Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Loose lips sink ships - Part II

Eileen took a lunchtime break from work and quickly walked up the cobbled streets to St Francis' Church for confession. She just had to talk to Father Boyle. Low-hanging dark grey clouds blew in across the Mersey, drizzle turned to cold, heavy rain. There was no relief from the misery.

"Bless me father, for I have sinned. It is three weeks since my last confession and here are my sins."

Once again she explained to the priest how she was sure that someone had passed on to Nazi spies details of Allied shipping movements. "Now, Father, would you have heard someone confessing to giving secrets to the Germans?" Behind the screen of the confessional Father Boyle shook his head. The poor girl was losing her mind. He had been observing the process over the months. "Not only has no one confessed to me, and I can assure you, my daughter, that I've not heard any priest even suggest that such a sin has ever been mentioned in the confessional. Mind you, I heard quite a few stories of betrayal after the Irish Civil War. Not this time. Not this war. Put it out of your head, my daughter. I want to make myself clear - you must forget about Billy. Many women have suffered loss of a loved one - a father to their children - and are somehow they are coping. We must learn to cope. Pray to Jesus to give you the strength to overcome your grief and look forward to the future..."

Spring was coming. Memories of that hellish February day when Billy's mate Danny had told her about the loss of the Newton Ash with no survivors were most unbearable when the skies were leaden. But the freshness of that April lifted her spirits. And soon the first full summer of peacetime would follow, and with it Wakes Week, when the factory would close and the annual works outing to Southport would take place.

Eileen's workmates were good. They strove to get her mind off her loss. It was now a little over three and half years ago since her boyfriend's ship was sunk! But Eileen's mind would still wander over to that fixed notion that someone's carelessness or spite had done for Billy. And all those places associated so deeply in her mind with their time together. Father Boyle told her to abandon black mourning clothes and to buy a summer dress, which she did. New songs - ones without any association to the dances that she'd been to with Billy - new songs on the wireless had the power to drag her thoughts away from tired old obsessions.

And came August; a fleet of coaches stood outside the factory to take the young men and women to Southport for a week of revelry. Crates of beer were loaded on board, there was laughter, singing. Somehow the sea, glinting to her left in the sunshine was not that merciless devouring force, but a merry adornment to a happier future. Eileen managed a smile in the bracing winds that blew down the beach.

Running along the sand with her friends, she felt better than in years; ice creams, ginger beer, giggling on the sea front - and then, behind the bandstand - stop the world - it was him.

Billy, pushing a pram, a young woman by his side. It was Billy clear as anything. From twenty paces, he looked straight at Eileen, with an expression of guilty terror, eyes wide open, mouth agape... he said a few words to the woman and then abruptly made a 90 degree turn, shoving the pram into the empty roadway and disappearing into the throng of holiday makers on the other side of the street.

Eileen described the scene to Father Boyle. Was it wrong, she asked of the priest, that she'd have preferred Billy dead?

This time last year:
Stunning infra red photos of Jeziorki

This time two years ago:
Sweet summer's rain, like God's own mercy

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Keep it coming....brisk, brittle, brilliant, believable and utterly compelling.