Sunday, 21 December 2014

A short story to warm your heart...

Wishing you all a very merry Christmas and a fabulous 2015. Here is a little story I wrote a few years ago that might warm your heart.
 
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                                              BACK HOME
 Annie Cassidy disembarked quickly from the hospital ship, Gigantic, as a vicious wind whipped up the river Mersey, taking her breath away. Touching terra-firma at Princes Dock, she saw the jostling crowds, eager to catch sight of the great liner bringing England’s heroes home. Annie marvelled at the valiant troops as she struggled to push the terrible images of war from her mind.
    Nursing the heroes at Passchendaele, she had promised to get messages to loved ones; people like these who had come to witness the homecoming of the hospital ship. White against a pewter sky, the red cross of Geneva showed prominently on her hull, decked out in the neutral colours of mercy and compassion, Gigantic signalled the end to hostilities.
   Annie felt a painful surge of all-embracing pride as the slow disembarkation of stretcher cases, urged her to ease her pace and acknowledge these brave men. While the huge crowds desperately waited for the sight of injured loved-ones, she made her way from the dock.
  `Carry yer bag Miss?’
Recognising the keenness of the slightly-built young’un, she noted the too-large cap that hid a lean look of hunger and decided not to take a seat on the overhead railway today.
  `I’ll take a hansom.’ Handing him the valise she sadly noted his bare smacks, slapping the cobbled setts. `It can’t be easy lugging cases on the cobbles, haven’t you got any boots?’ Nodding to his grimy, chilblained feet, she hoped her tone didn’t sound condescending.
   `I’ve got a family to feed, Miss,’ he said stoically pushing back the rim of the outsized flat cap `boots don’t come cheap, y’know, not when empty plates need filling.’
   Annie admired his obligation, knowing of young battalions who would see no more clean plates, and she was heartily glad of the life in him.
   `I’m a mermaid, don’t you know?’ The words, which had been left unsaid for a long time, brought to mind the face of another young lad, much like this one.
    ’Is that so, Miss?’ His lopsided grin showed a healthy scepticism, melting her heart and bringing back memories of days long gone… She slipped a florin into his hand when they reached the hansom cab, and Annie watched him knock back his cap even further, his eyes lighting at the sight of the precious coin.
 `Strike me!’ He flicked it into the freezing air, `it’s not every day you meet a mermaid!’ Slipping the two-bob bit into the pocket of a tattered waistcoat, he then slowly raised his eyes to hers and in a tone thick with gratitude he said solemnly;
 `This is `preciated very much, Miss… My ould man caught the business end of a toffee-apple at the Somme... I’m the bread-winner now...’ Annie silently acknowledged his admission with an understanding nod.
   `I’m sure your mother is relieved she’s still got you. Good on you, Lad.’ She had seen the devastation trench mortar bombs caused a body. She also understood that no more words were necessary as, tipping the cap that had probably belonged to his heroic father, the boy disappeared into the throng to earn another copper or two…
   The rhythmic sway of the carriage lulled her as she travelled the uneven thoroughfare, taking in the familiar landscape of corner shops and ale-houses. Her eyes followed the line of stone-streaked cerulean sky to the warehouses and dockyards hugging the river, once the forbidden playground of her brothers.
   Sighing quietly she watched the first snowflakes of winter begin to fall and dust the back-to-back terraced houses that ribbed the backbone of the dock road and her memories slipped to another time, another place. For certain there were countless heroes, and she knew some would remain nameless forever, taking care of business back home...
© Sheila Riley