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by Bruce.
Rated: 18+ · Chapter · Drama · #2291421
Sailors are in town.
Chapter 8

The man at the barrier seemed to realise that I was nervous and he took out an ARP Warden’s identity card and put it at the window. “There’s an unexploded bomb further along the road. The sappers are there making it safe now but it could take a while. You’ll have to reverse to the turning on the left. Drive up the hill and turn left. That will bring you back to the main road up ahead.”

         “I know some sappers,” I said. “Do you know their names?”

         “How the hell would I know?” he said “Now get on your way.”

         I only reversed a little way but was scared of hitting something or someone so I decided to do a turn in the road. It was not as easy as I thought it would be and I did eight or nine shunts to get round. I was slightly annoyed as I noticed the two men laughing.

         It was just after seven when I got back to the shop. As soon as I pulled up Mr Freeman came out with a sack barrow. “I won’t be able to get the sacks out,” I said. “They are too heavy for me.”

         “I’ll get them,” he said. “You get inside and have a quick cuppa before we start loading up for the deliveries.”

         We did the deliveries and like they had said previously there was not as much as yesterday so it was soon done and I set off home just after twelve feeling pleased with myself, but very tired.

         When I got home I got the usual sour faced look from Mother. Possibly because she got the blame for me going off early in the van even though she had nothing to do with it. She soon brightened up though when I gave her the box of eggs. I was so tired and I thought I would go up to bed and catch up on an hour’s sleep. I had not been asleep long when a huge explosion woke me up. I jumped out of bed in a panic thinking that the German bombers had returned. I looked through the window and saw the pall of smoke rising a few streets away. I got dressed and hurried down stairs. Mother was out and I was alone in the house. I went outside and looked to the sky to see if there were planes overhead, but the sky was clear. I saw Alice running towards me.

         “What’s happened?” I said.

         “An unexploded bomb just went off without warning near the Roman Road.”

         “Anybody hurt?”

         “I don’t know. It’s very likely though. I was going to go there to see what happened, but then I decided it was probably best not to.”

         “I thought we were being bombed again.”

         “Then we would have to go back to Caterham,” Alice said. “Although I was eager to come home, I do miss it there. Did you meet any friends there last night?”

         “No, not really. No friends.”

         Later when Father came home for his dinner, I was expected a roasting from him but he just gave me a filthy look. Who cares anyway?

         “Did you hear that bomb go off, Dad?” Alice asked.

         “Yes, I was only a couple of streets away. A bomb disposal unit was working on it when it went off. Two of them were blown to pieces.”

         Alice and I exchanged worried stares. She turned to look at Father. “Were they Royal Engineers?”

         “I don’t know? Probably, but they could be navy. What they should do is make the German prisoners of war diffuse them. They are their bombs.”

         We finished washing up the dishes and Alice gave a worried look as if she was still very much concerned about who the casualties were. “The dance hall is open tonight,” she said. “Do you fancy going down there?” We filled the copper boiler in the corner of the scullery with water and lit the fire in the grate underneath. Once the fire started roaring it would soon heat the water. I went out and brought the tin bath in from the yard. “You can go first if you like,” I said.

         “No,” Alice said. “You’ve been working since silly o’clock. You would probably feel better if you relax in the bath while it’s hot. I’ll wait my turn.”

         “We should get a bigger bath,” I said. “Then we can both get in together.”

         Alice gave a laugh. “That’s not gonna happen thank you very much,” she said and laughed again. “We haven’t had to do that since we were kids.”

         The dance hall was crowded when we got there. We looked at the table where the sappers usually sit but there was nobody there. All of a sudden Molly came dashing over and threw herself into Alice’s arms.

         “Molly, Molly, Molly,” Alice shouted. It’s so good to see you. And look at you in your smart green uniform jacket. What’s with the weird trousers though?”

         “One of the girls took them in a bit for me,” Molly said. “You should have seen them before. A strong wind would have blown me away they were so wide. Anyway I got the weekend off. I was so looking forward to seeing you again. I called at your house but your mum said I had just missed you. So here I am.”

         “So how is it down on the farm?” I asked.

         “Bloody hard work I can tell you. But the girls are smashing.”

         I heard a man’s voice behind me. “Are you dancing?” He asked.

         I turned to see three sailors, and good looking boys they were.

         “Are you asking?” Molly replied.

         “That’s a well used cliché,” one of them said. “But yes we are asking.”

         “And we will be dancing, so off you go, cheerio.” Molly gave a short laugh. “Only joking,” she said and took hold of a sailor’s hand. “Let’s have a dance.”

         We were on our third dance with the sailors. They were nice men, quite comical at times but never rude. I looked over and saw two soldiers were now sitting at the table. “Won’t be a minute,” I said and made my way over. “Are you Royal Engineers on your break?” I said.

         “You got it, “one of them replied. “And we will be off soon so you don’t have to leave your sailor boys.”

         Oh, so they noticed us. They didn’t seem very happy though. But it is to be expected when they lost two of their number earlier today. “My sister has a soft spot for one of your mob,” I said.

         “We’re not a mob. Gangsters are in a mob. We are sappers.”

         “Sorry,” I said. “My sister has a soft spot for one of your sappers. She is very worried because of the incident earlier today. His name is John.”

         “I only know one John in our billet. John Wilkinson. I’m afraid he was killed today.”

