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By the Butterfly Tree: Part Eighteen

And here it is… At last, the final part of my little story that grew… You can start at the beginning here.

It had been a warm, sunny, and, for Laura, a strenuous morning. Elizabeth and Philippa McGeogh were at last asleep again after a feed each. Prior to this, they had jointly and simultaneously appealed to the universe in regard of their perceived lack of nourishment. Feeling rather exhausted, Laura had just made a cup of tea and allowed herself the luxury of sitting down to drink it. Then she stood up again with a gasp, as the telephone rang.

(Ross was now deputy project manager; Balfour, McAllen had now provided him with a phone at home, and a car – he’d already learned to drive using another of the firm’s vehicles. Robert McAllen figured that both were a good investment in this young man. Living near the city as they did, it was a dial type telephone, too, not like they had out in the villages, such as where Ross’s grandpa now lived.)

“Harbourside, four two three seven…?”
Laura heard an operator cut in. “Connecting you, caller…”
“Hello…? Oh, Laura, it’s Grandma Helen here. How are you, pet?”
Laura sighed. “Shattered, to be honest. Their ladyships are snoozing and I’m drinking tea before facing the rest of the housework. What about you?”
“Och, not so bad for an old one. But you try and look after yourself as well. I really rang you because Grandpa and I have just been thinking – now that you’re just about on your feet, and we’ve sorted a few things here, we’d like to have a wee party for you all. Maybe you and Ross – bring the twins, of course – Ross’s folks and Janet, your Sarah with Geoff and wee Paul, and Sarah’s folks if they’ll come. D’you think you could make next Saturday?”
“Oh, I’d love that. It’d be a lovely break. I’ll tell Ross tonight. I’m sure he’ll want to speak to Grandpa. Sometimes I feel a bit stuck on a treadmill, here. I mean, Ross helps how he can, and everything, but…”
“Listen, pet. Going from being a couple to a family of four’s bound to have knocked you sideways a wee bit – both of you. I’ll tell you what: come a bit early – say just after lunch. We can have woman talk while Ross helps Grandpa set stuff out, if he wouldn’t mind.”
“That’s sweet of you. You’re sure you can manage, though? It sounds a lot.”
“Och, well, it’ll be a squash, but we’re all used to that. Now, I’d better see what Grandpa’s up to. See you soon. ‘Bye, pet.”
“Love to you both. ‘Bye.”
Now drinking lukewarm tea, Laura once again blessed the day she had married into the McGeoch family.

The twins, complete with demountable pram and a varied assortment of baby-related sundry items, were now ensconced in the back of the Morris 1000 Traveller. Laura leaned back in the passenger seat, and very soon dozed off as Ross made his way to South Hills. On this sunny summer afternoon, he felt the luckiest man alive. As the close urban atmosphere gave place to country air, he wound down the window. Life was tiring, but good.
Once some warm greetings had been exchanged, and the twins’ pram set up in a shady part of the lower back garden, Ross helped Archie to arrange the living room to the best advantage, and set bottles and glasses at the ready. They grinned as they heard the steady stream of non-stop chatter emanating from the kitchen.
“If I were you, I wouldna strike a match out there, laddie.”
Ross looked up. “Too much gas about?” It was an old joke, but Archie’s favourite.

“Look, Grandma Helen, there’s not much left to do. If I just put this cream on the trifle, would you check on the twins for me? Make sure Grandpa’s OK, though, as you go.” Laura knew that, put like that, Helen would need no second bidding. Sure enough, she paused only to finish her cup of tea, before entering the living room. The menfolk had done well, Helen thought. She was looking forward to a lovely evening. Ross was polishing glasses with a tea cloth. Archie was just emptying the vacuum-cleaner he had been using, in the small yard at the side of the cottage. Ross had been joking with him earlier about this method of cleaning.
“You have electricity, grandpa? Right out here, in the wilds?”
“Och, aye, laddie. Real glass in the windies, an’ a’.”
When it came to repartee, it would be a very smart fellow indeed who ever beat Archie McGeoch.

