Part 1, Chapter 3
We had dinner and went dancing the night before he shipped out. Just as we were leaving, a full-bosomed red-lipped blonde threw her arms around him, planting a big wet kiss right on his mouth.
“Kill a Jerry for me, won’t you, luv?”
She looked at me cooly as if seeing me for the first time, then said: “Gotta share the wealth, dearie. No harm meant.”
I don’t think of myself as particularly insecure. But I’ve always felt undesirably flat-chested when pitted against a woman whose breasts torpedo half-naked into a room. Ian had never complained about my body. And yet, there was something invasive, almost Hitlerian, about the blonde’s cleavage, which seemed to give her unfair advantage. I felt like Poland—outgunned.
Ian, of course, didn’t mind her at all. He even produced a match to light her cigarette. The prolonged encounter stretched my nerves almost to the breaking point. But I held my tongue, loosening it only when we reached home.
“What’s happened to you, Ian? You’re behaving like an imbecile.”
“And you’re acting like a jealous old cow,” he said. “Why the hell don’t you grow up? Don’t you realize that I’ll be risking my life out there every single day?”
I wanted to say, “Yes, darling, I do realize that. And I’m deliriously proud of you for being so brave and smart and handsome. I don’t want you to risk your life, and if there were any way I could go fight Hitler in your place—or at least alongside you—I would drop everything and go with you.”
But I didn’t say that. What I said instead was:
“And don’t you realize that you’re a married man? Or doesn’t that mean anything to you anymore?”
After that, I said some other things I shouldn’t have. Then went up to our room and slammed the door. We’d had a few other skirmishes during these first few months together. Whenever I retreated to the bedroom in tears, he eventually came after me. But on this night, I listened for his knock, and it never came. He spent the rest of the night on the sofa downstairs. I cried myself to sleep.
The next morning, we did one more terrible thing. We went through the motions of normalcy as if the previous night hadn’t happened at all. I poached his egg, then made his tea and toast, muttering only such words as were necessary to get us through the ritual of breakfast. The chill wind between us showed no sign of warming. Neither of us apologized. We just carried on, saying little, hailing a taxi outside our flat like an aging, long-married couple chained together by habit.
End of Part I, Chapter 3
©2021 Andrew Jazprose Hill
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