Doris

bybrainfade©

This story was inspired by the Literotica competition. I am aware that to any readers from the USofA might consider that the intrusion of Halloween into this story is only incidental. I would plead, in mitigation, that here in the UK the celebration of Halloween is much less prominent, and has only recently been seen by commerce as a chance to exploit. So I claim that this story does faithfully represent Halloween as seen from from my own past.

I have researched the name 'Rameses', and I think it is correct. My apologies if I am wrong.

NonUK folk may appreciate the following:

Fish and Chips was the just about the only fast food here until the 1960s, and was usually bought, wrapped in old newspaper. (The smell of vinegar and hot newspapers evokes powerful memories for me.)

There were many wartime airfields here. After the war the US airforce has been using some of them.

Some laws in Scotland were and are different to those in England. Gretna Green is a village that is just inside Scotland, near to the English town of Carlisle. There is a history of English couples, whose marriage needed to be hurried or secret, going to Gretna to take advantage of the less restrictive Scottish marriage laws. (I believe Nevada can serve a similar role.)


*

I wasn't exactly on duty, I wasn't in uniform. But I was walking round the village, being noticed by the small groups of children who were scurrying around. It was mischief night. I remembered as a kid playing tricks on 4th November, which had always been our mischief night. We would do silly things like tying strings to people's door knockers and then to trees, so that as the tree swayed in the wind, it knocked on the door. We would lift off and hide gates. Nothing too bad. Nothing destructive. Now it seemed that the kids had moved the date forward a few days.

As the young village policeman, I knew most of these children. In those days children still thought of us as people to help them, and not people to be avoided. There were a couple of families that were different, but I worked hard to stay as the good guy.

Up at the airfield the USAF were throwing a Halloween party, and the village parents and their kids had been invited. Quite a few had gone, some curious about this strange American festival, some, no doubt, to take advantage of American generosity.

I saw children clustered around a cottage door. They looked strange -- they were not excitedly trying to keep quiet, they looked worried, perhaps closer to panic. Had one of their tricks gone wrong? Without being too obvious about it, but keeping out of the shadows, I walked towards them. One of them saw me, and pointed. The group ran towards me.

"Mister. I think something bad has happened." That summarises it I think - the kids were all urgently talking at once.

"Whoa, whoa. Just one of you. I chose the tallest one. You Jenny, what is it?"

"Well, Sir." Not many kids call me sir nowadays. "We think that old Miss Brown might be poorly."

I knew that she was indeed very ill. My wife, as the district nurse, visited her most days.

"Why do you think that?"

"The door was ajar. We know she is not well. We saw the door open, and thought we should check, just in case."

"We weren't going to play tricks on her, Mister, Honest." One of the smaller kids interjected.

"Well done kids." They relaxed at my praise. "Help me, could you."

"Yes Mister."

"Yes Sir."

"What'cher want Mister?" another chorus.

"You know where I live. Go there and tell my Missis that I need her to come to Miss. Brown's cottage as soon as she can."

They ran off. I went to her door. It was open about six inches.

"Can I come inside?" I shouted through the gap. I knew her hearing wasn't good.

There was no reply. I went in, closing the door behind me. The room was dark. The fire was nearly out. Miss Brown was sitting in her chair. If she was breathing at all, it was very shallow. I touched her shoulder. She was warm. She moved slightly. She was whispering something. I bent to listen.

"Yes, my lover, you can come inside tonight."

She wasn't talking to me. She was talking to a memory.

"Miss Brown, shall I put some coal on.?"

She muttered some more, but slowly came back to the present.

"Miss Brown," I asked again, "Shall I put some more coal on the fire."

"Yes please, I'm a bit chilled." She was with me now. "But not too much. I won't need much now."

I lifted a few lumps of coal onto the fire. There was just enough of a glow for a few sparks to float up the chimney for a moment.

"Turn round. Let me see who you are." There was a click, and a table lamp beside her chair came on.

"Oh, it's you, Philip. I'm sorry, dear, I must have been dreaming." She seemed to drift away for a moment. "Oh, yes, Philip, I was dreaming." Again she muttered something she had said earlier. "Yes, my lover, you can come inside tonight."

She was alert again.

"I'm sorry, Miss Brown, but your door was open."

