Eva’s War is an historical romance set in early 1940s London. EVA (24), a young, married, working woman, who continues with her daily routine until a new clerk, BERTIE (30), comes to work at the bank she is a secretary at and begins to change her life in many ways. The novel follows Eva’s relationships and reveals her own secrets as she fights her own war.
Leaving her mentally ill husband, FREDDY (26), at home whilst she goes to work in a bank, Eva is introduced to a new colleague, Bertie. A feeling overcomes Eva and she isn’t sure what it is, until she later realises that she rather likes Bertie. However, an argument between the two of them leaves Eva feeling unsure of what to make of this new clerk.
Freddy is taken into hospital after he injures himself, Eva later finds his medication has been discarded. He spends a few days in the care of the nurses leaving Eva home alone for a couple of nights. Bertie seizes this chance to not only comfort Eva, but to develop their relationship with one another.
Upon finding that Freddy didn’t carry out a few simple tasks Eva had given him, she criticises Freddy for not helping her out. This turns into an argument about how little Freddy does to help Eva and how he should find himself a job to help with the finances instead of sitting about at home. Freddy is unable to get a word in edgeways. When Eva returns home from work the following day, to her dismay she discovers that Freddy has signed up to join the Navy and is soon to leave for training.
On their way home after an evening at the cinema, Eva and Bertie get caught out by an air raid. There is nothing for it but to find the nearest shelter, an underground station. The platform is full of men, women, and children, but Eva and Bertie soon find a space for them at the far end and they soon settle down for the night. When the all clear sounds, everyone slowly makes their exit. In the crowd, Eva spies an older woman looking Bertie up and down although he doesn’t notice himself. This woman eventually speaks up and questions why he is still in England and not fighting in the war like every other young man. Bertie is rather taken aback but is unable to stand up for himself. His lack of confidence surprises Eva who takes hold of the situation and puts the nosey woman in her place.
Eva discovers that she has missed her monthly cycle for the last few months and hastily telephones her doctors surgery to make an appointment for a pregnancy test. Eva returns to the surgery a week later to receive her results, they are positive as she had suspected. Having had a stillbirth the previous year, Eva is somewhat nervous and scared but keeps it secret.
Freddy returns home from training only to be sent off to war 24 hours later. He has only been away for a few days before Eva receives a telegram holding the news all women dread. It simply tells her that Freddy is ‘Missing in action’. Eva instantly bursts into tears at the news and loses control of herself as she collapses onto the living room floor in hysterics. Leaving her in a state of depression, Eva struggles to leave her bed the following day despite desperate attempts from Bertie knocking at her door.
Bertie takes Eva away for the May bank holiday weekend to meet his family at his grandmother’s house in the country. Eva is nervous of course, but despite their class differences she gets on well with Bertie’s family to begin with. Things start to spiral out of control when Bertie’s family find out that Eva is pregnant, believing it to be his. Eva feels ashamed as the family scorn her, and she cannot wait to return to London. But upon their return, Bertie wants to find out a few home truths resulting in Eva wanting to run away from London and Bertie.
It is now May 1945 and two weeks since VE Day. Freddy stands on the pavement looking at what remains of his home after it had been obliterated by a bomb. So much has changed since he left for war. He doesn’t stand there for long, a letter in his hand instructs him to go to the bank his wife works at. When Freddy gets there, nothing is as he expected.
The kitchen and bathroom had been cleaned, the bed sheets changed, floors swept, furniture dusted, and ironing complete. It was Tuesday evening, the first of April, and Eva had finally got to sit down and put her feet up for half an hour or so before retiring to bed for some well earned sleep. She sat in her armchair, picked up her knitting and turned on the wireless to listen to the latest news.
The needles clacked away as Eva was busily knitting a pair of grey socks she had started for Freddy. It wasn’t until she stopped and thought about this that she began to miss him. He wasn’t there to see her lovingly make him new socks, let alone keep her company of an evening. She didn’t know when he would ever wear them, if he would wear them. In fact, she hadn’t yet heard a word from him since he had left. Nothing. Had he stopped loving her? Eva let out a sob at her thoughts, tears streamed down her cheeks. She held her right hand to her mouth in attempt to suppress her wailing. Her left hand tightened around the knitting until it hurt. Then anger started to take over and Eva threw her knitting with force across the living room, it landed on the other side of the fireplace. She hid her face in her hands, her elbows rested on her lap, and cried.
I miss you, Freddy. Eva’s thoughts ran through her mind, but she hoped they would reach Freddy. I miss you so much. Why did we have to part on such bad terms? I miss you. I love you…When Eva finally calmed down a few minutes later, she stood up and brushed herself down. She picked up her discarded knitting and put it back into the bag beside her chair before switching off the wireless.
Eva had only been asleep for an hour before the sirens sounded for the night. She dreaded the next time she would see Mrs. Richards, and tonight was that night. Eva begrudgingly made her way down to the basement all wrapped up as warm as possible. Her mind drifted back to the raid on the Saturday night. Eva’s lowered eyes looked up at Mrs. Richards as she reached the bottom of the stairs. The look in return was that of disappointment of what was seen Sunday evening, but nothing was said for it wasn’t Mrs. Richard’s business nor was it to be brought up in the company of Mrs. Walker, a well known blabber-mouth given half the chance of a piece of gossip. Eva lowered her guilty eyes and carried on to her usual shelter spot where she drifted back off to sleep.
On Wednesday evening Bertie decided to take Eva out for a walk, although he had every right and thought not to. He also bought her fish and chips and they sat down side by side on a bench in the park, Eva on the right and Bertie on the left, with a reasonable gap between them. They sat in silence as they ate their dinner with their fingers, either looking down at the piping hot food or up at the view directly in front of them. The rustling of the greasy newspaper signalled that they had both finished eating as they scrunched the paper up. Bertie held out his hand to take Eva’s paper before disposing of it.
When Bertie returned to his seat, he thought he had probably make the first move in conversation seeing as Eva is being reluctant enough.
“I am not sure why you have been so sharp with me today.” Eva’s current silence was due to Bertie snapping back at her earlier in the day. She recoiled when he did so, having never seen him react like that before. He had every means to, Eva was hardly being the friendliest of people. Now on the park bench, Eva turned her head for a moment to catch a quick look at Bertie, he was facing forwards looking stern. “You have been so rude to me all day and it disgusts me.”
“Then why have you brought me here? Why did you go ahead with taking me out?” Bertie at that point also turned to look at Eva who was looking straight ahead. It was true, Bertie didn’t have to do what he was doing, but what was meant to be a romantic evening turned out to be almost an investigation into Eva’s sudden terrible temperament. It took Bertie a second or two to find the right words.
“Because something is obviously wrong, Eva, and I would like it if you could tell me what the matter is. A problem shared is a problem halved.” Eva cleared her throat.
“I am beyond help, Bertie. You know that.”
“Don’t be silly.” Bertie once again looked at Eva. Still she stared straight ahead, but her cheeks had reddened and she was furiously blinking to hold back her tears. “I am concerned for you that is all.” Bertie sighed and looked about, twiddling his thumbs. There were a few children playing war games in the distance and the occasional adult walking through the park on their way home, or stepping out with their lover. Everyone and everything looked peaceful, but on that park bench, a couple were fighting their own battle. “I highly doubt it is the blitz causing the problems with the irregular sleeping. We’re all going through that, the whole of London and the rest. And We are all coping.”
“If they’re not, they’re hiding it…of course it’s not the bloody blitz causing my mood.”
“Then what is the matter?” Eva wrung her hands in anxiety, taking deep breaths to keep herself calm.
“It’s Freddy. Who else?” Bertie gulped, he had an inkling it might have been.
“Have you heard from him? Is he all right?”
“Therein lies the problem!” Eva grimaced. “Nothing. I have heard absolutely nothing to the point where it is now making me feel sick.”
“Yes, ‘oh’. It makes me wonder. He hates me. He doesn’t love me anymore, Bertie.” Bertie looked across at Eva.
“How can you be sure of that? He is probably having difficulty in writing to you. You don’t know what is happening at his end.”
“I doubt it. He loved me once. He loved me dearly. Up until the day he left. Then we parted on such bad terms.”
“Eva, darling, you must not let your mind make up situations. It is not helping you.”
“That is easy for you to say.” Eva cast an angry look in Bertie’s direction, but he wasn’t looking.
“Of course it is, but what I say is true. You must remain positive. Keep a stiff upper lip when you can.”
“Says you. You who has never loved a woman before, let alone a woman who has loved you.” Bertie shifted uneasily on the bench. There seemed to be no way in comforting the woman beside him. Is there nothing I can say? Nothing at all? He thought to himself. He rubbed his hands over his eyes and face in despair. Bertie dare not open his mouth and say another word in case he was snapped at or insulted. He sighed as they continued with the silence.
They watched as a newly courting couple stopped in their tracks a few yards away from the park bench Bertie and Eva sat on. They watched as the young, innocent couple, the boy on leave from the army, stopped to embrace each other and kiss. Eva smiled at them, in her mind she wished them the best of luck, as she welled up. She reached into her coat pocket and pulled out a handkerchief to dab at her eyes. Bertie looked at Eva and noticed the effect the unknown couple had on her. He watched as her heart was breaking inside, all Eva wanted to be was happy. It was that simple task that she struggled with and needed rescuing. Bertie reached out and placed his hand on her knee, giving it a little squeeze, and Eva let out a little sob as he did so. After patting her cheeks with her handkerchief again, her right hand gently rested upon Bertie’s own, her fingers slowly stroking his. Eva gulped to clear her throat.
“I’m sorry, Bertie. I’m terribly sorry.” Eva now looked at Bertie, their eyes meeting as he turned to look at the same point. “I am finding this much harder than I thought.” Eva grimaced. Bertie shifted himself along the bench to get closer to Eva. His right hand moved to rest upon her cheek as they pressed their foreheads together. Eva’s sniffles made Bertie smile before his lips moved to delicately kiss hers.
Bertie put his hand inside his coat to a pocket and pulled out a packet of cigarettes and a lighter. He opened the packet and offered it to Eva who gratefully took one. Bertie took one for himself and placed it in his mouth before returning the packet to his pocket. He held the lighter for Eva to light her cigarette before he lit his own, the lighter he then reunited with the cigarette packet inside his coat. The couple puffed away in silence, the cigarette helped Eva to calm down and relax. She felt a complete and utter mess.
As they both came to the end of their cigarettes, getting as much out of them as possible despite burning their finger tips as they got closer to the end, it was time for them to leave. The evening was drawing in and Bertie and Eva wanted to get home before any chance of a raid.
“I think it is time I took you home.” Bertie announced as he stood up. This caught Eva by surprise and she jumped up from the bench and adjusted herself before taking Bertie’s arm he had held out for her. Bertie decided he would walk Eva all the way home to make sure she returned safely. Much of their journey was spent in silence, but they both took in the scenes of London, the people, the transport. Life for everyone and everything else seemed so ordinary and simple, something Eva wished for as she observed it all.
“We should do something.” Bertie said as they walked along the pavement, “You know, when you’re feeling better.” Eva looked up at Bertie curiously. “This evening was meant to be somewhat lovely and perhaps romantic, but it didn’t turn out to be.” Eva felt so ashamed of herself and her behaviour, what was she meant to say to that? She had already apologised. Eva opened her mouth to talk, but no words came out for she couldn’t find the right ones to use.
The couple stopped at the end of the road Eva lived down. They dare not go any further in case they were spotted once more. Eva whispered a humble ‘thank you’ to Bertie and he kissed her on the cheek before they parted. Bertie watched as Eva continued the rest of her short journey, as she stopped on the pavement before crossing the road, and as she entered her home. Not once did she turn to look back at him.
Eve decided to go straight to bed when she got in, it wasn’t particularly late, but she thought it the best thing she could do. As she lay in bed in the darkness of her bedroom staring at the empty space beside her, thoughts rushed through her mind about Bertie but more importantly thoughts about Freddy. Her heart sent a pang of pain every time he came to mind and it hurt more with every moment. Eva took one of the spare pillows and turned it round pulling it next to her. She wrapped her left arm around it and buried her head into it, as if it was Freddy himself there with her. It was at that point when Eva burst into tears. She didn’t want to cry, she had enough of being sad, but perhaps if she let it all out now then she would feel better come the morning. She usually felt better after a good cry whether she liked it or not and at least it would help her get to sleep.
“You seem a bit off still.” Bertie said whilst eating his sandwich in the tea room at luncheon the following day.
“Sorry.” Eva mumbled stirring her cup of tea for no reason. “I didn’t think you would want to speak to me after yesterday evening.” Bertie sighed.
“Don’t be so silly, Eva! Of course I still want to speak to you. You are my friend.” Bertie smiled as he looked up at Eva from his plate.
“Well that’s that cleared up then.” Eva looked at her watch before she ate her last piece of cake and drained her cup of tea. “You must excuse me, I have to go and do something.” Bertie looked confused and displeased as Eva stood up put on her coat, and picked up her handbag and gas mark. “I shall see you back at the office.” Eva smiled before she turned and left the building into the bustling street. Bertie watched her through the crowds as she walked off down the pavement before she completely disappeared from sight.
Bertie was already back to work when Eva entered the office after running her errand, he was so busy he didn’t even notice her. Not even when she walked past his desk and place a piece of paper before him before going to sit at her own desk. Eva thought she had annoyed Bertie and as a consequence he was ignoring her. It wasn’t until Eva herself was under way with her own work did Bertie finally speak to her. He did his best to find some excuse to do so, luckily he did need to make use of the filing cabinets opposite Eva’s desk, thus providing the best opportunity.
As Bertie rifled through one of the drawers in a cabinet, he decided to speak.
“I presume it is one of a matching pair?”
“I’m sorry?” Eva looked up from her typewriter confused, having forgotten the errand she had ran. Bertie turned to look at her.
“The ticket. I assume you have one too?”
“Oh! Yes, yes of course I do.” Eva smiled.
“So what is Applesauce exactly?”
“A revue. A mix of songs and acts and such things. I saw a poster for it, I thought it looked fun.”
“Well, thank you.”
“I thought I would, and should, treat you. A little gift from me to you.” Eva slowly started typing, Bertie was no longer looking at her. She wasn’t sure what to make of his mood, she couldn’t tell whether he was happy about her surprise or not.
“It is very kind of you, Eva. Friday night did it say?”
