May 1945

The war ended on the 8th of May 1945. I sat in the drawing room of Sous-les-Arbres that morning, when Von Schlegel told me personally. I would like to say I felt overwhelming excitement and happiness; but instead I felt uncertainty at the prospect of further upheaval. The same uncertainty I had felt upon learning four years earlier that we were to be invaded.

At three o'clock that afternoon, six of us: me, the Kommandant, Mr and Mrs Lawson, Stahl and Faber; stood within the Kommandant's office and listened to the radio broadcast by Churchill, declaring the war to be over and the Channel Islands to be free. We expected the British forces to arrive in the morning.

Faber and Stahl slinked off that evening without a word. The Kommandant invited me once more to his office for a brandy and soda. Although neither of us spoke of it, I knew he planned to make an escape before our liberation in the morning. He handed me the drink.

"I have enjoyed your company during the past years. I hope you realise that," he said.

I took a sip of my drink.

"But this was never going to end well, was it Miss Allardyce?"

"I think you suspected that the day you took me to the school last year."


"What will you do?" I asked.

"What you have done. Everything I can to survive."

He swallowed the remainder of his drink and stood. "And you? What will you do?"

"I hadn't thought," I said. "I'll wait, I suppose. I'll just wait here and see what happens."

Von Schlegel buttoned his jacket, straightened his sleeves and placed his hat upon his head.

"I shall miss this house," he said. "It has been a most comfortable stay."

He put on his gloves and walked to the door.

"I hope he comes home to you, Lillian, safe and well. And I don't mean Mr DesChamps."

He smiled, and left. I never saw him again.


I awoke the following morning to find the house deserted. Doors left open, German hats discarded; cups of tea cold and abandoned upon tables.

That afternoon, as we tidied the items of clothing and papers strewn across the front lawn following the Germans' departure; a British tank rolled noisily up the driveway.

"You would think they'd have used a bloody car instead of that thing," remarked Mrs Lawson.

It screeched to a halt, and a hatch opened at the top. A head appeared and yelled. "This house has been liberated!"

"Yes we know. Thank you," replied Mrs Lawson.

"Are you the owner?" the soldier asked her.

"No," she replied. "This is the owner," she added, placing her hand upon my shoulder.


It was as I mowed the front lawn two weeks later that I truly felt for the first time the elation at being free. I stopped beside the fountain and gazed up at its flamboyant figures, before looking over at the trees that swayed gently in the summer breeze. For the first time I heard the rustling of the leaves without it being interrupted by the sounds of German cries and jackboots from the house behind me. It was blissful.

I noticed a car approach, and for a brief moment, my heartbeat quickened, as I thought it could have been Stephen or Peter. But I realised I did not recognise its occupants. I went to greet it, and saw a soldier step out from the front and walk around to help the passenger out of the other side. He helped him into a wheelchair, and got back into the car. The man in the wheelchair rolled forward and stopped, as though waiting for me to reach him.

"Can I help you?" I called as I approached.

"Miss Allardyce?" replied the man.

"Yes, I'm Miss Allardyce…"

It was upon seeing him smile as I got closer that I realised I knew him.

"Hello Miss…I wouldn't expect you to remember me, but…"

"Euan? Euan Cantarini?"

He appeared overjoyed. "Yes. Yes, Miss, it's me."

"Good heavens! Euan!" I embraced him as best I could as he sat in his wheelchair. I only barely registered at that point that he had lost one of his legs. "How old are you?"

"I'm twenty-one, Miss."

"You're twenty-one…has it really been that long?"

Alastair interrupted our conversation. Euan introduced himself to him, before turning to me.

"My, he's…he's the spit of…"

"Yes he is."

Euan smiled. "Well, well. I didn't realise I had been away for that long! Well done, Miss."

"What do you mean 'well done'? Indeed, you're just as crude as I remember, Mr Cantarini!"

Euan sat within the downstairs drawing room with me and recounted what had happened to him, along with the other three boys I knew. The news was as awful as I had feared. All four had joined the army, and all four were put into the same regiment. They all alighted in Dunkirk, and Euan was only survivor of the four. I asked him not to provide me with the details of how they had died.

It devastated me, but Euan's cheery spirit and positivity kept my tears at bay for now at least. He had lost a leg, but he was alive; and I was overwhelmed with joy to have him sitting before me.

He agreed to stay with us, at least until his parents returned to the island. He was horrendously skinny after his ordeal; but I soon returned the meat to his bones by indulging his relentless appetite for hot porridge. I loved having him in the house. On his crutches, he would play with Alastair on the lawn, and we would talk for hours in the evenings about our wartime experiences.

