His arms were round her, his face buried in her hair, saying. ‘Sweetheart, sweetheart, sorry. So sorry.’ Then he held her away from him and looked directly into her eyes. ‘But we must face facts. It’s no picnic out there. The papers make it sound glorious, all trumpet calls and brave chums, but believe me it isn’t. It’s wet and cold and blasted muddy wherever you go. We’ll marry in peacetime. . . . or not at all. I won’t have it blighted.’
All the joyous light in her went out like the snuffing out of a candle. Her legs were heavy as lead, her heart a stone. Of course he was right, it was neither glorious nor noble. All she could do was wait. All anyone could do nowadays was wait and wait and then wait all over again.
The baker’s was warm and welcoming and the smell of the bread baking brought saliva to their mouths. ‘Two plain teacakes with bacon and two mugs of tea.’ The baker’s wife came bustling out of the kitchen with a plate of bacon freshly fried. It looked and smelt of heaven. ‘Sit yerself down, won’t be a minute. Pint pot all right for the lady? When d’yer go back?’
‘Not long then.’
Jimmy’s bittersweet 'No' escaped her as she nodded to the single scrappy little table at the end of the counter with its two battered chairs. ‘Sit yerselves down in the restaurant, the rush hasn’t started yet but when it does. . . . .’
Annie whispered, ‘Why do they always ask when you go back. Can’t they leave it alone?’
Jimmy stroked her hand. ‘They’re hoping you’ve got a lifetime at home, one less to worry about.’ He smiled. ‘Love you. Thanks for last night it was. . .’ Jimmy couldn’t find the word to describe how last night had been for him. So he smiled instead and so did Annie.
She whispered ‘I wish it had been somewhere much nicer than that. When we get married we’ll go to Whitby for our honeymoon, and we’ll have a bedroom overlooking the sea so when we wake we’ll be able to lean out of the window and watch the waves.’
‘And we’ll walk on the beach hand in hand and paddle in the sea.’
Annie shuddered. ‘You can but I shan’t. I don’t like the sea.’
‘What’s matter with the sea then?’
‘It can kill, can all that water.’
‘I’m proposing paddling not drowning, just the little waves not the rollers.’ He had to laugh at her fear. Couldn’t have her thinking of dying right now, not in this warm cosy place where they were both safe.
The teacakes when they came were tasty; the contrast of the warm bread, the melting butter and the thick slice of crispy home cured bacon filled their nostrils and warmed their hearts. Jimmy ordered two more.
Annie whispered, ‘I can’t eat two, Jimmy.’
‘You can and if you can’t I’ll eat it for you. Perhaps not, but you could wrap it up for later.’
‘That’s right. I’ll ask her for a paper bag and keep it for later. What shall we do all day?’
‘Don’t want to carry my kitbag with me all the time. Let’s go to the station and I’ll put it in the left luggage, then we’ll take a look round the shops, go to a matinee or something.’
‘That’ll be good. Ages since I went to the Varieties.’
The night shift began appearing in the shop, and they decided to go. Jimmy hoisted his kitbag onto his shoulder saying to the baker’s wife, ‘Good morning, and thanks. Those teacakes were lovely. I shall remember them for a long time.’
The baker’s wife said, ‘Hope you do, lad, hope you do.’
Once out of the shop Annie said, ‘What did she have to say that for? Miserable old beggar.’
‘Take no notice, just trying to cheer us up.’
While they were on the tram going into the city centre it began to rain. Heavy relentless drops beating almost horizontally at the tram windows and the grim northern city became more grim and even darker. Was the whole world in mourning for Jimmy? Annie’s eyes brimmed with tears and she daren’t look at him in case she broke down. But he glanced at her and saw her pain and wept within himself.
‘I’ve enough money for us to have a room for the day. Let’s do that. We can’t walk about in this.’
‘There’s the arcades.’
‘It’ll only take half an hour to walk round them looking at things we can’t buy. No, we’ll have a room.’