“Yes, probably the best time for us to go.” Eva hesitated for a moment, “That is all right isn’t it?” Bertie at last fully turned round to face Eva, clutching a bundle of paperwork. He smiled his beautiful smile in approval before walking behind Eva’s desk. Keeping one eye on Mr. Rothbury’s office, Bertie placed a hand on Eva’s shoulder and gave it a little squeeze.
“It is very thoughtful of you. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend the night with you. To keep us occupied in the meantime, I shall take you to the cinema this evening.” Bertie then gently brushed the back of his hand down Eva’s right cheek. At the soft touch Eva froze as his hand made its way down. Without thinking Eva grabbed Bertie’s hand just before it stopped and placed his palm against her lips. She kissed it before letting him go.
The heavens had opened by the time Bertie and Eva had finished work for the day. The couple, hand in hand, scurried through the streets to the tea room for a light supper to keep them going for the rest of the evening. The torrential downpour delayed them in leaving the tea room, they thought it would pass, but the longer they waited, the more it rained. Bertie and Eva gave up holding out and hurried through the streets to the cinema. They entered the auditorium just as the news reel was ending, both were wet through – in their rush they had forgotten to fasten their coats and running through puddles didn’t help matters. They were both out of breath and relieved to be back somewhere warm and dry once more. In their efforts to not disturb their fellow cinema-goers, Bertie and Eva took a couple of seats in the front row.
Despite the film starting, Bertie wasn’t interested in it. Still panting he looked at Eva sitting to his right, the screen lit her up in the darkness. Her hair was wet – Eva didn’t want to ruin her felt hat in the rain – and her blouse sodden, clinging to every curve of her torso. To Bertie she still looked beautiful. Eva caught Bertie looking at her, she was slowly getting her breath back as she gazed into his eyes filled with longing and wanton. Bertie quickly cast his eyes about the auditorium, it was busy, he couldn’t do anything there, it would have been too obvious for all present. He had to control himself. He adjusted himself on the seat and did his best to concentrate on the film.
But he couldn’t no matter how hard he tried. He found his hand first on Eva’s knee where it rested a while, testing the waters so to speak. When neither encouragement nor disapproval was made, he hand slid higher, up underneath the skirt. Bertie paused before making his final move, right up to the top of Eva’s lisle stockings. And there he rested, his fingers playing with the stocking tops and suspenders. Eva’s own hand came to rest on top of Bertie’s and the skirt, holding him firmly in place. Eva looked up at Bertie as he looked at her, they shared a smile.
Bertie struggled to make it even 45 minutes into the film, he had to succumb to the lust that had been torturing him. He looked at Eva giving her leg, where his hand still resided, and gave it a little squeeze to grab her attention. Eva instantly shot him a look and with a slight gesture with his head, Bertie signalled that they should leave. Eva nodded in reply.
Hand in hand, the couple crept out of the auditorium, through the bright foyer and back into the increasing darkness of the evening. Once out on the pavement, they burst into laughter they had previously contained. Once composed, they slipped on their coats and Bertie walked Eva down the street.
“Follow me.” he said with a knowing smile.
The streets were relatively quiet, people were either sitting in their homes for the evening or have already sought out their entertainment elsewhere in the cinemas, theatres, and public houses. As Eva giggled at Bertie’s flirtatious comments, he suddenly pulled her into a dark alleyway. They stopped half way down, well out of view from any passers by, and Bertie pinned Eva up against the damp brick wall of a building. His face was no more than an inch away from Eva’s,
“I cannot wait any longer, darling.” he breathed before finally kissing her deeply on her inviting red lips. Eva, somewhat surprised with the current circumstances she was in, gradually relaxed and placed her hands on Bertie’s cheeks holding him there, not wanting him to stop. As the passion between them increased, Bertie’s right hand reached inside Eva’s coat to her waist. It pulled at the blouse, untucked it from her skirt, before reaching up beneath it. Eva let out a little moan at the touch of Bertie’s delicate hand, his body then pressed against hers holding her to the wall. Eva could not move, she did not want to move.
Just as Bertie’s hand started pulling at the hem of Eva’s skirt, the siren sounded. They both groaned at the inappropriate timing and pulled apart from one another.
“For pity’s sake!” cried Bertie looking up at the spot lighted sky above them, “Can a man not make love to a beautiful woman without being interrupted by the Hun for once?!” Eva giggled before offering her hand for Bertie to take.
“Come on, let’s go.” The only place they could shelter in was the nearest underground station.
Bertie and Eva hurried along the pavement along with crowds of others who had no shelter of their own. The unseen puddles splashed up their legs leaving dirty splatters on stockings and trousers, but no one cared for it was safety that was more important.
As Eva hurried along the dark pavement she caught her foot on what she could not tell but more than likely a raised paving slab, she tripped and fell scuffing her knees, but her hands stopped her from receiving any more injuries.
“Are you all right?” Bertie said flustered and surprised at the incident, he bent down beside Eva and helped her back onto her feet. Eva gulped before replying,
“Yes, I think so. Nothing hurts.” Once upright, she brushed herself down and noticed how hot her cheeks had got with embarrassment. She composed herself for a second, she didn’t have any more time to waste, before they continued their journey.
It was crowded down on the underground platform. Bertie and Eva walked along the edge looking at everyone, looking for space. Families huddled together, friends conversed to while the time away. They could tell who the regulars to the station were for they had brought along makeshift beds of blankets and home comforts. Bertie spotted a small space at the very end of the platform, it was ample enough for the duration. It wasn’t until this moment, when they had both sat down on the cold, hard surface, that Eva noticed the extent of her injuries. Her left knee was fine, a slight graze, but her right took the brunt of the damage and was bleeding. The blood had trickled down her leg but had yet to reach her shoe. Her stockings completely laddered.
“Oh dear.” Eva frowned. It was then she felt the slight throbbing pain.
“We had better get you cleaned up.” Bertie shifted a little so he could reach into his pocket.
“I think it’s beyond help.” He produced a handkerchief. “Oh Bertie, no, I can’t going soiling your hanky!”
“I don’t care. It will wash anyway. Just mop up what you can.” Eva smiled as she took the handkerchief from Bertie’s hand. She dabbed gently up her leg removing the worst of the blood. Eva let out a little laugh,
“Ha! I look such a state! How on Earth could you go walking out with me, Bertie?” He too laughed. Eva did her best, but she would have to wait until she got home to see to it properly. “Thank you.” Eva looked back at Bertie, “I shall take it home and wash it for you.” And Eva slipped the blood-stained piece of cloth into her own coat pocket.
Bertie and Eva sat awhile watching the people around them, watching them get on as best as they could. Slowly but surely everything quietened down, babies had stopped crying, children drifted off to sleep, and the adults’ conversations became mumbling. Because Eva’s coat was probably the most comfortable, Bertie rolled it up and made it into a pillow, and as his was the largest, his was used as a blanket. They would have to rely on each other’s body heat for extra warmth. Bertie wrapped his right arm around Eva’s waist, their bodies pressed against each other’s. Eva’s hand came to rest on Bertie’s holding him in place, not wanting to let him go. She felt the warmth of Bertie’s breathing in her hair and against her neck, they were breathing in time with one another. His heartbeat was felt on her back, the excitement of the evening had it beating eight to the bar, and now was the only time it had to rest as Bertie lay their wrapped around Eva, protecting her from anything and everything.
The all clear sounded a few hours later. Eva had forgotten where she was and when she sat up and rubbed her eyes she was brought back to reality and the hustle and bustle of everyone waking up and thinking the same thing. Bertie soon joined her, he too was slightly confused. After a few moments of letting their minds wake up fully, Bertie stood before offering his hand to Eva. He picked up their coats – unrolling Eva’s before passing it to her, and they both put them on. Eva noticed her hat had fallen to the floor and picked it up and kept a hold of it.
Everyone on the platform were slowly making their way up the stairs, they would walk a few paces before coming to a stop and then move again. Eva and Bertie, being at the end of the platform were at the end of the huddle, but she still clung onto his arm in case of separation. Eva kept looking about, she noticed on the other side of Bertie a lady in her later years who kept looking at him. Eva ignored her and continued to look elsewhere, but when she looked back, the lady still had her gaze fixed upon Bertie. Eva glanced up at him, who wasn’t paying any attention other than to the crowd ahead, and then back to the lady. Not known to be a rude person, Eva scowled at the lady who noticed and shot her look of disgust in return.
“Excuse me young man!” the lady called out. Bertie hadn’t heard, but Eva did, she shook his arm. “Excuse me!” Bertie was woken from his daze.
“Sorry! How can I help?” He turned to face the woman, Eva followed as she was still on his arm. The crowd very slowly leaving them behind.
“What are you doing here?”
“What on Earth do you mean? I was sheltering here from the raid.”
“No, not that! In England, at home? Why are you still here?”
“You should be out fighting you should. Fighting for your country! We won’t win a war with our men at home you know! We need all the men we can get to fight those Hun.” Bertie stared at her blankly, quite taken aback by what she was saying. Eva looked at Bertie, then back at the lady, to Bertie again. “Think of all those boys out there fighting and you’re here at home doing nothing! Don’t you feel guilty? I lost my son to the last war so that you could live a peaceful life and now it’s your turn to do your bit!” Eva noticed how Bertie reddened, his lips pursed so tightly he looked as if he was about to explode. But he didn’t. He wanted to retaliate but could not find the words to speak. Eva looked at him pleadingly, hoping he would stand up for himself soon, but Bertie’s eyes were fixed on the woman and her babbling mouth. “You are a disgrace to your country you are. You should feel ashamed!”
“Stop it!” Eva exploded on Bertie’s behalf. “What right have you to tell him what he should be doing? You don’t know him, you’ve never even met him before this evening. You don’t even know his circumstances!” Eva took a quick breath before continuing. She didn’t even notice the heads in the dwindling crowd that had turned to watch. “If you must know, this man would give everything to join up and do his bit, but due to ill health he cannot. That is the guilt he carries, the guilt of not being able to help. So before you open your mouth and beat a man down, think about what you say first!” The lady had gone quiet, her cheeks blushed and she shrank back, the signs of defeat. But if Bertie wasn’t going to stand up for himself, Eva was.
“I’m terribly sorry.” The lady mumbled before scurrying off, embarrassed and ashamed, into the crowd. Eva sighed and turned to Bertie, placing her hands on his forearms. He was still red in the face, but he had tears in his eyes which he fought back.
“Why didn’t you fight back?” Eva whispered.
“I don’t know. I just couldn’t. I wanted words to come out, but they didn’t.” He took a deep breath. “Thank you Eva for what you have just done. For rescuing me from humiliation.” Eva gave him a soothing smile.
“Because I care for you Bertie, I respect my friends and protect them when I have to. Anyway, I couldn’t have that old bat telling you what to do!” Bertie laughed. “There, that’s better, I like it when you smile. I don’t like an upset Bertie.” Eva planted a delicate kiss on his lips. “Come on, let’s go home.” Eva linked her arm in Bertie’s once more and they set off for the stairs, now free of its nightly evacuees.
“Oh good Lord, it’s raining again!” Eva exclaimed as she and Bertie stood in the foyer of the underground station. Eva wrapped her coat around herself, hiding her felt hat inside it. “I think it would be best if we both went back to mine as it is closest.” Eva looked up at Bertie who was still in shock from the little tiff down on the platform. “You can stay at mine for the night if you’d like. It would probably be for the best…in more ways than one.”
“Yes, yes it would.” Bertie stammered as he found his voice. He didn’t like the idea of getting soaked again, or running. He didn’t half wish he had brought his umbrella with him.
“Come on then.” Eva took Bertie’s hand and led him out the door into the dark, wet, miserable street. To Bertie’s surprise, Eva didn’t make him run or move in any way particularly fast. Little did he realise that Eva had felt, against her back on the platform, the after effects that running had on him. She had previously forgotten his condition, but the little reminder made her go steady on the way home. At least it would be warm and dry when they got there.
Another fifteen minutes later and Bertie and Eva finally made it back to the flat, soaked through. They had to be quiet when they ascended the stairs so as not to disturbed anyone or arouse suspicion with the sounds of two pairs of feet, as a consequence Eva let out a cry of laughter as soon as she opened her front door. What a sight they both looked when they caught glimpses of themselves in the mirror above the fireplace. Like drained rats. They both hung up their coats on the stand, the only thing dry about them was Eva’s hat.
“Wait here.” She told Bertie, not that he was going to move anywhere. Eva entered the dark kitchen and returned with a wooden clothes horse. “We shall have to hang our clothes on this overnight. The living room is the warmest room.” She opened up the clothes horse before the fireplace, out of habit, as if it was lit.
Bertie was taken aback when Eva removed her wet blouse, it wasn’t as wet as she had expected it to be and only the hem of her skirt was a little wet as that was the only part exposed to the elements. When Bertie gradually stopped staring at Eva in her underwear, he removed his pullover and hung it up next to Eva’s items on the clothes horse. He then watched her as she unclipped and rolled down her stockings, having difficulty with the right one which had stuck itself to her leg with the dried blood. She stretched the stockings in turn over her arm to inspect the damage.
“Hmm…” she mused. “One is all right, but the other may be beyond repair. I’ll do my best though.” She was talking more to herself than to Bertie, who she had almost forgotten all about. “Right, I shall go and give these a quick rinse and wash my leg.” she started for the bathroom, “Ooh, do you have your hanky? I shall do that too while I’m at it.”
“It’s in your coat pocket if I remember correctly.” Bertie was unbuttoning his shirt now.
“Ah yes.” Eva walked over and took out the handkerchief from her coat pocket and continued on her journey to the bathroom. Eva returned to the living room a few minutes later and hung the items up. Under her arms she had a couple of towels, she gave one to Bertie and they both dried their hair as best they could. Once finished, Eva took the towels and returned them to the bathroom. Upon her return Bertie had at last gotten as far as to taking off his trousers. Eva halted in the doorway. Despite the dampness about him, his hair ruffled, he looked a vision that Eva was pleased to see. And it wasn’t until this moment that Eva noticed that Bertie was thinking the same about her. She edged towards him slowly and she moved until their lips touched. She wrapped her arms around his neck and clung on to him for dear life, Bertie wrapped his arms tightly around her waist.
“I think we had better get to bed.” Eva whispered as she pulled away. It had felt like they had been there hours, but it was only for a few minutes. Bertie followed Eva into her bedroom where she changed into her pyjamas as Bertie climbed into the bed. Eva joined him when she was ready and curled right up against Bertie whose arms held her. They both fell straight into a deep sleep.
