Read Christmas Wishes Online

Authors: Katie Flynn

Tags: #Traditional British, #Mystery & Detective, #Fiction

Christmas Wishes

Contents

About the Book

About the Author

Also by Katie Flynn

Title Page

Dedication

Acknowledgements

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Copyright

About the Book

It is the autumn of 1945 and identical twins Joy and Gillian Lawrence are on their way home to Liverpool, having been evacuated to Devonshire five years earlier. Their mother has been killed in the blitz but the girls hope that with their beloved father’s help they will be able to manage without assistance.

All goes well until there is a terrible accident and Joy loses her sight. At first she is bitter and resentful whilst Gillian is racked with guilt. However, as time passes Joy gains confidence, hopeful that her sight will return since life is not easy when you can’t see the face of the boy you think you love.

Then there is a chance meeting on a train and once more the girls lives are in turmoil…

About the Author

Katie Flynn has lived in the North-West for thirty-two years and during that time has seen many changes in Liverpool, especially around the docks and in the city centre. A compulsive writer, she started with short stories, articles and radio talks when her children were small. As they grew up she turned to writing novels under several names, and has enjoyed great success.

Also available by Katie Flynn

A Liverpool Lass

The Girl from Penny Lane

Liverpool Taffy

The Mersey Girls

Strawberry Fields

Rainbow’s End

Rose of Tralee

No Silver Spoon

Polly’s Angel

The Girl from Seaforth Sands

The Liverpool Rose

Poor Little Rich Girl

The Bad Penny

Down Daisy Street

A Kiss and a Promise

Two Penn’orth of Sky

A Long and Lonely Road

The Cuckoo Child

Darkest Before Dawn

Orphans of the Storm

Little Girl Lost

Beyond the Blue Hills

Forgotten Dreams

Sunshine and Shadows

Such Sweet Sorrow

A Mother’s Hope

In Time for Christmas

Heading Home

A Mistletoe Kiss

The Lost Days of Summer

You Are My Sunshine (writing as Judith Saxton)

For Kath Arnott, who bore patiently with the questions and queries I hurled at her husband; thanks, Kath.

Acknowledgements

My sincere thanks go to Roy Arnott, who did his best to unravel the mysteries of the Fire Service in the 1940s and 50s; the bits I got right are due to Roy, any mistakes I made are my own!

Chapter One

October 1945

When Miss Jensen came into her classroom, the Lawrence twins were fighting. Miss Jensen sighed, walked across to the desk and rapped sharply on it. The twins immediately broke apart, but whereas Joy beamed at the teacher, Gillian, though she also smiled, broke into speech. ‘It weren’t my fault, Miss Jensen,’ she said defensively. ‘Joy said she were goin’ to sit next to Annie when we get aboard the Liverpool train the day after tomorrer, and
I
want to sit next to her. She’s as much my pal as she is Joy’s and I’m the eldest, so it should be up to me. Ain’t that so, Miss?’

Miss Jensen sighed and rubbed the back of her neck; she suffered from occasional severe headaches and could feel one coming on, and her back twinged when she had to keep jumping to her feet. But she never let the children know; what good would it have done?

‘Behave yourselves and stop squabbling,’ she said crossly. The twins were identical, but the fact that Gillian had come into the world twenty minutes before her sister must be known to everyone, both in the school and in the small village to which the girls had been evacuated several years earlier. Most of the children had already gone home, but the families of the ones remaining had elected to leave them with their foster-parents until the school half term, owing to a shortage of accommodation or, sadly, the death of one or both parents in the bombing. The twins’ mother had been such a casualty, but their father had said he could cope once he had made arrangements with his relatives and employers. ‘Sit down, both of you … no, not in a double desk; you’ll only start squabbling again. Gillian, you share with Avril … and as I’ve told you a hundred times, we all know you’re the elder and we don’t care a bit!’

‘Oh, but Miss …’ the older twin began, only to be promptly squashed.

‘Don’t be ridiculous, Gillian. As I’ve just said, age doesn’t come into it,’ the teacher said sharply. ‘And isn’t this a little early to start claiming your place on the train? Remember, even though the war’s over, many things, including rail travel, have not yet returned to normal. The journey back home may mean several changes, and many delays, so you could take turns sitting next to Annie, if you feel it is so important.’

Annie, a placid, plump and pink-cheeked fourteen-year-old – the twins were thirteen – twisted round in her seat to grin at her friends. ‘I got two sides, haven’t I? Joy could sit on me left and Gilly on me right. What’s wrong wi’ that, you two?’

