Things don't work out for Eleanor.
Bithot and Ekurb set off on a routine trip to Swesis, the home of the Anolaids. It took twice as long to get to Swesis as it would to get to Earth. The trips were frequent as the Anolaids did not care too much about creating offspring as there was no pleasure derived from their mating, in fact, they usually found it repulsive.
The rescues though were the same as on Earth except any two Anolaids could be rescued as there were no male or female differences amongst their kind. Even so, to become partners their pulses had to be compatible and to be rescued they must be about to perish. There was also another consideration. Some of the Anolaids were mutants and had an evil streak in them which could not be eradicated so had to be avoided at all costs.
“This change of our rescue tasks to these smelly creatures has been a disaster,” Ekurb said. “I do not think that I will continue as your second for much longer. Sometimes Arnia complains that the smell lingers on me, but I can not see how that is because our extractor-purifier is very efficient.”
Bithot laughed. “You can not smell the stink when the extractor-purifier is on, but it only disperses most of the smell. Some of it lingers though we can not notice it but others, like Arnia, can. I also see that sometimes on our return you are so anxious to see her that you do not visit the cleansing booth. That is your mistake and your fault, not the Anolaids.”
“I can put that right, but I feel that I still must apply for another vocation.”
“Do not waste your time. I will have to approve for you to leave. And be sure I will not do that. Anyway, let us get this done so you can get back to Arnia.”
They were static above one of the larger towns. “There,” Ekurb, said. “It looks like a maintenance worker falling from one of the buildings, that has not been destroyed by their civil war battles.”
Bithot lined up on the Anolaid and checked he did not have the evil streak before bringing him aboard the craft and recording his pulses. Although the Anolaid was sealed in the tube, the skin odour began to seep into the craft and Ekurb pressed a button to start the extractor-purifier.
They soon found a compatible Anolaid far away from the town. The Anolaid had wandered from a safe area into a dangerous forest inhabited by Reptile Crings. Anolaids had no normal type feet and looked as if they were hovering across the ground, but in fact, they had hundreds of feelers below their flat trunk bottom like those of a millipede. This meant that they could not move fast and a Cring was gaining on the Anolaid and about to rip it to pieces.
Bithot checked the pulses which were compatible with the earlier rescue. He brought the Anolaid on board, into the second tube and they set off for the long journey home.
Eleanor was full of excitement as she watched the soldier amble away. She had seen many Americans since they arrived and had been called to and whistled at, but she never actually spoke to any of them. She was thrilled he wanted to take her out and she smiled to herself as she walked to the bus stop, thinking she must still have her old charm. She couldn't get him out of her mind and she sat on the bus thinking his accent sounded just like some of the film stars she saw at the picture house. She noticed an elderly couple looking at her, somehow disapproving of the huge grin on her face. "What's up, have I got two heads or something?" The woman tutted and they looked away as the grin reappeared on Eleanor's face.
She stood outside the tavern at five to seven feeling a bit guilty but convinced herself they were only going to have a drink. She would never allow anything serious to develop.
He tapped her on the shoulder; it startled her and she quickly turned around. "Bloody hell, you frightened the life out of me. You shouldn't go creeping up on people like that."
He laughed. "I'm sorry, but that's how we're trained. Say, I didn't get your name. I'm Marvin, and you are?"
"Eleanor, but my friends call me Ellie."
"Ellie, that's my sister's name. Ellie Anne."
"Are we going in the tavern?"
"Hell no, I don't drink. We'll get the bus. I've got to meet a crowd at The Palais."
"That's miles away. I haven't been there in years."
"I told you earlier, you're going to have the time of your life."
Eleanor was impressed by the sound of the big band in the ballroom. The place was filled with sailors, soldiers, and airmen from many nationalities, but Marvin soon located his friends. His group of friends grew to a large number as the night went on and a lot of them had local girls with them. She noticed how young the other girls were and realised she was the oldest woman there, but she didn't feel out of place. In fact, she felt a little proud to be with Marvin, noticing how the stripes on his arm seemed to command a lot of respect from the other soldiers.
Although Eleanor had been good at ballroom dancing when she was younger, she hadn't been out dancing for many years and the new style of dancing was strange to her. Marvin was an expert though and she thought he moved in an almost effortless way as if dancing were as natural to him as walking.
With his help, Eleanor managed to adapt to some of the easier dances, but later in the evening, Marvin got up to dance with a young Navy girl and they danced the Jitterbug as if they invented it. Although Eleanor only met him that day, she felt jealous and was relieved when he returned to put his arm around her.
