The Girl from The Savoy
I am absolutely delighted to be kicking off the blog tour for The Girl from The Savoy by Hazel Gaynor. I am a huge fan of this author and have now started reading this book, so look out for my review coming soon. I'm sure it's an absolute corker just like her previous novels........
I have the prologue for you so sit back and enjoy the start of a fabulous blog tour.
Lancashire, England March 1916
In my heart, I always knew he would go; that they would all go, in the end. Now the dreaded day has arrived. Teddy is going to war and there is nothing I can do to prevent it.
Everything is a blur. I don’t remember eating breakfast. I don’t remember laying the fires or doing any of my usual chores. I don’t remember hanging up my apron or putting on my coat and hat. I’m not even sure I closed the door behind me as I set off for the station, but I must have done all these things because somehow I am here, standing on the platform, and he is pressing a bunch of daffodils into my hands. Somehow, he is really leaving.
‘I’ll be back before you know it,’ he says, brushing a tear from my cheek. ‘They won’t know what’s hit them when we arrive. Look at us. Tough as old boots!’ I glance along
the platform. The assembled conscripts look like frightened young boys. Not soldiers. Not tough at all. ‘I’ll be back for your birthday and I’ll take you to the village dance, just like last year. You’ll hardly notice I’m gone before I’m back.’ I want to believe him, but we all know the truth. Nobody comes back. The thought breaks my heart and I gasp to catch my breath through my tears.
Mam had warned me not to be getting all maudlin and sobbing on his shoulder. ‘You’re to be strong, Dorothy. Tell him how brave he is and how proud you are. No snivelling and wailing.’ And here I am, doing everything she told me not to. I can’t help it. I don’t want to be proud. I don’t want to tell him how brave he is. I want to sink to my knees and wrap my arms around his ankles so that he can’t go anywhere. Not without me.
‘We’ll be married in the summer and we’ll have little ’uns running around our feet and everything will be back to normal, Dolly. Just you and me and a quiet simple life. Just like we’ve always wanted.’
I nod and press my cheek to the thick fabric of his coat. A quiet simple life. Just like we’ve always wanted. I try to ignore the voice in my head that whispers to me of more than a quiet simple life, the voice that speaks of rowdy adventures waiting far away from here. ‘Head full of nonsense.’ That’s what our Sarah says. She’s probably right. She usually is.
A loud hiss of steam pierces the subdued quiet of the platform, drowning out the muffled sobs. Doors start to slam as the men step into the carriages. Embraces end.
Hands are prised agonizingly apart. It is time to let go.
I reach up onto my tiptoes and our lips meet in a last kiss. It isn’t lingering and passionate as I’ve imagined, but rushed and interrupted by my wretched sobs and the urgency of others telling Teddy to hurry along now. We part too soon and he is walking away from me. I can hardly see his face through the blur of my tears.
The shrill blast of the station master’s whistle makes me jump. Mothers and daughters cling to each other. Wives clutch their children to their chests as they bravely wave their daddy good-bye. Great clouds of smoke billow around us and I cover my mouth with my handkerchief as the pistons yawn into life and begin turning on their cranks. The carriages jolt to attention, and he is going.
I start to move, my feet falling in time with the motion of the train, slow at first, and then a brisk walk. All along the platform, women and children reach out, clinging for all they are worth to prolong the very last touch of a coat sleeve, a fingertip, the last flutter of a white handkerchief. And I am jogging and then running, faster and faster, until I can’t keep up and he is gone.
He is gone. He is gone.
I slow to a walk and stand among the suffocating smoke as my heart cracks into a thousand shards of helpless despair. Everything has changed. Everything will be different now.
I put my hands in my coat pockets, my fingers finding the piece of folded paper in each. I glance at the hastily scribbled note from Teddy in my right hand: Darling Little Thing, Don’t be sad. When the war is over, I’ll come back to you, back to Mawdesley. With you beside me, this is all the world I will ever need. I glance at the page in my left hand, ripped from the morning paper as I lay the fire in Madam’s bedroom. Society darling and brave nurse Virginia Clements revealed as west end star loretta may! I look at her beautiful face and elegant clothes, the perfect image to accompany the glowing report of Cochran’s latest dazzling production and the enchanting new star of his chorus. I stare at the two pieces of paper. The life I know in one hand. The life I dream of in the other.
The church bells chime the hour. Time to go back to the Monday wash and the predictable routines that carve out the hours of a maid-of-all-work like me. Wiping the tears from my eyes, I fold the pages and return them to my pockets. I turn my back on the distant puffs of smoke from Teddy’s train and walk along the platform. The surface is icy and I go cautiously, my footing unsure. I slip a little, steady myself, and keep going. Crossing the tracks, I step onto the frosted grass verge that crunches satisfyingly beneath my boots. On firmer ground, my strides lengthen and I walk faster, and all the while the question nags and nags in my mind: Am I walking away from my future, or walking toward it?
I don’t have an answer. It is not mine to give.
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