Today it’s Chapter Three of Christmas with the East End Angels and we find out who upsets Bella and why. In Secrets of the East End Angels she was given the job of writing a fortnightly column about life at a London Ambulance Station for the War Illustrated, and has been doing it ever since and loving it.
Bella read through what she’d written one last time. It was as polished as she could make it and she hoped that Mr Dawson, the journalist at The War Illustrated, and his editor would think so too.
‘Are you happy with it?’ Connie asked as she sat down at the kitchen table and poured a cup of tea out of the bone-china teapot.
‘Yes. It’s due in today so I’ll deliver it on my way to work. It’s getting much harder to find something interesting and new to write about now the Blitz is over and I’ve already written so many pieces.’ Bella had been writing a fortnightly piece about life working at a London Auxiliary Ambulance station since the summer. Her brief had been to write about what it was really like doing the job, to show behind the scenes – all the things that a journalist couldn’t see on a flying visit to the station. ‘I mustn’t complain about there being no air raids, though; we don’t want the bombers coming back killing and injuring more people.’
‘I expect they’ll be back sometime, so enjoy the peace while you can.’ Connie broke off a toast crust and fed it to Winnie’s dog, Trixie, who was sitting patiently by her side, looking at her hopefully with her liquid brown eyes. ‘Why don’t you have a word with your journalist, see what he thinks?’
Bella shook her head. ‘I can’t do that. I don’t want to him to think I can’t do the work.’
‘Oh, Bella, there’s no doubt that you can write beautifully; haven’t you proven it many times over now?’ Connie reached across the table and patted Bella’s arm. ‘Be proud of what you’ve achieved because it really is quite marvellous. Just think, your work has been read by thousands of people all over the country.’
Bella’s cheeks grew warm. ‘I know, but I don’t want to lose this job, I love doing it.’ She glanced at her watch. ‘I’d better get going. Come on, Trixie, time to go.’ She was taking the little dog into work with her this morning as Winnie had gone to see Mac off at the station.
‘Have a good shift,’ Connie said.
‘I will, see you later.’
Holding Trixie tucked under one arm, Bella walked into the newspaper office where Mr Dawson worked. The clatter of typewriter keys permeated the air, which was thick with cigarette smoke.
‘Ah, good morning to you,’ Mr Dawson said, looking up from his desk where he’d been furiously scribbling in spidery writing on his notepad. ‘And who’s this with you?’ He put out his hand and stroked Trixie’s head, the little dog wagging her tail in response.
‘This is Trixie; I wrote about her being dug out of a bombed-out building a few weeks back. She’s coming into work with me this morning as her owner’s seeing her husband off at the station.’
‘Ah, the famous ambulance station dog. Have you got this week’s piece?’
‘Here it is.’ Bella handed it over and waited, her heart starting to pound as Mr Dawson read it through. This was always an anxious moment: waiting to see if her writing was accepted. All of it had been so far, but there was always a first time . . .
‘That’s a good piece of work,’ he said, laying it down on his desk. ‘But I’m afraid this is the last piece we’ll run on the Ambulance Service; we won’t be wanting another from you. The editor feels that although it’s been very good and popular with our readers, it’s time to move on.’
Bella stared at him for a few moments as what he’d said sank in, her chest tightening. ‘Have I done something wrong?’
‘No, not at all, every piece you’ve written has been excellent.’ Mr Dawson ran a hand through his thinning hair. ‘The thing in journalism is to know when enough is enough, if you keep on for too long with something then it can become stale and the reader won’t like it. Knowing when to stop before that happens is the key, and the editor’s decided that it’s now. I’m sorry. Truly, I am, you’ve done a remarkable job.’
‘Very well, if you don’t want any more about the Ambulance Service then I’m willing to write something different. Anything.’ Writing was too important to her to give it up without a fight. There had to be another way. ‘I could write about . . . ’ Her mind whirled through other possibilities but none of them seemed any good off the top of her head.
‘I’m sorry, but there’s nothing else for you at the moment. I’ll keep you in mind if anything comes up that I think might be suitable for you, all right? I can’t promise anything but if I need a good writer I know where to come.’ He shrugged. ‘That’s the best I can do.’
What could she say? If she kicked up a fuss they’d never use her again. She just had to be professional and accept that they didn’t want her to write her articles any more and she couldn’t force them to take them. But it hurt. She’d doubted her ability to do it at first and writing each piece had been a challenge, but in spite of that she’d still loved doing it and not doing it any more would leave a huge hole in her life. ‘I’m sorry, too, I’ve really enjoyed doing it.’ Bella sighed. ‘Thank you, Mr Dawson, for giving me the chance in the first place. I really hope you might find something else for me sometime.’
