Today's Reading

Back and forth Kate walked until a FANY, First Aid Nursing Yeomanry, came by and pinned up the latest War Office list of the wounded, dead and missing in action. Kate went to it immediately. She always read the War Office lists, feeling like she was watching a car accident. Couldn't stop herself, no matter the agony it evoked. Each of these men on the list was someone's son, brother, uncle, father, cousin, friend or husband. She skimmed through the list, her heart sinking at the black-and-white proof of loss, until her eyes snagged on a name.

Philippe Leroy.

On the Free French list of those injured in North Africa. The air left her lungs.


Steady, girl, she told herself, reaching for the wall. Injured isn't dead.

Another voice said, Yet.

Kate sensed the air shift, the elements change.

"He'll see you now," the FANY called from the interior office.

"Say I'm delayed. My train's late." Kate grabbed her cap from the office bench.

"What do you mean?" the FANY said. "You can't disobey orders—"

But Kate was already slamming the door on her way out.

In Guy's Hospital Kate Searched for the airmen injured in North Africa. Philippe's Free French division, she discovered, was in the north wing.

Her anxiety mounted as she passed beds filled with hardly recognizable figures. Bloody bandages, enamel bed pans, stacks of dressings and laundered white sheets—the whole place was mayhem. The cries and moans ate at her.

Strong. She'd have to be strong for Philippe. No matter how badly injured he was, she'd have to insist that he would recover.

She'd plaster on a smile for her sometime-lover's sake. Steel herself for the worst.

She wished she'd changed from her training attire of oil-smudged overalls. Had time to run a comb through her hair, find some lipstick.

A nurse with a clipboard nodded. "He's over there in thirty-eight." Curtains surrounded the bed. She tried to prepare herself. But how? "Can you tell me his injuries?" she asked the nurse.

"Don't you know?"

She sighed. She wouldn't be asking if she knew. "I just got the message to come here."

"Patient suffered several fractures, exhibits severe dehydration. But he's stable."

Stable. That's good. Think positive.

The nurse pointed to a waiting room. "His family is here, so you'll need to wait." Kate's shoulders tightened. "His family?"

The nurse responded icily. "Yes, miss, his wife and child are with him now."

When the nurse left, Kate skirted the beds and reached the curtains. Heard voices speaking French. A woman coughing.

Or was it crying?

She peered through the slit between the curtains. Philippe was sitting up, an intravenous drip in his arm, part of his chest smothered in a cast, bandages on his neck. His face, bronzed by the desert sun, looked thinner. She couldn't see his eyes because of the woman leaning over, kissing him and cradling his head. Beside her stood a little girl—four or perhaps five—with shiny blonde curls.
Kate caught herself before she cried out.

She stared at the small, lovely family, speechless. A petite Frenchwoman with a braid down her back and a little girl with tiny, fluttering hands. And here she'd thought her brief stolen weekends with Philippe meant...


Face it, he'd made no promises. And neither had she.

Chalk it up to a wartime fling. LALAL, as her pal Edna called it: Lasts As Long As Leave. Affairs provided heat and connection with another human, until, like the blitzkrieg, they burned out. Turned to ash.

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