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Fast Fiction: After The War

'We don't use lights here' said Big Reg, 'but we do have candles to show us up to bed.' The narrator of Richard Mallinson's story visits Big Reg and his wife Chrissy, war-time friends - and perhaps more than friends?

After the War I visited Big Reg and Chrissy at their farm. Big Reg let me in and said, ‘Do you want tea or the strong stuff?’

‘The strong stuff,’ I said, looking at Chrissy.

The only light was from the fire in the hearth. ‘We don’t use lights here,’ said Big Reg, ‘but we do have candles to show us up to bed.’

We chatted uneasily and I drank more of the strong stuff but not as much as Big Reg, who became soaked and sullen.

I told them about the fiasco of my last day in the army and Chrissy said, ‘You always could tell a tall story, couldn’t you?’

Eventually Big Reg fell asleep and Chrissy lit a candle and said shyly, ‘I will show you up to your room.’

As we climbed the stairs I heard a door slam and Chrissy said, ‘That’ll be Bernice - she lives with us now and she’s not right in the head.’

Then she asked if I was happy these days.

She showed me into the room and put the candle on the table by the bed. There was a war book open and I could see the men and tanks.

‘I am perfectly happy, thank you,’ I said sharply and she flinched and asked, ‘Have you found a woman who will - ?’

‘Several,’ I snapped.

She pushed her long dark hair back and said, ‘Please don’t be angry with me, I was too young. I didn’t understand about men and what they really -’

‘That’s so very true,’ I said and she began to cry, silently, her hands over her face, waiting to be held…

When I looked out in the morning there was snow all over and it was only then that I began to think about the future.

The door opened behind me.

‘Tea, love?’ said a voice from the past.

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