"Yes, I always left it on the latch when he was coming." She was thoughtful again. Then more matter of fact, again, "Philip, I would love a cup of tea. Could you?"

I went through to her kitchen and filled her kettle.

She shouted through to me.

"I'm not Miss Brown, you know. I was married once."

I stood in the kitchen doorway.

"You were married?"

"Yes, I was a bride. Dad didn't know, but we got married. In one day. We flew up to near Gretna. Got wed there, and back again."

"How do you mean. Who was it?"

"He was my airman. He flew the big ones. Not the bombers, something hush-hush. Sit down, Philip. I need to tell you."

"I'll make the tea."

She sipped her tea. She was preparing herself for something. She was just about to speak when there was a knock. I recognised my wife's knock. So did Miss Brown..

"Come in, deary, this is for you as well." She spoke to me quietly. Get her a cup as well."

Soon we were all sipping tea.

"I was just telling your Hubby, love, I'm not Miss Brown, you know, I'm really Mrs Coulter."

Simone looked surprised, but not that surprised. When you had to give intimate care to folk, it was not unusual for them to tell you other intimate stuff..

"He was a pilot, up at the aerodrome, in the war, you know."

A smile formed amongst her wrinkles.

"He was called Philip too. You were named after him. He was your Dad."

I looked at Simone. I was asking her if she had heard what I had heard. Mrs Coulter looked at the two of us. She laughed.

"I've not got long, I know." Simone started to poo-poo this, but was dismissed. "I know, lovey, I'm going soon. He was your Dad, Philip, I was your Mum."

I'd always known I'd been adopted. In wartime it was quite common. There were many orphans, and quite a few inconvenient babies then, and they were quietly taken into other families. I had just assumed what had happened, and had never felt able to ask about it. My 'parents' could not have loved me more.

"Mum?"

"No, love, they were your Mum and Dad. Just call me Doris. Both of you."

There were so many questions forming in my mind, but before I could decide which one to ask first she spoke again.

"I'll tell you. I worked in the offices up at the airfield. Met him there. Short lives, they had. They lost crew, friends, every trip. No time to wait."

What could we say?

"Can you remember my Dad?"

I nodded, "Yes, I remember Father Patrick.", but Simone shook her head.

"He was the Vicar here. He was a musician as well, the organ. He was quite well known in his day for playing Bach. He played concerts a few times."

"Of course, Dad could never approve of, relationships I think he called it, outside marriage. And marriage had to be in church. So we didn't tell him. Philip had to go up to Carlisle to collect an aircraft. The ferry aeroplane took me as an extra passenger. We went up to Gretna Green, Got married, and then Philip flew me back here. I had to sit in a gun turret."

"I think Dad guessed. He didn't say anything, but when Philip came here to see me, he would go to the church to practice on the organ. We could hear him from the vicarage."

"We made love whenever we could. He had his 'rubber'. We had to wash and powder it afterwards . It was in a little tin. It was horrid. He used to say it was like wearing an overcoat. We so wanted to do without it."

"The nurse guessed, and told me about keeping a diary, and she helped me to work out when it was safest."

"That night, I knew he was frightened. Dad was away. He had to be on duty at noon, so if we were careful he could spend the night. It was very nearly my safe time."

There was a long pause. Her voice had been getting weaker. Simone discretely picked up her wrist and checked her pulse.

"Yes, my lover, you can come inside tonight." she murmured.

She lifted her hand from Simone's and touched her teacup.

"I've let it go cold. Get some fresh will you?" This time Simone got up.

"You, love, go up to my bedroom."

She had her bed downstairs now because she could not manage the stairs.

"There's a box on top of the wardrobe. Bring it down."

Simone was pouring more tea as I brought down a locked tin box. I was told to put it on the bed.

She tried to lift her hands to her neck, to fumble at a thin gold chain, but she was shaking and did not have the strength.

"Help me lovey. Undo this"

Simone put down the teapot, and carefully lifted Doris' hair to undo a tiny clasp.

"You put it on, love. You have it now."

It was a thin chain. There was a gold ring and a tiny key threaded on it. Simone slipped it into a blouse pocket.

Doris tried to lift her teacup, but found it hard. Simone helped her.

She dropped back, exhausted.

