hair, with a giggling, yet fairly red, blonde next to her.
“Giving me the eye? What?” I asked confusedly as I sat on the bench at the train station.
“Right, c’mere.” She said sitting herself down next to me. “You see them lads?” she asked again nodding over to a bunch of soldiers. I nodded.
“Well that blondey keeps giving you the eye, ‘n’ I was gon’ to ask, if you didn’ mind like, if I could ‘ave him instead?” she said smiling brightly. I laughed and nodded.
“Please go ahead I’m not interested.” I said while giggling at her outrageous question. She smiled before bounding off over to them. Both girls were wearing the same Land Army uniform as myself, and as she came back over and sat down again with her friend, it was established that we would all stick together, ‘Fer safety in numbers like’ as Hattie had put it.
Since then, we had met up with four other girls at our training for the hard fieldwork, that all of us had been able to get on so far, the voice in the back of my head said. Coming to the Land Army truly was hard work, and not as glamorous as Ma had proposed, but with friends like I had found, it wasn’t too bad. We had spent a morning milking, before setting work bundling up straw, while following the tractor for the rest of the day, apart from lunch. It was hard at first having to bindle it all together, and with an exaggerated moan from another girl, Susie, we had all managed to sort each other out. It wasn’t easy, but you could get the hang of it easily. We all continued to laugh as Lil, the oldest, yet truly not wisest of them all finally stopped laughing enough to take a puff on her cigarette before answering Hattie.
“Well, to put it easily Hattie, he don’t have to half the time.” She said triumphantly laughing before blowing some more smoke and stubbing out her cigarette. Smoking wasn’t allowed in the dorms, but the girls who did smoke just went for it anyway, leaving the window open, and if the warden came in then they’d simply say a neighbour must’ve been burning things earlier in the day. Which made the warden’s eyebrow rise before she walked out in silence. The warden was kind, but thorough at the same time. It was like being at a girls’ school in the dorm. And I loved it thoroughly.
“Right let’s go an’ ‘ave a shower so we’re all ready fer tomorrow.” Hattie said nudging my arm before going through her things.
“Tomorrow?” I asked.
“Didn’ Lorna tell you?” she replied back rolling her eyes.
“Apparently not.” I laughed.
“There’s a dance tomorrow down the village hall and we’re all goin’ like!” Hattie said excitedly.
“There will be the lads from the base coming an’ all!” Georgie, one of the other girls added excitedly. The local R.A.F base was about fifteen minutes away from our hostel, and you could hear the planes take off and touch back in at all times of the day. Of course it drove all the girls mad with excitement, but without a letter from Alex since I left home, the paranoia in the back of my head crawled slowly up the back of my skull, like a spider.
“You girls are all lad obsessed, once you find ‘the one’ you won’t know what hit you’s.” Lil said with a wink. Hattie rolled her eyes at Lil’s just found wisdom before we all went off to the showers.
The blackout curtains were fully in place, and with the girls all asleep, dreaming about something or other, I couldn’t help but sit up in bed. There was the tiniest crack in the blackout curtains, and as it shone onto my face, a small slither of the moon could be seen. I sighed heavily thinking about Alex. Ma and Tilly had sent many letters, but everytime I asked if Alex had written back home, they said that they hadn’t had any response from him. I didn’t know where he was even stationed at, so I couldn’t try to write to him either. The girls and I went to a few dances, and we went to the village pub occasionally as well on a Saturday. Saturday was our day off from working, and it was nice to relax and enjoy ourselves in the summer sun. Every now and then one of the boys from the base would ask for a dance, and politeness told me I couldn’t refuse, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the boy I really wanted to dance with, even though I didn’t know where he was anymore. Hattie, Lorna and the rest of the girls had never asked about Alex, I guess they knew how it hurt my heart to know that I didn’t know where he was, and tried to make me not focus on it. Joining the Land Army had really helped to take my mind from it, but on the nights like these, I couldn’t help but let my mind wander back to him. The memories as sweet as honey would dance around my head, as if I was sat at the pictures watching them. I looked over at my bedside table and opened the small draw, and on top of a few letters sent from Ma and Tilly, the glint of the small heart shined as the moon touched it. I picked it up before silently shutting the draw. I clipped it around my neck before touching the small heart with my fingers. It was my birthday present from him, which I loved a lot, even though he had stolen it. I couldn’t help but smirk as I thought about how he had smiled innocently when I asked where he had got it, and then rolled my eyes when I realised. I smiled inwardly to myself at the memories of us sitting in our tree. There was a shuffling before I looked up and saw Hattie come over quietly and sit on my bed.
“Hattie, are you okay?” I whispered wondering why she was awake. She sighed before she got under the covers, and we both sat crossed legged, our backs against the wall.
“I miss me family Hayley, me brothers got signed up to the Navy and me sister is one of them wire operators people. I haven’t heard from Dad in so long, nor me brothers or sister, and I’m worried about…” she shivered and took my hand. I gave it a squeeze before placing my other hand on top of it, and she did the same.
“I am sure they are all okay, they are probably all wrapped up in their work that they haven’t had any time to write home.” I whispered trying to comfort her.
“You always seem so brave, so strong, like you’ve got a barrier in front of you, nothing can hurt you.” She whispered back to me, her tone as if she didn’t quite understand something.
“So I’ve been told. An amazing person told me once, ‘When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid’ I don’t know what the second part may mean, but it gives me comfort. I guess we just have to trust in those around us to be brave, and they will be brave in turn.” I anwsered truthfully. The moons light was shining onto my face, and I could only see Hattie’s eyes. She nodded before sighing again.
“I’m glad we’ve met Hayley.” She said squeezing our hands. I squeezed back with a smile, thinking about our own memories.
“Trust me I’m more glad.” I replied with a small chuckle. She giggled back before we were in a contemplative silence.
“Are we ready girls?” Susie called, grabbing hold of Poppy’s hand as they both chuckled. They had both been wincing as they sorted out each others hair in rags, so they both had beautiful curls. Everyone made last minute checks, or a last minute cigarette in Lil’s case, before we all went down the hostel steps. Ms Trudent smiled as she saw us all.
“Why you all look a pretty bunch, I’d take a picture of you all if I had a camera.” She said with a warm smile.
“We’ll see what we can do.” Hattie said with a wink as we all laughed and walked out of the door.
“Not too late now!” Ms Trudent called as we left. It was around five o’clock, and we all went onto the main road to see if we could hitch out a ride. We all walked around in our dresses, the August sun shining onto us. A tractor slowly rolled down the road in the same direction we were headed.
“Going to the pub then?” the farmer called, slowing the tractor down so it came to a slow stop. We all nodded and laughed.
“We are indeed, hope you don’t mind.” Lil called out with a smirk.
“You wanna lift?” He asked nodding towards the trailor full of hay bundles. We all looked at each other before bundling into the trailor. It must’ve looked a picture to see a bunch of Land Army girls in bright dresses bundle up into a trailor full of hay bundles. The tractor started going and we all laughed and waved at the odd walker that we came across. It pulled up to the pub, where we were going before we went to the dance. We all bailed out and waved a thank you before going inside. The people already in there glanced at us before going back to their conversations. The landlord leaned over the bar.
“All them R.A.F boys are helping to set up the dance at the hall, so you are looking in the wrong place.” He laughed with a smirk. We all laughed before Hattie stepped up.
“We are only warming ourselves up, before we cause havoc.” Hattie said with a cheeky smirk. The landlord laughed before pulling us all ‘complimentry drinks’. We all clinked our glasses together before drinking. We hung around in the pub for around half an hour before we heard faint music.
“That must be the dance all ready!” Poppy said excitedly, still clinging onto Susie.
“C’mon then girls!” Lil said ushering us all out. We all walked towards the hall, giggling and chatting. The music gradually got louder as we got to the hall.
“Let’s go get us some lads!” Lorna said laughing, pulling me and Hattie inside, which Hattie really didn’t mind.
The hall was packed with R.A.F men, as well as a few people from the village. There was a gramophone with records scattered around it, with drinks and food on a table near to it. Some of the lads starting cheering and clapping, looking through us all.
“Ohh I love these dances!” Hattie said clapping looking at Lorna and me. We were all excited to have some fun, but at the back of my head I felt lonely, even though I was surrounded by my new friends. I tried to push it back and smile and agree. Lil, Poppy, Susie and Georgie came and joined us.
“I say we all start dancing!” A usually quiet Georgie announced looking over in the direction of two boys who were leaning against the wall.
“My thoughts exactly!” I said smiling and we all went and started dancing. Soon enough most of the boys started dancing with us, and soon more girls came into the hall, so it looked like there was an equal number of girls and boys. Hattie bounded over to where Lorna and me were dancing followed with three boys in smart uniform.
“Girls, this is Luke, Rob and Mark. Boys, this is Lorna and Hayley.” Hattie introduced. All three men were tall; Rob had a dusty brown hair colour, and Mark’s a more darker colour, with Luke a more lighter blonde colour.
“Nice to meet you girls.” Rob said taking Lorna’s hand and kissing it. She giggled and blushed.
“Have fun, I’m going to do more matchmaking!” Hattie said taking Luke’s hand and they both walked off. Mark looked down at me and smiled.
“Mark.” He said putting his hand out to shake mine.
“Hayley, and I’m not kissing your hand.” I laughed with a smirk before shaking his hand. He joined in the laughing, and his dark brown eyes twinkled.
“That is fine, trust me. So, you are a young one aren’t you?” He asked raising his eyebrow.
“Yeah, I’m the youngest out of my friends. Why?” I asked smiling.
“I can tell that’s all. So, who gave you that?” He asked pointing to my necklace. He took my hand and took me towards the dance floor, ushering me to dance.
“My lad did. He is in the Air Force, like you, but I haven’t heard from him since May.” I replied thinking about Alex.
“In the first few months it is hard to write letters to people, trust me.” He said twirling me around. He was light on his feet, and after all of the dances I had attended, my dance skills were finally starting to get better.
“That’s what I thought. Do you have many rookies on your base? Doing training or anything?” I replied as we gracefully did a bunch of dance steps in tune of the music.
“Why of course, we’ve got a load that we have had since May thinking about it, we’ve got a bunch of them that had been training until late June.” He answered back. I smiled suddenly. What if by any chance Alex could’ve been one of those pilots?
“Ehh up, what is your young lads name then?” he asked again.
“Alex Cox, he is 18…” I said making sure I said eighteen, which he had turned the other month.
“Describe him for me Hayley.” He said with a raised eyebrow again.
“Well, he is about this tall,” I started raising my hand to around his height, “He has brown hair, and the odd spot on his forehead or chin…” I said dreaming about him.
“Keep going.” Mark said with a smirk.
“He’s from London and you can hear the accent slightly, ohh and his eyes…” I said smiling.
“Bright green eyes?” Mark asked as if he was reading my mind.
“The greenest I’ve ever seen.” I replied in awe, thinking about how they sparkled.
“And your name is Hayley?” he asked again as if making sure.
“Yes, yes my name is Hayley, Miss Hayley Brookston!” I said excitedly. Please say that he knew Alex, please, please say he did. He laughed.
“Ah, I thought I recognised you, he is constantly showing a picture of you to everyone. I just didn’t recognise you, your hair is lighter.” He said smiling.
“It goes lighter in the sun, but you know Alex? How is he? Is he happy? Tell me everything!” I said excitedly. Mark laughed.
“Calm down, he is a good lad. Good with the planes, he passed his training early because of his enthusiasm. He is good at manoeuvring and formations, but he is down and moping a lot of the time. We managed to bring him out to the dance tonight to see if it would cheer him up. Don’t know if it is though.” He said with a smile.
“He’s here! Where? Why didn’t you tell me sooner!” I said excitedly. My heart bounced up and down excitedly, the rate of it so fast I could barely feel it hit my chest. He laughed again before taking my arm and ushering me towards a group of pilots sitting around a table.
It was a crowded table, and it looked as if they were all laughing and jeering around. Some of them had girls on their laps, but I didn’t recognise them.
“Jack!” Mark called towards a young man. The lad he called jack turned around and smirked.
“I see you’ve brought me a present.” He laughed winking at me.
“Jack you bloody,” Mark said as I hid my shock at the words that followed. “She’s not a present and she isn’t yours either, where’s Coxy boy?” Mark finished.
“He’s outside having a ciggy, and don’t even try to get him dancing with anyone, he refuses to go near any girl who isn’t the famous ‘Miss Hayley’.” Jack said rolling his eyes.
“This is Hayley.” Mark said nodding over to me. Jack and some of the other boys at the table turned around in unison.
“Excuse me?” Jack said.
“I’m Hayley, Now where is Alex?” I said quickly bursting into the conversation.
“It is as well, Christ he’ll be so happy when he sees you, he’s outside, c’mon.” Jack said taking my arm gentily and ushering me through the crowd towards the door. Mark was following closely and I think a few others of the boys on the table were following us. I could also hear Hattie’s giggling, so she wasn’t far behind either.
When we got outside it was getting dark, and I could just see a familiar figure perched in the opposite direction to us, with smoke coming from his silhouette. Jack perched me on a bench behind him and placed his finger on his lips. I stayed quiet and smiled outrageously. Jack and Mark then sat either side of the silhouette and sighed.
“What’s up with you Alex? We bring you to a nice dance with music and you stand outside holding a ciggy all night.” Jack said taking the cigarette from the silhouettes hand and taking a breath with it. The silhouette sighed.
“You know what’s up with me Jack.” He said taking the cigarette back from him.
“What is it that girl of yours?” Mark asked.
“Indeed it is. I miss her so much, if I could just see her, or hear from her, then it would make me the happiest lad in this county.” The London twang of his voice made me believe even more that it was him.
“So I’ve heard. Would she like you smoking?” Jack asked.
“Probably not, but she can’t see me so I guess one is alright.” Alex said with a sigh. I got up quietly and put my arms around his neck and my head on his shoulder.
“One cigarette is not okay Mr Cox, you shouldn’t be smoking, and neither should you Jack.” I said with a smile. He jumped slightly before dropping the cigarette on the ground and turning around.
“Oh my God…” he said grabbing my hands and then turning himself around and his hands went up my arms until he was holding my face in his hands.
“It’s you! Hayley! It’s you!” He shouted happily before kissing me. I kissed him back and put my hands through his hair. My heart exploded with sparks which danced and swam around us.
“Bleedy hell it really is her then…” Jack said under his breath. I heard Mark tut and Jack made a sound, which sounded like Mark had just hit him. Finally the kiss ended and I looked up into his green eyes. The twinkle in his eyes was like a Catharine wheel, exploding everywhere. He held my face in his hands and watched every part of my face. I was breathless and speechless; I couldn’t believe how I had finally found him.
We had sat outside on the bench for the rest of the night. The music was still loud enough to hear, and the stars twinkled on us. He was holding me and I was sat on his knee with my head nestled under his chin.
“I just can’t believe I’ve found you Hayley. You don’t know how much I have missed you.” He said softly.
“I couldn’t stop thinking about you, I prayed each night for you, I barely managed to live that first week you went away.” I replied squeezing his hand.
“I never wanted to hurt you Hayley, I didn’t want to cause you pain.” He said kissing my forehead. I closed my eyes slowly.
“I hurt you too, I was stupid, and you are brave for joining the R.A.F. And all the boys here are really good. I’m proud of you, so very proud of you.” I replied.
“Why are you here? How did you find me?” He asked looking down at me.
“I joined the Land Army, I stay in a hostel down the road. I never knew you were here until Hattie introduced me to Mark, and then Mark put all the puzzle pieces together. Thank goodness for it.” I answered smiling. Yes, without Mark I don’t know when I would’ve seen Alex next.
“Don’t you get tired? You don’t seem like the one to be in the Land Army.” He laughed.
“Of course I get tired, it’s harder than you think, and the uniform is itchy. But it’s worth it for all the friends I have made.” I replied with a laugh thinking about how me and the girls had always got up to some kind of tricks.
“I’m just glad we have been based close to each other. We can meet up so easily now, it has all worked out so well.” He said happily taking me into his arms again.
“It really has.” I agreed happily. I felt as if we were floating.
“Hayley, marry me. Please, we wouldn’t have to lose each other; we would be together forever, like we were meant to be. I don’t have a ring, and this is all so quick, but I can feel it, I can feel us, this is it. Marry me Miss Brookston, let me have you as my wife.” He said looking into my eyes, his hand on my cheek and his other on my waist. I breathed slowly and smiled. I nodded as my mouth tried to conger up any words I could get.
“Yes?” he asked smiling and grabbing hold of my hands.
“Yes! Of course!” I yelled jumping onto him and throwing my arms around his neck. He kissed me with so much passion. We had never kissed like this before. It was magical, and unreal, like a dream. Suddenly the kiss stopped as Alex got picked up and carried off. Jack and Mark, along with Rob and Luke who Hattie had taken quite a liking too had all grabbed him and carried him off. Hattie, Lorna, Georgie, Lil, Susie and Poppy all came running out and jumped on the bench laughing and cheering.
“Ohh Lord!” Alex shouted laughing as they put him down in the middle of the road.
“Ladies, gentlemen and Jack, it has come to my attention that a proposal has been made, and it appears that it is now time for something that is really my favourite part of the wedding process.” Mark started as Luke and Jack held Alex’s arms.
“What are they going to do?” I asked laughing as the girls started stamping their feet on the bench like a drum roll.
“You’ll see!” Hattie squealed with laughter. I laughed as Alex’s face began to sweat.
