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“Grief makes you lonely,” he said staring in the glass. It somehow changes the way we are, don’t you think? I never thought it would come to me, not like it did. Not after the war had finished.”
“It won’t get any worse than this,” she whispered, feeling his pain.
“It won’t.” She smiled.
He looked at her and his eyes were angry although his tone wasn’t. “Violence is not the way you expect to lose someone. How can we come through the war unscathed only for some crazed idiot, a damn blasted drunken fool…” He drained his glass and refilled it. He downed the second one, then got to his feet looking anguished. “I’m sorry. Oh, and tell that blasted boy to keep away from my window!”
He strode out of the room leaving Mary staring after him.
The following day as she cycled back from the village with her shopping, she saw James with a hiking stick and walking shoes.
“Good afternoon,” she called as she passed and stopped a little ahead. “Good walk?”
“Yes, damn fine. Beautiful countryside.”
“Yes, it’s remained untouched by the war.”
“Listen, I want to apologise for my abominable behaviour last night.”
“It’s all right. It’s all part of the healing process.”
“I had no right to speak to you like that. Please accept my apologies.”
“You’ve nothing to apologise for, honestly.”
“Here, let me take your bike, you can have my walking stick.”
Mary smiled, “Fair exchange, I’d say.”
, At the house, he stood the bike against the wall and carried her shopping into the kitchen. She thanked him and just as he was going back into the drawing room, she called after him.
“James, what boy were you talking about last night?”
He shrugged. “I don’t know, some black-eyed boy in the garden cutting ivy.”
Mary felt a sharp stinging sensation in her nose. She had no idea how she came to be lying on the drawing room settee with her father holding the smelling salts and James looking on anxiously.
“She’s coming round.” said the Major.
“What happened?” She touched her head as the room swayed a little.
“Here sip this.” James said, handing her a glass of water.
“You fainted, darling,” said the Major.
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