This was part of a soldiers uniform swept up on Portsmouth beach – cast aside from the shores of France. Lying here were all these items – personal items, photographs curled and stained. Some of the photographs portrayed just a single person, others, groups, that Irene assumed to be families. There were letters, never to be read, the ink running as though tears. There were just hundreds of them. Footwear, wallets, clothing, papers. Letters and possessions from all different nationalities washed up on Pompay beach. It was all planned – Irene`s life. But now the evidence of D day was here, the remnants of lives lived – and lost in a moment.
Violet was just about to fetch the trolley to fill with fresh cups and saucers before the WVS ladies came on the ward with the tea, when Audrey rushed up to her. Leaning into her she said in a low urgent voice, “Matron wants to see us in her office right away.”
“Why, what have we done?”
Audrey shrugged, pulled a non – plus face and held out the flat of her palms in reply. But she was already on her way. Violet hurried after her, tucking a few escaped strands of hair into her hat, hoping that her face looked reasonable.
“I have an important job.” Matron declared to the two girls standing before her. “One that, I am afraid, seems to elude some people and one that will not suit everybody. It is a job that will not be an order due to the delicate nature of it, but a job that needs doing nevertheless.”
The two girls exchanged an inquisitive and nervous glance.
Matron placed her clasped hands on her desk seeming to relax a little. Taking a small intake of breath she said, “We are in desperate need of people to help out with the German prisoners who have arrived here.” Violet sensed the definite shift in the tone of Matron`s voice which was, a little more – subdued. “They were picked up off the beaches during the first few hours of the invasion.”
It was Audrey who spoke first. Sideways glancing at Violet she said quietly, “I`m game if you are.”
Violet cleared her throat. “Well it does say in our Girl Guides oath that we should help everyone,” she said with a tremor in her voice.
But even as the words spilled out, Violet was unsure. These were Germans for goodness sake, the very ones who may have tried to kill Jack and Gary – who could have killed Jack and Gary and could also have inflicted the terrible wounds on the poor soldiers she had been tending to. But Matron didn`t wait for any change of mind sensing the falter in Violet`s voice. “Excellent,” she announced with gusto. “Here are the necessary papers to give to the guards on the doors of the Nissan hut where the prisoners are being h…, waiting to be treated,” she quickly corrected.
Both girls dare not look at the other as they in turn took the papers from Matron`s outstretched hands.
But both girls were wondering – what the hell had they done.
The key was in the lock – Isaac managed it despite his hand dancing to imaginary tunes and a dizziness that held his innocence. He was in – the silence and the dank starkness of nothingness hitting him. The thing under his foot – he picked it up, but not without a battle, his boot refusing to give it up until he lashed it out in mid-air. The brown card was held in his hand before eyes that could not focus. “Humph!” He discarded the card, like his life had been. “Who cares – so you`re safe – who cares – go to hell!”
Isaac stumbled to the chair – falls into a luxury that is cold and untouched. He is ashamed. But there is no-one to care. No-one to hear his shuddering sobs. How had it come to this. This loneliness, this emotion so stark and solid it would not leave. But now he dithered – dithered in an eternity of love that he would not allow and when he did? Spurned – sent packing – left with this nothingness and reddening eyes and a sobbing throat that only allowed –
“Go to hell – the lot of you!”