It had been decided that on the Friday night, the night that Bertie and Eva were going to Applesauce, Eva would spend the rest of it staying at Bertie’s home. It only seemed reasonable seeing as the show was at the London Palladium which was somewhat closer to Bertie’s than Eva’s and would save a long journey home in the dark. And of course it meant they could spend more time together, and alone at that.
The couple enjoyed a supper of some cold meat with bread and butter, washed down of course with plenty of tea. Eva had time to have a quick change of clothes into something smarter for the occasion – the same red crepe dress she had worn to the dinner dance, teamed up with a colourful hat and a pair of white gloves. Bertie waited for her beside the front door. To Eva’s surprise he presented her with something she could borrow for the evening. Whilst Eva’s was getting ready, Bertie had gone rummaging around in his parent’s bedroom and found an old fox fur of his mother’s. Eva turned her back to Bertie so that he could place the fur across her shoulders. She turned to face Bertie, stroking the fur, her face lit up like a child’s at Christmas.
“Oh Bertie, I feel like the most glamorous woman in the entire world!” Eva exclaimed with joy. Her hands couldn’t leave the soft fur.
“You are the most glamorous woman in the world, Eva, fur or no fur.” Bertie smiled and Eva planted a kiss on his lips. Bertie opened the front door and Eva stepped out into the cool evening air. Bertie stood next to her as soon as he locked the door. He gave her his arm, and the couple set off down the street.
How Bertie and Eva enjoyed their night out! They laughed at the comedy sketches and foot tapped to the songs sung. It was so nice to be doing something completely different for a change. About three-quarters of the way through the revue, the air raid siren sounded, in true style the performers carried on after all they were doing what they were paid to do. A handful of the audience decided they would leave and take shelter somewhere a little safer, but the majority, including Eva and Bertie, stayed put. They had paid for their tickets and they weren’t going to let the Germans ruin their night.
The all clear didn’t sound until well after the revue had finished and so some of the performers stayed on to entertain what audience they had left until it did. Bertie and Eva eventually returned home after midnight, on their journey they laughed as they questioned whether the ARP warden would tell them to put their cigarettes out because they were letting out too much light, but to their relief the one they did pass was enjoying one himself.
As soon as they got in, they went straight to the bedroom, it had been a long night. Bertie sat on the edge of the bed to remove his shoes, Eva was on the other side watching his back as she undressed and put on her pyjamas.
“Thank you so much for a splendid evening, Eva.” Bertie now stood to take off his trousers, still with his back to Eva.
“Oh it was nothing. Thank the performers, they did all the hard work!” Eva smiled to herself as she watched Bertie’s bottom as his bent over to remove his feet from his trousers, and then his socks.
“But you bought the tickets in the first place.” Bertie turned round to face Eva, just as he caught her buttoning up her pyjama top, the mere sight of her skin down to her naval was enough to make him hot under the collar. He swallowed. “I think tonight has been the best night I have had in a long time!” Eva made a fake gasped and smiled.
“But what of all our other nights we have spent together?”
“You know what I mean!”
“Of course I do, Bertie. Right, I’ll just pop to the bathroom, shan’t be long.”
When Eva reappeared, her face without a trace of make-up and her hair taken down, Bertie was in his pyjamas and in bed waiting for her to join him. Returning to her side, Eva lifted the covers and climbed into the big bed next to him. She lay down and breathed a sigh of relief.
“What an evening! I loved every moment, but I am exhausted!” she said.
“Oh really?” Bertie smirked and edged himself even closer to Eva, his nose almost touching hers.
“Yes!” Eva kissed Bertie, “If there were such a competition, I would sleep for England. And I would win it!” Bertie looked slightly disheartened by this fact, Eva could tell what he was after, seeing as they were interrupted the other night and hadn’t had the opportunity since. “In the morning, Bertie. I promise.” She kissed him again. Bertie rolled over to turn the bedside lamp off. In the pitch black he rolled back to Eva and held her tight all night long.
Eva kept her promise, she always does. They didn’t decide to get out of bed until twelve, so instead of breakfast, Bertie rustled up something for brunch. Afterwards they went out and Eva did her food shopping and dropped it off home before Bertie decided that they should take a walk, although it was more of an amble, along the river. They stopped and admired the Houses of Parliament and thought about all the great, and bad, decisions made there over the years. Bertie treated Eva to tea and cake in a lovely little tea room nearby. Afterwards they continued a further along the river until the sun began to set, in which it was agreed upon that they should better return home.
Eva didn’t intend to stay another night at Bertie’s as she had chores to do at home, but she couldn’t refuse his offer for spending another night together. It was settled that she would leave in the morning. What good would it be leaving that night for she would only sit at home alone too exhausted to do anything, she might as well spend it with some decent company.
They dined on leftover Woolton pie followed by some delicious vinegar cake, all lovingly made by Mrs. Briggs.
“Whatever would you do without her?” Eva joked, finishing off the crumbs of the cake.
“Starve!” They laughed together.
Bertie made a pot of tea and they took it into the living room where Eva sat to Bertie’s right on the settee and curled up next to him. They smoked as they drank, and listened to the wireless. They were both worn out, feeling as if their legs were about to drop off any moment from all that walking they did.
“How are you getting on with that Christie book?” Bertie enquired after taking a drag on his cigarette.
“Oh I’m getting through it…slowly. I tend to read a little when I go to bed. I only have a couple of chapters or so to go.”
“And how are you finding it?”
“Wonderful. Every page is a delight to read!” Eva turned her head to look up at Bertie and smiled. Bertie chuckled.
“You will have to borrow the others when you’re finished with that one then.”
“I fully intend to!” Eva rested her head against Bertie’s chest, it rose and fell with every breath he took, her ear listening to his heartbeat. Bertie kissed the top of her head. They sat in silence enjoying each other’s company. Just them being there, in each other’s presence, made them happy.
Sitting and looking pensive at her desk. Eva rested her head on the tips of her fingers, looking as if she was in prayer, her elbows perched on the edge of her desk. What day was it? Tuesday the eighth of April. Eva thought to herself. Her brow furrowed as she did so. February…there was nothing. March…nothing. April, still nothing…and I am due this week at the latest. Eva’s eyes widened with realisation. Oh good Lord, it has definitely happened! I must telephone the Doctor for an appointment.
Eva lifted the receiver and when she reached the operator, told her the number of her Doctors surgery. Eva wanted an appointment as soon as possible. Fortunately she could be fit in after she had finished work, assuming she made a swift exit at five o’clock. Eva replaced the receiver and sat back in her chair before rubbing her face. This was the last thing she wanted to worry about.
“I would like to take you out this evening.” Bertie announced over luncheon. “For a walk, or to the park or something.”
“It sounds lovely, Bertie, but I can’t this evening.” Eva looked regretfully at Bertie across the table.
“I have a prior engagement. An appointment.”
“An appointment with who?” Eva gave him a look of disgust of being asked such a question, Bertie couldn’t help but pick up on it. “Sorry, if you don’t mind me asking of course. Where are my manners?”
“The Doctor if you must know.” Bertie was rather taken aback and proceeded to tread carefully.
“If you don’t mind me asking, why for?”
“I just have to, Bertie. That is all.” Eva continued eating her luncheon as Bertie looked at her, wondering why she was so cryptic. He knew what he was asking was rather personal, but they were friends at least and friends share personal information, clearly not today though. At least, there was no need for Eva to be so blunt.
As Eva ate, she pondered over her brief conversation with Bertie. She realised now that she was rather sharp with him. She didn’t mean to be, but this was a matter that worried her greatly, and something she couldn’t bring to share with Bertie. Not yet. And certainly not in the middle of a tea room. For now it had to remain a secret.
As soon as five o’clock came around, Eva quickly tidied up her desk before heading towards the office door, with her handbag and gas mask, to put on her coat and hat. She bid everyone a good evening, and leaving Bertie the gift of her smile before dashing out the door.
Eva walked through the door of the large imposing house used as the Doctor’s surgery. The entrance hall, with its panelled walls and lino floor, doubled up as a waiting room and at the opposite end was the receptionist’s desk. Eva nervously walked towards it, not taking any notice of anything around her. The receptionist, the Doctor’s wife, with her lips firmly pursed together peered over her glasses as Eva reached the desk. Her hair was dark streaked with a few stray grey hairs, pulled tightly into a roll along the nape of the head.
“I have an appointment. Mrs. Johnson.” Eva said, the sound of her voice felt as if it echoed throughout the building. The woman smiled at her and looked down at her ledger running her finger along a list of times and names,
“Ah yes, there you are. Please take a seat Mrs. Johnson, the Doctor will be with you shortly.”
Eva turned, there was a row of mismatched chairs along the two walls, one the left hand side sat a woman of mature years, watching Eva, and so she decided to sit half way down on the opposite side alone. Eva sat, knees pressed together, on one of the chairs and placed her handbag and gas mask on her lap, she felt and looked uncomfortable, she wanted to get out of there. She couldn’t help but fidget, adjusting her hair, crossing her left leg over her right, then back again, and tapping her fingers along her gas mask box.
The front door opened and in walked another patient, this one a young man who looked to be home on leave. Eva couldn’t help but watch him approach the reception desk, it was something to distract her for a short while at least. There was a mumble between him and the Doctor’s wife, before he turned back round and took a seat on Eva’s side of the waiting room.
Eventually an elderly looking gentleman exited the Doctor’s room, which was through an oak door to the left, with the Doctor behind him.
“Good evening, Mr. Evans.” The Doctor said. The patient joined the woman in the waiting room, clearly his wife, and left. Eva watched as the Doctor leaned on the reception desk in to speak to his wife, double checking who his next patient was. “Mrs. Johnson.” he announced and waited for Eva to reach him, he gestured to his room and Eva smiled. The room was much like the waiting room, panelled with a lino floor. Certificates hung on the walls as well as various posters. The wooden desk, with green tooled leather on the top, sat in the window, a skeleton in the corner to the left which Eva glanced at before sitting down opposite the Doctor. His greying hair was neatly combed as was his impressive moustache. He sat in his chair, before the window, with his hand folded in his lap, the early evening light from outdoors glowing behind him.
“What can I do for you, Mrs. Johnson? It has been some time since you have last been here.” Eva nodded as her mind travelled back to over a year ago since she last sat in the same seat. She had her handbag in her lap, nervously fiddling with the clasp as she sat there.
“I would,” Eva cleared her throat, “like to test for pregnancy, please.” The Doctor paused as he looked at Eva, twiddling his moustache.
“You have decided to try again, I see.”
“Erm…” Eva shifted on her seat, “Not entirely, no. It wasn’t intended, but it seems to have happened. I just want a peace of mind sooner rather than later. To prepare myself.”
“Very well. I’m sure you remember the procedure. I will need a urine sample to send off to be tested.” Eva dutifully nodded. She remembered the mess she made last time, and blushed.
“And how long is it before I will get the results?”
“It will take a week at least. I shall telephone your office and inform you when they do. You can come in and collect them, and discuss any matters if you wish.”
“Thank you” Eva smiled worriedly.
After her doctor’s appointment, Eva had lost her appetite so she skipped dinner that evening. Instead she sat in her armchair with the wireless on to keep her company. Knitting was too much for her, so she pondered what to do. The book. Eva decided to go and get the Christie book, which lay on her bedside table, she was borrowing from Bertie. Eva opened up the book as she returned to her armchair and proceeded to read. There was a knock at the door and with it Eva sighed. Who on Earth could it be? Who would come to visit me? She thought to herself. The knocking didn’t stop despite Eva wishing it would and the person carrying out the act would go away. Sighing once more, Eva got out of her chair and went to open her front door. She only opened it a crack, not sure what to expect on the other side.
“Bertie, what are you doing here?”
“I’ve come to see you, of course! Who else?” he smiled at her, but there wasn’t one in return.
“There’s no need to be like that.” There was a pause and Bertie purposefully cleared his throat.
“I suppose you had better come in.” Eva backed away and opened the door wider to let Bertie in. She turned her back to him as he removed and hung up his coat and hat, Eva with one hand on her hips, the other with its fingers pressed against her lips as she thought to herself. She didn’t know what to do, she didn’t want Bertie there, but she could hardly turn him away now, not after travelling all that way. Eva finally turned back round to face Bertie, and smiled sympathetically. “Why are you here?”
“You know wh-”
“I was concerned. I just wanted to make sure you we all right.”
“Well I am all right.”
“And the Doctors?”
“There is nothing wrong with me.”
“No one goes to the Doctor when there isn’t a problem.”
“There is nothing wrong with me.”
“I am quite well, Bertie.” They stared at each other momentarily. Bertie let out a sigh with the struggle he was going through.
“You don’t seem to understand.” Eva let out a shrill laugh.
“Ha! It is you who doesn’t understand!”
“All I am asking is about your appointment this evening. That is all.”
“I know, but it is none of your business.” Bertie narrowed his eyes at Eva.
“You are impossible.” He almost growled at her. “All I am doing is showing a little concern for a friend, someone I care about, but you are just…just rude, Eva!” Eva frowned, she had nothing to say to him. Nothing that would change the situation at least. “You are so blunt with me and not just tonight, on other occasions too. I am quite fed up with your attitude. You can be so sweet and caring, but then, almost like a light switch, you just turn and change. You become spiteful and nasty.” Eva eventually found her voice and a pause long enough to step in.
“The only person in this world I would tell about my appointment is my husband. Other than that, it is of no great importance to anyone. I cannot believe you would get upset about something as petty as that!”
“It is more than that, have you just ignored everything I have just said?!” Bertie threw his hands up in exasperation, Eva could be so difficult.
“My husband is the only person in this world. Beyond him I have no one. No one to talk to, or share problems. No one. Do you not realise how lonely that makes me feel?”
“Yes I do, but that does not mean nor give you the right to be rude to everyone else who want to help. You just push them away with your attitude.” Eva was slowly turning red and took a step away from Bertie.
“A piece of my heart was torn away from me when Freddy walked out of that door behind you to go and join the Navy. Since then I have had no one.” Eva’s voice was so quiet, almost a whisper compared to the raised voices a moment ago.
“You have me.” Despite Bertie’s kind and gentle words, his look was still stern and frightening. Eva didn’t know what to do now, let alone say. She still wanted Bertie to leave. “Usually when the hostess receives visitors, tea is served.” Eva shot Bertie a look of disbelief before she left the living room for the kitchen.
