It was the start of another long week for Allie and again she didn't have time for a decent breakfast. Half a cup of tea and a couple of mouthfuls of toast were all she could manage again that morning. Still she told herself that after two weeks of listening to Irene talking none stop about Albert and getting married giving up any chance of actually finishing a meal wasn't such a high price to pay. Her none stop talk of weddings was beginning to finally get on her nerves, giving Irene any chance to tell her she was jealous wasn't exactly what she had in mind. Neither her or Virginia had voiced their concerns about Private Warren, Irene wouldn't have listened anyway and they both knew that. As Virginia had said, ‘Love is blind.’ Allie just hoped that Irene wasn't making a really big mistake. People did do things on the spur of the moment during wartime, she smiled to herself as she walked to the office, the memory of the first time Bea had kissed her coming to the forefront of her mind. If that hadn't been a spur of the moment decision she couldn't think of anything else that was. Things were different for them though, excluding the obvious, they didn't really have to worry that one of them could be sent to some far away place where the chances of death were high.
After signing for her car she left quickly. She slid onto the cold leather seat started the engine and headed for Elveden Hall. The large Georgian stately home stared back blankly at her as it came into view in the early morning darkness. Dawn was only just breaking turning the eastern sky from indigo to dark mauve. How often had she seen it and taken the sun rising for granted she wondered. She'd never really thought how it brought colour to her world replacing the grey. It promised to be yet another cold but fine day, hopefully they wouldn't get another downpour of rain as she was driving between airfields. Stepping out of the car to wait as she did every morning she looked passed the steps that led up to the entrance and passed the huge oak doors. Usually she would see Wing Commander Radek's imposing figure, blacker than the doorway he was pacing up and down in. This morning so far he was nowhere to be seen, his usual figure, head bowed slightly and a cigarette between the fingers of his right hand was strangely missing from her familiar morning routine. She looked at her wristwatch, she wasn't late. The building was a little imposing she though no matter how many times she had stood there looking at it. She looked up momentarily at the balustraded parapets before her eyes sank back to the French casement windows at ground floor level. The sentries that were posted outside of the building passed her by without so much as a glance in her direction as she sighed heavily. Finally the inner door opened and she snapped to attention expecting the wing commander any second as she yanked open the rear car door.
“Stand easy, miss.” A voice filtered into her ears that didn't belong to Radek. “The wing commander asked that you peg his pardon, miss. He said to let you know that he is just finishing his breakfast. As it is still early he asked that you come inside.”
The man now standing right in front of her was a warrant officer. She blinked a couple of times before slamming the back door closed again. She couldn't believe the nerve. The wing commander knew she never had time to eat a proper breakfast and now he was rubbing her nose in the fact that he was still tucking into something far more substantial than half a cup of tea. Her feet crunched as she walked across the gravel drive as she followed the warrant officer towards the steps. She was a little nervous to actually go inside but she followed the warrant officer all the same, she had been invited to go inside after all. The interior hall was impressive and covered in white marble. She imagined that before the war there would have been ancestral portraits hung there that now would have been put into storage for safe keeping.
“You can take a seat if you like.” The warrant officer told her as he indicated to a lone chair that was waiting. “I'll inform Wing Commander Radek that you're here.”
Allie smiled as she took a seat and watched as the warrant officer disappeared through a door. The smell of bacon and eggs wafted past her as the door opened and her stomach rumbled loudly. It seemed that the smell of any food did that these days. She was certain her stomach hadn't been quite so vocal in the past, then again before she met Bea she had been used to surviving on very little food. She'd lasted a couple of days at a time without eating a thing. Now it seemed that the less food she ate the more she craved it. She gazed around the empty hallway and laughed to herself, the walls were gleaming and she was glad she didn't have to tackle cleaning them, she thought even Liz would draw the line there.
“The wing commander requested that you join him, miss.” The warrant officer said as he reappeared in front of her. She looked up at him and thought she must have misheard him, no way would the wing commander invite her to eat with him. “He asked if bacon and eggs would be acceptable?” He continued as Allie looked back at him still shocked. Her stomach rumbled again and the warrant officer grinned at her. “It sounds to me as if the offer is very agreeable. Would you please follow me, miss?”
