by Jay Lewis Taylor
Invalided home from the Navy, Richard is safe out of harm’s way, at home in Lincoln with his parents. It’s not what he expected, but now that he’s met Les life looks interesting again. However, the war isn’t over yet, and Les is a bomber pilot with the RAF. Richard may still have something to lose, after all.
This volume also contains another story, The Man Who Came to Dinner.
20,700 words / 82 pages
Publication 1 May 2018
At home, when he had time and solitude to look in his pocket, Richard found a scrawled and tight-folded note, almost illegible in blunt pencil, with an address at the top. R, Do you go there often? Let’s meet. L.
He wrote a reply on a postcard of his old ship. L, Not often enough. Do you pay calls? R. And, with a quiver of anticipation, his address.
The quiver faded, but revived when the postman knocked next morning, only to fade again because of course there would be no answer yet.
The reply came by the afternoon post.
Arrangements were made over the next week or so. And, early one Saturday afternoon, when the wind swirled the fallen leaves over the ground and the sunlight came level over wall and hedge, Les arrived on the doorstep in East Bight with a bucketful of plums. “Thought these might come in useful,” he explained as Mrs Thoresby ushered him into the sitting room.
“They will indeed, Leslie. Thank you so much. I was just going shopping, and now I can cross ‘fruit’ off the list. You will stay for tea? Carrot and raisin sandwiches and cake.”
“I’d be delighted, if you have enough to go round.”
“Of course I do, or I shouldn’t have asked. Do sit down. The kettle just boiled, and a cup of tea now won’t spoil your appetite for later.” She bustled around, fetching cups and saucers and the strainer before pouring out and setting the pot on the table. “There you are. I’ll be back in a while.”
“Make yourself comfortable,” Richard said, when the door closed. “Is that tea strong enough?” His mother had parked the chair for him, despite his suggestion that he could do it for himself, and he was a little too far from the tea-pot to reach it. He released the brake and wheeled forward a few inches.
Les looked at the gilt and blue Crown Derby tea-cup, dwarfed by his hand. “It suits the cup.”
“Oh Lord – in that case, water the aspidistra with it and pour yourself another when it’s brewed some more. I swear Mother dries out the tea-leaves and re-uses them.” Richard smiled; the quiver of anticipation was back.
“Thanks.” Les grinned, and followed instructions. “And thank you for replying to my letter. I wasn’t sure you would.”
There was silence. The clock ticked, and a log in the fireplace burnt through and fell with a rustle of ash. At last Richard said, “Do you often leave notes in the pockets of strange men?”
“Very rarely. Only when they are devastatingly good-looking, and lonely with it.” Les glanced up from pouring his stronger tea. “Did I say the wrong thing?”
“I – ” Richard picked up his own tea; the cup rattled in the saucer. He took a hesitant mouthful, and another. “I didn’t realise I looked lonely.”