Marvin hadn't had a drink, but she lost count of the drinks bought for her by him and his friends. It seemed as if they had no idea of the value of money to the English girls and they were spending as if they had an endless supply. The pace of the dancing slowed down and Eleanor felt as if she were becoming drunk. "I'll have to get off home soon. I'm feeling a bit woozy."
"Okay," he said. "I could use some fresh air anyway. It's mighty smoky in here."
She glanced at the cigarette between the fingers on her right hand. Her hand was resting on the shoulder of his jacket and the smoke was drifting up the side of his face. She moved her hand and let the cigarette drop to the floor before squashing it with her foot.
They caught a taxi to Eleanor's house, but she asked the taxi driver to stop when they reached the end of her street, not wanting to draw attention. Although it was late, she knew her neighbours would leave their beds to look from the windows if they heard a taxi pull up. She knew because she often did it herself.
She gave a grin as the taxi driver pulled away. "You've let the taxi go, that was a bit silly. It's a long walk back to your unit from here."
"That's okay, it's a swell evening and I'm not tired. I don't mind the walk. The important thing is to see you safely to your door."
She gave a laugh. "The perfect bloody gent, aren't you?" she said. "Come on, I'll make you a cuppa before you go and you can tell me all about where you live in Ivanhoe."
"Idaho," he said, and then gave a laugh as they started to walk towards her house. "It's Idaho."
"Shhh. You'll have to keep it down till we get home. They're a nosy lot round here." When they were in the privacy of her home, passion took over from any thoughts Eleanor had of faithfulness. The drink had been a key to release the frustration of being without her man for so long and they kissed passionately in the passage as soon as she closed the street door. She dearly loved her husband and missed him terribly, but living alone was depressing for her and there was always the thought in her mind that she could be killed at any time by enemy action. She must enjoy herself, and enjoy life because there was no telling when it could be taken from her. She thought of Marvin. She never had a desire to be with another man, but she was attracted to him. Though the guilt was there, she couldn't help thinking either or both of them could soon be killed. What a waste it would be and what a shame to make him walk all the way back to his unit when there was plenty of room in her bed.
It was early the next morning when Eleanor prompted Marvin to leave the house, hoping to get him away from her door early enough to avoid being seen by her neighbours. However, she arranged to meet him again and as the weeks passed, she became very much in love with him and they spent a lot of time together. But in May he began to spend less time with her and she thought he was seeing another woman.
“Can we go to the Palais this weekend,”she said.
“I can’t, Eleanor. I have lots of exercises next week and I am afraid we won’t be able to meet up for a while.”
“Are you getting fed up of me? Is there someone else?”
Marvin pulled her towards him and kissed her. He looked into her eyes. “Don’t even think like that. I would not want another after being with you. It’s just that things are going on and I can’t say more than that. I will likely be away for a while, but I promise I will return to you very soon.” His unit was in preparation for D-Day but he knew he could not tell her that. Perhaps, he thought, he had already said too much. They spent a night of passion together before he was sent off to the south coast in preparation for the D-Day landings.
He managed to write her a letter before embarkation but it was withheld by the censor. He thought about her up until his craft approached Omaha beach and he knew he had to try to clear her from his mind. He had almost made it across the beach when an enemy machine gunner took him down and his last thoughts were of Eleanor.
Eleanor felt sure that Marvin genuinely cared for her and she had thoughts of leaving her husband when Marvin returned for her. The letters he promised to write to her never arrived and when she heard the rumours of the high casualties on the Normandy beaches, she feared the worst.
However, it was not her only problem. It was a few weeks later that Eleanor discovered to her horror that she was pregnant again and it had been over seven months since she last saw her husband. The double blow was starting to worry and depress her. She decided to spend a few days at her sister's in Northampton hoping that her despair would ease and she could think of finding a way out of her problem.
She previously agreed to take her children home for a while, but she didn't want that now she was pregnant. She knew her sister wouldn't offer much resistance to the children staying a while longer, now that the V1 flying bombs had begun falling on London. This solved one of her problems and she set off back home on her own.
She was almost home and was struggling along the pavement with her suitcase and a carrier bag of provisions her sister had given her. Not far to go now, she thought, just around the corner. She looked over at a woman on the opposite side of the road. What's she staring at? "Is my slip hanging or something you nosy bosom?" The woman looked away without making any kind of gesture. Eleanor felt good about her quick verbal victory but turned to look back at the woman. It had been too easy. There was no love between the two of them and they were often engaged in rows in the street, almost coming to blows at times. Why did she give in so easily? Eleanor felt remorse about her outburst thinking perhaps the woman had received some bad news. It was not uncommon at the time. She turned the corner and then stopped suddenly, letting her bags drop to the floor. She continued walking, slowly at first, but then began running along the street to a pile of rubble where her home used to be. She stood in the road; the rubble still covered the pavement where it had been shovelled in to clear the street. The smell of the damp charred wood filled her nostrils as she looked over to the twisted steel that used to be her Anderson shelter. One of her neighbours walked across to her. Eleanor looked at him. "Gone, it's all gone," she said. "Everything, all gone."