As she got to her feet she realised that she had heard him correctly, there was no doubt about it she had been invited to eat breakfast. Maybe the wing commander was actually human after all. The warrant officer led her to a table that was close to one of the windows, the table were the wing commander was already tucking into a plate of bacon and eggs. Radek looked up and smiled as Allie took a seat.
“Harding, bring a cooked breakfast for Novak, please. Oh, and toast. More coffee would be greatly appreciated also.”
“Very good, sir.” The warrant office picked up the coffee pot and disappeared.
It was warm inside, something she wasn't used to unless she was at home because Bea always insisted on the fires been lit. She glanced at the wing commander before looking around the room. She looked up at the high ceilings as she rubbed her hands together, she felt a little uncomfortable. She'd never dreamed that she'd ever find herself sitting in a room quite as grand as this, at least not without the ever present fear of being thrown out again. The wing commander didn't usually speak to her but sitting across the table from him now she felt obliged to at least try and make conversation with him.
“That looks very appetising, sir.”
“Hmmm…I had it pointed out to me over the weekend during conversation with someone that I may be slightly selfish. And from past experience it would seem to me that you do not eat enough for breakfast.”
“No, sir. It is very kind of you to think of me.”
“I should be a little more considerate, Novak. And as you quite rightly pointed out to me not so long ago any army marches on its stomach, even if it does drive rather than march. I cannot expect you to drive all day when you're running on empty.”
Allie wondered who could have pointed out his lack of understand to him, she wanted to ask but then thought better of it. Until now he'd hardly said two words to her, with the exception of the night he'd paid for the bread and cheese she had at the swan. Her eyes flicked between him and the room, she looked down at the table and then back at the the wing commander. She realised that the only real time she'd ever studied him was when she watched him through the rear view mirror. Most of the time then he had his head buried in paperwork or his note book. She looked a little more closely at him, as the warrant office returned with her breakfast she'd noted that the wing commander had dark hair, green eyes and a wide mouth.
When the warrant officer reappeared at their table he placed a plate down in front of Allie and her eyes went wide. The only time she ever saw real eggs were when she was at home but there it was an egg, three rashers of bacon, two sausages, mushrooms and a perfectly golden slice of fried bread.
The wing commander looked up and saw Allie hesitate. “Eat up, Novak. Can't have my driver going without a real breakfast. Besides I like to travel in silence, you know I have a great deal of work to do.” He laughed lightly. “Interruptions by your stomach growling are hardly a good way to start the day.”
Allie didn't need any further encouragement and picked up her knife and fork, attacking the contents of her plate with gusto.
“I hope you have enough room for toast, we might be late getting any lunch.” The wing commander commented as the warrant officer returned with a full toast rack.
Allie just nodded, it was hard to believe the change in his attitude but she wasn't going to complain. She sipped her coffee between mouthfuls and buttered a few slices of toast that she nibbled on as soon as she'd finished her greatly appreciated fried breakfast.
The wing commander got to his feet. “When you've finished eating I'll be outside waiting for you.” He picked up his newspaper folded it neatly under his arm and took a step away from the table. Allie started to get to her feet, she didn't want him to think that she was neglecting her duties just because she'd been given a real breakfast.
“No need to rush, Novak. I have to go back to my room. I have to pick my notes up and some paperwork that I need for the day. Stay there, finish the toast and have another cup of coffee. That's not a request it's an order, Novak.” He smiled.
Allie nodded and returned to her seat, there was every possibility that she'd be skipping lunch as usual. At least for once missing lunch wouldn't seem so bad after the breakfast she'd been given. She finished the rest of the toast and the coffee before she made a move to return to the car. When she got outside she found the wing commander already sitting in the back seat of the car his eyes firmly fixed on his notebook.
“Sorry sir. I didn't mean to spend so long on the toast.” She said as she slid into the drivers seat.
The wing commander looked up briefly and smiled. “No need to apologise. Waste not want not, isn't that what they say? Besides I had plenty to keep me occupied. I'm a slave to my work if you hadn't noticed.”
