Chapter Nine

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Dorothy couldn't figure out how Robbie even had the energy to make the nearly two-mile trek to Fort Needham. While she'd only had a bowl of chowder and a cup of tea for lunch, he'd put away an entire steak, two eggs, a heaping of fried potatoes, and two thick slabs of bread and butter. He topped it all off with coffee that to Dorothy's nose smelled burned and acidic compared to the rich aroma of what was brewed in the Monroe household.

After the first flew blocks heading further north, it became evident that Robbie didn't share his mother's refined culinary tastes, or at least he had lost them during the war. He raved on and on about a tavern in England where he'd gone on leave while training.

"I could eat nothing but their cottage pie for the rest of my life and I'd be happy. I've been driving Helena up the wall asking if she can make this or that, though she won't do it since she'd have to answer to Mother. I can just imagine the look on my mother's face if a heaping plate of ham and cabbage was placed in front of her."

"Charlie has been at me to make rappie pie," she said.

"What that?"

"It's a mushy meat pie with a burned top. It's as revolting as it sounds, but Charlie likes it."

"I've never heard of it."

"It's something my father used to eat when he was younger. He's from down Yarmouth way. My mother had never heard of it, and so she wrote to Dad's sister for the recipe. The first time she made it, I thought she had done it all wrong, it looked so disgusting, but when Dad took a bite he raved that it was just how he remembered his mother making it. Ian and I could hardly stand to eat it just by the way it felt going down your throat, but Charlie adored it."

"You told me your father was dead," he said quietly.

"I didn't want to talk about him." She pursed her lips and drew a long, deep breath through her nose. "He put us out after Mum died. He'd been messing around on her with this woman. Mum was barely in the ground for a week before he brought the woman in and told us she was our new mother."

"Jesus, you don't have to tell me any more."

She didn't want to talk about it now, either, but the compulsion to do so nipped her. She hadn't really talked about it to anyone before and wondered if doing so would make her feel better. "It's fine. Even if he hadn't told us to get out that day, we still would have gone."

"And you were ..."

"Fourteen. Charlie was ten, and Ian was sixteen. It was actually all right for a while, or I thought it was. Ian and I quit school and got jobs. I suppose if none of that mess in Europe ever happened, we would have kept on being all right."

"Why did Ian go, if he had you and your brother to take care of? He could have said he had family to support."

"Same reason as everyone else. He was reading all about what was happening in the Balkans and getting fired up every time he did it. I suppose he would have gone eventually -- not because of conscription, but because it would have eaten away at him." She shook her head and dug deeper into her empty pockets. "I didn't believe it until he came home and said he'd signed up with the 85th, and then I cried for days. He said it wouldn't be for long."

"I said the same thing," he murmured, eyes to the ground ahead of him as they strolled along.

"I think he got real scared before he left," she said after a moment. "He didn't say anything, but I could see it passing over his face every once in a while. When he hugged me that last time before getting on the ship, it was like he wanted me to tell him that he could change his mind and he didn't have to go."

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