Catrin walked onto set in a daze, feeling covered in grime from her attempt to recover anything salvageable from the wreckage of her building before coming into work. She stopped at the desk where Phyl was smoking a cigarette and bending over some documents. Shot lists most likely. When she finally looked up at Catrin, one eyebrow raised so high it was almost comical. Catrin knew her appearance must be more than disheveled to get such a reaction.
“I might have to borrow clothes,” Catrin said quietly, oversimplifying her predicament through her slight mental fog.
Phyl exhaled slowly, cigarette smoke filling Catrin’s nostrils. After a long moment, she responded. “Talk to the Costumes Mistress, but don’t be surprised if she’s tetchy. Parachute mine took the roof off Studio Four last night, and her Panzer division uniforms are ruined. They’re saying it was the worst night of bombing yet. Nothing left of Wimbledon apparently. The props master hasn’t turned up, the best boy’s in hospital and no one knows where the grip is, so we’re having to make do with whatever we can get.” Catrin began to walk away, but before she had gone far, Phyl called after her. “There’ll be tears before bedtime, mark my words.”
As she walked toward the Costumes Mistress’s station, Catrin realized she was still holding her warped kettle in her hands. She couldn't quite bring herself to put it down until the Costumes Mistress Mrs. Fletcher was standing in front of her and practically growling. “Sorry,” she murmured as she took the simple blouse and skirt held out to her and set down all of her things on the chair next to the small screen actors stood behind to change. When she stepped out, she immediately reclaimed the deformed kettle and headed for her workspace.
As things started moving on set, Catrin left her meagre possessions under the table she had been working at while filming in London. She moved toward the boat set to see how things were coming along, when someone walked up behind her. She turned and was surprised to see Buckley standing there, as unreadable as ever, and clearly looking anywhere but at her.
“I thought you’d be at the office.” She couldn’t bear to look at him while she was still uncertain of how things stood between them, so she turned and walked away from the lights and the cameras and the actors, and most importantly, Buckley himself. But she heard his footsteps following her.
“I was.” Together they reached the train car where an emotional goodbye would be filmed later that day. Catrin leaned against it and Buckley followed suit as he held out half of a very small muffin to her. She couldn’t help but smile.
Almost in sync, they each pulled off a piece of the pastry and popped it into their mouths.
“I read your ending. You bagged it.”
Catrin nodded. “You were almost there,” she said, trying to be encouraging, but Buckley rolled his eyes, just as she knew he would.
“Nowhere near,” he said as he shook his head. Then his tone changed, which immediately drew Catrin’s eyes to his face. “I’ve been useless for weeks.” He almost shrugged as he glanced quickly at her and then looked away. “I read your other stuff too.”
“Oh?” Catrin asked, hoping he would say more, say something about it and what it meant. She knew what she wanted, but felt so uncertain of his own feelings. “What did you think?”
“Hmm. Bit inconclusive,” he said just too casually as he munched another bite of his muffin. “I wasn’t really sure where it was going next.”
Catrin nodded. “No, I wasn’t too sure of that, either.” They looked at each other, and in his eyes Catrin could see Buckley’s heart--she knew he wanted her after all. He smiled, oh that smile, and stepped in front of her, wiping a bit of crumb off of her lip with his thumb.
“Crumbs,” he whispered And then, before she even realized what was happening, his hand was on her cheek and they were kissing and it was like nothing she’d ever known before. Ellis had nothing on this. It was perfect and passionate and so very Buckley. She could feel how much this distance between them had affected him in the way he kissed her, and she knew he could sense her own pain from their separation too.
She had no idea how long they had been wrapped in each other’s arms, but at some point, she could hear Mr. Hilliard calling out for her. “Find Mrs. Cole! I need to talk to Mrs. Cole.”
Then another voice. “Mrs. Cole! Has anyone seen Mrs. Cole?”
Buckley pulled away just a little and they laughed. “Come on, before they find us,” he whispered conspiratorially.
“I don’t know, I never come to the studio,” Buckley said wittily as they scrambled to find a hiding place from the overly-demanding actor.
