Although it wasn't late and I'd already had a nap, I was exhausted. I would have loved a long hot bath, or even a warm shower, but there was not enough hot water yet and no shower anyway. I couldn't even have a milky drink. Far too late it dawned on me that I hadn't got anything for breakfast either. In the end I sorted the blackout curtains, changed for bed, hung up the clothes I had with me, removed my make up, and slid in between cool, crisp sheets under a couple of blankets.
Guilt made me toss and turn for some time. I never cheated and I never poached boyfriends. In a big and sometimes unfriendly world, I needed standards I believed in to live by. I know they say that all's fair in love and war, but if you let one standard go, it unravels the rest. Besides, I didn't know that I loved Chris; all I knew was that I'd never felt anything like I did now about anyone else. Which brought me back to my purpose for being here. I had to get Sam and Foyle back on track.
Funny that; I call him Foyle for Sam, but Chris for me. Almost as if my subconscious is trying to pretend that they are two different people.
I wonder now whether the Chrisses' had actually done anything to alter what went on here. I hadn't seen either of them here in 1940 yet, though I had several more days to get through before the end of the week. Time travel messes with your sanity. To this day I wonder why I was picked for it, but the Selector is never wrong.
I don't remember much more until unutterably cheerful birds woke me at the crack of dawn. I surfaced with bleary reluctance, interrupted from a weird dream involving Chris, Sam, Mike, myself, the Boss back home and a vague feeling that I was at the mercy of a Big Plan that I knew nothing about. I bashed my pillows about a bit, but couldn't get back to sleep.
I am not a morning person. I cannot function without a cup of tea. I looked at my watch and groaned. No shop of this time period was open twenty four seven and I would be at work before most trades opened their doors.
As I had nothing else to do except wash and get dressed, which wouldn't take hours, I remained in bed and scrolled through some of my new memories. I caught up on where we were during the war at the moment, listened to some of Churchill's speeches. I stopped when I got to November 1940 – the month after next – when Neville Chamberlain died. Being here in 1940 gave me a new perspective that no amount of reading could do and I was terribly moved by Churchill's tribute to him. History tended to remember Chamberlain only as the 'peace in our time' man and getting it wrong, but he was 'grievously misled by a wicked man'.
Feeling very sniffley, I changed track and sought out Sam's diaries. In some respects she wrote as if she expected the entries to be read by 'the enemy', and gave no secrets away, but sometimes, reading between the lines, as another woman, gave some insight. Although I skipped one or two pages, I read most of it chronologically even though I didn't have to and she referred to 'Mr F' on a regular basis until September 1940, when it changed to 'Dear Mr F', after an incident at Bexhill fuel depot.
'I was utterly terrified when I realised that the door locked and I was trapped in the office with a bomb. I ran round like a frantic bird, trying all the windows. Who could help me? Well, dear diary, instead of telephoning the nearest person with keys or even the local police, the first person I thought of in my hour of need was Dear Mr F. He was marvellous, I was so glad that he was still in his office; he could so easily have left for the day. He came charging in like gangbusters with the bomb squad, but he was first through the door and took me outside. He was a little cross with me, but only, I think, because he cares. He made one of his little jokes about the Sergeant being a terrible driver. Well, I don't want anyone else driving him anywhere!'
Aha! A clue. Sam is obviously developing feelings for her boss. Looking at it objectively, I imagine Chris likes her a lot already; it just leaves me to figure out what gets the two of them to acknowledge how they feel about each other to each other.
This Bexhill business must be some time in the next three weeks, more or less straight after the looting from the bombed out buildings gets solved and Sam helps Chris by identifying the cog from the synchromesh gears. Clever clogs.
I resisted the temptation to read on to Sam's romance with Andrew; I didn't want to know yet, if at all. I wanted to get to know the real Sam and Chris first.
I got out of bed and grumped through my ablutions. I was really missing my tea and toast with blackcurrant jam. I looked at my watch. Seven fifteen. Frack it; it was still the crack of dawn.
I was just debating whether or not to go for a walk along the seafront when the doorbell rang. At first I didn't know if I should answer it or not; I mean, who knew that I was here?
Well, Chris did. I scrambled downstairs with my usual unladylike haste, unlocked and opened the door.
Only to see a smiling Sam standing on the path and holding some packages. I hope I managed to hide my disappointment.
"Oh. Sam. What a surprise! Please come in. What can I do for you?"
Sam stepped past me and looked appreciatively around the place.