Ross walked through to the kitchen to find Laura, with her back to the doorway, putting the finishing touches to the trifle. From behind, he grabbed her in a bear-hug. “Guess who?”
“I should know by now. Careful, you, or you’ll get plastered in cream.”
“I should be so lucky.”
“No comment.” Laura turned to give her husband a tantalising peck on the lips, before tackling a few bits of washing-up.
In the meantime, Helen had stepped out through the French doors and onto the terrace at the back of the cottage, and now looked down into the lower part of the garden, lost in thought. Then, very deliberately, she walked across to where Archie had come round from the side yard. Without a word, she took his hand. Together, they descended the short flight of steps, and walked across to where Laura had carefully positioned the twins’ pram. At that moment, two peacock butterflies settled on the top blanket before returning to the buddleia, drawn by the heavy scent.

Quietly and gently, Archie and Helen kissed, and then Archie’s eyes filled. Helen reached for the handkerchief in her sleeve, and dabbed her own eyes, before resting her hands on her husband’s shoulders. His face and body were now racked with unstoppable sobs. Lines of tears ran unheeded down Helen’s face.

Ross and Laura had now finished the last details of the preparations they had been attending to, and went to join the others in the garden. As they took in the scene that met them, they stood quietly at the other side of the pram, holding hands very tightly. Then, as Laura looked into the pram at her children, she felt an overpowering surge of emotion; a tide of maternal love. As she turned her head slightly to look at her husband, Ross caught the smile that started in the corners of her eyes and spread over her whole face. The same smile that had first knocked him senseless.

Still not a word was spoken. All the talking had already been done. It seemed that, just as the tears were streaming down the two older faces, so pain, grief, and sorrow were pouring out of their hearts, draining away to leave only inward joy behind. While the four watched as the pram blanket gently rose and fell, and listened to the gentle murmers of the sleeping pair, each knew what the other three were thinking. The circle of life was complete. At last, twin babies dozed, close by the butterfly tree.

* * * The end * * *

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By the Butterfly Tree – Part Sixteen

And so the story continues. Once again, if you’re new to this little saga, it’s best to begin here.

Archie and Helen now lived in an old, but cosy and refurbished, cottage in a village some fifteen miles out of the city. They had moved there after they had both finally retired from the shipyard and the hospital, having lived, to begin with, in the small town-house that had first belonged to Helen’s parents.

When Ross reached the cottage by bicycle, on the Thursday evening after Laura had told him the story of her granny’s bequests, he hugged his step-grandma in greeting.
“How are you, Grandma Helen? You look younger every time I come.”
Helen grinned back at him. “Och, you with your flattery – what are you after this time?”

When she had married Archie, she had been deeply conscious of the special place Jenny had had in the family, and didn’t want to presume to walk into their lives. Archie, on the other hand, had wanted her to be welcome and at ease. As Jenny had always been ‘Granny’ they had settled on ‘Grandma Helen’ which, everyone said, suited her fine.

Over tea and biscuits, Ross explained slowly about how things were between him and Laura (as if I didna ken, thought Archie) and then Laura’s problem. Archie and Helen listened with interest, nodding, smiling, and then sighing as the story unfolded. Finally, Archie confirmed Ross’s thoughts.
“I think what you said to Laura’s about the size of it, laddie. The more details we’ve got, the better. Names, addresses, dates, whatever. If her auntie could write it like a letter, and sign it, that would be good too, I think. It might at least be a lever to put a bit of pressure on the provost’s office. I’ll go up there, if you like. Of course, a lot of the folk I knew in the fire service and such will have retired now, but… you never know…”
Ross finished his tea, had a look at what Archie and Helen had been doing to their little house and garden, and went home.

After work the following night, he called to see Laura before she visited her auntie and uncle, that weekend. On the Sunday afternoon, Uncle Fred would take her to the nearest branch-line station, where she would get the last train home.

She saw Ross only briefly, after both of them finished work, on Monday, but told Ross that her Auntie had listened to what she’d asked her, and would write down all she knew in a letter, then post it to her.
“She even said she’d look through a tin box that was in the attic, for old letters and stuff. She didn’t want to get anything wrong, and spoil any chance there might be.”
“Well… At least we’ll all have made an effort, poppet. We’ll see what Grandpa makes of it.” Ross himself was rather dubious, but hadn’t the heart to say so.

