As people seemed to want to know what happened…………
Sally danced on down the stairs, smiling and humming. Ben was home, her Ben. Now all was well again and their lives together could start.
Mariah watched as the man turned around and started walking up to the house. He walked a bit stiffly, Ben had been an athlete with all the grace of movement that comes from a young, healthy body accustomed to movement. This could only be someone bearing the worst news. She turned from the window, to go and support Sally when she received the news.
They met at the door, Sally looked at her mother and felt the blood drain from her face as she saw how white and strained her mother appeared.
They opened the door just as the man raised his hand to knock. It wasn’t Ben, yet he did not have the blank, formal look of the man who had given her the worst news of her life. Mariah took a deep breath.
“Good evening” the man said. “Is this Sally’s home?”
“Yes, that’s me”, replied Sally. Who are you?
Mariah interrupted, “Would you come in young man? We don’t usually conduct family business on the front porch.”
“Jacob Watterson”, he replied, putting out his hand, “Glad to meet you maam”.
“I’m Mariah, Sally’s mother she said, noticing as she took his hand that he was shaking a little, as though from weakness.
They settled down in the sitting room, he easing himself into the chair as though movement was difficult for him. He noticed Mariah watching and smiled wryly, “My injuries haven’t fully healed so I’m rather still and useless at present.”
They both realised Sally was sitting on the edge of her chair, hands clasped and facing Jacob as though her life depended on not losing sight of him. He smiled at her and said “I have a message for you from Ben”.
The tears started to flow down Sally’s cheeks and she smiled at him, “Excuse me, but I’ve been so worried I just can’t help myself.” Mariah rose and handed her a clean handkerchief, patted her shoulder and smiled comfortingly at her.
Jacob began his story
“I was captured two years ago, in that sudden push by the enemy in the desert. I was the only one left alive in my troop after the battle was over, but my leg was injured so I couldn’t even try to escape. I half expected them to just shoot me there and then, but they put me into a truck and I was carried off to their camp. I was interrogated for two days before I received any medical attention. I had nothing to tell them, we soldiers just do as we are told.
Then I was shipped off to their country, to a prisoner of war camp. Life there was rather dull, only enough food to keep us alive but not energetic, bored, and in my case slow to heal after the early neglect of my wounds.
About 6 months ago, Ben arrived with a few other new prisoners. He was assigned the bunk above mine and we became friends.”
At that point he had to stop, as Sally had started sobbing openly. She said “I’m just so glad he is alive I can’t help this. I’m so sorry to interrupt. Please go on and ignore this.”