Vera’s Life: Part Twenty-Six

This is the twenty-sixth part of a fiction serial, in 830 words.

At the end of the first week in December, they finally heard that Teddy was safe. He wasn’t saying much, just that he was alright, and would soon be posted to another ship. When her dad read the letter, they all danced around in a circle like little children, and her mum cried tears of happiness.

Then the next morning they woke up to hear some big news on the radio. Japan had attacked America, at some place called Pearl Harbour. The Japs had also attacked British troops in the Far East, so the government declared war on Japan too. Vera’s head was spinning. Now they had to fight the Japanese, as well as the Germans, Italians, and other countries on their side. How could they possibly survive? She felt her lip quivering at the thought of German and Japanese soldiers marching down Tower Bridge Road, and her mum was looking glum.

By contrast, Albert was delighted. “Cheer up, you two. This is the best news ever. Now the Yanks are going to have to fight the Germans too, I bet. Wait until all them millions of Yanks get over here and get stuck in. Bloody hell, what a day!” But Vera saw her dad wasn’t looking so chirpy after listening to the radio on Christmas Day. Hong Kong had been captured, and lots of prisoners had been taken. He didn’t even finish his dinner, and Viv got up and put her arm around him. “It’ll be alright, dad. The Americans will be there soon”.

However, the Yanks had other problems, and Hong Kong wasn’t on their list of priorities.

The week before her eighteenth birthday, Vera got the best news of the war so far, and it came in the post. There was a packet forwarded by the Red Cross, containing four letters from Les, and a small gift wrapped up in a piece of a German newspaper. It was a carved piece of wood, and had the initials V and L either side of a heart. Just a scrap of wood, probably taken from a pile of firewood, but it was the best thing she had ever received in her life. She showed her mum the carving, then ran upstairs to read the letters in her bedroom.

Les couldn’t say where he was, but he did talk about how cold it was, and that there was a lot of snow. He thanked her for the socks and scarf, but didn’t mention the other parcel. She presumed he hadn’t got it yet, or it had been stolen by the guards. He said there was enough food, mostly cabbage soup or potato soup. Sometimes they had black bread, but it was so hard they had to soak it in the soup for ages before they could bite into it. The second letter wasn’t so cheerful, as he told her that his pal Lucky had died of pneumonia. He hadn’t been right since Dunkirk, and when the weather turned bitterly cold, it had finished him off. But he did mention that they had played football and cricket when they could, and some of the blokes put on plays and shows when the Germans allowed it.

In the third letter, he asked if she could please ask his parents to send him some cigarettes. They were what everyone missed the most, and there were never enough to go round in the camp. He said the guards left them alone much of the time, and although they had to parade morning and evening to be counted, the rest of the time they could play cards, chess or draughts, or read books. The fourth letter hurt her feelings a bit. He said that he loved her a lot, and always imagined them getting married, but he wasn’t about to ask her to wait for him. He reckoned a girl like her ought to make a life for herself, and that if she found another bloke, he would understand.

Vera was going to tell him all right. She would write and let him know that she was his girl, and would wait for him until Hell froze over, if need be. Then she walked over to Janet’s house, to show Les’s family the letters. Well the first three, anyway. Not the romantic one.

Mr and Mrs Reid seemed upset that Les had written to Vera, and not them. Still, they were glad to know he was doing well, and listened attentively as she read out his letters in order. They told her they would get a tin of fifty cigarettes from someone they knew on the black market, and send them as soon as possible. Mrs Reid still had half of a small fruit cake she had made for Christmas, and said she would wrap it in waxy paper and send him that too. Janet laughed. “Mum, by the time Les gets that, it’ll be rotten”.

They decided to send him some shaving soap and a new brush instead.

37 thoughts on “Vera’s Life: Part Twenty-Six

  1. (1) Bad citation: “Teddy wasn’t saying much, just that he was alright, and would soon be posting on a different blog.”
    (2) Bad citation:
    “Why then the world’s mine oyster,
    Which I with sword will open
    To discover Pearl Harbour!”
    (3) Bad citation: “It’ll be alright, dad. The Americans will be there soon. Right after watching that professional wrestling program on NBC.”
    (4) “It was a carved piece of wood, and had the initials V and L either side of a heart.” L❤V
    (5) Les said that he ate a lot of cabbage soup and potato soup, and that sometimes they had black bread that was as hard as a brick. At least the food wasn’t boring. Frank got stuck with McCoucous, Fries, and a Camel Spit Shake.
    (6) Lucky was struck by pneumonia, and died luckety-split.
    (7) Les said prisoners had to parade morning and evening. The highlight of the parade was the root beer float.
    (8) Bad citation: “Vera would write and let Les know that she was his girl, and would wait for him until Germany froze over, if need be. By the time Les got the letter, Germany had frozen over.”
    (9a) The Reids told Vera they would get “a fifty of ten cigarettes” from someone they knew on the black market who was dyslexic.
    (9b) Fruitcakes never get rotten. I’m still nibbling on the fruitcake my mother sent me back in 1974.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I absolutely believe in your characters and have to remind myself that it is fiction. I never realized that the Japanese attacked British holdings at the same time, so focused on Pearl Harbor was all my education. One more part of history that I will have the pleasure of reading. The more I blog, the more I learn of things I want to study. It is very enriching.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Japanese attacked all over the world, in a 24-hour period. They managed to surprise everyone.
      When they finally captured Hong Kong, they went into the hospitals and bayoneted all the wounded soldiers to death. Even now, I am unable to forgive their brutality.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank goodness Les is okay! And thank goodness the Americans are on their way. This is so real, so well written, Pete. I count it as one of your best and certainly one of my favorites. Those who aren’t reading are losing out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I met some men who had been POWs in German camps and spoke well of the guards and conditions in the camps. Their main problem as boredom. Others told of no medical care, and a harsh regime. I suppose it was luck of the draw where you ended up. My uncle was a prisoner of the Japanese in Burma, and was treated appallingly. He never forgave Japan for the cruelty he endured, and used to say we should have wiped them all out, and not let them surrender.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. If you care about my characters, Mary, then that is great to hear. They are all ‘real’ people of course, which has helped me bring them to life. The names have been changed, but nothing else.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

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