But even as they scrambled, along came Ambrose, followed by an old gaffer. Catrin looked at Buckley and shrugged. He smiled ruefully and nodded, so Catrin walked toward the group. Buckley followed.
“Did you need something, Mr. Hilliard?” she asked as calmly and patiently as she could muster.
“They want to take away my lines, Mrs. Cole! To take away the most important lines Uncle Frank has! They are destroying the integrity of the scene!” he pronounced emphatically.
The gaffer spoke up as the group moved toward the set. “They just want to try one take that way. They say we’re losing visual tension while he speaks,” the man explained.
Before Catrin could formulate a response, there was a loud crash and a huge piece of heavy scaffolding was knocked in just the right way and all three of the men she was walking with had fallen under it. She was stunned. Ambrose was groaning pitifully, mumbling about his leg. The gaffer looked worse than Ambrose, but was still making noise. She was horrified to see that Buckley--her Tom-- was silent and far too still. She was rooted to the spot, utterly shocked at what happened.
They must have worked around her, because eventually she realized that Tom was being carried away on a stretcher and the other two were already gone to hospital. Someone shoved a cup of tea into her hand, but she couldn’t lift it to her lips. What was the point? After a moment, someone else took her arm and pulled her to a nearby chair and gently set her into it. Catrin was vaguely aware of all the goings on around her, but mentally, all she could think was about Buckley.
After an interminable amount of time, a young errand boy came running into the studio. “Mr. Hilliard will be alright!” he announced, and Catrin immediately perked up. She hoped there would be news of Tom. But that was all the news the boy had. Catrin sighed.
Eventually, the director started resetting. He had adjusted the set and had everyone preparing to shoot a different scene, this one a moment between Lily and Brannigan. Someone called for the script, and that was enough to shake Catrin out of her stupor. She set down her now-cold tea and picked up her pencil. It was time to get back to work. That’s what Tom would have wanted.
Catrin moved through the day in a bit of a haze. That evening, after the last take of the day, she was picking up her things when she heard someone behind her say, “I’m glad Old Sam is going to recover. I wasn’t sure, since he was unconscious. Shame about the other fellow.” She turned sharply to ask the speaker what he meant, but he and his companion were surprisingly far away. As Catrin picked up that old beaten kettle, she realized she had nowhere to go. She stopped and was about to see if she could find Phyl and beg a place to sleep in her flat for the night when Parfitt showed up.
“Mrs. Cole,” he began. Then, he started digging through his pockets. Catrin didn’t quite know what to think of this until he held out a key to her. “This was in Buckley’s pocket. It’s to his flat. Ms. Moore mentioned that yours was wrecked in the bombings last night, and he won’t need it for a while…” Catrin just stared at the silver key in Parfitt’s hand. He grabbed her hand and placed the key in it. “He would want you to stay there, especially if you had nowhere else to go,” the man said kindly.
“Is he--” Catrin asked, but couldn’t manage to get the words out.
“They don’t know, but it doesn’t look good. He’s still unconscious,” her friend said grimly.
“But he’s alive,” she said, feeling a small burst of hope in her chest.
“Yes, but they’re not sure if he’ll ever wake up.” Immediately that hope dimmed until it was gone. Parfitt had always been an optimist, and for even him to be so grim--it didn’t bode well.
Catrin made her way across London and finally arrived at the address Parfitt had given her: Tom’s flat. She turned the key in the lock and opened the door slowly, gingerly, and walked into the room. It wasn’t what she would have expected, and yet it felt perfectly in character for Tom. There were bookshelves everywhere, all filled with books haphazardly placed, some lying down flat and others standing upright. The furniture was old but not in bad condition at all, presumably because he was rarely here. She walked into the kitchen and set down the misshapen kettle on the stove, as if she were going to make a cup of tea from it. She was waiting for the tears to come, hoping they would come, but they wouldn’t. She washed up, but she couldn’t cry. She pulled the sheets off of Buckley’s bed and replaced them with fresh ones, but she couldn’t cry. She pulled a clean shirt out of his dresser to sleep in, and it smelled like him, but she still couldn’t cry. She sat on the edge of Buckley’s bed, staring into the space that was meant to be occupied by him. She just stared.
