The telephone rang.
Mrs. Pryce scowled and remarked indignantly, “Just who can be ringing at this time of night?” as she went into the hall to answer it. She was even more annoyed when a strange male voice asked for Emily and with pub noises in the background. She stepped into the kitchen doorway and announced sharply, “Emily! Some man is calling you from a pub. You certainly will not meet him there.”
“No, of course not, Mum. Who is it?” Emily was not “seeing” anyone. Or could it be Michael? Maybe he was in the area for some reason? A little breathless with hope and apprehension she said, “Hello?”
“Yes.” She didn’t recognise the voice.
“Robin Priestman. We met about three weeks ago at the Salvation Army Mission.” He sounded as if he wasn’t sure she’d remember, but Emily remembered all too vividly. In fact, she’d agonised over the encounter countless hours since then, trying both to understand her feelings and dissect her behaviour so there would be no repeat of her incredible faux pas.
The voice in the receiver was continuing, “Look, I’m flying an old Spit down to the Supermarine works near Southampton for factory re-fit tomorrow, and don’t have to get back here until late. I thought maybe we could do something together. Dinner perhaps?”
“Dinner?” Emily was blind-sided. She had never expected to see this young man again. She had certainly never expected him to ask her out. And having dinner with a young man she hardly knew was something she had never done before. She had always assumed that anyone she actually went out with would be someone she knew from University or work ….
“Yes, why not?” The young man was replying lightly. “Although, actually, I’ll have to catch the 8 o’clock train, so it would be better if we could meet earlier.” The pub noises in the background were loud – evidently young men in very high spirits. Robin raised his voice to be heard over it all. “More high tea, really. Is that all right?”
“Yes, of course,” Emily stammered.
“Four o’clock, then? Where can I collect you?”
Emily registered that she would be at work at that time, and she would have to take time off if she wanted to go early, but she would worry about that tomorrow. She just managed to give Robin her work address before his coins ran out, and the loud buzzing of the telephone cut them off.
Dazed, Emily drifted into the parlour where her parents looked at her expectantly, her father over his reading glasses and her mother very rigidly from her desk chair. “And just who was that and what did he want?” Mrs. Pryce demanded.
Emily perched on the edge of the nearest chair, the dishcloth still in her hands, and said in a dazed voice. “It was a man I met at the Seaman’s Mission.”
“A sailor?!” Her parents said in horrified unison.
“No, he’s Major Fitzsimmons’ nephew. He’s a pilot in the RAF.”
“Not much better!” Mrs Pryce concluded. “One hears they drink like fish.”
“Well, I expect that’s a little exaggerated,” Mr. Pryce conceded. “I don’t see how they could be fighting off the Luftwaffe, if they all drank too much all the time.”
“And what did he want with you?” Mrs Pryce ignored her husband.
“He’s asked me out to tea tomorrow.”
“And you accepted?” Her mother sounded shocked.
Emily looked up and straight at her mother. Suddenly she was no longer uncertain and confused. She was 24 years old and earning her own living. She was tired of being treated as though she was still a schoolgirl. “Yes, Mum. I accepted, and I’m going to go to tea with him whether you like it or not.”
Emily stood and went back into the kitchen to finish the drying up, leaving her startled parents gazing at one another baffled.
One thing was clear: she was attracted to this young man as she had been only once before, to Michael. But after finding out he was in the military, she was intimidated by him, too. The military was an alien and rather frightening world. She wasn’t at all sure she could handle it, but she was determined at least to get to know Robin Priestman better. Surely nothing that came out of the friendship could be worse than spending the rest of her life here in this horrible house with her fanatical parents, doing nothing of any significance.
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