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   Love like theirs would protect him, Annie thought. They were meant for each other for sure, and life wouldn’t, couldn’t, tear them apart. Alone in that vast crowd Annie vowed to love him till her dying day. He was pretending to be brave, she knew that for certain, because he’d had a nightmare in the little hotel room they’d hired and she’d held him close and stroked his hair and kissed away his fear until he slept again. Fear like his she’d never known. He was going back to hell, with a smile on his face.

It was one in the morning before she got home. She crept up the stairs but Mother must have been lying awake. ‘Annie? That you?’  
     ‘Who else?’
     ‘Enjoyed yourself? Bessie enjoy her weekend off?’
     Annie crossed her fingers while she lied. ‘Yes. Thanks.’
     ‘Do anything exciting?’
     ‘You know, Bessie.’
     ‘I do. Nice girl but dull as ditch water is Bessie. Hasn’t had a bright idea since the day she was born. Don’t forget to set the alarm.’
     Annie heard the bed creak as Mother turned over, and she knew she’d be asleep in minutes and nothing would wake her, certainly not Annie’s alarm.
     Three weeks after Jimmy left the postman put a card for Annie through the door. A beautiful card decorated with national flags and on the back he’d written ‘All my love, see you soon, your Jimmy.’
     Her mother placed it on the mantelpiece and sneered. Huh! “All my love. See you soon.” Huh! Fat chance. They were dying like flies out there at the Front and there was no reason why Jimmy shouldn’t be the very next to go. In fact he was probably already dead. If he did come back she wouldn’t allow Annie to marry him. Not likely. Who’d look after her when the rheumatism got worse if not Annie? No, she couldn’t go. She wouldn’t let her marry a man who couldn’t knock the skin off a rice pudding he was so kindly. Briefly she envied his gentleness, thought about her own married life and the blows she’d survived and the cruelty and wished. . . . . .no good getting sentimental. Their Annie was staying at home with her where she belonged.
     She put the kettle on the fire for her morning cup of tea, before it had boiled there came a knock at the door. Thinking it was her neighbour she called out ‘Come in, Bella, kettle’s on the hob.’ But it was a telegram boy opening the door, with an orangey yellow envelope in his hand. In slow motion she held out her hand and took it from him. It was addressed to Annie. The boy turned to go, and then turned back to say, ‘Sorry, Missus.’
     ‘You opened this?’
     No, he hadn’t, certainly not.
     But she did, by steaming the envelope open. “Missing believed killed”.
     So, it had happened just like she’d hoped. Jimmy Glover. More than likely dead. A slow triumphant smile spread across her face. She stuck the envelope down before it had a chance to dry out. Rocking backwards and forwards in her favourite chair she contemplated this new development. To tell or not to tell. Better to live in hope she thought. She wouldn’t say a word. Not a word. But where could she hide it? Destroy it might be a better idea. Burn it up, the fire was blazing nicely. But some instinct held back her hand. One day she might use this to her advantage. What advantage she didn’t know at this moment, but it could be used, sometime. Decision was made. Hide it. She went to the bottom dresser drawer where she kept her two pence-a-week insurance book and hid the telegram below the book. There! Time for a bite of dinner and her daily siesta and she’d be ready for going out when Annie got home from the mill. Annie could shake the rugs and finish that bit of ironing.
     The card with the embroidered flags on it was the only evidence Annie had that Jimmy was still alive, and she clung to hope with fierce tenacity. The spasmodic arrival of his letters and cards was to be expected and at first she didn’t worry, but then she did. Either he’d decided she wasn’t for him or. . . . .no, she wouldn’t think on those lines. There were days when she was full of hope, days when she had reached utter despair. She scanned the casualty lists in the papers but none of them was Jimmy. Obviously it couldn’t be him because being named as next of kin she hadn’t received that dreaded telegram. So the next day her hopes would rise and she’d wait, and then wait some more.
     Armistice Day came and all hope was gone.



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