"Doodlebug," he said. "Friday night. The Morgans next door to you. They made it to their shelter, but they were blown to pieces."
"Oh Jesus no, not the baby, not little Masie." Tears formed in her eyes, as she stood shaking her head. "Bastards," she muttered. "Wicked bloody bastards."
He put his arm around her. "Come on luvvy, come over the road. Emily's got the kettle on. You have a nice hot cuppa while I fetch your bags."
Eleanor looked over at the man's house. Most of the tiles had gone from the roof and the windows were blown. As she crossed the road her thoughts were for her own children, feeling thankful they hadn't been at home for the weekend.
She moved into a temporary refuge in the local church hall. She didn't want to go back to her sister's, feeling ashamed by her condition. She could not settle at the refuge and had trouble sleeping. The loss of the young child who lived next door played on her mind and she was also worried about facing her husband.
She was sitting on a bench in the churchyard looking down at the ground and wondering what to do, what to say to her husband. She knew he would be devastated, and it troubled her greatly that she would cause him such heartache.
"Lost it all?"
Eleanor looked up, startled almost by the sudden company. "Lost what?" she said to the woman.
"Stuff, all the stuff: furniture, clothes, family treasures what's been handed down through the generations. Lost it all have ya? I know I have."
"Yeah." Eleanor gave a sigh. "Lost it all for sure."
"Thank God. No one at home."
"Same with me. Twice we got bombed out. They bombed the flats in Carr Street, then we moved to Mile End and we got bombed out again by that bloody doodlebug that done the railway bridge. I was out, but a few of me neighbours were not so lucky. Bloody good bunch an' all."
"Bombs, they're not my biggest problem at the moment."
The woman sat on the bench, excited at the thought of some gossip. "Oh, what's up then?"
Eleanor looked at the woman, wondering why she should tell her any of her business. Nevertheless, she needed to talk to someone and a friendly stranger was perhaps the best option. "My ole man's at sea. I've been a right idiot. I'm pregnant."
"Don't tell me, a Yank right?"
Eleanor laughed the first laugh for a long while. "Yeah, a Yank," she said.
"Happened to me as well and my ole man's in the blinking desert somewhere."
"We're both in trouble then."
"Not me, I got rid. There's a doctor I know over in Dalston done it for me."
"Blimey, there's a thing. Do you think he'd help me?"
The woman laughed. "Sure he would, as long as you can get the cash."
"I've a bit put by." She thought of the Victorian china she had stored at her sister's, along with her mother's gold rings which she carried about in her handbag. She could sell the rings and would be sure to have enough.
"I'm going to Hackney on Thursday. Come with me and we'll call over and have a jaw with him."
"Do you really think he'll do it for me?"
"Yeah, said so didn't I? Don't tell him how much money you got though. Try to bait him down a bit or he'll charge a mint." The woman laughed again. "Yanks, he loves 'em. He's earning a blooming fortune."
Eleanor slept no easier over the next few nights. Thinking it was not the right thing to do, but aware her other option was no better. It was a terrible dilemma and she was not sure what she should do. Before she got the chance to make up her mind, she received the news that her husband's ship had been reported lost in the Atlantic. The termination of her pregnancy now seemed trivial and unimportant to her. The loss of her husband and the guilt that she cheated on him overwhelmed her.
Eleanor was sitting in the church hall deep in depressive thought when the woman walked up to her. "All set for tomorrow then?" the woman said.
Eleanor flew at her in an unprovoked attack, striking at her with both hands. The woman tried to protect herself, but the blows kept raining down on her and she began screaming. People soon came running and restrained Eleanor who began shouting abuse at everyone. It was clear she was having some kind of breakdown and an ambulance was called to take her away. She was admitted to a psychiatric hospital in Kent, where she remained until the end of the war.
While she was at the hospital, she gave birth to a fine baby girl. It was a difficult birth unlike the straightforward births of her other children. She suffered intense and continuous pain, blaming it on herself as if she were being punished for her adultery. She named the girl Anne, after Marvin's sister. Because of the remarkable resemblance between the baby and Marvin, Eleanor knew every time she looked at her daughter she would be reminded who her father was. She wondered what was to become of this wretched child, born out of wedlock, a product of adultery, an insult to her husband, and a source of shame to the family.