The promised letter came the following Monday. Laura passed it on to Ross that evening, and on the following evening, he made the journey to the cottage once again. The day had been dull and rainy at times, and further rain was likely, so he didn’t stay long at the cottage. After quick drink of orange squash, he started on his return journey, and, indeed, just reached home before the skies opened again.

When Ross got home from work on Thursday, a letter was waiting for him. It was from Archie, and very short.

Dear Ross,
I’ve read the letter and notes that Laura’s Auntie wrote. I’d
like to check a few details. Could you and Laura come to
tea on Saturday? We’d love to see her again, anyway.
All the best, laddie.
Love from Grandma Helen, and me too,

Saturday dawned fine and warm. As Laura now had a bicycle of her own, she and Ross decided to cycle to the cottage together instead of taking the bus. It would give them an appetite for tea, which, Ross said, they would need.
When Helen had given them drinks and biscuits, Archie first took Ross outside. “We’ll talk the serious stuff in a few minutes. I just want to show you something, before I forget.” Leaving Laura and Helen together, Archie led Ross to the small yard that was covered by a lean-to roof, supported on the cottage side by metal brackets, which were badly rusted.
“I was wondering, laddie, do you think you could get some fresh ones made, at your firm?” Ross was sure that he could, and together, they measured the brackets before returning inside.
As they sat down in the living room, Laura seemed a bit upset, Ross thought. O well, if so, she would tell him later.
“Right, then,” Archie began, cheerfully “I think Grandma Helen and Laura have had a wee chat, so that’s something cleared up…?” As both nodded, Archie saw Ross’s puzzled face. “Don’t worry, Laddie, you’ll understand very soon. One more question…”
Archie dipped into his pocket, and placed a small, battered, fibreboard box on the coffee table in front of him, opening it as he did so.
“Is this the one, do you think…?”
Laura and Ross gasped in unison. A beautiful diamond, flanked by two vivid pink sapphires, flashed up at them from a gold ring. Helen held Laura as she slumped backwards. Ross’s face became a puzzled frown.
“But… Grandpa… How did you do this so quickly? What about all the legal checks, and stuff…?”
“Ah, well, you see, I didna have to trouble the City Hall. I just had to go to the garden shed.”
The young couple’s faces made a picture no artist could ever aspire to producing.

Slowly and carefully, Archie explained about the walk he’d taken, that summer, all those years ago. About finding the gas-mask case, and leaving it to Jenny to take it to the police station. And how Jenny had been struck down with her illness before she could make the errand…

In the height of Archie’s concern for Jenny, the gas-mask case had been forgotten. It had lain on the cellar-head shelf until the time when Archie had moved out when he married Helen. She had helped him to clear the house. The contents of the cellar shelves she had put into some old packing-cases, then transferred to the cellar of her own house, intending to go through the stuff with Archie, later. Some memories would still be raw, she had thought. Then, when they moved to the cottage, the same packing-cases were put in the shed. There they remained, undisturbed, until, on Tuesday evening, Archie had opened Kath’s letter and read the words ‘They lived at number fifteen, Trafalgar Terrace…’

Laura took Ross’s hand and led him into the garden. She leant against his chest, sobbing, and gasping for breath.
“I’m sorry.”
Ross held her, gently patting her back as if she were a baby. Finally, he asked her what the matter was.
“My baby sisters. I should have told you. You see, ever since that foggy day when you walked me home, I loved you. But I’d always said to myself that I wouldn’t let any boy make friends with me, just out of pity. So I said nothing. Then, somehow, as we got serious, it got harder. Will you forgive me?”
Ross’s eyes were filling, now.
“My dear precious poppet, there is nothing to forgive.”
Their faces closed on each other.

After a lovely meal, Laura felt better. Ross, of course, now realised that the discussion about the lean-to had been a ploy to leave Laura and Helen alone together. Wise, kind old grandpa. Now, he led Laura outside again. They had offered to help wash up, but Archie and Helen had told them to take time together. Wise again, thought Ross.

They were standing within sight and scent of the buddleia in the cottage garden.
“Laura, my poppet…?”
“Yes, sweetheart…?”
“I’ve a wee box in my pocket. I wondered… whether you wanted to, you know, try something on?”
This was the moment Laura had been longing for. With great difficulty, the steeled herself.