Allie started the engine before she asked where their first stop was, she was expecting to be going to one of the radar stations or airfields that they visited regularly.
“London.” He stated as he looked up from his notes.
“London, sir?” She asked as if she'd misheard him.
“Affirmative. Whitehall…the war department to be exact.” He clarified. “I can give you directions, it's easy to get lost in London.”
“That won't be necessary, sir. I know exactly where it is.” Allie smiled.
“And you're certain that's where we're both going to be moved to?” Bea asked Maxine when she returned from the meeting she'd had to attend.
“Mr Potter has recommended both of us, and you have to admit it has to be better than this. Be honest, you're as sick of this as I am. What are we left with now, we don't just get anyone and everyone in. No offence intended but even the prostitutes are long gone. They're just taking their chances and paying the fines. One told me that they see the fines as their way of paying taxes. Even the call up can't put an end to their business. Makes working here awfully dull don't you agree? Now enough of work, Franky is expecting us and I for one am interested in knowing what she's uncovered.” Maxine grinned at Bea.
Two weeks was all it had taken for Franky to get some information, just as to how much use it would be still remained to be seen. She hadn't told Bea anything when she'd telephoned the evening before and even Liz had had to admit that she was interested in finding out what was the teachers problem. The bus ride from the ministry to the cafe felt as though it was taking forever and Bea was tapping her foot impatiently.
“That!” Maxine pointed at Beas leg. “Is not going to make the journey pass any faster.”
Bea was nervous, she wanted to know what Joan Ferguson had against them. More importantly why she thought constantly throwing around how Allie used to live was important. It made no sense to anyone. Finally arriving at their stop Beas nerves were starting to get the better of her, did she really want to know?
“We're taking this upstairs, Red.” Franky grinned. “You can hold the fort right Vera?” Franky didn't wait for Vera's reply and ushered Bea and Maxine out of the cafe.
As Bea and Maxine were making their way up the stairs there was a loud knock on the back door.
“Don't look so worried, it's just a friend.” Franky chuckled. “Had to have a little help finding out what old Miss Freaks problem is didn't I? There aren't enough hours in a day for me to do it all by myself. Besides certain people I know are way more accustomed to snooping and playing detective than I am.”
Sitting in Franky's kitchen Bea could hardly believe what she was hearing. It had absolutely nothing to do with her or Allie. How could something that happened so long ago mean they deserved any of this. Debbie didn't deserve to be treated so unfairly. They had to be smart, there was no point rushing in without knowing everything. Just because she was holding a grudge against Beas father was no reason for any of this. And without real proof there wasn't a great deal they could do.
“So what you're saying is that she blames my father because hers was killed in the Second Battle of the Marne? He was there I know but how can she place the blame on father? So many German soldiers were killed in that battle anyone could have been responsible. And how can she be German? Ferguson isn't a German name. It's…it's Scottish I think. I don't understand this.” Bea sighed. “Rita are you certain your informations correct?” She asked.
“It's as accurate as it possibly can be.” Rita grumbled, Bea always had to question everything. “Listen I'll tell you again. Her father originally came here from the Rhineland, the province of Palatinate. His family were well off and he came here with their blessing and a sack load of money, made a new life and eventually met and married an English woman. They had one child, who we know as Joan Ferguson. When the Great War broke out he returned home to join the German army after moving his wife and daughter to London and changing their names back to his wife's maiden name. Hardly surprising since there was huge anti German feeling, anyone with a German name was singled out, beaten, had their shops looted. For them to stay here and keep using the name Edelstein was virtually impossible. When he was killed obviously his wife inherited everything. Joan was well educated, they had the money. As far as I can make out her life was far more sheltered than yours.” She smiled at Bea. “Seems when her mother died she found out exactly how her father was killed…you father, well he might not have actually been responsible but he was prominent after the war in the civil service, she singled him out as a target of her hatred. I think something else might have tipped her over the edge but I'm not exactly sure what it was yet. You're an easy target, she knows how to find you, has Debbie in her class. That little bitch down in the cafe, I'm not exactly certain how she fits in but I will get to the bottom of it.”
