Authors: Lizzie Lane
Lizzie led the way out into the garden. It was a fresh, clear evening, overpoweringly bright after the dark interior of the cramped room at the back of the shop.
Patrick followed. It was only after they were both out there that they realised Mary Anne had ran back inside in response to a heavy thudding at the front door.
By the time they got there, the door was already open.
Both women shouted with glee. Michael was back, and Harry was with him. Less gleeful and far more worrying, behind them were two uniformed men in red caps.
Patrick nodded at the two men, and then the two behind. ‘Military police. My God, what have you two been up to?’
Hardly acknowledging anyone else, Michael spread out his arms. ‘Marianna?’
She ran to him, frowning and stroking his face, murmuring words of affection, not caring that her son and her daughter
were watching. They were oblivious to those watching them.
‘I am going away,’ he said to her.
‘Same place as me,’ said Harry.
Lizzie’s face turned white. ‘Prison?’ She looked at the two hard-looking men wearing the uniforms of the military police.
‘They’re for me,’ said Harry, nodding at the two men. ‘They’re to make sure I use my railway pass correctly and get to where I’m going. They’re not so worried about our friend Michael here. He hasn’t been such a naughty boy.’
Michael answered their confusion. ‘I am a British subject who speaks excellent German. My skills are needed for a special assignment at a secret location.’
‘So are mine,’ added Harry. ‘Same place, different skill.’
His mother, sister and Patrick looked puzzled.
He shrugged. ‘Unbelievable as it may seem, I do have a very special skill.’
They looked puzzled.
‘I’m very good at crosswords. There’s some place to do with code breaking …’
One of the men in uniform intervened. ‘Quiet! No details.’
Harry sneered at the man, his lips curling with contempt in response to the barked order.
‘Anyway, as I said to you, I’ll fight when I have to and in my own way. From what I can gather that’s just what I’ll be doing.’ He tapped his head. ‘Using my brain not my brawn.’
Because the Ministry of War didn’t quite trust Harry to get where he’d been ordered, they were given only a little time to pack. They’d gone round to Harry’s place first.
‘My friend Mark will take care of the flat while I’m gone,’ said Harry, giving his mother a look that she knew meant so much more than anyone else could possibly know. She knew his secret.
Michael took Mary Anne’s hand. ‘We will talk alone before I go.’
No one made any comment or stood in their way. The military police stayed put, concentrating on staying close to Harry as though he were a consignment of gold bullion.
Silently, they made for the mossy area beneath the flowering sapling, its petals tumbling over them with every breath of the evening breeze.
Michael heaved his shoulders up and down and took deep calming breaths. ‘They are alive.’
He knew by the rapture on Mary Anne’s face that he didn’t need to explain who he was talking about. He did explain about the choice he’d been given.
‘I have a confession to make,’ he said, making a conscious effort to avoid looking into her eyes. ‘I was going to opt to be interned with them. I felt I owed them that for treating them so badly in my youth, but then I received this …’
He unfolded the letter before handing it to her.
She looked up at him, needing some sign that she had his permission before reading on.
He nodded. ‘Read.’
He watched her eyelashes flickering over her cheeks as her eyes danced over the words. He refrained from touching them as he had once before, because once he did, he would be lost, he would not want to leave her.
‘You have to go,’ she said, refolding the letter and pushing it back into his hand.
‘Keep it. Their address is on it. Should anything happen to me …’
She looked alarmed. ‘Is it likely to? I thought you were going to this place …’
‘Just in case, you have their address. Tell them I love them. Tell them that.’
They clung to each other, reliving in their hearts and minds each moment they’d spent in the big bed above the pawnshop.
‘We are like the things in the cupboards,’ he said at last. ‘We are pledged in the hope of being redeemed some day.’
‘Will that someday come?’
‘We can only hope.’
She knew then that she would attend her daughter’s wedding, but would never go back to Kent Street and Henry, but run the shop until Michael returned from wherever he was going. In the meantime, it would be a great comfort to know where each of her children was heading, and that even Stanley would have the benefit of both his parents. Hopefully, the war would be ended before his life too would be changed by it.
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Epub ISBN 9781448147809
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First published in the UK in 2006 as
by Severn House Publishers Ltd.
This edition published in 2013 by Ebury Press, an imprint of Ebury Publishing
A Random House Group Company
Copyright © 2006 Jeannie Johnson writing as Lizzie Lane
Lizzie Lane has asserted her right to be identified as the author of this Work in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988
This novel is a work of fiction. Names and characters are the product of the author’s imagination and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner
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