"Oh, this is lovely. You are so lucky! I haven't been able to find a place yet; I'd love something like this."
Tongue in my cheek, hopefully hidden, I looked at her with innocence.
"So, you found somewhere to stay last night, then?"
She actually went pink. It was lovely to see. I'd have given quite a lot to have been a fly on the wall last night.
"Oh, a friend let me have h- their spare room."
I'll bet he did. Yay me!
"That's good. I did think of you, wondered how you got on."
Sam suddenly seemed to remember why she was here.
"Mr Foyle asked me to get you a few things as he said that you hadn't been shopping yet. I'm afraid some of the rationed stuff you'll have to give back as your own allocation; I couldn't get any sugar, but there is a little bacon, some tea, milk, bread and butter. Thank goodness bread isn't rationed yet, I'd starve."
I was so pleased when she mentioned tea that I wanted to hug her, so I let her off explaining just when and how Mr Foyle had passed on his message to her.
I quickly consulted my list of available information on rationing as I got some money out of my purse;
'Initial rationing introduced January 1940; butter, bacon and sugar first, March, meat and preserves, July, tea, margarine, cooking fats, and 1941, cheese.'
"You and Mr Foyle are angels, sent to save me. Have you time for a quick cuppa?"
Sam's already cheerful face brightened further.
"Rather! I might not get chance later. I have to deliver and collect Mr Foyle from a meeting he's not looking forward to. He seems to have a lot of those just lately. Perhaps I can convince him to stop afterwards."
We had moved into the kitchen and I'd got the kettle on to boil. It seemed to take forever compared with my kettle at home, but it gave me time to get some toast going. There was no stasis field or even an airtight contained to keep the bread fresh, so I wrapped it in the baking paper I found in a cupboard, then wrapped in a tea-towel. Sam clearly thought I was nuts, but didn't say anything.
"It keeps the bread soft and slows down the mould. It'll last longer."
Sam's face cleared.
"That's jolly clever. I'll have to remember that."
Eventually we were seated at the table with tea and toast with jam. I have a non-sugar substitute in my tea usually, and I confess I did bring some with me, although in a little envelope, not their usual dispenser.
Sam pulled a face as she sipped her tea.
"I dare say I'll get used to the lack of sugar in my tea, but it hasn't happened yet."
"I know what you mean." I took a sip of tea. "Oh, is that someone at the door?"
Sam cocked her head.
"I didn't hear anything. Are you sure…?"
"Oh, be an absolute sweetie and just have a quick look for me while I see if I can find any last dregs of sugar here."
As soon as Sam left I dropped a couple of SuSubs in our cups and stirred quickly. Life was tough enough without having to endure unsweetened tea.
Sam was back in a moment, shaking her head.
"No-one there, must be imagining things."
"Thanks anyway. Found a little sugar, hope yours is okay."
Sam looked a little baffled, but tested her tea.
"Oh, that's heavenly."
While she was revelling in her tea, I leaned forward in a friendly – I hoped - manner.
"So, tell me, do you have someone you're stepping out with?"
Sam coughed as her tea went down the wrong way. She looked even pinker than before.
Oh, this was wicked fun.
Sam had the car with her and it was not a long trip to go back to collect Chris, sorry, Mr Foyle, my new boss. Naturally I acted as if I had no clue that Sam had spent the night at his house. He didn't seem surprised to see me sitting beside Sam, and I thanked him for his thoughtfulness about my breakfast.
"Not a problem. It's not just the army fights on its stomach."
I caught a wry look directed at Sam and grinned. It was obvious that Chris and I shared the same dryly wicked sense of humour.
Before long, Sam drove up in front of the police station. Chris and I got out of the car; Sam then drove off, presumably to garages at the rear of the building.
Chris introduced me to Sgt Rivers, an older looking, bluff sort of chap, who manned the front desk. Rivers was obviously pleased to have a 'real' secretary on the premises; you could see the relief on his face. The sergeant gave Chris his messages verbally – obviously saving paper – and was thanked with courtesy. I got a guided tour of the station, avoiding sensitive areas naturally, so I at least knew where the staff room, toilets, front desk and Chris' office were.
"I'll introduce you to Sgt Milner when he gets in. He tends to type his own reports, but if we are busy, I'm sure he'd appreciate your help too."
"Anything to do my bit. All I'll need is a typewriter, a table and chair, a copy of how you like the reports typed up, and Bob's your uncle."
