Deb and Honour watched the battalion disembark for three weeks R and R, cashed up and looking for a good time. The soldiers came ashore with square-jawed smiles and seams pressed sharp and straight as razors. ‘Ever seen anything like it?’ said Deb.

Honour just whistled in response.

‘Where will they go?’

‘Friday night? The dance at the Palace.’

‘How’re we gonna get in there?’

‘Easy.’

That evening they each claimed to be visiting the other. Their mothers sent them off with stern looks and change for the tram fare.

They met in town and caught the train to Mandalay, where they changed into gowns behind a hedge before joining the women milling around the foyer. Two tall soldiers strode their way.

At midnight the four of them, the two girls and the soldier boys, caught a taxi back to the city. Deb and Charles went for a walk by the river. He held her hand, his grip strong, his eyes attentive. Deb glanced back. It looked as if Honour was arguing with Max.

Honour didn’t join her friend at the end of the month as Deb waved Charles off, tears in her eyes and his ring on her finger. He told her he’d come back after the war, and take her across the vast ocean to be together.

2011—Richard Holt / small stories about love (smallstoriesaboutlove.wordpress.com)

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