Veronica rests on her bed. A soft summer breeze floats in through the open window and caresses her face. Let me see, she muses, I think I’ll have peach-coloured flowers. No, violet. Mauves and purples would be charming. We should have a good choice in the garden in a few weeks’ time. And that nice ivory silk Auntie Maud gave me. I’m so lucky not to have to use parachute silk like poor Mavis Smithson. Somehow I can’t connect military apparatus with Romance. So, that’s the flowers sorted.
For the bridesmaids: a different shade of lilac. They will have to have parachute silk, though. I’ll find some dye somewhere. We’ve saved up enough coupons for the cake mixture. And there’s the church hall for the reception. So really all it boils down to is whether Rodney manages to get his leave approved. Poor Rodney. Fancy having to live in a tent for all this time, with that wretched dirt and noise.
Mmm, it’s so relaxing having a little afternoon rest like this. I can feel the cool linen smooth against my skin. I like wiggling my toes into the cold parts of the bed then bringing them back again to warm them against my calves. I like breathing slow, and deep, and remembering that last time Rodney came home, the time we lingered in the orchard until after dusk. He seemed different then, somehow. Just as gentle and loving, but his face had a drawn look, and sometimes it seemed his eyes weren’t seeing me, but looking right past into a different place altogether. He’d lost weight, too. I told him to be careful or his suit would just hang off him at the wedding. He’s not allowed to give much information about what he does in his letters, or they wouldn’t get through the censors. But when we’re together again, and I am Mrs Rodney Mappleton at last, then he will tell me all about it and I will let him kiss me and rest his head on the top of mine, as he loves to do. It’s as if he is unburdening himself of his experiences abroad when he does that.
Hmmm, listen to that blackbird singing its heart out. I wonder what the birds make of all the night-time noise, the sirens, the bangs and shouts and booms? They certainly seem carefree enough in the daytime. I just hope this weather lasts until Rodney gets home. If it rains on our wedding day the colour of the bridesmaids’ dresses might run. And Mother’s hair would lose its curl. We can’t have a bedraggled Mrs Sanderson, Mother Of The Bride, now can we? So sunshine please, dear God, on whatever day my wedding turns out to be.
I like to think of my drawer of bridal underwear lying there waiting, enfolded in tissue paper perfumed with cologne. Because the cologne belonged to Auntie Maud from before the war it will almost be as though she is with me on The Day. I have saved some to put on my wrists and neck at the last minute, before Rodney whisks me off to our wedding night. I have a beautiful satin camisole from Mother, and some nylons she managed to get on the black market. I thought it was clever of me to use lace from old handkerchiefs for edging my new knickers. They’re really pretty. I blush to admit I hope Rodney thinks so too. When I think of him in situations like that – I mean looking at my knickers - it makes me go hot all over. It’s quite an unnerving feeling, but pleasant and tingly too. Tingly like I felt when he kissed me so deeply for the first time, in the summerhouse that evening. ‘Darling,’ he said, ‘I hope you don’t find me too passionate. The truth is, I have been waiting for this moment for so many months I can hardly contain myself.’ And then, seeing that I didn’t object, he began the kissing all over again. I don’t know how long we’d have gone on for if Father hadn’t called out from the French windows ‘Veronica, where are you? It’s getting very late.’
Before I forget, I must list the beauty treatments I will need on my wedding morning. A full bath of course, with lots of lovely bubbles. I’m not sure where we will get the bubbles from, but Mother will sort that out. And I will need a manicure. Let’s see how my fingernails are at the moment…..
The peace of the afternoon is shattered as Veronica emits a loud, prolonged scream.
OOOOoow! There’s a strange pair of hands on my bed! Help! Help!
Feet hurry towards her over a polished floor. The kindly face of a nurse looms over the bed. ‘Strange hands, Miss Sanderson? What ‘s this all about? Now now dear, don’t worry. Those are your own hands, nothing to worry about at all!’
‘But they can’t be mine,’ objects Veronica. ‘They are all gnarled and veiny! Like claws!
‘Dearie, you can’t expect them to look young at your age, can you? I think you’re marvellous for ninety-one. It’s time for your medicine now. Sit up please and open your mouth. There’s a good girl.’