by Jay Lewis Taylor
The Great War is over. Jack Townsend, no longer a hospital orderly, is back at work in his photographer’s shop in Lewisham. But there is no peace yet; his blackmailer is still in business, and Celia Vavasour seems determined to manage his life. All his life; even his love-life …
Meanwhile in Sussex, David Lewry, former army officer, is still holding off from a closer relationship with Alan Kershaw, once in the Navy and now the village’s GP. Lew knows how much Alan wants him, but this last step is one he cannot take – not yet, unless something changes …
16,200 words/66 pages
Publication 1 February 2017
He was huddled on the studio side of the partition, trying to cough up whatever clogged his throat and lungs. Let it be a bad day in the shop. Please, let it be a bad day in the shop. Jack’s mouth twisted. When else have I prayed for a bad day?
The shop door opened with a clang of the bell as a customer stepped on the mat. Reluctantly, Jack hauled himself, hand over hand on a mock garden trellis, to a standing position. His chest hurt, and the dreadful half-breathing, half-coughing paroxysm threatened to come on again as he walked round the screen.
“Good aftern – oh.” Jack pulled himself together. I don’t have to call him ‘sir’ any more. “Good afternoon, Doctor Kershaw.” He noted, dispassionately, that his hands were shaking.
“Mr Townsend.” The cool voice sharpened a little. “You’re ill.”
“Unfit for service. Grade 3. Remember? Asthma. You never asked about it. At the time.” Jack leaned on the counter, snatched in a breath, and said, “What can I do for you?”
Kershaw hung up his hat, and set down a package that he was holding. “We’ll talk business later. Has your doctor given you nothing for that?” He pulled off his gloves and took Jack’s pulse.
“Can’t afford the doctor. It’ll pass. Not – not usually this bad.” He looked up as the warm touch left his wrist. “What are you doing?”
“Closing the shop,” Kershaw said, shutting the door and turning the Open sign to Closed. “You’re not fit to be up, and I can see you’ve a black eye too.”
Jack pushed himself away from the counter. “I have a living to make. You leave my shop alone.”
“You need to be alive to make it,” Kershaw said. “Where’s the nearest pharmacy?” He picked up a chair. “Sit down.”
“I can’t – “
“Sit down. Pharmacy.” Kershaw nudged the chair hard against Jack’s knees, and perforce he sat down.
“Hospital. Turn right. Six minutes’ walk. I can’t afford it.”
“Never mind that for now.” Kershaw was gone.
Gritting his teeth, Jack got to his feet, took an uncertain step forward, and then let his shoulders sag. Why are the virtuous always so bloody right?