“Don’t you dare Mark, don’t you dare!” Alex yelled while laughing. Suddenly Mark yanked Alex’s trousers down past his knees and around his feet. The girls screamed and I nearly died of laughter. Alex struggled as Mark tried to wrangle the trousers from his feet.
“Stop it!” Alex yelled laughing trying his hardest to cover up his underwear. Mark finally wrangled the trousers from him and ran over to the bench.
“My lady, all the best with your marriage.” He teased handing me the trousers. I held them and laughed like the rest of the girls.
“You must let me take you out sometime.” Mark then said winking at Susie. She blushed and laughed as Mark ran back off over to the boys. They finally let him go and Alex came running over to me bright red and laughing.
“Hayley, trousers now.” He said trying to get them back. I pulled them away from him before jumping off the bench and running away from him.
“No I am keeping these!” I shouted laughing. He came after me and grabbed my waist.
“Give me my trousers!” he said putting a vice like grip around my waist. I tried to hold them as far away from me as possible.
“No they are mine!” I laughed trying to not let him grab them. Hattie ran up behind me and grabbed them from me and shoved them down the top of her dress. I burst out laughing as Alex looked at Hattie in despair.
“You can’t go getting them now, you are engaged.” I said with a wink laughing. Luke then came and grabbed Hattie’s waist.
“But I can!” Luke said pulling them out. Hattie gasped as the street lit up with more laughter.
“Ohh you cocky bugger!” she said laughing. Alex cheered and went up to him and put his hand out.
“Ohh no, these belong to their rightful owner!” Luke teased throwing them back at me. I caught them and held onto them tightly. I giggled and smiled.
“Don’t look so smug Hayley, I’m not the only one going home in my underwear.” Alex laughed and winked. Before I could say anything Georgie came up behind me and pulled my dress off. I squealed as I grabbed my cardigan back and covered myself up with it as best I could. Everyone was laughing as Alex was passed my dress and he smiled triumphantly. He looked up and down me and winked. I looked at Georgie.
“I am going to kill you with a shovel.” I laughed. By the time we got back to the hostel, I was hoisting up Alex’s trousers, which I had put on, and I had my cardigan around my shoulders buttoned up. It was past midnight and we all had to creep up the stairs. Even though I was embarrassed we all couldn’t stop laughing, and we had to be as quiet as we could. We all got into bed quickly. I went to bed with a very embarrassed smile on my face.
“I miss Hayley and Alex.” Tilly said sadly. Ma put down her cutlery and sighed.
“I do too, but they are safe and well, Hayley said in her last letter how they had ended up around fifteen minutes down the road from each other, and you know how much they missed each other. They’ll be coming home soon I should think, it’s Hayley’s birthday coming up soon, so they should be home.” Ma explained stroking Tilly’s hair. Tilly nodded as some post came through the door. Tilly got up and ran over to it and looked through the post before smiling and running over.
“Post! We have letters!” She said excitedly sitting back down. She placed the letter on the table; it was addressed to both Ma and Tilly.
“Open it up and read it then.” Ma said as Tilly opened the envelope. She unfolded the paper and read it.
Dear Mrs V and Tilly.
As you know, Hayley and me recently found each other again and since then have been seeing each other as much as possible. When I met your daughter I always knew that she would be the one I would wed, and on the night that I, well, she found me, I proposed to her. I now write to ask for your blessing for me to marry Hayley. I love her with my heart and will care for her till the end, making sure she is always happy and smiling. Hoping that Till is alright, and yourself,
There was silence as Tilly looked confused.
“Well Hayley failed to tell me that she was engaged.” Ma laughed with a small tear creeping from her eye.
“I don’t understand Ma, what’s happened? Why are you crying?” Tilly asked frantically worrying.
“Ohh Tilly my dear, don’t stress yourself, Alex has proposed to Hayley, they are going to be getting married. These are simply happy tears.” Ma said smiling proudly. Tilly smiled back.
“I love weddings!” she realised excitedly.
It was a sunny Saturday, and both Alex and myself had been given the day off. Though with all of the fighting in the air, in what the boys had started calling the Battle of Britain had made Alex extremely tired. We were both sat on the bench outside the village hall and he was drifting off as I read through the letter.
“I can’t bloody believe it.” I said reading it again for the fourth time. Alex looked up suddenly.
“You never swear, what’s the matter?” he asked sighing and drifting off again.
“What’s the matter? You wrote to my mother telling her we were getting married! You could’ve given me notice!” I said quickly. The letter was to Alex from Ma saying how we had her blessing and that we should give her the wedding details when we came down for my birthday.
“I wanted to see if I had her blessing, relax and enjoy the weather.” He said, sounding as if he was completely zoned off. I rolled my eyes before placing the letter back into his hand.
“Will you be able to get leave off for my birthday? Even if it is just for two days.” I asked watching a butterfly flutter past.
“Birthday? Ohh Happy birthday.” He muffled.
“It isn’t my birthday, and the only day we get together in weeks you decide to sleep through.” I said. I talked as if I was talking to myself. He placed his hand on top of mine and attempted to squeeze it.
“Me speak no English.” He muffled again. I rolled my eyes and smiled.
“Goodnight.” I replied tapping his head before thinking. Mark and Susie would currently be out, with Poppy and one of Mark’s other friends, Luke and Hattie were certainly out doing something, and Lorna and Rob would be out as well. Lil had a chap in the Navy, who I had heard would be docking back in soon, so she was getting time off, which just left cheeky Georgie. Georgie was quiet, but in good company could be cheeky and joke around easily, like Jack. They would be perfect together, I must tell Hattie, because she will sort it out. How funny it is to think how in three months so much has changed. September was just around the corner, and after my birthday came Christmas. We were heading into the back end of the year, yet this blasted war just seemed to go on. Night after night when we listened to the wireless back at the Hostel, it seemed city and city were being bombed and destroyed, especially places with docks. London was taking an especially big toll, and I just prayed that Alex’s mother would be alright.
There was a faint humming noise in the distance and I realised what it was quickly.
“Alex get up now, there is a plane coming.” I said rushed, while shaking his arm. He rubbed his eyes.
“It’s English it’s English.” He reassured even though he was still half asleep. I looked up at the sky waiting for the humming to get louder. It got louder as three or four German planes rushed through the sky.
“They’re German!” I screamed getting underneath the picnic bench and pulling him underneath it too. He woke up more and looked up.
“Oh they were German, just stay quiet and don’t move.” He said holding my hands. I scowled at him as the wail of the air raid siren went off and more German planes flew through the skies. There was bombing happening in the distance.
“They’re bombing the base…” Alex said biting his bottom lip.
“Where is everyone? Mark? Luke, Rob and Jack? Are they at base are they safe?” I asked frantically.
“Hayley calm down it’ll be alright, if they are at base then they will be in the shelters.” He tried to reassure me. Please let them be safe and okay, as well as the girls too. I whispered prayers under my breath and closed my eyes.
“You don’t have to talk that quietly.” He said with a smirk. I scowled at him. We could have been killed, we didn’t know if our friends were safe and he was joking around? I shook my head and continued to hope that our friends were okay. We could still hear the planes soaring over us, and the guns at the base firing at them.
“Don’t be like that Hayley.” He said stroking my arms before kissing my forehead. I sighed before listening to any other noise we could hear. The gunners were still firing and at one point a plane crashed into the ground. All the noises were faint, but easy to pick out what was what. We sat there for what seemed a long time before the skies were clear and the all clear sign signalled. I got out from under the bench and stood and looked towards the base. From what could be seen there was an amount of smoke coming from the base that drifted over the fields.
“They’ve been going for bases all over the south according to the wireless.” I said to myself before sitting back down on the bench.
“Trying to take out all the planes. Mechanics are going on overload, and the factory workers are too. It is tougher in the sky, but I wouldn’t do anything else.” He replied. He put his arm over my shoulder. I shrugged him off.
“What? What’s the matter?” he asked raising his eyebrow.
“You could’ve got us killed. English planes its English planes, they were German, I had to drag you underneath the bench, we could’ve been killed!” I replied scowling at him.
“Hayley I’m tired I’ve been working really hard-” He started but I interrupted him.
“You don’t think I’m not tired, I do just as much work as you, so don’t use that excuse.” I rolled my eyes. He sighed and brushed his hair back with his hand before sitting on the bench. I sat back down on the bench and held out my hand. He took it before kissing my forehead.
“Sorry.” We both said in unison. I looked up and smiled at him.
The letters fell through the front door as Nora came downstairs. She picked them up and flicked through them both. One from Hayley she thought as she sat over on the sofa to open it. She scanned the words as Hayley told her about how they had both got four days leave to come home. Nora smiled as she put the letter down after reading it again and looked at the address of the other letter. Her heart banged against her chest as she saw the hospital’s stamp. She ripped it open and unfolded it quickly, scanning each letter and word. She gasped and held her hand to her heart breathing heavily. She shoved it into the drawer quickly before slamming it and walking into the kitchen to boil some tea. She reached into the cupboard to bring the whisky down again. She undid the cap and downed a small drop before looking out of the window. What was to become of her?
I placed the last items into my bag before zipping it up. I sat on my bed glancing out of the window. The rest of the girls were all out so I packed as quickly as possible. I sighed before checking my cupboard again to see if I had gotten all I need. Suddenly all of my friends bursted in, shouting and laughing.
“I thought I might have had to leave without saying goodbye!” I said happily now they had all arrived.
“Don’ be silly Hayley, why’d I let you’s leave without a peck on t’cheek?” Hattie said boldly in her Manchester accent before giving me, as she said, a kiss on the cheek and a hug. I squeezed her back tightly.
“Have a nice time!” Lorna called hugging me. Susie was next to hug me, followed by Poppy.
“I will, and when I get back we are having me a birthday party!” I called excitedly as the rest of the gang came and hugged me.
“Now go, your lover boy’s waiting!” Hattie putting her hand over her head and sighed dramatically.
“You behave with all of your lover boys more like.” I replied with a wink. Since the base had got bombed we found out that there had been no casualties, and because of this we persuaded Jack to take Georgie out, and now she had never been happier. Lil rolled her eyes before they all waved and I went out of the dorm. I hurried down the stairs towards the front door. My bag was over my shoulder as I left the Hostel. Ms Trudent came around the door.
“Have a nice time with your family Hayley, stay safe.” She said smiling before patting my arm. I thanked her before going outside. I was beginning to get used to seeing Alex in his uniform, and with us both having four days leave, this weekend was going to be a good one. There was a small breeze to match the sun and there were fluffy clouds in the sky. He greeted me with a smile before he took my hand and we headed for the train station.
“Let’s go home and enjoy our holiday shall we?” I said as we waited at the bus stop.
“I can’t wait to have some of your Ma’s cooking. I feel depraved at the base.” He said with a smile.
“All I ever hear is that you and the boys go into the NAAFI and eat the place out.” I laughed.
“That’s only because Rob liked the look of the girl who gave out the tea. Then he realised that she was daughter of the squadron leader and left it at that.” He laughed as the bus pulled up.
“That sounds more like Jack than Rob.” I replied giggling before placing the money into the bus driver’s hand. Alex came up onto the bus and went to give the bus driver the money.
“No, no sir, please have a free ride, it is the best I can do.” The bus driver said with a smile. Alex smiled back with raised eyebrows.
“Are you sure?” he asked trying to usher the money into his hand.
“No, you go and sit with your girl and have a good time.” The bus driver smiled before setting off. Alex came and sat down next to me looking triumphant. He put his arm around me and smiled.
“Don’t get too cocky.” I said laughing. The bus ride went quick and we ended up running for a train and we only just got on board. We sat down on a carriage that we managed to get to ourselves. The odd soldier walked past the door or some girls would, but for the whole journey we managed to just be on our own.
“Hayley. Hayley we’re here.” Alex’s voice said softly. I rubbed my eyes and came back to consciousness. I glanced outside and it was bright, and must’ve been around noontime. The train was slowing down as Alex got up and reached to get our bags from above the seats. I yawned as the train came to a slow halt.
“Are you coming then?” he asked with a mischievous grin. I smiled before nodding my head and getting up.
“Trains always make me tired, it’s the motion.” I replied taking my bag from him as we walked onto the platform. It was relatively quiet, with barely any people around, apart from the odd person. The air smelt rich, it had sweetness in, but most importantly smelt of home. We walked out of the station towards the bus station before waiting for a few minutes. We sat on the bench as a young boy and his younger sister stood watching as their mother checked her watch. The young boy seemed fascinated by Alex’s uniform, like quite a few people did. In a small village like this I’m not surprised it turned heads. I leaned over to Alex.
“You’re quite the role model nowadays aren’t you?” I said quietly with a smile. He chuckled before facing the small boy. He gave a flash of his smile and a wink and the boy suddenly saluted smiling. The Mother peered down and smiled at her son before tinkering with something in her pocket. The bus rolled up and it was a quick journey home. Countryside rushed past us, trees waving in the September breeze, fields of greens and yellows stretched right across the landscape, acting like a big patchwork quilt. The sun was beating down on the bus, and soon enough Alex and I had both stepped down from it and were in our town square. It had barely changed, and thankfully nearly all the buildings were in tact, there were no differences, apart from the odd tree clipped or new flowers out. Alex put his arm around me, and looked down at me.
“Let’s go home, I’m dying for a cuppa.” He laughed. I tried to nod and agree but I was too sidetracked. I couldn’t believe I was home, I felt as if in a dream. The last time I was here felt like ten years ago, instead of a few months. I felt more grown up, like the last time I was here was when I was young and naïve.
“What’s the matter Miss Hayley?” Alex asked holding my chin. “Tired?”
“No, I’m fine really, it’s just quite overwhelming to realise how much everything has changed, how I’ve changed.” I answered wrapping my arm around him and smiling. He looked up for a minute before smiling.
“It’s growing up Hayley. Everyone does it sooner or later and the time for us has arrived. Now come on, let’s go home before Tilly worries.” He said with a smile before we both walked down the dusty road towards the house. We faced the house and it had barely changed.
“Are you sure I’m not dreaming?” I asked again looking at the house. A puff of smoke came across my face and I ended up letting out a cough.
“Must you smoke? If Ma finds out she’ll have your guts for garters.” I warned scowling at him. He shrugged before having a last puff and then dropping it down and stubbing it out.
“See now you smell like you’ve lit a fire on yourself.” I sighed before grooming his hair, and making sure it looked smart.
“Yes? What?” I replied.
“Calm down, I can tell you are getting all frantic because you keep fidgeting. It’ll be fine stop worrying.” He said kissing my forehead before entering the gate. I sighed and rolled my eyes before following him.
“I’m fine!” I told him.
“Then why are you bobbing on the spot like a bunny in summer?” he asked with a smirk.
“I can’t help being excited.” I replied as the front door opened and Tilly flew out and up into Alex’s arms.
Alex lifted the child up onto his hip as she laughed joyfully. Ma followed her out and smiled widely. She flung her arms around me and I clung to her tightly, if I let go she might’ve disappeared and I’d probably wake up in a field somewhere.
“It’s so lovely to see you both so healthy and well.” She smiled stroking my cheek before patting Alex’s arm.
“But Tilly you mustn’t jump on Alex, he is probably tired and you grow a centimetre every other day.” Ma quickly said too. She looked happy and healthy, but there was something in her eyes I just couldn’t depict. It wasn’t stress, or unhappiness, but there was something there.
“Sorry Ma.” Tilly said innocently before taking Alex’s hand and running inside. I looked at Ma curiously before we both followed them inside and she brought out some biscuits and tea. Alex settled onto the sofa with a sigh.
“I’m glad to be home.” Alex said triumphantly with a smile.
“So am I, I feel so much more laidback around here.” I laughed keeping an eye on Ma. She was acting strangely and I just didn’t know why. I was going to have to ask her when I got the chance. Tilly then had a sudden burst of excitement.
“When are you getting married? Can I be bridesmaid!” She cried happily. She said scrambling from over his side to me and grabbed my hands. Alex and I both laughed.
“I wouldn’t want anyone else to be my bridesmaid Tills, but what are you doing with my hands?” I said with a smile.
“I am trying to find your wedding ring!” Tilly said excitedly again. Her body was getting taller and taller and she had got to a nice healthy size, she was the opposite of the fragile looking girl that had first stood on our doorstep with a little pillowcase. But her words suddenly hit me, the engagement ring. Alex had never given me one so I presume he didn’t have the money for it. Hattie and Lorna asked me the same thing a few days after he had proposed and it preyed on my mind ever since.
“Ohh I haven’t got one.” I answered trying not to sound upset.
“It’s not that official then is it?” Tilly said with a snigger.
“Tilly! None of that tone!” Ma said quickly with a frown. Tilly apologised quietly before taking another biscuit and nibbling into it quickly. I watched her intently, it felt as if we were in a different house, Tilly had changed and so had Ma. Maybe they were just tired, that would be a simple answer.
“Well, tell me about everything!” Ma said trying to smile. Alex laughed.
“I think the best story is the one about how Miss Hayley here found me.” He said with a wide smile putting his arm around me.
“I like that one, you tell your side first.” I said hugging into him.
“Okay, when I joined up the Air Force, they had me training a lot and you get really tired, and all I could think of was Hayley, and I refused to go to dances, the pub or anything, I just didn’t want to have random girls crawling over me when I didn’t know where my girl was. But, Mark and Jack badgered me to go to this dance, so I swallowed my pride and went.” As he spoke I remembered all of the evening bit-by-bit and smiled as I listened to his voice.