“Ross… Leslie… McGeoch. When it comes to trying anything on, you are the best, all right. On. One. Knee. Now!”

* * *

It was time for two blissfully happy young people to cycle home. But before they left, Archie had one more question. Had had agreed to keep the gas-mask case and the rest of the papers, for the time being, but he showed one very small one to Laura, that had been enclosed with the ring. It carried only the words ‘To E.M.E. From A.R.B. 22 March 1920’.
“Laura, your auntie said that your granddad was Alistair Buchannon, and had been in the RAF, is that right?”
“Yes, I remember being told that much.”
“What was your granny’s maiden name, did you ever hear?”
Laura frowned, screwing up her eyes in thought.
“Yes… Wait a minute… Got it! She was Elizabeth Ellison.”

Part seventeen is now published here!

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By the Butterfly Tree – Part Fifteen

OK, so it’s been a while. But what better time to release a bit more of this treacle-tin serial than Valentine’s Weekend? And once again, if you’re new to this little effort, it’s best to begin here.

“Just look at that!” Ross was awestruck.
“Wow!” Laura whispered.
The young couple gasped as seagulls soared, turned and dived in the sea breeze, the sky full of a non-stop display of aerobatics.

“Love it. Almost as much as I…”
Ross cut her off with a kiss as she began to blush, and she squeezed his hand. He would have taken her to the pictures or dancing more often, if she had cared for that. But she loved walks at the coast more than anything else, after the first time Ross had offered and they had taken a bus trip one Saturday. They had done the same this time; Laura had made a packed lunch for them and Ross had bought lemonade and some sweets and chocolate for the journey. They often joked about Laura being a cheap date.
“Told you before about that, poppet. Nothing cheap about you. Just not expensive to keep…” And so the lovers’ banter would go on.

They fell silent as they walked on down the cliff path to another vantage point, where they sat on a wooden bench and finished the last of their lunch. The breeze brought with it the tang of salt spray. Arms at each other’s backs, they gazed into the distance, to the outlines of the islands westward. After a few minutes, Ross felt the weight of Laura’s head falling against his shoulder. As he caught the clean smell of her hair shampoo, he saw that her eyes had closed. He was thoughtful as she dozed. He knew that her working week tired her out; she left her cousin’s house at seven every morning in order to be in time for work. She was home by six, if she was lucky, and her bus ran to time. And yet, as he held her close, it somehow felt so right. He waited until she woke with a start.

“Laura, poppet…”
“I’m just thinking we might do something different next Saturday. Just for a, y’know, change, like…”
Laura recognised the mischief in the way Ross left the suggestion hanging. She tolerated this for three and a half seconds.
“Out with it, then, ye wee terror!” As a general rule, the more excited or impatient she got, the more her mild-mannered parlance would metamorphose into the vernacular. Ross , at just over five feet ten tall compared with Laura’s five foot three, and (on Laura’s own admission to her aunt and her cousin) gentle as a lamb, would probably always be her ‘wee terror’.

“Well… I was thinking we could maybe go into town. I’d a wee bit shopping in mind. Like… looking for a ring for the fourth finger of somebody’s left hand. Yours, for instance.”

There. He’d said it. Words he’d wondered for ages just how they would come out. And as it happened, words that Laura wanted to hear, yet dreaded. There was nothing for it; she would have to face him out, right now.

“Ross, sweetheart… There’s something I need to talk about.” It came out in a sudden rush.
“Erm… you’ve decided you don’t want to marry me quite so much after all? Is that it?”
“Of course not, ye daft lummox!” Playfully, she punched Ross’s shoulder. Too late, she saw the grin. “Listen. I wanted to tell about this before, but somehow, I just couldn’t. You see, I didn’t want you to think I was rushing you.”

Help. Girls. How could you ever understand them? Understand this one, anyway?

“Could you explain yourself, if that’s possible, O dearest light of my life?”
“Ooh, am I really?” It was Laura’s turn at mock seriousness before Ross caught the look in her eyes. “Well, it’s like this. I knew you’d want to do… what you just said. Sometime. But, you know that first time you came with me to Auntie Kath’s, and you noticed Sarah’s wedding photo?

This was making less sense than ever.

