She might have died but she didn’t - though she could have been an angel propped up on the pillow, with her copper hair round her pale face like a halo. She always made an effort. I could see that. – a bit of lipstick and powder and that pink bed jacket with the satin bows her Mam had knitted her – for visitors. She had guts that girl of mine! Oh yes! Did she let it get her down? Not one bit of it. She wrote to me every day. Funny letters – bits about the goings on in the Sanatorium – the nurses - the other girls. “You see a lot of things when you’re busy doing nothing”, she said. Sometimes when one of the girls died she’d be a bit down. It was like they were fighting a war all of their own. And there I was safely tucked away in Didcot. I thanked my lucky stars I wasn’t sent to the front, because my best girl needed me.
I got up to see her whenever I could - roaring up the road on my Triumph – which she hated of course! She used to let out a little sigh when she saw me – like she’d been holding her breath for hours - waiting for me to appear. Or not. “I’m safer on my bike than you are in here,” I’d say, and she’d say, “Get away with you!” in that scolding way she had when she didn’t like something. But she soon came round when I kissed her!
The first time we “met” she was bawling me out for revving up my bike on her day off. “Shut that racket up!” she shouted from her bedroom window. Her hair was tied up in a scarf. “Brrm Brmm Brmm”, I replied. I mean engines were my first love – before Doris that is. “I’ve as much right as anyone,” I called up to her. “Well it’s not fair! A girl needs her beauty sleep you know!” And with that she slammed the window down. But she didn’t – need her beauty sleep. She was quite pretty enough by my reckoning.. Anyway, I liked a girl with a bit of oomph.
I saw her again not long after that down at the dance club, standing with that big sister of hers, both puffing Weights in a noisy kind of way. Renée comes over, all bold and says, “Well look at you all dressed up in yer collar and tie!” “Well look at you too,” I say, but I wasn’t looking at her. I had my eye on Doris, in her pretty pink dress - slim as a reed, she was. She blushed when I asked her to dance. The Veleeta – or maybe the Foxtrot. “How old are you?” I ask in between twirls. “15”, she says. “Snap!” I say. She has blue eyes.
Then we’re doing the last Waltz and my arms are all warm and snug round her tiny waist, like they belong there, and she’s looking up at me with that cheeky little look of hers, and I know. She’s the girl for me.
We stepped out for 7 years after that. It was a long war. What with her having TB and then having to wait for her brother to come back from India to give her away. But we finally made it up the aisle in 1946. And it was worth the wait.