This is the thirty-first part of a fiction serial, in 790 words.
Christmas that year was more cheerful. Viv had the boys home, and brought them round for dinner on the day. Roy’s mum had been invited too, but as usual she had wanted to stay at home. They seemed so big now, and everyone laughed at the words Eddie said that sounded Welsh. Elsie had managed to find a big chicken from somewhere, and Albert didn’t ask her where she got it. They called Vera ‘auntie Vera’ now, which made her feel quite old, but she secretly liked it.
They stopped the night, and when the boys were asleep, Viv told them that Eddie had cried when he had to leave Mrs Davies. “I think Roy was right, you know. If we had left them there any longer, it would have caused a lot of problems”. There was no news about Roy at all, and Albert speculated that meant he was in training for something special. Elsie gave him one of her looks, not wanting him to say anything to worry Viv.
Before the new year, there was news that the big German battleship Scharnhorst had been sunk by the Royal Navy. It was seen as a real victory, as those big battleships had sunk a lot of merchant ships over the years. A few days later they got a telegram, which made Albert’s hands shake as he opened it. But it was good news from Teddy. He just said he was alright, in case they were worried. Albert smiled, and said he had worked out why Teddy had sent it. The Scharnhorst had been sunk by the navy battleship Duke of York. That must have been Teddy’s way of telling them what ship he was on.
Vera’s twentieth birthday was mostly spent in the Anderson shelter, after the sirens warned of more air-raids. Albert put on his uniform and steel helmet, and walked up to the main road to show people into shelters there. But there was no bombing nearby, and it seemed most of the German planes hadn’t managed to get through. The next time she was at work, a girl called Shirley Thomson came up and spoke to her in the canteen. She asked if she would go on a double date. Seemed she had a Canadian soldier as a boyfriend, and he was getting leave. He wanted to bring a friend up to London, and asked her to find a date for him. Vera shook her head. “Sorry, I have a boyfriend, he’s a prisoner in Germany, so I just couldn’t. Actually, I should call him my fiance, as he wants to marry me when he gets home”.
Shirley kept on though. “It’s only a date, Vera. You don’t have to kiss him or anything. Just dancing, maybe a bite to eat first. Oh come on, otherwise I have to hang around with both of them, and it’ll be really awkward. My Jaques is very nice, respectful like. He’s a French Canadian, and his accent is so dreamy. Come on, Vera, please. I don’t know anyone else to ask as my sister is off in the Land Army”. Vera thought about it. It would be nice to get out. Now she didn’t see much of Janet, she didn’t even get to the cinema that often, though sometimes her mum went with her. “Alright then, but just a date. No funny business though, you tell them that from me. And he’s not to come to my house, I’ll meet you somewhere”.
His name was Pierre, and he was very good-looking, Vera had to admit that. But he seemed so much older. Vera thought it was too rude to ask his age, but she guessed he might be as old as thirty-five, even more. Shirley and Jaques were all over each other in the dance hall, so Vera made sure to just keep dancing, and not let Pierre get any ideas. When it was time to go, Shirley whispered that she was going back with Jaques to his hotel, and that Pierre would look after her, and make sure she got home alright. They went out onto the dark street, and Pierre tried to find a taxi. But they all seemed to have fares on board already, and by the time he got one to stop, they had walked as far as Westminster Bridge.
Pierre asked if he could see her home, but she said no, and extended her hand for him to shake. “Thanks for a lovely evening, Pierre, but I am spoken for”. He leaned forward and kissed her cheek, looking disappointed. As she closed the door of the taxi and waved him goodbye, he said one word. “Dommage”.
She was going to have to look that up when she got home.