Hilliard felt as though he’d been in the hospital for an eternity, although the nurses assured him it hadn’t even been two days. “Was anyone else hurt in the accident?” he asked, realizing how little he knew about the events surrounding his own injury.
The nurse looked up at him from her clipboard. “Yes, an electrician named Sam Flynn and a... writer? Oh, the name is escaping me…”
“It wasn’t Mrs. Cole, was it?” Ambrose asked, horrified at the thought.
“No, some gentleman. Young-ish. Tom something.”
“Buckley,” Ambrose sighed.
“Yeah, that’s it. Tom Buckley.”
“Well are Sam and Buckley going to be alright?” Ambrose demanded anxiously. He knew his tone was unpleasant, but the nurses were used to it by now.
“Sam has a broken arm and a concussion, but he should be fine, although it’ll take him a while to get back to his regular life.”
“And Buckley?” he persisted.
The nurse looked very somber. “He’s still not woken up. They’re not sure he ever will.”
“I want to see him,” he insisted, and the nurse looked incredulous. “I want to see him,” he repeated. “I want to see Tom Buckley.”
“He can’t hear you. There’s no point,” the woman replied, turning her attention back to the clipboard.
“I don’t care. I insist upon going to see Tom Buckley. This instant!” Somehow, his imperious tone convinced the nurse, and she helped him out to Tom’s room.
It took a lot more effort than Ambrose expected, and he felt nearly spent just from the short journey. But he dropped himself into the chair beside the writer and looked carefully at the young man’s face. “What sort of treatments are they trying?” he asked of the irritated nurse.
“Nothing. There’s nothing much that can be done for coma patients, not if they never wake up.” She glanced at the old actor, clearly calculating something. Finally, she commented, “I’ve got to check on another patient, but I’ll be back in an hour to help you back to your room. At which time I expect you not to fuss at me again.”
Ambrose nodded, “Understood,” and turned his attention back to Tom. The young man looked so small and still under the blankets of the hospital bed. “At least you’re breathing, son. That’s better than some get. You’ve still got a chance.” There were so many bandages wrapped around the man’s head, Ambrose thought that it was only by some miracle that that damn scaffolding hadn’t killed him, hadn’t killed them all. “Catrin’s all right, you know, Tom. You’ve got to get back and see her. Get up, come on. She needs you almost as much as you need her.”
Every moment that Ambrose was permitted, he sat with Buckley. He couldn’t bear to think of the poor man all alone all the time, so he came by and talked to him as often as the nurses would let him. And when they finally released him to Sophie on the third day after the accident, he gathered his things and dragged Sophie down to sit with Buckley with him. After an hour, Sophie insisted they leave. She took all of Ambrose’s things and went to make arrangements for a car to drive them back to Ambrose’s flat. While she was gone, Ambrose looked down at poor Tom. “You heard the lady. You read her work. Mrs. Cole didn’t just write those words for the screen, she wrote them for you, you bloody fool. Everyone could see it, even a blind old man like me. She’s not interested in a world without you in it. So get up. Get moving. Go get her.” He half expected Tom to sit up and charge out of the room after that, but there was no change, and soon enough Sophie had returned to escort Ambrose to the car.
The next day, he returned to work and immediately sought out Mrs. Cole. “How are you holding up?” he asked. The poor woman looked pale and drawn. She had none of the vivacity and color that had characterized her up to this point. He saw the sadness flashing in her eyes and knew whatever train of thought she was following, it was too sad to bear. “The thing is, I half expected you to come and visit him. I know the nurses have said it won’t help, but I expect it won’t hurt, either. And it might do you some good.” Catrin gave him a hollow smile. “Just think about it.”
Somehow, Catrin found herself sitting at Tom’s bedside, clutching his limp hand like a lifeline. She had no memory of making her way to the hospital, or even of how long she’d been there. But she was there. And she started talking to him, telling him all about how she was cleaning his flat (“flexing my femininity,” she laughed tearily), and about all of the drama on the set, and how poor Carl wasn’t doing much better at acting or winning the heart of the young actress he’d set his cap at. “Your idea was a good one with him. The voiceover is set to be recorded sometime next week, I think. It’ll really improve the whole film. Poor Carl.”
