Thursday, January 22, 2009

Wednesday 19th January 1944

A lazy morning. I reached Brentwood at about 4 o'clock and went to the Mental Hospital where April works. My intention was to ask her if she was really willing to marry me after all, and if so, how soon?

She met me in the reception office and said she'd already made enquiries about a licence from some Clerk in Brentwood. Then and there she telephoned his office but it was not possible to get through. “But are you really willing to marry me?” I enquired, astonished. “What do you think I've waited four years for?” she cried.

Then – rather a bloody ordeal! - I was taken into various offices and introduced to lots of people, including Mr. Motley, the father of Reg Motley. Judging from my reception, April is well liked. One clerk – I thought it was very nice – hurried after me, pink-faced and said, as he nervously shook hands, “I just want to wish you the best of luck. You're a very lucky man...” “I know that,” I interposed with feeling. “Miss Aiken is a very charming young lady,” he went on hastily, “We didn't mean all those jokes we made in there, you know.” “No, old man, of course not.” “And I only hope you'll both be as happy as my wife and I.” “Thanks very much, old man.” I said, touched.

At last I got my April to myself. I'd isolate her completely from everyone else if I could. “Oh, yes, if we can get the special licence, we can get married on Saturday – at Pitsea perhaps.” “My God” I said.

We went to her digs at Romford (she leading me blindly through the black-out) and we had tea there. I saw the green walled bedroom I'd often read of in April's letters.
Then – as it seemed essential to see Mother Aiken next – I rang Lid to say I'd not be back that night and we caught a bus to Pitsea. We sat right up in front, looking at the dark road – as dark and mysterious as life ahead but in both cases we were together, hand in hand, I thought sentimentally. So I was in the heart of Essex again and couldn't see it.

“Terori” in a drizzle of rain and quaint, talkative Mrs Aiken bustling to and fro. “Do you want to go out into the cold, cold snow?” demanded April. “What, the outside lavatory?” “Yes!” “Not just now, thank you,” I replied politely. “Well anyway, come and see it,” she said. I was led around the wet garden by an unseen hand in mine. Presently I was halted; a vague shape of shed loomed up. “That's it.” “Good.”

When we got back, April's slippers were wet. She took them off and ran about the kitchen in stockinged feet, with dishevelled hair and looking about 16. Once while she was absent from the room I decided to break the news to her mother. “I suppose you would guess that April and I might be married quite soon,” I began cautiously. “Yes, well, whatever you like to arrange between you,” she replied comfortably. “The sooner the better we think,” I went on. “Oh yes? How soon?” “We thought perhaps next Saturday,” I told her. “Saturday? I see. Well, whatever you like,” she said placidly. We were discussing the influenza epidemic when April returned!

Some time later the subject again arose and April (apparent age still 16) asked, “Have you told her?” “Yes, it's alright for next Saturday.” “What!” cried her mother, “Did you say next Saturday? In three days time?” “Yes!”

We discussed arrangements. They seemed a bit complicated. Afterwards, whilst Mrs Aiken was out of the room, we sat on the hearth-rug. April gazed at the fire or around the room whilst I kept my head below hers so that I could look upwards and study the wonderful loveliness of her face. The shape of her face is most beautiful from below.

“I shall do absolutely nothing about this Saturday,” said April dreamily. “Nothing?” I asked, almost in a trance of content. “Nothing. I shall not bother any more about the licence, or where it will be, or where we shall go, or anything. You do it all and let me know.” “Alright.” It was very easy to agree to that but I'd probably have agreed to anything just then!

2 o'clock and we still sat there on the hearth rug. Presently Mrs Aiken went to bed. We sprawled before the fire and discussed marriages amd weddings. Past three before we parted. “Are you in bed?' called April through the door. “Yes,” I said. She came in, dressing-gown clad, and tucked me up in bed. This I liked...

Presently she called from her mother's room. “Have you got enough clothes on the bed, Stephen?” “Not bad,” I replied – it was pretty cold in that room. In came April again – carrying an eiderdown!

A few minutes passed. I heard murmurs of conversation in the next room. Apparently there was one more thing I might want, because April with a shout of laughter came in for the third time and cried, “Stephen! Mother says I'm to tell you there's a pot under there and it's an enamel one and so it's noisy!”

After all this solicitude and the kisses of April, I slept log-like for once.
It was still night time when I awoke to find that witch-like April squatting on the floor beside my bed in the dark (because the window was open and the room not blacked-out) pouring out cups of tea!

“Is it time to get up?” I said,amazed. “Nearly. Here you are.”

And so it was -


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