Just when she was starting to panic, a smiling stewardess appeared holding Hope by the hand. The stewardess led the way down the stairs first, looking back to be sure Hope managed the large steps while clutching her teddy bear. Hope was concentrating so seriously on the steps that she didn’t look up until she reached the bottom.
Kathleen flung open her arms and Hope ran to them with a loud squeal of delight. “Mummy! Mummy! They let me into the cockpit, and I saw the sea and the ships were so tiny!” She smothered her daughter in her arms and swung her back and forth in delight. How she had missed her!
Hope chattered non-stop. Kathleen didn’t mind. She’d already arranged for Harry Wallace to bring Hope’s suitcase over to the flat, and she took Hope in front of her on her bicycle. In the flat, Hope’s eyes grew bigger and bigger with each fresh discovery. Her delight at seeing her bunny was nearly as great as for her mother, Kathleen thought. She showed Hope the presents from the other WAAF and let her eat one piece of the chocolate bar. Then she put the rest away in a cupboard Hope couldn’t reach and suggested a walk to see the rest of the station. She knew Hope would tire before they had gone far, but they had time to see the enormous “duck pond” where Hope fed scraps of old bread to an excited flock of honking ducks.
By then, the early January day was fading, and the wind was turning cold. Kathleen put Hope on the seat of her bicycle and walked beside it back to the flat. Once inside, she set about warming up a can of soup and toasting bread for their supper. She had milk for Hope and put the kettle on to make tea for herself. Dinner together was a simple thing, but Kathleen loved it. By the time they finished, Hope was falling asleep in her chair. She’d had a busy day. “Go and get changed for bed, sweetheart, and I’ll come and tuck you in.”
“No! It’s too early!”
“It’s an hour later here, you know,” Kathleen pointed to the wall clock. “I’ll read you a bedtime story.”
“Will you read Winnie the Pooh?”
“Yes, of course. The book is waiting on the bedside table.”
Hope ran off without another word. Kathleen washed their dishes and the soup pan, put the bread away, and switched off the light in the kitchenette area. When she turned to go to Hope’s room, she was startled to find Hope still in the sitting area staring at the photograph of the Lancaster crew. “Which one is Daddy?” Hope asked without introduction.
Instantly, Kathleen regretted hanging the photo. “None of them are, Sweetheart. I don’t have a picture of your Daddy’s crew. But that man there,” she came and bent over Hope pointing, “is Kit Moran. He flew with your Daddy as Flight Engineer. Then after their skipper was killed, they went different ways. Daddy joined another crew, and Kit learned to fly and became the skipper of this crew.”
Hope was looking at the picture with inexplicable intensity. Then she looked up at her mother. “Is he going to be my new Daddy?”
“What a silly question! Of course not! He’s already married to a very nice lady called Georgina and they live in Yorkshire. Where did you come up with such a funny idea?”
“Grandma says it’s time for you to marry again and for me to get a new Daddy,” Hope told her.
“Well, Grandma was talking out of turn, Miss Hope Hart!” She retorted tartly, inwardly cursing her mother. It was bad enough that she harangued Kathleen about “finding a father” for her daughter; saying it to Hope was utterly unfair.
Kathleen took Hope by the hand and led her to her room to help her change into her nightie. She made sure she brushed her teeth before putting her to bed. Hope was so tired, she fell asleep long before Kathleen had finished reading, so Kathleen leaned over, kissed her forehead, and turned out the light. It was good to have her back, but as she curled up on the sofa to read a little before going to bed herself, she glanced over at the photo of Kit and his crew and wondered wistfully if Hope would ever have another Daddy.
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