Annie Arkwright raised her head to look at him while he slept. The moon shining through the flimsy bedroom curtains bathed his handsome face with a soft glow. He was dog tired. He’d said so when they’d met at the station and she could see it now in the faint lines at the corners of his eyes and the droop of his laughing mouth. His sweet generous mouth: that was the one thing she remembered so well all the time she’d been waiting, breathless with fear, for his return. Very, very gently, so as not to wake him, she traced with her finger the length of his nose. So aristocratic, his nose. Maybe after all, although he had been born into a family which couldn’t tolerate the blot on their pedigree, his presence would have been made. He’s going back tomorrow, they’ve patched him up so he can challenge death all over again. James Arthur Glover. Her Jimmy.
One more day to love and be loved and then. . . . .he stirred in his sleep and reached out for her. She shifted closer, took his hand and kissed it. Jimmy grunted his delight, took her hand to his lips and returned her loving gesture.
Harmony was what they had. What he wanted she wanted, what she liked he liked, humour for humour, love for love. Like that piece in the Bible, “whither thou goest I will go, thy people shall be my people”. Hearing that had really touched her heart. Except he hadn’t any people, only her. Fancy being alone in the world already at only twenty five. She wasn’t alone at twenty one, she had Mother.
She couldn’t believe how handsome he was. Every now and again she pinched herself to make sure she wasn’t dreaming. Her friends admired his good looks, from his sandy hair and his bright warming smile, right down to his big feet, but she loved his heart and his mind too. His feet were big. Size eleven, and for such a slightly built chap that was not just big but very big. They’d had his army boots specially made because they’d none to fit him. A nasty spurt of anger spoiled her mood, she heard in the back of her mind that critical tone in Mother’s voice. ‘There’s one thing, he wasn’t at the back of the queue when feet were given out. Hasn’t much else to recommend him though. He’s too soft, too kind, too nice for a man. I like a man with guts. He’ll never get nowhere he won’t. You’ll be scrimping all yer life.’ Annie pushed away the tear that threatened to trickle down her cheek.
This was one part of her life she simply would not allow Mother to spoil. Jimmy was hers, and it was staying that way, no matter how many miles she had to travel to be with him. A brisk wind had got up and the curtains stirred in the breeze, she checked to make sure it wasn’t disturbing her lover. There was a restlessness about him, a trembling, and the moon. . . . . .oh God! A grey waxy glistening look was on his face, a look she’d seen on her sister’s face just before she died. A kind of nothingness. A gone-awayness. She drew in her breath so fiercely that the sound went right round the mean poky bedroom they shared. He hadn’t died here in this hovel had he? People like him deserved a gracious, noble death. Then the moon kindly showed her his chest moving slowly up and down. Up and down. Oh! God. Thank you. Thank you.
Next thing was the alarm going and it jerked her into consciousness. They had to be out and away before seven. Bessie would be back from night shift in the munitions factory and Annie had promised, promised faithfully they’d be away before she got back. That way Bessie could truthfully say, if anyone asked her, that she’d not seen them. Annie sat up and looked round her by the light of that blinking nosy moon. Honestly it was a mess. Things would be different for her and Jimmy. Very different. They’d have nice pretty things, not a bedroom with only a rag rug and a badly chipped bowl on top of a cupboard for washing yourself in. She mused for a moment on the joys of life with Jimmy, then shook herself awake again.
‘Jimmy we’ve got to go. Come on, love, wake up.’ Jimmy groaned, but nevertheless strove to wake. Annie got out of bed, attempting to dress as best she could under her nightie, so Jimmy couldn’t see. . . . . .
‘Good day, Annie. I love you. Every bit of you and I’ve touched every bit of you, too.’ He sat up and his eyes roved over her, laughing loudly at her struggle to pull up her knickers without causing herself embarrassment.
‘Shush! The neighbours will hear.’
‘Hang the neighbours. I need my fodder.’
‘Can’t have it here. The bakers’ull be open, he opens on Sunday mornings for the night workers. He’s made a mint with this war.’
‘There’s always a silver lining for someone.’Silver reminded her of weddings. ‘Why can’t we get married? We’re both sure.’
‘Because.’‘Because what? You never say, it’s always “because”.
’Pulling his vest over his head his voice was muffled but this much she did pick up‘
. . . . . .a widow.’
‘Don’t, don’t.’ Annie flew to his side. ‘You know I won’t hear you talk like that. It frightens me.’