Long Acre is part of another KATE STIRLING HISTORICAL TRILOGY, set in New Zealand from 1946, depicting the impact of the war years on the characters.
The wind whistled through the dark she-oaks as the small funeral procession wound its way to the chapel but no-one noticed or cared. Everyone who mattered was there. An older man, tall, strong looking and uncomfortable in a dark suit, his two adult sons and one teenaged daughter plus a few locals formed the party. The daughter stood apart while her father carried his new-born baby daughter.
The baby moved, restless, and her father absently rubbed her back as he stared at the open grave. Rose, his darling Rose, gone for ever. All his dreams and hopes for their future shattered and in his arms, the cause of all the grief.
He forced himself to look at the little face, almost hidden by the shawl as it was.
“Well, little one, you better be worth it. A high price to pay.” At home after the funeral he held out the child to his daughter, but Arial refused to take her. She stood, feet firmly apart as she shook her head, dark eyes clouded.
“Dada, I can’t have her. I’ve done my bit with the boys and now I have only a little time before I go to Training College. I don’t want to spend the next five or ten years of my life looking after her. She’s yours, you do it.”
“But she needs a warm breast to cuddle into.” “You have just as many as I have and I think they are bigger.” Dada scowled as she laughed and walked away. He wasn’t fat and he wasn’t woman!
“Wait.” He called after her. “Give her three months. Just three months. I’ll look after her at nights and through the day when you have to be away. Three months? Please?”
Arial shrugged as she left the room, calling over her shoulder. “Okay. Three months; not a minute more though.” Dada nodded his shaggy head and pulled the shawl down to expose the little red face.
”You hear that then? Three months and then you’re stuck with me. Make the most of it, little one.”
The baby yawned widely as if this was not her problem.