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Authors: Meg Waite Clayton

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She touched the curl of hair on his chest, dark still, but with gray sprinkled here and there—editor in chief gray, and who wouldn’t take that position, especially with his father too ill to do the job himself? He smiled down at her the way he was always smiling—at women having tea in fancy hotels, at sources he thought could give him a scoop, at the young New Hampshire gal he’d wanted to charm into working for him two years before, a young photographer who hadn’t even begun to think of herself as such, who hadn’t needed to be charmed.

The next morning, when they awoke nestled together
under the smooth, clean sheets, Charles reached for his glasses and put them on. He leaned back against the pillows, put his arms around her, and said, “Come home, Liv. It’s time to come home.”

She curled into the warmth of him. “If we weren’t married, Charles,” she said gently, “if I were still working for you, you’d
make
me go to France.”

He didn’t respond for such a long moment that she turned her face up to him. Before she could recover from the shock of it, the realization that he was crying, he said, “You’ll get yourself killed, for God’s sake.”

She entwined her fingers in his sturdier hand and stared at the window, the blackout shade down but beyond it the Channel and the ship that would take her to France, if only she kept her nerve.

“I’d lose my AP credential, Charles; I’d never work again,” she said in the gentle voice, willing away the ache in her chest, thinking she wouldn’t curl up with Charles every night while she was in France, but he would have the entire pool of AP photos to choose from and he would choose hers to run in the
Daily Press
, and that would be enough.

F
letcher, with one hand on the steering wheel, extended a pack of cigarettes to me. I took one and ducked down toward my typewriter to light it with my Zippo. Liv declined the pack. Fletcher took one between his lips and returned the cigarettes to the netting liner of his helmet, where he’d learned to keep them after too many attempts to light soggy fags with soggy matches. Around us, new roads were being bulldozed through banks of rocky field scrap and thick, impenetrable hedges. Cacophonous collections of road signs directed in French, German, and English: code names like “Madonna Charlie” and
“Vermont Red” for the invasion beaches, towns like Luc-sur-Mer, and arrows nailed over signs reading “
Umgehung
” (
Bypass
, Fletcher told us), the kilometer markings all painted over with miles. White tape along the roadsides indicated where mines hadn’t yet been cleared beyond the banks, and boards painted with skulls and crossbones barred the way into fields that were unlikely riots of daisies, poppies, gorse, and Queen Anne’s lace. Military police directed traffic at the busiest of corners, aided by children wearing pinafores and the MPs’ military caps. The children’s mothers waved from the side of the road at the endless caravans, trucks full of soldiers and supplies headed away from the Channel, and the wounded returning. The MPs weren’t looking for us, at least not yet.

I turned to my typewriter and banged out a sentence:
The war is thick in the long shadows, not just in the shattered buildings and the broken road, but in the French faces as well.

“What are you two doing at the front?” Fletcher asked, still with the cigarette between his lips. “Neither of you has to be here, and besides, Liv, I heard you—”

He frowned abruptly and lit his cigarette, holding the steering wheel steady with his knee while he cupped the fag.

“I’m what?” Liv asked.

He cleared his throat. “You’re expecting—”

The jeep clipped the edge of the road, throwing Liv and me against its side as Fletcher gripped the wheel, straightening back onto the road and cursing himself.

“I’m expecting what?” Liv asked as I righted my typewriter and smoothed the creased paper.

Fletcher glanced at her. “I thought you were expecting.”

Liv said, “Expecting what, Charles?”

“Fletcher,” I said.

“What?” Fletcher said.

“She just called you Charles,” I said. “Liv, you called Fletcher Charles.”

“Fletcher,” she said irritably. “What are you taking about,
Fletcher
? Expecting
what
?”

Beyond the cracked glass of the jeep’s window, land that might once have been a vineyard was a stretch of blackened earth.

Fletcher flicked the cigarette, though there was no ash buildup to dispose of. “
Expecting
,” he said. “
With child.

Liv and I both laughed.

“Having a
baby
?” Liv said. “Who started
that
rumor?”