Eva shut the kitchen door behind her, and leant against it. Tears rolled from her eyes and down her cheeks, she had to place a hand over her mouth to smother her sobs. Her heavy breathing as a result, Eva swore she could heard through the door. Bertie probably knew she was crying and that it was his fault. A few minutes later, still crying, Eva managed to pull herself together enough to fill the kettle and set it on the stove. Whilst it sat waiting to boil, Eva went into the bathroom to wipe her eyes. She hoped dabbing them with some cold water would help reduce the redness.
The kettle eventually came to the boil after several gruelling minutes. Eva made a pot of tea and let it stew for a short while before pouring it into a cup on a saucer and adding the milk, just how Bertie liked it. Eva took a deep breath and exhaled it before she made her way back to the living room.
Bertie, Eva saw, had sat himself upon the settee, patiently waiting for her return. She gave him the cup and saucer, not making eye contact, then went and sat in her armchair.
“Are you not having any?” Bertie asked.
“No.” Eva didn’t even bother looking at him. She had her left elbow resting on the arm of the chair, her head rested in her hand. They sat in absolute silence as Bertie painstakingly took his time sipping the cup of tea. Eva thought this to be more torturous than his harsh words.
At last Eva heard the clink as the cup touched the saucer as they came together for the last time. Out of the corner of her eye, she watched as Bertie place the cup and saucer on the floor at the corner of the settee before sitting back with his hands in his lap.
“Some hostess,” Bertie finally broke the silence, “you couldn’t even make polite conversation.”
“I didn’t invite you. I didn’t want you here.” Bertie shifted himself uncomfortably at Eva’s words. She still did not move.
“Well, I suppose I know when I am not wanted.”
“No you don’t. If you did, you would have left as soon as you got here.” Eva heard his sharp intake of breath. Again, out of the corner of her eye, she watched as Bertie stood up and put on his coat and hat, his hand rested on the door knob as he turned to look back at Eva, who to Bertie looked like a child having just had a tantrum.
“You need to buck your ideas up.” Bertie opened the door and left, letting the door softly click at the latch. All of a sudden Eva was furious. She was so angry at Bertie that she picked up the Christie book for the arm of the chair and threw it at the door Bertie had just closed on her. It smacked against the wood before it landed with a thud onto the floor. Bertie paused on the stairs as he heard the loud noise, but he shrugged it off and continued on his way.
“Good morning, Mr. Allen.” Eva greeted as she walked across the office the following morning, after hanging up her coat and hat next to the door. She ignored Bertie as she passed his desk, and he ignored her. They both knew that conversation was two way, but who was going to start it was another matter. The office felt so uncomfortable in its new found silence.
“Eva,” Mr. Rothbury said as he stepped out of his office soon after Eva sat down at her desk. She turned to face him. “I am having a meeting here today and I need you to take the minutes.”
“Why yes of course, Mr. Rothbury.”
“The meeting starts at eleven thirty and is expected to last some time. There will be some light refreshments to keep us all going.” Eva smiled in reply. Good, she thought, something different to do at least, and it will take my mind off things.
Eva was glad to get away from her desk and the awkward feel she and Bertie gave to the office. The meeting was only held in a room opposite the office, but to Eva it felt like a million miles away. The meeting itself held no importance to her, in fact it was rather dull as she sat there writing down the minutes onto sheet after sheet of paper. No doubt she will be typing them all up this afternoon, or at the rate the gentlemen were talking at, the next few days.
After an hour, a break was taken. Eva scurried down the stairs and out the back door to get some fresh air. She lit up a cigarette as she stood on the pavement in her own quiet world. A welcome relief. Her hands ached so placing her cigarette in her mouth and holding it there with her lips, she flexed and stretched the muscles in her hands. That’s better. It had been some time since she had to take minutes. The ten minutes she had to re-cooperate had been the quickest ten minutes all day. It was time for Eva to return to her job.
Bertie and Eva had managed to avoid each other all that day, not a word passed between them. The following day, Maundy Thursday, continued much the same to both Eva’s and Bertie’s annoyance. Surely one of them was going to give in soon? As predicted, Eva spent most of her day writing up the minutes she had taken at the meeting. When it came to luncheon, they went their separate ways.
The day dragged on and on, but eventually the clock struck five, much to Eva’s relief. She had far greater things to be doing at home than being stuck in a room with someone she refused to make any contact with for eight hours. Eva threw on her coat and hat and made her way down the stairs to her favourite spot out the back door. She pulled out a cigarette and her lighter. She flicked the lighter, but only sparks came out. Eva tried again and again, to no avail. She sighed at her failure and just as she was about to give up and go home, a lighter with a flame appeared before her. Without a word and in pure desperation, Eva leant in with her cigarette and took a deep drag to light it. Once her cigarette was glowing, Eva pulled away and removed it from her mouth.
“Thank you.” Eva slipped her lighter back into her coat pocket.
“You’re welcome.” Came the deep recognisable voice that could melt a thousand hearts.
“Bertie!” Eva looked up at him, shocked. Neither of them smiled at each other like they used to do.
“Only helping a friend in need.” Eva raised an eyebrow, she wasn’t sure how to take his remark.
“I’m still your friend then?” She took another drag staring into the distance, not wanting to make eye contact, as Bertie lit his own cigarette.
“If you wish it.” Eva looked at him from the corner of her eye, his eyes were firmly set on her. They both returned to their cigarettes which provide a little comfort in the difficult situation. “Are you doing anything over Easter?”
“No.” Eva took a drag, she would have ended the conversation there if she could get away with it. “Are you?” She thought better of it, she might as well be amicable.
“I am going to stay with my family.” Bertie sighed.
“Oh right. I thought you didn’t like them?”
“I don’t. But Mother insisted.” Bertie waited to see if Eva would look at him for a change, but no she continued to stand before him and look straight ahead of her. Bertie looked to see what was in her eye line, but there was nothing but a brick wall. “I leave this evening. I just need to pop home and pick up my suitcase then off I go on the train. In fact,” Bertie looked at his watch, “I shouldn’t hang around too long otherwise I shall be late. Mother would hate that.” The words slowly, but surely sunk in.
“What?” Eva’s turned suddenly to face Bertie. At last. Just as he wanted. “You’re going away…the WHOLE weekend?”
“Yes.” Bertie’s expression was still deadpan, but on the inside he was smiling. Eva’s eyes studied him, she was thinking of what to say.
“Oh.” Her eyes returned to the dull brick wall. “And what if I wanted to contact you?” Eva watched as Bertie fumbled underneath his coat into his trouser pocket and pulled out a piece of paper, handing it over to Eva.
“That is how you contact me. Ask the operator for that number. You would be best calling at say, around half past four before we have to get ready for dinner. A quiet part of the day.”
“I don’t have a telephone and I won’t be at work.” Eva was blunt and took a drag bringing her cigarette back to life.
“Use the telephone box. Here…” Bertie reached further into his pocket and produced some coins which he gave to Eva. “Use these. It’s only fair that I pay for it.” Eva, who was still clutching onto the scrap of paper as if her life depended on it, shoved it, along with the coins, into her coat pocket next to her lighter and cigarette packet.
“Thank you.” Eva almost produced a smile in return.
“Right,” Bertie looked at his watch once again, “I really must dash. I shall speak to you tomorrow, four thirty on the dot!” and he strided off towards the busy street.
Eva ran down the road, her heels clicking on the pavement, she was already late for her first half-past telephone call to Bertie of the Easter weekend. Out of breath, Eva opened the door of the red telephone box and stepped inside. She lifted the receiver, put the first coin in the slot and pressed the button. She gave the number to the operator to put her through.
“Hello Bertie.” Eva smiled at the sound of his voice, even though she knew he couldn’t see it. “I’m sorry I’m late. Those blasted Germans held me up.”
“Ah, I was wondering. Not to worry. Are you all right?”
“Yes, yes. No damage here, but some houses a few roads away suffered.”
“Well at least you are still standing, that’s the main thing.” Bertie and Eva could tell that they were happy to hear each other as they simultaneously sighed down the receivers.
“How are you, Bertie, did you get there on time yesterday evening?”
“I am well thank you. I was a little later than expected. Mother wasn’t best pleased, but I made it just in time for dinner.”
“There is no pleasing her.” Eva started twisting the telephone cord around her finger.
“She’s set in her ways unfortunately.” Bertie whispered just in case his mother happened to overhear him as he stood in the grand entrance hall. Eva laughed.
“So have you been up to much today?”
“Not particularly. My father took me around the estate to show me what has and has not been done. It was dreadfully dull. With the lack of staff, everything is looking somewhat worse for wear.”
“About as exciting as my cleaning then.”
“Indeed. Then after luncheon I confined myself to the library with the dog.” Bertie went on to describe his father’s golden Labrador, Duke, his faithful hound and friend for nine years.
“Now that sounds delightful.” Eva perked up.
“It was. I hid away in a corner…until mother insisted I take tea with them. I had to divulge in some uninteresting conversation about something or other.”
“Yes. I tried to find some excuse to get away, but couldn’t. Instead I ended up watching the clock slowly tick past. I was rather looking for to half-past four.” Eva smiled.
“Whilst I spent my afternoon in the basement wishing the Germans would hurry up and go away!” she giggled.
“What different lives we are living.”
“We are.” Eva could hear a knock at the door at Bertie’s end of the line. There was a slight pause in the conversation as Bertie watched the old Butler open the front door to greet the visitor.
“Ah, I must go, my sister and her husband have arrived, and their daughter.”
“Oh, very well then.”
“I shall speak to you the same time tomorrow, yes?”
“Yes of course.”
“Goodbye, Bertie.” Eva only put the receiver back when Bertie swiftly hung up. She sighed before turning and leaving the telephone box.
“Hello Bertie.” Eva had returned to the telephone box at four-thirty on the dot the following day.
“Eva, darling.” Bertie sounded relieved and happy to hear her voice once again.
“I’m on time today.”
“You are indeed. It is a blessing. The telephone call that is.”
“Another dull day for you then?”
“As always. Well, I do have my brother-in-law to keep me company at least. Even so…”
“Mmmm…” Eva agreed.
“Although my niece has been a delight, making me run around after her all the time. Playing hide and seek and whatnot.”
“Ah. What is her name? How old is she?”
“Elsie and she’s three and a half. A sweet little thing.” Eva smiled as she imagined Bertie, a grown man, hiding and chasing after a small child around the house, what a sight it must have been.
“She sounds wonderful.” Bertie made a sound of agreement in reply.
“So what have you done today, Eva?”
“Oh, the usual really. Shopping, cleaning. Having a good sort out, a Spring clean.”
“You must be exhausted.”
“I am a little. I don’t plan to do much tonight. But then I don’t tend to do much when I’m home alone in the evenings anyway.”
“Well it won’t be long now until we can spend those evenings together. I’m pining after them myself.”
“I’m sure you are!” Eva smiled before sighing. Her left hand was in her coat pocket playing with some paper, an envelope, turning it over again and again. “I received a letter today.”
“Oh?” Eva cleared her throat.
“It’s…it’s from Freddy.”
“What does it say…if you don’t mind me asking? Is he all right?”
“I don’t know.” Eva pulled the envelope out of her pocket and studied her name and address on the front.
“What do you mean, ‘I don’t know’? Haven’t you opened it?”
“No. I haven’t plucked up the courage to do so. Not yet.”
“But you must open it!”
“I will. In my own time.” Eva started turning the envelope over like she had done with it in her pocket.
“When did it arrive?”
“Today. I don’t know how I’ve held off, but something is stopping me from opening it.”
“Well don’t let it. You must open it, darling. If I was there now, I’d snatch it off you and open it myself!” Eva laughed at the thought of the scene.
“You would have to put up a jolly good fight!”
“Just open it, Eva. If not now, then when will you?” Eva paused to think about it. She agreed that she was being rather silly about the whole situation now that Bertie has put some perspective on the matter.
“Very well then.” Eva sighed. She clenched the receiver between her ear and shoulder to make her right hand free to open up the envelope. The sound of the envelope un-sticking, and sliding out the letter seemed louder now than any letter did before. Something else was in the envelope too, tucked into the letter, and fluttered onto the floor as Eva opened it up. She would pick it up afterwards for at that moment she could not move, her feet felt like heavy weights holding her still. Eva could hear Bertie’s breathing down the receiver as he waited with growing impatience. She had only just finished reading through the letter before Bertie spoke again.
“Well, what does it say?” Eva cleared her throat again, her right hand returned to hold the receiver as the left held open the letter.
“Dear Eva,” she read aloud, “After finding out that I have a wife back home, the boys insisted that I write to you as I haven’t spoken to you since I left for the Navy. Here is the said letter. In case you were wondering I am doing all right and training is nearly finished so hopefully I will get to see some action soon. That is all for now. Freddy.” There was silence once Eva finished reading, tears rolled down her cheeks.
“Is that all?” Bertie finally asked.
“No post script, no kisses on the end?”
“No, nothing. He never was a man of many words.” Eva laughed nervously.
“And how do you feel?”
“In all honesty?” Eva wiped her eyes in turn with the back of her left hand.
“I don’t know.” Eva sniffed, which confirmed to Bertie that she had been crying. “On one hand at least he has written to me, that is what I’ve been wanting for the past few weeks. But on the other, the letter completely lacks any sentiment and love. Bearing in mind he hasn’t seen me, it feels as if he is still angry.”
“I agree entirely. But who is to know until you get to see him in person?”
“But will I?”
“Well I expect he will come home when he finishes training and before he leaves again.”
“I suppose so.” Eva sniffed again, the trails left by her tears were drying up. She stuffed the letter into her coat pocket, she would return it to its envelope later.
“I know it’s easy to say, Eva, but just keep your chin up.” Bertie smiled and Eva did too.
“I will, Bertie, I will.”
When the conversation had finished for the afternoon and they said their goodbyes until the following day, Eva returned the receiver and crouched down to pick up the piece of paper that fell from the letter. The side that faced up was blank, but it was thicker than paper. As Eva stood back up and turned it over, she revealed the photograph of her husband in his Naval uniform. The tears instantly returned and Eva stood sobbing her heart out in the telephone box, she leant against the side to support her and stop her from completely breaking down. She missed him, she wanted him to come home so that she could be in his arms once more. To be together.
“Are you well?”
“Yes, I believe so.”
“Even after our conversation yesterday, and the letter?”
“There were a few tears, but I feel better today.”
“Jolly good. I don’t like it when you’re upset.”
“Have you enjoyed your day?”
