Helena Schrader's Historical Fiction

My biographical novel of Balian d'Ibelin in three parts is complete, but the saga continues. Follow me to Cyprus, where Lusignans and Ibelins struggle to put down a rebellion and establish a durable state. Watch for excerpts and updates here.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Where Eagles Never Flew - Excerpt 3

This Excerpt from Where Eagles Never Flew focuses on the leading female character, the pacifist and Salvation Army volunteer Emily Pryce.

Emily was doing the washing-up after dinner with the radio playing softly in the kitchen. The walls of the terraced cottage were so thin that the music could e heard throughout the house. Fortunately, she was listening to classical music, which not disturb her parents as they sat together in the parlour. Mr. Pryce was reading Pravda, his Russian dictionary beside him for reference, and his wife was correcting exams, as it was end of term.

The telephon rang.
 
Mrs. Pryce was nearest to the door. She scowled and then, remarking indignantly, “Just who can be calling at this time of night?” she went into the hall to answer it. She was even more annoyed when a strange male voice asked for Emily and there were clearly pub noises in the background. She stepped into the kitchen doorway and said 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. Once or twice one of the sales representatives at the insurance company hinted about “doing something together sometime,” but he never carried through with an actual invitation. Might he have finally found the courage? Or could it be Michael? Maybe he was in the area for some reason? A little breathless with hope and apprehension she said, “Hello?”

“Miss Pryce?”
 
“Yes.” She still didn’t recognize the voice.
 
“Robin Priestman. We met about a month ago at the Salvation Army Mission.” He sounded as if he wasn’t sure she’d remember, but Emily remembered very vividly. In Fact, she’d agonized over the encounter countless hours since then, trying both to understand her feelings and dissect her behavior 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 dinner with a young man she hardly knew was also something she had never actually done before. She had always assumed that anyone she actually with out with would be someone she knew well from University or work or the Mission….

“Yes, why not?” The young man was replying lightly. “Although, actually, I want to take off before dark, so it would be better if we could meet earlier.” The pub noises in the background were very loud – evidently young men in 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 intot he 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 Fitzsimmon’s 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 of the time.”
 
“And what did he want with you?” Mrs. Pryce ignored her husband.
 
“He asked me out to tea tomorrow.”

"And you accepted?” Her mother sounded shocked.

Emily looked up and straight at her mother, and suddenly she was no longer uncertain and confused. She was 24 years old and earning her own living. She was tired of being treated like 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.” Then Emily stood and went back into the kitchen to finish the drying up, leaving her started parents gazing at one another baffled.
 
One thing was very clear to Emily: 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 to at least 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 ths horrible house with her heartless parents, doing nothing of any significance.

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