London Pride

Free London Pride by Beryl Kingston

Book: London Pride by Beryl Kingston Read Free Book Online
Authors: Beryl Kingston
Tags: Fiction, General, Romance, Historical
monstrous fear of death.
    All three of them slept fitfully that night, and Joan and Peggy took Baby into the double bed because she cried so much when she was in the truckle bed on her own. And in the morning they came down to a house even more unreal than the one they’d left when they went to bed.
    The curtains were all still closed as though it was the middle of the night and Aunty Connie was in the kitchen making lumpy porridge by gaslight.
    â€˜Your Mum’s gone to the hospital,’ she said when they came quietly into the room. ‘They’re bringing home the coffin at ten o’clock. She’s gone to see to it. Eat up quick. I want to get clear in here before they come.’
    Coffin, Peggy thought. Oh Dad. Are you in a coffin already? But although the awful question filled her throat she couldn’t bring herself to ask it.
    It was Joan who spoke. ‘Then he’s dead,’ she said flatly. ‘That’s it. He’s dead.’
    â€˜Yes, my dear,’ Aunty Connie said, speaking quite kindly. ‘I’m sorry to have to tell you. He is. Eat what you can a’ this porridge. You’ll need your strength today.’
    We’ll have to look after Mum now, Peggy thought, trying to be sensible. But as she gazed down bleakly at her bowl of porridge, she knew she didn’t have the faintest idea how they were going to do it. The world had become a foreign place, a place where there was no one to protect them, a place full of threats and fears and horrors. Nothing would ever be the same again now Dad was dead. How could she endure it? But even as the question formed itself in her mind, she knew she would have to endure it,because there was nothing else she could do. And she remembered Dad’s voice saying, ‘What can’t be cured must be endured’, and she missed him with a sudden rush of yearning that made the tears brim from her eyes.
    â€˜Eat what you can,’ Aunty Connie said, patting her head. ‘We got to go shopping before ten o’clock.’
    None of the girls could eat their breakfast. They were too shocked and unhappy for food, too shocked and unhappy to know what they were doing. They simply let the rituals of mourning carry them along the treadmill of the next few days. They went shopping with Aunty Connie and bought three skirts made of ‘serviceable’ black barathea, and black ribbons for their hair and three cheap black cotton blouses ‘just for the time being’. And they came home quietly and were sent upstairs with orders to change into their new clothes as quickly as they could and then wait in the bedroom until they were told to come down again.
    None of them spoke much. What could they say? They stood by the bedroom window in their unfamiliar clothes and opened the curtains just a crack so that they could watch while their father’s coffin was carried into the house, with their mother weeping behind it. And they came obediently downstairs when they were sent for and went into the parlour together to ‘say goodbye’ as though that was their normal behaviour.
    The coffin was balanced on a long trestle table in the middle of the room with its lid removed and four white candles set in brass candlesticks at either end of it. But the thing inside the coffin, the thing they’d all been secretly dreading, turned out to be simply a cold waxy image of their father lying awkwardly on a soppy-looking cushion of padded white satin. It was too unreal to be upsetting.
    â€˜They’ve parted his hair the wrong way,’ Joan said as they stood in a row beside the trestle table.
    â€˜It’s not him though, is it?’ Baby whispered, clinging to Peggy’s hand.
    â€˜No,’ Peggy assured her. ‘It’s not him. He’s gone to Heaven. With the angels.’
    â€˜Smell the polish,’ Joan said. ‘I’m glad we got the room clean.’
    â€˜Why’ve they put candles?’ Baby

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