“Somewhat, yes – not now Elsie, I’m busy – sorry about that, I have a demanding child clinging to me.”
“That’s quite all right.” Eva laughed, “Have you done anything special seeing as it is Easter Sunday?”
“We all went out on a walk this morning then came back to a rather splendid luncheon. Elsie has been spoilt and has been given everyone’s sweet ration by the looks of it, and my grandmother has knitted her a stuffed rabbit.” Bertie looked down to see Elsie playing with said toy rabbit, pink with large ears and fluffy tail. “And then this evening we are to have dinner with a few guests.”
“That sounds rather lovely.” Eva smiled, “Part of me wishes I could have been there.”
“I wish you were. You would have made everything ten times better.”
“You are sweet. You certainly know how to charm ladies.” Eva giggled.
“You’re the only one I have charmed!”
“Oh, before I forget, when does your train get in tomorrow?” Eva asked.
“Erm…now let me think…five o’clock I believe, all being well that is. Why do you ask?”
“Oh nothing, I was just wondering.” There was a tap on the glass on the door behind Eva, she turned and saw a young woman notifying Eva that she wanted to use the telephone too. “There is someone else wanting to use the telephone so I had better go, Bertie. Sorry to cut you short.”
“That’s all right, I’m sure I will cope. See you soon!”
“See you soon. Goodbye.”
Eva was incredibly early for Bertie’s five o’clock arrival at the railway station. She wanted to make sure she would definitely would be there to be able to greet him on the platform, it would be a wonderful surprise. She sat herself on a bench, the back to the wall, and smoked a cigarette as she watched people and trains come and go.
Another train pulled into the station, Eva checked the clock, it was dead on five o’clock. Eva stood up to look out for Bertie, but the steam from the train filled the platform hiding all the alighting passengers. She was standing next to the platform exit so either way she wouldn’t be able to miss him. The platform slowly cleared of steam and passengers and soon Eva was able to see properly once more. She looked left and then right before watching one of the last passengers step out of a carriage. Once both feet were on the platform, Bertie brushed himself down and straightened himself up with his only free hand, the other carrying his suitcase. He raised his head and noticed Eva standing patiently a few yards away. Upon noticing him, a huge smile spread across Eva’s face. Bertie started walking towards her, but it was not enough. Eva ran along the platform and flung both her arms around Bertie’s neck. He returned the gesture being careful not to hit her with his suitcase as his arms came to rest on her waist. Without a single word spoken, they kissed, making up for the time spent apart.
The train had pulled away and still Bertie and Eva stood on the platform. Still in each other’s embrace.
“I am so glad you came to meet me, Eva. I have missed you so much!” Bertie kissed Eva again.
“I didn’t think I would miss you, but when you had gone I realised how much I did. I have been so lonely!”
“There were our telephone calls.” The couple had parted and were now walking arm in arm towards the station exit.
“Well yes, the highlight of my days, but it still wasn’t quite the same.”
“I am back now. We have each other once again.” Bertie smiled down at Eva as she met his gaze. “Supper?”
Bertie treated Eva to the usual dinner of fish and chips. They took it back to his house as it was warmer and Bertie’s suitcase was getting rather heavy to carry any further. They sat down at the kitchen table to eat, for once eating the fish and chips off a plate with cutlery instead of their laps and fingers. Bertie and Eva conversed and summarised their weekend apart from one another, both seemed to have had a dreadfully dull time. All the while, Eva had her legs crossed underneath the table, her right over her left. Her right foot she slowly stroked Bertie’s leg. He gulped at intervals, he was clearly enjoying the teasing, but didn’t know what to do about it. Should he mention it, or just carry on as if nothing was happening?
“You know, Eva,” Bertie swallowed a mouthful of chips, “if I could take you on this table right now, I would.” Eva snorted with laughter, being careful not to spit out her tea in the process. The couple blushed at the thought as they looked at the table. “It’s been an awfully long time.”
“I cannot remember the last time.” Eva agreed. With tension now running high, they slowly but surely finished off their dinner and pot of tea.
As Eva took the empty plates and cups to the large butler sink, Bertie took off his pullover and rolled up his sleeves ready to wash up. He looked rather flustered as he plunged his hands into the hot soapy water, Eva could see that he was desperate to get the necessary chores done before being able to return to his company. It wasn’t long before Bertie had finished and he stood at the sink drying his hands off, the dishes could wait and dry themselves on the draining board. Eva approached him from behind, Bertie turned his head and Eva looked at him, brushing his forelock to the side. She kissed him deeply. This time it was different to the one on the station platform, more gentle and loving.
Bertie turned his body to face Eva’s before embracing her. She wrapped her arms around his neck, pulling him in closer. Bertie encouraged the kissing to get a little more passionate, he rested one hand on Eva’s bottom whilst the other stroked her back. Eva took a step back, one at a time, towards the kitchen table. They stopped moving and kissing as Bertie’s hand and Eva’s bottom bumped into the edge. Bertie looked at Eva whose eyes were full of want, she bit her bottom lip and made for the buttons on her dress. For once, to Bertie’s delight, Eva wasn’t wearing her slip as if she knew what the evening was going to hold in store. Bertie started kissing Eva from the lips down, his hands caressing her as he travelled. When they came to her waist, Bertie unfastened Eva’s French knickers and pushed them down to the floor in which Eva duly stepped out of them.
Eva eased herself onto the table and wrapped her legs around Bertie when he stepped closer. She took hold of his tie and pulled him to her lips. As she did so, Bertie slipped his braces off his shoulders and unbuttoned his trousers. Eva paused for a moment and rested her cheek on Bertie’s, their breathing was heavy with lingering excitement. Her hand reached down inside his drawers, he was ready for her. His face showed her he was desperate.
“Do it.” she whispered softly into his ear.
It was Wednesday and Eva’s telephone rang. She stopped typing and picked up the receiver.
“Good morning. Is that Mrs. Johnson?” A female voice spoke on the other end.
“Hello, it’s the Doctors Surgery here. I was just telephoning to let you know that your test results have arrived.”
“Oh, marvellous.” Eva kept her voice quiet.
“Are you available to come and collect them today?”
“I can come in after work, about half past five.”
“Erm…” there was a pause as the Doctor’s wife looked through her appointment book. “We’re quite busy today, the only time I can fit you in is twenty to six, is that all right?”
“Yes, that is perfect. Thank you.”
“I shall see you then. Goodbye.”
“Goodbye.” As Eva returned the receiver she looked up and was startled when she saw Bertie at the filing cabinets. He smiled at her when she noticed him,
“What was all that about?” Eva looked at him sternly, why should it interest him?
“Nothing of your concern!” she smiled in reply, hoping he wouldn’t be offended.
Eva sat herself on a chair in the waiting room of the surgery. With her handbag and gas mask sitting on her lap, she looked about her. It was certainly busy, busier than she expected it to be to the point Eva became uncomfortable. She had entered the building with an air of confidence, walking straight to the Doctor’s wife to check in, whilst inside she was a quivering wreck that she didn’t want anyone else to see. Eva looked up at the clock, she still have five minutes before her appointment. Her legs wobbled with nerves and Eva had to put her feet flat on the floor to stop them. She couldn’t help but fidget. She looked around the room again, taking in the sights of the different people all waiting patiently.
“Mrs. Johnson.” called the Doctor, Eva looked straight at him as made the announcement. She stood up, and with the same air of confidence, back straight, shoulders back, and her nose in the air, she made her way into his room. She sat in that chair again with a feint smile across her face to convince the doctor that she wasn’t the least bit worried. “So you have come to collect your results.”
“Yes I have.” Eva forced a bigger smile. The doctor looked down at some paperwork on his desk and then looked back at Eva.
“Well, the results have come back positive. Congratulations Mrs. Johnson, you are pregnant!” As a smile spread across his face, Eva’s one dropped. At hearing the confirmation of her pregnancy she could no longer hold up her pretence.
“Thank you.” she said, but it came out as nothing more than a whisper.
“There are a few steps you now need to take. You will have to have your ration book changed, I believe you have had the green one last time, is that correct?”
“Yes, I had one of those.”
“Right, well you need to get another of course for your extra rations.” The doctor unscrewed the lid of his fountain pen and started to scribble on a piece of note-head paper. “I shall write you a note as proof of your pregnancy, as I expect the officials will require one.”
“I suggest you go as soon as possible. It is important that you get the extra ration of fruit, milk and eggs you are entitled too.”
“Of course. I remember from last time.” Eva managed to force another smile.
“Here you go.” The doctor handed Eva the letter of confirmation.
“I believe that is all for now. If you have any queries or questions then do not hesitate to book an appointment. Do make sure you have check-ups every few months too.”
“Of course I will.” Eva stood up, “Thank you again.”
I’m pregnant. Eva thought to herself as she confidently walked through the waiting room on her way out. Pregnant. I’m having a baby. On her way she felt like all eyes were on her, watching her, knowing her news as if she had it written across her forehead for all to see. Once outside she pulled a cigarette and lighter out of her pocket. Eva placed her cigarette in her mouth, but she failed to light up on several attempts her hands were shaking so much, the first time she had noticed them do so. Just as she was about to give up, a hand thrust before her face with a lighter at the ready. Eva successfully lit up and removed the cigarette to thank the kind man who stood before her.
“No problem, ma’am. I could see you struggling away and thought I’d step in!” the middle-aged man, as Eva noticed, doffed his hat before continuing on his journey. Eva wondered whether he noticed ‘pregnant’ written across her forehead too. Eva’s hands continued to shake all the way home, but the cigarette at least was a welcome relief and a relaxer.
Eva had made her way unsteadily into her flat. She breathed a sigh of relief as she proceeded to remove her coat, hat, and shoes. With her front door closed, no one could see her and no one would be able to judge her. Eva collapsed onto the settee with a thud, she didn’t have the energy to make it to her armchair, her legs and hands were shaking. It was there she sat when within a few moments she burst into tears. Eva, bent over double, buried her head in her hands and sobbed, tears flooding her face. She didn’t know what to do with herself. She didn’t want to be pregnant. She wasn’t ready to be pregnant. And now she faced the dreaded fear of losing another child.
It took almost half an hour for Eva to compose herself, she had cried so much she almost felt sick. She didn’t feel like eating dinner. Instead Eva took herself off to the bedroom at to the chest of drawers in the far corner. She knelt down before the dark wooden piece of furniture and opened the bottom drawer. Eva’s eyes lit up. Inside were all the baby clothes she had knitted, white, cream, and yellow cardigans, socks and bonnets; a few blankets; what seemed like an endless supply of towelling nappies and other necessities; and last but not least, Eva’s favourite item of all, a golden brown teddy bear with a red ribbon tied around his neck. She carefully removed it from the drawer and held it up before her. Eva stroked his head, the fur was so soft, she adjusted his bow and then held him close to her cradled in her arms. She held him there for a few minutes, nuzzling into him like a child with their favourite toy. She kissed him once, then twice, before returning him to his place in the drawer.
The evening progressed slowly and Eva decided it would be best to eat something, anything, because she remembered how sick it made her feel if she went without. A couple of slices of bread and a little butter, washed down with a cup of tea, made her perk up a little bit. It wasn’t long after that the air raid sirens sounded and Eva, wrapped up warm, begrudgingly made her way to the basement where another cup of tea was on the way.
For the first time since the Blitz began, Eva, Mrs. Richards, and Mrs. Walker with her two children, sat together under the blankets. Eva sitting in the middle, held the other’s hands in comfort and moral support as their eyes looked up towards the heavens as if they could see the raid and were watching it. All they could do was listen, it was heavy, much heavier than normal, as bombs exploded when they hit their target. The three women jumped when the occasional one went off nearby.
“Ooh!” Mrs. Walker would worry and quiver every now and then, Eva hadn’t seen her react like this before so it must have been bad.
“It’s all right, Mrs. Walker, don’t you worry. We will all stick together.” Eva would say to try and calm her down, but then Eva would start to worry herself. What was happening out there?
As bombs dropped closer, Eva started think about Bertie. Was he in the same situation? Was he safe or had he been hit? Eva squeezed the hands a little tighter. When would this end? All of a sudden there was an almighty explosion causing Mrs. Walker to scream and disturbing her children.
“That one was close.” Eva whispered and Mrs. Walker attempted to calm her children down from their own fright.
“Very close.” Mrs. Richards retorted. Eva turned to her and both shared the same look of fear, they could be next.
Everyone breathed a huge sigh of relief when the all clear eventually sounded in the early hours. No one attempted to get any sleep in the basement, the bombardment was so great and loud there wasn’t any point. As soon as the women were free, Mrs. Walker and Mrs. Richards headed straight for their bed for their few hours precious sleep they had left before morning broke. Eva, however, did not. She had to find Bertie and make sure he was alive and well.
Eva wasn’t aware of her surroundings when she stepped out onto the street. On her way out she put her hand in her coat pocket and founded a few coins left over from the telephone calls she made over the weekend, so she headed straight to the red box. Bertie’s telephone rang but he didn’t answer.
“Come on, Bertie, pick up. Please!” Eva begged down the receiver. She gave up, then tried again but still he did not answer. Eva collected her unused coins and returned them to her pocket before she left the telephone box. If she couldn’t get hold of him by telephone, she would have to get hold of him by foot. Eva set off in the direction of his house, it would be a long walk, but she had to make it.
Eva soon stopped dead in her tracks when from the corner of her eye, she saw that the houses and buildings a couple of roads away had almost been obliterated entirely. She paused for a few minutes at the end of the road as she watched houses blaze and firemen attempt to extinguish them. She heard children screaming and crying, and adults calling out names of members of their family. It was a scene of utter devastation that out Eva’s own life into perspective.
Smoke gradually filled the air around Eva, which brought her round from her staring, and reminded her that she must continue on her journey. Eva kept walking, mindless of what was going on around her, she was so determined to find Bertie.
“Miss…Miss!” a male voice called out, Eva was startled and looked over to the ARP warden who was walking towards her. “You can’t walk down this street I’m afraid, Miss. It’s been cordoned off.”
“Excuse me?” Eva was confused.
“It’s been shut, you’ve just walked past the blockade.”
“Oh, I’m terribly sorry. Whatever is the matter?”
“Incendiary bomb. An unexploded one. It’s landed in this street so it’s been evacuated and no one is allowed down here. It’s best you turn round and go home.” The warden watched Eva as she pondered for a moment, deciding whether she should carry on with her journey, or give up as he suggested.
