Disclaimer: Nothing is mine accept the OCs. This is based on the mini-series not the real men. I don't mean to offend anyone. I'll try to be as historically accurate as I can but sometimes history just gets in the way of a good story
'Don't cry baby, Don't sigh baby, bye, bye, baby do-dah, do-day, When I come back we'll live the life of ease…'
The instrumental kicked in and Grace was off, spinning and kicking her bare feet over the concrete floor. She whirled like a dervish until she was dizzy and staggering and gasping for breath between bursts of laughter.
'All right, all right, Ginger Rogers. Very impressive. Will you come a do up my dress now?'
Grace twirled across the crowded space of the Nissan hut, still swaying to the music crackling out of the ancient wireless set and obliged her friend, Maggie who was pressing her face up as close as it would get to the smeared mirror. This one tiny mirror was to be shared between all 12 girls who lived in Hut 8b, Tennis Court 1, Peebles, Scotland. During their time spent there an uneasy sort of rota had formed dictating who would use the mirror and when. On an average day all you needed was a quick glance to check things weren't wildly out of place, after all they were nurses, or training nurses at least, appearance wasn't their number one priority. Tonight, however was different. Tonight was the dance they had all be waiting for, the dance which would celebrate the completion of the combat training and their release from the prison that had been the Peebles military training facility. The mirror was the most important object in the room.
Grace zipped up the back of Maggie's bright red dress as she fixed her makeup. 'No more 5 am starts,' said Grace.
'No more uniforms,' Maggie replied, grinning in spite of herself.
'No more 6 mile hikes.'
'I quite enjoyed those hikes,' said Dorothea Johnson, leaning over Maggie's shoulder to pull the rollers from copper coloured hair and arrange the resulting curls around her pretty round face. 'You should see my legs, ever so shapely.'
'Trust you to go and look for the best in things,' drawled Maggie sarcastically. She was known for her ill-temper and sour attitude but even she couldn't muster any real venom tonight, not when the mood was so festive. 'Don't tell me you're going to miss Matron.'
'You call that a suture, Harris!' Grace imitated Matron's stern bark, so easily parodied everyone had their own version.
'You better buck up your act, Barnes!'
Dorothea continued grinning. 'You're all talking like this is the end. We'll be back again in a few weeks once our leave is done with.'
'Stop trying to bring us down,' said Grace, now searching under the folding metal camp beds. 'Who the hell has got my bloody left shoe?'
'Well, this certainly isn't mine!' called Mary from the other side of the room. 'It's so tiny I can barely fit my hand in it let alone my foot.' The offending article came soaring over the heads of the other girls.
An hour later the girls of 8b were ready and joining the 70 or so nurses, doctors and pharmacists of the British 6th Hospital down the icy path towards the town. Over them loomed the red-roofed gothic building of Peebles Hydro which had been their home for the past 6 months of training. Before the war it had been a spa resort, the playground of the rich but in recent years playgrounds of any sort and especially those of the wealthy were frowned upon and the building had been requisitioned by the MOD. Now the beauty of the fabulous hotel had been marred somewhat by the fleet of Nissan huts lined up on the tennis courts. Grace looked up at the grand building fondly and realised that, despite all the hardship she had really grown to love this place. The wide green moors melting into the blue mountains of the Scottish highlands which, ironically were at their most beautiful at 5am reveille, the smell of food cooking, better than anything they'd get at home with their ration books, in the hotel itself which they were only allowed to enter for meals and lectures, and most of all the people. Grace loved the feeling of camaraderie she had found in the army and while there had been points during the training when it had all seemed a big mistake, she knew now that she had made the right decision in going into combat nursing.
'Do you need a hand there, Grace? It's a bit slippy.'
It was Simon, suddenly appearing to the left of her. He was a pharmacist with whom for the past few weeks she had been exchanging shy glances and little flirtatious comments. He was a handsome Liverpudlian, tall with scruffy blonde hair and an adorable accent. Grace stifled a giggle as she received an encouraging smile from Dorothea.
