The eighth of these 26 short stories – 250 words or fewer - about Alice’s life and times gives us H.
Alice longed to see Daniel in hospital but her mother told her to wait until he was stronger.
Ruth came home from her daily visits drawn and pale. Alice’s anxious inquiries brought monosyllabic replies which told her little. Her parents maintained a cheerful attitude but she saw the strain in their faces after their visits. Daniel’s recovery was protracted.
After a few weeks Ruth said Daniel wanted to see Alice. Alice was excited, sure it was a good sign.
Entering the long ward she was struck by the number of young men. Some lay in bed, motionless. Others propelled themselves in wheelchairs, racing along the corridor, laughing and shouting to each other. Some wore bandages across their eyes. Some chatted. Some moaned. Some were mute. Ruth had tried to prepare her but Alice was shocked.
Daniel was sitting at the side of his bed. He greeted her with a smile that didn’t reach his eyes. She tried to engage him in conversation but he barely responded.
Ruth chewed her lip and twisted her wedding ring round her finger. Alice understood her distress. Daniel had come home from the war but his mind was elsewhere.
When the bell sounded for the end of visiting Daniel grabbed Ruth’s hands. ‘I’m sorry,’ he said, ‘I’m so sorry.’
Ruth said, ‘It’s alright, love. Don’t worry. I’ll see you tomorrow.’
Outside she sighed. ‘It’s always the same,’ she said. ‘ He needs me but he can’t talk to me. It’s hopeless.’