Branscombe Hall: Part Ten

This is the tenth part of a fiction serial, in 735 words.
My thanks to Sue Judd for the use of her photo.

These days, not so many people remember the Falklands war. It only tends to be spoken about on anniversaries, like ten years after it happened, and so on. But it was a short war, lasting only ten weeks. So by the time the last week in June was nearing its end, I received the news that Gregg was coming home. They had never updated me about his injuries, so I had resorted to contacting his base in England, only to be told they couldn’t discuss it over the phone.

The truth was, I was concerned about his return. I hardly knew him after all, and we had spent no time together after the wedding. My dad suggested I take a break from my work at the Hall, and go away with Gregg somewhere once he got back. It was going to take a while, as he was coming home by sea, so I had no definite date to aim for. I decided to wait, see how he was, and how much leave he would be allowed.

The work at the Hall was taking up a lot of Norma’s administration time, so I agreed with dad that we should take someone on to help her. We employed the first applicant, a fresh-faced young woman from Bristol called Melanie. She had no formal qualifications, but she had worked as a book-keeper for a small auction house near Bristol. A separation from her long-term boyfriend had made her keen to move away from that city, and she seemed more than capable of doing the work.

With Melanie freeing up a lot of Norma’s time, she concentrated on what we were doing at the Hall, and we became close. Norma was like the mother I had lost in so many ways, and outside of the workplace she was kind to me, and funny too. We were busy in the east wing attic one morning when my dad arrived unexpectedly. “Gregg’s home. He went to my house in a taxi, and when nobody was there he came to the auction house. I left him there, said I would come and tell you”.

To say I was nervous was an understatement. Dad took Norma back, and I drove my own car. Gregg was waiting in the office, dressed in his army uniform. He didn’t appear to have any injuries I could see, but as I walked in he threw his arms around me and started to cry like a baby. I got him out of there and took him to the cottage. He told me that the army had failed to pass on my change of address, so he had gone to my parents’ house. I made him some tea, and sat watching him drink it. He looked pale, and had lost weight. I explained that the army had told me he had been wounded, and asked him where he had been hurt.

At first, he seemed to be reluctant to tell me. Then he finished his tea.

“Two of my best mates, ‘Licia’. Both of them killed almost next to me. Something had hit my helmet, knocked me cold. When I came round, they were covered up, and I was on a stretcher next to them. They took me to an aid station near the fighting, and a doctor told me I had been lucky. Said he couldn’t find anything wrong. But I couldn’t stop shaking love, so he eventually sent me to the hospital ship”.

This wasn’t the Gregg I had known a couple of months earlier. He looked older, his eyes were different, and he couldn’t seem to keep still. I told him about my dad’s suggestion that we should go away, but he shook his head. “I’m still shown as sick. Got to go into military hospital in a few days time for some sort of tests. Evaluation, they call it. They let me come and see you, but only on a three-day pass. I came straight here, haven’t seen my mum and dad yet. I really need some sleep, love. Okay if I get my head down upstairs?”

Left alone with my thoughts, I could hardly believe that my tough soldier husband had returned home in such a state.

The reality of combat had been nothing like he had expected it to be, obviously.

31 thoughts on “Branscombe Hall: Part Ten

  1. (1) Gregg was coming home by sea. Alicia was relieved. Gregg obviously hadn’t suffered any injury to his legs, as he needed them to propel the pedal boat, and his arms must be in good shape, too, because he otherwise wouldn’t be able to fish. However, she was concerned for his mental health. After all, he’d chosen to return to England using a pedal boat.
    (2) Bad citation: “Norma was like the mother I had lost in so many ways. I first lost my mother at the London Zoo after searching for a water fountain. Then I lost her at the Fulham Farmers’ Market when I hid for a while under a retailer’s table. And I lost her again on the River Thames cruise when I decided to go for a swim. Finally, I lost her during a late night three-hour lecture on quantum physics.”
    (3) Bad citation: “A doctor told me I had been lucky. My helmet had been hit by a number of stones flung at me by the bola of an Argentinian gaucho. I guess the other side ran out of soldiers, guns, and bullets.”
    (4) Overheard:
    Gregg: “Okay if I get my head down upstairs?”
    Alicia: “Sure, if you can get it up the down staircase.”
    (5) “I couldn’t stop shaking love.” Is that like a dog that can’t stop shaking fleas?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hard to believe that the army would not have allowed Alicia to contact her husband but I’m sure you must know that this sort of thing occurred. It staggers me that people who fight wars are so badly treated by the governments who dispatch them. Poor Gregg and poor Alicia.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They would have had to give him leave, or expose the reasons why not. At the time, it was all about ‘brave soldiers’, and Victoria Crosses. The damage done to some individual soldiers was glossed over. The country was basking in a euphoria of ‘victory’, and Thatcher made the most of that.
      Best wishes, Pete.


  3. Considering that she didn’t know him well prior to the war….it would seem that they both have a pretty tough time ahead – and that’s without factoring Julian and all sorts of other things into the picture!

    Liked by 1 person

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