I looked around, wondering where this desk of mine would be situated.
Sgt Rivers leaned over the front desk so that he could see his boss in the corridor.
"Sir? Call for you; it's Sgt Milner."
Chris nodded once to me.
"If you'll excuse me for a minute?"
I nodded too, and took myself off to the staff room to wait. Sam came in a few minutes later and straightaway set to making tea.
Sam obviously had a great need for conversation; I suspect that Foyle often had to be firm to stop the flow when necessary, but she didn't give away any secrets. She was young; only in her early twenties, but the war had - and would - mature her greatly. I could see them both making a go of it by 1946. But for now, she was content to leave her affection for the boss in her diary, and merely expressed herself by making him cups of tea.
I zoned back in.
"…so I said to him that I was dreadfully sorry about the whole business, and perhaps he should have it out with her, you know, clear the air sort of thing. She simply left without saying anything; I wouldn't have, but then I wouldn't have jumped to the conclusion that just because my husband was dancing in the living room with another woman that he was misbehaving. D'you see what I mean?"
No, not a clue. I looked attentive and nodded, in the hope that she would not ask my opinion further.
"Well, I think that's why Paul – Sgt Milner – is on the telephone now."
Then the penny dropped. I remembered in my letter I had referred to Sam staying at Milner's house, and his first wife coming home early. How did Sam know he'd just rung Chris? Whatever the jungle telegraph was around here, it was very efficient.
Sam passed me a cup of tea and took one off to her Dear Mr F. She was back in five minutes.
"When we're done here, I get to show you your office. It's not much, I'm afraid, but we had to use the original secretary's office for storage. But it's already got a table and chair, and a nice mirror."
"Lovely. Look forward to seeing it."
Ten minutes later, Sam led me along the corridor from Chris' office to a closed door. She swung the door open with a flourish and stepped back for me to enter the room first.
"What do you think?"
The room was smallish, perhaps ten foot by eight. There was a window, but it was high up on the wall and I couldn't see out. Along the left hand wall, taking up perhaps two thirds of it, was a large mirror. I looked at Sam. Was she aware that it was an interview room? Was I supposed to recognise a two-way mirror when I saw one? Or would a secretarial type like me not be aware of such things?
I kept quiet about my suspicions; perhaps Chris didn't quite trust me yet, but that was okay.
"It'll do nicely. The mirror will reflect some extra light too, so that's fine."
Sam looked at the mirror.
"I thought it rather odd to have such a large one in here; policemen don't generally seem to be too vain, do they?"
I hid another grin.
"Not usually, no."
Just at that moment Sgt Rivers came in, struggling under the weight of a large manual typewriter. He placed it on the desk with obvious gratitude, then brushed his hands.
"There you go, Miss. I've put a fresh ribbon in; old one had dried up – I've got it soaking in ink now. One on my lads will bring you blank report sheets and a specimen report, and just tell him if you need anything else."
"Thanks, Sergeant, you are a wonder."
I looked at him and smiled; he harrumphed and went a little pink. Sam put her fingers in front of her mouth and managed to keep her face straight.
After the sergeant and Sam had gone, I moved the typewriter so that I faced the door whilst typing, with the window behind me rather than the mirror. I didn't like the idea of someone looking over my shoulder without my knowing it.
Fifteen minutes later I was ready to go; I had already had two deliveries of trays of reports to type up, and it looked like I'd have my work cut out to keep ahead of the game. Somewhere along the line I had completely forgotten until Rivers turned up with the antique that I was now in the pre-electric typewriter era.
I fed a plain sheet into the roller. I placed my fingers on the 'first position' and tried a quick test type. I quickly learned that I'd need to push the keys a lot harder than I was used to. I glanced around the room and muttered to myself.
"No point having an electric typewriter anyway, there's nowhere to plug it in."
"Plug what in?"
I nearly jumped out of my skin at the sound of Chris' voice.
"Oh! You startled me! I didn't hear you."
How much had he heard?
Chris stepped into the room from the doorway.
"Everything all right? Got all you need?"
"Oh, yes. Everyone has been so helpful. And busy. I had no idea Hastings was such a hotbed of crime and misbehaviour."
Chris looked at me with an expression I couldn't read exactly.
"Appearances are often deceptive. I never judge a book by its cover."
"A sound policy."
I trusted my instincts and took a gamble.
"You strike me as a man capable of telling the difference between a mushroom and a toadstool."
