Fallen by Lia Mills

Book: Fallen by Lia Mills Read Free Book Online
Authors: Lia Mills
to keep her father happy’. Why would I make Isabel’s father happy at the risk of hurting her? She objects to this war just as much as you do, if on different grounds. Put this right, or I’ll not speak or write to you again
    He was so annoyed, he hadn’t even signed it. I practically ran the whole way across town to push the horrible page into Eva’s hands, demanding that she read it. Her reaction disappointed me. She folded the letter calmly and gave it back to me, reminding me that Liam intended to marry Isabel and I’d be wiser not to make trouble for myself. She advised me to apologize, but, as it happened, Isabel’s apology came first, a sweetly flowing note inviting me to tea.
I don’t know what got into me, I was afraid there was truth in what you said, don’t be angry, can we not be friends?
    We were going to be sisters, after all. And we both wanted the same thing, didn’t we? A small, simple thing, for Liam to be safe and happy.
    Alanna came back with Nan, who carried tea on a tray in her big red hands. She’d a man’s shoes on her feet, with no laces. The tray held bite-sized pieces of ginger cake and slivers of apple on a plate for Eva, ham sandwiches and a plain sponge for the rest of us.
    ‘Is that all you’re having?’ I asked, when Nan had gone out again.
    ‘It’s all I can stomach.’
    Alanna sat on the floor and played with paper dolls.
    ‘I’ll be mother,’ I said, pouring tea into cups, adding a sliver of lemon to Eva’s, milk to my own. I poured a cup of milk for Alanna.
    Eva folded the tabs of a paper ballgown around the flat sides of a doll. On the floor beside her, Alanna sorted through a variety of paper capes. I picked up a different doll, in a Red Cross uniform, with a cape and a starched hat on her head. I opened the tabs and took off the doll’s clothes, folded them away. Underneath the uniform, the cardboard doll had her full complement of underclothes: petticoat and stockings, frilled knickers. I took them all off to find a final layer of underclothes painted on, a little chemise, frilled longjohns. The doorbell rang, startling me. When I looked up, Eva was watching me. ‘See if it’s him,’ she said.
    I got up and looked out of the window, down on the head and shoulders of a shawled woman. ‘It’s a beggar.’ I heard the front door open, an exchange, and the door shut again. The shawled woman turned and sat on the step. A short while later the door opened and Nan went out and gave her something in a twist of brown paper. The woman folded it away under her shawl and left. I turned back into the room.
    ‘Con is not right for you, Katie, if that’s what you’re thinking,’ Eva said quietly, so as Alanna wouldn’t hear.
    ‘Is that a fact?’
    ‘I’m serious. You’ll have to take my word for it.’
    ‘Why should I? You did exactly what you wanted, no matter what anyone said.’
    ‘What’s all this?’ Bartley stood at the door. Alanna tilted her head and slid two fingers into her mouth.
    ‘Never mind,’ I said. ‘I was just leaving.’
    On the way to Dote’s house, I shook off my unease about the conversation I’d had with Eva, before she started on about Con. I didn’t know why Mother suspected that Isabel had intended to end her engagement to Liam. She could hardly have forgotten the day, not four months ago, when Isabel came to the house in a state and asked if there was any way to have Liam recalled from the Front. I certainly hadn’t forgotten it. It was like a scene from a play, with Isabel standing in the centre of the room, pleading, and my parents setting their faces against her.
    We were in the parlour with the fire lit, a dismal day. Mother was knitting a sock, on three needles. Her clever fingers flew; she didn’t have to watch them. But, as Isabel spoke about a change she detected in Liam’s letters, the needles faltered and Mother had to stop to count her stitches. When Isabel asked if Dad would write to Liam’s CO, and make a case

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