“Listen Red, we'll work it out. Let's keep Al out of it for now. She's safe in Lavenham, Miss Freak can't get to her. Next time you get called to the school you take me or Maxi with you, got it?” Franky said firmly. She was quite sure Bea would take no notice but she had to try. She knew how angry Bea could actually get, punching Joan Ferguson in the face might make her feel better but it would achieve nothing.
Allies mouth felt dry, this would be the first time she'd ever driven into and around London. She wished she had the time to pay a visit to Bea, it would hardly be possible though she had to be on hand to drive the wing commander wherever he needed to go. There wasn't a great deal of traffic, what there was was mostly army trucks and farm vehicles. Even so she was still a little nervous about driving into the city. She concentrated more on the road and almost forgot that she wasn't alone as she drove towards Whitehall.
“You live here isn't that right? In London I mean. You have family here do you not?” The wing commander suddenly said.
“Yes, Sir.” Allie answered wondering if he was going to continue the conversation. It wasn't something he would usually do, usually he didn't speak to her at all.
“I hear you have a…a friend at the ministry of labour…serious isn't it?”
Allie swallowed hard, the only people who knew about her and Bea as far as she knew were Virginia and Irene outside of the city. This wasn't a question she'd ever expected.
“Don't look so worried Novak.” He chuckled. “I have a friend there too, I believe yours works for mine.”
“Y…you know Mr Potter?” Allie said a little shocked.
“Intimately you might say. I hear Bea is his star employee.”
“Yes, sir. I don't know…maybe.” Allie kept her eyes on the road, that was the way he liked it to be. She had to hope that he wasn't just fishing for information that could get her kicked out of the ATS. If that were the case though why would he admit to his relationship with Mr Potter? She glanced in the rear view mirror seeing nothing but a warm smile on his face. Her earlier aversion to him was slowly starting to ebb away. He'd been more than considerate, giving her breakfast, actually trying to start a polite conversation with her.
“I'll be spending the night in London, I trust that suits you?”
Allie glanced in the rear view mirror again, what was he saying? Was he expecting her to drive back to Lavenham and then get back to London early?
“Don't look so worried, Novak. I was thinking that maybe you'd like to take the opportunity to spend the night at home. Do you have a telephone number that I can contact you on in case of emergencies?”
“Yes, sir.” Allie smiled even more brightly as she turned her head slightly. The usual serious look he adopted seemed to have changed completely as she glanced at him again. Was he actually smiling?
“Good, you can drop me off when I'm finished and then you can take the car and go home. Spend a pleasant evening with your family. Now, eyes on the road Novak. I would like to get to my meeting in one piece.” Almost as quickly as his attention had turned to Allie his eyes drifted back to his notes and silence descended in the car again. Allie didn't care this time, he'd just given her permission to spend the night at home. She would never pass up a chance to be wrapped up in Beas arms all night.
London hadn't changed a great deal, not that she was surprised by that. After all she'd only been gone for two weeks. The barrage balloons still floated high above the city looking like massive silver clouds against the grey sky. All the entrances to the buildings in Whitehall were protected by sandbags. The rows of windows were lined up making the whole place look as drab as the whole of wartime London looked. Pulling up outside the war office she jumped out and opened the door for the wing commander. She quickly followed him inside.
The wing commander looked back over his shoulder at her. “Take an hour off, Novak. Go shopping, find something nice to take home tonight, if that's even possible.”
Allie saluted before she watched him walk up the marble staircase. There wasn't a great deal of point in going shopping she knew that, there wasn't a great deal in the shops. What there was was over priced, besides, just getting to spend the night with Bea would be more than enough for her. After an hour of wandering around looking in windows she found herself back at the war office. No sooner had she entered the building than she saw him walking back down the staircase.
“Right on time, Novak. I think you'll be pleased to know that I have no more meetings today. If you'd be so good you can drop me off at my hotel. Actually, may I make a suggestion?”
Allie nodded wondering what he could possibly want after he'd told her he was finished for the day.
“Have a spot of lunch with me at my hotel. Then take the rest of the day off, I think you deserve it.” He glanced as his wristwatch before he climbed into the back seat. He waited until Allie had slipped into the drivers seat before he spoke again. “You seem to know your way around London well enough, I think you should head over to the ministry, take your girl home in style.”
