The Pocket Locket ©
1st Honourable Mention in the 2023 Royal Canadian Legion Ontario Command, District E Seniors Literary Competition (short story category)
Your legs are long and shapely. And you have a killer smile.
No-one, especially a man, had ever said that to Lucinda. At seventeen, all she ever
thought of herself were these awful freckles spread over her face and across her back. Oh, and
don’t forget her arms. She always wore long sleeves.
And yet, this guy seemed to have noticed her best attributes. Now, if she could only
manage to get her hands on a pair of real nylon stockings! She wasn’t into phony seam lines
women penciled up the back of their legs during these wartime days. He would see through that
charade in a minute. He was a guy with talent. An artist.
She whirled happily around the kitchen -- too close to the woodstove -- her blonde hair
carefully styled in Victory Rolls.
“Lucy!” warned her mom. “Get away from the stove! You polish the silver yet? You
know company’s comin’ for dinner.”
Lucy’s mother. A saint when she wanted to be. A witch when she didn’t get her way. She
was prone to fake fainting spells that once terrified Lucy and her sister, Blanche, both thinking
mom had something terribly wrong with her. Years later their family doctor explained those
fainting spells were fake, a cry for attention. But Lucy and Blanche didn’t know it then.
The year was 1941, and despite war measures and sanctions, Lucy was floating on air.
Gregory, her artist admirer -- a romantic and adventurer -- attracted her with his sky-blue
eyes and thick, dark, wavy hair, one errant lock tumbling over his forehead. Swimming laps in
Doe Lake developed his upper body strength, he said, when she admired his toned muscles.
“Don’tcha dare get with fam’ly, Lucy!” warned mom. “I won’t have another one of you
girls bringin’ shame on this house.” She minced no words about Blanche, her wayward daughter.
Then it was back to Greg. “And why isn’t he in uniform? Anyone worth anythin’ would’ve
signed up by now.”
It was hard to ignore her mother’s rantings. It was true. Blanche, at 18, was already an
unmarried mom. Her chubby baby girl was curly-headed and well-loved but Blanche -- and
Lucinda -- knew she faced a hard life without a father. Plus, a hill of scornful gossip heaped on
the young unwed mother. She’s a bad girl, loose girl, cheap hussy, embarrassin’ her family. And
her father workin’ hard at the factory to put food on the table. Turrible, they said.
Meanwhile, Greg, a shy, possessive guy, had his own quirks. He didn’t want to share
Lucy with anyone. Locking fingers, the couple wandered alone along meandering country roads.
Together, they watched, fascinated, at the nearby river while a beaver, its nose above the surface,
pushed fallen branches to its mud-packed dome home. They caught a brown-eyed doe peering
tentatively at them through the leaves of trees. Marvelled at monarch butterflies flitting through
wildflower-studded fields. And, despite her mom’s dire warnings, Lucy made passionate love
with her guy on a gray wool blanket that made Lucy’s skin itch.
In the afterglow of after-love, with the sun still strong in the sky, Greg offered Lucy a
cigarette. He rolled his own between nicotine-stained fingers. “No, thank you,” she said at first.
“Let me light one for you,” he said. Lit it between his lips, took it out, handed it to her.
Just like in the movies. She could smell him on that cigarette. They smoked together, she
inhaling superficially, sitting against the trunk of a wild apple tree as the sun sank low on the
horizon. She ached in the pit of her stomach: a heavenly, gut-wrenching delicious pull in her
groin. She adored this man.
“Signed up. Finally,” he said nonchalantly. As if talking about signing one of his
Her heart fluttered. She half-hummed, half-sang the hit tune Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy
by the Andrews Sisters in celebration. She didn’t want to betray her real feelings of fear.
He smiled, wrapped his arm around her freckled shoulders, drew her in. “Like my dad. A
hero in the last war. Family expects this. Specially since Mom was a British war bride. Dad
brought her here after the war ended. She wanted to go back to England when she saw how poor
he was. But,” he said, “she’s now the mother of eight.”
Lucy knew Greg had spent a year with his mother’s wealthier family in Sussex, England.
He loved the experience and didn’t want to return to Canada.
“But what about your art scholarship? What about your future?” She wanted to say ‘our’
future but was too afraid.
“No matter what, we’ll be together, Luce,” he said matter-of-factly, reading her mind.
Cigarette smoke curled lazily towards the blue sky. “You’re mine.” So definitive. She tingled.
She looked at him sideways. Loved his straight, aristocratic nose, his strong profile, his
“We’ll marry soon’s we can.” Didn’t ask her. Took it for granted. She trembled within.
Thrilled by his possessiveness.
He got up, casually flicked his cigarette into the lake. Took hers, did the same. Pushed
her gently back down on that itchy blanket and took her again. She had no doubt this man was
hers. And she was his. Body and soul intertwined.
One day he came calling for her in his air force uniform. Her mother’s eyes shone with
admiration at his sight. Lucinda swooned all over again. He looked twice as handsome in that
They -- no, it was Greg -- decided to elope.
