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The Beginning

by  Junie Girl

Posted: Sunday, August 31, 2003
Word Count: 895

It was a bleak early December Sunday in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and forty. The war between England and Germany had been going on for over a year and although the Battle of Britain was already won everyone knew by then that it was not going to be a short war. This story takes place in Radcliffe, a small town about one-half hour away from Manchester, one of England’s largest Midland cities. The young people of the Methodist church in Radcliffe were gathering later that Sunday afternoon for a Thanksgiving service. They had just ended a weeklong successful fair to raise badly needed money for their church. To say it was a much simpler life then is a huge understatement. And yet without television, computers .fast cars (most average people did not have cars) and many of the luxuries we take for granted this was an amazingly happy place to live.

On a quiet street not very far from the church lived Ella with her Mother, Father and older sister. Ella was seventeen, a slight, small girl with an open friendly sweet face. As all young people she was anxious to live her young life to the fullest and had a distinct mind of her own. This was an important day for her as she was remembering a boy she met the week before during the fair. He was very tall, lean, lanky and a man of few words and yet every time she saw him his eyes were on her and he would smile. It’s true there was a war going on and there was rationing and shortages and worried looks on almost everyone’s face. But still, young hearts seek each other out and as Ella chose her favorite brown dress with the small gold design she realized that it was very becoming to her and her tiny waistline. She was thinking perhaps someone else would think so too.

She joined her family for Sunday tea. Her cheeks were flushed with excitement for the time ahead. Her Mother had managed a special treat for this afternoon’s tea a cream cake. This was Ella’s favorite and she managed to have two cups of tea and her share of the rationed but nevertheless delicious cake. The afternoon was rather dark and gloomy so she put on her warm coat, hat and gloves and bid good by to her family, never dreaming that this night would change her life forever.

Every one was gathered at the church. The Thanksgiving service truly uplifted these young people and they felt the joy of a job well done. Over her shoulder, Ella did notice the tall, lanky shy boy. Ella smiled to herself; he might be shy but he was still looking. It was almost time to leave yet they lingered on, as tomorrow was Monday and they were trying to enjoy the weekend as long as possible. The minister was starting to urge everyone on when out of the blue there were sounds of loud explosions. For a long moment they all seemed to be frozen and then they were rushing through the doors to the outside. The loud explosions continued and fires and smoke could be seen in the distance. It was the first but not the last bombing of Manchester.

Plucky as ever, Ella decided she needed to get home and as she started up the street she felt a gentle hand on her shoulder. It was the tall, shy boy. He looked down at her and said, “I’ll take you home now and you will never have to go home alone again”. Ella looked up at him and smiled. She thought to her self, “How odd, the war is on our doorstep. I should be frightened but John is here and it feels as though the most important part of my life is just beginning”.

I don’t know if this little story stands on it’s own or if this addition would appeal to reader’s. I have many friends in England and I have always been interested in their stories about WW2. My son-in- law is English and only remembers his father had been an RAF pilot who was shot down over the channel and imprisoned for four years. He was born long after the war. Another friend from London remembers bring sent to her Grandparent’s home for safety. There are more, but Ella and I became friends on a train journey from Cornwall to Scotland over 16 years ago. She was older than I but it never made a difference. We truly became as neighbors who have lived across the street from one another and shared our hopes and joys and everyday experiences. About 8 years ago she was diagnosed with pernicious anemia and although she fought valiantly and lived to the fullest we lost her last August.
If I did add to the story it would be to tell that assuredly John and Ella’s life together did begin that day but was put on hold for a couple of years as John turned eighteen and was inducted into the armed forces and spent two years in Italy.
I think my query is does this touch the heart as a love story beginning during a time of crisis, thus proving, there is always love and wonder or does it need more Thanks. June.