Each day after work, Catrin made her way to the hospital where she sat with Tom and talked and held his hand. “I know you’re going to wake up. We deserve better than what we’ve gotten so far, both of us do.” And one week after the initial accident, he woke up.
Catrin was still on set, working on a scene between Lily and Branigan, when a young boy walked in and loudly announced, “Mr. Buckley’s woken up!” When she heard the news, she dropped the pencil from her hands and immediately raced over to Phyl.
“Go. Take the rest of the day off. If anyone fusses I’ll cover for you,” Phyl said before Catrin could even ask.
“You’re an angel! Thank you!” Catrin cried, pulling her into a tight but quick hug. She didn’t even remember to grab her jacket on her way out after that. She just ran straight out of the studio and headed immediately to the hospital.
When she got to his room, a little out of breath, she stopped short in the doorway. There he was, sitting upright, his eyes open, drinking a cup of tea.
“Tom!” she exclaimed as she rushed to his side, still not believing that he was awake.
“Mrs. Cole?” he said, clearly confused at the warmth of her greeting.
“What’s wrong?” she asked, worried about his confusion.
“I thought you were furious with me. I thought--I thought we would never speak again, not as... friends... the way we used to.”
Catrin gasped. “Then you don’t remember?”
Tom’s eyebrows raised. “Clearly not. What is it that I don’t remember?”
She pulled the folded page from her pocket, where she carried it everywhere since the accident. She unfolded it and handed it to him.
He read it silently, his face more expressive than Catrin had ever seen. He winced almost immediately, then his eyebrows raised in surprise. He exhaled one quick chuckle, followed soon by several more. His face relaxed into a smile that went from amused to touched and then back and forth once more. Then his eyes teared up, and he looked at her with the most vulnerable and longing expression she’d ever seen.
“You wrote this?”
Catrin nodded slowly.
“And then what happened?”
“And then we decided to be together. Just before the accident. You really don’t remember?”
“I really don’t. The last thing I remember was the first day of studio time in London. Parfitt and I were in the office and he sent you to work with Hilliard. I was miserable.”
“Well, that’s all behind us. It’s all changed.”
Tom nodded and hesitated for a moment before speaking. “That’s not the only thing that’s changed, I’m afraid.”
“What do you mean?”
“I can’t feel my legs. They’re saying I have a spinal injury. Probably never walk again.” He shrugged and looked away from her. “I understand if this… changes things between us yet again…” It was obvious to Catrin that he was trying to be nonchalant about it, but was clearly very worried.
She took his face gently in her hands and pulled it toward her. “This changes nothing. I promise.” And then she kissed him gently, reassuring him as best she could that she was committed to him absolutely.
Three weeks later, the film finally premiered. Catrin told Tom she would rather stay with him and watch it when he could go with her, but he insisted. “One of us has to go to be with Parfitt. Otherwise, Hilliard will tear him apart, and we can’t allow that, now can we? Not if we want Air Raid Wardens to come through.” So Catrin dressed up as best she could and went with Parfitt and Phyl and Hilliard and everyone else to the premiere of the film. She laughed and cried along with the rest of the audience, and was so glad that it seemed to be enjoyed by so many. She was especially surprised when, in the last moments of the film, there was a brief picture of her and Tom, sitting together near the quay, talking and laughing, and her throwing his food out into the water. She remembered that day vividly, and was amazed that somehow, some way, it had made it into the film. She couldn’t wait to tell him all about it.
So she left the theatre and headed immediately to the hospital. When she got to Tom’s room, she stopped in the doorway and looked in at him. He was sitting, reading a book she’d brought him from his flat. After a moment, before she’d even said anything, he looked up at her and smiled so widely that it gave Catrin butterflies in her stomach.
“You look beautiful,” he said, closing his book without a second glance. “Come, tell me all about it.”
