A Different World

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Authors: Mary Nichols
like.’
    He beamed with pleasure, tore the corner off a discarded newspaper, wrote his address on it and handed it to her. ‘Now, you give me yours. If I am moved, I shall write and tell you.’
    She complied and they left the canteen together and made for the Underground, where they parted, she to go to Edgware, he to cross London and take another train to Tangmere.
    Louise sat in the crowded underground train, musing on the encounter. There were people all over Europe suffering a great deal more than those in Britain. She could not imagine what it would be like to be occupied by a foreign army, nor the emotional upheaval of being parted from loved ones as Jan Grabowski had been from his Rulka. Not to know if she was alive or dead must be a terrible thing to live with. She hoped he would hear from her soon and in the meantime she would write to him, try to cheer him up, let him know he was not forgotten.
    Leaving the Underground and walking to the vicarage, she braced herself for her encounter with her father. It was always like that; it tied her insides up in knots. Once back in the vicarage she became a little girl again, subject to his punishment for her wickedness. The beatings had stopped when she went to college but she was still more than half afraid of him. He sapped her self-confidence until it was easier to agree with him than to fight, which was how her mother coped. But deep inside her was an ember of rebellion she hardly knew she had. It had showed itselfwhen she had insisted on accompanying her class to Norfolk and again when she had become engaged to Tony. Dear Tony. He gave her strength, encouraged her to stick up for herself. ‘Do it quietly,’ he had said. ‘Just be firm. He can’t hurt you.’ But even Tony did not know the whole truth.
    She found her mother lying on the sofa, with a cold compress on her forehead. She scrambled to sit up when she saw Louise. ‘Darling, how lovely to see you. Why didn’t you let us know you were coming?’
    Louise hugged her. ‘I wasn’t sure I could get away. What’s the matter, aren’t you well?’
    ‘Just a headache, that’s all. I’ll be fine now you’re here.’
    ‘Where’s Father?’
    ‘Visiting his parishioners. I didn’t feel up to going with him.’
    Louise knew what it was like accompanying her father on his rounds. He had little sympathy for some of his flock, calling them idle and feckless and preaching hell and damnation when what they really needed was a little understanding and a helping hand. Others were sycophants and reminded her of the false humility of Uriah Heap. Going with her father had always embarrassed her and she knew her mother felt the same. Headaches, genuine enough, were her excuse not to go.
    ‘Shall I make us a cup of tea?’
    ‘Yes, please, then you can tell me all your news.’
    It was lovely to have a couple of hours alone with her mother and she was soon recounting the doings at Cottlesham. She told her about the battle between the rival gangs which had culminated in bruises and bloody noses on the both sides. ‘John Langford called all the children, his and mine, into the classroom and gave them a long lecture about how wars start with little quarrels and they ought to learn tolerance and cooperation and helping eachother,’ she said. ‘I think it worked. Anyway Harry Summers, who was the ringleader of the Edgware lot, went home and that eased the situation somewhat.’
    ‘A lot of them came home, didn’t they?’
    ‘Some did, but that was before the war got going. I’m wondering if their parents made the right decision, after all.’ She paused. ‘Mum, I worry about you, what with the bombing and everything. Couldn’t you and Father move somewhere safer?’
    ‘He would never leave his parish, Louise, you should know that.’
    ‘Then you leave. Come to Cottlesham and stay with me.’
    ‘Without him? Oh, no, child, I could never leave him.’
    Louise knew it was useless to argue, though she did mention

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