Vera’s Life: Part Twenty-Nine

This is the twenty-ninth part of a fiction serial, in 720 words.

The milk rationing was beginning to get everybody down. There was no rice pudding anymore, and no desserts of any kind that required milk. But what they hated most was not having enough milk to put in their tea. Vera just couldn’t stomach drinking it black, and the tinned and condensed milk soon became hard to obtain too. Even Albert was beginning to abandon his once-lofty principles, and accept that Elsie could try her best to get extras of everything on the Black Market. He had something to trade at least, as the rabbits didn’t seem to be affected by the bombing, so were producing a lot of offspring.

Her dad had killed the old buck first. Vera had named him ‘Snowy’ as he was pure white. But once the young males could do the business, Snowy’s days were numbered. Albert grabbed him and lifted him out of his hutch. As if he knew his fate, the rabbit squealed like an opera singer, and Vera had to put her fingers in her ears as her dad struck him across the neck with an iron bar. When her mum took him into the scullery to clean and skin him, Vera had to go up to her room. She was sure she could never eat him, but the rabbit pie tasted so good when you were hungry, and so did the casserole two days later.

Snowy was a big rabbit.

Vera still couldn’t really understand why Janet had been so calm when Frank had been killed. There were days at the factory when she actually seemed happy, which felt strange. Then Vera heard that she was spending her Saturday nights with Pauline Collins. Pauline was older, and her husband had been killed quite early in the war, before Dunkirk. One of the other ladies at the factory gossipped about Pauline being ‘easy’, and getting younger girls to go to pubs and dance-halls with her. It didn’t take long for Vera to find out that Janet had been hanging around with her for some time, so one day she confronted her about it.

“Yeah, so what? I go out with Pauline. She’s fun, and she knows some great blokes. Lots of them are in the Black Market, and they give you stuff. And they’ve got gin, cigarettes, perfume, all sorts. They appreciate a girl, they do”. Vera had a bad feeling, and she spoke about it to her friend. “So was one of those blokes the father of the baby you got rid of? Did you just pretend it was Frank, and make up that story about letting him go all the way?” Janet was defiant. “What if I did? What’s it to you?” Best that he didn’t come back. Someone would have told him that I got rid of a baby eventually, and he would have known full well it wasn’t his, ‘cos we never did it”.

Although she was fuming, Vera remembered that Janet was Les’s sister, and if things worked out would be her family. She shook her head in disgust, but at least she now knew why there had been no tears. She learned a valuable lesson that day. The people you think you can trust the most can still let you down. She never forgot that.

There were a lot of Americans in England by now, and many made their way to London as soon as they got leave. They were good-looking, confident, and had smart unifroms. They also had cigarettes, lipstick, chewing gum, and the new nylon stockings. Vera got used to avoiding those who ventured south of the Thames, but it wasn’t long before Janet had gone up west to meet some of them, accompanied by the awful Pauline. Very soon, she was missing shifts at work, boasting about having ten pairs of nylon stockings, and flashing around American cigarettes called Lucky Strike.

It made Vera shudder to imagine how many men she had been with up dark alleys, or in hotel rooms. And her brother a POW too. But she didn’t confront her about it. They hardly talked about anything anymore, as Janet spent her free time with Pauline, who was almost old enough to be her mum.

As the end of that year got closer, all Vera could think about was being hungry, and feeling dirty.

26 thoughts on “Vera’s Life: Part Twenty-Nine

  1. I really thought Frank was the father of the child who was ‘not to be’. It must have been very distressing for Vera to see her friend go down a bad path. War can change a person, and not just a soldier. Vera’s smart, and she knows Janet could be family if Les returns.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My old boss in Jersey, who lived through the occupation as a young teenager, told me stories of the ‘Jerry Bangers’ and how they used to paint swastikas on the barn doors of those suspected of ‘collusion’
    All’s fair in love and war, or is it? 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. War seems to bring out the best and worst in people …Who knows what the reactions would be now… I think this pandemic gives us a little idea… another great episode of the war years and the effects on daily life, Pete 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Carol. The unfortunate thing about the pandemic lockdown is that it has caused a sharp increase in both divorce and domestic violence in many countries around the world, including Britain.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Like

  4. (1a) Give me a hutch, and I’ll give you a rabbit named Starsky.
    (1b) Vera put the rabbit ears on their television set to improve reception, but it didn’t stop the snow.*
    (1c) There’s nothing more satisfying than a hearty lepus stew during a bombing raid.
    (2) On our next episode of “The Perils of Pauline,” Janet is introduced by Pauline to a Black Market bloke who gets her pregnant.**
    (3) “The milk rationing was beginning to get everybody down.” Also: “The people you think you can trust the most can still let you down.” Now read the next comment down…
    (4) The Americans “also had cigarettes, lipstick, chewing gum, and the new nylon stockings.” Vera wasn’t surprised to see them smoking and chewing, but wearing lipstick and sporting nylon stockings? That really got her down!
    (5) Janet was happy to flash around her Lucky Strikes, as it had been a lucky strike that had destroyed Frank’s tank. However, she would have been just as happy to flash around Camel cigarettes, as that would have reminded her of Frank’s fortuitous death in the sands of North Africa.
    (6) “It made Vera shudder to imagine how many men [Janet] had been with up dark alleys.” If the residents hadn’t closed their shutters, there would have been more light in the alley!
    (7) Janet’s brother, Les, the Prince Of Wales (POW), also has a thing for alleys. He was last spotted at a bowling alley where, according to one source, he routinely Bowles over 200.

    * When Vera called the TV station to complain, they replied, “Sorry, but the snow must go on!”
    ** Black Market blokes always have sex under the table.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Ah, so that explains Janet’s behaviour on hearing about the death of her ‘sweetheart’. I can understand young women being seduced by the stockings and lipsticks and sweet talking Americans. Life must have felt very dreary, as Vera sums it up in your last sentence – ‘being hungry and feeling dirty’.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, the shortage of local men made the women more flirtatious than normal, and the sudden influx of attractive ‘dangerous’ men, and all the soldiers on leave, was a heady mixture indeed.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. My mother talked fondly about the dances held by the American forces and being given lipstick and nylons. The women used to use eyeliner pencils to draw lines up the back of their legs so it looked like they were wearing stockings.

    Liked by 1 person

        1. She talked a lot about going dancing during the war. But she could never get over her time in the Blitz, and the fact that she was terrified of the flying bombs when they started to hit London. (They feature soon)
          Best wishes, Pete. x

          Liked by 1 person

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