Catrin walked over to him and sat down in the chair beside the bed. He took her hand as she began to speak. “Oh, Buckley, it was perfect. Everyone loved it. We laughed, we cried, we fretted, and we rejoiced. I can’t imagine a better film. And Mr. Hilliard was dressed so fancily--he was so excited, and there were so many women there just to see him. And Parfitt was so pleased at the general reception. He thinks that if people keep watching it, they’ll give us the Air Raid Wardens for sure. Oh, I can’t believe we were a part of it! We were a part of the process! And you’d never believe it, but you and I are actually in the film too!”
Buckley raised a quizzical brow.
“Do you remember the day in Devon, when we sat quayside and I threw your chips out into the water?”
“Of course I remember. It was the first day I thought you might have feelings for me. Of course, I still thought you were married at the time, but it was a distinctly pleasant day anyway.”
Catrin smiled fondly at his roguish grin. “Well, apparently the director was filming background footage and we were in the shot. And they used it in the film. One of the last moments, with that bit of Brannigan voice over.”
“I see. So your thievery and wastefulness have been immortalized on film.”
“You mean my playful charm.”
“Whatever you say, Catrin.” He sighed. “I can’t wait to see it. If I make it out of this bloody hospital while it’s still running.” His eye was caught by the smile Catrin was trying (and failing) to hide. “What is it?”
“What do you mean?” she asked, clearly trying and failing to appear innocent.
“Whatever’s got that excitement written all over your face. You’re clearly planning something.”
“You’ll find out soon enough, now what have you been up to all day?”
Buckley sighed before giving in to his stubborn companion’s change of subject and told her all about the quarrel between two nurses that happened right outside his room. But as they talked, he still couldn’t help but wonder what she had planned.
The following week, Tom was surprised when a nurse came into his room with a wheelchair. “Come along, dearie, we’ve got a special surprise for everyone, courtesy of some bigwig at the Ministry of Information Office. Can’t remember the name, but someone important.” The woman helped Tom into his wheelchair.
“Sorry, what exactly is this surprise?” Tom asked, mildly annoyed at the interruption from his book.
“I’m not supposed to say, sorry love. But I’ve been given very strict instructions that you’re supposed to be in attendance. You’ve no choice in the matter.”
He sighed as the nurse wheeled him down the hall to the large dining room where occasionally visitors and patients would unite for a meal in the hospital. However, because they were in the spinal injury ward, most patients rarely left their rooms. So Tom was surprised to see most of the other patients from the ward all in wheelchairs, scattered throughout the room. Then, he looked to the front of the room, and saw Roger Swain, Parfitt, and Catrin standing together in front of a large screen. After a moment, Catrin saw him, and her face lit up. It caught Tom’s breath for a moment. He was amazed at how lucky he was to have Catrin Cole in his life. She tapped Parfitt on the shoulder and pointed at Tom, and good old Parfitt immediately started walking towards him.
“Excuse me, Nurse Carter. I can take Buckley from here,” he said to the woman pushing Tom’s wheelchair.
“Very good. Thank you, sir,” she said as she released the chair and walked away.
“How are you, Buckley? Ready for a bit of excitement?” Parfitt asked as he began pushing the chair toward Catrin at the front of the room. “Mrs. Cole had us arrange this for you, so you should be sure to thank her when it’s all over.”
“Thank her for what, Parfitt?” Tom asked a bit sharper than he intended.
But Parfitt took it in stride, just as he always did. “For the chance to have your own premiere.” Just then they arrived at the front of the room, and Roger Swain began to speak.
“Hello everyone. I just want to take a moment to introduce to you this beautiful little film about the wondrous events at Dunkirk. It was written by my colleagues up here with me, Mr. Parfitt, Mrs. Cole, and Mr. Buckley. Unfortunately, Mr. Buckley suffered an injury and couldn’t be with us at the premiere, so we decided to bring it here for all of you to enjoy in the Spinal Injury Ward of St. Joseph’s Hospital. We hope you enjoy this very special presentation. And now, I believe Mrs. Cole would like to say a few words. Mrs. Cole?”
Catrin smiled bravely at the crowd as she took a half step forward. “Hello everyone. I’m so glad to share this project with you all, and everyone here at St. Joseph’s in the upcoming week. I know the hospital isn’t where you’d like to be right now, but I wanted to make your days a little less dull, and hopefully give you something to smile about. Some days are harder to smile on than others, we all know that,” she paused for a moment and looked over her shoulder to Tom, “but I hope this provides you with a little bit of levity, a little bit of hope. In the darkest of days, this story has certainly done that for me. And now, let the film begin!”
