(The opening paragraphs of the first chapter)
Leticia closed her eyes, cupping them with her hands to hide the tears now welling up inside her. The telegram she had just read had been her deepest nightmare, in reality she had always known that this moment could happen at any time and was even a distinct possibility, but like most young people she just put it out of her head. This after all was a country at war, death and horrid injury was all around her.
In seconds the reality sunk in, it had now happen to her. She was instinctively fearful, believing that the man she loved more than anything would almost certainly never be the same man again. Rising from her chair with the now crumbled paper still in her damp hand she walked cautiously down the drab and chipped painted corridor towards the line of telephone booths.
Entering one and lifting its black Bakelite receiver she waited a full five seconds before the station operation came online and spoke crisply, “Number please caller?” Leticia held back her nearly overpowering emotions and asked for an outside line and to be connected to the burns ward at the Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead. The operator didn’t need to ask for the number.
After she had spoked to the ward sister, Alex seemed to be even more badly injured than she had feared. He had been her first serious love, they planned to marry when the war was finally over, now he had been shot down and the news was not good. They had met on the first day of both being posted to Catterick’s 41 Squadron on the North Eastern coast. He was an RAF Spitfire P/O and she a WAAF. For her it had pretty much been love at first sight; tall dashing and blond. Just looking at him made her feel weak at the knees. Normal reticence was as for many couples soon put aside, everyone was acutely aware that this could be their very last moments. It was not long before they became a couple in every way. Catterick was where Leticia received the awful news.
Barely had a moment passed after putting the receiver down, before her body became strangely weak, engulfed in a mixture of panic and fear. Her mouth became dry and bitter, and she felt completely dizzy and unable to walk, needing to prop herself up in the cubical for several minutes until the sensation passed. She could not help it, selfish thoughts kept passing through her mind. She contemplate the immediate consequences of what she now knew. The thought of devoting the rest of her life to be with what remained of the man she had loved so much and now would likely never be the same.
She was still too young, she kept thinking, to deliberately bury herself and forgo all their collective dreams. They had planned to return to his native New Zealand homeland together after the war and take off his elderly parent’s hands their family’s now run down sheep ranch, working it together as he had promised and talked endlessly about and been the subject of their collective dreams………..
(Please be warned this summary reveals much of the novel’s plot)
A woman joins the WAAF on the outbreak of WW2 as soon as she is old enough to enlist and quickly rises through the ranks to run the catering in the officer’s mess hall for the fighter pilots stationed on an airfield. She became romantically involved with a young airman whose aircraft was later shot down in the final days of the war and was horribly burnt when his aircraft caught fire and he later died. She found herself unable to visit him because of his appalling injuries, something she could never forgive herself for. The pilot was a New Zealander and they had talked about marrying after the war and returning there to run his family’s sheep farm. To make up for how she had behaved towards him the woman decided to devote the rest of her life to caring for others. Subsequently after the war had finished and she was discharged, she then wanted to become a doctor, but she was denied the possibility of being trained because her family felt unable to afford to spend their limited savings on a girl’s education, who they considered would more than likely soon get married and be primarily supported by her husband. The woman therefore settled for second best and became a nurse. Characteristically quickly rising through the ranks to become a hospital matron.