Hello to everyone who's reading this! I'm finally back - I had my final exams where I had to write 5 long papers. Then, I was so tired from writing those that I decided to take a break from writing. But here's this! It's loosely inspired by the song "Travelin' Soldier" by the Dixie Chicks. I hope you enjoy it!
October 1939 - Tom
Two days past eighteen
He was waiting for the bus in his army green
"Join the army - the finest job in the world," the colorful poster outside the post office had persuasively urged. "Work and play all over the globe!"
And Tom Branson had immediately dropped the parcel he had planned on mailing and headed to a recruiting office after reading that. In an act that was either incredibly chivalrous or incredibly foolish, he had enlisted. It was done in a matter of minutes — he had filled out the required paperwork, scrawled his messy signature on it, and received his beige uniform and matching cap.
The entire process was finished almost as soon as it had started, giving Tom no time to reflect during it. But now, as he waited for a bus to the train station, second thoughts bobbed around in his head. It would have been so much easier to remain working for The Daily Telegraph. What would his mam say when she found out he had up and enlisted to fight for a country that had oppressed their own for so long - without her permission? What if he never returned to his beloved Ireland, the country that was everything to him? What if…
He shook his head as if to clear his meandering thoughts. As he did so, his jaunty beige cap fell off and into the hectic London street. Tom sighed at his own carelessness and leaped into the street amid the cluster of cars and the stray pedestrians. He noticed the bus he was supposed to take to the military training camp pick up two passengers and then pull away.
"Wait!" he called after the bus, running to catch up to it. But his efforts were futile. The bus continued moving further and further out of sight.
"Ah, goddammit," Tom cursed, realizing the bus would not cycle back to his stop for another hour. Of course, he could simply walk to the next stop…three whole miles away. No, he might as well just make the most of his last few hours in London. London, a city he loved for its hustle and bustle, comforting in that it was so similar to his native Dublin in that way. Tom would miss London when he shipped out - it had gradually become home even to an Irish Republican like him.
Out of the corner of his eye, Tom saw the brightly lit sign of an establishment. "The Borough Café," it read, its bright letters standing out against the tan exterior of the café. It was nearly empty, save for a few regulars sipping tea at one of the cozy booths.
Tom considered for a moment before walking into the café. A little bell above the door jangled as he did so, and a pretty waitress clad in a pale purple dress came rushing out to greet him.
"Welcome to The Borough Café!" she said brightly, a wide smile coming over her face. Tom watched her eyes travel down to his uniform and an instant of realization flicker across her smooth face. Everywhere he had gone today, people had been giving him that same glance. A glance that thought he was brave for defending their country, a glance that wondered whether he was bound for certain death.
The look cleared from the waitress's face and she lead him over to a small booth. She passed him a menu, gave him another of her perfect smiles, and then left him alone, alone with his terrible thoughts.
Tom's mind went around in circles again, as he internally berated himself for his impulsiveness. What a fool he had been, to want to fight for Britain. He had passionately loathed that same country for so long, ever since his youth…
"Are you ready to order?" The waitress's husky voice interrupted his thoughts. Tom glanced up at her. She really was quite pretty, almost in the genteel way he imagined a princess would be - even prettier than the fiery, rough girls he had pursued back home were. Her twinkling baby blue eyes were set in a flawless face that always seemed to be on the verge of smiling. And her dark hair was tied with a white bow, adding a sort of youthful touch to her. But it was her beautiful smile that really drew him to her - it was so full of life, so happy. It was really too bad he was departing tonight, or else he'd ask her on a date…
"Sir?" she asked again, probably wondering why on God's green earth he was staring at her for so long.
"Oh, erm…I'll have a scone and a cup of Irish breakfast tea," he responded, internally cursing himself for acting like such a fool.
"Irish breakfast…not many people around here order that!", she noted in fascination. "I was wondering where your accent was from!"
He chuckled quietly, and the waitress smiled at him again. She turned to leave, and Tom almost panicked when he realized he'd be alone to mull over his fate again.
"Wait! Miss, please!" he called after her.
She whirled around. "Yes? Is there something else you want?" she questioned.
"No, I'm set with what I already ordered. I was just wondering..." his voice trailed off, nervous and unsure about what he wanted to ask her, this pretty girl who was so lively and happy.
"Mm-hm?" she prompted, tugging at the stiff white collar of her dress.
"Would you mind sitting down here with me for a little while? To keep me company for a bit? I just am feeling a little…down, and I thought it might help to have someone to talk with to take my mind off of things, especially someone as lovely as you…" The words were out of his mouth before he could think about them, and Tom cursed himself again for his foolish impulsiveness.
The waitress blushed at his words, breaking into a smile again. "Of course! My shift ends in an hour and then we can go somewhere else, if you'd like. I know a special place we could go."
Tom grinned in relief that she hadn't outright rejected him; rather, she actually seemed happy and flattered that he'd asked her.
"I'm Tom," he told her, figuring that it would be a good idea for her to at least know his first name.
"I'm Sybil," she returned, fixing the bow in her hair and gifting him with another wide grin. "I'll go prepare your food for you, Tom, but I'll be right back."
Sybil…a name just as pretty and classic as she was…
Tom tried it out on his lips, mouthing silently to himself. Her name rolled perfectly off of his tongue, the way the lullabies he sang to his younger siblings did.
Maybe enlisting in the army wasn't as halfwitted of a notion as Tom had thought.
So this was just an intro chapter! We'll find out more of Tom and Sybil's backstories in the next chapter! This is going to be around 5 to 6 chapters. Please let me know what you liked about it or if you noticed any glaring errors or inaccuracies. Also, thanks to pearlydewdrop for breaking me out of my writing slump!