“Very well then.” Eva eventually replied before turning round and heading off back home. When she left the closed road she turned her head for one last look, just in case Bertie was there. All around Eva there was an orange glow from burning fires across the city, but up ahead of her appeared what looked like a light of hope on the horizon. Unfortunately it was dawn, ever so slowly creeping up, it would be some time before it reached the city. Wonderful, Eva thought, that gives me nigh on three hours sleep. Eva sighed out loud at her dismay. The next day was going to be a difficult one for everybody. Eva’s walking pace sped up.
As Eva made her way to work the following morning, everyone she looked at carried the same expression, one of fatigue and discontent. At least she wasn’t alone, and she was one of the ones better off. It was a miserable day, not just in morale, but weather too. Eva extinguished her cigarette as she approached the rear entrance of the bank. Covering her mouth, she yawned, and when she finished she noticed someone hovering near to the back door.
“Bertie!” Eva exclaimed, she managed to find the energy to run to him before she flung her arms around him. “You are alive!”
“Yes, of course! And so are you!” Bertie smiled as Eva pulled away to look at him, her hands remained on his arms.
“I’m so glad, I was so worried!” They exchanged a discrete kiss after checking the coast was clear of fellow employees. “As soon as the raid finished I ran out and telephoned you, but you didn’t answer!”
“No, I am sorry about that.”
“So I set off down the street to go to your house and find you, but roads were shut and I couldn’t go far.”
“Well, you have found me now.” Bertie smiled again. “I apologise again about not answering, but I was out.”
“That’s all right, I suppose you were still sheltering.”
“No. Not at all. As soon as I heard the all clear, I went to find you. Well, I attempted to.”
“Oh…Bertie!” Eva kissed him again.
“I was just as worried as you were.”
“It was truly dreadful last night, wasn’t it?”
“It was indeed – shall we go in?” Bertie interrupted himself, but he didn’t want them to be late because of their small talk. As they made their way to the office, he continued. “I heard on the wireless this morning and it is said that it’s been one of the heaviest, well over six hundred bombers apparently. Over a thousand dead and many buildings, including churches, destroyed. I expect it will be in all the newspapers by this evening.”
“Oh gosh, how terribly awful!” Eva shot Bertie a pained expression as her mind flashed back to the burning street she had seen.
Bertie and Eva sat in the tea room at luncheon, lingering over the last of their tea before leaving for the office.
“Have you planned anything for the weekend?” Bertie enquired, knowing full well what the answer was going to be.
“No, nothing.” Eva sighed looking up at Bertie from her tea cup.
“You are more than welcome to spend Saturday evening with me.” Eva smiled upon hearing this.
“Yes, of course, I would love to! By then I think I might feel awake.”
“Hopefully we all will.”
“I can’t wait to get home, have dinner then to go straight to bed! I really hope we don’t have another raid tonight.”
“I don’t think London would bear it. We all need a break.”
“Indeed we do. Going back to Saturday, I shall make my own way to your house, I think it would be easier. I shall have a relaxing morning and get my shopping done before setting off.” It would also give me time to sort out my new ration book, Eva thought afterwards.
“That’s all fine with me.” Bertie smiled as he returned his cup to the saucer for the last time. “Shall we make a move?” Eva nodded and they both stood to put on their coats and hats before leaving.
Eva eventually made it to Bertie’s house at four o’clock Saturday afternoon once she managed to get her list of jobs completed. Bertie invited Eva in and took her suitcase up to his bedroom whilst Eva waited in the living room. Bertie returned a few minutes later and Eva smiled as he entered.
“I was a bit later than planned I’m afraid.” Eva apologised, her trip to change her ration book took longer than expected.
“It’s not a problem. You’re here now and that’s all that matters to me.” Bertie smiled in return before moving towards Eva to embrace her and kiss her gently on the lips. “I did think about taking you out for a dance tonight, but I didn’t think you would have brought an outfit.” Eva shook her head.
“No, I didn’t. Anyway, I’d much rather spend the evening with you and you alone. We could always dance to the wireless.”
“We have everything we need right here.” The conversation paused so that they may embrace once again, it had felt so long since they were able to.
“Oh!” Eva pulled away, “I’ve just remembered that I have something for you.” She left Bertie standing in the middle of the living room as she made her way to her handbag she had left on the settee. Eva opened it up and pulled out the Christie book she had borrowed and had managed to just squeeze into her bag at the last minute before leaving her home.
“Ahah!” Bertie cried, watching Eva. “So you have finished it?”
“Yes, I have.”
“What did you think of it?”
“Excellent, as always.”
“Would you like to borrow another book?” Eva paused for thought, not that she needed much convincing.
“Then come with me!” Bertie approached Eva holding out his hand for her to take before they left the living room and made their way to the library.
Despite having seen it before, Eva still stood in awe of the library. She turned around on the spot to take in the wonderful view before her, it hadn’t changed one bit, but she loved everything about it. Bertie took the book and replaced it on the shelf and Eva started walking along the bookshelves looking up and looking down, how would she choose her next novel?
“Do you have anything in mind?” Bertie enquired.
“Not at all.”
“Hmm…” Bertie thought. “Something modern or something old?”
“Let’s go for something different, for me at least. Old, please.” Bertie scoured the bookshelves along with Eva.
“A classic, so many to choose from!”
“Something that will take me to another world I have never been to, whether it be time or place.” Eva stopped walking to look at a book which caught her eye. She took it off the shelf, thumbed through a few pages and returned it to its place, then continued with her lap of the room.
“What about this one?” Bertie asked from across the library.
“What is it?” Eva looked over, narrowing her eyes in an attempt to read the title.
“Have you read any Austen?”
“No, not at all.” Bertie gasped at Eva’s reply.
“I am in shock, Ms. Johnson. For if you have not read Austen, you have not lived!” Eva giggled.
“Then let me read it, dear Bertie. Which book is it?”
“Pride and Prejudice.”
“Not too hard going, is it?”
“No, I believe it is the best one to start off with, fairly straight forward, not too long. And I think you are a little like Elizabeth Bennet herself.”
“Well let me borrow it and I shall find out for myself!” Eva giggled again as she made her way over to Bertie to take the book from his hands. Bertie kissed Eva before letting go of the novel.
“I think it is nearly time for dinner, don’t you?”
“Yes, I do feel rather famished.”
“Do you mind if we eat in the kitchen again? I feel too lazy to bring it all up to the dining room.”
“Oh no, of course not! I’m happy eating in the kitchen, I do it myself at home.”
“Well then, we shall eat it in the style of the Johnson household!”
Bertie didn’t have to do a lot to prepare the dinner. Mrs. Briggs had already cooked it herself and all Bertie needed to do was heat it up again. The couple sat down at the table to a rabbit stew and dumplings, which Eva washed down with water, but Bertie found a bottle of beer to drink with his. Their hearty main course was followed by a generous slice of date tart, which Bertie had warmed up in the oven because he said it tasted better hot than cold.
“Delicious, thank you very much, Bertie.”
“Oh honestly, it was nothing. Mrs. Briggs did all the hard work!”
“Even so.” Eva smiled before taking a sip of water. “Shall we get the dishes done before we run out of steam?”
“Good idea.” It would at least keep Mrs. Briggs happy to leave the kitchen tidy and clean.
After enjoying a quick cigarette in the living room, Bertie turned up the volume on the wireless so that they might partake in a dance or two. The songs played were slow so the couple didn’t do much more than a sway with the occasional turn for Eva. As the second song came to an end, Eva laughed aloud.
“This music is so dull, Bertie, I can hardly find any ‘oomph’ to dance to it.”
“You’re right, this is tedious, not what I had in mind at all!” Eva sighed as she buried her face into Bertie’s chest. “I know where there is some excitement.” Eva moved her head to look up at Bertie.
“I do. It involves a little travelling, but it’s not far away.” Bertie laughed to himself.
“Where to?” Bertie sent Eva a knowing smile hoping she would work out what he meant. Eva raised her eyebrow and returned him a coy smile.
“Your bed? You tease me, Mr. Taylor!”
“Oh I can do much more than that, Ms. Johnson, let me show you!” Bertie offered his arm which Eva took with haste and she let him walk her up the grand staircase into his bedroom.
The couple stood on either side of the bed, the room lit only by the two bedside lamps. They undressed themselves not taking their eyes off each other all the while. Eva had slipped her shoes off and kicked them to the side, she unfastened her skirt and pushed it to the floor before removing her blouse. She left her underwear on. Bertie himself had taken off his shoes and socks and then his pullover and shirt, but he had left his trousers on because he didn’t have time to worry about those just yet. Eva clambered onto the bed, Bertie who watched her did the same and they both knelt in the middle. Bertie grabbed Eva’s waist and pulled her in close with desperation, she flung her arms around his neck and they kissed passionately, their lust not holding them back.
Bertie’s hand slowly and graciously smoothed down over Eva’s covered hips to the hem of her slip. His hands ran back up her body, taking the slip with it and with one smooth action he managed to remove it completely without their lips parting for more than a couple of seconds. Next, Bertie’s hands reached around Eva’s back as he attempted to unclasp her longline brassiere. He struggled at first, it was difficult having to do something purely by feel, but after a tug or two he managed to unhook it. He let it stay there as he lay Eva down into the plump pillows. Their lips may have parted, but their eyes did not leave each other’s gaze. Bertie pulled Eva’s brassiere right off and tossed it over to her pile of clothes on the floor. He hands then went down to her suspender clips and undid them as Eva unhooked her girdle which soon joined the rest of her belongings. Eva outstretched her left leg to let Bertie roll down her stocking, followed by the right leg. When Bertie had finished, he leaned over Eva taking in her naked beauty. She looked like a goddess, as if she was the Boticelli’s ‘Birth of Venus’ come to life. Eva reached out and took Bertie’s face in her hands and pulled his lips back to hers. It was no good, he couldn’t hold out for much longer. This time Bertie let his hands study her body, from top to bottom they traced her contours, her skin was soft and warm.
“Oh!” Eva cried out softly as Bertie started to tease her and he so often did when they made love. Bertie’s eyes looked up her body to meet with her own and smiled. He continued his actions as Eva tensed and relaxed at his touches. Her writhing and gentle groans of pleasure assured Bertie he was making the right moves and was fully satisfied.
Eva, caught up in her world pleasure didn’t notice Bertie stop, if he even did, to remove his trousers and underwear. But all of a sudden his face appeared above hers and he lowered himself onto her, a smile spread across Eva’s face as they gently and sensuously moved together in perfect rhythm. Eva couldn’t hold it in any longer,
“Oh!” she cried out, louder than before, “Oh, Freddy!”
Bertie stopped. Everything suddenly stopped as Eva realised what she had just said and gasped. Bertie’s face soon turned from a loving one to one of hurt and fury. He was left speechless. He removed himself from the bed, Eva sat bolt upright pulling the corner of the covers over her. Bertie threw on his dressing gown before storming out of the bedroom, slamming the door behind him.
“Bertie, wait!” Eva called after him, but it was too late. She was abandoned in his bedroom, devastated and not knowing what to do.
Shall I go after him, or shall I let him sulk over it? Eva thought to herself. Either way, first things first, she was going to put her pyjamas on. Once on, and feeling somewhat warmer, Eva began pacing up and down the floor at the foot of the bed, her fingertips tapping against her lips. He can’t have gone far, no man would walk out into the street in just his dressing gown…he should be in the house somewhere…but it’s so big! It was no use, Eva still couldn’t make a wise decision. He probably wouldn’t listen to me if I tried to explain or apologise. The only choice she made was to have a cigarette. Blast! She had left her handbag downstairs. Eva had moved her supply from her coat pocket to her handbag, and in her haste with Bertie, she forgot to bring it upstairs with her.
Eva strided across the bedroom to Bertie’s bedside table, she thought he must have some in the drawer. She felt guilty for doing so, but she opened it nonetheless and rifled through it. Nothing. Eva stamped her foot like a spoilt child who didn’t get their own way. His coat. The only other place she could think of. Albeit downstairs hanging in the hallway, it was highly unlikely that Bertie would be sulking there. Eva carefully opened the bedroom door and peered out, there was no obvious sign of him on that floor at all. She crept out along the hallway and down the stairs taking one step at a time, pausing in her tracks whenever she heard a noise whether it was her or Bertie. Eva briefly stopped half way down, the living room door was ajar and light was seeping through it. Bertie was in there. She heard a clink as glass touched glass.
Bertie sat in an armchair near the front window in silence. He was angry, he was furious. He knew he shouldn’t be, but he couldn’t help it. After all the time they’ve spent together, why now? Bertie had helped himself to the drinks cabinet. He took from it a tumbler and a decanter of whiskey, in there he also found his father’s secret supply of cigars. Bertie poured his second measure of liquor, the glass clinking as the decanter touched, his hands were a little shaky at not being used to the whiskey. He would sit there until he was ready to retire to bed, whatever hour it might be.
Eva continued her descent and made it to Bertie’s coat. Her hand dived into his pockets in search for the treasure she was seeking. Ahah! She cried aloud in her head, she hand found them. Eva took one cigarette and did her best to quietly light it before tip-toeing back up the stairs. She hoped her smoke wouldn’t drift into the living room and foil her. Not wanting to waste the precious cigarette, for Eva wanted to enjoy it whilst sitting in bed, she almost ran along the landing back to Bertie’s bedroom. She dived into bed and sat in the middle. Having spied an ash tray on Bertie’s bedside table, she leaned over holding the cigarette in the air so as not to set light to the bed, and grabbed it and returned to an upright position. Eva, despite still feeling incredibly guilty for her earlier blunder, now felt somewhat more content.
Her eyes fluttered open, it was morning now and Bertie must have removed the blackout curtains for light poured through the windows. Eva didn’t remember falling asleep, nor did she remember Bertie getting into bed at all the previous night. But as she stretched in the bed, she saw him standing at his dressing table in far left corner of his room buttoning up his shirt.
“Good morning.” Eva said hesitantly, not knowing what sort of mood Bertie was in. Although she knew she caught his attention because he looked at her through the mirror. “And a good morning to you too, Eva.” She mimicked Bertie who had said nothing in reply. Eva gave it a few more minutes of silence before she sat up in bed, pulling the covers up around her. “You’re still grumpy then.” Bertie looked at Eva in the mirror again. That would be a yes then. “Look, Bertie, there is no need to be like this.”
“Yes there is.” came a mumble, but at last he spoke!
