Chapter 4

Written by: Linda Alley

 

Yorkshire, England – November 1941

The moon had been absent most of the night but now as dawn approached, a sliver trickled through the bay windows, illuminating the rows of beds set out like tombstones beneath the Renaissance portraits.

Not that anyone here was in danger of slipping into the afterlife, Lilian thought as she did her rounds. The library was Chesbrook Hall’s convalescence ward and though it had its share of burns and missing limbs, the deepest scars were the ones she couldn’t see. After Alan’s death, she’d asked Dr Green to keep her on night shift. At sunrise she would stagger back to the nurses’ quarters, collapsing into a dreamless sleep, safe until night descended again.

Sleeping forms rose and fell in the darkness. Except one. Lieutenant Matthew Crowther was in his usual position, hands folded across his breast, eyes wide open, staring unblinkingly upwards at the painted cherubs as if trying to will himself into Heaven. On hearing her footsteps, his eyes slid towards her, unusually expressive. She paused beside him.

“Lieutenant,” she whispered. “Did you ever meet an Alan Hayes? He was a pilot like you.”

Her patient’s eyes flickered for a moment before his gaze returned to the ceiling. What had she expected? Matthew Crowther hadn’t said a word since he’d been admitted.

“Lilian?”

Dr Green stood behind her, his brow creased.

“I’m sorry,” she murmured. “I know you told us not to ask them about the war.”

“It’s not Crowther I’m worried about. Go to bed. I’ll finish off here.”

“But I’ve still got half an hour.”

They turned as the library door opened. Enid. Seeing Lilian, she froze for a second, then dumped her armful of towels on a table and scuttled out.

True to her word, Lilian had returned to the cave with the police that day. They’d found Roy gone and Enid hysterical. Enid had refused to speak to Lilian since.

A wave of weariness washed over Lilian. She nodded and went out.

“Lil!”

She froze. A man stepped out from behind a tree. He was thinner than she remembered, his grubby clothes hanging off him. He spread his palms and she saw they were tanned from a summer of living outdoors.

“Help me speak to Enid.”

Lilian picked up a fallen branch that lay between them. “So, the man who betrays his country remains loyal in love.”

“If you knew the things I know, Lil.” Roy moved closer. He smelled strongly of horse manure. “We’ve got no chance. Hitler’s going to win. I just want my family to be on the right side when the time comes. Do you want Enid to end up like you? To lose her husband? Just five minutes. Then I’ll leave. I swear.”

Her fingers trembled, but she let the branch fall, hurrying away

“Lose?” She turned as she reached the entrance to the nurses’ quarters. “If only she had been made a widow!”

Then she pulled the door fast behind her and drew the bolt.

Comments

You make the conversations sound real and they flow. The big reason for this is you keep the exchanges short and tight. Again an easy to read chapter that took readers to the situation and the people in it.