“Yes, sir.” Allie beamed back at him.
“Unfortunately I need you a little earlier tomorrow morning, 0700 hours I'm afraid. We have to go to Croydon tomorrow morning, so please don't be late is that clear? Shall I order an extra breakfast you?”
“No, sir. Everyone's awake at the crack of dawn at home, sir. I think I'll get a good breakfast before I have to leave.”
“Early to bed then, Novak. I'm sure that will make you popular with your girl.” He winked back at her.
Something had changed with the wing commander, not that Allie was going to complain. She quite liked his pleasant manner even though she wasn't sure she wanted to discuss her relationship with Bea. He may have admitted to knowing Beas boss but that didn't change the fact that he had been so unreasonable when she first started driving for him. Lunch was pleasant, she'd never seen him so animated. He happily told her how he'd met Edward Potter in their first year at university.
“And how did you meet Bea?”
Allie looked away for a few seconds, she'd guessed this question was coming and her answer was an old well rehearsed one. The only problem was that she knew Beas boss knew the circumstances she had been in when she had first gone to the ministry to register for work. “I met her when I went to register.”
“And the rest is history.” He chuckled. “Sorry, I shouldn't ask personal questions. You'll be returning to Lavenham alone tomorrow. I, well I have to go away for a few days. Hopefully you won't get lumbered with some tedious old bore who's only two steps away from meeting his maker while I'm away.”
Allie nodded, she wanted to ask where he was going in such a hurry but she didn't want to turn his current mood back to his usual blunt and uncooperative manner.
“Canada! You wanted to ask did you not?”
Allie swept into the office completely unexpected, Maxine spotted her first and was about to say something but didn't get a chance. No one was expecting Allie to be there, but it was a nice surprise. Bea stopped speaking and dropped her pen down on the desk, making her excuses to the woman who was sitting across from her.
“Oh my!” Maxine gasped as she watched the sight of Bea embracing Allie right in the middle of the office.
“I'm taking you home.” Allie said.
“But I still have work to do.” Bea mumbled when she realised everyone was looking at them.
“I'm sure I can finish up for you.” Maxine smiled. “Go on, off you go.”
Allie grabbed Beas coat and handed it to her before picking up her brief case. “You heard Maxi.” Allie said her face covered in the biggest smile as she watched Bea pulling on her coat faster than she'd ever seen her attempt it before.
“Lucky you.” Maxine whispered to Bea as she swept passed her.
“How are you even here?” Bea asked as Allie swept her out of the building and towards the car. “Shouldn't you be working?”
“I'll explain as I drive…get in.” Allie grinned as she opened the back door.
Bea couldn't believe their luck as Allie swept them into the empty house and straight up the stairs towards their bedroom.
“God I've missed…” Beas words were stifled by kisses.
Allie peeled off Beas clothes as she rubbed her face against her tear stained cheeks.
“Why are you crying?” Allie whispered.
“Because you're here, because I can't believe everything that bitch of a teacher has been plotting.”
“Would you rather talk about it?” Allie asked her concern growing by the second.
“No…no…later…it's…it…doesn't…matter…” Bea mumbled between kisses as they fell backwards against the bed. Then Allie hesitated.
“Talk to me…you clearly aren't just crying because you've missed me. I'd much prefer to know what I'm distracting you from.” She giggled as Bea frowned back at her. She couldn't be angry though, it was touching the way Allie always thought of her; always put her first. Telling Allie what had been uncovered about Joan Ferguson so far wasn't a bad thing, it could help Allie actually believe that it wasn't because of her. She'd never believed that it wasn't now she had to. There was still the problem of how Vera Bennett was involved but it had to all come to light in the end. “That…that…” Allie fumed. “How can she blame anyone for what happened? It was a war, it's no different to how things are now. Plenty of innocent and not so innocent people are losing their lives and all for what?"
“Allie, you have to try and forget about it.” Bea tried to soothe her as she trailed her fingers down her cheek. “It was never because of you or me…it's not because of us doesn't that help even in the slightest?” Bea asked as she watched the anger melt from Allies eyes.
