The room they paid for was only one step up from Bessie’s bedroom, but it overlooked a quiet square where trees lifted their wet branches to the leaden sky. It had two nice easy chairs and a little table.
Jimmy nodded towards the table. ‘We could eat here looking at the trees. I’ll go down, ask her for some tea and biscuits.’
‘Tea and biscuits at nine o’clock in the morning!’
‘I’m not asking her for the moon and I am paying her. You sit there. You’ll see.’
Annie knew he’d get them, he could charm a monkey out of a tree could Jimmy. It was the blond hair and those warm friendly eyes of his that did it. She knew other women besides herself felt the need to mother him. He didn’t flirt with them, but rather made them see him as the lovely little boy he must have been.
Sure enough, she heard the rattle of cups and his voice calling her to open the bedroom door. And there he stood with the loaded tray. Between them they set it out, cups and saucers, spoons, milk, sugar, scones, cake and a fat brown teapot.
‘Jimmy! Here let me give you something for it, you must have spent every last penny.’
‘I have, but who needs money.’ Jimmy struck a pose saying, ‘Who needs money when you’ve got love like ours.’ He had his hand on his heart and looked like someone in a tawdry melodrama.
Annie burst into laughter, she sat in a chair speechless, holding her sides and complaining of the pain.
‘What have I said?’
She couldn’t answer him because the hurt expression on his face was so excruciatingly funny. Then the laughter became hysterical and turned to tears. He’d never seen her cry like that, never. He could feel it tearing her heart out of her chest. They’d have spent the time far better looking at the shops and going to the matinee, at least then she wouldn’t have been able to indulge in this display of hurt. No, that wasn’t fair, she was truly weeping for him. For Jimmy Glover, from Scarborough, good old Jimmy, known by everyone as dispenser extraordinaire in the chemist’s shop nearest the quay, receiver of more personal confidences than anyone else in the town. God! The stories he heard. Unwanted babies, fearful terminal illness, tragic infant deaths, bravery in extreme pain, such suffering, you name it he’d heard it.
‘Annie, sweetheart, let’s not spoil our day, please. Here, have a cup of tea, and a scone they’re straight from the oven, I know you like them. Come on, sweetheart.’
He was right. She would enjoy herself. She was determined she would and when they’d finished their tea, she’d entice him to make love again like last night, and just to show how much she loved him, she’d really show him what he would be coming home to. A passionate wife. And she did. She amazed him with the freedom with which she met his every need, no embarrassment, no nightie, simply plain honest passion. They slept for an age afterwards and when Annie woke she felt ravenously hungry.
‘I could eat a horse.’
‘There’s the bacon sandwich.’
‘Right, I’ll have that. Do you want half? The tea’s cold. Heavens above we’ve been asleep for ages. Our day’s nearly gone.’
Jimmy said so softly she could scarcely hear him. ‘But we’ve enjoyed it. Well, I have.’
So they made love again. Went to the all night forces café at the station. Picked up his kit bag. Stood in the corner by the gent’s and cuddled each other for comfort. Their quiet corner didn’t escape the sniping wind which found every gap and crevice and chilled them relentlessly. The station grew busier and busier with servicemen going back off leave and relatives saying goodbye.
‘You’d better get on the train or you’ll be standing all the way.’
‘One more minute.’ He kissed her again gave Annie a final big hug and said,
‘You’re mine. You’ll write? I love your letters. You’ll be brave?’
‘Course I will. I’ll write every day. Promise.’ She kissed her finger and pressed it to his lips. ‘That’s my promise.’
‘I’ll be back. That’s my promise.’ He kissed his finger and pressed it to her lips.
Then he remembered something. Out of his uniform jacket he pulled a photograph. It was him, in his uniform looking like a hero. Annie had nothing to give in return.
Annie unpinned the brooch from her coat lapel. ‘Take this. I love it, it’ll keep you safe.’
‘It’ll definitely bring me luck then.’ They both stood looking gravely at the little circle of forget-me-not flowers. She pinned it on the underside of the flap of his uniform breast pocket.
‘Thank you.’ Jimmy patted his pocket. ‘I’ll never take it off. It’s beautiful.’ He grinned at her as though he was going on a huge adventure, heaved his kit bag onto his shoulder gave her a mock salute and left. If she stood on tiptoe he was easy to see because his height made him stand out in the crowd. Finally he’d gone.