Sunday, 28 April 2013

Tornerai - Part Four

The concluding episode in a gentle little story based on a recollection of my mother's of an encounter with a stranger in 1941.

Here are the previous episodes:

Part One
Part Two
Part Three

“Good grief, Beaky, where did you find this one?”

A large man in officer’s uniform had appeared next to Tony.

“Oh, hello, Skipper.  This is Josie.  Josie, this is my skipper.”

“Hello Josie,” said the skipper, shaking hands, “Call me Christopher.  What on earth are you doing with Beaky here?”

He was tall and broad-shouldered, with white, even teeth, a blue chin and the self-confidence of a successful ladies’ man.  Half of Josie found him repulsive.  The other half…

“We’re very good friends, Tony and I.  I’m here to see him off,” said the repulsed half.

“Tony’s good friends with everyone.”  He turned to Tony.  “And I’m sure he won’t mind if his good friend Christopher dances with his good friend Josie.”

Tony clearly did mind.  “No, of course not.”

As Hunt led her to the floor the band changed songs, leafing through music sheets as the clarinet began a familiar, slow introduction.  She looked helplessly around Hunt’s shoulder and smiled at Tony who shrugged and smiled back.  He mouthed the words to the song: “J’Attendrai”.

The dance closed at seven o’clock and somehow Josie found herself agreeing to a lift home in Christopher’s car.  She seized a moment to speak apologetically to Tony.

“I’m sorry to run off like this, Tony, but it’d take me ages on the tram.  Thank you, I’ve had a lovely day.  I’ve really enjoyed spending it with you.”

“No, of course, that’s absolutely fine.  Good of the skipper to offer.  Listen, do you think I could have your address?  I was hoping you’d let me write to you.”

“Yes, I’d like that.  Have you got a pencil and paper?”

She wrote her name and address inside the cover of the notebook he produced from his breast pocket.  She looked up, the pencil poised.  “How do you spell the Italian for that song?”

He spelt it for her and she wrote “Tornerai” in a heart under the address.  “There, now you know you’ll return.  And the lads in the mess will be jealous because you’ve got a girl back home.”

“Have I?”  He held out his hand to shake hers.  “That’s wonderful.  Goodbye Josie, thank you for making it a special day.”

“Goodbye.  I hope I’ll see you again.”  She hurriedly kissed his cheek, turned and climbed into the officer’s car.

There was no letter on Monday or Tuesday, but Josie felt nothing but slight disappointment; after all, even if he’d written as soon as he arrived, it was unlikely to arrive sooner.  And he was just a briefly-known, chance acquaintance anyway.  But by Friday she admitted to herself that she was scanning the doormat each morning with more expectancy.  But there was no letter.

It arrived on Saturday.  She saw the RAF crest on the flap and paused, uncertain who the writer might be; guilty that there should be doubt.

Dear Miss Sharples,

It is with the most profound regret that I must inform you of the loss of Flight Sergeant Anthony Fielding.  I must ask you to excuse my ignorance of your relationship to Anthony.  However, your name and address were found in his personal effects and so I felt it my duty to inform you of his death.
Flight Sergeant Fielding was killed in action on the Monday following his arrival here at the base.  He was a brave and popular young man who will be sadly missed.

With my deepest condolences,

Yours truly,

Alexr. E. Calthorpe, Sqdn Ldr


Jaicen said...

Oh this is so sad, although I suspected the ending. Was it a true story? You do have a gift for writing and I always enjoy what you produce.

Jaicen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jem Shaw said...

It's broadly based on a flight engineer my mother met in a Milk Bar in Erdington. The ending is predictable, I know, but it is actually true.

And thank you, I does me best!