“And I was sat in the corner all night playing cards with the boys then went outside for a cigarette. Next thing I knew the boys came outside and started talking to me and asking me why I was upset, and she was behind me the whole time! She snuck up behind me and shook me half to death! But it was quite a good night.” He finished looking down at me smiling.
“You smoke?!” Ma said surprised.
“Used to! I don’t anymore.” He said with a smile. I sniggered and then hid my expression from Ma by burying a biscuit into my face.
“Good, I don’t want those rotten things in my house.” Ma said leaning back into her chair.
“It was so unreal at the time, I was dancing with Mark and he was asking me about Alex and it all literally just clicked together, all the information and the jigsaw puzzle connected and we found each other amazingly.” I added taking his hand.
“Amazingly.” He repeated kissing my forehead.
I woke up very relaxed, it was the first time I had slept in my bed and it was the comfiest it had ever been. But, because of habit I had woken up at half past six and couldn’t get back to sleep again. I crept over to the black out curtain and drew it back letting the sun fill the small area of the room. I watched the sky as I thought about today. The big eighteen. I couldn’t believe it, all these years seemed as if they had just flown away. But atleast I had caught up with Alex and we were both now eighteen. I smiled inwardly before quietly creeping across the room and going downstairs. I went into the living room to see Alex sat on the sofa with his uniform on and his bag leaning against the corner of the sofa.
“Alex?” I asked curiously. He looked up suddenly after brushing his hair from his face.
“Miss Hayley.” He replied. I pointed to his packed bag and his hat on the coffee table and went to ask him about it but he started before me.
“I know it’s your birthday, and we thought I had four days off, but I have been called up, they need numbers emergently. I’m sorry Hayley.” He explained with a bland expression on his face.
“Oh.” I replied after a minute of silence. I felt crushed.
“I’m sorry, but I can’t help being called back, you know I’d stay here with you for your birthday.” He said taking my chin in his hand.
“I know, I know. I’m being silly.” I said trying to laugh before hugging him. He squeezed me tightly for a while before he let go.
“I didn’t want to go until I said happy birthday, and give you your present.” He said finally reaching into his pocket. I smiled and looked up at him. He then pulled a small silver ring from his top pocket before sliding it onto my left ring finger.
“Happy Birthday, my beautiful fiancée.” He said kissing my forehead. I gasped as I looked at the small silver band that wrapped around my finger.
“It’s, oh Alex, it’s beautiful…” I said admiring it.
“Like you.” He replied with a chirpy smile.
“Stay safe.” I told him kissing his lips before looking into his green dazzling eyes.
“Behave.” He said with a wink before taking me into his arms once again and holding me. I closed my eyes and felt his jacket with my cold hands. I took in his smell in one last sigh before watching him smile, throw his bag over his shoulder and walk out of the door.
I sat on the sofa in the evening. Tilly had gone upstairs to bed and Ma was in the kitchen making some late night tea. I saw a scrunch of paper sticking out of the drawer next to the lamp and tipped my head to the left slightly. When was Ma unorganised enough to not make sure that everything was put away neatly? I went over and crouched down and opened the drawer carefully before taking hold of the corner.
“Come and help me, love.” Ma said quickly as her head stuck around the kitchen door. I cleared my throat and closed the drawer quickly without having a glimpse of the letter. I hurried into the kitchen. It must’ve just been a useless piece of paper. I looked at Ma’s eyes and I had never seen her look so vulnerable. She looked older, and troubled.
“Ma, what’s the matter?” I asked.
“Nothing, I’m fine.” She said forcing a smile and a laugh.
“Mother.” I said sternly. She looked at me in shock.
“Careless talk costs lives.” She replied solemnly passing me the cup of tea. I took it looking deep at her. I would find out what was going on.
I stepped off from the busy train and onto the platform. I hurried under the shelter as the rain thudded on the ground. Without an umbrella I put a newspaper over my head as I left the station and started on a walk towards the local bus station so I could catch a bus back to the hostel. My birthday weekend had been wonderful, and Ma and Tilly had made a new dress as well as knitting me some bed socks. There was a roll of thunder as I sighed. It was apparent that autumn was nearly over and winter was coming in to mark its territory. There was a horn as a truck came up behind me and pulled over. It was an army truck and was heading to the local base.
“Need a lift love?” the driver said politely with a smile. I smiled before climbing in the back to be met by a group of laughing R.A.F pilots.
“Well blow me…” a familiar voice laughed as I sat down and the truck set off in motion again.
“Morning Jack.” I said with a laugh. He turned around and gave me a pat on my arm.
“I heard it was your birthday on Saturday, have a nice time?” he asked with a smile.
“Yes it was lovely thanks. Where’ve you been?” I asked as the truck bounced over a pothole.
“Picked up a load of new recruits from the other R.A.F base down west. I volunteered to pick ‘em up and show ‘em the ropes.” He said with a wink.
“And picking up an innocent Land Army girl is basic training then?” I asked with a laugh.
“We bloody wish.” A blonde pilot said as a round of laughter echoed in the back. His friend then gave him a handshake as they both laughed.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa boys, this one is off limits so no ideas!” Jack suddenly said as if he was a Mother hen warning them all. There were a couple of stifled ‘bugger’s before a black haired pilot smirked.
“Have you got yourself one then Jack?” He said with a wink. I burst out laughing at the thought and Jack looked at me.
“She wishes.” He said before flexing his arms and raising his eyebrow at me. I covered my mouth, as I couldn’t stop laughing.
“More like he wishes gents.” I replied with a wink before mimicking his actions. Jack turned to look at me in a mock stern expression. The rest of the journey was filled with cheery banter before the truck came to a stop and I peered out of the truck to see the hostel I had gotten so accustom to. The black haired pilot rolled up the wet newspaper and whipped it on my behind. I gasped and turned around suddenly.
“Excuse me but I am an engaged woman!” I said with a wink before climbing out of the truck. Jack then leaned out.
“You could tell them you were a disguised nun but they’d still do it.” And with a wink I saw them all drive off as I hurried into the hostel.
I knocked on Ms Trudent’s office to tell her that I was back. I stood there for a while as she called for me to come in. I walked in and the room was cold. She looked up from writing and glanced at me.
“Ah, Hayley. Did you have a nice weekend?” she asked politely, even though she looked as if her smile was forced. I nodded and smiled bashfully.
“Yes thank you, it was lovely, I was just here to tell you that I was back and ready for work.” I said trying to be assertive. She gave a grunt before scribbling some more notes down on a different piece of paper. I stood there for an awkward moment before she looked up at me again.
“You have fifteen minutes before I want you in the milking shed.” She finished and with a swift movement I nodded and leapt out of the office quickly. I shivered after closing the door and made myself up the stairs and into our room. The smell of perfume and cigarette smoke hit me as I smiled and put my bag on my bed and put on my Wellingtons, which were too big. I pulled on my jumper before making my way outside, taking a spare sandwich that Ma had made me for the train journey ready for my lunch break.
I headed over to the milking sheds passing the fields. I stopped and looked as I saw another bunch of land girls working with a bunch of men. Must’ve been the POWs. My brow creased as I started walking towards the milking sheds again. The rain was slowing down as I entered the shed. I could see all the girls with their backs to me and could hear Hattie and Georgie singing a popular song.
“Crikey what is that racket?” I said loudly as I leaned against the door. Suddenly the singing stopped.
“Sorry Ms Trudent but we’re working, I promise.” Hattie said in a rush as a silence came over the girls.
“Ms Trudent? What are you chatting on about this time Hattie.” I replied with a smile. First I saw Hattie and Lil’s heads pop up from behind the tall cow’s backs, followed by Georgie, Lorna, Susie and Poppy.
“Hayley! She’s back!” Hattie shrieked happily making one of the cow’s jump and start moving around.
“Ohh bugger she’s off again, stay still!” Hattie continued standing up fully and trying to hold the cow down. We all started laughing before I walked over to try and calm the black and white cow down. Hattie smiled at me ecstatically as the cow then stood still.
“We missed you.” Lil said cheerily.
“And your ability to charm cows.” Hattie added with a giggle. We then heard the farmer’s footsteps. I rushed over to Vera, my favourite cow, and the cow who we had all named after the singer and started milking her teats. Milk poured into the grey bucket as the farmer walked into the shed. He overlooked it all and grunted before leaving. I watched him as he walked across the farmyard before daring to speak.
“I see he still has a grump on him.” I said quietly causing Lorna who was milking behind me to outburst in laughter. Georgie then shushed us in case he heard the racket and made his way back over to us.
“So how is Rob doing?” I whispered turning my head slightly behind me to look at Lorna, even though I could barely see her.
“He’s okay, his eyes just make me fall in love with him all over again everytime I see them.” She replied with a tender, softness in her voice. I remember seeing him for the first time, when it was the first time I met Mark. Hattie would be the one to introduce the pair.
“Aww, maybe he’ll pull out a ring soon eh?” I replied with a giggle.
“Ohh Hayley stop it. How is Alex?” she said bashfully trying to change subject.
“You know you want him too. And I think he is okay, he had four days leave but had to go early, they called him up,” I replied with a sigh. “I will tell you the good details at lunch.”
Once the milking was over, the rain had mostly gone away and grey clouds covered the sky. We all sat on the wall behind the chicken pens eating our sandwiches.
“So how was your family?” Susie asked thoughtfully as a bit of cheese fell from her sandwich onto her lap.
“Ma and Tilly are okay, you would not believe how much Tilly has grown though. It is hard remembering that she was this tiny little ragdoll of a girl when I first met her.” I said smiling.
“Where’s she from?” Lil asked.
“Birmingham.” I replied. They all nodded. As none of the girls were from Birmingham that piece of information was probably no interest to them.
“Anyway, Hayley has gossip apparently!” Lorna said excitedly, which made all the girls face me.
“You told Lorna before me? I thought we’s were sisters!” Hattie said dramatically with a sigh.
“Calm down Miss O’Hara, give the girl a chance to speak.” Lil said with a smirk. Without a word I reached down to try and find my chain around my neck before Georgie squeaked.
“We don’t want to see any of that!” she said covering her eyes.
“No, just wait, I have to find it…”
“How low down are they?!” Hattie said again cheekily. I frowned at her before pulling the heart pendant out from under my shirt and finding the silver ring. All the faces gasped as I unhooked it from the chain and attached it to my finger. There was a silence as Poppy came over to admire it.
“So no love bite?” Georgie asked with a giggle. I hit her around the back of her head and she let out a groan.
“It’s really official now!” Lorna announced happily.
“Okay, dress wise, I am thinking a low bodice, with a long skirt!” Lil said excitedly.
“Ohh with one of those veils that go over your face so you pull it back before your first kiss!” Susie added smiling. The girls suddenly all got thrown into wedding planning, I could hear them all talking about shoes, and receptions and even honeymoon hotels.
“Guys, don’t you think you’re getting a bit far ahead of yourselves? I don’t want one of these quick war weddings, I want it to be special…” I said imagining about it all. I looked back at them all and they all looked very unimpressed.
“What? What did I say?” I said trying to sound harmless.
“Stop living in the past Hayley, it’s a bleedy good thing you’ve got me at times.” Hattie said, speaking for the other girls.
“That’s one way of putting it.” Lil added with a stifled laugh. We all laughed as Hattie scowled at us all.
“You’re all so mean to us, I swear I’m gonna get me Luke on you’s all any day soon.” Hattie said putting her hands on her hips.
“And what is he going to do?” Susie threatened with a wink.
“Tell all of your boys how mean you’s all are to me!” she said triumphantly.
“I think Jack would just laugh at that to be honest Hattie.” Georgie said innocently. After me, Georgie was the second youngest, and her rich brunette hair and small freckles made her look even younger than she was. Lil had a blonder colour, but with her deep-set features she looked more mature. Poppy and Susie on the other hand had darker hair, Poppy’s more like a blackish colour compared to the chestnut brown of Susie’s locks. With Hattie’s bright ginger hair and Lorna’s dusty blonde, we were all like a patchwork quilt.
We had all bagged a table in the corner of the pub. We were all doing the usual ‘warm-up’ before moving on to the dance in the village hall. I was really excited about seeing Alex again. We all toasted to Britain before clinking our glasses together and drinking. Even though winter was settling in we had all dared to go out in dresses, I’m just hoping I don’t end up going home half naked this time. Georgie then looked down and checked her watch.
“The boys from the base should be there by now, lets go and investigate!” she said happily as we all cheered again and clambered up out of the pub and headed towards the village hall.
“Christ it’s bloody cold out here…” Lil said rubbing her hands together.
“And whose idea was it to wear dresses?” I asked glancing over at Hattie.
“Ohh yes bring on the scowls.” Hattie replied rolling her eyes. I tried not to laugh but once Lorna started giggling I couldn’t help but join in. We all arrived at the dance still as humans and not as icicles. We all looked around the room before Jack and Mark came over.
“Hello girls!” They both shouted as they greeted us all before they ushered us over to the table they had gotten. Hattie darted towards Luke, and Georgie sat herself on Jack’s knee. Lorna was sat next to Rob chatting easily. Lil was sat talking to Mark and Susie with Poppy greeting another one of Mark’s friends. My heart dropped. I looked around the faces before turning around and looking around the hall. The music suddenly got turned up and I could barely hear myself think.
“Where’s Alex?” I asked tapping Jack on the shoulder. He turned around to look around the table before shrugging and putting his attention over to Georgie again. Then suddenly a pair of hands snaked around my waist and I turned to see Alex smiling.
He gestured a cigarette and then took my hand as we left the hall. He always had a ciggy outside of the hall so he could have a minute without the music blasting in his ears. It was still freezing outside so I wrapped my cardigan closer around my arms.
“I didn’t think you had came for a minute there.” I said smiling and sitting on the bench. He smiled and nodded as he lit the cigarette and let the smoke trail from his mouth.
“So…you’re still smoking?” I asked trying to break the silence.
“It’s a bad habit. I’ll stop soon.” He said with another breath of it. I nodded knowing that it was a lie.
“Look Hayley, I have to tell you something.” He said rubbing the left side of his face with his spare hand. My heart suddenly jolted.
“W-what?” I said nervously, my hands not just shaking because of the cold. He looked up into my eyes after stubbing out the cigarette.
“Please don’t look so worried.” He said with a side smile and kissing my forehead. He glanced around. I felt slightly more assured but I still felt nervous. What was he going to tell me that was worrying me so much?
“I need to tell you this more privately…” he started looking around before taking my hand and dragging me across the road and into a huge bush.
“Alex what in god’s name is this about?” I shrieked as my hair and cardigan got caught on odd branches and thorns.
“I’m, I’m going away.” He said finally after minutes of holding my face in one hand and resting his other on my hip. It was dark and I could barely see his eyes, I could only see his mouth move. Tears stung the back of my eyes.
“But, you can’t, why are you going? And where?” I questioned clinging onto his arms urgently.
“I’m going to be flying over further than the channel, I’m going to be flying across Europe.”
“You can’t! Alex that’s suicide!” I said quickly with tears trickling down my cheeks.
“Hayley shush, it’s got to be kept on the hush, right now, remember what you told me? Keep Mum and save Dad. I’ll be safe, and be back on British shores before you know it I promise.” He said hugging me.
“You can’t go, I’m not losing you, not now, I just, I can’t let you go…” I blubbered onto his shoulder.
“You won’t lose me, I gave you my heart as a promise.” He said. I could feel his eyes looking down on me, even if I couldn’t see them. I stayed silent and held onto the heart pendant tightly, closing my eyes. I could feel his cold lips on my forehead before he took my hand and led me into the dance again. I felt paralysed. I just couldn’t let him go.
“Quick dance? To warm you up a bit.” He said with side smile. I tried to nod and take his hand but my heart felt as if someone was pulling apart the puzzle. He led me onto the edge of the dance floor on the slow song and took me in his arms tightly. I held onto him swearing to myself not to let go and we paced slowly together in a waltz. His chin rested on top of my head as I felt another small tear tiptoe down my cheek.
Parting with Alex that evening was one of the hardest things I had ever had to do. I lay in bed tossing and turning, I could feel myself sweat as images of him crashing over Germany or France flicked across my mind. I felt as if I was watching it happen but was helpless. The plane came torpedoing down to the ground as I went rushing over to it, my shoes flying off and my hair being flown behind me as I ran. I saw the limp body on the ground and leapt down to see if he was alright. Suddenly two large hands grabbed me and covered my mouth. I screamed as that dreaded whisper filled my ear.
“I killed him, and you’re next.” It said slowly with a cackle afterwards.
“Hayley! Oh for God’s sake Hayley get up!” I heard a pleading voice and two firm hands shake my shoulders. My eyes flung open and I shot up gasping for air and sweating like a tap. My head hit something hard and I heard something fall onto the floor with a thud.
“Ouch!” Hattie shrieked. I opened my eyes to find all the girls ganged around me looking panicked, and with Hattie rolling around on the floor with Georgie bent down to see if she was alright. All the faces looked at each other worriedly.
“Hayley…?” Lil asked assertively. My head was buzzing like the aftermath of an earthquake.
“Oh gawd what’s happened to her?” Lorna asked scared.
“She’s only bleedy knocked my brain out’ve its socket!” Hattie said with a growl.
“What happened?” I asked wearily.
“I think you had a nightmare, you were screaming and shouting, then you head butted Harriet…” Lil explained slowly. I peered over the bed to see Hattie holding her head with a cushion.
“What do you mean?” I asked again.