She turned and followed Parfitt, who had begun pushing Tom a little bit away from the film screen that had been affixed to the wall behind them. As they moved, the lights went out and the projector began whirring. After a moment, the trio settled near the edge of the room, Catrin on one side of Tom and Parfitt on the other.
About a week later, Phyl asked Catrin out to lunch. Catrin didn’t have anywhere to be except with Tom until the Air Raid Wardens film was confirmed, and he encouraged her to go. “It’s not like it’s forever. It’s an hour and a half. You’ll enjoy getting out of this damn hospital.”
So Catrin pulled on her coat and met Phyl at a small cafe within a block from the hospital.
“So I think Air Raid Wardens is coming through. I suspect sometime next month,” Phyl said over a cup of very weak tea and the blandest sandwiches Catrin had ever tasted.
“Well that’s very exciting,” Catrin said with a smile.
“Our film is very big. Everyone loves it. And I do mean everyone. The public, of course. The American market is over the moon about it. Even the Minister of War has seen it and loves it. It’s a good sign. I think they want everyone to come back to work on the next one. So do you think Buckley will be ready to get back to work by then?”
“I’m not sure. I mean, he’s itching to get out of the hospital, but he lives in a second level flat. That at least will need to be addressed before he leaves. But they say spinal injuries are very tricky and rarely recovered from. The doctors don’t seem to have much hope for him.”
Phyl gave Catrin a calculating look as she sipped her Earl Grey. “You haven’t given up hope,” she said simply. It wasn’t a question.
“No, I haven’t. He woke up, and they’d almost given up hope of that. I can’t give up hope of anything for Tom,” Catrin sighed, “even though some days it’s rather hard to hold on to.”
Phyl cleared her throat and pulled a rather large folder out of the briefcase she had brought with her (which Catrin had thought an odd choice when she first saw it). She set it down in front of Catrin. “Dr. Ludwig Guttmann. Have you heard of him?”
Catrin shook her head as she picked up the folder. “No, not at all. Who is he?”
“A Jewish doctor at the Radcliffe Infirmary. He escaped Germany before he could be interned. He’s got some very interesting research that’s set to be published sometime soon, I hear.” When Catrin gave her a puzzled look, she shrugged. “I’ve got sources all over,” Phyl explained. “Either way, I think you’ll find it particularly worth your time, considering.”
Catrin opened the folder and began skimming the first page. “Neurosurgery?”
“Just look it over.”
“I will, thanks.”
Phyl paid for her meal. As she walked out, she said, “I’m ready for the next one, Catrin.”
Catrin read everything Phyl gave her twice. She was amazed at the findings of Dr. Guttmann, and decided she wanted to trust the research she had read. She began taking Tom out in a wheelchair as often as the doctors allowed, encouraging him to learn to maneuver it without help, to reclaim some of his independence. They even started looking at flats on a ground floor for him to move into whenever the doctors finally decided to release him. They found a perfect one-bedroom flat fairly close to the offices where they had spent so much time writing, although Catrin secretly hoped that they would move the offices somewhere with a lift, so it wouldn’t be so difficult for Tom to get to work. And about a week later, the doctors released him from the hospital and that’s exactly where he moved. Catrin was still technically in his old flat, but was slowly moving all of his things from the old flat into the new one.
Soon, Phyl Moore asked Catrin to spend the afternoon with her again. Catrin wanted to say no, but Tom once again insisted she go, this time far more stubbornly. She was confused and a little hurt, but she spotted Parfitt on her way out and assumed that Tom had wanted some time alone with him, and she couldn’t begrudge him that. So she and Phyl went to a bookstore, and then shopping for new clothes. Phyl seemed awfully distracted while they were looking at clothes. “Is everything alright?” Catrin asked after Phyl didn’t hear her suggest that they just leave, since neither had found anything they liked, and anyway, it didn’t seem right to be buying new clothes unnecessarily with the war going on.
