hair

‘How long’ve you lived here?’
Dorothy laughs and nods towards the other end of the room.
‘I was born over there,’ she says. ‘in that corner.’
I turn to look, even though it was ninety years ago, and the nappies and towels and pillows and bed have long since gone, along with the partition wall.
‘I’ve lived in lots of different places since then, of course,’ she says, ‘but I came back to look after Mum in her last years,  and then when David was demobbed after the war we just kind of stayed on. And that was that.’
Dorothy is as trim and bright as a woman half her age. She sets the tray of tea things down and pours David’s cup first.
He’s sitting by the window, an imposing figure still, despite his age and illness.
‘If your hair gets any longer I’m going to plait it,’ she says, handing him a cup of tea with a biscuit balanced on the saucer.
‘I’d like that,’ he says. ‘I always thought I’d make a good pirate.’
‘I’ll just finish writing up my notes and then I’ll be off,’ I tell them.
‘No rush,’ says Dorothy.
David stares out of the window, into the street.
‘I was very glad to come home,’ he says. ‘I’d joined up before the war. Couldn’t think what else to do, you see? And I went all through it. India. Europe, the whole invasion thing. Ended up on a boat heading for Japan. Then they dropped the bomb, and turned us round again.’
‘Wasn’t it the anniversary recently? The dropping of the bomb?’
‘Seventy years. A terrible business, but I must admit, we were all pretty relieved. Our lot were heading for this particular bay – nothing special, not like one of the main ports – and yet still we were told to expect around forty thousand casualties. We knew the Americans had suffered badly at Okinawa. We had no illusions about what lay ahead for us. I certainly didn’t expect to come home.’
He finishes his tea in a couple of gulps, then holding the empty cup, stares out of the window at the traffic moving sluggishly backwards and forwards in the bright afternoon sunshine.
‘A nasty, nasty business,’ he says, coming back to the moment, and putting his cup back on the saucer. ‘I just don’t know where the time goes.’
‘No, but your hair does,’ says Dorothy. ‘More tea?’

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