The gravel hitting the window caused me to wake with a start. I felt my way over to it, curled back the curtain and looked out. Goodness me. Silly lad. I silently raised the sash.
'I thought you were going back to the base tonight!'
'I was. I did.' Will stage-whispered. 'Then I went out again. Back door, so to speak.'
'It gets naughtier. Our lot's been postponed till tomorrow night. Come on down, it's ever so nice out.'
I quickly threw on my shirt and Land Army trousers. Not the most romantic look to go and meet your beau, but there was no time to dress up. I crept down the stairs and out the front door.
'Allo, my gorgeous Meg.' Before I could draw breath he had kissed me hard for several beautiful seconds. 'Come on, let's go up the park.'
He lit two cigarettes and passed one to me as we settled down on the damp grass. 'There's talk of an invasion, pet. Going to get in there and give Jerry a damned good hiding.'
I could feel my body tensing up. 'When's that going to be then?'
For a few seconds we gazed at the red tips of our cigarettes glowing in the gloom. 'Can't say, pet. Top secret. But us lot's going over there first to soften them up, like.'
Must be a really heavy bombing campaign, I thought. Please God let him come home safe. Please.
'Cat got your tongue? Are you alright?'
I nestled my face in the roughness of his uniform.
'Come on, pet. War'll be over soon.'
I started to cry softly.
'We'll have old Jerry whipped in no time. You'll see. Then when I'm home p'raps we shall get engaged.'
'I love you, Will Prentice.'
'Show me how much.'
He slid a hand under my shirt, then skillfully dealt with the buttons on my trousers. 'I hope there's no nettles round here,' I giggled.
'You won't notice them if there is any,' Will said in a hoarse voice as he manoeuvred us round. We joined together, our passion heightened by the threat of being discovered in the park - and of impending danger beyond. For what seemed like a lifetime we crested our wave, two people as one, light years away from the awfulness of war.
Afterwards we lay quietly, listening to the rustles and croaks of an early summer night. Our breathing was synchronized, our hearts beat in time. A warm breeze tickled our skin. Neither of us wanted even to whisper for fear of bursting the bubble.
'Fancy a fag, pet?' Will reached for his trousers and after some fumbling produced two lit Senior Services. We smoked silently, cuddling together and watching the stars.
'What's it like up there, Will?'
'What, in the Lancs? Bit weird, like. I'm always going backwards.'
'Silly, that's because you're a rear gunner. Is it really scary though?'
'Tell you what, it's ruddy cold up there.'
'Oh, minus forty or so. That's at thirty-odd thousand feet.'
'Horrible. And even more scary.'
'Isn't much time to get scared when you've got Jerry's paper darts coming up at you out of nowhere. That's when I pick 'em off. Ratta-tatta-tatta-tatta-tatta...'
'Shhhh, Will, someone will hear us.'
'Aren't you frightened then? When you're up there?'
'Don't be a silly goose. Those Lancs are stronger than tanks. It'd take more than a few poncey little Messerschmitts to do us any damage. And we fly way above the ACAC. Don't even come close.'
'I hope you're right, Will.'
'Better go back now, pet. Be getting light soon and I don't want no Squadron Leader spotting me shinning up that drainpipe.'
''Course. Right by the window. Easy as pie. Might a bit harder going back up than coming down, mind.'
'You be careful,' I said as we adjusted our clothes and set off back towards the High Street.
'I'll see you in six weeks,' Will said after we had kissed and embraced for a long time. 'You behave yourself now, young lady.'
'Stay safe, Will. I love you.'
'And I love you, pet. Oh, wait up. Got something for you.'
Will reached into his jacket and pulled out a single red rose. 'Here.'
'Oh, Will, it's beautiful.'
'Pinched it out of the park, but don't tell anyone. Must go now, pet. Tada.'
Holding the rose carefully against my face, I watched him walk away in the growing dawn. As his image faded into the distance I heard the familiar growls and groans of the Lancs coming back to base. Then they were there, overhead. I could make out bits of damage on some, coughing, spluttering misfiring engines, smoke streaming out behind them. Stay safe Will. Please.
Creeping carefully into the house, I placed the red rose gently on my pillow. I crawled under the coverlet, cried a little, inhaled the fresh scent of the rose, then fell asleep.
I woke up rather late and stumbled downstairs to fetch the post. I felt dreadfully hungover. Strange. I hadn't had any alcohol the previous day. I opened the front door to get some air.
'Morning, Miss,' said an elderly female voice. 'You must be the new girl what's in the Varley's old house.'
'Yes, hello,' I said, wishing this conversation could take place when my head wasn't throbbing like a diesel engine and my brain was functioning a bit more clearly than a raging blizzard.
'What did you say your name was, love?'
I hadn't, but OK. Just answer briefly and perhaps she'll go away. 'I'm Meg.'
'How funny. Oh, manners. I'm Elizabeth Prentice. That's Miss, as it were. Never married. Anyway my brother was in love with the Varley's daughter here. Her name was Meg.'
'Really? Where is he now?'
'Dead, my dear. Killed. Only 25. In the RAF, he was. Lancaster bomber in 1944. Just before D Day. Shot down in flames so they said.' She sniffed.
'I'm so sorry. Would you excuse me, Miss Prentice? I really must have a look at something.' Something jangled in among the cacophony of white noise in my head.
Without knowing why, I walked over to the flower bed immediately under my bedroom window, where just that weekend Mum had dug out the weeds and raked it over ready for her geraniums.
Gravel. A good handful or two splattered about in the neat soil. What saddos, these idiots who chuck stones and McDonalds cartons and used condoms and God knows what else just anywhere. Like on people's flower beds. Mum'll have a fit.
So much for being PC and all the careful recycling of the 21st century, eh. My head hurt. Not so much throbbing as knocking, nudging. A memory trying to get through. What? Oh come on, brain. Clear up.
I went inside. Just have a shower and never mind the gravel. I hauled myself up the stairs and sat down on my bed. Now the room started to spin and I felt sick. Must lie down. Lie down. Head on the pillow. Eyes shut. Keep still.
Something lightly scratched my cheek. Ouch.
I turned my head and inhaled deeply. I could smell something beautifully perfumed. Instantly my head cleared and the pain disappeared.
It all came back to me.
I opened my eyes and began to shiver.
Next to me on the pillow was a single, fresh red rose.