Funny, Melinda thinks, how she managed to flee one war and find herself straight in another one. Twenty years seems both like the blink of an eye and an eternity to her. She’s never been to America before; she’s enjoyed Europe far too much. Perhaps this place will offer something new; perhaps this year will. Another accent for her repertoire?
There’s something in the air as she walks through New York: optimism. In spite of the war, the sounds of revelry surround her, and she picks up fragments of conversation – perhaps this will be the year, they say; certainly there’s been progress; perhaps the war will end this year.
She has no idea where she’ll live, who she’ll meet, but perhaps…
1945 comes into a small, sub-standard diner and slaps Mary in the face. She almost gasps with the force of it. Another year. What’s she been doing? Why’s she still here, a waitress in this dingy joint? She wanted to teach, for God’s sake. She wants to teach.
Frankie nudges her. “Mary?”
“Huh?” She startles. “Yeah. Yeah.”
Maybe this year, she’ll finally pluck up the courage to quit.
“1945,” Frankie prompts her, smiling, his eyebrows raised.
She obliges, attempting a smile in return. “Happy New Year.”
“1945!” Mom says brightly, and List looks and List looks up at the kitchen clock.
“Oh, yeah,” he manages vaguely, then realises. “Happy new year!” he says once it catches up with him, grinning at her.
She smiles back. “Good luck, Alister.”
“Yeah.” He says. “You too.”
The newspaper he’s been scrutinising lies forgotten as they share a toast. (Still no luck on the jobs front. No good ads. He tries to forget.) Two weeks from now, Mort’ll call him for yet another odd job, say he needs List to help fix up the dump down the road. Some crazy Brit.
Now, List grins, and he hears a clock, still striking twelve.