FICTION

Communique Unfinished

The love story of a girl who found that happiness has its price even in a world torn by war’s tragedy

JULIEN FIELD November 15 1943
FICTION

Communique Unfinished

The love story of a girl who found that happiness has its price even in a world torn by war’s tragedy

JULIEN FIELD November 15 1943

From a Berlin communique: Our bombers attacked several East Anglian towns during the night. Important military objectives were struck.

MAYBE Berlin was right. Maybe they were “military objectives”—the little children in that nursery. The kind of children who would grow up defiant, like their mothers and fathers before them, of all the Wehrmachts, and Luftwaffes, and Geopolitik mumbo-jumbo that periodically comes oozing out of the murk of the German mind.

Anyway, on that night the bombers came over. Only a few, but Goebbels had to have something to build upon and magnify, what with the pasting the RAF was giving the Reich, on whose sacred soil Goering had sworn no bombs would fall. Only a few that could be spared from the already drained Russian front and the nightmare in the Mediterranean—but enough to blast away a lot of things that stood between Lizzie, Lady Pamela Towne, and Major John Hardin, Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps—and their futures.

Pamela Towne wearily soaped the washcloth and commenced on Lizzie’s back. This was the 20th child she had bathed since noon. Since Hitler’s aerial blitz of London Pamela had been working in nurseries for the bombed-out kids—blond kids and dark kids— chubby little boys who walked and smiled and squared their little jaws like miniature Churchills. Other kids whose eyes were afraid . . .

Pamela’s days stretched behind, and ahead in a vista of endless rows of plates to be filled with soup and porridge; endless ranks of wriggling little bodies to be bathed, noses to be wiped, curls to be combed—and questions to be answered. Questions like, “Where is my Mommy now?”—and “Will I ever see my Daddy?” Questions you didn’t know how to answer because so often there was only one answer—“Never.” And in the night, sometimes, little graves to be filled and quiet words to be spoken over them. The immemorial, gentle words, yet they caught and tore at your throat as you said them because of the hot, gall-bitter hate welling up for those who had caused all this.

The deep, violet-blue of Pamela’s eyes was repeated and emphasized in two shadowed semicircles beneath them. Her head pounded with fatigue and her arms ached as she swished the washcloth. She tried to keep the shrilling of her nerves out of her voice as she spoke to Lizzie.

“What’s the matter, baby?” she asked. “Why are you crying?”

“Not crying,” sobbed Lizzie. “Just soap in my eye.”

Pamela washed the tightly screwed-up eyes with clear water. “There,” she said, “how’s that?”

“Not crying,” Lizzie sobbed again. “It’s soap.”

“What’s your name?” Pamela asked, gently. This was a new child, she suddenly realized. She had been too tired even to notice that before.

“L-l-lizzie.”

“Just Lizzie?”

“Lizzie Turner. Number 342. I’m six and a half.”

“You’re a big girl, Lizzie. Too big to cry.”

Lizzie abandoned the soap pretense suddenly. “It’s Stinker!” she announced.

“Stinker?”

“Yes’m. The nasty boy with the red sweater.”

“Oh,” Pam said, “you mean little Stanley. What did he do?”

“Stinker,” Lizzie insisted, and then her face crumpled suddenly with grief, and she flung herself, wet and soapy, from the tub and burrowed against Pamela. “I want my Mommy,” she sobbed. “I want to tell her.”

Your Mommy, Pamela thought, and even though two years filled with moments like this had gone by—two years of dulling and hardening and seeing horror and heartbreak repeated over and over again—she could still feel the bile taste of anger and frustration come into her mouth. Your Mommy, she thought, your Mommy probably wanted you too, and called your name just before the breath went out of her forever one night when a bomb came down. One night just like the night when Blayne was shot out of the sky. Blayne Jeffries, whose engagement ring Pamela still wore. He had been up there, three miles over London, in the cockpit of a night-fighter plane trying to beat off the black shadowy shapes, the giant, evil, night-flying bats with Luftwaffe crosses on their wings. And her whole shining, vibrant plan for life had died up there with him.

Lizzie’s sobs stopped with the abruptness that only the swift mental gearshifting of a child can achieve. “Don’t you want to hear what Stinker said?” she demanded. “He said, ‘Lizzie, Lizzie, your eyes are dizzy.’ Over and over. ’N then everybody said it after him. ‘Lizzie, Lizzie, your eyes are dizzy.’ ’N he said that Cynthia was the prettiest girl here, ’n I was the ugliest. ’N he said, ‘Lizzie, Lizzie, your eyes are dizzy . . . ’ ”

“There, there,” Pamela soothed her, “he didn’t mean it. Maybe he was just trying to get even with you for calling him Stinker.”