“You were shouting things like, help, and don’t let him get me.” Poppy answered calmly. I suddenly shivered as the reminder of the dream filled my head like a balloon again.
“Oh God get out of my head!” I said closing my eyes and holding my head.
“Who Hayley? Who is in your head?” Lil asked sitting on the side of the bed. The other girls peered around the bed, leaning in to try to hear what was going on. Even Hattie was at the end of the bed with the pillow still stuck around her head.
“My Father, he’s, I, get him out!” I said in frustration as memories of him came flooding back in their dozens.
“Let it out, tell us, you will feel better.” Lil said again as Susie passed a cup of cold water.
“My Father, he wants to kill me, he’s dead but he wants to get me, he got Alex, he’ll get me next, someone has to tell Ma, and poor Tilly…” I ranted on with no control. Flashes of all the fights were flashing into my mind like lightening.
“Crikey it’s like watching an exorcism…” Georgie whispered.
“He’ll kill me this time, I thought he died but I can feel it, just get him out of my head!” I yelled crying. My heart and head pounded before my head hit the pillow with a large thud and everything went black.
I woke up the next morning feeling rougher than ever. My head was pounding and my eyes squinted painfully as they got adjusted to the brightness of day. The rest of the girls were all yawning and mumbling as the alarm went off.
“Urgh, I’m this close to throwin’ that bleedy thing out t’window!” Hattie said with a gruff.
“Well I’m surprised I haven’t already…” Lil said with a snarl before getting up out of bed. I threw off the duvet before yawning.
“Wow I have such a mammoth headache coming on…” I said going through my drawer checking if there was any medication.
“I’m not surprised after the racket you made last night!” Georgie said brushing her hair. My brow creased. What racket were they going on about? As far as I knew I had just had a normal night.
“What racket?” the girls all looked at each other and laughed.
“Ohh please, you aren’t serious are you?” Poppy said stopping what she was doing and coming over to me.
“Would I sound this confused if I wasn’t serious?” I said flapping my arms out, still deeply confused. Hattie suddenly bounded over holding her head.
“You see this bruise? It were your fault!” She said taking my hand and letting me feel the bump. How was any bruise my fault? I don’t sleep walk or talk, were the girls sure that they were talking about me? Maybe they had confused me with Susie or something. Lorna then walked over and sat on the bed next to me.
“Can’t you see you’re worrying her? And Hattie she doesn’t want to feel your head anymore.” She said assertively taking my hands.
“Look, to put it simply you just had a bad dream and was screaming and shouting about it. But it’s alright, so get ready for work.” She finished with a smile before she got up and went to put on her shirt. I stared at space for a while before getting dressed. We all hurriedly got dressed and went down to breakfast. I was lost in my thoughts before I got a hit around the head from Georgie.
“Huh? What?” I asked as I looked around at the staring faces.
“What happened to your Father?” Lil asked tilting her head slightly. My throat locked up and my forehead broke into sweat.
“I just, urm…oh God…” I said falling off the bench and onto the stone black floor.
“That girl is like a bleedy firework...”
I woke up laid on my bed. My head was pounding and so was my body, I felt very delirious as I lay on what I was hoping was my bed at home. My eyes were too tired and hazy to move, but I could hear the faint talking of the girls as I laid still. My ears gradually tuned into the hushed voices.
“Have you got any of her family history by any chance Ms Trudent?”
“I have her home contact, but nothing else than that. Now what did you say caused this again?” A calm voice came.
“Well, last night she was having a nightmare, and shouting things about her Father, and we asked her about him this morning and she was out quicker than a, crikey I dunno, she was just-”
“Out for the count Susie?” A voice finished for her.
“Yeah that. Do you think she’s okay Ms T?”
“Well, as far as I know in medical training, she still has a pulse which means she’s still alive, I might just call for the Doctor…”
“Do you think she can hear us?”
“Why don’t you ask her Hattie?” Someone said sarcastically, and then there was a faint tutting noise, most likely from Georgie.
“What do we tell ‘er Alex?”
“Isn’t ‘e gone abroad or somethin’?”
“Careless talk ladies, careless talk.” How did the girls know about Alex? I swear I didn’t tell them unless Mark or Jack did. I rubbed my eyes with my hands deliriously and yawned.
“She’s comin’ to! Hayley, can you ‘ear us?” Hattie’s accent brought me back to life.
“Ohh off with you’s and give her some space!” Ms Trudent demanded before I opened my eyes and sat up slightly. I could see the entire pale little faces of my friends with Ms Trudent perched next to the bed.
“What day is it?” I asked sitting up slowly, my head was very dizzy.
“It’s Tuesday, 15th October 1940.” Ms Trudent said slowly with a smile.
“Oh right, well we best get back to work…” I said before getting up.
“Are you sure? You look really pale…” Lil asked.
“Yes, I’m fine, someone has to milk Vera.” I said trying to laugh but no one else was laughing. I bit my lip before trying to smile.
“Go out and see how you feel, but if you don’t feel up to it tell the girls straight away and come back here.” Ms Trudent explained after a long pause.
I smiled as Hattie took my hand and we all made our way outside again.
I had been out all day, and was fine. I didn’t know what they were all fussing about, I was perfectly alright. But this was an occasion not to tell Ma about; else she’d be pedalling up here on her bike to see if I was okay. Most of the girls had gone for a shower, and I was using this quiet time to reply to the recent letter that Ma had sent me. I didn’t know whether to tell Ma briefly or in great detail what was happening with Alex. If I wrote it all out in brief then she’d just write back demanding more details, but if I wrote in details, what if someone were to read my mail? I sat and pondered as Lorna came in, fresh and dry and by the looks of it trying to get the Vaseline from her eyebrows.
“How’re you feeling?” she asked. I looked up and smiled.
“I’ve been fine all day, I don’t know why you’re all panicking.” I replied with a laugh. She came over and joined me on my bed. She smiled at me and sighed.
“I never had any brothers or sisters, and you are all the closet thing I have to it. I guess I’m just a softie really.” She said with a soft laugh.
“I never had any other family either. I always wanted a big family though, to be in the midst of a huge hustle and bustle, people flying everywhere.” I replied putting down the letter. She smiled at my response.
“I thought you had a younger sister? Oh wait, she is an evacuee isn’t she?”
“Yes, Tilly, she’s an evacuee, but she’s as close as blood now.” I smiled. Tilly’s fragile smile came into the mind, and her crystal-like laugh echoed around my mind. Lorna paused for a moment before patting my arm.
“I should think that she is, you’re lucky to have her.” She said finally with a caring smile. Lorna was always there for you, she always knew what mood you were in and how to react, she knew how to be there, and how to give you space. She was like a Saint.
“I’m lucky to have you too, all of you.” I replied taking her hand.
“Even Hattie?” Lorna laughed with a wink. I burst out laughing.
“Yes, Even Hattie!” I said with a chuckle before we were both leaning on each other laughing. Hattie then walked into the room and bounded over to us like a puppy.
“What you’s laughing about?” She asked perching on the bed. Lorna and I exchanged looks before bursting out in laughter again. Hattie looked at us scowling.
“Fine! Be like that!” and she bounded off again to her own bed.
“Oh Hattie we’re sorry!” Lorna said quickly going over to her. I picked up the letter and started to write the letter again with a content smile on my face.
The November winds whipped around us as we tried to get all of the sheep into the shed. They were always so stubborn, and in the first weeks, made us all sigh with frustration. Even though we had been at this for months, it still drove us to the brink of insanity. It had been raining all night, meaning that the mud from the fields was wet and thick. Our Wellingtons slopped and slipped through the thickness of it. it was dark and cold, and we were all fed up of the cold nights, and were glad it was our free day tomorrow. We were nearly finished, when a shout came from behind us.
“There’s a straggler down there, someone give us a hand?” Georgie called pointing to the far end of the field.
“Hold on I’ll be with you in a second.” I called making my way over to her. We both went on down the field towards the lost sheep.
“These bleedy sheep…I’m going to turn them into a fine pair of gloves one o’ these days…” Georgie growled grabbing onto my arm as she nearly slipped on some mud.
“They’ll make me a nice hat, and a nice bit of meat for my Alex and all.” I agreed as we both trudged along.
“Heard from him lately?” she asked wafting her arms around at the sheep looking towards us.
“No. He must be busy lately, maybe he will be out tomorrow night?” I asked rhetorically. Georgie simply shrugged before we managed to usher the sheep in the right direction.
“How’s Jack?” I asked.
“Jack’s Jack. Been working a lot recently so haven’t seen him much, but hey, maybe all the boys will be out tomorrow.” She said gripping my arm again.
“And if not then we’ll just make it a girly night.” I replied as we made our way to the others. The sheep ran into the shed as the wind blew harshly against us and we managed to shut the gate and lock it, to make sure they were all warm. We all groaned as we trudged back through the wind and rain. Once we got back we all dried off and got into bed quicker than anything, the duvet felt so warm against my cold skin.
The clock ticked.
The Days went by.
The Weeks went by.
The Months went by.
Even the years went by.
Bombs fell, raids went off
And Planes came and went.
My faith had slowly faded.
“Get this down you and smile…” Hattie said drunkenly passing me a drink. I took it and swallowed before sighing and putting the cup down. Hattie was hovering around me smiling her drunken smile, with her warm cheeks flushing pink. We had all come up to the local club to celebrate the New Year but I just felt lonely. I tried not to be upset around everyone, I wasn’t as bad as I could be, but it was worse at night, when the moon shone through the blackout curtain, with the gentle wind blowing slow words to me. Hattie slipped over onto the chair and took me into her arms.
“Aye me wee little jam jar, come and dance wi’me!” she slurred giggling. I laughed before taking her hand as we started dancing around the hall.
“Now me darlin’,” Her eccentric accent was even stronger when she had been drinking.
“There’ll be bluebells over the cliffs of Dover, so no sad faces!” she smiled grabbing my cheeks. I laughed and hiccupped.
“Blue Birds! Not bluebells!”
“Wot birds?” she asked.
“The blue birds on the cliffs of Dover Hattie!” I then started singing my own rendition of the song and she joined in with our wailing. It wasn’t exactly Vera Lynn but it was something.
“Would you pair quieten down? We’re tryin’ to enjoy the New Year!” Georgie said when she came over in the arms of Jack.
“Ohh there’s no point, we’ve lost them to the drink.” Jack replied with a wink and a kiss to Georgie on the cheek. They went off giggling into the big crowd.
“Keep the home fires burning! While the boys are yearning!” Hattie sang giggling and stumbling around everywhere.
“No! While your heart is yearning not the boys!” I corrected in giggles, but we ended up singing it all night anyway.
“Aye, where’s Lorna gone?” Hattie said after we finished another rendition of Keep the Home Fires Burning. I looked around the room but couldn’t find her so we both shrugged.
“She’ll be alright.” I replied taking another drink.
“So keep the home fires burning, while the boys are yearning, they dream of coming home, because there’s a silver lining, apart from all the whining!” Hattie continued as we sang again with glee.
“You sound more like cats whining.” Luke called as he sat down next to Hattie and put his arm around her.
“I think me ‘n’ Hayley are good singers!” she protested hitting his arm playfully.
“You would think yer so good with all of that booze in you’s.” he replied with a smirk. Luke was a friendly lad, with grey eyes and light hair. He was from around Manchester as well, and sometimes the couple would share their accent, even though Luke’s accent wasn’t as strong as Hattie’s.
“It’s the New Year, we’re gonna be winning it this year I can tell!” she told him back tapping her nose. He laughed before kissing her forehead and winking.
“You’re a wild’un Hattie you really are.” He said before going off to get a drink and join his own friends.
“He’s right you know, you’re so hard to control.” I burst out laughing. She hiccupped before joining in with her own giggle.
“How long till New Year?” she asked.
“I don’t know…it’ll come when it does.” I replied with a shrug. Hattie suddenly then gasped and repeatedly hit my leg.
“Hayley look! Lil’s gerrin off wi’someone!” she hissed pointing over at a girl very much like Lil and what looked like a sailor.
“That’s her man it is, now what’s his name…” I replied looking at him.
“Oh aye it is! Is it Mark? His name.” She replied back to me.
“No it’s not Mark, that’s Mark.” I replied pointing over to him in another part of the hall.
“We’ll figure it out.” She told me after.
“I bet someone’s gonna be gettin’ hitched tonight, everyone always does on New Years.” Hattie said again after a silence.
“Are they?” I asked.
“Yes, last year it was me and Luke, year before it were Lorna and Rob, plus Mark and Susie got married the other summer, who’d you think it’ll be this year?” she explained to me. I looked around the room before nodding.
“If it’s Lil and her lad you can buy me a drink from the pub on the way back.”
“It’s on Miss Brookston!” she said shaking my hand.
“Here we are, all the gang for New Years 1945, bringing in the year all together again.” Lorna said happily as we all sat around the table in the corner. The hall was bustled with people shouting and laughing.
“Are we…” I mumbled to myself. The drink was starting to wear off for me but it wasn’t the same for Hattie who was dancing slightly on Luke’s knee.
“Hey, now don’t be like that, it’s New Year.” Jack whispered from next to me before patting my arm.
“Sorry Jack, I didn’t mean too…I was speaking accidentally again.” I apologised suddenly forgetting I had said it out loud.
“Don’t apologise duck it’s fine.” He smiled before paying his attention over to Georgie and the whole group were chatting again. Mark checked his watch.
“Only five more minutes everyone.” He called as they all cheered. I smiled to myself at the memories of this past year. There had been tears, tantrums and most importantly laughter but it had been amazing. Well, the tantrums were mostly from Hattie, but you can’t fault her. I got up and walked outside quickly, no one would really notice, they’d all be laughing. I walked out into the cold December evening. I sat down on the bench where we used to sit all the time. I looked up into the clear sky, the moon was bright and the stars were clearer than crystals.
“Where are you? Where have you been? Why are you taking so long to come back to me, why wont you come back to me? I miss you; you’re my world, and my missing puzzle piece. The sun isn’t bright unless you’re here, the stars wont twinkle without you. Breathing seems so hard, it never used to be this hard before, when I was next to you breathing was so easy, now it seems so impossible. I remember the days where we’d lay endlessly in the sun, I miss the way you’d look into my eyes, you’d make me feel so special, one in a million, but I don’t feel that anymore.” A tear trickled slowly down my cheek followed by more. I thought about the old bible piece that used to give me so much comfort, yet now that had been thrown away now, it’s meaning lost. I could hear the shouting and cheering from inside, the countdown slowly ending before everyone wishing each other a happy New Year. Inside there would be lovers embracing each other, with that aura of love reflecting around them like the smell of spring flower.
“I miss you…I love you and I miss you, I need you, I cant be without you!” I broke down with the tears crashing down, and the back of my throat burning, my cheeks felt hot and sticky, and my eyes were crying tears that had fallen too many times. My hands shook as I fell off from the bench and onto the hard concrete floor, covered with ice. I was breathing heavily as the wind strained against my cold, watery eyes. The wind was sharp and icy, and the only sound you could hear was the vibrations from the loud music and cheering inside the hall. My heart wrenched and drained itself of emotion with each heavy breath. My skin was numb and my eyes could no longer feel the tears that were falling down from my lost eyes. I was enclosed with darkness, caged in with loneliness, and trapped in desperation. The only sound that fell from my lips was a coarse whisper, ‘Where are you…’
“Ohh gawd Luke where is she? Who let her leave? For goodness sake jus’ find the silly cow!” Hattie bellowed outside an hour later.
“Hattie calm down, we’ll find her, now bleedy breathe…” Lorna said grabbing onto her panicking friends hands. The club was still packed with young people shouting and dancing, even though outside there wasn’t anyone there.
“I don’t know what happened! One minute we were talking and the next minute she weren’t sat there, I just thought…” Jack started before Hattie cut him off.
“Thought what? She’d popped to the bleedy ladies to powder her nose fer a minute? Jack you haven’t half the brain you appear to have!” Hattie screeched angrily.
“Hattie!” Georgie yelled angrily, holding onto Jack’s arm.
“Ohh and am I supposed to be her minder now? She isn’t anyone’s responsibility anyway!” Jack yelled angrily.
“Jack is cleverer than you’ll ever be; it weren’t just him you know, why weren’t you watching where she went? Blaming your mistakes on innocent people again!” Georgie snapped suddenly marching towards Hattie. Hattie scowled angrily.
“Oh you-” she started before being interrupted.
“I don’t care who’s fault it is or why it happened, but it’s freezing cold and for all we know Hayley could be in danger! My best friend wouldn’t want us stood here fighting he’d want us to be finding her now sort yourself out!” Mark bellowed assertively looking at them all deeply.
“I’m sorry Georgie…I just want ‘er to be alright…” Hattie apologised quietly hugging onto Lorna and Georgie. Hattie was normally very strong, but this was breaking her heart.
“One man to his bird, Susie, come with me.” Mark instructed again taking her hand, and in a rush the couples got together and spread out. They went out into the night in twos or fours, looking around buildings, trees, and benches, anything where she could’ve been. The village was full of shouting, not just from the club, but also from them all trying to find their friend. Hattie was holding onto her fiancée with a vice-like grip as they walked down the road.
“I just wish it would’ve never happened Luke, she’s never been the same. She tries to be happy, and on some days she can be quite content, but never herself.” She said tearfully. He put his arm around his girl and stopped walking, and for a minute held her in his arms.
“I just wish I would’ve flown after him, or done something, it could’ve been different…” Luke replied, as they stood in each other’s comfort.