'Would you catch me if I fell?' she asked coyly, flicking her dark hair from her eyes.
He grinned back. 'Maybe if I held onto your waist as we walked…'
She let out a mock gasp. 'How very forward of you, Sergeant.' And she darted down the hill to catch up with the other girls who promptly burst into peels of laughter.
After a short walk they arrived at the Officer's Club where the dance was to be held. It was to be a mixed rank dance. The nurse started with the rank of Lieutenant as did the doctors though the pharmacists like Simon could only rise as high as Sergeant, a bone of contention amongst the hospital staff. They were also joined by a visiting 13th Parachute Battalion who had come to take their jump training here. This meant that all in all there were probably about 10 men to each of the nurses and the girls were relishing the prospect.
And it seemed the soldiers were looking forward to the night too. As they entered the smoky room there were several wolf-whistles and cat calls and while some found this unnerving others like Grace and her friends soaked up the attention. Why shouldn't they? They were young. Grace was only 22 and tonight she felt young.
Several tables and chairs lined a wide dance floor, to the side a ready bar where cheap Scottish beer was to be served and at the front of the room a band with the name 'Artie Spinelli's Big Band', though Grace doubted that Artie Spinelli was the freckled band leaders real name as he looked decidedly Scottish.
But Artie Spinelli and his band played a decent round of all the popular new American tunes and just as Grace was itching to get on the dance floor Simon was at her shoulder asking her for the first dance.
The first few steps were cautious but Grace was a born dancer and she let him know that it was all right for him to swing her about a bit more vigorously than he was doing and they were soon lodged into a comfortable rhythm.
'You're quite a good danced,' she commented as he led her in lazy circles around the polished floor.
'I know.' This statement was followed by a cheeky spin.
The song drew to a close and they parted though Grace was quick to notice the way his fingers trailed over hers as they separated. It sent her shivering and did not do anything to help her fight the unimaginable urge to reach up and run her fingers through his slightly scruffy blonde hair. She was so concerned with his hair and the small creases around his eyes that it took a moment for her to realise that he was leaning in, closing the distance between them. Suddenly, she was struck by the realisation that he was going to kiss her right there in front of all those people.
'Do you mind if we cut in there, Sergeant?'
And then there was no kiss just two pompous looking Officers hanging on her arm, including one with a rather large moustache. Simon's eyes flicked rapidly from the smug look crawling across moustache's face to the Lieutenant's pips on his shoulders.
'No, sir,' he said through gritted teeth. He snapped off a rather loose salute and stalked away in the direction of the bar.
Grace stared up into the face of the moustache that had just ruined her perfect moment with Simon. 'That was rather rude.'
'Ah, but don't you think it a tad selfish for the prettiest girl in the room to be completely monopolized by just one Sergeant? I'm Lieutenant Roger Wilder. This is Lieutenant Barrett.'
Barrett leered at her unpleasantly and without saying anything to her pushed a glass into her hand. Grace nervously looked in Simon's direction but saw him talking to a few of the doctors from their hospital. Thinking of no reason to do otherwise she took a polite sip of the warm beer.
By the end of the night Grace was beginning to find it difficult to walk. The floor was tilting in a most unsettling manner which she knew had something to with the many drinks the two officers had been plying on her all night. She didn't mind much though as she seemed to have developed a compulsion to happily swallow down anything that was passed in her direction.
'Grace, are feeling all right? You're looking a bit green.' Dorothea was next to her and suddenly holding her up. Grace was suddenly hit with a wave of affection for her kind and pretty friend.
'Dorothea Johnson, you are lovely!' and she flung her arms around her friend almost knocking her flat.
'Grace, have you been drinking?'
'Of course. Haven't you?'