“Yes… What’s that got to do with the price of cheese?”
“Well, you know how you remarked on the necklace she was wearing, in the photo? And how I said it was a sort of family heirloom? It was my granny’s. I didn’t know her ’cause she died quite young, and my granddad did too. But, you see, in her will, she said that Auntie Kath’s first daughter should have the necklace, and my mum’s first daughter should have her engagement ring. So Auntie kept the necklace safe, and mum kept the ring – I don’t know where. I saw it once, when I was a wee mite. It was beautiful. I think it had a diamond, with pink gems at each side. I didn’t know it was meant to be mine, then. Auntie told me about it one day. Anyway, there was the war, of course, and then…” Laura sighed. “…there wasn’t mum to ask, when I grew up. I know our house was bombed, and mum killed. But… I just wondered if there’d be any place it might have been taken to. You know, to the City Hall people, or something. Did they check houses before they pulled them down? Of course, I know a lot of stuff was just blown to bits. But what do you reckon?”
“Well…” It was Ross’s turn to sigh. “Now I get the idea. I can see why this means a lot to you, poppet. But I’ve no clue how to find anything out. Wait, though. My grandpa was a volunteer fireman in the war. They must have had rules about that sort of thing. We could ask him, if you don’t mind him knowing, you know, how serious things are with… us.”
“’Course I don’t. He’s guessed already, if I know your grandpa at all. But would you talk to him, sweetheart? And, if we did get it back, and I wanted it to be my engagement ring, would you mind?”
“If that’s what you’d like, Poppet, I’m happy. I go and see him one evening in the week anyway, now I’m not at college. You go and see your auntie and uncle, don’t you? Can you find out as much as you can, like, say, what the ring looked like, the address of your old home, the date of the raid when your poor mum was killed, all stuff like that? Anything at all. I mean, if it is safe somewhere, I don’t suppose they hand out lost property like this on a nod an’ a wink.”
“You’re on. I see Auntie, you see Grandpa. Is that it?”
“And if nothing comes of it – though it would be lovely if it did, for your granny’s sake, too – I get to buy you a ring. But if we do get your granny’s ring back, I buy you a necklace, or something like that. Whatever you’d like.” Ross went on, mimicking the accent of one of the American characters in the last film they had been to see together. “Do I have a deal, Miss Millar?”

Laura’s reply wasn’t given in words.

Part sixteen is now published here.

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By the Butterfly Tree – Part Twelve

My story continues… For a brief introduction and a link to the beginning, go here.

It was eight o’clock on a blustery evening in late November. Sister Helen Anderson switched off the main lights. Annie Fraser and Evie Jamieson were quietly moving between beds and cots, taking pulses, listening out for cries of pain, alert for signs of dangerous fever or any other crises among their young charges. It would be a long night. Many diseases of childhood could still be fatal; the right nursing could save a young life.
As Annie and Evie worked out on the ward, Helen sat in the office, checking reports and other paperwork left by the day shift, working by the light of her reading lamp. Then, satisfied, she quietly joined the two dedicated young women at their duties.
Tonight, there were only the three of them; night shifts did not, as a rule, warrant many staff. There was little hustle and bustle, in contrast with the hectic schedule the day shift had. Except, of course, when there had been raids. Emergencies had occurred back to back and side by side for hours at a time. Helen blinked and shook herself at the memory…

The night wore on. The coordination was almost uncanny. Little needed to be said, just a few words of counsel, now and then, would pass between Helen and the other two. She made them take it in turns to have short breaks, making sure they had drinks and a bite to eat.
“Sister,” whispered Evie, as she re-entered the ward, “You’ll need a drink, yourself… Annie and I will call you if there’s trouble. Promise.” She spread out one hand, holding it over where she knew her heart ought to be, and winked. Many in Helen’s position would not have tolerated the familiarity, but there was a special bond here; maybe some good could come out of a war, after all…
Helen sighed appreciatively. “Thank you, Evie. Just give me a few minutes.”