“Don’t blame yerself, you’ve been doing this for five years now, you try yer best, you couldn’t help losing track of where his plane went Luke.” Hattie comforted him, holding his face in her hands.
“We all feel guilty. He was our friend, our brother, I just wish we didn’t lose him.” Luke replied scratching his brow.
“We all feel guilty, how could we not, but we have to look on t’positives, that means helping Hayley more than anything.” Hattie told him assertively, getting back into her normal stride.
I was stood outside of the train station. All I wanted to do was go home to Ma, as if any of this never had happened. As if it had never happened, like I had never met him, never met anyone, even Tilly, I wanted the war to go, all this new change to go, I wanted to be young and free from life’s toughness. The temperature was still declining, and I felt frozen sat on the platform. The moon was bright, but my body felt numb. My eyes would fall dizzy once in a while, and my tired body felt as if it was shutting down in my bed. It was 1945 now, I didn’t know what time or day it was, but it was night and all I wanted to do was see my Mother. The platform was empty and quiet. I was sat on the small bench shaking, with no coat or gloves my cold hands were going white.
“Hayley! Is she here?” I heard a familiar voice say. I stayed quiet and sat still, not knowing what to do.
“There! Hayley!” a shout came from and quick footsteps came from behind me.
“We’ve been looking everywhere for you, we were so worried, what happened?” She asked frantically.
“Hayley you daft cow I’ve bin worried sick fer you’s!” another voice added. There was a rumble and a rattle as a train started slowing down a few miles away.
“I couldn’t take it anymore.” I answered looking up at the four. Mark and Luke were stood there, along with Hattie and Susie.
“We know Hayley, it’s hard.” Hattie said taking my hand and pulling me up into a hug. My tears fell down my cheeks again slowly, but my cheeks were so cold I couldn’t tell how fast they were falling. The train on the platform suddenly came to a halt and steam and fog went everywhere. I stumbled backwards slightly lost in the fog.
“Come on Hayley let’s get you back in bed, you’ll be fine later on when you have a cuppa…” I could hear Mark saying.
“What’s up Luke?” Mark replied. The fog was all around us and it was like the blackout in here.
“What do you mean Luke?” Luke then replied.
“What the bleedy hell are you’s going on about?” Hattie demanded in the fog.
“Someone said my name and I thought it was Luke!” Mark replied in a huff.
“What are you all talking about, don’t you see we have matters to sort out?” Susie demanded also.
“It wasn’t Luke, it was me.”
I turned around slowly as the fog cleared. A tall figure was beginning to form away from the steam and fog. I gasped and stumbled backwards as I looked at the scared features of the figures face. My head was beating in my skull violently, and my heart was beating faster than before. Was this really what I was seeing? Or was I in some sort of illusion, soon enough I’d be in my bed turning over being slightly awoken from my sleep. But I felt the fog against my skin, I could smell it, the taste of the train’s steam was my mouth and was filling my lungs. The fog began to clear; I could see the figures body, his clothes, even the glint in his eyes. I breathed heavily and heavily as I looked at the young man. I turned back around to Mark and the gang, and they were stood in awe as well. This wasn’t me imaging it; this must be real, or some sick kind of dream…
I suddenly gasped and started breathing in shock, my head went dizzy and I reached out for anything to lean on. His voice had sent my head over heels, my mind was over heating, my body was breaking down, I couldn’t feel anything I was so numb, my eyes were blurry, but so detailed and clear at the same time.
“But, you’re dead?! You were killed…your plane was shot down, Luke saw…” I turned around to Luke, but could not take my eyes away from him.
“You saw it Luke, you saw it happen, didn’t you? You did, you did!” I said hurriedly grabbing onto Luke’s arm. Luke couldn’t conjure up any words, none of them could.
“I’m alive Hayley, I’m here. I couldn’t give up on you, I couldn’t give up on us just yet.” His voice said proudly, as he took his cold hand and placed it on my cheek. His touch was mesmerising.
“When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid.” He whispered coarsely into my cold ear.
“But, I, Alex…” I mumbled as I fell over onto him.
“Oh god Hayley! Can you hear me!? Gimme a hand Mark, I’m so tired…” his voice said as he bent down to try and catch me. Mark then picked me up and I was so faint that I was falling asleep; everything was going black. My eyelids were growing heavy and my heart was slowing down. The last I saw was his beautiful face, I grabbed for his hand, to make sure he was real I held onto it with all the strength I could get, and I felt him do the same.
My eyes slowly opened, and I was looking up at the ceiling in the hostel, which I had become so accounted to seeing. Ms Trudent was sat on my bed with her fingers around my wrist, and some of the girls were stood around us. Hattie wasn’t to be seen, and neither was Lorna or Georgie.
“Here she is look.” Lil said gentily. Ms Trudent looked at me gentily before turning to the girls.
“One of you go and get a glass of water from the kitchen for her.” She asked before Poppy turned around and walked off.
“We’re here again…” I mumbled with a small smile.
“Yes we have a habit of doing this don’t we? How are you feeling Hayley?” she asked softly. How did I feel? I was so confused I didn’t really know.
“Well, I must admit I’m not too sure.” I replied rubbing my eyes.
“You’ve had quite a shock of an evening. Do you remember any of it?” she asked again slowly with a smile. I recognised how she was wearing a nightgown. I let my mind trace back to the last few hours. Images flashed through my mind before I remembered his face.
“Alex. He’s alive, he came out of the fog, and he touched my face, and my heart felt more alive than it ever had in the past four years.” I remembered.
“Yes, it is quite the amount to take in isn’t it duck.” She replied passing me the cup of water.
“It was, but it’s starting to set in now…I think…where is he?” I asked after taking a sip of the cold water.
“He’s just outside Hayley.” She replied.
“Do you want me to get him?” Lil asked Ms Trudent. Ms Trudent took a look at me before the door opened and Hattie came running inside.
“Hayley! Thank goodness you’re alright girl, you had me worried sicker than…than anythin’!” Hattie squawked coming over.
“Harriet let’s calm down, it’s very early in the morning and we are all tired.” Ms Trudent reminded her as Hattie bent down to wrap her arms around me.
“Your Alex has been so worried about you’s Hayley, he’s alright, but he didn’t mean to scare you’s, lemme go and tell him that your alright…” Hattie continued turning around and going back out of the room. Lorna then poked her head around the door with Georgie and Jack.
“Mr Smith please stay out of the ladies dorm room, how many times must you be told?” Ms Trudent said hastily without even turning around.
“Aye now missus I’m not doing any harm…Ow!” Jack replied before it sounded like Mark had grabbed him back.
“Sorry about him Ms Trudent.” Came Mark’s voice from around the corner.
“Atleast some young men have the courtesy.” Ms Trudent said quietly which made Susie smile.
“Please can I see him? I need to see him…” I asked sitting up and looking into Ms Trudent’s eyes. She stayed silent for a while before smiling.
“Girls why don’t you leave the room and let them both have some privacy.” She announced before watching Susie, Lil and Poppy leave.
“If you need anything then shout, I will get someone to bring you both some tea.” She said gentily before leaving the room. I listened as Ms Trudent explained the same to Alex.
“Alright let’s go in then.” Hattie called again.
“No not you, only Alex.” Ms Trudent said bluntly.
I sat up as the door opened and he walked in. I never in all my hopes and dreams believed I would be looking at him in the flesh again. The butterflies in my stomach began to flutter like they used to when we were both young. He looked at me as he walked across the room slowly and smiled. He wasn’t wearing his uniform, his hair had grown a lot and he looked older than the young boy I used to know. I watched him come and sit down on the bed next to me. I looked into his green eyes; they were still as bright as they ever were. I didn’t know what to say to him. After crying so many times about wanting to talk to him again, now I had him again, and I was speechless. His hand stroked my cheek bone and when he smiled I crumbled and fell into his arms, grabbing hold of him so strongly, all the days I felt alone and cold, all the memories of those days were carefully flying away one by one, never to be seen again.
“You brush up well don’t you?” he said breaking the silence with a laugh. I laughed before bursting into tears. He brushed them away with his hand before holding me again.
“Hayley I never thought I’d be able to hold you in my arms again, I thought I’d never be able to see those brown eyes and your silky hair, your cheeks and how easily your cheeks go pink when you blush, and your smile, your warmth, it was the only thing keeping me going I couldn’t give up on us, I wasn’t giving up on us, I never will be…” his words poured out of his mouth as quickly as the tears fell from my eyes.
“I never thought I’d see you again, I thought I lost you, it broke my heart, but you’re here, and it feels like a dream, just tell me I’m not dreaming, I don’t want to be dreaming…” I told him, still holding onto him with care.
“I’m back, I’m here, and I’m not going away again I promise. I’ll always be here with you Hayley, always.” He repeated over and over as I held him.
“I love you so much, and I missed you so much, everyday I never stopped loving you Alex, I couldn’t stop loving you!” I laughed as we held each other. The warmth of each other’s bodies was warming my heart.
“What happened to you? If you were alive why didn’t you write to me, or send me a telegram, the only thing we got sent was this…” I said before picking up my pillow and pulling out the bright yellow telegram and passing it to him. I watched him read the yellow telegram.
“The R.A.F thought I was dead?” he asked.
“Yes, Luke saw your plane go down and crash, it was hit by German planes…” I replied slowly, thinking of the dreadful moment when Luke and Mark came up to me that morning in the field. The way they told me about the shooting and crash, their sombre voices and eyes, and how I simply lost feeling of my legs and fell over crying as my heart broke slowly.
“But as it crashed I jumped out of the plane. I got hurt, but never killed.”
“Then why didn’t you try to tell me!? Do you know how I felt when Luke told me what he saw, it damned near killed me Alex!” I replied suddenly, the grip on his hand tensing and strengthening. He looked deeply into my eyes.
“I wish I had the strength to tell you.” He told me solemnly, his voice going dull, as if the emotion was drained from it.
“The last four years of my life have been unimaginable Hayley. I had to do a lot of things I didn’t want to, I had to leave friends behind. I even learnt French. But they are stories that are not worth repeating, your fair ears shouldn’t have to listen to them, and they won’t.” he replied stroking my cheek. I kissed his forehead before holding him again. All the things he must’ve seen, my brave Alex, my brave, brave Alex.
“It’s okay, you’re home, you’re with me again.” I replied holding onto him tightly.
“You’re the only thing that kept me going, you were always on my mind, while England was fighting for glory, I was fighting for love, for you. And I always will fight for you, till the death if I have to.” He said kissing my lips for the first time he had done in nearly four years. It sent lightening through my body and the fireworks flew in all directions. I finally felt love for the first time in what seemed like a lifetime, and more than that, I felt the air go into my lungs, I felt the blood trickle around my body, I felt alive, I felt human. Over all of these years I had felt the pieces of puzzle slowly fall out of place, but in a matter of seconds they had all connected together and were bolder and newer than ever.
“They’ve been in there for ages…” Georgie said as all of the girls sat around in the hostel lounge. Mark, Jack and Luke had left to go back to their base and the rest of the girls, along with Ms Trudent had been sat around drinking tea.
“I’m not surprised, when you haven’t seen your not so dead fiancée in four or five years it’s not going to be a quick how are you today is it?” Poppy replied to her bluntly. Georgie rolled her eyes.
“What happened at the train station then?” Lorna asked after a sip of tea.
“Yeah, one minute we were walking around the village and the next minute we we’re all running to the train station…” Georgie said again.
“Aye, it was mind blowin’” Hattie started.
“Ohh here we go, come on then Miss O’Hara!” Lil exclaimed as a bunch of giggles fell from the girls. Hattie swished her hair back before explaining the story.
“Right, well we all turn up at the train station shoutin’ to see if she was there, and we see her on the platform so we go onto the platform and over to her, and she’s upset and I think she wanted to get on a train back to her home, and we’re talkin’ to her, when this other train rolls along and it’s all foggy and steams everywhere and we was caught in it, when we hear this voice from the other side of the fog and everyone’s stood there like, who’re you? And Alex Cox turns up outta nowhere causing Hayley to go into a right shock, and before we know it she’s out on the ground quicker than a light and the boys were tryin’ to get her back here.” Hattie explained as well as she could without being too descriptive. A silence fell upon the group, and each member looked as thought they were contemplating how they’d be in a similar situation.
“Christ.” Georgie cursed under her breath as silent as possible.
“Well it’s a saviour that he is safe and well atleast.” Lorna said thoughtfully. Some of the girls agreed and all of them nodded.
“What do you think they’re actually doing in there?” Georgie asked again yawning.
“I bet he’s tellin’ her all about some romantic story where he stopped at nothin’ to try and find her…” Hattie said with a romantic sigh.
“Oh give over wi’ you’s.” Lil said rolling her eyes.
“I just hope this war bloody ends soon, think of all them poor boys that have lost their lives for us. They’re so brave. They deserve as much respect as the king gets if you ask me.” Lorna said again before sipping from her mug.
“I quite agree with you Lorna. My eldest son, Edward is in the Merchant Navy. He and his navy companions have done me ever so proud. You never realise how grown up they are until you open your eyes. I still see him and his younger sister as my babies, but that’s a mothers fantasy.” Ms Trudent revealed, with a soft and proud smile securely fit on her face.
“Aye, and don’t forget our boys that were in Dunkirk. They are angels for what they did.” Susie added.
“And us women for stepping up into the roles! Everyone deserves credit for this war; we’ve all done something to be proud of. All of us.” Lil added after Susie.
“All o’ us indeed.” Hattie finished.
He put his hands into his pockets as he walked out of the hostel. Seeing Hayley for the last few hours had made him realise what he fought for. Why his entire struggle was worth it. The smile on her face and the brown shine in her eyes brought him into heaven, where he had fallen out from for a while. He’d done everything for her. Not a war between nations, countries and people. But for his fiancée. His world. There was a chill as the morning slowly began to yawn and tried to stretch across the sky. He knew he could never tell her what he’d been through, or what he’d seen. He could never tell her that he was afraid of closing his eyes, and seeing the place again. The coldness in the atmosphere, the people he met. He was afraid to wake up back there. Deep down inside, he felt defeated that he’d ended up there. That he had been naïve enough to follow the plane, how he’d felt too cocky to realise the potential danger and turn around. No, he had followed the plane across the French border, and then crashed down in the middle of the German countryside. Been caught by what he had thought was German police, and in a flash, boxed up and packed off for a camp. Alex felt a shiver move across his weak spine as the pictures flew past in his mind. He turned up his collar and kept walking. He was tired, but not tired enough to let the memories get to him. Alex just remembered the kind faces, the hands that held him when he was in pain, and the voices that taught him so much. He brought up a crooked picture from his pocket. Maybe one day he could tell Hayley about them. About how after he had managed to escape under the narrow tunnels in the ground; how he still heard the small clicking of the wheels, the barking of the dogs above and their pattering feet as he had held his breath and kept wheeling on his stomach through the darkness, which made him feel like he was going to be enclosed in the darkness, and then ushered to the border of France, before being found by a young French boy. How little had Alex known; the little French boy would be the biggest saviour of his life. He remembered as the little boy looked at him in wonder before taking his hand and taking him down a long road surrounded by trees and mist, before they came up against some German guards. He remembered how hard his heart thrashed against his chest, as the little boy talked to them. He saw the look in the Germans eyes as they moved aside to let them through. How the little boy took him to a family house and showed him inside. How the French family looked up at Alex as he stood in the doorway. He felt dizzy as all the French fluttered around him, before whom he presumed the Father of the family, stood up, smiled and shook his hand.
“I presume you speak English?” Alex whispered, remembering the words Mathieu had asked. From then he felt more at home with the French family. Mathieu and Saline were working with the French resistance, and were going to do everything in their nature to get Alex back in the British border. They gave him new clothes, before explaining to him how things were going to work. Mathieu and Saline’s eldest son, Tristen had been of Alex’s own age, had been killed by the German’s. Mathieu and Saline were giving Alex his old clothes and passports, and were going to teach him French, and pose him as their lost son. Alex remembered as their younger son and daughter, Lucien and Allette had taken to him as their own big brother. The new family had taught him French, and had slowly planned to get him back to Britain. It was a long trek, and days felt endless, but with their help, he finally got himself back to Britain. Without the help of his French family, who would’ve known what perils he, or in fact they would’ve been in. Who would’ve known the consequences of where Alex would be. He shuddered. He walked up to the R.A.F gate, as the sun was starting to poke up in the sky brighter than before. A new day he thought. He smiled, as he smelt the petrol of the planes. The gateman glanced over to him.
“Can I see some identification?”
“Would you believe me if I said that I’m kind of…dead?” He said with a smirk that made his face glow brighter for the first time in years.
We were all perched around the bench we always sat on outside the village hall, with the music filling up any silence. The men had their girls under their arms and we were happier than we had found ourselves in months. We’d watched the days go by quickly, and before we knew it, we had found ourselves in May. These past months had been happy ones, and thankfully we were all still here to enjoy them.
“Here we all are then, May already and we’re ready for anything!” Mark said raising his beer glass.
“All of us this time.” I said holding onto Alex and gazing up at him.
“We can take on anything 1945 brings at us!” Jack hollered happily swaying on Georgie.
“Ohh you bloody great baboon…” We heard her hiss as he nearly fell on her. We all fell about laughing.
“If Hitler wants a fight then I’ll fight! I’ll roll up my sleeves! I’m a land woman you know! I’ll thrash that little moustache right off his face!” Hattie said giddily rolling up her sleeves and bobbing about on the spot. We all burst out into laughter again.