“I don’t . . .” Fletcher tugged at his ear with the hand that held his cigarette as I remembered Mama’s words the night of Tommy’s engagement party:
A rumor makes a reputation
,
whether it ought to or not
.

Fletcher said, “I don’t remember where I heard it.”

“Can you honestly imagine, Fletcher, that I’d be here—going AWOL!—if I were carrying a child? Can you imagine Charles would allow it?”

The car engine hummed lower as Fletcher disengaged the clutch and threw the gearshift forward.

“The only thing I’m expecting at the moment,” Liv said, “is to arrive in Paris before anyone else does.”

“No one is going to Paris,” Fletcher said. “Eisenhower intends to circumvent the city.”

Liv leveled a look at him. “And you believe that?” Then to me, “No wonder he’s a photojournalist.”

“I’m not. I’m a military photographer,” Fletcher said.

Liv said to me, “Of course he is. He’s far too gullible even to be a photojournalist.”

“No one is going to Paris,” Fletcher repeated.

But Paris was what we’d broken the rules for. We’d gone
AWOL so we’d have a chance to document the Tricolor raised high over the city, Parisians celebrating in the streets as Allied troops marched across the Seine, down the Champs-Élysées, through the Arc de Triomphe.

“Really, Livvie,” Fletcher said, “you ought to let me take you back to your field hospital.”

Liv, looking through the cracked windshield, said, “My brother is over here somewhere.”

Fletcher downshifted again, easing the jeep to a stop at the side of the road, looking at Liv as if he’d somehow followed whatever chain of thought it was that had brought her to say that, to say Geoff was here somewhere. “Isn’t that all the more reason to stay safe yourself, Liv?” he asked. “What would your parents do if—”

“I might have that cigarette, after all,” Liv said.

I watched Fletcher watch Liv, his dark eyes and dark brows softened by the premature gray of his hair. He extracted the Chesterfields from his helmet liner and shook one loose from the pack. Liv coughed as he lit it for her, unused to the burn of tobacco in her lungs. She stared at the glowing ember, the graceful swirl of smoke. Her awkward grip on the cigarette made me self-conscious of my own sturdy fingers, the dirt under my nails. She switched it to her left hand, then back to her right. She turned in the seat so she could see Fletcher and me both. I wondered if what she’d said about her brother was true, even. Was Geoffrey in France?

“Why do you wear two wedding rings?” Fletcher asked her.

She looked to me as if I might answer for her. “One was my mother’s,” she said. A thin gold band of fading crosses and hearts.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

“It was a long time ago.”

Fletcher cupped a hand under the gray ash teetering at the end of Liv’s cigarette, knocked it into his palm, and dumped it outside the car. “You don’t smoke?”

“I’m learning,” she said.

He tossed his own cigarette and lit another, and inhaled deeply. “My brother, Edward, died at Dieppe,” he said quietly, exhaling smoke with each word. “Twenty-two months ago.” Then to Liv, “Charles is wrong about not showing the faces. It’s the faces that make the deaths real. It’s the faces that make people give up that last of whatever it is they’re reluctant to give, to win this war.”

Liv took another drag of her cigarette, and coughed again. She didn’t agree with him, but she couldn’t possibly disagree with him now, when he was talking about his dead brother.

“Tell us about your brother, Fletcher,” I gently suggested.

Fletcher’s moss-brown eyes expressed the words he held back, that Liv was wrong to listen to Charles.

“Edward was three years older than I,” he said. “We shared a bedroom all our lives, and we loved the same things: cricket and maths and trifle. And Jane Austen novels as well—not that we would ever have admitted that to anyone but each other.”

“The ideal brother,” Liv said.

Fletcher smiled slightly. “There was that time Edward boxed my ears for something I said about a girl.”

“What did you say?” Liv asked.

“Oh, that,” Fletcher said. “Tell us about your brother, Liv.”

“Geoff,” she said. “He’s twelve minutes older than I am. He used to call me Lousy Livvie and put lizards in my bed.”

Fletcher and I both laughed.

