The Silver Cross

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Chapter Twenty-Three

Six Months Later

Such a lot has happened to us since we found John’s diary. Very soon afterwards we moved into our new house at 25 Lavender Road. It was a bit weird at first thinking of the bomb explosion and poor Catherine, but for some reason we both feel at home here, as if we belong. I’ve got a huge bedroom now, and there’s a spare one for when anyone comes to visit. Because every now and again I see my sister, Louise, from my Dad’s first marriage. And sometimes our cousins in Somerset call by when they are visiting London.

In October we are planning to visit Carol and her family in Vancouver, and also go skiing. I’m going to use some of my savings for that. But first, Carol and her husband are coming over this weekend to stay with us for John’s rededication ceremony, which we are really excited about.

When we first moved in we were minor celebrities and the neighbours all recognised us from the newspapers, so we got to know them really quickly. The Brown family at number 31 even let us have a look round their house so that we could see where Catherine and her family had lived, and now we are good friends with them.

I met up with Dad, who finally took me to see my Grandparents, Joe and Liz. I was a bit nervous at first but there was no need, they were really lovely and made me feel completely at home, and now I visit them once a month for Sunday dinner. It was weird seeing Dad again after so long, but after a few awkward moments we were soon laughing and joking like we’d never been apart. I don’t see him very often as he lives in Wales, but every six weeks or so he travels up and meets me and his other children.

Peter, Dad’s eldest son, has finally starting speaking to him, and we have plans to all meet up at our Grandparents’ home soon. I haven’t met the two youngest so far, but Dad has promised that he will bring them up with him next time. I feel so much more contented inside, as if all the pieces of my life are finally slotting together. Mum doesn’t say much when I talk about Dad, but I know that she is secretly pleased that we are in touch. And she is looking so much happier and healthier all round these days, not working so hard and with Tom spoiling her. It is like some sort of healing has taken place.

We are not exactly rich now, but Mum has been able to leave her job at the supermarket. She still works at the Library two afternoons a week, and volunteers at the local Deaf Club every Friday. She received some compensation from the Council, but she said she was more interested in their public apology that came with it. Mum is learning to drive and I will start too, as soon as I’m old enough.

Mum has got engaged to Tom, although he doesn’t live with us. I’m still seeing Julian, and we are both very happy together. If we are still boyfriend and girlfriend when I’m eighteen we may get engaged, too. When I start working we are hoping to buy a small place together. I’ve still got most of the money from my newspaper interview which I can put towards a deposit. The National Lighthouse also want to do a follow-up interview with us this Sunday for the rededication ceremony and they are paying us £10,000 for that, which I will share with Mum so she can buy a second-hand car.

Barry helped Mum to organise for some representatives from the Royal Corps Signals to attend John’s ceremony this weekend, where his headstone will be unveiled with the letters “MC” added after his name.

What really did please me was that somebody has come forward who says they are related to Joan Smith, and they will be at the ceremony on Sunday. What will be uncovered when the national inquiry into the war years has taken place we have yet to find out.

Wadham Council have agreed to pay out for new headstones for people who were buried under false names, including Margaret, and a memorial plaque for the communal area in the cemetery. The Council have also had to pay out a lot of money in compensation to members of VOCAL, and given others their houses back.

Derek Duncan finally confessed to the Police everything he knew about Councillor Duncan’s activities and the properties which he had confiscated. He is now in prison but they may let him out early because of his confession. I heard from Barry that Derek is a broken man; his wife has died and he has lost his son as well as his house. David Pritchard got off scot-free because there was no evidence that he had committed any crime, but he has moved away now because, as Barry said, his reputation has been tarnished and there are a lot of angry people in Wadham.

Karina, Annabel and I have gone our separate ways for now. Karina is still at school and wants to go into nursing, while Annabel has started a beautician course at College. I’ve started a new course in Supervisory Management at College, and still hope to train as a Police Officer when I am eighteen. Although in the back of my mind is the thought that I could be an investigative journalist if that doesn’t work out.

Karina is seeing Carey now, I think out of sympathy at first, but they seem to be very happy. Annabel did meet up with André in the summer, but soon afterwards she starting seeing a boy called Kevin, who lives near to her. We didn’t want to lose touch with each other, so I still meet up with them at ballroom dancing classes once a week. We keep trying to persuade our boyfriends to come along as our partners, and the good news is that I’ve finally talked Julian into give it a try this week.

I was beginning to think that we would never find out what had happened to John’s Military Cross medal, but a few months after we moved into Lavender Road I had a recurring dream. It was the one where I saw John searching our house by torchlight after it had been bombed. He looked at me again and said:

“Have you found my cross?”

Once again I was terrified, but this time instead of screaming and waking myself up I composed myself. I looked John in the eyes, shook my head and said, “No”. He led me to the broken staircase and flashed his torch underneath the ruins. Then he said, “MC” and touched his heart. John gave me a sad smile because he could see that I was still scared of him and he didn’t want that, so then he gave me a salute goodbye.

I woke up with a start. Finally I understood what John meant. He had buried his cross underneath the stairs as a memorial with the initials ‘MC’, the initials of Margaret and Catherine. And he had placed his cross there because he thought they had both been buried in an unmarked grave, and this was where he believed that Margaret and Catherine had been killed!

As soon as it was a decent hour I rang Barry and asked him if I could borrow his metal detector. When I explained why, he said he would consider it a great honour to come along and search with me to try to find the medal. Tom had told Barry about my dream the night he’d been attacked; I’m sure that’s why he was so interested. So that afternoon, with Mum present as well, we moved everything out of the cupboard under the stairs and let Barry use his detector. At first he said,

“Ah, these are the water pipes,” and traced them in a straight line all the way under the floorboards. Then he found the gas meter, and traced those pipes too. “If it’s underneath these pipes we may have a problem,” he told us.

I thought back to my dream, and to where I imagined John had been shining his torch.

“Can I have a try?” I asked.

I swept the detector in an arc near to where we were standing, by the doorway. Suddenly I heard a faint beep coming from one spot near to the kitchen wall and I showed Barry, who drew a chalk cross on the floorboard. Then he got a crowbar from his toolbox and pulled the floorboard up.

“Hover over that space now,” he directed. I did so, and the beep was much louder.

“It’s under here!” I shouted.

Mum switched on her torch and searched underneath the floorboards. “I can see something sticking out,” she said excitedly.

“Do you want to do the honours?” asked Barry, handing me a trowel.

I knelt down and began scraping at the small mound until I felt it loosen. Then I reached down inside the space, which was quite awkward because my arms are not that long, until I managed to grab hold of something and pull it out. At first it looked like a folded piece of old newspaper but once we opened that out, inside there was a small presentation box.

“Wait a minute!” said Mum, getting her camera on the setting ‘video record’.

“Right, are we ready?” I asked everyone. Then I gently lifted open the lid to reveal a Military Cross medal.

“Oh my goodness,” Barry exclaimed, and when I looked at him he was dabbing his eyes with a handkerchief.

“Just in time for the rededication ceremony,” said Mum.

“I’ve found your cross, John,” I called out loud, and nobody laughed.

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