"Sometimes I just don't understand it," he said one day. "Why I survived and the others didn't. My genetic affliction will see me dead within the next decade anyway…it hardly seems just that three healthy, promising young men should…"

"Euan, don't you dare," I interrupted him. "Don't you dare assume that simply because your life will be shorter than theirs would have been…don't you dare assume that it is not as valuable. I won't have it, Euan. You have given me nothing but joy. You all did. And I do not see it a shame that it is you who has returned to me when the others have not. Don't you dare think that you had less of a right to live than they did, Euan."

He smiled and nodded tearfully.

"Now then, eat your porridge. I'm off to decorate the music room. The walls are covered in ink stains after the Germans used it as an office."

"Can I help you?"

"Not unless you can get up a ladder with one leg…"

"I'll try anything once," he joked.

"Well…I suppose you could help me mix some paint."


Euan sat by the window in his wheelchair and sang as he mixed the paint, and I thought of Stephen as I brushed across the wall. I remembered when I had sung Grieg in this very room, and Stephen had stood and listened upon the very spot where Euan now sat. I remembered how he had called it 'overly sentimental' and then my thoughts turned to the night he had followed me in the rain to the field outside the school, and had confessed his feelings to me. 'Three things,' he had said, 'have caused me to fall in love with you…Grieg…Snowdon…and paper aeroplanes.' Then I laughed upon remembering him say 'but not Byron.'

Euan's singing had stopped and he sat gazing out of the window, deep in thought. Then I heard his wheelchair squeak as he leaned nearer the window. He let out a small laugh, as if he had just realised something.

"Everything alright?" I asked.

"Yes," he said, grinning peculiarly from ear to ear. "Umm, could you do me a favour, please, Miss?"

"I have asked you repeatedly to call me Lillian, Euan…what is it you want?" I said as I lowered myself down the ladder.

"I've just realised I've left my crutches by the front door. Could you get them for me, please?"

"Can't you use your wheelchair?"

"The nurse wants me to weight-bear as much as possible on the other leg. Please?"

"Alright then…where is Alastair, by the way?"

"In the nursery, I think," he replied.

His eyes returned to the window as I left the room.

I made my way along the hallway to the front entrance to the house. There was no sign of any crutches.

"Euan? Are you sure you left them by the door? I can't see your crutches!" I called.

But then I heard a car door slam shut, just outside the front door, which had been left slightly ajar. I took the handle and opened it. Two men stood at the other side of the car, gazing at the fountain with their hands in their pockets.

I stepped out onto the steps, and one of the men turned. It was Peter. He grinned and tapped the other man on his arm. I held my breath. The other man's shoulders turned and he swivelled on his heels. Upon seeing me, his hands dropped from his pockets, and his mouth opened in awe, just as mine did.

It was my beloved Stephen.

I was paralysed with blinding emotion; so strong that I thought I would faint. They both stepped forward and approached the steps, when Alastair came running from the door towards Peter, laughing with delight at seeing his long lost friend.

Stephen's eyes remained momentarily trained upon mine in tenderness, before they turned to Alastair. I saw him melt into a heap of tears and smiles as he fell to his knees before his son.

"Alastair, this is your Daddy," Peter said.

Alastair looked doubtingly at this man who had just this second tumbled into his life so suddenly; but then held out his hand to shake Stephen's.

"I'm Alastair…how do you do, Sir?" he said, perfectly performing the phrase I had taught him to say to new acquaintances.

Stephen shook his hand and then gently pulled Alastair to his chest, kissing him and crying into his hair.

Peter ran up the steps to greet me, he wrapped his arms around me. "I gave him your message," he said into my ear.

He ran back down the steps and took Alastair away to show him the car. Then Euan appeared on his crutches, grinning with cunning satisfaction, and hopped along to join them.

Stephen slowly advanced up each step, closer and closer, until he reached me.

I could not speak; I could not say a word. I could smell him; he was so close to me that I could smell him again. I fell against him and smothered myself into his neck. I pulled him tightly to me and collapsed into him as I felt his arms around my body.

He was here. He had come back to me, after all this time. My Stephen.

I heard my child's laughter from the lawn; along with that of Peter and Euan; and I lost myself in the blissful sounds of my lover's breath in my ear as the tears streamed down my cheeks. I rested my chin upon his shoulder and watched the water cascading from the fountain.

And then I thought of Byron, after all those years; for that was how I greeted him.

With silence and tears.




Author's note: Thank you so much to all of you who have reviewed this story, and the many those of you who have read it through. I hope you have enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it!