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heat was penetrating the fabric of his uniform over his left breast and suddenly he realised that the sound he had been trying to identify was the throaty purring of the kitten who had made a comfortable bed of his chest. “You fell asleep.” The small voice was almost accusatory. “Yes I did, darlin’,” he apologised, finding the soft cap of her hair under his hand and drawing the silken strands through his fingers. “But I wasn’t frightened, honest.” Vin swallowed past the lump in his throat, touched by the child’s attempt to be brave and he felt guilty for having abandoned her even for brief moment’s respite of uninvited sleep. Reflexively his arm tightened around her and he wondered just how much time had passed since the wall had collapsed. The wall. He remembered vaguely that he had heard the girl scream as she had fallen through the debris. He had been standing on the sidewalk with Chris and Ezra watching her play… “Are you a soldier? My daddy’s a soldier.” “No, I’m not a soldier. I fly in a big plane.” “A Spitfire?” She sounded excited. “My uncle flies a Spitfire. He’s killed lots of Germans.” Jesus! This was just a little kid. She should be playing with dolls, without a care in the world, not playing in the rubble of bombed out houses and talking about Spitfires and killing. “No. Much bigger than a Spitfire.” “A bomber?” Yes, honey. A bomber. I leave little kids like you without a home, without a family, buried under tons of rubble; dead. You see, I’m really good at what I do. Yes,” he answered tiredly, “A bomber.” He felt her grip tighten as she pressed her face against him, then almost absently she started to stroke his face, feeling the dampness of tears on his cheeks. “Did you hurt yourself,” she asked curiously, associating his tears with a different kind of pain. “Just a little, hon. Don’t you worry about it none.” “If I give you hug, will it make you better? That’s what mummy does when I’m hurt.” Taking his silence for consent, she gently put her arms around his neck, as in the dark he silently wept.

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