‘We can’t …’ and ‘Don’t call me Gilly,’ the twins chorused, Gillian adding in a belligerent tone: ‘It’s always the same. My mam chose me a real beautiful name – of course when I popped into the world she didn’t know ugly old Joy were comin’ along behind – and if she’d wanted me to be called Gilly …’

Miss Jensen, sighing and feeling every one of her sixty-six years, pointed out sharply that since the twins were identical Gillian could scarcely call her sister ugly, but Joy cut across her words. ‘We can’t sit one on each side of Annie because twins have to be together,’ she explained kindly to the now seething teacher. ‘Actually, I don’t mind who I sit next to on the other side – though of course I’d rather it were Annie – since at the end of the journey we’ll be back in our own home, with our own dad, and that’s all that really matters.’

Miss Jensen clapped her hands smartly as the girls began to chatter and waited for silence before she spoke. When she did so, the children must have realised from her tone that she was in no mood to be trifled with, and both twins and Annie mumbled, ‘Sorry, Miss,’ before settling back in their seats, all three wearing expressions of meek obedience which an angel might have envied.

Miss Jensen cleared her throat. ‘I know you’re excited at the thought of returning to Liverpool after so long away,’ she said, smiling a little, ‘but this conversation is getting us nowhere and there’s still work to be considered.’ She turned her head to glance at the clock. ‘I shall give you an essay to be done between now and tomorrow morning, so get out your homework books please.’

For a moment she wondered wildly what subject she could choose which would be interesting enough to put the thought of returning home out of the heads of her rebellious charges. It was not an easy choice, for the class now consisted of children of various ages who had remained behind after a good few of their classmates had returned to the city when the worst danger of bombing raids seemed to be over. The twins, Miss Jensen reflected now, were a case in point. After their mother had been killed in the May blitz their father, Alex Lawrence, who was sub-officer on Blue Watch at the fire station in Old Gadwall Street, had explained to both the teacher and the farmer’s wife that with two nine-year-old girls on his hands he would not be able to give his whole mind to his job, which was an essential one in wartime. Both had agreed that he was doing the right thing.

In the four years since then, he had managed to visit them three times, and Miss Jensen thought that no man could have done more, for the journey was long and complicated. She had met Alex Lawrence once or twice and had liked him. He was a tall, well-built man with close-cropped light brown hair, and though not handsome he had a craggy and attractive countenance and an easy, pleasant manner. The teacher knew that he wrote weekly, because the twins were proud of his letters and showed them around. He illustrated them with tiny pictures which he thought might amuse them, and meticulously addressed such letters to each twin by turn, though he knew of course that they would read every word of every missive many times over, regardless of to whom the letters were addressed. No girls, Miss Jensen was convinced, could have had a better father, which was as well since the twins, though delightful in many ways, were not the easiest of children.

Now, faced with two rows of expectant faces, Miss Jensen thought quickly and came up with a subject she hoped would be within the capabilities of her ill-assorted class. ‘First memories,’ she said briskly. ‘I want you to write an essay of at least two pages, in your best handwriting, telling me the very first thing you can remember. That should be possible for all of you, no matter what your age, and because we shan’t be here much longer I shall dismiss the class as soon as you’ve had your dinner, which will give you a whole afternoon to complete the task. Any questions?’

Annie’s hand waved and she jumped up and down in her seat. ‘Shall we do it in pencil or ink, Miss?’

‘In pencil, of course, since that will enable you to rub out spelling mistakes or grammatical errors,’ Miss Jensen said, wishing she could have growled
In blood
, the way her old French teacher had answered that perpetually asked question. ‘Any other questions?’

A hand belonging to eight-year-old Lizzie shot up. ‘Please Miss, I don’t ’member nothin’ before the fire, and then all I ’member is this great big tall feller wi’ a shiny ’at on ’is ’ead carryin’ me down a ladder. But that weren’t me first memory, ’cos I were quite big by then, but don’t ’member a single fing afore that.’

‘Then that is your first memory,’ Miss Jensen was beginning when Gillian interrupted.

‘I bet that were me dad, the feller wi’ the shiny helmet,’ she said importantly. Miss Jensen opened her mouth to tell her pupil to speak properly, the way she had been taught, then shut it again. In normal circumstances the twins spoke with very little accent, but now, thinking about going home to Liverpool, they seemed to drop into the dialect they had scarcely used for the past six years. ‘He’s saved a thousand kids, my dad.’

‘Not a thousand,’ Joy cut in, looking reproachfully at her sister. ‘There ain’t a thousand kids left in Liverpool because of the evacuation.’ She twisted round to face the younger girl. ‘Were it our dad, Lizzie? How old was you?’

‘I dunno,’ the child said vaguely. She was a small, mousy little girl, orphaned since the May blitz, and was apt to trail in the wake of the twins, attracted, Miss Jensen thought, by both their self-confidence and their pretty looks. However, it would not do to let the girls start chattering amongst themselves, so Miss Jensen rapped sharply on her desk once more.

Other books

Main Attraction by Anna J. Evans
Secrets of the Fall by Kailin Gow
Frederick's Coat by Duff, Alan
Sneak by Angler, Evan
Fall Apart by SE Culpepper