“Flying Officer Moran? There are three messages for you.” As he spoke, the clerk removed three folded pieces of paper from one of the pigeonholes behind the desk.
Kit frowned but took the messages. The first was logged in at 15:10 yesterday, when he’d been at the pre-ops briefing. It said simply: “Miss Reddings. Will call back.” The second had the same message repeated at 18:46, when he’d been over the target. The final message was logged at 21:05 and read: “Miss Reddings. Please call back.” A number was provided on the line below.
What irony! Last time he’d had leave he’d made no plans, hoping until the very last minute that Georgina might contact him so they could spend some time together. Now, when he’d given up all hope and had made other plans, she reached out. But why? Why would she ring him now? After all this time? And where had she got his number?
Kit was wary, but he couldn’t ignore the request. Leaving his bags by the door, he went to one of the phone booths, put in the necessary coins, and dialled the number.
After only two rings, Georgina answered sounding a little breathless. “Hello? This is the Radford residence.”
“Georgina. It’s Kit Moran. You asked me to ring you back.” Kit kept his voice neutral, even a bit cool. He did not want her to think that he was desperate to talk to her.
“Oh, Kit! I’m so glad!” She sounded very relieved. “When you didn’t get back to me yesterday, I started to think — to fear — that…. Never mind. It doesn’t matter what I thought. Kit, we have to talk. I mean meet.” The words seemed to tumble over one another in her eagerness to get them out. Kit couldn’t decide if she was excited or anxious. “I have something to tell you, but I want to say it face-to-face. Not over a telephone. Is there any way we could see each other? Soon?”
“I’m about to go on leave, with my whole crew.” His tone reflected his reluctance to upend his plans for her. Kit did not want Georgina to think that she only had to snap her fingers and he would drop everything to come running.
“Oh.” She sounded disappointed but persisted. “But if you’re going on leave next week, surely we could meet up some place? Where will you be and for how long?”
“We have seven days, and we’re starting in London.”
“Couldn’t I meet you there?” She asked enthusiastically, adding brightly, “We could have lunch together tomorrow?”
Part of Kit felt uncontainable joy because of her apparent eagerness to see him again, yet another part was angry still. She made not a hint of an apology for three months of total silence. Dashing her hopes, he explained, “I’ve already arranged to meet Kathleen Hart for lunch tomorrow.” Since Georgina knew Kathleen, Kit knew he did not risk sending a wrong message.
“Oh. I’m glad you’ll be seeing her. Please give her my regards.” Georgina’s words were perfectly correct, but Kit could hear the disappointment in her voice nevertheless — and in her next plea, “What about later in the week, then? I could try—"
Kit cut her short. “I’m going to Reggie’s farm for three days and then up to Hobkirk. I want to visit Don’s grave on the anniversary of his death.”
He heard Georgina catch her breath and instantly regretted blurting it out like that. Georgina might have hurt him, but that didn’t give him the right to be unkind. Her grief for Don was real, and he should have known that reminding her of the anniversary no bluntly would cause her pain. As soon as he let his anger drop, he considered that her silence probably hadn’t been so much indifference to him as a desire to just cool things down a bit. She had probably only wanted to signal to him that she wasn’t ready for a new relationship — or hadn’t been. Had enough time passed for her to risk getting closer now? If so, he be shooting himself in the foot to be too hard on her just out of stubborn pride.
“You’re going to Hobkirk?” She asked timidly on the other end of the phone. “Next Thursday?”
“Yes, my navigator has lent me his car so I can drive up from Reggie’s farm.” Kit very much wanted to see Georgina again, but he had pictured being alone with Don during this visit. He didn’t want Georgina standing between them.
On the other end of the line, Georgina asked uncertainly, “Kit? Couldn’t I come with you?” She paused but did not give him time to answer before adding apologetically, “I was planning to ask my father to take me there, but if you’re going anyway wouldn’t it make sense for us to go together?” When he still did not answer straight away, she added, “Please?”
Kit could hear the tears in her voice, and his heart melted. Yes, he wanted time alone with Don’s memory, but surely that took second place to helping Georgina? Don would certainly have wanted him to help Georgina.
“Please, Kit,” she pleaded again, a choked-back sob audible on the other end of the line.
The fact that she didn’t take his answer for granted was the final straw. Kit didn’t have the heart to say no, even as he warned himself that she’d said nothing to indicate she had changed her mind about him — or rather, about them. Just because she was willing to risk meeting again didn’t mean she was ready to fall into his arms. Maybe she was just having a new crisis and needed a shoulder to cry on? Maybe he should resent that — but he didn’t. He realized that even if that was all this was about, he wanted to help her if he could. “Yes, we can go together,” he answered her at last. “Where—"
“I can get myself to York, if that would help? You could pick me up there. Is that all right?” She still sounded unsure.
“Yes, of course.” The telephone started beeping, an indication that Kit’s coins had almost run out. Hastily, they agreed on a place and time just as the connection cut off.
Kit returned to the front hall to retrieve his bags and noticed with amusement that his step was lighter. So much so that he allowed himself a short little African jig. The realisation that he would be seeing Georgina in less than a week made him happy. Ridiculously happy. Love makes fools of all of us, he thought, but he left the mess smiling.
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