It must have been the longest three seconds in history.
"I like to think I can…"
I opened my mouth to say something cheeky, but Chris hadn't finished.
"…but then I do appreciate decent mushrooms, and naturally avoid toadstools as a matter of course."
I think we understood each other very well. I hadn't had a decent mushroom in ages.
Or even an indecent one.
I looked at my mission for the day report pile and smiled my 'pleasant but dismissive' smile. The one that had taken years to perfect. The one that I was still rubbish at.
"Well, I must get on. Was there anything else…?"
"No, no, just…um…checking that you had everything you need."
"Thank you, yes. Oh, except, when do I go for lunch?"
Chris had turned to go at my 'thank you, yes', but now he halted and looked back at me.
"Twelve thirty, unless you finish earlier. Y'know, you and Sam should get on famously; you have a lot in common."
He left without waiting for a reply, and I had to grin.
Ah, well, back to my antique.
The next couple of days followed the same pattern of sleep/eat/work and I felt as if I'd typed every incident of police note that had occurred within fifty miles in any direction. Where tactfully possible, I stayed out of Sam and Foyle's way, letting them work as they obviously should. I kept my eyes peeled for either one of the Chrisses, and tried not to get depressed at all the deliberately lost opportunities to seduce Chris.
In the all too few quiet moments, I studied the war and read Sam's diaries. I should have realised that it was going to happen, but it still came as a real surprise when my own name cropped up. My own pseudonym, at least.
Almost ran over someone today, heaven alone knows where she came from, but we gave her a lift into H. Lily Davis is her name. Seems nice. Hope she wasn't trying to kill herself under the Wolseley. It would have been simply too terrible.
No, I wasn't, but thanks anyway. There was another entry for the following day.
Lily is our new secretary. Dear Mr F asked her to work for him. Mixed feelings. Like her a lot, but I think she has her eye on you-know-who. Must wait and see, I suppose. Utter torment, but I'd like him to be happy, even if it wasn't with me. Don't suppose he'll never look at me in that way; he just thinks I'm too young.
The following day I saw Sam in the morning in her uniform, but in the afternoon she was wearing brown overalls. She was very excited about her 'mission', but kept it all hush-hush, when she told me she wouldn't be around for a few days.
I didn't say anything except to wish her good luck. I wasn't supposed to know about the Bexhill business, but I was concerned that this might be the intervention moment. Did one or other of the Chrisses interfere with Foyle's rescue? There was nothing I could say, and to cap it all, I discovered quite by accident that Chris' son Andrew was back at home; or, at least, when he wasn't at the airfield.
That meant Sam wasn't there anymore. Where the heck was she staying?
More to the point, could I trust myself around Chris now that he was free in the evenings, without Sam staying in his spare room?
The first time he looked a bit down in the mouth after lunch with his son, I couldn't help but ask if he was all right. He demurred, naturally, saying that he was quite well, but I could see something was bothering him. I managed to finagle an evening meal invitation out of him; well, actually, that's not strictly true – I asked him out. For the meal, that is. I think he was quite taken aback with this forward hussy; he could have even thought I was shameless, but thankfully for me, he didn't say anything other than 'yes'.
We went back to Carlo's place, and bless his sweet Italian socks, he was obviously pleased that his dear friend Christopher was not eating alone again.
It was a lovely evening; I was more careful with the Chianti and didn't put my foot in my mouth. I didn't push Sam's suit with him; he would get a jolt in the right direction before the end of the week was out, then have to sweat while she dated his son, and later the American chap.
So no, this evening was for me. Being midweek, the restaurant wasn't so busy, so we lingered over the meal, and gently bemoaned the lack of ice cream, which, after all, the Italians do so well.
To my utter and total surprise, he talked about his late wife, Rosalind. I was both pleased and dismayed; he wasn't in the mood for seduction if he was talking about his wife, but on the other hand, maybe he was talking about her as a self-defence mechanism; if he spoke of her, then I wouldn't assume that he was available to romance. Which could mean that I was getting to him.
I didn't find out until later that he rarely spoke of Rosalind; if I had known, I would have been more flattered that he felt able to do so with me.
As before, Chris walked me back to my lodgings. He didn't ask this time, it was the done thing, after all. After we had been walking for a few minutes, I slipped my hand into the crook of his arm and he didn't move to politely dislodge me. Eventually and far too soon, we arrived on my doorstep.
"Would you like to come in for a drink?"