“Dad called us Mutt and Jeff, like in the comic strip,” she said.

I sat watching and listening from the backseat, trying to imag
ine what it would be like to have a brother who would help keep me in line, to have a father who had affectionate nicknames for my brother and me. To know who my father was.

“I was Mutt even though I was the short one, the Jeff,” Liv said. “Even though Geoff, at ten, already towered over me. ‘Not
Mutt
, Francis,’ Mother used to scold him. ‘You’ll leave her thinking she’s a dog, for goodness’ sake.’” Liv laughed, then, and she told us about her mother forever showing her photographs in magazines even before she bought Liv a camera. “I remember when she showed me that photograph Dorothea Lange is so famous for, the migrant mother,” she said. “‘This is how you make people care, Livvie,’ she told me. ‘This is how things change.’”

“Of course, that would be the migrant mother’s
face
that moved people to understand what the poor in America were enduring,” Fletcher said.

“But the migrant mother isn’t dead,” Liv answered. “No loved one would be made to see her death in a photograph. And Lange was careful with faces. The children’s faces in that photo are turned away. That’s what makes it so compelling, the fact that the children’s faces
aren’t
shown. Would the mother’s face be so compelling without the protection her weary shoulders afford those children?”

Fletcher quietly smoked his cigarette. He didn’t agree with her any more than she agreed with him, but I saw what she was saying, I saw that if you took the children from that photo you had only a woman, not a mother. It was the motherness of the woman that was so moving, the fact that she would bare her own emotion to the camera if the shot might help others understand her family’s plight, but she would protect her children from prying eyes. I supposed my own mother was like that, trying to protect me.

“Geoff and I love the same things, too,” Liv said more lightly. “Bicycling, and cherry pie, and ‘maths.’”

“‘The ideal brother,’” Fletcher said.

“Though there was that time he bloodied my nose for something I said to a boy,” Liv said, echoing him, and Fletcher and I both laughed.

“What did you say?” I asked.

She touched the small bump at the bridge of her nose, the shame of who she had been as a girl in the gesture: a skinny, awkward tomboy whose only friends were her brother’s friends. “A new boy at school,” she said.

Someone as odd-looking and awkward as she had been, too fat where she had been too skinny. When had she come into her beauty?

“I called him a cow,” she said.

He’d taken the last seat at the lunch table, excluding her.

Fletcher tossed his cigarette onto the ground outside the jeep, then took Liv’s and tossed it, too. “You were nicer than I was,” he said, “and my brother merely boxed my ears.”

“A retarded cow.” She sighed. “God, the hurt in that boy’s chubby face, and the mortified look in Geoff’s, his embarrassment at my cruelty to this poor kid who . . .” This poor kid who would have been her, if not for her brother. Who
was
her that next year, when Geoff was sent to an exclusive boys’ school where he was captain of the football team, class president, first in his class, while she, at the girls’ high school, cleaned erasers at lunchtime to avoid having to eat by herself. Their mother had already been sick then, although they hadn’t known how sick, hadn’t known she was dying.

“An ‘ugly, retarded cow,’” she said. “He got up from the lunchroom table, like I’d meant him to, and I took his seat. God, what a brutal kid I was.”

THE US FIRST ARMY PRESS CAMP AT CHÂTEAU DE VOUILLY, NORMANDY

TUESDAY, JULY 18, 1944

If SHAEF hears about Carpenter being in this show, they’ll discredit her so fast it’ll make her head spin.

                    
—Journalist Iris Carpenter’s driver, shortly after being shot in the hand as Carpenter covered the taking of Metz, Germany

F
letcher pulled to a stop just before he reached the correspondents’ tents in the field outside the Château de Vouilly press camp—the whole estate now covered up with men in military green returning to file their stories about the taking of Saint-Lô. He ought to have parked somewhere farther away and walked in, he realized, but it was too late now. Beside him, Liv took a cigarette—her fourth—and lit it fairly expertly in the jeep.

