First of all, a note to new readers: Thank you for coming along. If you haven’t done so already, take a look here, which explains how this story came to be written, and then gives you a link to the beginning. I hope you like this story – and the rest of this blog. Take a seat… 😉
Now, those of you who’ve followed this story so far: Yeah, all right, all right, I know it’s been a while! Mojo didn’t dry up, but available opportunity did. But here we are, back again
by popular demand because I now have time. You’re up to part ten…? Then read on! 😉
Now that Archie had been back at work for several days, everyone who knew him – from the apprentices who had sometimes borne the brunt of his recent morose state, to the shipyard managers – could hardly fail to notice his new lightness of mood and general good humour. Some put this down to the enforced period of rest he’d had, even suggesting that the accident had been a blessing in disguise. Others, perhaps facetiously, suggested that the bang on the head that he’d sustained had actually put something right in his brain. All of them welcomed the change, however. Archie would nod, even smile, as he passed those he knew. He’d even joined a few mates one evening for a drink at a nearby pub.
Not long after this, on a Saturday evening, Archie took himself off for a walk to clear his mind. He had been wondering for some days now how he should thank Helen for her concern for him. At least, that was what he asked himself. Somehow, he found himself heading for the infirmary. Perhaps she’d be on duty, or he might enquire at the children’s ward. He was well-known there, after all. He looked around as he turned in at the gates and approached the main entrance. Inevitably, the grounds weren’t as well-kept as they had been before the war…
And then it hit him. The heady scent of buddleia, still in flower. Just by a low brick wall at the edge of a path, a few remaining blooms trembled slightly in the gentle breeze. He walked over, once again lost in all kinds of thoughts, as he had been on that day over two years before. And then, for the second time in only a month or so, he found himself roused from his swirling thoughts by a voice he knew.
“It’s been beautiful, this year. I… Oh…!
As Archie turned to face the speaker, Helen jumped as she recognised him.
“Archie! What are you doing here?”
“Ha! Your turn to ask that, now! Well, actually, as it happens, it was you I’d come to see. I… just wanted to thank you… for coming to see me that evening. It was a life-saver, Helen. Really…”
“Och, Archie, what else could I have done?”
“Listen, Helen. I’d like to tell you why it meant so much to me. I take it, you’ve just finished for today?” As Helen nodded, Archie went on. “Have you time to share a cuppie with me while I tell ye? It willnae be anything fancy round here, after what this war’s done, but I’d be glad if you’d spare me a chat…”
In a tiny, but clean and cosy, side-street café nearby, Archie talked of how losing Jenny had made him think back over his life so many times. He talked about his flying days in France, about what he’d seen of war, first hand. It occurred to him that he’d never talked to anyone like this before. It was as if some massive knot inside his mind was slowly coming undone. As he paused now and then, to ponder, Helen gently replied with accounts of her own experiences as a young army nurse during the same years.
At length, it was time for the café to close. As they left, the evening air struck cooler.
“Helen, I’m sorry. I should have asked how you were getting home. I hope I havena’…”
“No, it’s fine. I’ll easy get the next tram.”
They walked together to the tram stop, still talking, but about life as it was now, right up to date. It never occurred to either of them to think that there was anything at all odd about how this chance meeting had gone. Sharing the twists and turns of a curious web of life, how Helen had cared for her own parents until they both passed away, how Archie had got back into work after leaving the army, when so many other men had been left on the streets… and then they both stood silent for a few moments.
“I was wondering… Could we have another chat like this, some time? Maybe go for a walk someplace, if you get a day off… A Sunday, mebbes…?
Archie looked hopefully into Helen’s face. He almost jumped as he saw the characteristic smile that started in the corners of her eyes.
“I… I do get some Sundays off, Archie. Next Sunday, I’ll be off, as it works out. And, you know… I’d like to do that. I’d like it very much.”
As they heard the hissing and clanking of the tram in the distance, Archie and Helen arranged where to meet, in eight days’ time.
* * *
Archie turned up his jacket collar as he headed home. He was tired, but easier in his mind than he’d been for some time. And then he realised: it had been a very long time indeed.
And meanwhile, a very thoughtful middle-aged nursing sister was going home on a tram, dabbing her eyes.
You can read part twelve here.
This part of my story took a bit more thought to write than previous ones. Also, there is more thinking involved for the fictional characters. So, once again, this post is linked to
‘Prose for Thought’ hosted by Vicky at ‘Verily, Victoria Vocalises’.