'I think you had better come and sit down.' Dorothea firmly put an arm around her and steered Grace's loose legs to a table in the corner, sitting her beside a sandy haired Lieutenant from the regiment of Paratroopers. 'Grace, this is Lieutenant Malcolm Fletcher.'
'It's nice to meet you,' said Grace shaking his hand though unaware of who had initiated the act. 'You eyes are a very pretty shade of green.'
He bit back a smile. 'It has been mentioned before. Where'd your friends go?'
'Um… Around.' She gestured vaguely. 'They'll be back.'
'They weren't bothering you, were they?' Dorothea asked.
'Oh no! Well, at first I thought Roger and that other one were right berks but they've turned out to be really nice. Roger's bought me at least three drinks.'
'I think a few more than that,' Fletcher smirked.
'We're walking home now,' said Dorothea. 'Do you want to come with us?'
Grace shook her head vigorously in a way that made her feel slightly ill. 'No, no. Look, there's Simon. Simon will walk me home.'
'Are you sure?' Dorothea asked, still concerned.
'Simon will walk me home,' she repeated with conviction before turning to the Lieutenant who was trying very hard not to laugh. 'I was very nice to meet you…'
'Malcolm,' he supplied. 'You too.'
Simon had been sulking in a dark, forgotten corner for most of the night and Grace spotted him now pulling his overcoat off the back of his chair and lumbering towards the door. He had probably drunk about as much as she had but was acting considerably less cheerfully on it.
'Simon!' Grace called for a second time when he ignored her. 'Simon, are you angry with me?'
'No,' he muttered screwing his hands up into fists and digging them deep into his pockets.
'Good. Then walk me back to barracks.'
The air outside was crisp and biting and the cobbled streets were slippery with the beginnings of the morning frost. In her smooth soled dance shoes Grace slid several times before Simon finally offered her a reluctant arm. They walked in silence, he sulking, she too concerned with the excited buzzing of her skin and the almost painful freshness of the Highland air to spare much thought for conversation or Simon's obviously bruised feelings.
'Sergeant!' It was Lieutenant Wilder again. Grace felt Simon tense up at his approach. 'Sergeant. What was the name again, old chap?'
'Well, Anderson it appears I find you occupying the attentions of this young lady again,' Roger said in a way which Grace in her befuddled state interpreted as genial but Simon recognized as threatening.
'Can we walk and talk at the same time?' Grace yawned. 'It's a little bit freezing out here.'
'Right,' said Roger. 'You're not walking through town are you? It'll take you bloody hours. Much quicker to go through the woods.'
Grace followed him across the unfenced field to their left, thinking only of getting back to her bed as quickly as possible. 'Are you coming, Simon?'
He hesitated, glancing between the two. 'No, I think I need the walk. See you later, Grace.' And he stalked off down the hill.
'Well,' said Roger. 'That's got rid of him.'
Grace was not one to be afraid of the dark. When she was younger she'd always been the one to impress the older kids by fearlessly walking through the graveyard at night, ghosts be damned. But even she had to admit that the woods were a little creepy. She had walked, ran, marched through these trees a hundred times during the day but at night it was another world.
An owl whistled and she almost jumped out of her skin. Roger tittered. 'Getting a little nervous?'
'No.' She could see his face, sinister shadows cast upon it by the throbbing light of his cigarette end.
'If you're this jumpy in the dark I can't imagine what you're going to be like in the field. Don't worry, I'm sure they'll keep you safe out of the way somewhere. Can't have you ladies fainting all over the shop.'
'I've never fainted in my life,' she said stubbornly.
Roger tittered again as an expression of patronizing amusement which reminded Grace why she had originally thought he was such a berk. She doubted he had ever amputated a leg before. Admittedly Grace hadn't either but at least she knew the theory.
Mid annoyance, she slipped, twisting an ankle in a rabbit hole. Roger reached out and steadied her, mercifully saving her from the embarrassment of falling completely flat on her face.
