In the Blood: Part One
Part One: Portsmouth
Great Britain, October 1940
Carolina Johnson chewed anxiously on her worn thumbnail as she watched the Artemis pull into the dock at Portsmouth. Around her, October winds whipped her shoulder-length brown hair without mercy, bringing in the taste of saltwater and chilling her down to her bones. There weren’t many people out – Carolina could count on one hand the number of families lingering around the harbor waiting for the naval ship to dock. Most of the Dunkerque evacuees had arrived way back in May, some unscathed and too many in caskets or with life-altering wounds. Carolina knew this because she’d driven all the way to Portsmouth in May as well, heart in her hands as the last soldier exited the ship and Alex was still nowhere to be seen. She’d cried herself to the point of sickness that day, vomiting into the sea water with a shaky hand clutching onto a wooden post, the nauseating smell of salt and fish not doing anything to calm her stomach. It wasn’t until mid-June that she finally heard from Alex, a week after the naval ships stopped bringing in evacuees and she had resigned herself to prepare for the inevitable news of Alex’s death. They weren’t married, not yet, but as they got engaged three weeks before Alex’s deployment in September of 1939, she would be the first to know after his family if something happened to him.
You’re only nineteen, Carolina, her mother had argued over the phone, worry etched into her voice over the crackly connection between Leicester and Alabama, all the way back in the states. Why are you putting yourself through this? Let him go and when he comes back, if he comes back, y’all can start planning your lives together. Don’t you understand that about war, Carolina? All it brings is disaster and destruction… Don’t get yourself caught in the middle of that.
Naturally, Carolina chose not to listen.