Norma Rogers Ch. 01

bynorthlander©

I straight away said, "We can't do that, the rations won't allow it. You don't have rations for Jim."

She smiled and replied, "Well, last night you didn't eat here, so we have your rations for then. Anyway, I'm sure that we can stretch the rations a bit. Actually, I think the butcher, Mr. Green, put a little more than the rations allowed on my purchase anyway. You know he has been trying to get to know me better for quite some time. Maybe I should show that I'm taking more notice of him. It certainly wouldn't hurt, and it's been quite a while since my Alfred passed on. Surely it's time for a girl to kick up her heels a bit, especially these days when you don't know whether each day will be your last." She grinned at us as we roared with laughter. This was a whole new side to our landlady that we had never seen before; she had always seemed so serious!

"Mrs. Wright," I exclaimed, "what has suddenly got into you? Here you have had us thinking that you are just naturally serious by nature, only to find you have been hiding this fun side all along!"

"Well, luv, forget this Mrs. Wright stuff; please call me Maisie from now on. Actually, all it took was seeing you and your man. The looks on both your faces when you look at each other made me realize that its been two years now since my Alfie passed on, and the last thing that he would have wanted me to do is to stop being myself because he died. He was sick for a long time, but no matter what, there was nobody for me but my Alfie. We had a baby you know, a son, but he was a sickly mite and he caught diphtheria and died, even though they cut a hole in his windpipe so he could breathe. He just slipped away one night while Alfie and I were sitting alongside his cot in the hospital holding his hand. We tried for another baby, but by that time Alfie was getting sick and we weren't lucky enough to have another. Alfie had something they call cancer and, no matter what they did, it couldn't be beaten."

"Alfie tried to keep us cheerful, but just before he died he told me, Maisie, we know I'm not going to make it much longer. Don't cry for me, I'll be in a better place and out of pain. I want you to be yourself and find happiness, the happiness I really couldn't give you. Well, I just couldn't do what he wanted, not until tonight when I saw you two looking at one another and realized that life goes on. I'm still fairly young, too young to wrap myself in widow's weeds for the rest of my life. Thank you for showing me that! The pair of you will always hold a special place in my heart for that. If it isn't too much of an imposition, I'd like you all to come out with me tonight to celebrate. I hear the Dog and Duck got some beer delivered today, so please come out with me to celebrate Maisie Wright's new self."

As best we could, celebrate we did. We all went to the Dog and Duck where our new friend Maisie was made extremely welcome, especially by Mr. Green, whose big smile and "Hello, Maisie, nice to see you've come out tonight!" was a total surprise. It appeared that there was a little more than met the eye going on here tonight. Eventually, as happens in most pubs, a pianist sat down at the piano and a sing song broke out as the customers let their worries take a back seat. We enthusiastically joined in, out of tune or not. Jim's voice began to be heard over the rest, and for a few minutes the other singers sat and listened as he sang several Irish songs in a beautiful tenor voice. He started with Galway Bay, then continued into Molly Malone and finished with Rose of Tralee. As he sang the last song, he looked directly at me and I felt like he was singing the song to me alone.

When he finished, I leant across the table towards him and said, "Jim, I would have sworn that you were singing your last song straight to me."

He bent toward me and whispered, "Well, just maybe that's because that's exactly what I was doing. Your name may be Norma but to me you will always be my Rose of Tralee."

I'm sure that Maisie was listening to our exchange, because she whispered to me, "If you want to use my room tonight, I can always sleep in your bed. You have his heart in the palm of your hand; don't lose it if you value it and him."

I looked at her, pretty much in amazement. That was the last thing I would have expected from her, the prim and proper Mrs. Wright. She just grinned at me, and I whispered back, "Thanks for the offer but, though I'm sure that it will happen, I'm not quite ready yet." She looked back at me and laughed.

"Oh, I'm sure it's going to happen. You look like I did after I married my Alfie. We couldn't get away from the reception quick enough and we were just going to a B&B two streets over."

Jim and Mr. Green, Sid as we were to find out, walked us back to our billets. The night was beautiful, clear and dark with the stars shining down on us, and there hadn't been one German bomber. Jim had his arm around me, Sid had his arm around Maisie, and Nancy walked in between. We sang all the old songs as we walked home. Jim and Sid came in and we all sat around the kitchen table and had tea and toast as a snack. Bread was one thing we had lots of, as Maisie baked a lot of her own, but we had no butter and ended up using the sausage fat drippings that Maisie had saved. With a little salt it made quite a tasty meal. After we had finished, Sid said that he had better be going, but not before making a date with Maisie for the following night. Jim stood up as well, and I told him I would walk to the end of the street with him.

