Chapter Summary: In the last chapter Elinor went into the bombed-out church building after the German air raid to try to find her mother. She found Rosumund lying on the ground beneath the rubble, injured but alive, and made arrangements to get her home. This chapter begins with Elinor writing a letter to her fiancé who is fighting in North Africa.
I was fairly pleased with the beginning of this chapter but the ending seemed to fall a bit flat. I knew I wanted to include Pearl Harbor and the possibility of Derek being called up, but the way I have it now seems awkward. Suggestions, anyone?
Also, I’m still on the lookout for a less cheesy novel title, so if any of you have any forties-inspired inspirations, I’d be most grateful to hear them. =)
Oh, and one last thing…I just ran across the problem that many of you have already and which I wasn’t expecting to have. Namely, what to do with cursing. This is British cursing so I included it (it not being considered bad in America), but my apologies to anyone who might take offense to the word “bloody.” =)
…and when I finally got to her she was so still, so white, with blood running down her face. Until she spoke I truly thought that I had lost my mum. I wanted you so much, Ethan…
The pen paused in its rapid flood of words, ashamed. Elinor pushed back her chair and glanced around the little room that she shared with Polly. There on the bed lay Polly’s well-loved toy bunny, spread contentedly over the worn quilt-top. Chubby fingers and childhood fears had grasped that bunny so many times that his body had grown dumpy and his ears hung lopsidedly down around his loyal face. Polly had long outgrown the comfort he gave, but she staunchly withstood her family’s every attempt to put her beloved plaything in a box in the attic. Somehow the sight of the stuffed rabbit brought tears to Elinor’s eyes and she dropped her aching head into her hands.
Is that what I am doing? Clinging to Ethan like a child clings to some toy…are You not enough for me?
Outside, the windowpane wept the tears that Elinor would not let herself cry. They rolled down in long, glistening drops, twinkling with the light from the brass lamp on her desk. The half-formed question reminded Elinor of something her mother had said at Dad’s funeral six years ago.
“Sometimes God takes love away from us so that we will learn to give that love into His hands.”
For a moment it felt as though the bottom dropped out of her heart and scattered its contents all over the faded rug.
God, I’m afraid that I love him too much. And I’m afraid that You’ll take him away from me. I’m afraid…but I’m so ashamed to say it.
“Elinor! Mummy wants to know…” Elinor jumped as Polly paused breathlessly to throw open the chipped white door. “Mummy wants to know if you’ve started supper yet? ‘Cause Derek’s going to be home in just a few minutes, and – oh, what happened to my bunny?” Polly went to the bed where the rabbit perched haphazardly on his side and tenderly cuddled him in her arms.
Swallowing hard, Elinor nodded. “It’s in the oven. Tell Mum I’ll be right down.”
Rabbit now dangling from her hand by one ear, Polly skipped out of the door. Elinor turned back to the closely-written paper on the desk and stared at it for a moment longer. And then she crushed in her hand and tossed into the wastebasket.
Tap-tap. “Are you awake, Mum?” Elinor asked softly, peeking through the bedroom door.
“Come in, Elinor; I wasn’t asleep.”
“Are you hungry? Derek isn’t home just yet, but supper is hot now and I thought you might like me to sit with you while you eat.”
Rosamund smiled. “That’s sweet of you, darling, but I’m really not hungry at all.”
“Can I get you anything, Mum – a book, some water, tea, anything?”
“Jack left my tea on the table, but it’s just beyond reach. I feel so worthless, you know, just lying here.”
Unsure of what to say, Elinor said nothing and handed the cup to her mother in silence.
“The doctor said at least a month. I’m sorry, Elinor,” said Rosamund. “I know this makes things harder on you—”
“Mum, please…don’t worry about that.” Elinor attempted a laugh and was more successful than she expected. “It wasn’t as though you intended to get bombed.” She switched on the table lamp against the growing darkness and turned to drop a kiss on Rosamund’s forehead. “And even if you did…I’m just so happy that you’re going to be all right.”
“Then what is wrong?” Rosamund asked, watching her daughter’s face dim a little.
“I don’t know,” Elinor replied honestly, all traces of the laugh now gone. “I suppose it was – is – hard for me. But not because of any extra work.” She paused and the silence spoke eloquently. Too eloquently. “I’m just…just not myself.”
The rain whispered softly for a few moments and the two women could hear Derek banging in the back door.
“I’ve got to go get supper on the table, Mum,” Elinor murmured.
It wasn’t until after the meal when the dishes were washed, the twins in bed, and the Brown Betty teapot steaming contentedly beside a stack of blotted schoolgirl papers that she finally sat down in the living room to mark last week’s compositions. It was easier to occupy her thoughts with childish variations on the inspiring subject of “Faith and Hope” than to try to sort through her emotions just now. There would be time enough for that when the rain and Polly’s gentle breathing kept her awake. Time enough when she was alone in the dark and Derek could not see the questions roll down her face and soak into the pillow.
She glanced down at Derek, who sprawled comfortably on the rug by the fire with the morning’s newspaper, working through it backwards from the cartoons to the main reports as always. He bolted upright suddenly, startling an unsightly blot from Elinor’s pen.
Elinor looked at him, shocked at his outburst. “You watch your language, Derek Poole.”
His eyes met hers over the top of the newspaper. “They’ve gone and attacked the Yankees. A place called Pearl Harbor, in Hawaii. Elinor, there were families living there, women and children, and two thousand of their husbands and fathers were killed and they had no idea…they weren’t even a part of this bloody war—”
“You do know what this means?”
“That the Americans are in the fight at last.”
“And that Churchill’s going to throw everything that he’s got into this now that he can count on support.”
There was something in her brother’s eyes that Elinor had never seen before, something stronger than fear, nobler than anger. She gathered her finished papers and stacked them in a neat pile. “What are you getting at, Derek?”
“There’ll be more call-ups soon. And the draft is eighteen to twenty-five.”
Elinor did not trust herself to answer for a long moment. He was only two months away from his eighteenth birthday, but he seemed so young…he was her baby brother. She remembered holding him in her arms when he was just a wide-eyed bundle of soft blankets and tiny brown curls. She remembered how excited she had been when he called her “Ellie” for the first time and how he and Ian used to…God, I can’t give him up, too. You have already taken my dad and one brother. Please don’t take Ethan and Derek from me as well…
“I suppose we just wait and trust, Derek,” whispered Elinor at last, wondering where her mother found the faith to carry her through every storm she had ever encountered. “Whatever happens.”