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Mary Rose O'Donnell


Alice C. Bateman


Love Under Fire, The War Brides

Hello, my name is Mary Rose O’Donnell, and I live in a small town in Scotland. It is a small seaside resort town on the west coast, very pretty, and is the only place I have ever known, except for short holiday trips as a child.

I am from a family of eight children, the second youngest, only one brother younger than me. Right now I am eighteen years old, the Second World War is raging, and I am in the Women’s Auxiliary. I like dressing in my uniform and believing that I am helping in the war effort through my work.

Last night, I went to a dance for the soldiers, as I do every Saturday night. But, last night, I met a Canadian soldier, and I think he likes me. He danced with me alone, all night. I felt nice and safe and secure in his arms, and he made my heart pound.

I never ever tell any of these soldiers where I live, but there is something about this Ted Anderson that I like very much. He is a motorcycle courier, very dangerous work, but also very necessary. I am proud of him that he takes such risks for this war that is not even on the same continent that he lives on. Canada is so very far away... I can't imagine becoming serious about a man who lives across the ocean, but he has remained on my mind all this time.

It is now Sunday morning about eleven, and I decided to spend the morning in my room with thoughts of Ted instead of going to the Church with the rest of the family. I finally have my own room, now that my older sister Ellen has moved across the hall to Karen’s room, since Karen got married.

It is so nice to finally have some privacy!!! Dad is home too; sometimes he goes to Church, sometimes not. We are Catholics, and Ted is not, so of course we cannot become serious about each other, but...

He is so very handsome, with his black hair and brown eyes! Me with my own black hair and grey eyes beside him, dancing in his arms, make a beautiful couple. Oh, my God, my heart is suddenly pounding, and now I hear the roar of a motorcycle... could it be????

Oh, my God, I don't believe it!! It's now eight pm, and Ted has just left to be back at the barracks before the evening roll call. I am so astounded, so amazed, so emotional right now that I have already dropped this pen three times, before I got a word written in this journal. I had to get down on my hands and knees and look for it under the bed once.

Where to start saying what happened today? How to tell you, my diary, that my whole universe has changed so suddenly and completely?

Yes, it was Ted Anderson’s motorcycle I heard, but the funny thing is, my heart began to pound even before I heard the noise of his machine. We are fully connected, and we have known each other for only twenty-four hours, as of right now.

It was very strange, when he entered the dance last night, in his full uniform, so handsome and intense. It was as if all the other people there disappeared, and my girlfriend was tugging on my sleeve for some time, she said, before she got my attention back.

Apparently, I stopped talking in mid-sentence, and my eyes never left Ted's until he was standing in front of me to take my hand and lead me to the dance floor. He did not even ask. My chum, an English girl called Sandy, only told me of this later as we were in the powder room together for a few minutes.

Speaking of the powder room, I have to tell you that I did not even recognize my own face in the mirror. My skin was glowing, my eyes looked larger than usual, and so very bright, sparkling. The reflection of this face I have lived with for over eighteen years looked astonishingly beautiful, even to me.

Ted barely said a word as we danced, but held me very close, and I could feel our two hearts beating, and then even before the second dance started, they were both pounding in time with each other. I was afraid to look into his eyes, in case I totally lost my own identity there. Something stirred inside me that I did not know was there, stirred for only a moment before flaring into full life - a hunger for this man, a need so strong... Of course, I tried to tell myself this was all just my imagination, but it felt so real, amazingly real.

I truly believe that I have found what I have heard called my soul-mate, the love of my life.

I have goose bumps as I say this, hot chills coursing up and down my body. I have never, ever felt like this before, nor ever imagined that there could be such feelings. I am floating above my body, the fingers only working mechanically to write this down.

Diary, he walked into my house, bold as brass {after politely knocking on the door; I have always found Canadians to be exceedingly polite}, kissed me thoroughly and hugged me tight, right in front of my father. And then, as bold as you please, he walked over to my Dad, shook his hand, and said, "Hello, Mr. O’Donnell, my name is Ted Anderson, and I am going to marry your daughter."

I was astounded, speechless, my jaw dropped and my mouth hung open like a gaping fool.

My heart pounded so hard at these words, I thought that my chest would burst right open.

My Dad, my wonderful Dad, just raised his eyebrows slightly, and said, "Aye? Is that so, young man?"

Ted put his arm around my waist and drew me to the chesterfield, where he sat very close beside me. He began to give us a summary of his life before the Service, and a short overview of what he does in his work for the Canadian Army. I could see that my father was impressed, listening intently to every word. Ted told us that he is an only child, and wants many children as a consequence.

Of course, there is only one way to get children, and the thought of this made me blush a deep crimson, and my entire skin to become hot.

My father, usually dour and serious, grinned a little at the two of us before he realized what he was doing, and resumed his usual demeanour. His next question surprised me totally: "And just when will this wedding take place, son?"

And then Ted's answer {I'm sorry this is so illegible, but it is very hard to keep my writing neat with my hands shaking so much}: "As soon as we can, Sir, during my next weekend leave if it can be arranged."

Again, my mouth dropped to my chest. I felt a right fool to be sitting there with my mouth hanging open again, and I didn't even realize what I was doing, until Ted gently put a finger under my chin, and said, "It's all right, Scottie, everything's going to be fine."

I feel as if I am in some amazing dream, the dream that every young girl has, of being swept off her feet by her handsome Prince.

Actually, speaking of dreams, as Ted at one point stood by the mantle with his arm spread along the shelf, I recognized this as a tiny portion of a dream I had a few months ago.

