|The ward was cool and, for the moment, quiet. The scar from the operation had healed up nicely and I was able to walk now, but I still felt very tired and drained, even though the op was nearly four weeks behind me. Peritonitis was a nasty business indeed.|
I opened my eyes to see a nurse standing beside my bed.
‘Letter for you,’ she said, holding it out to me. ‘They’ve forwarded it on from your base.’
I sat up cautiously and took it. ‘Thanks.’
She nodded at me and went off as I looked down at the envelope. I recognised the hand that had written it at once.
‘Frank,’ I murmured, cheering up a little. As I opened it and extracted several sheets covered in my cousin’s writing, I raised my eyebrows in astonishment. Frank undoubtedly had brilliant brains, but he was not what I would have called an engaging correspondent; his letters, although a comforting anchor in the normal outside world which I very much appreciated, were almost always along the scanty lines of “working mad hours, rationing’s getting worse and worse, hope you’re safe”, so to receive a novelette like this from him was very intriguing. Glancing at the date at the top, I saw that it had been written nine days ago. Wondering what had happened, I began to read.
Thanks for your last letter, and sorry I’ve taken so long to reply. I keep trying to sit down during a free hour to pen a screed to you, but I’m constantly being called away to some emergency. I really might as well just move into my office at the San, it seems, I’m spending so much time working at the moment. However, this time I am determined to start and actually finish a letter to you, as I have some very important news to impart that I just know is going to make you roar with laughter: I’m getting married.
I gasped aloud. Of all the things I had been expecting Frank to start rhapsodising about, this was undoubtedly one of the last. While I always had an eye for a girl, Frank went to the other extreme. He simply wasn’t interested. He was too busy working miracles with newly-discovered medical treatments to care about such mundane matters as relations with the fairer sex, so needless to say, this news was a nice little bombshell. And it wasn’t even that he had simply fallen in love, he was engaged! I thought back over his recent letters, trying to remember if there had been any mention at all of a girl, or even just if his manner had seemed different, but I couldn’t think of anything. I was fairly sure I would have noticed any change at the time, his letters were so samey.
‘Although I don’t suppose he would say anything, he’s so bloody reserved,’ I thought. ‘He knows I would rib him endlessly if he admitted to having his eye on a girl at last, so he’d keep it dark until there was something definite to say. I wonder how long he’s had this up his sleeve?’
I read on with great interest.
No, your eyes are not deceiving you, I really am engaged, and we shall be married fairly soon, probably late November or early December, in Howells Village. Remember I said in my last letter that I was going to view a house there? Well, I took it and that’s where we’ll be living. The wedding will be a very quiet affair, just us and some friends, and we won’t be going all that far for the honeymoon, either, what with travel being such a pain in the neck and the weather not likely to be much to boast about either.
So who is she, I hear you demanding. Well, her name is Phoebe Wychcote – daughter of the late eminent cellist Nicholas Wychcote – and we got together in the San, where she is currently undergoing treatment for rheumatism. You may remember me mentioning the Maynards in some of my previous letters? Jack is one of my colleagues, and his wife Jo is something of a local celebrity, she’s a published author, writes books for schoolgirls. Anyway, Jo and some pals of hers went up to spend the summer on the Yorkshire moors, where Phoebe lives, and they made friends with her and decided she could benefit from my expertise, so we brought her down to the San, and the rest, as they say, is history.
She is most decidedly not the glamorous type you’re apparently always chasing, which I daresay comes as no surprise to you. She is very shy and gentle, and does the most beautiful embroidery I’ve ever seen. She came to the San about a month ago, as I said, to be treated for rheumatism. I’ll spare you the technical details, let’s just say I’ve been able to make some serious improvements to her condition, and she’s now out of her wheelchair and walking. The difference this stuff has made, not just to her but everyone I’ve treated with it so far, is amazing. I’m more glad than ever now that I made the decision to go over to America to specialise, even if it did mean being stuck there for longer than I intended.
But I’ve veered off topic. I proposed to Phoebe yesterday and she has accepted, so as soon as we’ve seen the vicar we can fix a date – he’s coming tomorrow to see us. I know it’s a very long shot, but if you could make it, I’d be thrilled. I’ll keep the best man position open for you until you know for sure, just in case.
I’ve no other major news to impart, Phoebe and work are taking up all my time at the moment, but at the back of my mind I always have a thought for you and hope that you’re safe. Take care.
I lay back when I had finished reading this masterwork of bombshells, feeling quite overwhelmed. Whatever else love had done to Frank, it had certainly made an author of him! When I had recovered my breath I read it again, taking it all in line by line. I was fond of music and had heard of the cellist Nicholas Wychcote all right, and I vaguely recalled hearing that he had died early the previous year. And now Frank, my swotty big cousin, was engaged to his daughter. Shy and gentle…well, that did sound like the sort of girl Frank would fall for. I couldn’t imagine him being at all happy with someone who would chivvy him around and dominate him and try to run his life for him.
And they would be married soon…and Frank wanted me to be his best man. I was touched. And now that I was definitely out of the action for a good three months or so, I realised with pleasure that I was in a position to take up the offer. The doctor had told me after the op that I would be convalescent until the New Year at least, and I was to be discharged from hospital the following day to that effect.
As though to prove his point, a huge wave of fatigue rushed over me suddenly, and I realised I had probably become what the nurses called overexcited. I snorted with disgust, but put the letter aside and lay back, and within ten minutes I had drifted into sleep.
This is part 3 of my Peters universe, set in the autumn of 1943. Bracketed names in the chapter list denote whose POV it is.