Disclaimer: the Flambards universe and its characters belong to K.M. Peyton and Granada Television. No money is made or infringement intended.
Six Numbers That Christina Never Counted
Uncle Russell's funeral is a quiet affair. Mark could not get leave. Christina gets the time easily, since the hotel is only half full.
Once the coffin has been laid to rest, she walks out into the snowy lane. She is independent at last, at nineteen and a half. She wonders why the thought does not give her greater pleasure.
She assures her aunts, dry-eyed and draped in black, that she is making plans. "It is difficult to arrange things at the moment. You do understand."
They do not really understand. But her uncle, Christina imagines, understood it very well.
Christina ticks off the sixth bed: half of the ward. She goes to the next.
She has been a month in TB, after failing to cope at all in Surgical. She still struggles not to feel useless here. When Aunt Grace's V.A.D. friends had urged her to join, they had not told her how impatient the Sisters were. Nor had they seen any handicap in Christina's ignorance of both wounds and men.
She wakes the blond private from a nightmare. He clutches her, gabbling about a shell. She has no idea how to calm him. "Don't," she says. "Don't cry."
She signs her name where the solicitor indicates, unable not to smile as she rereads the estate capital is one hundred and fifty thousand pounds.
"Do you have immediate plans, Mrs Russell?" Mr Perkins asks.
"I'm to buy Captain Russell a good horse," Christina says, "since there's only Pepper and my mare, Sweetbriar, here. Captain Russell also believes we should throw a party for our neighbours when he next comes home on leave."
"To advise them of your changed circumstances."
"Yes." Christina blots the paper. "I thought that we should start more quietly – considering what's happened. But you know him."
"I've been offered some overtime. The supervisor's pleased with me. I can wheel and stack fifty shells an hour."
Aunt Grace stirs more sugar into Christina's tea. "I'm sure you would be efficient at whatever you did, my dear," she says. "But I admit I don't like you working in munitions."
"I want to keep busy."
"Have you considered trying Flambards again? You were there for only one night."
"And I left first thing in the morning. It was hopeless. There was no point in staying."
"I worry about you, my dear. Accidents do happen in these factories."
Christina sets aside the wool, rubbing at her eyes. Since Mrs Masters suggested this activity, she has made thirty – or is it thirty-one – pairs of socks for the men at the front. The casting on and off has become a soporific rhythm.
There is nothing to do but knit, now that she is too cumbersome to ride. She debates some winter gloves for Mark. He is left to his nurse's care in Derbyshire. She doubts that Dorothy, when she returns, will be knitting.
Christina looks at the clock. It is almost eleven in the morning. She will make some tea.
Like everyone, seemingly, Christina has received the pamphlet from the War Graves Commission. Moving them all… she cannot comprehend eight hundred thousand, can barely picture one, and one, and one…
She rides about the farm, cajoling her ill-assorted band of workers through a third harvest. When all is gathered in… she has heard some talking of tours, pilgrimages. She could take the children; take Dorothy, if she wishes to go.
In Silver Meadow, the wheat is almost cut. There should be a party, for the harvest. They should use that brief time before the ground is dug and turned again.