Francis and Ilona have struck up a warm friendship. They've managed to meet once or twice since Christmas and, in this piece, Francis has turned up unexpectedly at the local pub on a Saturday night.
“Can we go for a walk?” Francis whispered in her ear. “I need to talk to you.”
She looked at him. “Yes, all right.”
He rose and helped her with her chair. “We’re just going for a little stroll before it gets too dark.” He held out his hand and she took it, ignoring Lily’s raised eyebrow. They walked along the quiet lane as the swifts still called out in pursuit of midges and bats began to emerge in the silvery dusk. They walked close, their shoulders touching.
“Is everything all right?” she asked him.
He sighed, “I’ve been thinking, Ilke. This war isn’t going to get any easier or any less dangerous, especially if we finally manage to get onto the continent. If anything happens to me, my parents get a telegram, as next of kin. I don’t want you to have to get a letter from your parents or my grandparents telling you the news. I don’t think that’s fair on you because you deserve more than that.” He offered her a sad smile, “My constant friend.”
She smiled back.
“I’ve had a word with Harry,” he continued. “I’ve made him promise that if anything happens to me, he’s to come and tell you himself. After all, he’s my wingman. He’ll know more than anyone will. Plus, he has a car so he can drive here sooner rather than later.”
She paused and looked at him. His eyes were dark and sad. “You would do that for me?”
His fingers trailed across her cheek. “I think it’s only fair, don’t you? You’re very important to me. You’ve kept me sane these past few months.”
She stared at him and felt numb.
“Are you all right?”
She nodded, “I…I think so. I just don’t know what to say. I don’t want to think about anything happening to you.”
“Neither do I but I thought it would be best to be prepared, just in case.”
Her mind was a tangle of thoughts. Old hurts threatened to rise to the surface and she pushed them away but quick tears betrayed her and she dashed at her eyes with her hand.
“Ilke,” He drew her into his arms and held her. “I didn’t mean to make you cry, I’m sorry.”
She let him hold her, not caring that they were standing in the middle of a quiet lane in the gathering dusk, while bats fluttered overhead and the waning moon crept above the shadowed rooftops. She felt his hand move through her hair and his lips brushed her temple, a light, fleeting touch. “It’s all right,” he whispered. “I will do my best not to hurt you.”
“I know.” She sniffed.
He put his hand under her chin and kissed her. It was sweet, languid and stirred up things that she had long forgotten. She responded with equal deliberation, letting her hands drift to his face to feel the warmth of his skin against the evening chill.He kissed her palm and sighed. “I could do this all night, Ilke, but you do realize that we’re standing in the middle of the road, it’s getting dark and there is a blackout. We will likely be run over.”