If you’re just joining me, here’s Chapter 1!
Sample Synopsis: London is just recovering from the brutal war that saw most of the city demolished. Lydia’s life has been upended but much is still frustratingly the same. She still works as a barmaid in her uncle’s pub and she’s still frozen with indecision about what to do with her life, post-war.
Then one night, a man named Nat enters the pub and everything changes. What starts out as harmless flirting, quickly wrenches Lydia into a world where unexplainable things are happening to survivors of the Blitz. In this new world, danger lies around every corner and Lydia must choose whose side she’s on before her beloved city is torn apart once more.
I felt ridiculous over the coming days. Popping up from behind the bar or the back room every time I heard the front door open, hoping to see a clean white button-down among the stained sweaters. I had never been like this about Colin, not even in the early days of our relationship. We’d all been a little too preoccupied with the war and the bombs dropping on our heads.
Of course, the war had been a catalyst for many of my friends’ relationships, making them quick to fall in love, quick to make promises. There were even a few babies to prove it. It had the opposite effect on me. I’d dated Colin because he’d asked me to and it was hard to say no to a man headed off to the front. But I’d stayed distant. I knew every relationship, no matter how brief, held the potential for unimaginable grief.
It had been for my sister-in-law.
I stopped there. It was still too painful to remember the weight of the telegram in my hands.
Nat showed up again that night and, as promised, ordered another Cupid when he sat down. He made no effort to conceal his hand this time. You would think by this point I would be used to seeing young men maimed by the war. With most of the boys home, you couldn’t walk a block without skirting around a wheelchair or seeing shirtsleeves neatly pinned over a missing arm. But it’s different when you’re speaking to a disfigured man face to face— when the horrors of war reflected in his eyes are just as plain as his missing limb.
“How’s the new job?” I asked him as he sipped his drink.
He was silent a moment before answering. “A bit stressful.”
“Is that why you’ve decided to hang out at a pub full of men twice your age?” I smiled.
“I don’t think it’s the patrons that have me coming back.” He looked up at me until I blushed. “It’s this brilliant drink!” He held up The Cupid.
I laughed but at the same time, I could hear alarm bells going off in my head. Flirting with Nat was nice, I could admit that. And that was probably all that was going on here, but I wasn’t at all comfortable with how much I was enjoying it.
Ernest sidled up to the stool next to Nat and sat down, pint in hand. “She’s a good lass, our Lydia.”
Right. It was only a matter of time before one of them noticed. I gave Nat a look that said, I’m so sorry but he seemed unperturbed.
“I can see she’s a real godsend to you gentlemen,” Nat said, his expression all seriousness now.
“That she is, that she is. The name’s Ernest. What’s your name, chap?” Ernest reached for his hand. When he shook it he noticed the missing fingers. He stopped and swept off his hat. “God bless you, son. Thank you for your service.” Like my uncle, Ernest had served in the first war and held a tremendous amount of respect for his fellow soldier.
It was the first time I saw Nat get genuinely embarrassed. A red tinge crept up around his ears.
“I didn’t… I didn’t serve in the war, sir. Was too young when they started the conscription, then I got this during the Blitz and they said I wasn’t fit for combat.”
I could see it pained him to keep eye contact with Ernest while he spoke.
“My dear boy,” said Ernest, taking both his hands in his own. “You’ve served your country in more ways than you realize just by living, going to work every day, chatting up pretty girls in pubs. That bomb took a few fingers with it, but you didn’t let it take your spirit!”
Nat looked up, surprised.
“It was a cruel game, that war, but every one of us that keeps on going, keeps building a life of good, has served this nation far more than we give them credit for.” His eyes left Nat and settled on me. I knew he was thinking of my brother. “A pint for the young chap, on me,” he said.
Other customers pulled me away from the two men but I watched them out of the corners of my eye while I went about pouring drinks and tending tables. They spoke amiably for a while, Nat looking much more at ease, until Ernest left to rejoin his card game.
“He can be a bit forward, Ernest,” I said when I was back at the bar. “I hope he didn’t make you uncomfortable.”
“Oh, not at all. No, quite the opposite. He’s a good man.” He smiled up at me. My heart pitched forward.
Over the coming days, Nat showed up night after night at The Huntsman. The other regulars were starting to greet him when he walked in and the teasing showed no signs of letting up.
“I’m making your job a bit difficult, aren’t I?” he asked me one night after Frank had cracked a joke about decorating the pub for a wedding.
I laughed, “A bit, yes.”
“I can stop, if you want me to,” he said, suddenly serious. That gave me pause. This was getting a little out of hand. But I didn’t want him to leave.
And I didn’t want him to stop.
“No, it’s ok. They always give me a hard time. Besides,” I raised my voice, “I look forward to talking to someone who doesn’t have one foot in the grave!”
This caused an uproar of mock-hurt all around which I quailed by going to the back to bring out more ale. While among the kegs and boxes I took a moment to breathe. Valentine’s Day was this Thursday and now that I thought about it, I realized deep down I was expecting him to ask me out.
I tried sorting out my feelings on the matter while I sorted bottles. Could I really expect him to ask me on a date or was he just harmlessly flirting? And more importantly, if he did, should I accept? The memory of my sister-in-law’s face, drained of all color at the sound of the doorbell that night, leapt into my mind. I gripped the bottle in my hand tightly and held it to my stomach, scrunching up my eyes, willing the image away. The war was over. There wouldn’t be any more telegrams.
I’d decided. If he asked, I would accept. There was no hurt in one date.
To be continued…. Here’s Chapter 3!
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