When the Lights Come on Again

When the Lights Come on Again by Maggie Craig Read Free Book Online

Book: When the Lights Come on Again by Maggie Craig Read Free Book Online
Authors: Maggie Craig
Tags: Historical fiction, WWII
a mad dash up Buchanan Street, the skirts of her raincoat getting soaked, traffic in the road next to her more than once splashing water over her feet and ankles. A horse-drawn coal lorry passed her. She spared a thought for the beast, a solid Clydesdale getting ready for the extra pull as the road began the climb towards the eastern end of Sauchiehall Street. Wisps of steam were rising off the animal’s warm back as the raindrops struck him.
    Liz herself was feeling unpleasantly warm on the inside, the rubberised material of her mackintosh sealing the heat of her exertions firmly in. The summer shirt-waister dress she wore beneath the raincoat was clinging to her. Since the morning had been hot and sunny, she hadn’t worn a hat today either. That meant that her dark brown hair had done what it always did in the wet - gone into a mass of unruly curls and waves. She could feel them, curling round her hot and sweaty temples. She must look like something the cat had dragged in.
    ‘I’m eighteen,’ she repeated, leaning forward and gripping the edge of the desk in her determination to put her case.
    The elegant lady smiled - and instantly seemed much less fierce.
    ‘I’m afraid that’s my point, my dear. You see, the Red Cross doesn’t have a junior branch - not as yet, anyway - and there might be things our helpers would be called upon to do... well ... that we feel youngsters like yourself shouldn’t see.’
    She was very refined, her cultured accent only just recognizable as belonging to the west of Scotland.
    ‘It’s very good indeed of you to come along to offer your services in the current crisis. Perhaps you’d like to leave your name and address and we can get in touch with you at a later date. If necessary.’
    The smile was apologetic. It was also dismissive. Any minute now she was going to raise her beautifully modulated voice in a shout. Next! Liz lifted her head and looked about her. Surely she couldn’t be the only younger person interested in enrolling?
    There was half a dozen registration tables set up around the hall. They didn’t have many customers as yet, potential volunteers presumably waiting for the rain to go off. The men and women waiting to receive them all looked ancient to Liz’s young eyes.
    A small knot of people stood a few yards away. Looking at the clothes and listening to the accents, she mentally categorized them as Bright Young Things. She was unlikely to get much help there. Anyway, they all looked a bit older than her, in their early twenties perhaps. She caught the eye of a tall young man who glanced over with an expression of polite interest on his face. He smiled at her.
    Hearing a discreet cough at her elbow, Liz turned. A pretty fair-haired girl stood there. Judging by the damp patches on the heavy woollen coat she wore, she too had only recently come in off the street. She took the few steps necessary to bring her to stand beside Liz. She was almost the same height as her, and about the same age.
    ‘I-I’d like to enrol too,’ she said. ‘I was w-wondering if you m-might be running classes in Clydebank?’
    Liz turned to her enthusiastically.
    ‘I’m from Clydebank too.’
    The girl, clearly nervous, gave her a little nod of acknowledgement. Both she and Liz turned to look anxiously at the woman behind the desk, who surveyed them for a moment or two before letting out a long, exasperated sigh.
    ‘My dear girls... you’re both very young—’
    Liz’s patience snapped. ‘Would we be too young to be bombed? If the war does come?’
    Her impassioned outburst fell into an uneasy silence. Every head in the echoing hall seemed to turn towards her, the other conversations going on grinding to an abrupt halt. The pale, shocked faces indicated that everyone present knew exactly what Liz was talking about. She obviously wasn’t the only person to have been struck by the newsreel pictures from Spain.
    Support came from an unexpected quarter.
    ‘The young lady has a

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