“Everybody calls him that,” Lizzie declared with huge satisfaction. “Am I ugly?”

“Of course not,” Pamela said. You poor little thing, she thought. How accurately cruel children can be. For Lizzie’s eyes, though well spaced, large, and a clear velvety-brown, were pathetically crossed, and her tiny jaw grotesquely undershot, the lower row of teeth in front of the upper. Her forehead was wide with the promise of intelligence; her nose was straight and delicate and her cheekbones high, but these good features were overpowered by the gnomish ugliness of the eyes and jaw.

“Stinker, I mean Stanley, was just teasing you,” Pamela said. “Now forget about him, because do you know what? I’ve got a surprise for you. A party today. Cakes and a magician to do tricks, and then something else very special—just for you.”

“What?” Lizzie demanded.

“That’s the surprise,” Pamela said, as she wrapped Lizzie’s thin little body in the folds of a big fuzzy towel.

LIZZIE TURNER stood before the long mirror—and a stranger looked back at her. To begin with, Lizzie was clean. Scrubbed and shining. Her newly washed hair had been fluffed and curled and topped off jauntily with a big bow of bright red ribbon. And Pamela had found a gay little dirndl, with a full red skirt and white blouse with blue and red cross-stitching, in a box from Canada. And a pair of sandals that fitted Lizzie, and they were red, too.

Lizzie’s mouth moved, but no words came. Her fingers were shy, reverent, almost afraid to touch the bow and stroke the dress. Her poor funny little crossed eyes were shining. “There now,” Pamela said, “you’re all dressed up for the party. Like it?”

The child smiled. A smile that struggled through from way down somewhere, a screwed-up, quivering caricature of a smile, but there was radiance in it—a joy so touching that Pamela's hand went to her throat, involuntarily, because of the sudden lump that had come there.

She turned the child back to the mirror. “Look at yourself, baby,” she said softly. “You’re beautiful. Say that to yourself. Say—I’m beautiful.”

“I’m beautiful,” Lizzie repeated.

“Yes,” said Pamela, “and much too pretty to be called Lizzie. You’re Elizabeth now. That’s a beautiful name. The name of the Queen, too.”

“I’m Elizabeth and I’m beautiful,” Lizzie said to the child in the mirror.

“Sure, you are,” a voice behind her agreed. A deep, warm, man’s voice. “Why, you’re a little princess!”

Elizabeth and Pamela turned around. A soldier stood in the doorway. A tall soldier in an officer’s uniform. “Lady Towne?” he asked. “They said I’d find her in here.”

“I’m Pamela Towne.”

“And I’m the magician,” he explained, “for the party.”

Lizzie would have told herself that she was Alice in Wonderland had she known who Alice was. This was a bewildering afternoon, filled with unexpected things. The soldier wasn’t a soldier but a magician. She wasn’t ugly, she was beautiful. She wasn’t even Lizzie any longer but Elizabeth now, just like the Queen.

It was a wonderful party and afterward Pamela brought Major John Hardin to the nursery’s tiny office for tea. “I wish I had champagne to offer you,” she told him. “You deserve it after that performance. The children never had a better time.”

He smiled. She had liked his smile, she remembered now, when first he had spoken to Elizabeth. It lit his lean, tanned, disciplined face like a candle in a dark room. She liked his eyes. They were an ice-clear grey, yet somehow there was a warmth in them rarely found with that coloring. She noticed another contradiction—in his hands. Strong, blunt-fingertipped, yet giving the surprising impression of the most delicate and subtle sensitivity.

“Don’t mind my asking,” she said, “but Canada must be an amazing country. Do they teach conjuring in your universities?”

“My hobby when I was a kid,” John said, “and mighty useful later. I worked my way through medical school as an entertainer at children’s parties. Besides, surgery and sleight-of-hand have a lot in common. Look.”

He took from his pocket an ordinary wooden matchbox, the kind with a sliding cover and a thread-thin gut suture. "Always carry `em with me," he explained. "Keep practicing at odd moments." He placed the gut between his first and second fingers and slid them into the matchbox cover. There was hardly room for the fingers to move. But they made a slight motion, and he withdrew the gut. It was tied in the exact centre, and the knot was tiny and incredibly tight.