"So you started than night, Philip." Her voice was weaker. "Philip, your son, Philip. He's here."

"He was lost the next night."

Again, what could we say. All three of us were shedding tears. Simone was sobbing.

"It was good, though, that night was good." We strained to hear her.

"Where's my hanky?" There was a handkerchief on the floor beside her chair. I picked it up and put it into her hand. I helped lift her arm so that she could wipe her eyes.

"Cheer up, lovies. There's some nice music on the radio. Turn it on will you."

We turned on the old valve radio. It took a minute or two to warm up.

"I'll tell you what. Stoke up the fire. Get a good blaze going. That'll cheer us up."

I did it.

"Now pull your chairs up here."

As indicated, we sat in front of her, one on each side. She lifted her hands. We each took one of them. She rested them on her chair arm. Simone and I just naturally reached towards each other and completed the circle. It just seemed right for us to rest them on her lap.

The radio spluttered a few times, and organ music clarified from the hiss. Simone heard it, and gasped slightly. Doris lifted her hand from Simone's for a moment to switch off the light.

"Yes," Doris said, "Bach. Listen."

We sat listening. The themes intertwined. It rose and fell. It sang, it whispered. Doris's eyes seemed to gain a new clarity. Perhaps it was the flicker of the firelight reflecting in them. The organ fluted birdlike, notes marched. Doris let her eyelids droop. The music swirled, then finally, it simplified, just leaving the echo of the tune that had infused the whole piece. There was a long silence. Then applause.

Simone again lifted her hand and checked the pulse.

"She's gone, darling."

She dropped her hand to the chair arm again. The applause faded. An announcer spoke.

"There was a surprise addition to the concert. Playing his own arrangement, which he dedicated to the brave boys in the RAF."

What followed was a short piece. It was an anthology of military marches, but it was without the gun-ho marching onwards of most military music. There were deeper messages, not critical, but serious. It finished, not with a bang, but with a question. There was hope and fear, but mainly the sense of 'what will come next.'

The announcer faded in over the applause that eventually followed.

"That was a concert recorded in London during the war. It was played by the Reverend Patrick J Brown."

He carried on talking, but we did not hear it.

"We'll leave her. Let's find her in the morning." She fingered the chain in her pocket. Bring the box."

I found a bunch of keys on the mantelpiece, and made sure that the back door was locked. I picked up the box, and we left, locking the front door.

As we walked home we could see and hear a firework display at the airfield.

Back home, and after we had placed the box and chain in safe places,

"Darling, could I have a drink?"

I was surprised. She rarely drank. I prepared tots of whisky and water. We clinked glasses.

"Doris."

"Doris."

Next day Simone called and 'found' her. I dealt with some minor complaints. I visited Jenny's mother, told her how proud she should be of her daughter, of how she and the others had done just the right things the night before. I said that Miss Brown had been very ill, and had died in her sleep. Her mother would tell Jenny.

Doris had no family. After the funeral I had a word with the lawyer who was there. We told him a little of what we knew, and I told him about the box. We hadn't opened it. We were partly worried about what we might find within, and partly whether we should have it at all. The lawyer thanked us, but assured us that it would be correct to keep it under the circumstances. He asked if there might be a will in it?

He came home with us. As we guessed, the key on the chain opened the lock on the box. Neither of us wanted to delve in. We asked the lawyer to look. He flicked through the contents, and withdrew a yellowed envelope. He withdrew papers.

"So she was married."

We looked at the document. There it was, Mrs Philip Coulter.

"Yes, there is a will here."

He studied it.

"She must have made it some time after he was lost." He made some notes. He put it down and summarised them.

"If he lives, it goes to him and his offspring. If not, then to their son. Another surprise. A job for me to trace him I suppose."

I didn't know whether to say something or not.

"That may not be necessary."

"I do have some documents from the house. May I take this to study as well?"

We agreed. Simone had been fingering the ring. She seemed to shudder slightly, then dropped the ring and chain into the box before closing it.

It was nearly a year before the parcel arrived. It had been an odd year. My work had been busy, and we had been called on to provide support for other area's police forces. Simone's mood had varied. Sometimes she seemed happy, but then gloom came back.. I had asked her what was troubling her, but got no reply. She had been quite cheerful recently.