         That is what I feared but was hoping not to hear. “Thanks for letting me know. What about Charlie?”

         “There are two Charlie’s in our billet, but the other sapper killed was called Freddie.”

         “Sorry to have troubled you at this sad time.”

         “That’s all right. Maybe another time we can be a bit more sociable.”

         “I hope so, I really do," I said and walked off.

         As I was walking back to the girls, I noticed an RAF sergeant pilot walking my way. It looks like Ronnie, I thought. It is Ronnie. They lied. They must have lied about him being shot down because he was on a secret mission or something. He got close. “Ronnie!” I called out.

         “Pardon? ”he said.

         As soon as he spoke I realised my mistake. “Sorry, I thought you were someone else.”

         “You got that right,” he said. “I am someone else. And I’m with my girl so you can go off and find yourself another partner.”

         I felt a fool as I walked off, but I was also upset. My mistake had brought all the sorrow of losing my sweetheart, Ronnie, back to me.

         “I saw you talking to those soldiers,” Alice said as soon as I got there. “Did they say anything about John and Charlie.”

         “No. Perhaps they have gone up to Liverpool with Tom.” I had decided to keep the news of the tragedy to myself.

         “Oh, well. I think I like sailors better.” He words caused a smile from the sailor she had been dancing with. “This is Johnny, Molly is with Harry, and you were dancing with Hughie.”

         “Thanks for that information,” I said. “I’m going to get a tea and sit down for a while.”

         “I’ll come with you,” Hughie said.

         “We’ll all go then,” Molly said, “and we can have a tea party.”

         “They have started selling alcohol again now,” Alice said.

         “That’s all right if you like beer because that is all they have right now.” I said. I started walking towards the counter and Hughie walked next to me.

         “So, your name’s Elsie?” he said.

         “Oh, psychic are you?”

         Hughie laughed. “No, your sister Alice told me.”

         “Three teas and three beers,” Hughie said.

         “I’ll have a beer,” Molly said.

         “That’s two teas and four beers, then.”

         “Yeah, you look like a fella with them trousers,” Alice said. “You might as well drink like one.”

         We sat down as three couples though I would have preferred to sit in two groups. Straight away Molly seemed to launch herself at Harry and they began kissing in a very passionate way. Alice looked at them, and not to be outdone did the same with Johnny. Hughie looked at me.

         “Forget it,” I said. “So how long have you been in the navy?”

         “Only three months. We haven’t been given a ship yet and we are stuck down at Greenwich. They even call that a ship, but it isn’t.”

         “I’ve been to Greenwich. We did a delivery in the baker’s van to a café down there .”

         “Oh, you’re a baker.”

         “I’m a driver.”

         “Listen, Elsie, I know we have only just met, but I like you. I like you a lot.”

         “That’s nice,” I said.

         “Are you courting?”


         “I'd like to take you out. There is a great little pub in Greenwich and they seem to be able to get hold of any drinks that they like. There is live music and it is a really good night in there. You’ll love it.”

         “Sounds good, but how am I going to get to Greenwich?”

         “I have a motorbike. I don’t have it with me tonight, but I can pick you up. Is Tuesday all right?”

         “I’d say that you are a fast worker but looking at these four then maybe that’s not the case. They haven’t even come up for air yet.”

         “Have you ever been on the back of a motor bike?” he asked.

         “Yes, I have,” I said and had immediate thoughts of the wonderful day I had with Chalky.

         “Come on, let’s leave them to it and have a dance,” Hughie said.

         “What brings three sailors over to East London?” I asked him as we got on the dance floor.

         “Johnny’s family are from Stepney and he was talking about this dance hall so we came over with him to have a look. And I am so glad we did because I think that I may have met the girl of my dreams.”

         I started to laugh. “You are a bit of a smooth talker. I bet you say that sort of thing to all the girls, don't you?”

         “Of course I do,” he said and gave a laugh.

         The night came to an end and we walked outside to say our goodbyes.

         “We have a pass so we can stop at Johnny’s house tonight. Don’t forget Tuesday, I’ll pick you up here at seven o’clock.”

         The other four were at each other again like there was no tomorrow. “Come on you two we had better get off home.” I looked back at Hughie. “So what’s your second name?”

         “Roach, Hughie Roach. Why?”

         “I just like to know who I’m with. Well, are you gonna kiss me then, Hughie Roach?” His face lit up like a child in a sweet shop.

         We set off for home after I managed to drag the other two away.

         “They are coming again next Friday,” Alice said. “I think I’m in love.”

         “You are always in love,” I said. “I suppose you won’t be here, Molly.”

         “No, I’ll be back in Norfolk. But I don’t like sailors anyway.”

         “You could have fooled me,” I said.

         I liked Hughie. I liked him a lot. At last I had met someone who could maybe fill the empty space in my heart left by Ronnie. I can’t wait to see him again.

         Tuesday night I got to the club and sat on an outside bench just before seven o’clock. The club was not open and it was a bit dark and bleak. I felt uncomfortable and a bit vulnerable sitting there and hoped that Hughie would hurry up getting here. Ten past seven I heard a motor cycle approaching but it passed by and was not Hughie. Half past seven came, then eight o’clock. I had already seen off two pests who tried to chat me up. I had to realise that I had been stood up and I made my way back home.

The Girl From Mile End. Ch 9.  (18+)
Elsie goes for a big change in her life.
#2291436 by Bruce.
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