Bea arched her back as Allie kissed her breasts. It had only been two weeks since they'd been together, this was different, they were completely alone. The house was empty apart from the two of them. There felt as though there were some kind of musical symmetry to the way their bodies moved. Like playing the most familiar notes on a long lost flute, the notes were still finely tuned and echoed through their bodies. It could have been hours, it could have been mere minutes but all they knew was that they were no longer alone in the house when they heard laughing from downstairs. They both lay tangled in the sheets, a fine sheen of sweat glistening on their naked bodies. Allie ran a hand over Beas shoulder, down her ribs; the indentation of her waist and the sweeping curve of her hip. She pushed herself up to rest on her elbow and bent her head forward placing soft kisses on Beas forehead, her nose, her cheeks and finally her lips. She slid a little lower and kissed each of her breasts. She ran her tongue down to her belly button before sliding her body even lower and placed soft kisses on the inside of each thigh before she returned to lay her head on the pillow.
“I've missed you.” Allie whispered knowing that they were going to have to get up before anyone found them in their current state of undress. She couldn't think of anything worse than Debbie running in and finding them.
Bea snuggled in closer for a few minutes. “Sometimes it feels as if I'll never see you again.” Bea admitted.
“I write to you everyday, you get my letters don't you?” Allie asked, she knew that sometimes there could be delays in the mail being delivered.
“Yes, of course, but it's not the same. I receive letters from Thomas as well, he's well. Shame he's in a place where the censor doesn't allow him to tell me much else than how the weather is and how he's keeping. Come to think of it I'm no longer even certain what he's doing. If his letters are censored I know it's secret though.”
“Hey!” Allie cupped her cheek with one hand. “You don't have to worry about me. I think the only real thing we have to worry about is that bloody teacher. How can she blame your father for hers being killed?”
“I don't know…if it were just me she were taking it out on I wouldn't mind so much but you and Deb…”
“We'll get to the bottom of it.” Allie said as Bea got more comfortable on her pillow, one arm bent beneath her head and the other resting on Allies hip. “I know I can't do a great deal but Franky…”
“She's got someone on to it. You've heard of Rita before now though I imagine?” Bea asked.
“Heard of yes, I think I may have met her once or twice. I did think she was only one of Franky's black market connections though. I'm almost certain Liz knows her and I'm guessing you must have.”
“So this might be a regular thing? You coming to London?”
“Maybe, hey did you know that my boss knows yours? I might have got the wrong end of the stick but I think they might be…you know, together.”
Bea laughed. “It's possible…maybe you're wing commander is Mr Potters friend in the RAF. You remember I told you what he told me right after you had that near miss.” Allie nodded. “I suppose it's not impossible that it's the same person.”
“Fruitcake?” Liz said as she looked at them both as they entered the kitchen a cake tin firmly in her hands. Seeing the car parked outside the house had left her in little doubt who was at home and she'd managed to take Debbie's mind off who might be home easily since neither Bea or Allie had been seen. Debbie barged passed them both as she ran from the sitting room to the kitchen.
Allie burst out laughing. “That girl could be used at the radar stations, the first mention of cake no matter where she is in the house and she's first in the queue. Do you think she could be trained to distinguish between the sound of our planes and those of the Luftwaffe?”
Debbie grabbed a plate from the cupboard and slid it across the table towards Liz. “A big slice please.”
Liz laughed and started cutting the cake into large slices. “I decided against cooking this evening, since Allies here I thought we could just make pigs of ourselves. And you little miss can wait.”
Debbie frowned and climbed into her usual seat at the table, folding her arms across her chest and swinging her legs.
“I'm sure we don't mind that one bit, do we sweetheart?” Bea asked as she looked at Allie who had taken her usual seat next to Debbie.
When Maxine finally arrived home a few minutes later they all sat in the kitchen to eat. Debbie stopped complaining that she was starving as soon as she started tucking into the thick slices of fresh bread and jam followed by baked apple and treacle slices and finally a big slice of fruit cake. Retreating to the sitting room once the dishes were done Allie lay back on one of the sofas. “So, this nutcase, Miss Freak if you'll pardon Franky's expression. What else do we know so far?”