When we reached the end of the street, we stopped and I put my arms around him and cuddled close. I knew then that I had found the man for me. His arms went around me, and his lips met mine in a kiss that made my knees weak. He lifted his head and said, "Macushla mo cheannsa, for sure I can't think of another woman that I would want by my side for my life, what wonderful páiste we would make together."

"James Rogers, if you think for one minute that I am going to let you go now that I've found you, forget it. You are mine and I am yours forever. Now what were you saying in that language I can't understand?"

"Macushla is the english version of a chuisle, 'my darling,' a chuisle mo chroi means the pulse of my heart, mo cheannsa means mine, and forgive me for getting ahead of myself, páiste means children, which I would most surely want with you. A first son named John after my father and a daughter Mhairi after my mother, who is the bonniest Scottish lass you could ever meet. Then we can have two more named after your parents."

"Do I get a say in this production?" I asked with a smile.

"Sure, didn't I ask you to be mine?"

"Well I'm still waiting for the 'down on one knee with a ring in hand thing' and Will you marry me? on your lips. You got pretty close, but those are the words I long to hear."

His face became serious, "And you surely will hear those words. I will be asking them the day that this war is over and we are together again. I'm one who doesn't think that the war will be over any time soon, and I can't bear the thought of us wed and one of us being taken, or the thought that you and a child might be left alone. You know my job is dangerous. If I were thinking of you and maybe a child instead of my job, and I know that you would be more on my mind than the task before me, I would start to make mistakes and mistakes mean injury or death. While in a way it breaks my heart, I can think of naught better than not to tie you down, so let us keep up our relationship the best we can and hopefully be there for each other when this war is over.

I kissed him deeply looking to make his knees weak as mine were. "James, John and Mhairi it shall be when you are home to be their father, and probably if we are blest there will be a Tom and Angela. I'll promise you now, my love, I'll wait for you till the worlds end if I have to. When, not if you come home, I'll be here waiting for you."

The rest of that week passed like a flash as we used every chance we had to be together. We used one day to go to the Zoo and see the animals in their cages, all buttressed with sandbags to avoid blast damage. For a time after Jim went back to work, we only had stolen moments. Days off became a memory as the Germans tried their hardest once again to cow the citizens of London. Once in a while we made it to a dance or a movie. As a dancer, Jim was good, so it was really enjoyable and, while we danced properly most of the time, for a number of slow dances we could fit together more than quite comfortably. I wasn't slow to realize that Jim wasn't small in another area either. Mind you, just about each time we did this some security man would come over and tell us to dance properly, no cuddling, no jiving.

One day as I reported to work, my Station Officer asked me into her office. She had a huge grin as she reassured me, "Don't worry, I have some good news for you. The Civil Defence headquarters have put you forward for an honour as the result of your work that night you rescued the family in the collapsed house. You and the Sergeant who worked with you are both to be made Officers of The British Empire, yours is the civilian branch and his will be the military. Both of you are to receive your awards next Tuesday at Buckingham Palace. Your parents are welcome to be there to see you receive it and attend the Tea afterwards. Now go find your Sergeant and make your arrangements!"

As it was the middle of the day, I hurried over to Jim's temporary barracks at the school. He came quickly to the guardroom where I had asked for him. "Whatever is going on?" he asked with a smile that made my heart lurch.

"Haven't you heard that you are being awarded the O.B.E. and that we have to be at Buckingham Palace next Tuesday?"

"Now why would I be bothered about that little thing?" he asked with a grin as he reached out and took me in his arms.

I hit his chest with the edges of my hands as he pulled me close. "Because we will be meeting the King and the Queen, you great lummox. It's an important day for us. My parents will be there once I tell them, and you will get to meet them."

"That's probably why I was talking to my father and mother, inviting them to the ceremony," he said with a laugh. "Just think - you'll be meeting your future mother in law for the first time and trying to make a good impression. Meeting the King and Queen will be nothing compared to that." His face was transformed by his beautiful smile as I finally took in that he was as proud as I was and had just been fooling with me"I do have news, though," he said. "I think because of what we did that night, coupled with the award, I am being awarded a battlefield commission. The day after our trip to the Palace, I have to report at Gordon Barracks at Chatham for training as an officer. I'll be there for two months, commissioned and then sent to another unit, I have no idea where. It could be here in Britain or overseas, anywhere in the world that I'm needed."

My heart sank at this news. My man would be leaving me for who knows where, and when he would be home only God knew, certainly not we mere mortals. Hopefully he would not be far away for a little while. Chatham was just a short train ride if he could get a pass, or I could go there on my day off; surely I could find a bed somewhere there. We could get together for an occasional day anyway and use our time together the best we may. I'd do my best to make sure of that.

End of Part 1

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