~ Chapter Nine ~
“Now, you better not go and get yourself killed, Henry.” Rosie said as she readjusted his brown tweed jacket.
Henry let out a laugh. “Really? That never crossed my mind.” He kissed the top of her head gently. “But I promise that I’ll try my best not to get killed.” The small train station was filled with many anxious families waiting for the train to come and take their young men to the frontline. Henry pushed a small strand of hair away from Rosie’s face so he could meet her eyes. “And you better take care of yourself too. The both of you.” He rested his hand gently on her swollen belly and smiled.
She returned his smile. “I will. Our little girl will be waiting for you to come back, so don’t go making her wait longer than she needs to!”
“Little girl?” Henry laughed. “Our little boy shall be a fighter just like his daddy. Won’t you? You little warrior.” He joked playfully to his unborn child whilst Rosie gave him a nudge.
“That’s terrible, Henry. Let’s hope after this war, the world will see sense and we’ll never have to face anything as horrific as this again. I don’t want our daughter- or son- to go through what we’re having to go through now.” Rosie nuzzled her face in his chest. “I don’t want them to lose someone they love. I don’t want to lose you.”
Henry wrapped his arms around his pregnant wife and gave her a comforting squeeze. “You aren’t going to lose me. As soon as this war is over, I am coming straight home and together, we are going to raise our child. Dammit.”
“What?” Rosie said, looking up at Henry with red puffy eyes.
“I just realised something. Our child is going to be spoilt rotten.”
Rosie slipped out a laugh and sniffed. “I suppose our child will be- but he or she will have the best possible upbringing either of us can give them.” Rosie rested her hand on her belly. “I reckon she’s going to be daddy’s little girl.”
Henry held Rosie’s hand over her stomach, “And I reckon he’s going to be mummy’s little boy. See? More motivation for me to survive this war; one of us is right. I’m curious on who it’s going to be.”
Rosie smiled and looked up at the small white clock that was hanging by rusted iron chains from the tin roof. They had a mere few more minutes together before his train was due; a few minutes before an uncertain duration apart where they may or may not ever see each other again.
As if Henry could read Rosie’s mind, he cradled her face in his hands. “There is something important that I need to tell you. I need to tell you it now before I leave, and I need you to pay attention and trust me. Okay?” Rosie nodded. Henry took a deep breath. “Rosie, I might not make it back from this war. Thousands of men died in The Great War and those who survived, such as my father, were lucky. However, those who returned were often traumatised by the death and destruction that they had caused and witnessed. I ask for you to wait for me; to provide me time to arrive to my senses and recover if I make it home to you alive after the war.” He took a breath. “In case the inevitable happens, and I am claimed in the death toll, I want you to move on.”
“No.” Rosie said, shaking her head. “I can’t…”
“Rosie, you have to. You’ve seen how your mother is. Every day she waits for your father to miraculously turn up at your door, despite her receiving a notice that he was lost in action. You are beautiful, Rosie. I don’t want you to be unhappy and lonely. Our child, our son or daughter, needs a male role-model. And you deserve happiness.”
Rosie dug her hands into her pockets and pulled out a crumpled envelope. “I was going to slip this into your jacket before you left but I never knew if you’d find it or read it. Don’t open it now- read it on the train or when you arrive; when you are lost, afraid, lonely or thinking o-of me.” Gently, the tears started to make glistening trails down Rosie’s pink cheeks.
Henry brushed her tears away with his thumb before his lips found hers. They stood embracing each other as the train arrived beside them. Despite all the commotion and chaos around them, they stood locked together, neither one of them willing to part with the other. Men boarded the train, their wives, children and mothers all huddling along the platform trying to get closer to wave and say final farewells and words of encouragement.
“Sir? Ma’am? I’m sorry, but the train’s about to leave.” A short plump man stood beside Henry in a dark navy suit. His moustache was streaked with grey and twitched nervously as he frowned regretfully to have to separate the couple.
“Remember what I told you,” Henry said as he picked up his brown leather suitcase. “Stay safe, Rosie. And out of trouble.” He added with a cheeky wink and smile. Rosie wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry, but instead carried out a combination of the both.
She tucked the envelope into his jacket pocket and stretched up onto her tiptoes to kiss him one last time. “Don’t forget me.”
“Forget you?” Henry said with a slight smile as he boarded up onto the train. “How could I ever forget you?”
The small stocky train instructor, who had only moments ago broken their embrace, shut the door and blew his whistle to signal the train was ready to leave. Henry leaned out of the window and raised his voice over the many others, “Remember me!” he called as the train began to move away.
Rosie began to panic, weaving her way through the crowd to be alongside Henry, trying to imprint his face into her memory one final time. The train sped up and she began running to keep up along the platform. She knew she couldn’t keep it up for much longer. “The letter! Be safe!” She shouted as the train pulled away from her, and so did Henry.
Rosie watched as the train raced away and vanished through a tunnel. “Be safe.” She whispered quietly to herself as tears trickled down her cheeks.
Eva walked up, breathing hard, behind Rosie and wrapped her arm around Rosie’s shoulders. Rosie infolded into her mother where she finally released all her suppressed emotion. Eva held her daughter in her arms supportively as she cried. “Rosie? Let’s go home.”
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