Chris looked distinctly torn. I suppose it was racing on a little for the 1940's mores, but I was reluctant for the evening to end just yet.
"I…erm, don't think…that, it's…quite…"
"Appropriate? No, neither do I by today's standards. But, as has been pointed out, we are at war, and who knows what tomorrow will bring? I dare say one drink won't change me from a mushroom to a toadstool, and I promise to behave."
Chris smiled and shook his head. I wasn't sure if it was a negative answer, or a 'what am I going to do with you' shake.
I brought out the big guns.
"Not partial to a fine malt, then?"
When he caved in, politely, I like to think that it was the company rather than the booze, but I think it certainly tipped the balance.
We were seated in two armchairs, we talked much and drank a little, and he unloaded some of his burdens to me. He mentioned that his son's friend, Rex, had let the cat out of the bag at lunch, earlier today, about Andrew seeing a young woman. Being on his own for so long, I think Chris missed the chance to mull things over with someone, and I was just the right ear at the right time.
It was a very pleasant evening all told. Just for a little while, I allowed myself to imagine that this was my life; I lived here, worked here, loved here, and any minute now, we would go upstairs and make sweet love until we fell into satiated slumber.
But all dreams are destined to end, and eventually, Chris made ready to leave. Although I'm not generally a tactile person, I put my hand on his sleeve and quite spontaneously kissed him on the cheek. It just seemed the right thing to do.
He looked surprised; I'm quite certain that I did, too. However, before he could object, or say anything, really, I moved away to stand by the front door. As soon as he crossed the small room to join me, I turned off the lights so that I could open the door without showing a light. It was pitch dark until I opened the door and moonlight shone brightly enough to cast night shadows.
Chris held his hat in his left hand. He looked like he wanted to say something, but when he did finally speak, I had the distinct impression that it wasn't what he had been going to say.
"Thank you for a very enjoyable evening."
Replete with food, Chianti and a serious shot of Scotch, I was feeling very relaxed and receptive. Standing together in the dark, close but not touching, it felt curiously intimate in the old sense of the word.
My heart was going pit-pat, and there were other signs present to indicate that I was heading for trouble if I stayed on my present course. I wanted Chris with a strength that surprised me. For the first time in my life, I could glimpse what all the fuss was about. In previous liaisons, I'd always made an intellectual decision to have sex as a natural progression in a relationship. Now I wanted it simply because I really wanted it.
With a man who was destined for another woman.
In a little under six years.
"No, thank you; I had fun. You are very amusing company; you have a droll sense of humour that I both understand and appreciate."
I couldn't tell if he was blushing, but he did have a very self-deprecating smile on his face.
"You're too kind."
I wasn't feeling 'kind' at all.
If only I could stop myself from willing him to shove me up against the wall behind me and kiss me senseless; to push one of his legs between mine; to grasp my body and pull me against the length of his.
Christ, I was practically panting.
I discreetly licked my dry lips, tasting the unfamiliar presence of lipstick. I saw Chris' gaze fall to my mouth and his eyes glittered in the moonlight.
Oh, they probably had a special place in hell for me; right beside the people who talk at the theatre.
I had to do the right thing for him, at least.
"See you tomorrow, at work."
Chris might have sighed, I couldn't be sure. I wondered if he could feel the electricity between us; it certainly was zinging around me, either way you look at it.
No; it couldn't be. He was destined for another, and they were soulmates, I knew it.
"Tomorrow. Yes, work, of course…"
Chris nodded as he spoke, as if he were reinforcing what he was thinking.
"…but you will still have to eat, won't you?"
Oh, why does he have to make it so hard for me to resist?
"Yes…I still have to eat."
Chris' look turned wry, his lips hitching at one side, amused.
"I couldn't let Carlo down. I'd never hear the end of it. Have dinner with me, tomorrow night."
It wasn't a question.
Forty eight hours or so until I must leave; how much trouble could I get into with such an honourable man?
So I have to be firm for the both of us. Put my foot down with a firm hand. Say 'no', and mean it. Absolutely, definitely one hundred and ten percent mean it.
"Yes, I'd love to."
With a distinct air of satisfaction, Chris stepped out onto the path before turning back to me.
He placed his hat on his head.
"'Goodnight, Lily. Sleep well."
Oh, like I was going to be able to now!
Sleep well, my posterior. I'll be plagued all night by my lustful imagination. Which was unexpectedly turning out to be both lustful, and very imaginative.
It was going to be a long night.