He said they would marry in the small church on the hill. “In two days. Tell no-one.
Especially your mother.” He had talked to the Rev.
Marriages in a hurry were common these days. Too many boys headed overseas. Too
many girls left behind. Too many love stories left hanging.
“Wear my favourite hat,” he ordered passionately. She knew the one: navy blue with a
wide, flat brim adorned with a pale pink velvet ribbon. She liked it, too. Hid her freckled face.
She did not tell her sister Blanche. Nor her mother. Nor her hard-working father. Funny,
she thought, the one person she wished could be there was her father. Kind. Gentle. Overworked.
Weary. An old soul. And a loving one.
The minister was busy marrying young couples that Saturday in June. The church’s
austere interior was softened with the sight of many couples: young men -- boys really -- in
uniform, girls in their Sunday best, some lucky ones even wore nylon stockings! Carrying
bouquets of roses mixed with wildflowers from the hills. Wearing large, floppy wide-brimmed
hats that perched seductively over their Victory Rolls.
Lucinda looked down with pride at her Mary Jane ankle strap pumps. Borrowed from her
best friend. Her feet might hurt but she looked glamorous. For Greg. My husband. She swirled
the words around in her mouth and liked the taste. Her heart hammered when she whispered
Whatever happened now, they were together. Lucinda was in heaven with her handsome
serviceman in his blue grey uniform and the jaunty side cap trying vainly to tame his tousled
Life at their lakeside honeymoon cottage hidden among birch trees was a continuous
tumble in bed. He constantly sketched her in the nude. In every position. From every angle.
When she saw herself on paper, without her ever present freckles, she shivered with delight.
Their heads came up occasionally for a meal or two but they thrived mostly on passion.
Until a shocking visit from the RCAF Special Police.
“Flight Sergeant Air Gunner Greg Brittain?” barked an official voice at the door.
Greg and Lucinda were sunbathing in the nude on the flat cottage roof. Her heart raced.
What was wrong?
Greg peered over the roof edge, his bare buttocks touching her bare stomach. “Here.”
“You’re under arrest for being AWOL,” barked the official. “Come with us. Now!”
That was the end of their sinfully romantic honeymoon. Four heavenly days and nights
“I’m pregnant,” she whispered as they led him away. “I know I am.”
“You’d better be,” he smiled in return.
When they parted before he sailed overseas, he stroked her wet cheek softly, gently
nuzzling her tears into his warm skin. Reverently touched her abdomen. “I’m comin’ back, kid.
You be sure to wait for me. You and Babe.”
Tears flowing, she pressed a silver heart-shaped locket inscribed with L that held her
photo inside, into his hand. “Keep it with you always for good luck,” she sobbed. “I’ll write
every day.” And she did.
Their pregnancy was confirmed after he left. She wrote him the exciting news. Said she
was very sick. Her family doctor smiled with compassion: “I understand you’re worried. Go
home. Get a cup of coffee. Light a cigarette. Put up your feet and relax.” She followed his advice
while listening to Vera Lynn’s We’ll Meet Again on the radio.
And she wept with fear over their unknown future together.
In her family’s fields in the late afternoon, Lisbeth De Vries watched the parachute
descend from the overcast sky. Once a thriving farm, the land had been decimated by Nazi troops
who had invaded The Netherlands in 1940. Now, almost two years later, with the early arrival of
Spring, green shrubs and leafy trees shielded the ugly from sight.
During the Occupation, Lisbeth had changed from a fun-loving teen to a nervous,
frightened young woman, aware of her family’s precarious position in an enemy-infested
Through her vader’s bargaining, she had been spared the unthinkable: taken away to tend
to the sexual needs of enemy soldiers. Instead, she and her father were forced to play host in their
farm home to a German commandante who liked Lisbeth’s soft limbs and the fresh food of the
Her father had visibly aged knowing his only child lay nightly in her parents’ double bed
at the mercy of a Nazi officer. Before papa died -- from heartache she was certain -- he cried
quietly in Lisbeth’s arms trying to explain his rationale: if she insisted on staying during the war,
he wanted her to eat well and live in her own home during this dreadful hell. No other man
would dare touch the commandante’s mistress.
Her moeder, Wilhelmina, would have negated this horrific arrangement with all her
strength. But she did not know. She had left for her sister’s home in Canada before the
Occupation. And she had wanted her only child with her.
But Lisbeth had fought to remain with her father and refused to leave.
The stubborn Dutch trait, he had accused her. “Maybe it will save you in the end,” he
Lisbeth had watched other parachutists descend from the dangerous skies over
Apeldoorn, only to be seized by Nazis as they landed. The parachute her eyes now followed from
behind the barn had appeared after a blinding aerial explosion. She assumed enemy gunfire had
ripped into the Allied aircraft.
She watched the chute pop open and a lone figure dangle from the end of its nylon cord.