"That's the great Dr. Carrell's trick," he said. "Very useful when you're working by touch alone through a small incision. A trick, in its way, like slipping a card from the bottom of the deck or palming a coin."

"You're a man of many talents," she smiled. And then she thought briefly, "I wish his eyes weren't grey.” Blayne’s eyes had been grey. And she didn’t want to be reminded of Blayne, didn’t want that sick foggy despair to come flooding through her again, that recurring feeling of not wanting to go on, ever. There had been times when grief and nerves and fatigue had started her hands to one of the many glass bottles in the medical dispensary. Little vials of vital sedatives to bring blessed sleep to the suffering—and a slow, sweet drift to eternal sleep if the dose happened to be too big. Something way down within her had always seemed to draw back her hand, but some day, some day when the fog of her remembrances pressed down too thick and too often . . . well, she didn’t know which way her hand would travel.

She shook her head, almost as if the mere physical motion would shake the thoughts from her mind, and she forced herself to make conversation.

“I’m glad you’re quartered so close by. Perhaps you’ll give the children another show.”

“Of course, if we’re here. One never knows.”

“They loved it,” she said. The fog was pressing in again, clogging in her throat.

“That one kid,” he said. “I can’t get her out of my mind. Elizabeth-and-I’m-beautiful, I mean. Tell me about her.”

Pamela sighed. How could you tell anyone who hadn’t lived through it about Elizabeth, or about any child who looked at the sky and didn’t see white, cotton-fluffy clouds for her imagination to change into elephants or ships or ice cream mountains, but only the remembrance of black specks that grew larger and blacker as they plunged toward the earth until their wings seemed to blot out all the blue of the sky and the silver of the sun. Kids who didn’t hear the hum of the wind and the music of birds, but only the motors, the sirens, the screaming whistle and cr-r-rumph of bombs, the insane chatter of machine guns strafing a rubbled street. Kids who had never seen a lighted street. Orphans of the most hideous storm man had ever made.

“There’s nothing special to tell,” Pamela said, at last. “That little girl is just one of the thousands of bombed-out children.” She did go on, however, to describe the incident in the bathtub and before the mirror.

He was silent for a moment after she’d finished, and then he said abruptly, “You haven’t any children of your own, have you?”

Pamela shook her head. Her right hand slid over her left quickly, and covered Blayne’s engagement ring. She was in no mood for personal history. Explaining Blayne and her feelings to this stranger—or to anyone, for that matter—was unthinkable.

“You should have children,” he said, slowly. “And they would be very lucky children.”

“How can any children be lucky—in this world?” Pamela said bitterly. “In this nightmare?”

“That’s a long discussion,” he answered. “And I’ve got to get back to camp now. Maybe we could have dinner together tomorrow night. About seven?”

PAM had strange dreams that night. A flaming plane came roaring out of the sky; a parachute suddenly blossomed out below it, and a man floated down. Down through the nursery roof, through the house, and into the bathroom where she was bathing Lizzie. He shoved back his goggles—and there was Blayne’s face. And then his face seemed to dissolve and another face took its place, and only the eyes were alike. Grey crystalline eyes. Suddenly the man smiled, and he took a thin, black stick from his pocket and snatched a silk hat from out of the air. He tapped the hat with the wand and out of it popped a rabbit and a bunch of flowers, red sandals and a big red hair bow, and a vial of veronal. She reached for the veronal and the magician rapped her knuckles sharply with the wand, and snatched the vial away and threw it in the air, and it disappeared. Then his hand came down on her shoulder and shook it rebukingly, and she stirred in her sleep.

The shaking continued. Through the curtain of sleep a voice persisted, and at last Pamela struggled awake. One of her co-workers was shaking her shoulder. “Sorry, Pam,” she was saying, “I hate to do this, but we need you. It’s Lizzie.”

“Lizzie?” she said sleepily.

“She’s practically in hysterics, and she keeps screaming for you. She won’t let anyone else come near her, and the whole nursery’s in an uproar.”

Pamela fumbled into slippers and robe. The dreary morning light created the perfect lighting effect for the bedraggled gnome who came timidly into the room.

Lizzie’s dress was a limp and wrinkled mess. The ribbon in her tousled hair flopped like a spaniel’s ears and her socks drooped sloppily over the brave red sandals. Tears streaked down her wry face like raindrops on a grimy pane.