One day, or two at most, he thought. He couldn’t be escorting two AWOL women journalists around northern
France any longer than that. He meant to go it alone; he did better work that way. He might not even go to Paris; he wasn’t in France to photograph cheering crowds and champagne toasts, and he certainly didn’t need the distraction of Charles bloody Harper’s beautiful wife, no matter how talented she was.

“Do you know how Charles first described you to me, Liv?” he asked. “He said you think and photograph like a man, but you don’t smoke and you don’t curse.”

Liv looked at him from underneath her combat helmet. “Charles said that?”

“When he first hired you.”

She took a drag from her cigarette, blew a thin line of smoke through her nose. “Damn,” she said.

Fletcher laughed and said, “We were all skeptical. We couldn’t imagine a lady could take pictures—”
Could take pictures like you do
, he’d almost said.

He patted his shirt pocket, his letters to Elizabeth Houck-Smythe, thinking that if he were caught traveling with two AWOL journalists he would be taken in with them, slowed down at a minimum, or perhaps sent back to London. Not that that wasn’t tempting. The Allies were stuck in the hedgerows all over Normandy, being mowed down by German guns every time they tried to go over the top, or even when they sat in the low roads, seeking relief in the shade. As you sat reloading your film, a shell could blow your head off.

“I can send your photos as my own back to the AP offices, Liv, I think I can arrange that,” he said. “I can find someone to pass your stories along, too, Jane. Just tell me where you want them to go and I’ll figure something out.”

Two days, he thought. Certainly not more than three.

“If you have any shots you want sent on the press wire
less, Liv, I can have perhaps as many as four transmitted,” he said, trying to keep the reluctance from his voice. If his CO discovered he was tying up resources for lady journalists . . . “Those shots will get to the US in seven minutes,” he said. “I’ll arrange for the rest to go by plane. If they don’t get tied up by the censors, they’ll be there for tomorrow’s evening papers.”

The uncertain look in Liv’s eyes left him uneasy.

“You should probably wait in the jeep,” he said. He patted his pocket again. “Do you have any letters to mail?”

Liv turned to the windshield, looking out ahead. “You’d send my photos as yours?”

Fletcher eyed the front driver-side tire, again losing air. “I can’t send them as yours. They’d be confiscated. And maybe I can’t send them to AP. If the military police are already looking for you they’ll be watching to see where the AP photos are coming from, which ones can’t be accounted for. But I could have them sent to Charles. He might be a bit befuddled at first—why am I sending him photographs?—but when he sees them he’ll know they’re yours, Liv. Hell, he fell for you the moment he saw that first photo of yours as surely as—”

As surely as I did
, he’d been about to say. Was that true? Before he’d met Liv, in Charles’s office that first time when he’d asked her to fetch him tea, he’d seen her photographs. Charles had shown him her photographs. He’d seen the way she captured so much of a person, and he’d wondered if he could stand to be seen so clearly. But Liv was Charles’s girl, and he always fell for Charles’s girls, there was that. Just like he always fell for Edward’s girls, as if love were a competition he needed to win.

“Charles knows your work, Liv,” he said, thinking anyone who knew anything about Liv’s photos would recognize them.
Most artists used light and angle to capture the contours of a face because faces shot straight on tended to show flat, to lack expression. Liv, though, shot faces straight on as if no one had taught her better, and yet somehow, when you looked at her subjects—these images of people you’d never met—you saw something of
yourself
you hadn’t known before, something you didn’t always want to know.

“Charles will understand,” he said, thinking if only she would photograph the faces of the dead, no one who saw them would be able to turn away from the cost of the war. But she wouldn’t. She’d been schooled by Charles and she was unable to deny him, or even to disagree with him.

“He’ll know the photos are your work,” he said, “and he’ll get them to AP for you.”

“There’s nothing earth-shattering here,” Liv said. “Nothing that won’t keep.”

Fletcher stared at her, trying to drag some understanding from beneath his confusion. The flag-draped corpse in the rubble of the cathedral was magazine-cover material.

“But Liv, the Major Howie photos,” he said. “Surely you realize—”

“It’s not like I got our boys shooting Germans.”

