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Authors: Rita Bradshaw

The Rainbow Years

BOOK: The Rainbow Years
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The Rainbow Years
 
 
 
 
RITA BRADSHAW
 
 
 
headline
 
 
 
Copyright © 2006 Rita Bradshaw
 
 
The right of Rita Bradshaw to be identified as the Author of
the Work has been asserted by her in accordance with the
Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
 
 
Apart from any use permitted under UK copyright law, this publication may only be reproduced, stored, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means, with prior permission in writing of the publishers or, in the case of reprographic production, in accordance with the terms of licences issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency.
 
 
First published as an Ebook by Headline Publishing Group in 2010
 
 
All characters in this publication are fictitious
and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead,
is purely coincidental.
 
eISBN : 978 0 7553 7591 2
 
 
This Ebook produced by Jouve Digitalisation des Informations
 
 
HEADLINE PUBLISHING GROUP
An Hachette UK Company
338 Euston Road
London NW1 3BH
 
Table of Contents
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Rita Bradshaw was born in Northamptonshire, where she still lives today with her husband, their children and two dogs. At the age of sixteen she met her husband - whom she considers her soulmate - and they have two daughters and a son and two young grandsons. Much to her delight, Rita’s first attempt at a novel was accepted for publication, and she went on to write many more successful novels under a pseudonym before writing for Headline using her own name.
 
 
As a committed Christian and passionate animal-lover Rita has a full and busy life, but her writing continues to be a consuming pleasure that she never tires of. In any spare moments she loves reading, walking her beloved, elderly dog, eating out and visiting the cinema and theatre, as well as being involved in her local church and animal welfare.
 
 
Rita Bradshaw’s earlier sagas,
Alone Beneath the Heaven
,
Reach for Tomorrow
,
Ragamuffin Angel
,
The Stony Path
,
The Urchin’s Song
,
Candles in the Storm
,
The Most Precious Thing
and
Always I’ll Remember
, are also available from Headline.
 
This book is for my darling husband who has
shared all the clouds of grey as well as the
rainbows with me, and who never tells me to pull
myself together when my emotional side goes into
hyperdrive. A rare quality in a man!
 
Acknowledgements
 
Many thanks to my dear mum and late dad for all their memories of the hard but strangely warming years of the Second World War, when everyone pulled together in a way we only catch a glimpse of now and again these days. Research material is invaluable when writing a story of this nature, which spans nearly four decades of radical change. It would be impossible to list all my resources but those below have been of special help.
 
 
Memories of Sunderland
, True North Books
 
Life in Britain Between the Wars
, L.C.B. Seaman
 
Our Wartime Days
:
The WAAF in World War II
, Squadron Leader Beryl E. Escott
 
Bader’s Tangmere Spitfires
, Dilip Sarker
 
Fighter Pilots of the RAF 1939-45
, Chaz Bowyer
 
History of the RAF
, Chaz Bowyer
 
Shot Down in Flames
, Geoffrey Page DSO, OBE, DFC, BAR
 
Sunderland’s Blitz
, Kevin Brady
 
Author’s Note
 
The districts where the air raids occurred in Sunderland have not been strictly adhered to.
 
Covet not the choicest blessings,
A life of sunshine and blue skies,
Nor yet the road that others take
Which beckons by and by.
But look to see the rainbow
Behind the clouds of grey,
Desire to find the wisdom
That enriches on life’s way,
And when the storms are over
And new dawns begin to break,
The rainbows of tomorrow
Will find you in their wake.
 
Anonymous
PART ONE
 
1916 A Fine Dividing Line
 
Chapter 1
 
‘You all right, Bess?’
 
‘Aye.’
 
‘You don’t look it. Is . . . is it bad news, lass?’
 
‘Aye.’ There was a long pause and then Bess Shawe forced herself to say, ‘Christopher’s dead. Bought it the first day of the Somme.’ Nearly two months and she hadn’t known, hadn’t felt it.
 
