Breathing in the fresh, country air, a feeling of dread fills my heart as I look towards my old home. It's been long, yet things still look the same. Plants are still in bloom; just. Grass hangs on to the worn path a little longer. The sun peaks through the cluster of clouds above. A spot of rain cover the thatched roof and dampens the mossy wood.
"Tommo! Tommo!" A voice shouts out to me from behind, "Big Joe has more new pets to show you!"
It is Big Joe himself, his loveable caring self. He has aged well, looking more grown up by the day. Yet, he always brings a smile to my face, like right now. I just hope these 'pets' are still alive when he shows them to me. It'd break his heart if they passed away when they weren't there.
"Tommo!" Another voice shouts, while a figure runs up to me, "I've missed you!"
"And I've missed you to, more than you can imagine" I coo to Molly, whom I love more dearly than she knows.
Throwing my cap on the floor, I lift her up and hug her close, smelling her usual flowery scent which always makes me feel calm. Holding on for a little longer, my heart stops beating as fast. Now calm, I wonder how to bring up the subject later.
"Hello mother" I shout to her as she walks up to greet me with a soft smile. I ruffle little Tom's fair curls who toddles beside her, chuckling as he looks so much like his father. And, bending down slightly, I give mother a peck on the cheek and follow her inside to the home I know so well.
I go in and take a little tour before I start explaining why I have come alone. Everywhere reminds me of memories. Where Big Joe hid his animals, and how Grandma Wolf took them all away. Where Charlie used to write his hidden messages to Molly. Where I sat down re-tying my laces over and over to learn how to do them. Of Charlie's bed and how I used to climb in with him for comfort.
Heading towards Molly who is preparing some food, I let out a huge sigh, figuring out what to say and what her reactions might be. By the looks of things, they haven't yet received any news of what's happened. I hate to be the one to do it, but it's going to be worse ignoring it, and suspicions will only be raised if I walk away every time Mother or Molly approach.
"Moll?" Whispering in a hushed tone, already choking back the tears, "Have you heard anything from Charlie lately?"
"Oh, yes! We received a letter only yesterday, and gladly his humour hasn't changed, bless" She chattered on, pausing every now and then for a reply of yes or no. By this time I couldn't keep it in much longer.
"Sorry, Moll, I need... I'm sorry..." I interrupted, tears rolling down my eyes as I turn away, not able to face her and talk like he is still here, still with us.
"Tommo? What's the matter?" I could hear panic and fear raise in her voice, "Tom, dear, go and play with grandma" I heard her say before I rushed out of the door.
Sitting down on the porch, I sunk my head into my hands. Why can't I say it? Why am I so afraid to tell her? She thinks he's still alive and well but it's a lie! I don't want her repeating what she thinks is true; I care for her too much. Charlie would be so disappointed. Charlie...
Suddenly, the door opened and Molly sat down beside me. Looking up, I see fear in her eyes.
"Moll... Charlie..." I start stuttering, unable to think of words that will comfort her more than upset her.
"Tommo, what is it?" She says, voice wavering slightly as she puts a hand on my shoulder. Glancing at her, I see her stern expression, soft hands, and worn dress. Glancing at her pockets, I see a packet of humbugs.
"Can I have one please?" I asked politely, with a little chuckle.
"Sure, open wide" She replies teasing me, making me open my mouth so she can put one in.
"Has Tom tried one yet? You know, it still feels weird saying my own name like that."
"Yeah, poor thing nearly choked though bless. Remind me to save a few for my husband when he manages to-"
"Sorry for interrupting, but please, stop a minute," I paused, "Charlie... He isn't coming home"
"Well, that's okay. I mean, I'll miss him til he's allowed leave next time but oh well" She said, smiling sadly.
"No I mean, Charlie isn't actually coming home, ever. The letter he sent you was sent a few months ago as his last, mother has one too? I'm so sorry" I say, tears already pouring out of my eyes.
Putting my arms around her shoulders, she just started sobbing, clutching around my neck while I comforted her. It broke my heart seeing my true love break down emotionally in front of my eyes, yet soothing that I was the one to hold her.
Shortly, when she'd calmed down, she looked up into my eyes. Calmly, she leaned in closer. Then suddenly her lips touched mine.
"Molly!" Came a unique voice that was instantly recognisable.