“Elizabeth, what is it?” Pamela asked. The child rushed across the room and wound her arms desperately around Pam’s neck. Then, little by little, her sobbing stopped as she felt the warmth of Pamela’s arms about her, the comforting little pats on her shaking back, and the now familiar fragrance—all part of the miracle of yesterday’s transformation from Lizzie to Elizabeth. The warmth and comfort and fragrance that went with the words, “You’re Elizabeth and you’re beautiful.”

PAMELA was furious with herself as she told John Hardin about it at dinner that night. “The child’s got me,” she confessed ruefully, “and that’s bad. Because if you started agonizing over every child in this business you’d last about three days. But this poor little ugly duckling—I don’t know, she just does things to me. D’you know, she slept in that dress last night. She stayed awake until all the other kids were asleep and then stole out of her bed and put it on again. And the shoes and hair bow, too. She was so afraid they might be taken away from her, and then she’d be just plain Lizzie again and not Elizabeth-and-I’m-beautiful. They were her talismans. She wouldn’t let anyone come near her this morning, either, because she was still afraid. Finally I persuaded her to let me undress and bathe her and press the dress. She stood beside me at the ironing board, clutching the hem of the dress as I pressed it. Clinging to it as you’d cling to a dream. To your one and fondest hope. Never once did she let go.”

“The ugly duckling,” John said softly. “And now she’s a swan— because she thinks she is. Because you made her think so. And I think you’re pretty swell. That’s no illusion.”

“I wonder,” Pam said, “because I might be bringing the child even more hurt than she has had before. Some day I may be sent somewhere else—when the Germans smash another town. Some day that dress will wear out, and perhaps no one will be there to give her another—and to tell her she’s beautiful. Then she’ll go back to being Lizzie again, and how could she survive that? Anyway, what chance has she got?” Pamela’s voice rose a key, and shook with her vehemence. “An ugly, underprivileged orphan growing up into a world that’s ugly, and growing more ugly every day. A smashed, beaten world. Smashed cities. Smashed lives.” Then Blayne’s face flickered before her eyes. “What chance have any of us? ...”

John veiled the quick, professional alarm in his eyes. She’s overtired, he thought, overwrought, and too close to the breaking point. He made his voice slow and easy. “Here,” he said, “don’t let it get you. Drink this.”

She raised the glass he gave her. “This takes care of everything, doesn’t it?” she mocked. Little red danger flags flew at her cheekbones. “To all the brilliant statesmen,” she toasted, “who saw all of this coming out of Germany—and let it come. Left it for Lizzie to fight—and for women like me—and for the man I was going to marry. What is there left—tell me that!—for the Lizzies? Or for me?”

“You’ve given Elizabeth her moment of happiness,” John Hardin said. “That counts for something. I’m sure you gave him his moment, too. And that you had yours. But life can’t stop now, Pamela. We’ve all got to go on from here. Rebuild the smashed cities, the smashed lives. Certainly it’s a horrible world. Maybe I don’t say this very well, or originally, but it’s people like you and me who have to make a new one. A better one out of the ruins.”

“The typical optimistic Canadian,” she jeered. “The starry-eyed idealist.” This is better, he thought. She’s angry now, a little, and anger’s good for burning out self-pity.

“Okay,” he laughed, “so I’m Pollyanna’s brother. But out of London’s rubble will come a new London. Shining and clean. And nobody’s going to miss those slums, either. All the little Lizzies of the world are going to get a better break than they’ve ever had before—or ever would get with Hitler and Tojo running the show. A new world, cleansed and fumigated. If that isn’t true then you and I are wasting our time. And I don’t think I’m wasting mine.”

“You’re new here,” Pamela said, wearily. “Fresh and unweary. I can’t expect you to see, yet, how useless it all is. Wait till you’ve had two years, and the whole, deadly ...”

’Scuse me,” he cut in quickly, “but this is Dr. Hardin speaking. The old M.D.—prescribing for both of us. Enough of this heavy conversation for tonight. I might even start crying on your shoulder. I might tell you a story about a man and his wife—and another man. The Big Bad Wolf. A Mother Goose story not for children. But enough of this. There’s a swell new screwball movie at the camp. I know the C.O. will be honored to have you as our guest ...”

THERE were many times in the three weeks that followed when John Hardin congratulated himself on the high standard of health in the Canadian Army in general and his own unit in particular. Outside of the routine sprains, bruises and equally minor injuries the strenuous training produced, there were few cases needing his attention and he managed to see Pamela almost every evening.

