In two days she resigned and moved into the little house of the blind old lady. They made an agreement that she did not need to pay rent for her tiny bedroom, if she ran the household for her landlady.
The old lady had been quarreling with her neighbors for so long that there was no danger of any of them popping in for a visit and seeing that the new maid was pregnant.
So there she stayed, working hard so the landlady would not throw her out. She hid her growing belly in a long thick winter coat whenever she went out, trying to find clues to where he had gone, visiting all other the places where they had met, hoping for a note, a message. The only place she did not go to was the house he had been living in. He would never have left her voluntarily, not with the feeling of deep belonging that they shared, so something must have happened to him. Had he died in the hands of those he feared so much?
She did not find any trace of him, and when her pregnancy became too obvious, she stopped going out. They blocked the windows with cardboard at night and she stayed indoors, hiding in the darkness of the blackout.
Shortly before she was due, there was a knock on the front door late one evening. She tried to keep her huge belly hidden behind the door when she opened it. There was the grocery boy's sister, carrying a big professional-looking bag. The woman smiled up at her.
"Step outside, duck, so the landlady won't hear," she said in a barely audible voice, "She has the ears of a bat, that one."
She reached for her winter coat hanging by the door, leaving the door slightly open. An ARP warden came round the corner, spotted the chink of light and yelled "Oy! Put that bleedin' light out!" Quickly wrapping her coat around her like a cloak, she stepped outside closing the door behind her. The grocery boy's sister opened the coat enough to take a look of her bulging form, measuring it with a pair of knowing eyes.
"Hmph. Yes, not long now. I'm Molly, as I think me brother told you? I've come to stay with you until the baby arrives and I'll help you with the labour. Some swine got you into trouble, eh, dear? "
At that she stepped inside and proceeded to greet the landlady with the pretext of having to stay in the city for a few days and asked if she could stop over for a few nights. The landlady agreed, perhaps convinced by some eggs brought as a gift.
Her labour started two days later, early in the morning. Soon, she was clutching her belly as the spasms began. She needed to get out of the landlady's house as soon as possible, so they hurried off, with Molly calling out that they needed to "get some bits and pieces of shopping." Molly walked with her to an empty house, supporting her when the pain made her lose balance. It was a smart house whose owners had gone to the country for the duration, and Molly had the key to it because her brother delivered goods here when the owners were at home, and she cleaned for them.
There, in the kitchen she gave birth to her daughter, helped by her unofficial midwife, who seemed to know exactly what she was doing.
"Our ma was a midwife and I've helped her plenty of times," Molly explained, "as well as her having seven of her own. And you are doing just fine, despite the pain. Hold my hand tight when you want, sweetheart, and don't you try to hold back - that includes screaming if you need to!"
The baby came out surprisingly fast into Molly's capable hands, though it felt as though she was being torn in two. She tried not to cry out because of the neighbours, but could not stay completely quiet. Luckily no one came knocking on the door.
The grocery boy's sister cleaned the tiny baby and wrapped her in a shawl she had with her, and when the afterbirth had come away, helped the new mother to her feet.
"Here are some pads for you to hide the bleeding. I'm sorry that you can't stay here. I'll help you back to the landlady's house, but you'll have to take it from there."
She looked down at her new daughter, and then at Molly.
"Do you really think she'll believe us, the landlady?"
"Dunno, sweetheart, but we have to try. Do you think you can walk now? That's a good girl. And little 'un's fine. Just fine. So pretty. One of the prettiest I've ever seen. Are you sure you don't want to see if we can find a new home for her, a good one?"
"No! I can't give her up, I can't!" The anguish she felt at the idea was beyond belief.
They carried the baby girl to the old lady's house, pretending they had found her on the street with a note on her saying the mother could not keep the baby.
"What? Someone abandoned a newborn on the street? I can't believe the morals of people in wartime!" the old lady said, clearly cross. "A foundling! What on earth do you intend doing with it?"
"Her," said Molly, "it's a girl. The baby is far too tiny to be taken anywhere else. That's my opinion. She might not make it anyway. Might as well make her few days on this earth happy and comfortable - better than taking her to an orphanage, they're nasty places, them! She'd likely die there. She'll need constant attention, though. I've plenty of sisters and aunties, so I get lots of advice on how to take care of newborns. I'll see if they can help. Perhaps my brother could bring some bottle milk, if needs be?"
"It won't survive without mother's milk!" the old woman shook her head, "But I suppose we can't do much else. I'll give her a few days."
"Not a word though," said Molly. "You know how people talk."
Luckily the new mother had plenty of milk, and despite her tiny size, the baby hung onto life, sucking at her breast hungrily as she fed her in the privacy of her room.
"Well, well, well," marvelled the old lady, "I'd never have thought it possible that a newborn could thrive on anything other than mother's milk. Never thought to be learning something new at my age!"
Once it was clear the child would live, the landlady surprised them all by falling in love with the little baby. If the old lady suspected the truth, she was kind enough not to voice her suspicions. After the grocery boy's sister left, they were allowed to stay. Strange though her circumstances were, she found herself almost content with her baby and the old woman, who was now almost a substitute grandmother.
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