Gilbert was demobbed in November and Elizabeth took Lewis up to
London to meet
him at the Charing Cross Hotel. Lewis was seven. Elizabeth and he got onto the
train at Waterford and she held his hand firmly so that
he wouldn't fall when he climbed up the high step. Lewis sat next to the window
and opposite her, to watch the station get small as they pulled away, and
off her hat so that she could rest her head against the seat without it getting
in the way.
The seat was itchy against Lewis's bare legs between his shorts and
his socks and he liked the way it was uncomfortable and the way the train moved
from side to side. There was a feeling of specialness; his mother was quiet with
it and it changed the way everything looked. They had a secret between them and
they didn't need to talk about it.
He looked out of the window and wondered
again if his father would be wearing his uniform and, if he were, if he would
have a gun. He wondered, if he did have a gun, if he would let Lewis hold it.
Lewis thought probably not. His father probably wouldn't have one, and if he did
it would be too dangerous and Lewis wouldn't be allowed to play with it.
clouds were very low over the fields, so that everything looked close up and
flat. Lewis thought it was possible that the train might be standing still and
the fields and houses and sky might be rushing past. That would mean his father
would be rushing towards him standing in the Charing Cross Hotel, but then all
the people would fall over. He thought he might feel sick, so he looked over at
his mother. She was looking straight ahead, as if she was watching something
lovely. She was smiling so he pushed her leg with his foot so that she would
smile at him, and she did, and he looked back out of the window.
remember if he'd had lunch or what time of day it was. He tried to remember
breakfast. He remembered going to bed the night before and his mother kissing
him and saying, 'We'll see Daddy tomorrow', and the way his stomach had felt
suddenly. It felt that way now. His mother called it butterflies, but it wasn't
like that, it was more just suddenly knowing you had a stomach, when normally
you forgot. He decided if he sat and thought about his father and his stomach
any more he'd definitely feel sick.
'Can I go for a walk?' he
'Yes, you can go for a walk. Don't touch the doors and don't lean
out. How will you know where to find me again?'
He looked around,'G'.
He couldn't open the door; it was heavy
and they both fought with it. She held it open for him and he went down the
corridor, one hand on the window side, the other on the compartment side,
steadying himself and saying under his breath,'along-along-along'.
Elizabeth had spoken to Gilbert on the telephone the day before, she had sat on the chair in
the hall and cried. She cried so much that she'd had to go upstairs so that Jane
wouldn't see her, or Lewis, if he came in from the garden. She had cried much
more than any time they had parted since he had first gone away and more than
she had in May when they heard the war in Europe had ended. Now she felt very calm and as if it was
normal to be going to see your husband whom you had been frightened might die
almost every day for four years. She looked down at the clasp on her new bag and
thought about all the other women seeing their husbands again and buying
handbags that wouldn't be noticed. Lewis appeared through the glass, struggling
with the door, and she let him in and he smiled at her and stood balancing with
his arms out.
He had his mouth open with the effort of not
falling over and his tongue to one side. One of his socks was down. His fingers
were each stretching out. Elizabeth loved him and missed a breath with
loving him. She grabbed him around the middle.
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