Who only got married a couple of weeks ago.”
She draped the veil over her head and batted her eyelashes.
“You will knock Ted’s socks off when he sees you coming down that aisle,” Joy predicted happily, tweaking the skirt into place.
Ted’s aircraft did not come back to the base on Thursday. Molly’s stomach seemed to have vanished with it, leaving an echoing empty void. The next day, her eyes bleared with sleeplessness, she was scraping a minuscule amount of butter on slices of bread when Pat towed the Scots lad into the NAAFI.
“I saw G-George go down,” the wireless operator said in his East Coast Scotissh accent.
Molly clasped her hand over her mouth to keep the wail of anguish in. Pat caught her arm.
“No, Molls, listen.”
“But I saw three or four chutes get away,” Duncan added reassuringly. Three or four out of a crew of seven!
Molly knew they were trying to give her hope, but it did not feel hopeful to her. Even if one of the figures dangling from those chutes was Ted, he would have landed somewhere in enemy territory.
What would happen to him then?
As if she was watching from above her own head, she saw Pat’s fingers twine around Duncan’s, and the way her hand nestled into his.
After weeks with no news of G-George’s crew, Molly almost found herself wishing that Duncan had not told her about the men floating away from the burning plane. To have mourned Ted would have been bad enough; not knowing whether he had jumped from the frying pan into the fire was torture.
It was made worse by Pat and Duncan’s growing closeness. Every time the planes took off, Molly and Joy would be there on either side of Pat, listening to them drone away into the dangerous sky, and would stay with her until the dawn brought them back.’
“Thank goodness for Jimmy’s ground crew,” Joy murmured to Molly, yawning.
“At least there are a few nights when we can get some sleep.”
“We are getting married!” Pat’s voice wavered between gladness and defiance.
Molly had been pretty sure for quite some time, but she guessed that her friend had been reluctant to tell her, afraid that it would be rubbing it in.
“Oh, that is wonderful, Pat! Congratulations.” In her desire to be happy for Pat, she could hear that she was gushing too much. “When?”
“As soon as possible.” The loss of G-George hung for a moment in the air.
“If we are married and anything happens, I would be his next of kin. At least I would be told.”
It was so hard for girlfriends of the air crew, when no information could be given to them.
“Good,” Molly replied, hugging her. “You will wear the dress, of course?”
“Are you sure?”
“Unless you think it will bring you bad luck?” Molly had not thought of it before, but now she gazed at Pat in consternation.
“Don’t be daft. It was not the dress’s fault that G-George bought it. But we made it for you. Are you sure you want me to wear it?”
“Where would you get another one? Anyway, that dress means something to all of us. It is as much yours and Joy’s as it is mine. We all had a hand in making it.”
Joy was setting up the sewing machine while Molly was pinning the bodice to fit Pat, when the door opened and a head appeared round it.
“Telephone call for you, Molly.”
“Who is calling at this time of the evening?” Molly said crossly through a mouthful of pins. “If it is the chap saying he is going to be late delivering the rations again, he will get a piece of my mind.”
But when she picked up the phone, it was Ted’s mother, incoherent with tears and relief.
“We have just heard – he is in StalagLuft, something or the other. It is ok – he is safe, Molly!”
“Oh, thank God!” Molly was too overcome to say much. She listened to Ted’s mother telling her the details of where he was and promising to send her the address so she could write to him.
“So Pat wore the dress first,” Doreen explained, “then little Joy.”
“She married Jimmy, then?” Kerry said.
“No, she married Graham. He was a Brown Job – in the Army.” Doreen laughed, seeing Kerry’s puzzled frown. “A friend of her brother’s. He lost an arm at the D-Day landings and was invalided out. The dress got taken in for Pat and shortened for Joy, and let out again when Dad was repatriated at the end of the war.”
“So all three of them wore it,” Kerry said. She stroked the fragile fabric gently.
“It was not unusual, you know. Mum heard of one wedding dress that was worn by 15 girls! But you won’t have to do that. There are shops full of lovely dresses. Which one will you choose?”
“None!” Kerry said. She grinned cheerfully at her grandmother. “I do not want one that is just picked off a rail. I want one that means as much as this did to Molly, Pat and Joy.”
“But you could not wear this,” Doreen said, thinking she could see where Kerry was going. “It has been altered so many times, and the parachute silk’s discoloured.”
“No,” Kerr agreed. “I know I cannot. But Trish is great at dressmaking, and Sophie says she will design it. I would rather have a dress my friends made for me than the most expensive one in any shop.”
With sudden inspiration, Doreen lifted the wartime dress from its nest of tissue paper.
“The skirt and bodice cannot be worn again, but why don’t you take the sleeves? The lace is still good, and I am sure Trish could use it somewhere.”
“Are you sure, Nan? Wouldn’t your mum rather you kept it intact?”
“That dress was not just made with odds and ends. It was made with love and friendship. Maybe it rubbed off, because they all celebrated their Golden Weddings. They would be tickled pink to know that part of it was walking down the aisle again.”
Kerry picked up the photo.
“I tell you what – we will frame this and put it in pride of place at the reception.”
And Doreen was sure she saw the faces in the photograph beam even wider.
Source: My Weekly
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