“Well perhaps we could talk about it like civilised adults and not grumpy little children.” Eva suggested. Bertie paused and placed his hands on the dressing table for a moment, Eva could tell he was still angry. He then reached for a tie and began putting it around his neck. “I’m sorry, Bertie. For last night. I didn’t mean for it to happen, nor did I expect it to. In fact, I don’t know why it happened or why I said what I did.” Bertie let out a deep sigh.
“But you said it either way. After all the times we have been together. Do you think of your husband every time we make love?”
“No, of course not!”
“Then why did you cry out his name?”
“I told you before, Bertie, I don’t know. It just came out unexpectedly. It was a shock for me as much as it was for you!”
“It was more than a shock. It hurt, and it still hurts.”
“It was an accident, Bertie, surely you are able to forgive me?”
“I don’t know.”
“This is pointless.” Eva whispered and then said for Bertie to hear, “I have said what I have said, I have apologised and I apologise again. But if you cannot forgive me for something completely out of my control then that is your own fault. There is nothing more I can do.”
“Fine.” Bertie grumbled. He had done with his tie and had adjusted himself a number of times so seeing as he had nothing more to say on Eva’s matter, he left the bedroom.
The couple parted on bad terms, Bertie still did not accept the apology and Eva was quite fed up with his childish behaviour. As soon as Bertie left the room, Eva got up and dressed. She didn’t hang around, as soon as she was ready she left the house without saying goodbye, what was the point in doing so? Bertie wouldn’t have replied.
Eva was glad to get home, even though she was alone at least that was better company than an awkward and difficult silence. She got on with her housework, not that there was much to do for one person living alone, but a spotless home was better than a dirty one. Later that evening she suffered an air raid too, instead of spending it worrying about Bertie as she did the other night, Eva couldn’t care less with what was happening outside and curled up under the blanket and fell asleep.
Come Monday morning, Bertie didn’t speak a word to Eva. She wouldn’t have minded so much, but it did make the day drag. There was no point in lunching together in the tearoom so Eva spent her luncheon outside the back door of the bank with a cigarette. The whole commotion made Eva feel sick so she didn’t eat anything, but what she forgot was that if she didn’t eat, then the baby wasn’t eating either. The sickness feeling soon became reality.
As Eva emerged from the ladies toilets at the end of the break, she bumped into Bertie who was returning to the office. “Sorry!” she said as they both startled one another. Bertie looked at Eva and continued walking. Why does he have to be so difficult! Eva straightened herself out, and she too made her way back to her desk. She decided she would have to sit it out and wait for Bertie to come to his senses…someday soon she hoped.
Sitting on her desk was a brown paper bag with something inside. It was obviously from Bertie, no one else would do something like that, and he was fairly swift about it seeing as Eva wasn’t far behind him in their return. Eva unrolled the top of the bag to reveal its contents. Inside sat a slice of cake, Eva salivated instantly she was so hungry. She carefully slid the cake out, without making a sound to give her game away, and placed it on top of the bag to act as a plate. Eva broke small pieces off the cake and ate it piece by piece as she carried on with her work.
To Eva’s dismay the cake was finished rather more quickly than expected. She enjoyed that cake, but she knew it was Bertie’s attempt at an apology which she did not accept. Eva took the bag and smoothed it out, removing the lid of her pen she wrote on one side, ‘I only ate the cake because I was famished.’ Once the ink was dry, Eva took the bag and went to place it on the collection of used paper to be recycled for the war effort which had its place opposite Bertie’s desk. Eva made sure she flashed the side her note was on in Bertie’s direction so that he could see it, but not read it. When she had returned to her desk, Bertie waited a moment and went over to the pile of paper to read the note, upon noticing his actions, Eva kept her head down and tapped away at her typewriter as Bertie sent her look of anger. If he was going to apologise to her, Eva wanted it to be verbal and face to face like adults and not through the medium of cake.
It was Tuesday evening and Eva had finished work for the day. She stood outside the back door of the bank and lit up a cigarette, she wasn’t in much of a rush to get home seeing as she didn’t have a lot to do. There was a cold wind so the warmth of the cigarette was a blessing.
“Do you have a spare?” came a voice who had just left the building, Eva turned to see Bertie standing next to her.
“What do you mean?”
“Cigarette, do you have one I can have? Seeing as you took one of mine the other night.” Eva sighed and produced one from her pocket without an argument. She wondered when Bertie’s mood would change for the better. Bertie thanked Eva and took the cigarette from her hand and placed it in his mouth before lighting it.
“At least you’re talking to me I suppose.”
“About that…” Bertie hesitated.
“Yes?” Eva looked up at him after managing to avoid eye contact for the past couple of days.
“I have been rather stupid.”
“I won’t deny it, you have rather.”
“I’m not sure what came over me that night and the following morning. It did hurt at the time, as it would anyone, but after your apology there really was no reason for me to have acted like that.” Eva nodded. “I had consumed an awful lot of whiskey.” Eva agreed even though she did not witness his consumption of alcohol, she was waiting for those magic words. “So I would like to say that I am terribly sorry and will you forgive me?”
“I suppose so.” Eva gave him one of her lovely smiles, “So long as you don’t throw any more strops!”
“I promise!” Bertie looked about and kissed Eva on the cheek. “Now, I’m going to take you out for a quick drink before the blackout.”
Eva returned home after Bertie had treated her to half a pint of beer and already she was regretting it. The alcohol churned in her stomach and made Eva feel nauseous and it wasn’t as if she had drunk too much. As she knelt before the toilet, she cast her mind back to a similar reaction she had over a year ago. Eva being a great liker of cheese reacted badly to it one evening and she couldn’t eat it from then on for several months whilst she was pregnant. Perhaps the baby doesn’t like beer she thought feeling a little worse for wear.
Once Eva was sure the baby had finished causing her sickness, she cooled herself down with a damp flannel. The only thing she could now think of was to feed herself up now her stomach was so empty. Eva decided to make use of her extra egg ration and soon made some scrambled egg with a thick slice of toasted bread, following it with some fruit. She hoped and prayed that they baby would like it too.
The only private time Bertie and Eva spent together for the rest of the working week was during their luncheon at the tearoom and at the end of the day when they partook in a cigarette. Eva had suffered from a couple more bouts of sickness leaving her feel rather drained and resulting in her refusing Bertie’s offers of evenings out on the grounds that she could vomit. Of course she didn’t tell Bertie that, instead she led him to believe she was coming down with a cold, he agreed that she had been looking a bit peaky and times.
Eva was glad to get home on Friday evening, at last it was the weekend and she could rest and hope she would get better. She put her key in her front door and turned to unlock it. As she opened the door and stepped inside she screeched.
“Freddy, darling! You’re home!” she cried as she saw him sitting in her armchair awaiting her return. His lips formed a slight smile as Eva almost skipped over to him to embrace him and kiss his forehead. It was until Eva pulled away did he stand up and embrace her fully, after all it had been five weeks since he last saw his wife. Secretly he had missed her. When Freddy was fully satisfied it was then that Eva noticed he was in his Naval uniform, “You look even more handsome in real life.” Eva commented looking over his shoulder to his photograph he had sent which sat on the mantelpiece. Their then lips joined for the first time in over month, it was only meant to be quick but once they started, they both remembered what they had missed and could not stop.
The only time they stopped was when Freddy’s stomach rumbled, they couldn’t suppress their giggles.
“I haven’t planned any dinner for you so would you like fish and chips, in celebration of your return?”
“Ooh, yes please! That beats Navy food. I shall go and get some.”
As Freddy left the flat, Eva sorted herself out – she swapped her shoes for her slippers, and hung up her coat. She then set about laying the table ready for when Freddy returned with their dinner.
Freddy and Eva spent their evening together at a leisurely pace, they were both glad to be back in each other’s company at long last, for how long Eva didn’t dare ask. As they ate Freddy informed Eva of his training and how he was now expert at drill. Eva was pleased to hear how well he did and how he was recognised by the officers as being one of the best in his regiment.
Having followed dinner with listening to the wireless, and sitting together on the settee as opposed to sitting across the room from one another, Freddy and Eva decided to retire to bed at half past nine as an air raid didn’t seem imminent that night. Eva lay in bed, a smile of content appeared as she watched Freddy get ready for bed and climb in next to her. The couple lay in each other’s arms, snuggled up close, making the most of every moment of being together.
“I missed you, Freddy. And I missed you sharing this bed with me.” Eva whispered.
“When you walked through the front door this evening, I realised what a hole your absence had left in me. And your excitement of seeing me again warmed my heart.” Freddy replied. They looked at each other before they kissed deeply.
“Five weeks is an awfully long time. Now you’re back…” Eva gave Freddy a suggestive look as she took his hand and brushed the back of it along the crotch of her pyjama bottoms.
“I would…but I am so tired and worn out, sweetheart that I really want to get some sleep.”
“Oh.” The smile dropped from Eva’s face. It was a shame because she was in the mood. There was a momentary pause as neither knew what to say next, but then Eva had plucked up the courage to ask the question she had been meaning to ask all evening. “When do you leave?”
“Tomorrow morning.” Eva suddenly felt a wave of sickness, she was so happy to have him back only for him to be taken away from her again and so soon. “The train leaves at nine.” Freddy could see the pain, the shock, and the displeasure in his wife’s plain expression. She couldn’t find any words to say so instead she rolled apart from Freddy, breaking their embrace, and turned out her bedside lamp.
Eva woke to find Freddy’s arm wrapped around her waist and his body up against her own. She took his hand in hers and lifted it to her mouth and kissed it softly. Freddy shifted and mumbled,
“What time is it?” Eva looked up at her alarm clock.
“Half past seven.” Their last hour together, Eva’s heart sank at the realisation. Freddy propped himself up on his elbow so that when Eva turned her head to look at him he was just two inches away, his breath brushing against her skin. For a few minutes they just gazed at one another, both doing it for exactly the same reason – taking in their beauty one last time, imprinting it onto their mind like a photograph but better. Eva reached out and placed her hand on Freddy’s cheek and he leaned in to kiss her.
“We have to make the most of our time.” Freddy said.
“And how do you propose we do that?” Eva replied innocently still half asleep.
“I shall show you Mrs. Johnson!” Freddy cried as he surprised Eva, who squealed, with his sudden movement of flinging his leg over her. His right hand pushed up her pyjama top as they reached underneath to caress her soft skin, his lips joining with hers once again.
Eva enjoyed the much waited for attention from her husband groaning at the touch of his skilled hand. She unbuttoned her pyjamas leaving herself exposed for him before she carefully wriggled about easing her trousers over her bottom and down to her knees in case his hand wanted to wander elsewhere. Eva hands then clutched at Freddy’s face, holding it to hers, she didn’t want him to leave her yet. But he soon broke away to kiss and taste the rest of her skin, all the while building up intimate memories to take away with him. Eva sighed and moaned,
“Freddy.” she whispered because that was loudest she could talk as he took her breath away. Much to Eva’s dismay, Freddy soon stopped and returned to look at Eva. He planted a kiss on her lips before whispering,
“You know, darling, I like it best when you are on top.” Eva smiled at his statement as she kicked off her trousers. Freddy knelt at her side and took off his pyjama top, throwing it onto the floor. He pulled down his trousers revealing how aroused he was before laying down next to Eva to take them off completely. When he had finished Eva threw her leg over Freddy, her hands either side of his torso holding her up. The biggest smile spread across her lips as she lowered herself onto her husband to fully satisfy each other several times over.
Freddy and Eva lay in each other’s arms, replete and fatigued by their early morning excitement. Neither had bothered to redress afterwards, they were warm enough and they intended to get out of bed soon fairly soon.
“What is the time?” Freddy enquired. Once more, Eva craned her neck to look at the clock.
“Bloody hell!” Freddy jumped out of bed and started throwing on his underwear and uniform. Eva sat up in bed, pulling the covers up around her, it was suddenly cold without Freddy next to her. She couldn’t find any words to say to him, all endearment had left her in the final moments of rushed panic.
By half past Freddy left the bedroom to sit on the settee to put on his boots. Eva got out of bed and wrapped herself up in her dressing gown and slipped on her slippers. She watched as Freddy stood up and picked up his kit bag which he had previously packed and left beside the front door. He sent a wry smile to Eva, he wasn’t looking forward to leaving as much as she was.
“Don’t go!” Eva finally found her voice but came out with an edge of fear. “Don’t leave. Don’t leave me now. Stay!”
“I can’t, Eva darling. I must go.” He leaned in and kissed her deeply on the lips, their last. A stray tear rolled down Eva’s cheek at the very thought. Freddy pulled away from her to open the door and leave. The door shut carefully behind him.
“No!” Eva cried out, more tears rolling down her cheeks, “No!” Eva went to her handbag and took out her door keys. She left the flat and ran down the flight of stairs to the main door and out onto the pavement. She hoped that Freddy would be there to steal one final kiss, but Eva was too late. She could only just make out his hat and kit bag flung over his shoulder bobbing down the road as he hurried all the way to the railway station. Eva’s hand rested on her stomach as she stared blankly down the street, in all their excitement she never got to tell Freddy her news.
“He’s gone.” Eva boldly announced over luncheon on the following Monday. Bertie swallowed his mouthful of tea.
“Who’s gone? And where?”
“Well I know that, he’s on training.”
“No, he completed that. He was home when I got in on Friday evening. He had to leave Saturday morning.”
“Oh…” Bertie wasn’t sure what to say in such a situation, he couldn’t tell how or whether Eva was upset. “How was he?” Bertie remembered the letter Eva had received over Easter.
“He was fine. Pleased to see me, it made him realise how much he had missed me.”
“Well that’s good then, at least you spent some time together being happy.”
“Very happy.” Eva smiled painfully as her mind cast back to Saturday morning, the happiness in the bed leading to the sadness of his departure.
“I suppose you were upset to see him go.”
“Of course.” Bertie paused for a moment before proceeding,
“Have you overcome being upset?”
“Yes.” Eva stared blankly at him across the table and let out a deep sigh. Bertie narrowed his eyes, she was still upset. She did her best to cover it, but Bertie could still tell despite her strong façade.
“It will get better with time, trust me.” Bertie sent Eva a reassuring smile and gently squeezed her right hand that rested on the table. “Before you know it, he will be home on leave. In the meantime just think of the happy memories.”
“If you say so.” Was all Eva could say in reply. She looked about the tea room, wanting to avoid eye contact with Bertie. “I think we had better head back now.” Eva popped the last piece of cake into her mouth before preparing to leave the tea room. Bertie realised he was going to have to tread carefully for the next few days whilst Eva settled back into carrying on her life without Freddy again as he went on to do his bit.