“Aye that’ll scare the little bugger right out of Europe! Seeing you running up to him rolling your sleeves up!” Luke laughed. Georgie got up and rolled up her sleeves before doing an impression of Hattie.
“Aye now Hitler you’s little termite I’m going to’s rip that tash right off y’face!” she said exaggerating the Manchurian accent that we associated most with Hattie. We all laughed even more.
“Georgie I ought to thrash you’s one an’ all!” Hattie yelled over to her trying not to laugh.
“Please don’t Miss O’Hara you’ll break a nail!” Lil cried, which sent us into more giddy laughter. We laughed for what seemed like eternity, my ribs felt inflated, and half the girls had tears in their eyes. The laughing slowly came to a close and we all sat around smiling.
“We’ve all come such a long way, look at us all.” Mark said sentimentally, kissing Susie before looking around at us all.
“I think we should tell them…” Susie said with a giggle.
“Tell us wot?” Hattie burst out leaning over to get what seemed was the newest gossip.
“I think we should.” Mark said with a wink.
“Hattie get your arse off the table or I’m gonna smack it!” Luke said rubbing his hands together. She yelped quickly and sat down back next to him in her place.
“Now what’s this news?”
“Well, we think all of you should know first…” Mark said for the both of them.
“You’re getting married!” Jack roared happily.
“They’re already married you idiot.” Georgie said trying not to laugh.
“No, I’m due in seven months, me and Mark’s having a baby.” Susie said excitedly. We all clapped and whooped our happy congratulations.
“That means you’ll have to leave Land Army though…” Poppy said holding hands with her man, Scotty.
“Well, yes, but I’ll never leave you in spirit will I?” Susie replied smiling.
“Ohh…I want a baby…” Hattie said before taking a drink out of Luke’s pint glass. Luke’s face suddenly whitened.
“Luke, it looks like you just got a slap from a ghost mate!” Alex laughed.
“No ideas Hattie! No ideas!” Luke suddenly demanded sending us into more laughter.
I held onto Alex’s arm as we walked together in the dark.
“Just one more short week my love, then we can be married on Friday, and on Skegness beach the following day, rain or sun.” Alex said looking down at me.
“I can’t wait Alex, I always dreamed of the day I’d walk down the isle to you, I just never knew it could come around so fast…” I replied happily. Or come around at all, a niggling voice said from the back of my head. I winced quickly.
“What’s wrong?” he asked looking down at me and stopping.
“I trod on a stone…” I replied smiling. I took his arm again and we continued walking down the small lane.
“You would Miss Hayley.” He replied with a laugh, the green twinkle in his eye shining bright as the stars that shone above us.
“Who have you chosen to be the best man Alex?” I asked curiously.
“I was going to ask either Mark or Jack, why?” he replied turning his head to me in the darkness.
“I need someone to walk me up the isle, and I was thinking about asking one of the boys. I was thinking of Jack strangely enough, he’s been a big help to me these past few years…as strange as it seems.” I said as we both laughed.
“Well, we’ll get Jack to take you down the isle then, and I’ll see if I can get Mark to be my best man.” He replied before a content silence.
“I’m going to sneeze…” I said inhaling some dust from the trees.
“Would you like me to call for a nurse?” Alex asked cheekily with a wink. I sneezed before laughing.
“Be quiet, have you got a handkerchief?” I asked. He laughed before going in his pocket and pulling out a handkerchief, before what seemed like a folded note fell out his pocket. He quickly leapt down to the floor to pick it up before putting it back in his pocket.
“What’s that?” I asked blowing my nose.
“It’s nothing Hayley.” He laughed nervously.
“Alex I’d know if it was nothing, I wouldn’t have been able to see it. Is that a note?” I asked reaching for his pocket.
“No, it’s just nothing.” He said grabbing my hand away from his pocket. I could hear the edge in his voice.
“Alex stop telling me it’s nothing!” I said sternly to him. My face suddenly dropped.
“What’s the matter?” he asked.
“Oh Alex…please say it’s not…” I said turning away from him.
“It’s not what? Hayley what’s the matter?” he said walking after me.
“It’s from another girl isn’t it…no wonder you disappeared for years, you were off with some other woman!” I cried, with tears at the back of my throat.
“No! Hayley it’s not that!” I was quite pleased to hear that from him, and tried to regain myself.
“Then what is it Alex?”
There was a silence. Alex’s face looked strained. He put his hand into his pocket, and brought out the paper, before sighing and handing it to me. I gulped before taking it slowly, and opening the small note, which seemed to be a photograph. There was a family, with three children. I looked into the photo.
“Alex…is this you?” I asked shaking.
“That man, that’s Mathieu, and his wife Saline. The children, their children, are Lucien and Alette. And the young man is Tristen, their eldest son. They’re the French family that brought me back to you. I shouldn’t be saying this in public…” He said quietly before shaking his head.
“How?” I croaked slowly.
“Tristen was killed by Germans, they’ve been part of the French revolution since. They passed me off as their son. So brave, extraordinary. One day I’m going to go back to them and thank them properly. But till then I can only pray they are safe, they and you are the only things I’ve got left since I heard about my Mother.” He replied slowly and quietly. I could only then presume that Alex had somehow heard the news of his Mother’s death. He shook his head, repeating how he shouldn’t be talking of such things in public. I folded the photo back in half, and put it into his pocket before taking his hand.
“You’ll have to bring me, I want to meet the guardian angels who brought you back to me.” I replied holding him. His strong arms wrapped around me, and I felt as if I was hugging the young lanky boy from London, over the fence in the back garden again.
“Let’s get you back home, you’ve got to work in the morning Hayley.” He said with a smile, wrapping his arm around my shoulders and walking down the road again. I laughed slightly before looking up at him.
“Ohh private Cox, you’re so brave. You deserve a thousand medals.” I told him. I heard his breaths before he cleared his throat.
“I’m doing this for us. You’re all I need, not some metal.” He replied kissing my forehead before we walked off into the darkness of the May night.
The door swung open and Lorna came running in.
“Hayley, your family has arrived!” she said excitedly. Hattie got up excitedly.
“I want to meet your Mother!” she said before going out of the door. I rolled my eyes and followed her down. At the bottom of the stairs stood both Ma and Tilly, with their small suitcases. There was a guesthouse in our local village, and Ma and Tilly were staying there since Alex and I had decided to get married in our local church, so that everyone was around and was easily accessible for everyone. We had invited all of our friends, plus Ma and Tilly. I ran up to them and hugged Ma happily.
“Ohh Hayley you’ve grown so much! And now my baby girl is getting married…” Ma said happily holding my face in her hands.
“Ohh Ma…these are all of my friends, well this is just Hattie, and Lorna, and the others will be around, girls this is my Mother, and this is Tilly.” I introduced picking up Tilly, whom had grown and inch everyday from what it appeared.
“It’s lovely to meet you both.” Ma said smiling.
“How was your journey Mrs B?” Lorna asked politely.
“Oh it was lovely, first time we’d both been on a train in such a long time.” Ma replied, hopefully impressed by their manners. Now if I could get them away before Hattie scared them off, I laughed in my head.
“Come on, I’ll introduce you to Ms Trudent.” I proposed putting Tilly down and guiding them both down the corridor. I knocked on the door and waited for a response. The door opened and Ms Trudent stood there.
“Ms Trudent, I just wanted to introduce you to my Mother and sister.” I said smiling, and hoping she was in a good mood. Ms Trudent’s face enlightened before she shook Ma’s hand.
“It’s very nice to meet you Mrs Brookston, and you too.” She said looking at them both.
“I’m sorry I can’t talk more, but I’m a little busy, but I’m sure the cook can make you a cup of tea for your journey.” Ms Trudent continued.
“Oh that sounds lovely, thank you.” Ma replied again and the door shut, as I led them to the kitchen. We walked in the door and found Susie, Lil and Poppy eating some sandwiches on the table.
“Hey guys, this is my Mother and sister Tilly,” I said as they turned around. “Ma, this is Poppy, Susie and Lil.” I introduced again. They all greeted each other as we sat down.
“Let me make you a cup of tea.” Poppy said getting up. Soon enough we were all sat around chatting, as Hattie and Lorna joined us again.
“We’d wondered where you’d got up too.” She said before sitting down.
“So is this all of you? Or is there more people working around somewhere?” Ma asked looking around the table.
“Well, Georgie should be somewhere around here.” Lil replied looking around.
“She might be down meeting the boys, it’s really lucky that they could all get leave at the same time.” Lorna suggested.
“I was really surprised when Mark told me that they’d all got the leave, it’s going to be a great weekend.” Susie said happily.
“I bet you’re getting excited now aren’t you’s Hayley?” Hattie said excitedly, while scooping Tilly up on her lap. I blushed as everyone started looking at me. Why did I feel so bashful now my Mother was around? I nodded and smiled, knowing my cheeks were red.
“What are you wearing for tomorrow?” Poppy said excitedly, and the girls all started nodding. That’s when I realised that I didn’t have anything. At all.
“Oh no, I know that face.” Hattie said looking at me.
“Haven’t you got a dress Hayley?” Susie replied surprised. I shook my head and looked at Ma.
“Ladies, don’t panic, I have my sewing set.” Ma announced happily. She looked much more comfortable since the last time we met and she was less edgy, but I could still see that hint of something in her eyes.
“Take my old dress, and fix it up.” Susie suggested.
“And mine too, it’s still got the parachute silk on it.” Hattie added.
“Right, let’s go to the cottage and see what we can do.” Ma said happily.
We had all been in the cottage for about an hour now. After leaving the hostel, we had run into Georgie and the boys, and the boys had all taken themselves into the garden to play a game of cricket, while we all worked in here. We had managed to combine both dresses into one, and Ma was stitching along the hem as Georgie, who was secretly quite good at stitching, was stitching along the waist.
“Hold still Hayley, else I’m going to put this needle in your hip.” She said again.
“I’m trying Georgie…” I replied once more.
“Once we do these then we are done. We might just steal some flowers from the garden.” Lil said looking outside through the curtain.
“Yes good idea, how are the bridesmaids dresses coming along?” Ma asked. Tilly giggled.
“Mine’s nearly done, and I look like a princess.” She replied.
“You do, but princesses have to stay still when they’re dress is being altered.” Susie said with a laugh.
“I’m bored just standin’ here, being stabbed at by Poppy.” Hattie sighed.
“Stop moaning we only have to sew on this sash and we’re done.” Poppy muffled, with pins in her teeth. Hattie sighed exaggeratingly.
“Calm down Miss O’Hara, I’ll see if there’s anything decent in the kitchen.” Lil laughed before disappearing off.
“So Georgie, where did these sewing skills all come from?” Lorna asked passing another pin to her.
“Don’t act so surprised then!” Georgie laughed. “Me and my older sister were seamstresses before I joined up for the Land Army, My auntie has a small shop and me, my sister and my auntie and niece did all the working. Then we changed and had to do uniforms etc, and that’s when I joined up.” She told us, still heavily concentrating on my waist.
“I never pictured you as a seamstress Georgie, I wouldn’t of thought you had the concentration span.” Lil laughed.
“Hayley stop giggling, this is your last warning! And I can’t stand doing the same designs, over and over again. I liked making new things, because that’s interesting.” She replied.
“There you are Tilly, now that’s what I call a make-do and mend.” Susie said taking out any stray pins. Tilly beamed a smile, and she looked happier than ever. Susie picked her up off the stool so Tilly could twirl around in her new dress.
“Ohh it’s perfect!” I cooed happily.
“We best take it off so it doesn’t get damaged for tomorrow, I’ll help you get changed, come on Tilly.” Susie said ushering her off out of the room.
“Tilly is in love with all of this girly time.” Ma said smiling, as she watched her go out of the room.
“I think Susie is just in love with Tilly full stop anyway.” Poppy laughed.
“Who couldn’t be, she’s adorable!” Lorna cooed.
“And I get to hold her hand up the isle tomorrow.” Hattie said excitedly.
“If Susie doesn’t beat you to it.” Lil laughed. Georgie suddenly sighed and started taking out pins. Ma sat stood up and looked at me.
“That’s the dress done, that was worth the pricked fingers.” Georgie said standing up and stretching.
“It’s beautiful…” I said looking down at it.
“Thank you all so much for it, I cant thank you all enough…” I breathed, tears filling the back of my eyes as I looked at the beautiful dress. I was overwhelmed with happiness. Ma came and took me in her arms.
“You look beautiful.” She whispered squeezing me. “Just beautiful.”
“Oho, boys! Would you all like a drink?” Ma called to the garden while the girls were all still inside sorting odd bits out on the dress. She had a tray in her hands with several glasses of water on. The boys all smiled and came over to take one of the glasses before they all chatted. Vera looked at Alex heartily, she was thrilled to have heard the news of him coming back, and couldn’t believe her ears when she found out how he was alive. She remembered how much her heart broke when she heard the news of his death, and how Tilly had taken it so hard. She wouldn’t eat, or drink, she would be quiet, and wouldn’t even read anymore. That was what broke her heart most. When she saw poor Tilly walk down the stairs, with her arms full of books, and how she dropped them all at the front door next to the dustbin.
“Tilly, what are you doing?” Ma had asked walking over to her.
“I don’t like books anymore. They don’t make me happy like they used too.” Tilly had said, looking at her feet before going back upstairs. Ma’s eyes filled with tears as she grabbed the books and put them in the bookshelf. Those words still haunted her, but now after the great news of Alex’s arrival, she watched as Tilly grew more confident, and gradually turned back into her normal self. And know Ma had been with him and it was like he had never gone away. But Vera was glad that Alex was safe, she would rather him here than anywhere else.
I had gotten changed and so had Hattie, and Susie had amazingly managed to get Tilly out of her dress and we had all gone outside to enjoy the sunshine. Ma was sat on a chair and table on the patio, and we had started a boy against girl cricket match. The boys were up to bowl, and it was time for Hattie to take another hit.
“Let’s keep the ball in the garden this time eh love?” Luke winked to her.
“It was the wind wot took it over there! Just throw the ball!” she called back getting ready to bat.
“Go on Hattie!” I called laughing and clapping. Luke threw the ball to her and Hattie, using the bat more like a fly swotter than a cricket bat, once again sent it flying over the fence. Luke threw his hands up in defeat.
“Really Hattie? Really?” Jack said rolling his eyes. For once Hattie was quiet, before bursting out,
“I hit the ball!” Happily. I couldn’t resist laughing. Jack went over to put his head over the fence to collect the ball, but it came flying back over the fence, just narrowly missing him.
“That nearly hit my head!” he cried holding onto the top of his head with his hands.
“Maybe it would’ve knocked some sense into you Jack!” Alex yelled picking up the ball.
“I’ll give you sense Coxy.” Jack winked.
“Right, I propose we go down to the playing fields, it’ll give us a bit more space than a little back garden won’t it?” Mark proposed grabbing the bat from Hattie. We all agreed before heading down to the playing fields, with even Ma coming with us. Our arms holding bats and balls, and we all got there and set up the pitch. At first we had to figure out how far the stumps should be, and Scotty had to take the stumps off Hattie to prevent any confusion.
“Shall we start a new game?” Alex asked before we started.
“Yeah alright, anyone got a penny to flip?” Mark asked. We all then started digging in our pockets for a penny.
“I have one!” Tilly said pulling one out of her pocket and passing it to Mark.
“Thank you my darling; heads or tails?” He asked throwing it in the air. We all suddenly shouted the first thing that popped into our heads.
“Really? You are no help at all. One person from the team chooses! Mrs B, heads or tails!” he said again throwing it up.
“Tails!” Ma said quickly inbetween laughter.
“’Old on now Mark, how do we know if we’re battin’ or throwin’ by sayin’ tails?” Hattie burst out as we watched the coin drop onto the ground. Mark rolled his eyes in defeat before picking up the cricket bat.
“Right, girls are bowling and fielding!” he cried in mock agony.
Everyone ran to get into his or her positions; Lil had gone up to throw the ball.
“Give ‘em hell Lil!” Georgie yelled laughing. Lil blew on the ball before throwing it over to Mark. He tapped it before going to run.
“‘Old on I still don’t understand where to run too!” Hattie called out. Mark ran over to her and flung her over his shoulder before running around where he had to be, as the rest of the girls ran after the ball.
“I’ve got it!” Georgie said happily jumping around.
“Throw it back to me you bleedy woman!” Lil yelled flinging her arms akimbo. Georgie threw it back bashfully before bursting into giggles, Mark was already two laps around the pitch, with Hattie still huffing and puffing on his back.
“Let me down Mark let me down!” she squealed. When she finally got put down, and we all finally got the ball back to Lil, the boys were in laughing fits.
Alex was next to step up to the bat, and with a smirk, and a wink of his green eyes, he hit the ball and like Mark’s sent it flying.
“Hayley grab it!” Poppy yelled as I started leaning over to get the ball.
“Nearly got it hold on!” I laughed just as I felt someone run and do leapfrog over my back. I fell over laughing as I watched Alex go sprinting ahead kicking the ball after him.
“Football every morning down the park has done me the world of good!” he laughed before kicking it completely out of the field and running back.
“That’s cheating Alex!” I yelled as Georgie then had to go running after the ball. The boys started cheering as Alex started for his second lap. In a fluster we eventually managed to get the cricket ball back to Lil, after Alex’s third lap.
“Girls! Huddle!” Ma called as we all gathered around. Our fielding had gone very bad, and with cheating now established that it was only allowed when boys were involved, it meant that we needed to get points up quickly.
