Lady Watson sat down on the bed, placing the box down next to her, and sighed
She had spent the last few days, just a few weeks after her father’s funeral, clearing all the remaining personal effects out of his Paris apartment, and cleaning it, readying it for sale. Her old school friends Joey Maynard and Hilary Graves, had left their families for a few days to journey up with her from Switzerland and help out after she had confided in them that she was dreading making this trip alone, and she could hear the faint sound of their laughter as they finished off the last of the cleaning in the salon down the hall.
As she looked around the sparsely furnished room, she thought that it little resembled the chic, but comfortable place in which she had spent so many happy times since her father had returned to Paris following the end of the war. Tomorrow she would lock up the apartment, hand over the keys to the agent she had charged with its sale, and return home. She felt a twinge of sadness, but it was soon replaced by a warm glow at the thought that her home these days lay in Geneva with her husband and stepchildren.
“And soon to be joined by one more,” she thought, smiling to herself as she gently rubbed her belly, now slightly swollen with the first signs of her pregnancy.
“Come on Evvy, last one and then you’re done,” she said out loud, turning her attention to the box on the bed. She had thought that they had finished all but the salon, but, doing a last check round, she had discovered this box pushed back on a shelf in the dressing room which led off her father’s old room.
Curious to know what it contained, she lifted off the lid, and stared with some puzzlement at the leather bound books within. Then it dawned on her what they were.
“My diaries!” she cried to herself, “I wondered what had happened to them! Poppa must have brought them here from America after the war.”
“You OK, Evvy?” came Hilary’s voice.
“Yes thanks, I’ll be with you in a couple of minutes,” she called back, then returned her attention to the box before her.
Eagerly she pulled out the top book, recognizing the childish writing from her early days in Tirol as she skimmed through, smiling. Putting it aside, she started to pull the other contents from the box, exclaiming as she did so over more diaries, small mementos, and photographs chronicling her growth from childhood into a young wartime WAAF. Laughing as she found photographs of old friends; her Quintet from school, the young women alongside whom she had worked during the war years in England, and one very precious one, taken in the Spring of 1938 in Switzerland. Her eyes misted slightly as she remembered the day it had been taken, the day that they were finally safe after the long flight through the Tirol from Hitler’s Gestapo. She put it down carefully, thinking she must show her two friends, for they had shared that terrifying journey with her, and it had formed a bond between them and the others who had been with them that only they could understand.
She turned back to the box, and noticed there was one more photograph at the bottom, wedged, upside down, half under one of the flaps. She could just make out the faded ‘1940’ written on the back. She pulled it out, wondering what, or whom it depicted, and then, as she turned it over, she froze.
Evadne had no idea how long she sat just staring at the photo; her mind seemed to have gone blank.
A voice stirred her from her stupor.
“Well, honestly, Evadne Watson! Marriage has done nothing to change your laziness when it comes to domestic chores I see! Hilary and I have finished the salon whilst you’ve been lounging around down here.” Joey’s golden laughter belied her words as she came into the bedroom. “What on earth have you been doing all this…” her voice trailed off as she caught sight of Evadne’s pale face.
“Evvy, my dear, what’s wrong?” Concern filled Joey’s voice as she came quickly round the bed, and knelt down in front of her.
Evvy lifted blue eyes, bright with unshed tears, to look at Jo. “This,” she said quietly.
Joey looked down at the photograph Evadne clutched in her hands and gave a muffled gasp, then looked back at the pale face, her dark eyes soft with sympathy.
“Ralph! Oh Evvy, don’t cry old girl,” as a tear trickled down Evadne’s cheek. “Where on earth did it come from?”
“I found this box when I was checking round. It was at the bottom under everything. Guess it gave me a bit of a shock.” She dabbed her eyes with her handkerchief, and smiled thinly at the girl in front of her. “I know it was years ago, but I still think of him sometimes Joey. Even though I am so happy with Edgar and the kids.”
Jo took the younger girl’s hand in her own as she said gently. “Of course you do. Nobody would ever expect you to forget.” They sat in silence for a few moments. Then, in a much brisker tone Jo said, “I say Evvy, I don’t know about you but I’m starving! Why don’t the three of us go down to Pierre’s for a spot of lunch?”
“I think I’ll just stay here for while if you don’t mind, Joey old thing. You two go ahead. I need to pack up this box and do some last bits and pieces anyway.”
Understanding Evadne’s unspoken need to be alone, Joey kissed her on the cheek and stood up. “OK then, I’ll go and grab Hilary and we’ll leave you to it. See you in a couple of hours. You know where we’ll be if you change your mind.” She walked towards the door, then turned back briefly, “Try and make the memories happy ones Evvy.” And with that, she was gone.
Left alone, Evvy sighed a deep sigh, scrubbed her eyes, and turned to the pile of diaries lying next to her on the bed, checking each one until she came to the one she was after. Leafing through the pages she skimmed the contents until she found the correct page, then she lay down on her stomach on the bed, propped herself up on her elbows, and began to read.