“You’ve gone AWOL, Liv. You’ve risked your accreditation to cover the war. And now you don’t mean to send your photographs out?”

“The war was over in Saint-Lô by the time we got there.”

Fletcher extracted another cigarette, cupped his hands against the wind and lit it, and exhaled.

“Jane?” he said.

A jeep slowed as it passed, but continued on.

Fletcher handed the cigarette pack to Liv, saying, “You’re not credentialed to the front, neither of you are. They won’t
send your work if they know it’s yours because you aren’t credentialed, and they won’t credential you because you aren’t men.”

L
iv and I would never get accredited to the front; we knew that. Not in any event and certainly not now, not after we’d left the field hospital in flagrant violation of our CO’s direct orders. I watched through the cracked windshield as Fletcher disappeared into the château, thinking we were going to be found out before the day was over, turned over to the authorities, arrested and sent back to a nurses’ camp in London where they knew now to watch girls like us lest we escape over the fence like Martha Gellhorn had.

Liv said, “Why is it a bad thing, Jane, to want to get to Paris?”

“A bad thing?”

“‘Make your career.’ Marie repeated what I said with such distaste. But photos like Capa’s D-Day shots, you can’t see them and not want to—”

A jeep pulled up behind us, the driver puzzling over Liv and me as he headed on foot toward the pale stone and pale shutters and slate roof that reminded me of the Stahlman mansion. No columns here, no overhangs to keep the rain off visitors at the front door, if not servants at the back, but there was the same polite quietness here. Even with the commotion of the press hurrying about, the soldiers billeted here to keep communication with London out of German hands, there was a calm here.

Liv said, “The darkroom staff set the dryer too high and melted the emulsion in ninety-five of Capa’s negatives. They ruined all but eleven photographs he might have died getting.”

I was trying to make sense of what she was suggesting—that it was better to keep her work in her pocket than to risk a snafu in the darkroom?—when she said, “He has two mistresses. Two that Charles
knows
of.”

“Capa?” I said.

“Fletcher,”
Liv said. “One of them is his own dead brother’s fiancée.”

I stared at the château’s arched doorway, trying to reconcile what she was saying with Fletcher’s lanky limbs and perfectly hit
t
’s, Fletcher who as a boy had shared a love of cricket and math and Jane Austen novels with his now-dead brother. The specificity of the charge weighed in favor of it being true, though, or there being some truth in it. His own dead brother’s fiancée.

Liv took out another cigarette and offered me one. As we sat smoking, I wondered if I would have gone parking with Tommy Stahlman if I’d known about the Ingram girl. I wondered how I would hear from Tommy to know that he was still alive now, and how I would get word to Mama that I was okay. I remembered the first cigarette I’d ever smoked, the green Lucky Strike package in Tommy’s hands, in his car at the banks of the Harpeth River. I hadn’t wanted him to know I didn’t smoke, that no boy had ever before offered me a cigarette. I’d only ever smoked with Tommy until I became a journalist, the day my boss at the
Banner
called me in to tell me another of his boys was headed off to war and did I want to try a piece for the books page? “The books page?” “You do read,” he’d said, and he’d offered me a cigarette—a Lucky Strike, too, the green package by then swapped for a white one with a red circle on it and the slogan “Lucky Strike Green Has Gone To War” because green dye was needed for the military. My boss had said, “You were just comparing the
Mrs. Miniver
movie to the novel for the other gals. You’ve been fixin’ my grammar on the sly for years, too, putting things in better words than I ever would. The books page or the society page, that’s what Mr. Stahlman told me to offer you. And you seem more a books girl that a society gal to me.”

To Liv, I said, “But you said your husband and Fletcher are friends,” thinking maybe her unwillingness to let go of her photos had nothing to do with mistrusting Fletcher Roebuck; maybe it was her husband’s reaction to the fact she was traveling with Fletcher that Liv worried about.

Liv said, “You best be careful, Jane. Fletcher Roebuck is partial to pretty, long-legged blondes.”

