Several bleak months passed in which Annie worked and lived like an automaton. She was lifeless and close to suicide. Friends rallied round her but to no avail. Her mother was untouched by her daughter’s desolation; her oft repeated advice was, “pull yourself together”.
One day, unable to tolerate her life any longer, Annie cried off sick at the mill and went home determined to end it all. It was the not hearing that hurt. If only he’d been honest with her. But even as she thought that she remembered how honourable he was and dismissed it. But why no telegram?
Drowning she couldn’t face. Throwing herself under a tram, under a train, no. Off a cliff? No. Gas? Then she realised she had the complete answer. Slow unconsciousness and then death by inhaling gas at home where it was comfortable and no trouble to anyone, except Mother. It struck her that today Mother had gone to visit her sister Lily just out of hospital so she’d have all day to do it. What a stroke of luck. She’d disconnect the rubber pipe on the gas ring, and a few turns at sucking the escaping gas and she’d be out of this world.
Annie wrote a note for Mother, put it in the middle of the table where it couldn’t be missed. There was a noise at the door. Mother back already? Surely not. Or was it Jimmy by some miracle come back just in time to save her? Her spirits rose, but fell as she heard a letter land on the mat. The rarity of a letter arriving made her go to pick it up. She turned it over and saw it was for her.
Very, very, slowly, too numbed by grief to really care, she opened the envelope and out fell that embarrassingly bad photograph she’d given Jimmy when they’d first met. But this wasn’t Jimmy’s handwriting. So he was dead then. Someone had found the photo with her address on the back and was returning it to her. She turned it over and over in her fingers, remembering. . . . .
Oh! God! No! But better dead than having rejected her. Dead she could become a brave woman in mourning. To be rejected was death itself. The letter began:
Dear Miss Arkwright,
I enclose a photograph found among the possessions of Lance Corporal James Arthur Glover. I am a ward sister at the Army hospital in Glasgow, and going through his belongings I found this and decided to send it to you. I know it may be distressing for you to receive this after he has been missing for such a long time, but despite all our efforts we have not succeeded in getting him to take interest in life again. He has been badly injured and though we have healed his physical wounds, his mental wounds are not healing.
Is there a possibility that you would be willing to write to him? I know your circumstances have possibly changed since you gave him the photograph but I am desperate to help him and I write as a last resort.
If it helps to remind you about him, he has a forget-me-not brooch which I hope the girl in the photograph gave him, he has it pinned to his pyjama pocket all the time.
Perhaps even a few words from a long lost friend will help him. He’s a lovely boy, in need of a helping hand.