This is the twenty-fourth part of a fiction serial, in 737 words.
It seemed that Albert had guessed right. Before Christmas, the Commandos made a raid on Norway. Viv went to watch the newsreels, trying to see her Roy, but after watching it through at least three times, she couldn’t be sure she had spotted him. Vera didn’t really feel the season that year, but she sent Les a small parcel containing some cigarettes, knitted gloves, and three letters. She hadn’t heard back from him since the last one, but Mr Reid said that the prisoners had to wait for Red Cross visits to get mail out.
Christmas was quiet, with the raids still on and off, and nobody feeling in the mood to celebrate. And with her birthday coming up, 1941 on the horizon, and no end to the war in sight, Vera was struggling to keep cheerful, if only for her mum’s sake. The day before New Year’s Eve, she found Janet crying in the toilets at work. “Is it Frank? Is everything okay, Jan?” Janet pulled her into a cubicle, and showed her a photo of Frank sitting on a camel. “S’alright for him, Vera, sunning hmself in the desert. But I’ve missed two monthlies, and had to tell my mum. Oh, she did carry on so”. Vera was shocked. “How’s that then, Jan?”
Janet raised her eyebrows. “Well how d’you think? I let Frank go all the way, when he was home on leave. His mum and dad were out, and it just went too far on the living room floor. Don’t get me wrong, he didn’t force me. I wanted it too. You don’t think about babies at times like that, I can tell you. Besides, I know he loves me, and wants to marry me, but now he’s fighting in the desert, and might get killed in his tank and never come home”. Vera put her arm around her friend. “You gonna have it? Maybe get it adopted or something?” Janet shook her head. “No, me dad would go mad, don’t know what he would say. He might even throw me out. Mum’s taking me to some woman in Peckham next Friday night. She says it won’t hurt much, and I will have the weekend to rest. Can’t do nothing else, Vera. If me dad finds out, I will be for it, and so will Frank. I can’t even write and tell Frank, ’cause he’s sure to tell me to have the baby”.
Vera was left wondering how Janet’s mum knew about a back-street abortionist in Peckham. But better not to think about that, and worry about her friend instead.
There was a letter fom Teddy, when she got home. It was full of the usual stuff. He couldn’t say where he was, but he was doing well, and enjoying life on the huge aircraft carrier. Leave was out of the question, as the navy had so much to do. But he wished them well, and asked about life at home. Elsie decided to send him a parcel, even though she had no idea when or if he would receive it.
Vera’s birthday went almost unnoticed, with so much going on. Her parents bought her some lipstick and a hair-comb. But Janet forgot, as she was still getting over her trip to the woman in Peckham.
Not long after, there was a big battle at a place called Tobruk, in the desert. Janet was sure that Frank must be there, and was beside herself with worry when she read the news.
Then in April, the Germans came back to London, with the biggest raid for months. The street behind the Dodds’s house was hit bad, and one of the back windows cracked in both panes. Albert just put some putty in the crack, saying there was no point paying for new glass, as they would surely be cracked again before it was all over. When Vera and Elsie got home from work, they heard that Tony Wright’s house had been hit. His garden was only four doors away from theirs, and Albert said both his parents had been badly injured. Mrs Wright was not expected to survive, and Mr Wright might well lose his legs. Tony was in the Royal Engineers, and nobody knew how to contact him.
Vera and Elsie sat in the shelter that night, just in case. Vera was worrying about Les, and wondering when it might ever be over.