‘I’ll be in touch if there’s something that’s right for you, I promise.’ She nodded. ‘Thank you, I appreciate that.’
Pedalling towards Station 75 with Trixie sitting in the basket at the front of her bicycle, the little dog’s golden ears streaming back in the icy cold wind, Bella bit back the urge to cry. She was hurt and bitterly disappointed. Admittedly, she had been finding it harder and harder to find new and interesting things to write about, but the quality of her writing hadn’t altered, the pieces were still good and entertaining, she could have written more. It seemed so unfair to have it suddenly cancelled on the whim of the editor because he felt like something different . . . She swallowed against the lump in her throat. She had no choice in the matter: the editor’s word was final, all she could do now was hope that Mr Dawson found something else for her to write. But would he?
Reaching the entrance to Station 75, she turned in under the archway and bumped her way over the cobbles into the courtyard where the ambulance station was housed in flat- topped mews garages opposite a crescent of grand terraced houses. Hopping off, she scooped Trixie out of the basket and put her down on the ground and the little dog immediately dashed in through the open garage doors. Bella followed, pushing her bicycle past parked ambulances to the back where the staff left them.
‘Mornin’, Trixie.’ Frankie had already parked her bicycle and Bella could see her crouching down and making a fuss of an ecstatic Trixie: the dog was wagging her tail so hard her whole body was wriggling from side to side.
‘She must have known you were in here.’ Bella leaned her bicycle against the wall. ‘There’s not much gets past Trixie.’
‘She’s a clever girl.’ Frankie stood up and looked at Bella, her blue eyes suddenly looking concerned. ‘Are you all right? Only you look a bit upset.’
Bella bit her bottom lip. ‘They don’t want any more articles from me for The War Illustrated. They think there’s been enough on the Ambulance Service now, I—’ She stopped as her voice wavered.
Frankie put her arm around Bella’s shoulder. ‘I’m sorry to ’ear that; I know ’ow much you love doing it. Can’t they give you somethin’ else to write about instead?’
‘I did ask, tried to think of something interesting on the spot but couldn’t . . . Mr Dawson said he’d let me know if something else came up that was right for me.’ She sighed. ‘I’m going to miss it.’
Frankie pulled her into a hug. ‘I know you are; you’re a good writer. It’s a rotten shock for you and that ain’t nice to have ’appen.’
‘I never expected that when I went in there this morning.’
Frankie stood back and looked Bella straight in the eye. ‘My gran used to say that when one door closes another opens. Keep thinkin’ that and who knows what might come along next for you.’
Bella smiled at her. ‘You are such a tonic, Frankie. I don’t know what I’d do without you.’
‘Keep your chin up, as Winnie says. And talking of our dear friend, ’ave you seen her this mornin’? Is she all right?’
‘Only briefly before she and Mac left for the station. She looked fine then but you know her, stiff upper lip and all that, she’ll be hiding what she’s feeling. She hates it when Mac goes back.’ ‘We’ll ’ave to keep an eye out for her today.’ Frankie glanced at her watch. ‘If she ain’t here in a few minutes she’ll be late. We’d better keep the boss talking so she won’t notice – the last thing Winnie needs today is a tellin’- off for being late. You can tell the boss about what’s ’appened; that should keep her mind off the time for a bit.’
‘Good idea.’ Bella linked her arm through Frankie’s and the two of them headed for the staff rooms above the garages.
So life is changing and still throwing up challenges for Winnie, Frankie and Bella and the three of them are still supporting each other.
Christmas with the East End Angels is slightly different from the first two books in the series as the Blitz is over and life at Station 75 takes on a different pace, but there are new people and worries for the crews – Station Officer Steele has an especially rough time.
Tomorrow is publication day and kicks off a blog tour where you can find out what other readers think of Christmas with the East End Angels. Thank you so much to all the bloggers for taking part and giving their time to reading the book and reviewing it – it’s very much apprecitated.
If you do go on to read the whole book I hope you enjoy finding out what happens to Winnie, Frankie and Bella, and poor Station Officer Steele – do let me know what you think by either leaving a review on Amazon or Goodreads or by getting in touch with me on my FB Rosie Hendry Books page or on Twitter @hendry_rosie, I read every review and it’s always lovely to hear from readers and is one of the greatest delights about writing.
Christmas with the East End Angels will be on the shelves in Asda and available on as a paperback or ebook from Amazon.