“Oh, I’m fine. Just… thinking about…. The Air Raid Wardens project. You know. Hoping it gets picked up. I know Gabriel Baker is chomping at the bit to get going.”
“Well, do you want to leave?”
“Oh,” Phyl looked down anxiously at her watch, “No. You should try that blue skirt on. I’m sure it would look lovely on you.”
Catrin shook her head. “I don’t think so. It doesn’t feel like me.”
“Well then let’s go for some tea somewhere. I think there’s a small tea shop just down the way,” Phyl gestured vaguely down the street. “Yes, let’s go there,” she said, shepherding Catrin out of the store and into a tea room two doors down.
They ordered their pot of tea, and Catrin couldn’t help but notice that Phyl kept looking at her watch. “Okay, I know something’s going on. Why do you keep checking the time?” Catrin demanded.
Phyl sighed. “Honestly, it’s nothing. I just know that Parfitt is trying to renegotiate some things for the Air Raid Wardens film this afternoon. The meeting started about an hour ago, and I’m anxious to know how it goes. It should be a long meeting, I think, and I asked you to come out with me so I would have something to do instead of fretting about it. I guess it didn’t work very well.”
Catrin hummed, suspicious of her excuse. She was fairly certain she had seen Parfitt heading toward the flat as she was leaving, which was around the time that Phyl claimed his meeting was supposed to happen. But she said nothing of her suspicions, wondering instead what secret business Parfitt and Tom had, and how Phyl was involved.
The women chatted for a bit after that, but it seemed strained, and Phyl still seemed quite distracted, until she finally looked down at her watch and said, rather abruptly, “Let’s go for a walk, shall we? I’m anxious to stretch my legs for a bit.”
Catrin was dragged along until they arrived at a small park near their old script writing office. It wasn’t much, just a small garden with some hedges and a couple of benches, but Catrin let herself be led to the wrought iron gate and pushed through. “You know, on second thought, I should probably go. But you should explore the garden. Maybe in that direction,” Phyl said with a wave of her hand and a rushed smile before she turned and left her companion behind.
Catrin watched her friend scamper away down the street. “She’s practically given me whiplash, that woman. I wonder what’s going on…” Catrin mumbled to herself. But after a moment, she turned, reckoning that whatever was going on, Phyl wanted her to walk toward the tree in the corner of the garden. So she followed the footpath until it reached the end of the hedge that was blocking most of the rest of the garden from her view. When she saw what was there, Catrin felt tears rushing to her eyes.
There, at the base of the tree, was Tom in his wheelchair, nervously rubbing his hands on his knees. There was a table set up with fish and chips and scones and tea.
“What’s all this?” Catrin exclaimed, gently dabbing at her eyes as she walked towards him.
“I’m not very good at declarations, as we’ve previously established,” Tom began when Catrin was right in front of him. “But I wanted to show you how important you are to me.” He gestured to the chair opposite him at the table. “I would have pulled your chair for you, but unfortunately I can’t, and I sent all of my help away in case this blew up in my face again.” Tom shrugged as Catrin sat down carefully. When she was settled, Tom pulled a ring out of his jacket pocket and held it out gently to her, his expression utterly defenseless. “Will you marry me Catrin? Catherine Pugh, if you’d prefer. I’ll call you anything you like, really. And I’m asking this time, not assuming.”
Catrin smiled at him and nodded, still tearing up a very little bit. “Yes of course Tom. I would love to marry you.”
She held out her hand and he tenderly put the ring on her finger.
Tom exhaled quickly. “I’ll be honest, I wasn’t totally sure how that would go,” he looked into her eyes with an uncertain smile.
Catrin grinned. “Well, it seems you’ve finally made your way into the Catrin Cole School of Dialogue.”
“I believe it’s the future Catrin Buckley School of Dialogue now,” Tom said, an impish grin on his face.
“I suppose you’re right,” Catrin agreed.
The wedding of Catrin Cole to Tom Buckley was a very small affair. His family was all gone and hers were too afraid to come to London because of the bombings, so it was just them with Parfitt and Phyl Moore at the courthouse. Catrin wore a new skirt and Tom a new jacket, and two weeks after Tom proposed, they exchanged vows in front of a judge who pronounced them man and wife in ten minutes flat. Then they all went out for a drink to celebrate.
