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All the Sweet Promises

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Язык: Английский
Год издания: 2018 год
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      All the Sweet Promises
Elizabeth Elgin

Now available as an ebook for the first time.This is a compelling story of three young women who enter the WRNS during the dark days of the World War II, and the men with whom they find love. Their backgrounds couldn't be more different, yet together they share their finest hours.

ELIZABETH ELGIN

All the Sweet Promises

Dedication (#ulink_c64c3973-51d9-5ee5-8157-a3d4c95d187c)

To the Wren ratings of the 3rd & 7th submarine flotillas Holy Loch & Rothesay 1939–1945

Contents

Cover (#ube72ab52-eb5f-5ac8-a97c-8ea5d81e4d96)

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1 (#ulink_3eb083a4-083a-5291-b5a0-af38bb3ce69e)

Vi looked again at the letter half-hidden behind the sepia vase on the kitchen mantel and wondered bitterly whose fault it had been. Some seaman pissed out of his mind in a dock-road pub, like as not. Ale talk for listening ears. Careless talk, that cost lives.

‘Taking ammo to the Middle East. Danger money this trip, so fill yer boots, lads. Sup up.’ Somewhere, someone had opened his mouth and Gerry had paid; him, and fifty others.

The letter was addressed to Mrs Violet Theresa McKeown and she took it down, holding it between finger and thumb. She didn’t take out the folded sheet. There was no need. Since it arrived four days ago, every last word was beaten into her brain.

‘… and it is with regret we must inform you that your husband Gerald Patrick McKeown has been reported missing, believed lost at sea as a result of enemy action on the night of 23rd/24th April, 1941 …’

There was more, of course, about sympathy and sorrow and about writing again when they had anything more to tell her. She hadn’t been able to read the signature at the bottom of the page, and that seemed wrong, somehow. A man from the shipping line tells you your husband has been lost at sea and you don’t even know his name. There were the initials GWE/BW typed at the top of the letter but they hadn’t helped. Dead is dead, no matter who signs the warrant, though it might have been nice to think that BW had felt compassion when she typed that letter and a bit of respect, maybe, for Stoker Gerry McKeown of the Mercantile Marine.

Vi slipped the envelope into the attaché case packed ready for the shelter. All her important things were in that case: her marriage certificate and wedding snaps; her Post Office bank book, rent book and ration book. And Gerry’s last letter.

‘… Thanks for a fine leave. You are the best there is and I love you, Vi. Take care of yourself …’

She closed her eyes tightly. Gerry didn’t often use her name. Girl, he called her, but this last time he’d called her Vi and written that he loved her, and he’d never done that before. Not ever. But he’d known, hadn’t he, that this trip was his last.

‘Come home to me,’ she’d whispered when he left. ‘Promise you’ll take care. Promise, Gerry.’

But it hadn’t been up to him. The SS Emma Bates’s name was on that torpedo, so he hadn’t had much of a choice.

She reached for her mother’s photograph and laid it in the case with the rest of the things. She was glad Mam hadn’t lived to see another war. The last one had brought her trouble enough. Four kids to rear and a husband coughing away his lungs from mustard gas. Da had died a year after the armistice, so they hadn’t needed to give Mam a pension.

Vi looked around the kitchen and wondered why she had scrubbed the floor and cleaned the window. Tonight there would be another raid, sure as hell there would, and everything would be covered with muck and dust again. Tonight, if the bombers came, it would be for the seventh night in a row; a whole week without sleep. London was almost at a standstill, said the man in the cigarette queue, and now it was Liverpool’s turn. The Germans, he reckoned, were trying to wipe out the docks, yet somehow the city centre seemed to be getting the worst of it – and all the shops and offices and streets of little houses.

Vi closed her eyes. Mother of God, don’t let them get my house. They’ve taken my man and my job; let me keep my home.
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