hat did it say?"

"It was from father."

"Let me see."

A pair of reading glasses were quickly fished from an apron pocket.

"Hmm. Well that's lovely. I'd've cried too, I suppose."

"Are you all right?"

"Yes."

"Well, good. Go and find your mother, give her a hug."

The girl padded down the carpeted hall and into her parent's bedroom. Her mother, as she entered, was just turning from her mirror.

"I'm sorry Elizabeth, I ..."

She took her mother's hand and said "It's all right, Mother. You can cry if you need to. I understand."

Her mother's recently constructed composure crumbled. They sat on the bed and held each other, crying. Then Olivia, the very model of cheeriness, burst into the room with a tea tray loaded with steaming pots and stacks of sweets. Almost instantly the mood of the room was overturned.

"Tea time. Can't miss our tea just because of a few soft feelings. I've got some Darjeeling for the little miss and of course your favorite as well, Missus. Here's your Christmas book, Elizabeth. You left it in the front room. Now then, I have clotted cream, some mince cakes I made myself and there are orange biscuits from Mr. Smith's around the corner, quite delicious. Spoke with Missus Smith herself just this morning, still no word about Tim..."

She was suddenly still, her sunny plan of diversionary tactics all too quickly derailed. Her determination to cheer her two companions was well intentioned, but built on sandy soil; She had come to feel for Master Edward as if he were a son. His absence affected her just as deeply as it did his wife and child. She was unable to steer clear of the war, and the fate of its gallant combatants, in thought or speech.

"Oh, Missus. He's going to come back to us. I just know that he will. We must all have faith. I pray to God every night to end this horrible war and bring Master Edward back to us. He's going to be fine, just fine..." She suddenly burst into tears.

The younger woman, tears welling again, took the older woman by the hand and guided her to the edge of the bed. Elizabeth, clutching the beautiful green leather book, began to cry as well.

The three of them huddled together, a loving gaggle of sweet misery, and cried until Elizabeth drifted off to sleep and the tea had gone cold.




1995 Hyperbole Studios Inc.