“Okay, Scotty is bowling, and he is a good thrower, so we need to get our bad batters up first, so we can sort of ambush them!” Poppy said looking around at us.
“Good idea! Now who’s the worst batter here?” I replied. After a few moments, we were all stood in a line behind Hattie, as she was tutting and rolling her eyes.
“I can’t believe you’ve all put me in t’front! After everything!” She moaned picking up the bat.
“Stop moaning and hit the ball, knock it out the pitch Hattie!” Lil said, as we all started moving back to keep out of the way in case she hit us.
“C’mon then Hattie, lets see the ball roll!” Scotty laughed with a wink before throwing the ball. Hattie squealed and ducked.
“I’m not ready!” she squawked. We all then ducked down to the ground, and Georgie grabbed the ball and jumped around happily.
“The ball likes me today!” Georgie sang happily.
“If you want us to win, just say!” Jack jeered with a wink, taking the ball from her and passing it to Scotty.
“Yeah yeah just throw the ball!” Georgie said back as Tilly came up to bat.
“Gimme your best shot!” she giggled. Scotty went to throw the ball gently, before throwing it the highest he could in the air.
“Ohh tough luck!” Scotty said shrugging and laughing.
“Right!” Ma said grinning. She came up to the bat and took it from Tilly.
“C’mon Mrs B!” we shouted excitedly. She took one swing as the ball came near her before it flew straight out of the pitch. The girls whooped and cheered as Ma started to run around the pitch.
“Get the ball Rob! Get the ball!” Scotty shouted eagerly. But before they could get the ball Ma came running back and we all celebrated. The boys looked shocked that we had actually been able to get a point.
“That’s only one point you know!” Alex laughed.
“One point is enough for us!” We all laughed back. The match continued until dusk, and eventually the girls won, unbeknown to the boys.
The summer air was warm, and even though it was dark, and the first few stars had started to step out into the sky, we were all still sat and laid around in the garden, with blankets and cushions around us so we were comfy. Enjoying each other’s company, we all talked and laughed. For such precious hours to just forget about the war, and enjoy each other’s presence was better than anything. I gathered up some of the empty glasses before going into the house to refill them. As I filled them up with the plain, normal tap water we were drinking, I heard a pair of feet behind me.
“You missed out mine Hayley.” Jack smiled with a laugh. I turned around as he passed me it, and I could see how the fun and laughter of tonight had put some colour into his, and the rest of our cheeks.
“Please forgive me!” I joked back.
“Aye, you’re a good lass Hayley.” He said before going to leave. I suddenly turned around.
“Yes?” he replied stopping, and looking around.
“Well, I need to ask you something…” I said drying my hands.
“Ohh dear, should I be frightened?” he laughed raising his eyebrow. I laughed.
“No, no. It’s just, you’ve been a godsend to me through the last few years, and because of”-I swallowed hard in my throat-“Circumstances, I don’t really have anyone to walk me up the isle…” I continued.
“I’m sure Mark’ll walk you up there.” Jack laughed looking through a cupboard.
“Well, Mark is the best man, and I wanted to ask you, if you’d do it for me. You’ve been like a brother to me Jack, and it’s the only way I can thank you…” I finished with a smile. Jack at first was quiet as he turned around, but then smirked.
“You just want a hold of the guns.” He winked flexing his arms. I couldn’t help but laugh.
“Jack you cocky man get back outside, and you can meet me here tomorrow.” I replied giving some cups to him as we both made our way back outside.
“I’ll make you proud tomorrow Hayley, you deserve a day of happiness.” He smiled before we both went outside. We both passed around the drinks before sitting back down. Alex put his arm around me and smiled.
“So,” Mark started as we all glanced over to where he and Susie were sat, “What are you all going to do after the war?” he asked.
“I think it’s safe to say that you’re all leaving the air force.” Susie chuckled. The girls all nodded and agreed.
“I’m packing ‘im off with a briefcase and sandwich, wearing a tie!” Hattie said happily.
“Bleedy ties I’m fed up of them enough already!” Luke exclaimed rolling his eyes.
“Not me, I think I’m staying in the R.A.F.” Alex said proudly. I glanced up at him and raised my eyebrow.
“Or getting an office job…whatever happens, happens…” he said looking down at me and then looking away.
“That’s what I thought.” I replied as the others laughed.
I woke up to the sounds of the birds cheering through the blackout curtains. I heard the back door open and close, which was what actually awoke me. I had stayed with Ma and Tilly at the cottage, while they boys had gone back to the base and the girls had gone back to the hostel. It was finally the 25th and my wedding day. I breathed in and out deeply. After everything, I was finally going to marry Alex. Mrs Hayley Cox. Excited Goosebumps crept about my arm as I announced it in my head. I sat up in bed and rubbed my eyes before glancing at the clock. It had only just gone seven o’clock. I looked over at my dress and smiled. It was the token of the love for my friends, how they had pretty much pulled it out of nowhere was just so selfless. I got up and washed my face before getting changed into it. I glanced at myself in the mirror. I didn’t believe I could look so nice in it. It was to the knees, but with a folded hem around my shoulders and long sleeves, and with precious lace to go on it as well, I felt like a very lucky angel. There was a gentle tap at the door.
“Yes?” I called. Ma opened the door to and poked her head around.
“Room for one more?” She said as if trying to smile, before walking in, closing the door behind her.
“Of course there is.” I replied happily going over to hug her.
“You look beautiful, oh…” she gasped as she smiled and dabbed her eyes with a handkerchief.
“Ma don’t you’ll set me off and I can’t get all emotional…” I giggled wafting air in my face with my hand like a fan. As I looked at her I peered into her eyes, how empty and alert they looked, deep, deep inside of her. What was she hiding?
“Ma? Are you quite sure that you’re alright?” I asked after a silence.
“Why of course Hayley.” She said, sounding slightly panicked.
“I don’t think that’s the case…” I replied concerned taking her hands.
“Hayley.” She snapped. Her tone was cross of a stern tone, but a pleading one as well, as if she did not want me to go on.
“But Ma-” I started before Tilly ran in the room swirling around in her dress.
“Oh do I get to take this dress home with me Ma?” she smiled looking up at us both. She looked an angel, even though her hair had not been brushed yet.
“Why of course Tilly dear, now we shall go and brush your hair.” She said turning and leaving the room, with Tilly running after her like a playful puppy. I sighed before turning around and putting on some make up.
“Now Hayley get down them here stairs so we can see’s you’s.” Hattie called up as I sat on my bed taking in the moment.
“Yes I’ll be there in a moment Hattie.” I laughed as I finally got up and stepped into my shoes before going out of the room. I went down the stairs to meet them all. Hattie was looking as beautiful as ever in her dress and her red hair, flowing around her shoulders. She was mucking about with Jack’s tie, as he stood next to her not looking that bothered about his own neatness. He was holding a bouquet in his hand, full of big daisies.
“Yes that’s enough Hattie I’ve got to be professional now.” He said looking up, and then taking my hand and putting it through his arm.
“I’m just making sure you look the best you can for my best friend’s wedding Mr Smith.” Hattie replied tutting and still trying to sort him out like a child.
“He looks fine enough, stop panicking, that’s my job surely?” I replied.
“Her name’s Hattie, not Shirley.” Jack winked, giving my arm a squeeze. I shushed him before taking the bouquet and smiling.
“Hayley, have you got yer something old, new, borrowed and blue?” Hattie asked inquisitively. I took a thought before answering her.
“Old church, new marriage, borrowed dress…and something blue.” I said with a giggle tapping my thigh.
“Aye good that’s what I like to hear!” Hattie said happily.
“Me and all.” Jack winked. He got a playful tap on the arm from Hattie before she rolled her eyes.
“Right, We need to get to church now.” Hattie said taking Tilly’s hand and going out of the front door, followed by Ma.
“Before we go, I just want to thank you for doing this again. It’s very brotherly.” I told him smiling.
“Aye, well I always wanted a little sister anyway. Got two older brothers, but no sisters.” He replied.
“I thought brothers tease sisters?” I laughed.
“Well yes, but with having a sister you have this sort of protectiveness, because you aren’t the baby of the family. And plus, I could easily have a scrap with any lad that harmed her.” He finished before winking.
“Ohh Jack you wouldn’t hurt a fly!” I giggled. He laid his finger on top of his lips.
“Don’t say that in public, my reputation…” he winked.
“Ohh forgive me!” I replied still giggling away like a schoolgirl.
“Well, Hayley, I guess from now on I’ll look at you as a sister. I’ve got your back Brookston.” He smirked.
“And I’ve got yours Smith. Here’s to siblings!” I replied happily. He stuck out his hand to shake mine. I smirked.
“Now that’s not much of a pact is it?” I said before spitting on my hand and then putting it out. He beamed a smile and laughed before doing the same, and we shook hands.
“Now I think it’s best I wash my hands before we go…” I laughed going to the kitchen.
“Wise idea sis.” He called from the room behind me.
What a beautiful service, I thought happily, holding onto Alex and glancing up at him. He smiled back at me, holding onto me strongly. I felt the golden band across my left hand and it felt snug, and incredibly right. Our vows and first kiss were still fluttering in my mind like spring butterflies. It was sunny as we walked out of the big church doors, followed by masses of people. Since the start of the war, graveyards had increased in size and population by the day, but now it was time to look to the future. The photographer then came bursting out from behind us and started to try and slip around the graves to get a good shot of us. Everyone piled out of the church to pass on congratulations, giving us many handshakes and kisses to the cheek.
“Alright everyone, positions…big smiles…that’s it, now say cheese!” The photographer announced. Everyone quickly got into a position before the flash from the camera came across. We stood there for a few moments before he gave the all clear and we could all chat again for a while. Ma came over to me looking flushed.
“Hayley, can I borrow you a moment?” she said taking my hand and trying to smile before taking me away. Before I could answer she was walking around to the back of the church, and Alex was looking after me, just like that time when we had ran into William Dunsworth when we were young.
“Ma what’s this about? You’re not alright I can tell…” I started, remembering how edgy she had been all morning, and even in the service. She kept glancing around.
“I didn’t want this to come out on your wedding day Hayley, but it has too, you have to know…” she said taking both of my hands and shaking.
“Ma what is it? What’s wrong…you’re worrying me…” I said quickly, with my heartbeat rushing quickly as I waited for her answer. What was it that she was going to tell me? Was there some sort of trouble that had gone off? But I would’ve known first, I would’ve been able to see it happening. I looked over the woman’s face, and the lines had grown more apparent, and you could see the fear in her eyes. Taking her hands strongly, I swallowed and waited for an answer. She turned her head to the left before closing her eyes and looking up away from me, and towards the other end of the yard. It was quiet, as a small breeze came across us, and a grey cloud came along and blocked out the sun.
“Almighty Lord please help us…” she whispered opening her eyes slowly. I wanted to look up and see nothing, to tell her she was imaging things and could do with a lie down, but I knew it was something that was going to knock me back. As I looked up, the wind blowing against my Mother and I, as she trembled against me, I focused on the other end of the church, and the ghostly figure stood there, watching, waiting. I felt every inch of colour drain from my body; I could feel it all trickle slowly down to my feet.
“Please no…” I croaked coarsely, the power from my voice box gone, leaving me almost breathless.
“I didn’t know he was alive, until I got a letter from the hospital, saying that he had been dismissed to another hospital elsewhere, even though I thought he was long gone…then he came to the house this morning, he had managed to get into the garden but he ran off once I saw him…he followed me here, followed me from our house to here…” Ma babbled, the grief and fear sharp in her normally so soft voice. The figure walked slowly with a limp over to where Ma and I were stood, and we were just waiting for some type of illusion, or magician to pop out of nowhere, but it wasn’t happening. The wind was whirling around the church steeple, whistling eerily as it went. The grey clouds were rolling around in the sky, like fighting dogs. The features of his old face were becoming clearer, and our grip on each other tensed as we heard him cough, that growl from the back of his throat still preyed in my mind when my eyes were closed. I felt my bottom lip quiver as he stopped, standing a metre away from us. Ma tried to back away and I wrapped my arm around her. I could still see the scars on his eyebrow, from where I had cut him. I felt my body sting as I remembered all the injuries he had ever given me. I shook my head in disbelief. He didn’t say a word, but it looked as if he was studying us. The strong wife he saw, now crumbling before him in fear, and the grown up, now married daughter, he had once beat senselessly for no cause, now looked as if they were another life away for him. I breathed in and out, before stepping up.
“Well?!” I croaked, my voice as if breaking. Ma grabbed me in terror. He looked shocked, and very subdued.
“What,” – I croaked – “How are you here?” I asked, in a scowl. He didn’t say anything but before he could speak I cut him off again.
“I don’t want to hear it actually, I don’t want to hear it, see it, or even be near you for that matter, I see you when I sleep, everytime I close my eyes I’m back in that room, and I’m going to be trapped there unless I can get rid of you finally. You can’t walk all over me, and you will never have power over me. You are not my father, you’re not my Mother’s husband, and you are not the father-in-law to Alex. A man once told me these words, and I think that it’ll help me get the point across.” – I scowled staring at him with uncaring eyes – “You’re a liar. You’re a useless. You are nothing to this family.” – it rolled off from my tongue too easily, before whispering – “Nothing.” And with that my mouth closed, my eyes scanning every part of his face, my Mother holding onto me passionately. I watched him, as he looked defenceless, like a small boy caught being bad.
“Alex? The young evacuee?” he asked, in nearly a whisper.
“Yes. He is a pilot, and has risked his life for people like you, every day of his life.” I spat out, with an upturned face. There was another silence.
“I wish you happiness…” he whispered hoarsely, even though he knew it would never help his cause. I laughed.
“Nothing to this family. Nothing.” I replied again, and then watched him walk back the way he came, the wind following his frail footsteps. He limped through the churchyard, before going through the gate without looking back once. I breathed.
“That’s it now Ma, he really is gone this time. He really has.” I said taking hold of her hand. My body was trembling inside, but seeing my Mother just now, as she breathed and dabbed her eyes.
“Now strong faces, we have cardboard cake to eat.” I said smiling for her. I took her hand and squeezed it, as she stood and smiled at me, before taking me in her arms.
“My brave, brave girl, my brave girl.” She whispered over and over.
“When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid.” I replied holding her.
We were all sat around the village hall that had been booked out, and we had all enjoyed our lovely ration meals, and now there were drinks and there was a record player in one corner, and everyone was talking and enjoying each other’s company.
“My darling, what is the first dance going to be for us?” I asked looking up at Alex as we sat in our chairs on the head table.
“Oh dear, me dancing.” He replied with a laugh.
“You’re a good dancer! Now I think we should have Vera Lynn.” I replied waving over for Scotty, who was in charge of music, to come over.
“Mrs Cox, you’re a sucker for Miss Lynn.” Alex said with a smirk, his green eyes twinkling wildly. I smiled and took his hand lovingly as he called me Mrs Cox. Scotty bounded over and leaned on the table.
“And what are your demands?” he chuckled.
“My husband and myself would like to listen to Vera Lynn for our first dance, can you make it happen Scotty?” I asked with a laugh.
“Why of course, who can resist the Forces Sweetheart?” He said smiling before walking back over to Poppy and switching around all of the music. The hall filled with the sweet voice of Vera Lynn and Alex stood up with a smile, putting his hand out. I took it as we led off to the dance floor. He put his arms around me, as he had done so many times before, and we gazed at each other in our own perfect little world. How many wars there are or could be, they could never break up the undying love of two sweethearts.
“And the first page of an unforgettable novel starts here.” Alex said smiling down at me.
“A long one, that gets exciting with every turn of the page.” I chuckled as he spun me under his arm. He looked so smart in his R.A.F uniform, as did all of the boys.
“Can’t wait for tonight’s chapter.” He whispered in my ear before winking. I gasped.
“Alexander Daniel Cox! You cheeky man!” I giggled blushing.
“Right Coxy boy, clear off, I’m entitled a dance with my sister.” Jack said, winking over to me.
“Am I going to have to start dancing with everyone here all night?” I laughed as Alex kissed my forehead and walked over to Mark and Susie.
“I don’t bloody know do I?” Jack laughed, spinning me around.
“I didn’t think you were a dancer Jack Smith.” I replied after laughing.
“You learn a lot of things when you’re in the R.A.F you know.” he laughed.
“I bet you do Jack.” I replied laughing.
“I’m telling the truth you know!” He said honestly. I raised my eyebrow again.
“Okay, okay, I believe you, now go and propose to Georgie! We’re all waiting for you two to get hitched.” I whispered glancing over at where she was sat with Hattie, Luke and Lil.
“You wot?” he said outrageously. I rolled my eyes.
“Jack, look at her, she’s beautiful, now do you want to see her in the arms of another man?” I asked him looking at her.
“Of course not, I’ll crush anyone who touches her.” He said growing protective.
“Then show her that you love her…you don’t have to do it when everyone is around, I know how masculine you are.” I ended with a laugh.
“I am very masculine, and I will marry her, and you can walk me up the isle.” He winked. We both laughed.
“Then bugger off and do it, and thanks for the dance.” I laughed as I curtsied and walked back over to Alex.
“Bye then!” Jack laughed before walking the opposite direction. Suddenly a young boy from the village came in through the door in a fluster. We all looked over confused. He caught his breath smiling.
“Hitler’s dead! He’s gone and topped himself in a bunker, the war’s nearly over! It’s been on the wireless, it’s the talk of the country!” he cried happily before running back off to tell more people.
