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Illingworth House: Chance Child - Part One: 98 - I'm Sorry Old Fellow

...She walked as far as the gate and there he turned and held her gently. She reached up to caress his scarred face and kissed his cheek. Returning her kiss, he wished her goodnight, then got into his car. She stood watching him till he was out of sight, holding back her tears till he had gone. Then she broke down and wept unashamedly...

Rosemary finds that she wants to mother fighter pilot John Illingworth who has been badly injured in combat.

To read earlier chapters of John Waddington-Feather's novel please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/illingworth_house/

In time, Rosemary calmed down, but she couldn't take her eyes from his face. His eyes, she noticed, had lost that cold, icy hardness. They were full of pain now and her old love for him surged back, only this time it was different. There was no passion, no possessiveness. Now she only wanted to give, to give him the love he needed. She wanted to mother him now and comfort him as best she could.

He said little for he still found it difficult to speak at any length, so Rosemary did most of the talking, telling him what had happened since they had last met. He barely mentioned what he had been through.

Rosemary wouldn't have understood anyhow. Her world, like the world of all her type in Keighworth, was cocooned from the realities of the war.

But she had been to see Sydney Goldstein's widow, for Sarah Goldstein didn't live far from a hospital Rosemary took patients to from Keighworth. She asked after John each time, but she couldn't tell her much. He had promised to visit Sarah before he went off leave, but asked Rosemary to visit her first and tell her what to expect. He didn't want to shock her and her son by dropping in on them.

It was almost two years since Sydney had died and he'd paid her only a brief visit before he himself had been shot down. Since then he'd been in hospital and had seen no one except Mary Calow and her husband.

They chatted for some time until, suddenly, they realised how late it was and the house had gone quiet. Not a peep had they heard from Harry Clemence since he had seen off the last guests and Rosemary said they ought to check him out. She had found him dead drunk outside more than once. But he hadn't left the lounge, where he had been drinking the whisky Grimstone had left. When they entered he turned glassy-eyed and maudlin.

"I'm sorry, old fellow," he began, "but I been thinkin' things over. I shouldn't have acted the way I did. Been a naughty boy. I assure you, Johnnie old fellow, I'm right sorry." He tried to stand up but lost his balance and crumpled back into his chair. John told him to stay put and sat opposite, on the settee with Rosemary.

"Won't you 'ave a drink, old fellow?" asked Clemence, pointing to the near-empty bottle. He studiously avoided looking directly at John and spoke at some point over John's shoulder. "Yes, let's 'ave a drink together for old times' sake, eh? You been through it, Johnnie, lad. Anyone can see that an' I should have treated you better, but I was shocked. You know how it is."

"I know," said John, "but you get used to it."

That set Clemence off again saying how sorry he was and what a shock it had been, and he went rambling on so long that they began to wonder who he was really sorry for. When he had heard enough, John said he would have to go and Clemence took himself off to bed. Rosemary walked with him to his car, holding his hand tightly. She was wearing only a thin dress and began to shiver in the damp night air, so he pulled her close.

She walked as far as the gate and there he turned and held her gently. She reached up to caress his scarred face and kissed his cheek. Returning her kiss, he wished her goodnight, then got into his car. She stood watching him till he was out of sight, holding back her tears till he had gone. Then she broke down and wept unashamedly.

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