This is the thirty-eighth part of a fiction serial, in 863 words.
Nobody knew how long it would be before Les got home, or whether or not he was ill. Vera refused to think about anything bad, and started to make preparations for his return. She got her dad to drill two tiny holes in the small piece of wood Les had sent, the one carved with their initials around a heart. Using an old thin silver chain, she managed to make it into a necklace. Then she bought a green velvet dress, and her mum altered it to fit her. It wasn’t new of course, but it was such a quality garment, a good clean would get it up as good as. Through one of the black market contacts, she exchanged some jam for a pair of the new nylon stockings, and the same man managed to find her a pair of green suede shoes that were a good enough match. She had to fork out cash for those though. She was determined to look her best once she had some idea when he would be arriving.
Roy was still limping around, but managing on one crutch. He had contacted his former boss, and it looked like he could have his job back as soon as his foot had healed. Albert had got some rubber from work, and made a wedge that Roy could put inside any shoe, to make up for the missing toes. He had already tried it out, but it had made his foot hurt too much. He said he would have another go when the wound had hardened up. Then the civil defence said that Albert could hand in his air-raid warden stuff. The blackout was likely to be ending soon, and there were no more raids anyway.
As more news started to filter through, Albert was sad to hear about one of his mates from the dart team. Stan was younger than Albert, and had joined up early in 1940. He had gone off into the army, and nobody really knew what had happened to him since. One afternoon, Albert made the long walk to the other side of the borough, where Stan’s wife was living with her mum. She was now working in the same sausage factory as Viv, and had told her that Stan had been badly injured. Albert took some jam for them, and some rabbit meat too.
When he got back, he was upset. Stan had been in a Sherman tank that had been hit in Holland. It had caught fire, and he had suffered terrible burns. They had got him back to England barely alive, and he was in a special hospital in Birmingham. His wife Agnes hadn’t been up there to see him, as they had said she should wait until he had more operations. Albert could only imagine how bad it must be, when they said that.
Then in the first week of May, there was some staggering news. Hitler had killed himself in Berlin, and the war was over. Vera could hardly believe it, it just didn’t seem real. Elsie was more concerned about the Far East. They suspected that Teddy’s ship was out there, although they hadn’t heard anything from him for a while. “What about those Japanese though? They’re not giving up, are they? You know what them Japs are like, they are going to carry on”.
There was going to be a big celebration. Mr Churchill had called it VE Day, which stood for victory in Europe day. Viv wanted to take the boys to Buckingham Palace to see the King and Queen, and asked her mum and sister to go too. Elsie agreed, but Vera flatly refused, determined not to celebrate anything until Les was home. When Elsie got back, she looked exhausted. “Oh, what a palaver! We didn’t get even halfway down The Mall. I have never seen so many people in one place, never. The boys couldn’t see anything, and the noise of the cheering has left me with a shocking headache. Put the kettle on, Vera love. I’m parched”.
By the end of the month, lots of the soldiers were starting to come home. Some had to stay behind, as an army of occupation. Albert said they would mostly use the regulars for that, as they were staying in anyway. “Like your Les. I mean, he was in the army before this all started, so I s’pose he’s staying in after”. Vera hadn’t really thought about that. If Les stayed in the Guards, she would have to move to married quarters outside London. She sat quietly, wondering why that had never entered her head in all that time. Elsie had her say too. “And our Teddy. I wonder if he will stay in the Royal Navy now, or go back to merchant ships? After all, it’s all he has known. I can’t imagine him doing anything else”.
Two nights later, Janet came around. She was in floods of tears. Louis was being sent home by boat direct from France, and had been refused leave to come and marry her in London.
“That means I have to wait until he gets out the army and can sail back to fetch me”.