In one way Eva was glad to get home from work, but at the same time she was dreading being alone. As much as she didn’t want to be alone, she rejected Bertie’s offer of spending an evening together because she just didn’t feel up to it. Just as Eva was about to head upstairs to her flat, Mrs. Richards emerged from her own front door.
“Eva!” she cried, “So glad I caught you!” Eva looked at her and stopped in her tracks holding onto the banister.
“Good evening, Mrs. Richards. What can I help you with?”
“This came for you.” The kind lady held out a telegram.
“Oh!” Eva went to Mrs. Richards to collect it.
“I have a dear friend who works in the office. He recognised the address and stopped by earlier to drop it off to pass it on to you.”
“Thank you.” Eva looked down at the envelope in her hands. “Do let him know that it was very kind of him.”
“I will. Anyway, I shall let you get on!” Having exchanged a ‘goodbye’ Mrs. Richards returned to her flat and Eva started for the stairs again.
Why have I received a telegram? Eva began to think. No one ever sends me a telegram. It could be Freddy, but it would be a letter, surely? Yes I am sure. Who on Earth could it be? As Eva unlocked her door and stepped inside, she kicked off her shoes and removed her hat and coat as per usual. Turning the envelope over with shaking hands, she nervously broke the seal and pulled out the sheet of paper inside. Her eyes scanned over the few words written as she chewed her fingertips. Before she could stop herself, Eva’s knees buckled as she fell onto the floor into a heap. Once the shock had left her, the tears flooded her face as she howled out loud with the pain the words caused. Missing in action. It was if her heart had been torn from her body.
Eva gasped for air a number of times for she used every last breath sobbing, she coughed, she even made herself feel physically sick. But still she could not stop herself crying, her body felt like a great weight she could not move. Instead she spent half her evening laying on the floor clutching the telegram, reading the three words over and over. The worst of the crying had ceased, but the odd stray tear rolled down her cheek. Eva had not heard the knocking on the door previously.
Mrs. Richards heard a thump coming from directly above and became somewhat concerned about Eva’s welfare. She made her way hastily up the stairs and knocked on the door over and over again, but it was never answered. Mrs. Richards had then pressed her ear up against the door, something she was always told off for doing as a child, and could hear the sobbing Eva. A sudden wave of remorse overcame her, she desperately wanted to go in and comfort Eva in her hour of need, but with Eva not answering she had no way of gaining access.
Finding some energy out of the little she had in herself, Eva pulled herself up off the floor. She rubbed her eyes and sorted out her hair that had fallen into disarray. She caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror and saw what a state she had become. Eva then dragged herself to the kitchen, she knew she would have to eat not because she wanted to, she had no appetite, but because the baby inside her needed her to. Eva opened the cupboards and scoured the shelves, she didn’t have a lot to choose from but decided to open the tin of peaches which she was saving for a special occasion. She soon devoured half the contents and washed it down with a glass of water.
After a good wash to remove the dried tears and to freshen herself up, Eva thought it best to take herself off to bed. Before getting in, she plumped up the pillows so that they sat high, and smoothed out the blankets. She lay in the middle of the bed, the pillows surrounding her head and shoulders, the blankets pulled up so high that they met so that not an ounce of warmth could escape. It wasn’t long before Eva drifted off into a surprisingly peaceful sleep of which she was grateful of, until she was rudely disturbed by the air raid siren.
It was upon returning to her bed after the all clear that Eva had trouble sleeping. The bombing had conjured up all sorts of ideas and dreams in her head. Of Freddy’s ship being blown to pieces, of him struggling against the waves; ones of him being swept away to some distant country never to be found; and the impossible one of Hitler holding Freddy in his grasp, his look of desperation as he was dragged away from her.
Eva woke with a start sitting bolt upright in bed. It was still dark, of course it was as the blackout curtains were up in the windows. She rubbed her eyes and face which to her surprise were damp from crying at her nightmares. Eva didn’t know why, but she felt confused her head was a muddle. She swung her legs out of the bed and made her way in the pitch black to the kitchen for a glass of water. Upon her return, Eva rearranged the pillows before snuggling back down into bed to continue with her sleep, not knowing what she was going to dream about next.
Having drifted off to sleep, it didn’t feel that long after that Eva’s alarm went off, either way she ignored it and went back to sleep. She couldn’t get out of bed, not after the terrible night she had just been through. Nor did she feel as if she could face anyone, work was the last thing on Eva’s mind. Instead she just spent the time in bed after removing the curtains, drifting in and out of sleep usually after a bout of crying and howling. She had been alone and felt lonely many times before, but this time it felt even worse because she didn’t know whether Freddy would ever return.
Eva was startled when there was a knock at the door, but she ignored it. She couldn’t get herself out of bed. The knocking soon became banging and still it was ignored. Eva shut her eyes and pulled the blankets over her head, she prayed that they would just go away and leave her alone. Thankfully for Eva, they soon did. She emerged from underneath her covers and looked at her clock, it was luncheon. Eva sighed, she thought it best to eat something. Wrapping her dressing gown around her, she made her way back to the kitchen. She made herself a small pot of tea and decided to finish off the tin of peaches with a slice of bread with butter as she hadn’t had any breakfast. Eva was much hungrier than she originally thought and so helped herself to another thin slice of bread. Having placed her dirty dishes in the sink, she would wash them up when she had the energy to do so, she stopped off at the bathroom to wipe her face of all the new tear stains before making her way back to the bedroom. Eva stopped in the middle of the living room and looked over at the photograph on the mantle piece of Freddy in his uniform, she walked over to it and picked it up. She looked at him intensely and kissed it in hope that he would feel it in real life, tears started streaming down her face. Will I ever kiss him again and feel his lips against mine? Eva’s painful thoughts ran through her mind as returned to her bed.
There was knocking on the front door again. Eva thought it was part of her dream until she woke up fully and realised someone really was knocking on the door. She turned her head to look at her clock, it was now half past five. The knocking started to get louder and a little more frequent.
“Eva, it’s me, please open the door!” came a voice from outside.
“Who?” Eva asked in a daze, but she was far too quiet for anyone other than herself to hear her.
“Eva, it’s me, Bertie. Come and open the door!”
“Hold on.” Eva murmured. She eased herself up and out, sitting on the edge of the bed. Eva rubbed her eyes and noticed she still had her dressing gown on, although it had come undone whilst she had slept. She stood up, wrapped the dressing gown around her and tied it tightly before she headed for the front door. Bertie had stopped calling out for her and knocking as soon as he heard some form of life from the other side of the door. As Eva was unlocking the door, Bertie continued to talk.
“Everyone has been concerned about you, Eva, we were worried when you didn’t turn up for work. I called at luncheon, but you didn’t answer and – oh…” Bertie was stopped mid-sentence when he saw Eva after she opened the door. She stood before him, holding onto the door for support, Bertie though that if she didn’t she would probably collapse in a heap on the floor. She was dishevelled from top to toe; her hair hadn’t seen a brush; her skin paler than Bertie had ever seen it, apart from the time Eva almost froze in the Anderson shelter; her eyes were red, almost raw, and hollow. “Something’s happened.” Bertie breathed, stating the obvious. Eva stepped to the side to let him in, she closed the door as he sat down on the settee. “What is the matter, Eva, tell me.” Eva had remained standing by the door, it took her a few moments to pluck up the courage to do anything.
“Wait a moment.” Eva’s voice was barely a whisper. She walked back to the bedroom to look for the telegram. She remembered going to bed with it in her hands, but after that she didn’t know what happened to it. Eva threw back the blankets, but it wasn’t there, not under the pillow nor on the bedside table. She bent down to look under the bed when she saw the piece of paper lying on the floor between the bedstead and bedside table. Eva took the telegram and presented it to Bertie for him to read. She couldn’t bear to speak the words herself, he would have to read them instead. She sat herself down in her armchair, wringing her hands as Bertie read, and then read again just to make sure he was right. He looked over to Eva, tears welled in her eyes as her mind told her the same words Bertie had just seen.
“Oh, Eva!” Bertie left the settee to kneel down before Eva. He took her hands in his and held them tightly. Eva started crying fully and didn’t hold back, Bertie’s left hand brushed her cheek and then her hair, brushing it behind her ear. “Oh, sweetheart, I am so sorry. I really am.” Eva showed no signs of stopping, all she needed was some comfort and understanding. Just for someone to be there. Bertie moved and perched himself on the arm of the chair so that he could wrap his arms around Eva and hold her close, his hand stroked her back as she continued to sob.
Once the worst of the crying had past, Bertie decided that he would try and make something for Eva’s dinner. He looked about the kitchen and in all the cupboards as Eva remained sitting in her armchair staring straight ahead of her in a daze. Bertie attempted to make conversation as she chopped up some vegetables, but all he got was silence and the occasional whimper in return, normally the behaviour would bother him, but not then. Despite it being a one way conversation, Bertie at least thought it provided some form of comfort and distraction for Eva, just having someone there talking to her, hopefully taking her mind off the worst.
Bertie placed a plate of food onto the kitchen table along with some cutlery. He went into the living room and helped Eva to the kitchen so that she could eat something. She looked solemnly down at the plate, it wasn’t anything special, but Bertie had done his best and fried off thinly cut pieces of beef and mixed it in with potatoes and carrots. It tasted delicious, the first decent meal Eva had eaten for a couple of days at least.
“Is the food all right?” Bertie asked, but the fact Eva was tucking into gratefully mean it was edible. Eva nodded in reply.
“Thank you.” she whispered. Bertie paused for a moment before continuing to speak.
“You must come back to work tomorrow, Eva.” She looked up from the plate to Bertie and gave him a look of fear. “I know, and I can see, you don’t agree with me, Eva, but you really must. You need to get out of the flat and stop hiding. It will do you good to get out and see people. It will take your mind off things.”
“I don’t know if I can do that. Not yet.” Eva stared blankly at Bertie.
“Yes you can! I know it’s hard right now, but keep a stiff upper lip. Everyone has been worrying about you today, you need to go into the office and give them peace of mind. They will be ready to support you just as I am.”
“I shall see.” With that Eva returned to her dinner, signalling she didn’t want to talk any more, and under half an hour later the plate was clean.
Bertie washed up the dirty dishes, including the ones Eva had previously used and abandoned on the side, and left them to dry off on the draining board. He decided it best to take Eva back to bed. Bertie took her arm in his and walked her steadily back to her bedroom. Eva climbed into the bed and sat herself in the middle as Bertie rearranged the pillows around her before tucking in the blankets as Eva lay down. She snuggled under the bedding and made herself comfortable whilst Bertie sat on the edge of the bed stroking her hair in comfort, slowly sending her off into a deep sleep.
The next morning Eva made her way into work. She remembered Bertie soothing her as drifted off, but after that she couldn’t remember anything until she woke at the sound of her alarm. At some point during the evening, Bertie had headed back to his own home. And he was right, Eva was feeling better and despite the surrounding scenery she was enjoying be outside in the fresh air.
Mr. Rothbury hadn’t arrived by the time Eva got to the office, but nonetheless Bertie was pleased and relieved to see her, he had his doubts. When Mr. Rothbury finally arrived, with a stern look about him, he called Eva, Bertie, and Mr. Allen into his office. Eva stood near the door with her hands behind her back as a few heads of various departments entered and stood in front of her. Bertie who had finally put down his pen, joined Eva at the back, they looked at one another wondering what was about to befall them. Mr. Rothbury cleared his throat before beginning.
“Thank you for coming to my office this morning…I have you here to make an announcement. I thought it best to tell you so that you will at least understand the circumstances. If you wish to tell others if the need arises, then feel free to do so.” Everyone crowded in the small office were tense, Mr. Rothbury cleared his throat once more. “I’m finding this hard to tell you, but I feel it must be done. Anyway, when I returned home last night my wife and I received some devastating news. We heard that aeroplane our youngest son flew was shot down in a raid…and he went with it.” There were gasps of shock, but Bertie’s left hand immediately rested on Eva’s whose hands clenched his so tightly, yet more bad news. Fellow colleagues murmured their condolences to their boss and slowly each left one by one. “Eva, stay a moment.” Bertie discretely removed his hand from her grasp and left with a tear in his eye. Mr. Rothbury waited for the door to close before continuing.
“Mr. Rothbury, I am so sorry to hear of your news. Please pass on my codolences to your wife and family.” Eva’s hands now came to rest in front of her, it was then she noticed that Mr. Rothbury had welled up.
“Thank you, Eva.” He sat himself down behind his desk and Eva moved closer. “I hear you have had bad news too.”
“Yes. Yes I have.” Eva looked down at her feet.
“I am sorry to hear it.”
“Oh don’t be, Mr. Rothbury, it is nothing compared to your own news.”
“Nonsense! Both are just as terrible. And in my eyes, your situation is far worse.”
“But…what do you mean?” Eva was confused, how could the death of a family member not be as terrible?
“At least with my son, I know he has been killed. Yes I know it is dreadful, in fact it is the worst news I have ever had in my life. No parent wants to have their children die before them.” Eva shook her head as Mr. Rothbury opened the bottom drawer of his desk and pulled out a bottle of whiskey and two cut glass tumblers. “But I know he is dead and there is nothing I can do about it other than to mourn and remember him. With your situation, Eva, it far worse. Freddy is missing and that is all you know. You don’t know where he is; what he is doing; and dare I say it, whether he is alive or dead.” Eva’s bottom lip quivered and a few tears rolled down her cheeks. Mr. Rothbury removed the lid off the bottle and poured a snifter into each glass.
“No.” she murmured, “I don’t know.” He pushed one tumbler towards Eva, the other he took and drank it in one. Eva edged forward, shaking, and picked the glass up to take a sip hoping it would calm her down.
“I feel sorry for you, I really do, living with uncertainty. So please, do not feel guilty for being upset over it all, everyone copes with things differently. When you didn’t turn up to work yesterday, we were worried for you. Just you remember you do have friends especially in your time of need.” Eva gave him a wry smile as she clutched the glass, half of its contents had gone already.
“Thank you, Mr. Rothbury, you are very kind.”
“Do you feel better for getting out and seeing people rather than locking yourself away?”
“Somewhat, yes.” Eva finished off her measure of whiskey and returned the empty glass to the desk. She prayed that she wouldn’t react badly to the alcohol. “Thank you.” Strange as it seemed to Eva, she left the little office feeling less alone than she had when she entered it.