The parcel was from the lawyer, and held the box and its contents. There was a covering letter, apologising for the delay, but requesting that we make an appointment to visit him, and he suggested a date and time.

We opened the parcel. We decided to look in the box. The key was tied to a handle. We opened it, and cautiously looked in. The first thing that caught our eye had us smiling. It was a small battered tin box printed with the name 'Rameses". I picked it out and tried to open it..There was a little rust, but it clicked open. There was a brownish blob in the corner of the tin.

"I don't want you using that condom with me." Simone said, smiling, but somehow troubled. Perhaps she was thinking, as I was, just how long ago it was the two of us had last needed a condom.

Then there was one of those white, well it had been white - now it was blotchy yellow, folded card photo mounts. I opened it. It showed a man in uniform.

"This must be him," I said passing it over.

"Oh God, No."

Simone rushed upstairs. She came down again looking white, horrified.

"Philip. Get the bike out."

We might have afforded a small car, but we still both enjoyed riding on our motorcycle. Well, perhaps not as much for the last year. For practicality, we now had a motorcycle with sidecar.

I donned my leathers. She, her heavy padded overcoat. For once she chose to ride in the sidecar rather than behind me.

"Where to?"

"To Dad's."

Simone had a difficult relationship with her Father. As long as she could remember he and her mother had been drinkers. Whisky or beer for him. Unusually, she had preferred wine. It had killed her a few years ago. The two of them had had a constant running conflict. Sometimes there was actual violence, more often they just sniped verbally. Simone had always felt that she had somehow been the catalyst for their warring.

Meetings between Simone and her father were always strained. Through my work I had heard that he had been in trouble, and I always kept my distance.

We got to the house. Simone rang the doorbell and knocked on the door.

"Wait here."

She went to the street corner and into the pub. She emerged.

"He's in there." she gestured behind her, "And he's plastered.

She opened the door. She took about a quarter of an hour before she came out again. She stowed a suitcase in the side-car, and started to climb up behind me.

"The key?"

"You do it."

She gave it to me.

I entered the pub, and saw her Father asleep in a corner over a half full glass. I spoke to the Barman and asked him to give the key to him when he woke.

Simone said nothing until we were back home. Even then, she told me nothing about the suitcase. She was withdrawn, moody. Had I done something wrong. A couple of times I caught her watching me, with a look of grief on her face.

The day of the Lawyer's meeting came. We went to town. She had wrapped the suitcase in brown paper and string, only the handle protruding.

In the office we were ushered into a meeting room and offered tea and biscuits. The lawyer joined us and seated us at the table. He looked at Simone's suitcase, puzzled, but said nothing.

"Good of you to come. I have been checking several matters, but now we have, I think, reached a conclusion."

We both muttered something.

"So, Philip. It is acceptable for me to call you Philip, Sir?"

I nodded.

"Unless something rather unprecedented happens, and I will come to that later, I can confirm that you are the only heir of Mrs Doris Coulter. May I congratulate you."

"She had worked most of her life. She had her pensions, and was not extravagant. Some years ago she asked me to help buy her cottage. I have to say, I was surprised, but of course I did not know about her widow's pension, or of her late husband's assets. She has left you a tidy sum."

He quoted a sum that was more than tidy in my opinion, it had been embroidered, washed, dried, ironed, framed, and hung on the wall.

"Now I come to the difficulty. I think that you will recall that Philip Coulter was lost on 30th October. Well he was lost, but it seems that he survived. He actually died about three months later, I have now learned. The military were reluctant to release information. 'Top Secret' they claimed, but after all this time I do think that they aught to have been a bit more forthcoming."

"Anyway, it seems that your Father was flying a secret mission over France when he was lost. He was slightly injured, and was rescued by the resistance. He escaped France about 12 or thirteen weeks later. It was quite a story, it seems."

He gave me a folder containing several papers.

"All I know about it is in there. You can read the details. A brave chap, I must say."

"He escaped from France with one of their Resistance workers, a young woman, and there was a suggestion that they were more than, shall we say, colleagues. It seems that she had a child some time later. If you remember the terms of the will, If Pilot Officer Coulter had any other descendants, then the bequest would have been theirs. If this resistance lady had been in-child by Philip Coulter... You see what I mean."

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