“Did that really jus’ happen or am I goin’ barmy?” Hattie exclaimed looking around at everyone.
“I think he must be telling the truth…” Mark said. Luke got up and opened the door to the village hall and looked down the village.
“He was right you know, they’re all dancing around the bloody street!” Luke shouted. We all flocked to the entrance and went out of the door. What the young lad had said was true; Hitler must’ve been dead, as they were all celebrating. We all looked around at each other in surprise.
“What does that mean now?” Tilly asked looking up at us all.
“It means we have to party!” Alex cried happily as the rest of us cheered.
We had been dancing all night, and had even invited some of the people from the village down into the hall so it could be more numbers, and one of the old boys had been playing their harmonicas and an accordion and singing all of the night. It felt as though the whole country was singing and dancing with us. I was dancing with Alex again happily, as we spun around with ease.
“You aren’t that bad on your feet you know Private Cox.” I laughed, as we whisked around the room.
“I never said I was bad on them!” he replied with a laugh.
“Yes, you always seemed so hesitant to dance with me.” I told him.
“Dancing isn’t my favourite hobby, it doesn’t mean I can’t do it though you know.” he winked before spinning me out to prove his point.
“Okay, okay let’s not get cocky! You’re a very nice dancer.” I giggled.
“Thank you Mrs Cox, and as are you.” He laughed before kissing my forehead.
“So, where are we staying tonight?” I asked as we went and sat back down on our seats. He thought for a moment with a smirk.
“For a girl’s most important day of her life, you haven’t really planned this out have you?” he asked me after a minute.
“I can’t really book hotels or anything when I’m harvesting a field Alex.” I replied.
“Well, we’ll find somewhere im sure of that.” He told me. Hattie came running over.
“Have you heard?!” she cried happily. I laughed looking at her.
“Well, I don’t know, maybe, maybe not.” I replied. Hattie rolled her eyes before sitting down.
“Jack’s only gone and popped the question to Georgie!” she said happily. Alex burst out laughing.
“Hattie you must be on the drink.” Alex laughed. I smiled inwardly before asking for more details from my friend.
“Well, he took her outside, and it turns out that he’s only been ‘olding onto a wedding ring until the day the war is over, and even though it’s not over, it’s bloody close enough for him apparently.” She explained. Alex laughed again.
“When I see it I’ll believe it Hattie.” He chuckled. I looked at him and raised my eyebrow.
“I believe her, and I want to see this ring and all.” I said getting up as Hattie took my hand and we walked towards the table where they were sat.
“Hattie, why don’t you just tell everyone?” Georgie laughed, ending it with a wink. As she said it she went to hold Jack’s hand, and a shiny gem caught my eye on her left hand.
“Who needs messenger pigeons with Hattie eh?” I asked as I went around to hug her a congratulations.
“Are you callin’ me a pigeon?” Hattie asked, watching me move around the other side of the table to hug Jack.
“Hattie you’re too loud to be a pigeon. You’re more of a…” Jack started putting his arm around me.
“Bloody crow.” Georgie burst out in a midst of laughter.
“Oh you cheeky-”
“I heard you’ve got engaged mate, can we pull your trousers down?” Alex said, joining the table.
“Did you hear the news from the crow here?” Georgie retorted with a laugh, nodding her head towards Hattie.
“Stop callin’ me a bleedy crow!” Hattie huffed before walking off.
“Who else would we hear it from?” Alex said shaking his comrade’s hand.
“Anyway, I’ve come to steal my wife away from you.” Alex finished taking my hands and walking away. I followed him back over to our seats.
“One of the locals overheard us earlier, they offered us their cottage, because they want to stay with their other family members tonight.” He told me squeezing my hand.
“Really? That’s so kind of them, who was it, I’ll have to thank them before they leave.” I asked looking around.
“Oh miss, really it’s no trouble.” – a man who was stood near to us said with a smile – “All of you young ones have helped so much, and you both deserve a nice bed for the night.” He finished.
“Thank you so much, that means a lot to us.” I replied standing up and hugging him happily. He was getting on in age, but wasn’t letting his age get in the way of him celebrating.
“No, no, you are the ones that deserve thanking.” He said again before smiling and walking back to a group of people. I sat back down and looked at Alex.
“One last dance, then we’ll get out of here darling.” Alex said kissing me.
“Lead me to the floor, Private Cox.” I smiled taking his hand.
“What’s this about?” I heard Alex ask. Hattie and Susie were blindfolding both Alex’s and my eyes.
“You’ll see!” Susie giggled. We felt ourselves go out of the door to the hall, and felt the breeze around us. They both stopped us, before taking their hands away from our eyes. There was nothing there, apart from Mark and Luke. We both looked around expecting some sort of surprise.
“Are we not good enough for you?” Luke laughed.
“I don’t understand…” I laughed in confusion. Alex suddenly grabbed his belt.
“No one is coming near my trousers!” he said in a rush. I burst into laughter.
“Stop laughing!” he said, trying not to smile himself.
“Well,” Susie started, “We couldn’t get you anything glitzy to go back in, so, this is the best we could do.” She said pointing at the boys.
“Neigh.” Mark said with a laugh.
“It’s a piggyback race, well, relay type game. The first team to get you both back wins.” Luke said. I looked at Alex laughing. I put my arms around him and gazed up into his eyes, battering my eyelashes. He looked down at me smiling. I went on my tiptoes, and put my mouth to his ear.
“Meet you at the finish line.” I whispered before running towards Luke and diving onto his back in the midst of laughter.
“Ohh bleedy hell let’s go!” Luke shouted before he started running down the village.
“Cheats!” Alex yelled before trying to scramble onto Mark’s back.
“Christ, all those scrambles at base really paid off for this.” Luke said, as we passed the telephone box.
“Chat later Luke, I’m falling!” I laughed, slowly slipping. We came up to a crossroad where Scotty and Jack were sat.
“Hayley’s winning!” Jack yelled getting up and stretching. I got down from Luke and gave him a peck on the cheek to thank him before jumping onto Jack.
“Go, go!” I yelled excitedly, as Jack started running down the road.
“Stop slacking Jack!” we heard Luke yell from behind us.
“Where’s the next swap?” I asked in giggles.
“Well,” he panted, “because there’s only five of us without Alex, and because he’s heavier than you, we thought that we’d need to swap more for him, so it’s you and me for the rest Brookston!” he finished, turning a corner.
“Hey! It’s Cox now!” I shouted, still in giggles. I looked around and saw Scotty and Alex coming up behind us.
“Jack keep running they’re catching up with us!”
“Hayley I’m trying here!” he said, before the other boys came running up near to us.
“You alright cheater?” Alex asked before pushing both me and Jack over.
“Hey! Now that’s cheating!” Jack yelled trying not to fall over, before stabling himself and continuing running. We ran after them, me still bobbing around on Jack’s back.
“When Alex switches to Rob, you’ve gotta steam ahead Jack!” I said in a flap, I was way too eager to win. We watched as Scotty started to slow down to greet Rob, and as they did I leaned over to push Alex back, and I watched as they both fell over onto each other, as Jack and I ran off. I cheered happily as we got to the cottage the kind man had lent us for the night.
“We won! I knew we would!” I said happily jumping down from Jack and high fiving him.
“Have you got the key?” Jack asked laughing and sitting on the fence, panting.
Wrapped around in the strong arms of my new husband, Alex and I lay in bed talking to each other. The moon was bright through the blackout curtains. We had been deliberating for most of the night of which the real winner of the piggyback race was. Alex of course thought it was him, because he had been pushed off, resulting in him having a tiny scratch on his hand, and because he had the key, but I knew I was the winner, because I was there first, and he had started the cheating. As always. I looked up at those green eyes and smiled.
“Still convincing yourself that you won?” he asked huskily.
“I did win, fair and square.” I replied in a whisper stroking his chest. He smiled, shaking his head.
“You didn’t even have the key!” he chuckled.
“That has nothing to do with who won or not!” I giggled back with him.
“It does.” He whispered kissing my forehead. I smiled to myself as I felt the beat of his heart next to mine. There was a silence, as I listened to the even beat.
“Oh Alex, what’s going to happen?” I asked with a sigh.
“Happen to what?” he asked me back, peering down at me.
“Well, everything, life. What’s going to happen in our life?” I explained more for him, before repeating the question.
“Who knows? This ruddy war has changed so much, I don’t know whether I’m coming or going some days.” He told me.
“It has had some advantages though Alex. It brought you to me.” I smiled.
“The lanky boy with a London twang stealing your apples, yes, that’s quite the advantage.” He laughed.
“You confused me so much in our younger years, One minute you were rude, next minute you were sat on my bed leaning in to kiss me.” I told him, reliving it all.
“You thought you were confused? What about that William kid? He was kissing your feet everywhere you went the little termite.” He replied.
“He was so annoying, I couldn’t stand him at all!” I laughed, remembering the young boy’s body and ego.
“How about watching him go after my girl, you don’t think that’s annoying?” he smirked.
“William was just generally frustrating anyway. We country people are just so silly aren’t we? But you love me anyway.” I replied with a giggle.
“Aye, who’d of thought a little Londoner like me, going to the country, and falling in love with a country bumpkin.” He laughed, before kissing my forehead.
“If you would’ve told me I’d fall for a scruffy evacuee, who thought cakes come from boxes, I would’ve laughed in your face.” I replied with a wink.
“You have laughed in my face, many times. And I wasn’t too scruffy was I?” he asked raising his eyebrow.
“Darling, I thought someone had dragged you through a bush backwards.” I laughed.
“I’m sorry if I didn’t live up to your standards.” He winked. A flash of his green eyes made my heart flutter.
“You couldn’t help it, you came from a rough area.” I told him, with a kiss to his neck.
“The past is the past. I can’t imagine going back to London again, and I should think I probably won’t.” He said, looking towards the window, as if he could still see the images of fast cars, people rushing around, and the noise of the hustle and bustle of the city.
“But you’ll take me to France?” I asked.
“One day. After I go back on my own first.” He said; his face locked in stone. I kissed his chin and smiled. He looked down at me, and smiled back, stroking a piece of hair from my eyes.
“I’ll be here waiting for you. With your briefcase, and tie.” I giggled.
“I can’t imagine myself stuck in some office. It’s so boring.” He replied.
“No it’s not, it’s very professional.” I told him.
“No my darling, it’s droll.” He laughed.
“Well where else are you going to get a job?” I asked.
“I want to stay in the Air Force Hayley. It won’t be that dangerous once the war is finished, and I could get a high rank with my experience.” He said eagerly, propping himself up on his arm. I raised my eyebrow.
“You know you love having an R.A.F husband my darling.” He winked. Well, I had to admit; he had got me there.
“And you can be at home with the children. An older boy, and a baby girl, with curly brown hair, and the prettiest green eyes anyone would’ve ever seen.” He said, selling each word to me.
“Kitty. Kitty and her brother Daniel.” I replied with a smile.
“I like those names.”
“That’s why I chose them. And we need a big house in the village, near to Ma and Tilly?” I asked biting my lip, awaiting his answer.
“With a big garden, so I can teach him football, and cricket.” He replied with a laugh. I nodded with a smile on my face.
“And we can teach them to garden, we can have flowers and hopefully when we get all the rations back, I can teach Kitty how to bake.” I said excitedly.
“We can grow our own vegetables, and fruit trees too.” He added with a smile. I smiled happily, looking up at my lovely husband.
“We could host parties and evenings for everyone to come over, all of the kids could play together as the adults all chat and catch up, drinking a bit of whiskey.” He added as well.
“Alex it’d be perfect, I can’t wait.” I giggled happily. He laughed.
“Our life has only just started my darling, we have so much time to enjoy it.” He told me, kissing my nose.
“All of the time in the world darling, all of the time in the world.” I replied as he squeezed me towards him again and I felt secure, the finished jigsaw puzzle, permanently stuck together, with every heartbeat of our love.
It was a summer’s evening, the sun hadn’t yet tucked in, but it was pouring its red rays across the blue sky. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and the birds danced in the sky, singing their sweet song. The garden was filled with chat and laughter.
“Uncle Jack! Do that trick again!” Kitty called excitedly. All of the children were sat on a picnic blanket in the centre of the lawn, eating lollipops.
“Alright Kitts, but this is the last time.” Jack laughed, before magically pulling a coin from behind the young girl’s ear. She clapped with excitement as he dropped it into her hand.
“I bet I can do that too!” Ruthie called, as she bundled over to them. Ruthie showed all of the characteristics of her Mother, her fiery red hair, loud mouth, and had even caught grasp of some of the Manchurian expressions Hattie used.
“Aye now Ruthie, you better be behaving.” Luke called over, protective over his young daughter. Ruthie smiled innocently before paying her attention back to Jack and Kitty.
“Right, now we’ve all finished, who wants to play?” Thomas called out, trying to take control of the group of boys. Thomas was Mark and Susie’s eldest, and was the first born out of all of the children, followed closely by Georgie and Jack’s son, George. Daniel, who was now nine, and Lorna and Rob’s eldest, William, joined both George and Thomas. The four of the boy’s could be a handful, but were always thinking of ways to make everyone laugh. Also sat on the picnic blanket were Benjamen and Peter. A few years younger than the other boys, Benjamen and Peter tended to stick with each other. Peter was Mark and Susie’s youngest son, and brother to Thomas, and Benjamen was Poppy and Scotty’s youngest. Their eldest daughter, Francis, with hair like her Mother’s, tended to stay with the rest of the girls. The boys all got up and ran off to play, leaving the girls sat around chatting about pretty dresses and teddy bears. Francis was the eldest of them all at nine, followed closely by Lorna’s second child Fleur, Ruthie, Lucy, Jack and Georgie’s youngest, and little Kitty, the youngest of both Alex and my children, and of all of the children.
It may have seemed as if there were a lot of names to learn, but having all lived around in the same street, it felt as if we were but a big family to each other. Nearly eleven years after the end of the war, and we had never strayed apart. On our street, someone was always there for something. Whether it was a quick cigarette around Lil’s house, or if you needed Georgie to help with some sewing, we were always hanging around street corners chatting, or hanging about in the village shop. Soon after the end of the war, a new housing estate was being built down the road from Ma’s, because of the increased population. We had all taken the chance and brought a house down there, and now we were all living in big lovely houses, just outside of each other’s doorstep. I looked up to check on the children and laughed. I took Alex’s arm.
“Look at William giving Kitty a piggyback. What does that remind you of darling?” I laughed looking at the two children. Everyone had always noticed how Kitty admired William, and now it seemed he was returning the favour, by trotting around the garden, showing her the flowers. Alex laughed as he looked at them.
“I still won you know.” he replied, looking back down at me.
“No you didn’t Mr Cox.” I told him back with a laugh.
“Wing Commander Cox.” Jack said, saluting Alex from behind. Alex turned around and laughed.
“Nice salute Smith. Not so sure on yours Miss Smith.” Alex laughed, as he watched Lucy try to mimic her Father.
“I tried Uncle Alex.” She giggled as Jack picked her up.
“How’s the Air Force still treating you?” Jack winked.
“Oh it’s fine, it’s nice having some authority though I must admit.” Alex laughed to his friend. None of the men had aged; they still had youth in their eyes and faces. Lucy shrugged down from Jack’s arms and ran back off to the other girls.
“Lucy, we were jus’ about to play ring-a-roses, you comin’ to play too?” Ruthie called, opening her hand to let Lucy join in.
“Course I am!” Lucy said excitedly, before the girls all started skipping around, before singing the tune, and eventually all falling over in fits of giggles. Suddenly the boys came running around them, their arms straight out as if they were pilots.
“Quick look, there’s girls, get ‘em lads!” Thomas laughed again as all the boys suddenly pretended to fly around all of the girls.
“Aye now, it’s not polite to shoot your guns at young lasses!” Ruthie called to Thomas, shaking her finger in front of him.
“Cause we’ll get you back!” Francis giggled. The boys all ran off, retreating from the girl invasion, leaving the girls in fits of giggles. Daniel and William came to sit on the step outside of the backdoor, drinking down some lemonade that Poppy had made and brought over.
“Kitty! Do you want a drink?” Georgie called over the tiny girl, who had felt like a third child to her and Jack, along with Daniel. Kitty smiled and nodded her head, tottering over to Georgie.
“Come and sit on this step with Daniel and William and have some then sweetheart.” Georgie smiled, passing Kitty the glass once she was sat securely on the step. Jack came over to them in a smirk.
“I want some too you know.” He winked down at Georgie.
“Oh off with you, you great baboon.” Georgie chuckled, shooing him away. The three children sat on the step, soon joined by Fleur.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” She asked Kitty and the two boys.
“We’re going to be pilots, aren’t we William?” Daniel said eagerly.
“Yeah, we’re going to fly around in the sky in our own planes!” William replied.
“That sounds exciting.” Fleur smiled at Daniel, wrapping a small section of her blonde hair around her finger.
“What about you Fleur?” Daniel asked bashfully.
“My mum worked in a farm, and I want to go and look after the horses, like her.” Fleur told him, delighted that the brown curly haired boy had taken interest.
“Or I’ll be an actress.” She giggled.
“Aye, Ruthie will be good at that.” William put in with a laugh. The four children all laughed.
“What about you Kitty, what are you going to do when you’re older?” William asked the young girl with a smile.
“I want to marry a pilot, like my Mummy.” She giggled, looking up at William and taking his hand into hers, with a bright green sparkle in her eyes.