Even in peacetime there wouldn’t have been much to do in this little English town. They spent their time with simple things. Walking through the lovely, winding lanes. Fishing in the fussy little brook. Tea, dinner, a movie. Little by little he could observe the unsnarling of Pamela’s nerves. She laughed oftener now, and more easily. The shadows beneath her eyes vanished, and once again her complexion began to bloom in the fabled English tea-rose tints. If she wasn’t happy in those weeks she was learning, at least, not to be morbidly unhappy. And then the day came for the picnic they had planned as a special treat for Elizabeth.

“It’s going to be a picnic Canadian-style,” John had announced. From the mess sergeant he procured sausages for roasting in the campfire, potato salad, baked beans, and even corn on the cob—canned. They sat in the warm afternoon sun after the feast and John told Elizabeth stories of Canada, of the towering buildings in the cities, and he made them fantastic as pictures in a book of fairy tales, of cowboys and Indians, and of big airplanes in the sky that didn’t carry bombs, at all, but people travelling freely from place to place, in the big, beautiful land. Elizabeth sat entranced, and then suddenly she broke into John’s recital and said, “Tell me more, but do it while we’re playing.”

“Playing what, princess?” John asked.

“House,” Lizzie said promptly. “This is our house and you’re my Daddy and Mommy. Daddy, hold Mommy’s hand.”

John obeyed. “Now what?” he said. He could feel Pamela’s hand flutter uncertainly under his.

“It’s too bad we can’t play tea-party,” Elizabeth said. “We just had one. Anyway, I’m your little girl, and you love me very much, and I love you too, and we are very happy, ’n when this dress wears out can I have another one just like it?”

“It’s late,” Pamela said. “It’s getting very late. We must go back now.”

They walked back through the gathering twilight and when they arrived at the nursery John drew Pamela aside.

“I’m afraid,” he said, low-voiced, “that the unit’s moving soon. Any minute, could be. I want to talk to you, Pam. Tonight. At nine, say. At the inn. Please, Pam, please!”

“All right,” she murmured. “At nine.”

They sat that night at a small table over the luxury of coffee. His fingers fidgeted with the cup in an unaccustomed nervousness, and he stood up abruptly and said, “Please, Pam, can’t we go outside?”

He led her to a stone bench in the shadowed corner of the garden. The night was cool and still, moonless and velvet-black. “No moon,” John said. “That’s good, I suppose. Some day moonlight will be for lovers again, and not for bomber pilots. Pam, you must know this by now—I love you.”

“Please, John,” she whispered.

“Look, darling,” he went on, “I’d planned to say that when—and if—you know, when all this is over. And to ask you then to marry me. But I’m changing all that, my darling. Because time is of the moment now. War’s made every single second precious. Would you marry me now? Tonight?” His hands were urgent on her shoulders, and he asked the questions with his lips in the scented, gold softness of her hair.

She drew back. Her eyes were gentle, and her voice played about in a minor key as she spoke. “This had to come, didn’t it?” she said. “There are so many things I love about you, John. And maybe—maybe if it hadn’t been for ...” Her head dropped into the cup of her hands. He stood, silent, waiting for her to go on. At last she spoke again. And it seemed that she forgot the place and the time and even him as her words carried her back to another time and place and man. And there was a new music in her voice—or perhaps the echo of old music—as she told him of Blayne and herself and all that lay gleaming before them until war came. Then she told him all she knew of the night when Blayne, gay, smiling, bright-haired Blayne, kissed her good-by before reporting back to his fighter station for the flight that had no returning. The night before their wedding day. “Two years ago,” she said. “But it could have been yesterday, the way I feel—still. Maybe I’ll always love him, John. So much that there’ll never be a place for anyone else. So much that I may never give myself the chance to find out. I don’t know. It could have been you, my dear, if this didn’t exist. I really think that. Because you’re . . .”

She stopped as the first rising wail of the air-raid sirens caught at her breath and batted the words back into her throat. She felt again the old, cold slimy hollow of fear form inside her, and her mouth went dry, and she forced the next words through stiff, dry lips. “The shelter. We must get back to the shelter. And the children.”

