The elderly lady walks uneasily on her weak foot, her walking stick buckling under the weight of her senile frame. She moves with leaden steps to the furthest and most discrete corner of the quiet, relatively empty tearoom. The walls are painted with dull red and orange pigments, and the oak doorframe and sideboard stained almost black. About the large dimly lit room there are some scattered groups, other old couples creating a hubbub of idle senile chatter. But Mrs Mounter, with her grim pale face, is alone, at a table set for two.
She reaches out with her weak trembling hands toward the inky black teapot and pours the steaming, semitransparent liquid into two odd matching cups upon the circular table. She is fully clad, from head to toe, in a dull array of colours. Her formal, rust brown coat covers every part of her wrinkled skin, and a red shawl wrapped tightly around her fragile head. She wears a broach upon her breast, white and circular with no special features about it except from the story that it tells. A story that dates back a long way, to the youth of Mrs Mounter.
Right after the death of her father, and right before the start of the war. The air was still, and the night was clear and bright. The silence was suddenly disturbed by a steadily growing groan that floated across the sky as gently as a butterfly. But it didn’t stay gentle for long, within minutes the piercing slow wave of the air raid siren burst out splitting the night sky and striking fear into the heart of every soul in the neighbourhood. Mrs Mounter was seven at the time, and tears streamed down her face as her family gathered their belongings and fled to the bomb shelter for their lives.
The first explosions came, not very far away it was clear, and they could hear the sound of falling buildings and raging flames. The next bombs dropped were directly overhead. The young Charlotte Mounter shrieked and quivered in fear comforted only by her Mother and Brothers. It was clear that one bomb had landed on or near the house, and the family members waited in silent and fearful anticipation of the destruction that awaited them outside of the protective haven that they were inside. It was bleak, a total change from the still calm night that preceded the events.
The city was a mess, a flaming heap of dust and rubble. The worst strike to hit England they say, and the Mounter’s house was a picture of destruction. They had hit some of the planes; the bullets had pierced their wings and their fuel tanks. One Mecsherscmitt was lying maimed close to the old train station. Charlotte made her way towards it and saw the pilot within bloody and bruised. But she did not feel pity or sorrow for the man. His clothing was torn, and from his uniform a bright glint flickered in her eyes.
She leant forward. Reaching through the shattered glass and right up to the dead man. She grabbed at the glint and it ripped away from his clothing. She held it up, into the flame red and orange light and examined it. A clear white broach shone back at her. Beautifully polished and with no scratches or notches despite the obvious surrounding demolition. Charlotte pocketed the broach and stumbled away still crying back to the shreds of her home. She did not tell her Mother or Brothers about her find.
She did not get caught as a spy fifteen years later when the microscopic letter was hidden on the back of the broach. She did not get killed when another seven years later a German bullet with her name on it hit the broach and bounced away merely bruising her. It had stayed with her all her life, and now waiting for her husband to arrive, she remembered fondly how she had hidden the broach and guarded it with her life throughout her long years, how she had traded it in and stolen it back a thousand times for extra money, the way it always came back.
She relaxed into her happy memories, and a smile sank in across her wrinkled face. Her equally old and quiet husband returned, limping on his weak hip, and sat down next to her. He asked her why she was smiling, how was the tea, where she had bought the shawl. But she did not hear him. She was away with her happiest thoughts, drifting in her precious past. He shook her hand and checked her pulse, but her heart had stopped beating ten minutes ago.