I had not enjoyed
the party, everything about it seemed unreal. People were drinking too
much and talking too loud, trying to forget the morrow and blot out all
thoughts of war. The room had been thick with smoke and with that
controlled fear that hides behind the laughter.
The jeeps came for
the soldiers early. They had to be in camp by 9 o’clock, so I wished them
well and waved as they went upon their way. They were men going to war and
I was the girl by the garden gate.
Larry was one of
the last to come out and I held out my hand and lifted my head for the
brotherly kiss he always gave me. It was that kind of relationship,
although we had been friends for a year or so, there was no deeper feeling
between us; we liked each that was all. So it came as a surprise when he
pushed my hand aside and put his arms around me. His grip was like a vice.
I could not even
struggle, though at that moment I do not think I wanted to. I did not get
the kiss I expected. It was not the embrace of a brother. I could hardly
breath and there followed a brief explosion of passion that left me
confused and bruised.
Then he jumped into
the jeep, our fingers met, I saw tears in his eyes.
The next day the
men did not come to the pub, or the next day. We listened to every news
bulletin on the wireless.
It was now late
September. Things were not going well. Many had perished and I was still
worried and wondering why Larry had kissed me like that.
It is over 60 years
since they dropped into Holland. I am old now and to me Larry is no longer
a man who went war, but a boy I knew who died one day when he trod upon a
Now I know why he
kissed me with such passion and such pain. He was saying goodbye to his
parents for the very last time, to the sweetheart he had yet to meet and
the wife he would never know.
And the tears he
shed at our parting were not for me but for his children, forever unborn.
He was a man who
knew he was doomed and I was the girl by the gate.