This amazed me, I have never before dreamt of someone that I did not yet know. I don't recall details of this dream, but now that I have recognized this, I recall other dreams of Ted as well. Of dancing, of walking hand in hand, of kissing, of........... well, never mind, some things are too private even for you, Diary. Only bits and pieces of these dreams, never a complete memory of even one.

I am laughing, I have laughed so much today, more than in many previous months. This is such a serious time in the world, with the war on, the bombing raids every night. They do not target us, we are not important, no air bases or fuel reserves or war machine factories, but we hear the squadrons of airplanes as they return to Germany after their nightly raids on London.

I have tears in my eyes as I write; the sadness of these times is overwhelming sometimes. The children displaced by their families because of the danger, so many children sent to Canada to be taken care of there until this madness stops.

And the wounded; such dreadful injuries that many will never recover from, missing limbs, parts of faces blown away, such horror. It took me a long time to be able to stand at the docks to meet the troop ships returning from Germany with the wounded, to offer what comfort I can.

We Women's Auxiliary can only do so much, and there are many of us who would like to put on combat gear, pick up a gun, and go to punish these evil people who injure our young men so horribly. Already, one of my brothers has been killed in Africa, and we are dreadfully worried about another who is still there.

We have not had our usual weekly letter from him for three weeks now...

This time has been a big trial for me, regarding my belief in God. I have a hard time understanding how a kind and loving and good God can allow such things to happen in our beautiful world. But then, I know the evil does not come from God, but from another who shall remain nameless. I know that in the end, God and Good will prevail, although sometimes my thoughts are so dark, with the dreadful planes screaming overhead in the night sky.

Now that I have found Ted, I am even more anxious for this war to be over. My heart is torn to shreds, thinking that one day I may meet yet another troop ship, and it could be my Darling, my Love, lying on one of the endless stretchers. Or worse, the dreaded knock on the door from a uniformed soldier, with a letter in his hand addressed to me, saying that.........

No I cannot say it aloud, I do not believe that God would give me this Love only to abruptly rip it away from me. He is not a cruel God, I don't think, but these days He is taking a lot of blame for a situation that has been engineered by man, and the evil director of so many.

My thoughts have left the euphoria I was feeling as I sat down to write in you, my new Diary. I will go back to this afternoon and supper time with Ted in my house, at our table.

Perhaps Ted can help to ease my parent's deep grief over the loss of James, my brother. A new son to grace their lives, to fill a place at our table, as often as he can get away to be here.

I am so sorry that my mother is blind, and cannot see her new son's handsome face. She walked over his strong countenance with her fingertips, so she has a sense of what he looks like, but for her to be able to truly see him would be so wonderful.

Perhaps, like me, she will be able to see him in her dreams. We have made plans for the Wedding, for one month from next Saturday, only thirty-four days away. My Mother at first thought this much too sudden, but Ted pleaded with her, saying: "Mother O’Donnell, we are in such terrible times, we do not know what tomorrow may bring, and I love your daughter Mary Rose completely. I need to make her my wife, to give her my child, in case I should one day not come back from a battle."

At these words, my Mother and I both began to cry, and Ted took both of us in his strong arms, soothing us as well as he could. We cried for the loss of James, for the loss of all our young men from here that have been killed, for the many thousands that have died as a result of Hitler's insanity.

I hate this man with my entire being. I do not hate lightly, in fact never before in my life have I hated anyone, but this man is a curse upon the world, an agent of the devil, a dreadfully dangerous fool.

We had the Priest join us for supper, and explained to him our desire for this quick marriage. After the Wedding, after only two days and one night together, Ted must leave for an extended campaign in France. We do not know when he will return, the details of the mission are being kept quiet. 

Father O'Malley understands that these are certainly not traditional times, and assured us that God will also understand our sense of urgency.

We are so very much in love.

After supper, we went for a walk in the night, the stars shining brightly on us, a walk that was more one step, one kiss, one kiss, one step, much hugging, much pounding of hearts.

Always some part of us was joined, even if only our hands. I still feel the warmth of his skin under my fingers, the sweet taste of his lips on mine, the tang of tobacco in his mouth.

His hands on my back as he held me tightly, so close to his heart. The scent of him lingers in my hair, in my clothing, on my hands. This night, I will not wash my face or hands, and I will sleep in this dress, something I have never before done, but I need to feel him close. I need to reassure myself that this newfound Love is real, and not just another dream conjured up from this romantic eighteen year old soul who is living in the midst of such a grim world.

I must go for tonight, my Diary. I want to lie back on my pillows, with my eyes closed, and find Ted in his barracks, also lying on his back with his eyes closed, and thinking of me. He has promised to write to me as often as he possibly can, and I will write to him in care of his Company of the Canadian Armed Forces.

I am so happy, and so worried, and so dreadfully sad over James, that he never lived to find the love that Ted and I now share. My eyes fill with tears again at this thought, but having Ted hold my mother and I while we cried today helped us to release some of the overwhelming grief that we have carried since the dreadful day that we received news of James' death.

Good night, Diary, I will come back to you tomorrow night. I have a busy day tomorrow, early rising to don my uniform and perform my duties, as I must. Each small thing each of us does right now helps someone in some way, even if it is just to write a letter home for someone who no longer has arms or hands to do it himself.

There are tears in my eyes again, I must go and find Ted in the Ether. The next time I see Ted, it will be our Wedding Day. I will no longer be Mary Rose O’Donnell, I will be Mary Rose Anderson, Mrs. Ted Anderson...  It is amazing how quickly our lives can change!

Good night, Diary.

Chapter Two

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