It was really a dual celebration because that very morning they had officially been given the green light for the Air Raid Wardens project. So even though they had planned on specifically not talking shop that night, the group of four couldn’t help but spend their time together brainstorming the plot for the film.
At the end of the evening, Parfitt pulled Catrin into a hug and whispered quietly to her, “I insisted that they put us in a ground floor office this time. It’s the same building as before, so it’s close enough that you and Buckly should have no trouble getting to work every day.”
Catrin pulled partially out of Parfitt’s embrace with a tear in her eye. “Oh, thank you!” she exclaimed in equally hushed tones.
“Parfitt, let go of my wife if you please. I’d like to take her home now,” Tom interjected loudly.
Parfitt just smiled at his friend and waved. “Goodnight Mr. and Mrs. Buckley.”
“God, do I have to call you that now?” Phyl blurted out as she pulled on her coat.
Catrin laughed. “No,” she said, as Tom responded simultaneously, “Yes.”
Catrin looked at her husband with a raised eyebrow. “You should call her whatever she likes,” he amended.
Catrin chuckled. “We’ll see you next week Phyl, when we all get back to work. Have a good night!” she called as Phyl made her way out the door.
The day before work was supposed to begin on the Air Raid Wardens project, Tom had an appointment with the doctor so he could be cleared to work. Catrin came along as moral support, and because she was allowed in the room during his appointments now, as his wife.
The doctor looked critically through Tom’s charts and then back at Tom. “I suppose you can return to light work,” the doctor pronounced.
“And writing with a typewriter qualifies as ‘light,’ correct, Doctor?” Tom asked.
“Certainly, Mr. Buckley,” the doctor replied, scribbling a note in Tom’s file. After a moment, he looked up at the couple. “Really Mr. Buckley, with time and a lot of work, you may yet learn to walk again.”
Tom and Catrin looked at each other and simultaneously repeated, “Time and talent!” The pair laughed while the doctor buried his confounded expression in his patient’s file.
As they left the hospital twenty minutes later, Catrin looked at Tom. “Clearly this doctor doesn’t know what it’s like to be a screenwriter. All-nighters, throwing poorly written pages at each other, working until dawn. It’s not exactly ‘light work,’” she mused with a very small chuckle.
Tom nodded. “But he didn’t need to know that.”
“I suppose not. And I’m excited to get back to work tomorrow. You know they moved the office. They put us downstairs this time. I guess Phyl complained about having to climb so many stairs if they wanted her to spy on us again.” Catrin tried to keep her tone light and casual, but Tom knew her too well.
“It was Parfitt, wasn’t it? Always worried about everyone else. Good man.”
Catrin was just relieved Tom didn’t seem to be upset that they had requested accommodations on his behalf.
That evening, Catrin shuffled through Dr. Guttman’s research yet again. Every time Tom went to the doctor, she rifled through them. It had become a habit. She knew that Tom’s chances of actually walking again were very low, lower than the doctor had wanted to express. But it was alright. She wasn’t even bothered by it anymore, not the way she was at first. She was sad for Tom, of course, but he managed to reclaim his independence a bit more every day. She knew he would be fine.
Life went on. They wrote the Air Raid Wardens film, titling it “Girls Like Us.” Between Catrin and Phyl, it had come easily. It was about three young women, Blanche, Alice, and Millie, who inadvertently stumbled upon a retired cat burglar (played by the dashing Mr. Hilliard) in the exercise of their duties. Naturally, the cat burglar helped them rescue a pair of brothers after a raid, who Blanche and Millie fell in love with. At Catrin’s insistence, the team decided not to give Alice a beau at all, but rather leave her with a fulfilled life as a single woman. In the end, she adopted a couple of dogs to keep her company, per Tom’s insistence that she needed something.
They found a routine and they made a home and Tom and Catrin had a life. It wasn’t easy, but it meant something to them both. And when it came down to it, it was enough for them to have each other. In spite of it all, they were happy.