The parachute swayed in the wind. As it hit the ground, she heard the violent thud not far from
her hiding spot. Lisbeth waited for Nazi soldiers to descend as always, like a pack of snarling
hyenas. But there was no movement from surrounding fields and land. Still, she waited a little
When darkness began to spread across the sky, Lisbeth ventured forth. Tentatively she
walked, then rushed, towards the sprawling parachute. When she knelt, she knew the airman was
barely alive. His back was bent in an unnatural position, one leg at an awkward angle to his cord-
tangled body. Blood trickled from his nose and one ear. Dead, she thought, thankful it was so
swift for the young soldier.
But his blue eyes suddenly opened wide. In pain. She remembered later how bright they
were, even in the dark. She touched his cheek. Already it was cold. Bent to kiss it. She didn’t
want him to die alone. He tried to speak. Hoarsely. Slowly.
“Lucy,” he moaned.
“Yes,” she whispered into his ear.
She studied his handsome face. Deduced he was her age. She saw the winged RCAF
patch on his leather flight jacket. Caught sight of an artist’s calligraphy on its front. Read
He moaned again. She nestled closer. Smelled his masculinity. Lucy must be his wife?
Girlfriend? she wondered.
Reaching into his jacket pockets, she felt around for some ID. Instead, out fell a silver
locket inscribed with the letter ‘L’. Lisbeth knew it must be special. She rescued it. Held it.
Whispered: I promise to return it to Lucy. And stroked his forehead.
His lips parted to say something. Then closed again.
Not much later, after he died, she lifted his cold hand to her cheek, pressed it close.
Glancing around, she still saw no enemy. Ran for the safety of the farmhouse. Soon enough they
would find him.
In the kitchen, she sobbed. For her father. Her mother. Herself. Her own ruined body. For
the dead airman in the field. She knew she would remember his last word: Lucy. Someday,
somewhere, it might make sense. Her fingers played idly with the locket’s silver chain. Curious,
she opened the heart and studied the pale photo of a young woman.
Forlorn, she looked around the warm and comfortable room once stocked with fresh,
bountiful produce. Empty now except for tulip bulbs, their remaining sustenance. Even the
commandante was short on bringing back supplies from town headquarters. Troops were restless.
She sensed an aura of change.
After the war, when Lisbeth was reunited with her mother in Ontario, she recognized how
far apart they had grown. She never shared details of her father’s heartbreaking death. Nor the
stillborn birth of her baby -- the commandante’s son -- whom she could never grieve. Her life in
Canada provided a new beginning.
Her hospital job near Trenton brought her into contact with many young shell-shocked
soldiers: maimed, broken in spirit. Not one woman or man returned the same person as when
they had left.
She met and married Ted while he was recuperating from his Overseas service. They
rented a townhouse -- in a complex of many -- on the outskirts of the city. During the summer,
neighbours -- all women -- gathered on the combined front lawns to enjoy one other. Children
ran around and between their mothers’ lawn chairs. Laughter filled the air.
“Lucy!” yelled a seated woman to a latecomer. “Over here!” she beckoned.
Lisbeth stopped digging up tulip bulbs from around her front steps when she heard the
name. Looked idly over at the circle of women. ‘Lucy’ was approaching the group with a lawn
chair on one arm while holding a little girl’s hand with her other.
Lisbeth studied the young mother. She looked to be about the age of the dying airman.
Lisbeth’s heart began to beat a little faster. She looked over at the circle of young women.
Watched this Lucy. Felt an immediate compelling connection. She retreated to the back of her
mind and sank onto the cement patio edge in front of her unit. It was probably a coincidence, of
course, but the name tugged at the jagged edges of her memory: the downed airman in her field
uttering Lucy with his dying breath. The silver locket inscribed with L inside his flight jacket.
Inside the heart, a young woman’s photo.
She looked over again at the young mother. Studied her again. And the little girl by her
At the same time, horrific flashbacks seized her. The naked, hairy commandante holding
her down in bed. Thrusting. Night after night. She, wretching. Blood. Blue baby. The smell of
It was all there, in vivid colour, as if the war had happened yesterday.
Laying down the trowel, Lisbeth slowly turned, entered her townhouse, walked upstairs
to their bedroom where she kept her jewelry box.
Her fingers scrounged among loose beads, detached bracelets, tangled costume
adornments, out-of-date brooches. All lying in a messy heap on the bottom drawer of her jewelry
box. Fingers searched for, and touched, the forgotten locket.
Slowly lifting the silver chain with the L inscribed locket from the junky accessories, she
stared at the silver heart. Picked it up delicately. Walked to the bedroom window from where
Lisbeth could watch – again -- the women in a semi-circle of lawn chairs embracing the late-
Opened the locket. Looked at the young mother on the lawn and looked at the locket
Looked again. And again. There seemed to be a resemblance.
Should she venture out to the lawn and approach the young woman because of some
Slowly, she circled the room, stared again at the photo, then out the window. Startled, she
suddenly heard the car door slam in the driveway, signalling Ted had arrived home from work.
Lisbeth sighed, crossed the room, returned the locket to her jewelry box.
Tomorrow, she thought, she might approach the young mother, Lucy, and her daughter.