'Oh!' she exclaimed, gripping onto his upper arm.
'Are you all right, clumsy?'
'Yes. Actually, no. I think I've turned my ankle a bit.' There was a dull pain throbbing in her ankle and Roger led to a conveniently placed fallen log.
'This is embarrassing,' said Grace. 'Just as I was going to tell you how capable I am I go and trip in my girly shoes.'
'Don't worry. I like a girl to be feminine.'
'That wasn't the point! I was just saying, just because I'm a girl doesn't make me any less suited to war than you are.' It was hard to properly convey her anger when her speech was so loose and slurred and there was also that blunt pounding in the back of her head.
'Could you kill someone?' Roger asked calmly.
'Well, that's not really part of my job description.'
Wilder silently slid out his Officer's 38. Webley and stepped into the darkness.
'Where are you going?' she called and was answered by a gunshot not too far away which almost made her scream with its closeness. A few moments later he was back with the pistol in one hand and a dead rabbit hanging from its ears in the other.
'You shot a rabbit!' she gasped, looking horrified at the poor bloodstained creature. She came from the country, she had seen dead animals before but it was the casual pointlessness of the act that shocked her.
'Yes,' he said proudly examining his catch. 'Revenge for your ankle. That'll teach the little buggers to go digging their holes where people are walking.'
'That's hardly like shooting a person.'
'Do you want a turn?' he extended the pistol towards her.
Grace took the gun hesitantly. It felt cold and light in her hand, not unpleasant. Her fingers trailed over it, the handle, the trigger, the barrel. She could see why boys were so obsessed with these things, it was exciting in a perverse kind of way. 'What do I do?'
He gently took her arm and raised it to shoulder height. 'Raise your arm, point at something and pull the trigger.'
'That simple, then.'
Grace's eyes focused on a tree several yards away, it made a large enough target and it wasn't a rabbit. Swallowing a deep breath, she decisively pulled the trigger. Again she was surprised by the ear-splitting crack as the bullet was launched from the chamber faster than she could see before spinning into the tree with a spray of broken bark.
'Wow,' she breathed.
'Did you like it?' Roger asked, taking the gun from her slack hands.
Grace nodded numbly and for the second time that night someone was drawing closer to her face than was usually acceptable. She could smell the pungent smell of too much alcohol and cigar smoke on his breath and hear the stiff rustle of his clothes as he drew closer. In that moment she shook herself out of her drunken fog and realised with utter clarity that the evening had gone horribly wrong. This wasn't the man she was meant to be kissing. She also knew with certainty that she did not want to be kissed by a man with a moustache.
But it was too late. The moustache was on her and there was no escaping its scratchy presence on her own mouth, the bristles rubbing her delicate skin like a scrubbing brush.
'Umph!' she cried by way of protest as Roger drew back for breath. It was only a momentary pause because a second later he was back for more only this time Grace was quicker and she ducked out of his path at the last second. 'I'm going home now!'
'What?' he spluttered regained his balance. 'What do you mean to do, dragging me out here, leading me on like this?'
Grace ignored the logic of this statement and marched, or rather limped off into the darkness in what she hoped was the right direction.
'You'll get lost!' he yelled behind her. 'You can't get home on your own!'
Yes I can, she thought with determination. I can get home on my own and I will.
And she did, though it took perhaps an hour or two longer than it should of that didn't stop the drunken sense of achievement she felt as she lay in her camp bed back safe in Hut 8b on Tennis Court 1a listening to her friends snoring beside her. And if she could do that, she reasoned illogically than war was surely no problem.
She went to sleep that night looking forward to her leave and the relative calm of her life back home in Aldbourne.
I know! I know! Where are the BOB guys? I apologize. Next chapter I promise you will have attractive Easy Co. men coming out of your ears. I just wanted to see if my OC was okay. Please tell me what you think!!! Reviews make my world go round!!! The song at the beginning if by the Andrew's Sisters.