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Love

    Annie read it through three times before she fully realised Jimmy was alive. She paced back and forth, back and forth unable to take it all in. Injured? What were his injuries? But it says they’ve healed them, it’s only his mind they can’t heal. Has he gone mad then? What’s he doing in Glasgow, and not coming home! Well, that’s that then. All those miles away. If he’s ill he can’t travel, can he? But I could. But if he wants me why hasn’t he written? Maybe he doesn’t want me and she, this Sister Florence person, doesn’t know that. So if I went, I might get rejected. The other side of the world was Glasgow! Missing. So why didn’t I get the telegram? He’d put me down as next of kin though. Who else would get the telegram but me? It should have come to me. Perhaps he’s shell shocked, it can do funny things. I’ll write and then I’ll go. I’ve got the money I’ve been saving up for getting married. I’ll go. Then again the question of the telegram came into her mind and something her mother had said one day, like a slip of the tongue, what was it? Her memory jerked into action and she recalled the words. ‘Pointless waiting for J . .’ She’d said and then quickly clamped her lips together.
     It hit her like a flash of lightning. Mother knew! Mother had opened the telegram. She searched all the places where she knew her mother put things ‘on one side’. Behind the china dogs, no. In her hanky drawer in her bedroom? In the wardrobe under her shoes? Behind the taper jar? Ah! Yes! The insurance box. And there it was. Under the book, still in its envelope. She read the fateful words. Missing believed killed. Hidden all this time, with her tearing herself to pieces over Jimmy not answering her letters, and Mother never said a word. Oh! Jimmy. My darling, beautiful, Jimmy. Missing believed killed. That was just their way of breaking the news gently, leaving a shred of hope. The words ran through her head beating away time and again. The house was a mess with all her searching, she’d better tidy up before Mother came home. No, she damn well wouldn’t. This was the last day of her life that she put Mother first. The suicide note she burnt on the fire, the telegram she put open in the centre of the table and waited. She sat motionless, thinking of Jimmy and how much she loved him. Then she leapt to her feet, got out the pen and the notepaper. And began. . . . . .Dear Miss Chapman, I am the girl in the photo. . . . .

     An hour later her mother came home. ‘Have you got that kettle on. I’m frozen to death. What’s all this mess? What ‘ave you been doing? Why are you ‘ome so early?’ Then Mother saw the telegram open on the table and for a moment was too stunned to speak. She took off her coat and hat, reached out to warm her hands at the fire and finally said, ‘You know the truth, then. See, I am concerned about yer, didn’t want you upset. We’ll be at home, you and me and we’ll grow old together comfortable like.’
     ‘I don’t want to live another day with you for what you’ve done to me.’

     ‘How dare you speak to me like that. He’s dead and well you know it.’

     Annie took the letter from the Sister out of her apron pocket and began reading it out. The look of triumph on Mother’s face at the first few sentences quickly changed to fury when she realised that Jimmy was alive. Mother watched Annie refold the letter and put it in her pocket.

     Mother snarled at her. ‘So?’

     ‘I’m going to go to Glasgow to see him.’

     Mother absorbed what Annie had said, her mind furiously working out her reply.

     ‘You’ll never go all that way on your own. It’s miles. Miles and miles. If you do you’re a fool. He could be crippled in his body and his mind and I don’t know which is worse. Anyway, I want you to go ‘elp our Lily this weekend. You could go Saturday dinner after you finish at the mill.’ She glanced at Annie to gauge her reaction and decided to plant doubt in her mind. ‘That letter could all be a hoax. Some mischief maker. Then you’ll look a fool.’

     She comfortably shuffled herself closer to the fire and lifted her skirts, the better to warm her legs.

     Annie tried desperately to ignore her. ‘Listen to me. I’ll go see him even if there’s only a slim chance he’s still hanging on. If he wants me we shall marry. Don’t bother to argue and don’t for one minute think I won’t go, because. . . . .I. . . . .I will.’

     ‘Shut up! You’re not going.’ Her mother got up and shook her hard. ‘Do you hear me?’

 

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