As Evie and Annie kept up their vigil on the ward, Helen was thinking as she drank her tea. It so happened that, at the end of this shift, they would all get a break until Monday morning. Now was as good a time as any, she thought…

Back on the ward, she looked around, taking fresh note of the condition of the more seriously ill children, then returned to the office to make her own notes for the day shift. She made one last tour of the ward, then beckoned to Evie and Annie with a nod.
“Ladies, when we finish, I’d be glad if I could have a word on the way out. Is that all right?” Then, noticing their concern, she added “It’s all right – you’re not in trouble, either of you!”

With the dawn came more wind and rain. The two younger women were waiting in the lobby of the staff entrance as Helen met them.
“Thank you, both. Sorry to detain you like this. You see, it’s nothing to do with this place. I just wanted to ask you both a favour.”
The other two looked up questioningly in response.
“It’s like this. I’ve been invited to a wedding, and I’ve been asked to bring a couple of friends. It’s a good few weeks away, yet – after Christmas – but I’m a bit nervous about it, to be honest. I’ve never really been used to parties and such, and… I’d really appreciate it if you’d both oblige.”
Evie looked at Annie, then spoke for them both. “Oblige? It’d be our pleasure. But… Do we know the couple getting hitched?”
Helen’s eyes melted into her trade-mark twinkle. “I think you know the bride-to-be. And the groom, just a little. Helen Anderson’s getting married to Archie McGeoch.”
The two young women gasped, and then visibly rocked. Annie’s eyes seemed to grow stalks. For once, she was dumb. For several seconds, the scene was reminiscent of an old silent movie; the picture was striking. Annie’s lips began to move, but the sound just didn’t come.

Evie reached into her pocket for a handkerchief. “Oh! Sister! I’m… so happy for you… Both of you!”
Annie just nodded. Helen looked into the faces of the other two with appreciation. “Thank you, both. And, er, off duty, it’s ‘Helen’. OK?

Just after mid-day on the same day, at the end of an early shift, Archie and George Baird were walking together in the direction of the bicycle sheds. “George,” said Archie, in a querying tone, “I want to ask ye something.”
“What’s that, Archie?”
“I’ve a little job needin’ doing.”
Now, George was well-known for his skills at such things as setting up wireless sets, or checking and testing accumulators. Generous by nature, he was sometimes unfairly taken advantage of, but rarely declined to help. And, anyway, he’d have done anything for Archie. He began to imagine what his friend might want.
“How can I help ye?”
“Well, George, it’s no’ for a wee bittie yet, but I was wonderin’… Would you be ma best man?”

This part is the end of section two of the whole story. I never expected to get this far. That’s why it’s a magic moment for me. The content of this part also has a magic moment in it. So I’m linking up with this week’s ‘Magic Moments’ hosted by Jaime at The Oliver’s Madhouse.

Update: part thirteen, which opens the third and final section of this story,
is now published here.

Oh, and… To Helen at All at Sea… Thanks again!

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By the Butterfly Tree – Part Eleven

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’.

Prose for Thought
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Companionable Silence

This little story, (entirely fictional!) was prompted by the ‘100 Word Challenge’ prompt here, based on a picture of an observation platform at the Grand Canyon in Arizona, USA. You will find links to lots of other responses.

We’d met on the plane at the start of this package trip to the Grand Canyon. Shy conversation gradually became easier as we made friends. Was our friendship set to become something more? Certainly, we found that we had a lot in common; a love of nature, photography, beautiful music, and many other things – but one more thing would tell me whether we were right for each other.

On that special day, as we walked onto the observation platform, we both fell silent, then took pictures. As we walked back, we both knew something special: we could both be awe-struck!

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A Slight Misunderstanding

This post is in response to the ‘100 word Challenge’ here, where you will find links to all the other contributions. The phrase shown in bold had to be added to 100 words. My little dialogue is, thankfully, entirely fictitious!

“Fred, can I have a word?”
“Sure.” The young lighting designer followed his boss to the managing director’s office, where they sat down.
“Fred, but I’m a bit puzzled. I met George Greenway at the club today, and just mentioned that design you submitted – you know, as you do – and he seemed rather off-hand about it. So I checked our copy of what we sent. Now, you said you’d do… WHAT, exactly?”
“Well, I looked round, and suggested a scheme in uplighters. He seemed keen. So I chose those conical ones.”
Harry put his head in his hands. “Trust Sally… She only typed ‘comical’ didn’t she?”

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