THEY ran, stumbling, through the garden and into the blacked-out street. They could hear the drone of the planes now, faint at first but mounting quickly. She caught the snarling, desynchronized beat of the motors and automatically her mind registered, “Heinkels.” What did they want, the swine—the bestial, vandal swine—with this little out-of-the-way town? They stumbled through the blackness toward the nursery, and then they heard the first air-knifing whish-sh of a bomb and she cried, “Down, down,” and they flattened themselves on the dew-wet earth beside the road. His arms reached frantically for her, and he covered her body with his just as they felt the sudden heave of the retching earth beneath them, the slam of the vast sound in their ears, and the searing of green-edged orange blast against their eyes. The bomb had struck no more than 100 yards away, and in the direction of the nursery. A hail of mud and rubble showered down on them as they lay there, tensed and waiting for the next blast. The minutes crawled by and there was only the fading drone of the motors—then they raced for the nursery. One lone bomb, jettisoned by a pilot returning from a raid.

The steady blare of the all clear was sounding and the children had begun to file out of the shelter when they reached it. All but Elizabeth. She had broken away from the rest of the children when the alarm sounded, a shaken nurse told Pamela, and had raced for the little outbuilding that served as the nursery’s laundry. It was wash day—and her dress was still there. “My dress,” they had heard her scream, as she broke loose. “I’ve got to get my dress.” And then a moment later they had heard the blast of the bomb.

Nearly half an hour it took, to find Elizabeth. They dug in the mud and the rubble and found her at last. John carried the limp, broken bundle into the nursery and laid her down gently upon a table. He flicked back the eyelids and his fingers searched her wrists for a pulse beat.

Pamela, huddled against the wall, watched him dully. Her face was putty-grey and pinched, and her voice was grey, too. “Dead,” she said hoarsely. “She’s dead.” Her voice began a strange singsong, more like crying than like speech. “For the first time in her life she was happy, and now she’s dead,” she chanted. “She’s dead. A little child. Another little child.” Now her voice began climbing into hysteria. “She was happy. All it took was a new dress and a new name and a little love—and she couldn’t even live to have that. What’s the use? . . What’s the use? . . . She’s dead! ... She’s ...”

John’s open hand cracked sharply and brutally across her face. “Stop!” he barked. “Snap out of it and listen to me. She’s not dead. There’s a chance if you’ve got the courage to help me. Or will you quit—when I need you most?”

In astonishment she fingered her stinging cheek, but sanity, he could see, was coming back into her eyes. She managed to nod.

“Okay, then. Get on that phone,” he ordered. “Call the camp. Ask for Captain Junod. I’ll tell him what I need. Quick!” He whipped off his blood-sticky tunic, rolled up his sleeves, and began the surgical scrubbing of his hands.

For two tense, concentrated hours Elizabeth lay on the improvised operating table. Miraculously the bomb fragments liad missed vital spots. The wounds were quickly cared for. It was then that John paused—and made his decision.

The operation was concluded at last, and Pamela and John settled themselves at Elizabeth’s bedside for the long night’s watch. Pamela’s eyes were steady now, her jaw firm. Every movement during the long operation, in obedience to John’s curt orders, had been swift and sure. Pamela was back in the fight.

NOT until the first grey glimmer of daylight crept across the rubbled lawn and into the room, reluctantly, as if ashamed to reveal such sorry sights to the full light of day, did Elizabeth stir.

“She’s coming out of the anaesthetic,” John said. He felt the pulse again and listened with his stethoscope, long and intently. “She’ll come through,” he said finally. “She’ll be all right.”

A murmur came from behind the white cocoon of bandages wound about Elizabeth’s entire head. Faint and low, yet it rang in their ears like the clear tone of a bell . . . “I’m Elizabeth—and I’m beautiful.”

They knew this time the words might be a prophecy—and not a delusion, and that some day Elizabeth would face the world with straight and lovely eyes. The eyes whose muscles John had cut with such delicate precision, equalized, and miraculously sewn together again. They knew that some day her smile would be beautiful to see, instead of the pitiful travesty of a smile it had been before, for he had broken her jaw and reset it. He had shaped and molded bone and flesh and tissue as a sculptor works clay, symmetrical and true. Some day the bandages would come off and a new Elizabeth would emerge. The ugly duckling—changed into a swan.

John stood up. “It’s your job from now on,” he said. “Junod told me we leave at ten. This morning.”

“Count on me,” she said. “I’ll see this through.”

“I know you will,” he said.

She walked across the room to him then, and her arms went about his shoulders, and her kiss upon his mouth was warm and full.

“Come back to me,” she whispered.

“I’ll be back,” he told her, “when all this muck is over I’ll be back. And we’ll be going on together from there, putting all our broken pieces together again, and making them beautiful. Like we did—together—for Elizabeth here. Yes, I’ll be back, my darling, I’ll be back.”