Writing

Reading Sundays: THE MARRIED MAN (Part 5) a short story by Cynthia Sally Haggard

“Dreams and aspirations are all very well, but our family was poor, so when I turned fourteen in 1903, I had to leave school to find a job. My parents hid their disappointment well. Perhaps they were hoping I would be so brilliant that the schoolmasters would be begging to let me stay. However, when I came home from school the day I turned fourteen, with a letter of reference from the headmaster, they didn’t protest. I soon found myself employed in the City as a clerk in a dry goods store.

“Everything was going swimmingly until I met Beat, whose full name was Beatrice Victoria Hough, a fancy name for a chit of a girl who lived in Bermondsey, on the wrong side of the river. But people had aspirations in those days and often gave their kids these ridiculous names.”

She searches the pile of faded clippings.

CAVELEY

Mrs. Beatrice Victoria, née Hough…married Robert Prisley Caveley, on 20 June 1914, at St. Anne’s, Bermondsey…

“Emmy listens quietly, her hands in her lap. She is the complete opposite of Beat, having a knack for seeing the good in others. I raise my eyes to Emmy’s soft brown ones, and the words dry on my lips. Somehow, I don’t think Beatrice, or ‘Beat’ as she is commonly known, is a suitable topic of conversation for a girl like Emmy.

“After that first meeting, I rearranged my days so that I could pass through Thurrock on my way elsewhere, to have a cup of tea, and a chat with Emmy. She used to bring me sandwiches and home-made cakes, and it wasn’t long before I realized I was falling in love. But it was 1916, or 1917, the war was still on, there was no end in sight, and I didn’t think it fair to a girl like Emmy, to saddle her with someone who might be wounded, and not able to provide for her.

I didn’t say anything to Beat, which wasn’t hard as we scarcely saw one another, but somehow she found out. One day, when I returned at midnight, I found her waiting up by the fire. [To be continued.]