A letter from a stranger is meant to boost the morale of front-line troops. For one soldier romance blissfully awaits…
At the outbreak of the Second World War, in Britain, women were encouraged to write letters to the men on the front line. For Jean White this would lead to a friendship with Bill Brooks, an anti-aircraft gunner with the Royal Artillery serving on the south coast of England at the height of the Blitz.
As German aircraft drop their deadly payloads over London and devastate most of southern England, the relationship between Jean and Bill blossoms. Through their correspondence, at first and then when they finally meet. It’s as though the world has stood still. A quiet weekend away from London strengthens their bond and romance blissfully flourishes.
As the war intensifies and Bill’s impending departure to foreign shores looms ever closer their future together seems insecure, until a few days before his departure when Bill proposes marriage. Will Jean accept the proposal or will doubt keep them apart?
Jean had been seated by the window in their sitting room waiting to see when Bill would arrive. Although she didn’t have the faintest idea what he looked like, she knew he would be in uniform and would be arriving at around one o’clock. Although there had been a few military personnel coming in and out of the pub during the morning. When a tall, muscular-looking, blond-haired soldier approached the entrance carrying a couple of parcels, something inside her exploded with certainty that this was the man who had been visiting her dreams ever since they’d started to correspond.
Bill stood still and watched as she approached. She was like an apparition of heavenly beauty, and he found it hard not to look away, so he continued to gaze at her, smiling.
“Hello, Bill… It is Bill, is it not?” she asked in a happy, yet sultry voice that captured his attention.
“Yes, yes it is,” he mumbled like a love-sick schoolboy, whilst mentally chastising himself for coming across like some babbling fool. Quickly composing his thoughts, he recovered his manners and added, “I’m so very happy to finally meet you.”
She hooked her arm inside his and led him towards the bar. “Reg, this is Bill,” she said to her brother.
“Glad you could visit,” the young man said cheerfully. “Go on up with Jean, I’ll be along as soon as I can get this miserable lot out,” he added loudly so those around could hear. There followed a bit of friendly bantering as they feigned annoyance at the comment, but they knew it was in jest. The customers returned to their conversations and Reg to his duties; Jean led the way up the stairs to their residence.
At the top of the stairs on the landing Violet and Albert White waited to welcome their guest. “It is a pleasure to meet you,” Albert said and introduced his wife.
“Thank you for inviting me,” Bill answered politely. Holding out the cake to Violet he said, “This is for you. It’s a Christmas pudding with a difference.”
Violet accepted it smiling and said, “A difference? What’s different about it?”
“It’s a sponge cake,” Bill answered, bringing them to laughter and breaking the ice.
It had been a wonderful afternoon. Bill had felt very relaxed amongst Jean and her family, so much so, that when he asked if Jean would accompany him on a short walk there was no question their friendship had been sealed when she accepted the invitation. When her parents seemed to encourage them to go for the walk, his heart leapt for joy.
They walked hand-in-hand along Southwark Park Road in the direction of the river ignoring the bomb-damaged buildings. Side-stepping craters in the road created by parachute mines as they spoke on a variety of subjects getting to know each other. By the time they had returned to the pub, it was almost evening, and they had been grateful to Mister Hitler for not ruining their day. There had been a lull in air raids over Christmas, and it had been nice it had extended into Boxing Day.
“It has been a wonderful day, Bill. Thank you for my present, I shall enjoy reading it.”
“Well, you did say you liked Jan Tempest.”
“It was sweet of you to remember.”
“I will be heading up to Buckinghamshire at the weekend to visit my youngest brother and sister—”
“Yes, I would love to come along,” Jean said quickly interrupting him.
As he looked down at this beautiful young woman before him, his heart skipped a beat. He hadn’t experienced such a feeling before and wondered if this was what falling in love was like. He gazed into her eyes as she placed her hands on his shoulders. She reached up on the tips of her toes and kissed him lightly on the lips.