Without Fletcher, though, Liv and I had no way to get our work to the United States short of sweet-talking wireless operators into giving us lines out the way we’d heard Martha Gellhorn was doing, filing stories whenever she could. And neither Liv nor I was Martha Gellhorn, who’d been covering war for nearly two decades and was now doing so for
Collier’s
, no less. Without Fletcher claiming our work as his, anything we managed to get out would be identified as ours and confiscated to be used against us—destroyed, or as good as destroyed.

F
letcher, Liv, and I found our way to a bombed-out farm not far behind the front northwest of Saint-Lô that night. The barn, though in shambles—a new door had been tacked on not long ago, as if that alone could hold the thing up—still stood in a barnyard that had, alongside slit trenches dug well into the earth, surprisingly tidy if unweeded rows of pole beans and feathery carrot tops, and great sprawling vines of yellow squash. The farmhouse itself was a roofless collection of tumbling-down walls, and dead cows lay rotting in the field,
but we ate vegetables from the garden along with our dinner rations, and we laid out our bedrolls in the barn’s hayloft, Fletcher at one end and Liv and me at the other. I lay awake listening to Liv breathing in steady rhythm, Fletcher rolling over in the hay across the barn, talking in his sleep. Something about Edward. I listened more intently, trying to make out his words, but he grew quiet again, and I dug more deeply under the warm hay, left listening now to the night sounds: the low moo of the farm’s single surviving spot-eyed cow; the birdlike chirp of frogs down by the pond; the scampering feet of barn rats, which only occasionally scurried across me, never near my head, as I willed myself to remember they were just harmless little creatures seeking the relative warmth of a barn I certainly was not ceding to them.

I heard Fletcher moving, making his way to the ladder and down it. When he didn’t return in the time it might have taken him to relieve himself, I slipped down the ladder to find him sitting just outside the barn door, an emergency kit opened before him and the small scissors from it in hand. Mixed with the country smells was a hint of chocolate.

I sat next to him and leaned back against the rough wood of the barn. “Can’t sleep?”

“I am in sorry need of a trim,” he said.

“And outside in the dark in the middle of a war zone with no mirror is just the time to be cutting your hair? I do see how that would keep you awake at night, though, being a little unkempt.”

I took the scissors from him and told him to scoot forward so I could get behind him. “I can’t promise much, but I’m pretty sure I can do this better than you can.”

I’d cut Mama’s hair for years, although I didn’t offer up that fact.

I knelt behind him and slid the fingers of my left hand through his hair, which was dirty-rough with the living outside, the coarse gray strands obstinate against the dull blade.

“It’s Tuesday night,” he said—a comment I gathered was meant to explain why he couldn’t sleep.

Snip. Snip.

“How do you keep track?” I asked.

“The girls back at Trefoil will have had a splendid weekend with their mums,” he said, the emphasis on “end” rather than “week.” “But they’ll be sad now, with their mums gone back to London.”

While I cut his hair, he told me about the evacuee schoolgirls Liv had met, who’d arrived at his family’s country house with their cheap little suitcases gripped in one hand, their gas masks in the other. Little girls whose mothers came on special weekend coaches to see their children but returned on Sunday nights to jobs at military barracks and airfields and munitions factories while their husbands fought in Africa, or Italy, or France. The way he spoke of them—particularly of a little girl named Ella who hadn’t spoken since her mother died—left me wondering if the longing in his voice was for home or for fatherhood. His parents, like the girls’ mothers, lived in London, but the butler and housekeeper who cared for the Roebuck country home cared for the girls as well.

I imagined Mrs. Serle as a woman like Mama—who had lived on the servants’ floor at the Stahlmans’ until she’d become pregnant with me. I suppose it said something about my mother, or perhaps about the Stahlmans, that they kept her on at all then, although of course they couldn’t have an unwed mother and her child living in their home. Mama had moved back in with my grandmother and taken the long trolley ride to Belle Meade every day. “Mrs. Tyler,” the Stahlmans started
calling Mama then, the dignity of the married title not for Mama’s sake but rather to preserve the fiction that their help were all decent and respectable.

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