‘Oh, Bess.’ Kitty Price wanted to put her arms round her friend but they didn’t do things like that. Awkwardly now she sucked in her thin lips, rubbing at her snub of a nose before she said, ‘My da says the old generals want stringing up by their boots for the mess they’re making of the war. Slaughter of the innocent, he calls it.’ Then realising she was being less than tactful, she added, ‘But you know what my da’s like. Opinion about everything from clarts to carlings, he’s got, whether he knows owt about it or not. Drives Mam mad.’
 
Bess closed her eyes for a moment, shutting out the face of her friend - the friend who was more like a sister, the pair of them having lived next door to each other all their lives. He was dead. Christopher was dead. But more than that, he had a wife and child he had never let on about.
 
She crumpled the letter in her fingers. Opening her eyes she saw Kitty’s anxious expression and after exhaling slowly, she said, ‘Don’t worry, I’m all right. Look, thank your Elsie for letting me use her address for the letters and tell her there won’t be any more. I’m going for a walk, I want to be on my own for a bit.’
 
‘You sure you don’t want me to come, lass?’
 
Bess nodded, not trusting herself to speak. Kitty’s concern was warming but weakening; another moment or so and she would be blubbing out the fix she was in and she couldn’t do that. No one must know, no one. Her da would kill her if he found out. Oh, Christopher, Christopher, you can’t be dead.You can’t.You mustn’t leave me like this. And then her stomach swirled and she tasted the acidic burning of bile on her tongue. She swallowed, telling herself she couldn’t be sick, not here, not now. She had to get herself away somewhere quiet, somewhere where she could sit and
think.
 
The two girls were standing on the doorstep of a terraced house and now Bess inclined her head, saying, ‘You go back in, Kitty. I’ll see you later.’ Without waiting for a reply she turned and began to walk swiftly, the letter still clutched in a ball between her fingers.
 
On leaving Burleigh Street she stepped out into the main thoroughfare of High Street East, narrowly avoiding some foul rotting mess strewn over the pavement. She hated the East End. Her head was spinning and her nose wrinkled with distaste. The smell and dirt tainted everything; the narrow streets with their notorious public houses bordering the docks seemed menacing even in the light of day. How Elsie could bear to live here she didn’t know.
 
And then she caught the thought, biting her lip. Who was she to turn her nose up? Kitty’s sister was a respectable married woman with a husband and two bairns; she’d swap places with Elsie tomorrow if she could. In fact she’d be content to live in the worst street in Sunderland, the worst house,
anything
, if only she could turn the clock back to before she’d met Christopher Lyndon.
 
By the time she turned off the main street into John Street in the heart of Bishopwearmouth, Bess was out of breath. The stitch in her side which had begun some minutes before was excruciating but her rapid steps didn’t falter.
 
The late August afternoon was a hot one and beads of perspiration were on her brow and upper lip under her big straw hat, but now the destination she had in mind, Mowbray Park, was just a minute or two away.
 
When she entered the park she was barely aware of bairns scampering and mothers pushing perambulators on the path close to the fountain, she just wanted to sit down. Finding a vacant bench she sank down, shutting her eyes for a few moments. Gradually the pain in her side receded and her heart stopped its mad racing. She opened her eyes, still sitting absolutely still as the sights and sounds of a Sunday afternoon registered on her senses.
 
What was she going to do?
She glanced down at the screwed-up letter in her hand and then carefully began to smooth it out on her lap.The black scrawl was authoritative, the contents of the letter more so. Trembling, she read it again.
 
Dear Miss Shawe,
 
Your recent communication to Captain Christopher Lyndon has been passed to me by his wife, Mrs Angeline Lyndon, for the courtesy of a reply. My sister-in-law would inform you that her husband was killed on the first day of the Somme. Your letter evidently arrived after this as it was still unopened when returned with his effects. The content of your communication suggests an intimacy with my brother which is totally inappropriate and this has added to the burden of Mrs Lyndon’s grief. On top of losing her husband of eight years and the father of her child, she now has to bear the knowledge of his dalliance with a person such as yourself. For my own part I would warn you that if you make any effort to contact Mrs Lyndon in the future, I will place the matter in the hands of the family solicitor. I trust I make myself clear.
 
BOOK: The Rainbow Years
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