“Where am I?” She said as she tries to lift her head.
“You’re in hospital my dear.”
“But how did I get here?”
“A wall collapsed during the bombing last night. You were brought here, along with six others in the horse drawn ambulance.”
“My head hurts and I can’t feel my legs.”
“You’ve had a bad blow to the head and I’m afraid your legs have suffered some damage. Here, take your medication and I’ll get the doctor to come and visit you as soon as he can.”
The nurse helps her lift her head as she sips her medication.
She glances across at the bandaged patient, propped up with three pillows and reading a newspaper. The front page displays the headline-ALL NIGHT HELL FOR NEW YEAR’S EVE 1917.
She falls asleep.
She carefully places the needle on the seventy-eight record, swaying to the music of Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B.
She splashes her face with warm water, pats it dry then sits at her dressing table and looks in the mirror. A hair band keeps her hair from her face as she reaches for her compact of peach foundation. Softly she places the tip of her middle finger into the cream then gives three dabs, one on each cheek and one on her forehead. Her face goes into contortions as she smooths the foundation with her fingertips and completely covers her face.
She takes a giant powder puff and pats powder on her nose, cheeks and forehead, leaving a cloud of pink dust around her head. She brushes the excess powder away. She examines her face for blemishes or missed places. An extra dab here, an extra blob there.
She takes her bright red lipstick and draws the outline of her lips. She spreads her mouth wide and covers her bare lips with red gloss.
She inspects her reflection in the mirror from every angle, pulls off the hair band and begins brushing her hair.
A neat parting to the side, she pushes her hair back and secures it with a French Tortoiseshell comb. Then places some curls on the other side with some pins and brushes out the back, curling it around her fingers tips and allowing it to drop naturally.
She stands up from the dressing table and puts on her pale pink silk petticoat. Then draws lines up the backs of her legs with eyeliner pencil.
She lifts her blue and white polka dot dress from the coat hanger on the wardrobe door, puts it on over her head, pulls it down and smooths it out.
A look in the mirror to make sure everything is hanging nicely. She reaches for her brown peep-toe shoes and with the help of a shoehorn squeezes her feet into them.
A red and white polka dot scarf around her neck and a little flurry of artificial flowers as a broach pinned to her dress finishes her look.
She glances at the clock and picks up her brown handbag and waits by the lounge window.
The sound of a honking horn in the distance makes her lean forward and look out the side of the bay window. She smiles as a deep maroon Ford Convertible glides to a halt outside her house and an American soldier waves and pumps the horn again.
She grabs her brown handbag and hurries to open the front door.
“Hey babe, are you ready to jive?”
She laughs, closes the door and skips down the four steps where she rushes into his waiting arms.
“Yes, soldier I truly am.” She says as she attempts a Southern American accent.
“I’m ready, willing and able.”
“Let’s go then honey. Can’t wait.”
The American soldier holds her hand, helps her into the car, and closes the door behind her as she settles into her seat.
They smile at each other as he starts the engine and the car smoothly moves forward.
“What song shall we sing?”
“Well, I’ve been listening to my seventy-eight while I was getting ready, so how about Chattanooga Choo Choo?”
“I love that one.”
They sing, and sway and smile as they drive along. Song, after song, after song. They are not aware of the miles they have covered.
“Oh, look, we’re here. That was quick.” She says.
“Yes, I’ll just park this old jalopy and then we can make our way to the beer tent, if you like.”
“That would be lovely.”
They park the car, make their way to the entrance, pay the entry fee and head for the beer tent.
“What will it be?”
“A small shandy will do please.”
“I’ll have a beer. Would you like to find a seat and I’ll bring it over?”
“Yes, look, there’s one in the corner there.”
They sit together fondly looking into each other’s eyes.
She fidgets with her neckerchief and broach.
“Shall we wander and take a look around? He says as he takes her hand.
They stroll arm in arm and view the side stalls. Clothing for sale. Wool for knitting with demonstrators showing off their craft.
Second-hand wares. Shoes. Everything anyone ever wanted for their country pursuits-rifles, hats, bags, brogues, jackets, caps, waterproofs.
Charity stalls, The British Red Cross and The Salvation Army. He puts a small donation in the tub. She buys a raffle ticket and wins a bar of fine soap.
“Ah, that reminds me.” He says. “I’ve got something for you.”
“What is it?” She says as her eyes light up.
He pulls out a bar of chocolate from his pocket, followed by a pair of silk stockings and some candy.”
“I don’t believe this; you are so thoughtful. What a crazy pair we are.”
They embrace again and begin walking past the stalls once more, arm in arm.
“Shall we have something to eat?” He asks.
“Yes, I think we’d better have something as we’ll need all our energy for this evening.”
“What will it be then?”
“I’ve spied a good old English Fish and Chips van. Look over there.” She points in the distance.
They run and laugh and buy their fish and chips.
“Wow I am so full up now.” He says as he pulls on his trouser belt.
“Me too.” She says as she pats her stomach.
They stroll about enjoying each other’s company and looking at the exhibits at the event.
“Okay then babe. Time to swing and jive the night away.”
He takes her hand and they run across the field to the tent where a band is just setting up. They sit at a table, excitement is brewing, the air is electric.
The trombonist gives a loud blast.
A man walks over to the microphone and taps it.
“Are you ready folks, ready to dance the night away? Forget about the war and your troubles. It’s New Year’s Eve, tomorrow it will be 1945-LET’S DANCE.”
The band strikes up. People rise from their seats.
He takes her hand and they dance.
They twist and turn and jive and gyrate to the music.
They dance and swing and boogie all night long.
She wakes up. It is easier to lift her head. She strains to see the patient in the bed next to her, propped up with three pillows. All she can see is bandages, no features. The person is reading a newspaper. The headlines say-1918 THE LONG WAR IS OVER.