It’s “Friday Fact or Fiction”, where I write a little something for the weekend for you to read, be it fact or, um, fiction. This week, it’s ‘fiction’, with the third part of my new short story, ‘The Quiet Life of Megan Quinn’…
The Quiet Life of Megan Quinn – Part Three
Beneath the mist drifting in from the Irish Sea and the spring sunshine that melted the Snowdonian peaks, life in the town of Mold gradually adapted to the wartime routine. Like other towns, the community of Mold took to placing their previous lives, loves and habits into a hut for deep hibernation until such a time that the War was over, provisions were plentiful and life could once more blossom. Megan, her hair now cut into a shoulder-length blonde wave, her head taller than most of the young men who had left for the trenches of France, found life making bombs bearable by befriending a girl equally tall and answering to the name of Nancy. Sensing a kindred spirit in the other, the two would regularly talk their way home after a day’s work, sometimes so wrapped up their conversations that they would barely make it back before blackout. As time ticked on, Megan and Nancy would discuss boys, work, parents, babies, weddings, the future, but, from time to time, during these chats, Megan would find her mind wandering on to teaching and a tear would break free, at which point Nancy would pause, pass Megan a tissue and let the silence speak for them.
When their daily talks on the return from work moved on to babies, Megan soon discovered that for Nancy, the notion of having a baby girl of her own filled Nancy with so much light that Megan supposed that the Luftwaffe would be able to see it shine even behind the heavy blackout curtains. Eager for her friend to find happiness, upon this baby-talk, Megan would link Nancy’s arm, her fingers black with oil, and skipping along the lane would say, ‘You will have your very own baby girl, my Nancy, you will!’
As the seasons changed, that day came sooner than either of them imagined. Indeed, the day Nancy met her future husband – he just 18 and awaiting conscription, she just 17 and awaiting love – was the day Megan found Gethan Ewan Evans. Gethan Evans was a Welsh country boy of her same 16 years, and would go on to mend Megan’s heart with a love that was to complete her for the rest of her days. Gethan’s parents, years infirmed from various ailments, lived at the heel of Mount Snowdon, their home built with sweat and stone in the age when there was a war not against Germany’s dictators, but against England’s Princes and Kings. It was to be a place that, in five years time, would become their marital home, a marriage that would occur after gentle courting was done.
It was during the first flush of their courting days, days which saw dragonflies dart along the mountain pass, that Gethan’s own dreams of becoming a Doctor were ended by his parents’ respective heart conditions, his role as only child requiring him to leave his studies and, returning to the family home, tend to his Mother and Father. And so it was that Megan found herself courting a 16-year-old boy from Llanberis, Snowdonia, who once dreamed of becoming a Doctor and now spent every day black as soot working in the Slate Mine splitting great slabs of the stone with a chisel and a hammer. ‘Keep Calm And Carry On’, the posters in the town would announce as Megan and Gethan walked, arms linked, at the end of another hard day, sunlight fading, sneaking in a stroll before curfew. Keep Calm And Carry On.
As Megan soon discovered, keeping calm was a notion that came easy to Gethan Evans. It was, by now, early spring, a time when the daffodil buds swayed by the roadside and the gentle air of the St. David’s Day song breathed a welcome warmth following the frozen winter symphony. For several months, Megan and Gethan had been meeting with their now betrothed friends Nancy and David Williams. David Williams, a man of now 19 years, had at last received his regiment instructions that he was to journey to France in one week to fight Hitler’s army with a bayonet and the pride of God, King and country as his armoury. The home of the young Williams couple was now David’s birth city of Liverpool, and Nancy, her belly now 32 weeks swollen, was contently installed there, playing house with David’s mother and father, and as happy as she had wished for during those first fevered talks with Megan on their way home from building bombs.
On this particular spring evening, in a rare chance for the couples to meet, an evening of dance was enjoyed at Mold Town Hall, the quartet joining arms afterwards to walk to the local fish and chip shop for a supper treat before the Normandy trenches came calling. Sitting on the step eating flakes of batter, it was custom for the four to observe the comings and goings of the customers of the public house opposite, a place where men went to drink and forget, to fight and remember. On this night, the group watched as one man, cap sideways, cheeks rudded and pocked, staggered from the entrance, legs splayed like a new born colt, breath loud with whiskey and ale. Megan, her eyesight as clear as a mountain spring, recognised the fellow immediately to be her Uncle Aled. Concerned for her Uncle, Megan felt a panic shoot up within her, for to be so drunk on a street in Mold, or indeed anywhere for that matter at that time, was deeply frowned upon, even if there was a War on. Yet, while Megan was panicking, Gethan upon hearing the news from her, was a lake of calm, and, holding out a hand on the end of his strong shoulder sculptured in the mines of Llanberis, helped her stand and said, ‘It will all be fine. You’ll see.’ And so it was. For at that very moment the air raid signal screamed. The group, startled, remained just long enough to witness Uncle Aled snap to a stand, the jelly of the drunk no longer about him, and, running to the fire shed, they witnessed as he rang the bell, shouting for his fellow voluntary fire fighters to emerge from their homes and prepare to protect the town.
Copyright © Nikki Owen 2012
Thanks for reading! Part 4 of The Quiet Life of Megan Quinn will be out on next Friday’s Fact or Fiction post. Have a lovely weekend.
**Look out for my “Media Monday” post on, um, Monday. A short, sharp snippet on the latest writing & publishing news…**