Bicarbonate of Soda
Post "Among the Few" - "Everything has changed" was always her excuse, but Milner never realized how much everything had changed. One Saturday with Milner and Jane.
The kitchen was its drab linoleum-covered self when Paul Milner walked in, and that pleased him. Sometimes the little gray room was quite pleasant. It was home, the center of the house, and Jane's little world. When she was not in Wales. Or going out for a cigarette. Or avoiding him. But, if he was right, that was all going to change now. Things had been getting better. He was certain that they were getting better.
Beginning with a smile, "Good morning. So," his mind stalled for a second, as he tried to formulate a question.
Jane, in her drab little apron, turned a quiet head from the stove, where bubble and squeak was crackling away. Probably, it was the remains of the last of the meat ration they had on Friday being extended until Sunday, when Jane's ration booklet would give them a lovely dinner. On a Saturday morning nothing could be better. Paul continued his happy grin, his narrow face trying vainly to light the room. Her wet reply reminded him of clouds too tired to rain.
"Yes, what?" Jane's face did not even hold the ghost of an attempt of a smile.
Just tired sadness. She was like the nation, tired of the bombs, tired of the failure, tired of seeing her life coming to a crashing end. Milner wondered briefly if he should mention that, instead of his eager questions about bicarbonate of soda. Maybe Jane needed sympathy now. Perhaps he should tell her to go down and gossip at the hair dressers'. When had she last seen her friends in Hastings, anyway? Kate in Wales might have been glad for the extra company, but Jane had stopped seeing her friends here. At home. Around the silly rickety pebble white table where they ate their toast.
Still, there was a good change on the horizon, there had to be. He would not put off knowing for a fact that the change was good. "Mr. Foyle mentioned something the other day. He said sometimes people take bicarbonate of soda for morning sickness. I could not help noticing, well, on your dresser, I mean," he trailed off.
Jane looked at him, almost shocked. Then she smiled. It looked like a child holding up an orange rind. Edi had loved to do that when she and Paul and the rest were sharing lunch in the school yard. However, Jane was not Edi, and she was not a child, and that wide wide thin smile disturbed Paul in a deep way. The detective sergeant wondered if a murder was about to be discovered around the corner. He could not fathom why his reaction was so strong. It just felt that way.
"Oh, I thought so, too. But Dr. Bernard said that it was nothing. Here's your breakfast," she slid the fry up onto a plate, and handed it to him, neatly grabbing her cigarettes. "I'll be back in in a minute."
That lie hanging in the air, Paul watched her head to the swinging door to their small garden. Through the glass window inset in the pale green paint he watched her head to the row of cabbages, and throw her head back, to stare at the gray gray sky. Trembling hands lit a smooth white stick. Jane sent pale blue clouds into the gray, fighting off the storm coming into her eyes.
The day time raids were increasing. His wife stood out among the cabbages, in the middle of a small neighborhood with yards and small gardens, and proud vegetables, and flashes of green tossed by the wind and the gray sky spreading over it all. Sam had found a new situation after her house had been bombed, but what would happen if a bomber wing appeared out of the clouds, and dropped their incendiary packages of death right on Jane?
Would she go up in flames? Would she stand firm like rock salt? Would she fuse and blacken like glass? Would she just disappear? Like their child. Like the bicorbonate of soda on her dresser? If the bombs dropped, would he even blame the Germans? Or thank them, for curing Jane of her fear of everything that had changed? If his world blew up. If the bombs came.
Somehow, Milner thought, watching the wind toss her brown curls, they already had.
As always, thank you for reading.