A War Widow 1917

Contributed by Joanna Barrett

I GLIMPSED her in the crowd at the races. A pretty girl with an air of jaunty stylishness. Gold-rimmed binoculars held up to her eyes with a black gloved hand. One shoulder raised higher than the other. The fragrance of her rose perfume drifted on the air. And her hair! Tousled, with a touch of wildness, as though she’d thought, ‘I really don’t care, but I’d better put it up for the races’.
A ghost of a smile haunted her lips as her binoculars followed the speeding horses, but the smile vanished when the race ended. I turned towards the track as the crowd roared around me. Had she been backing Cavalier? Maybe she’d put two dollars on him because of his name, I mused, the name reminding her of her love for the boy on the adjoining property and their childhood joy of galloping over the paddocks together, he on Cavalier and she on her horse called Galahad.
I looked up at the board. Cavalier didn’t come in first or even get a place. He was second last. My eyes darted back to her. As she lowered the binoculars, I saw that her lips were trembling. She wanted to weep for her sweetheart, but the gloves didn’t allow her to dig in her drawstring bag for a handkerchief. Besides, her father was approaching. He would pat her arm, I knew, and tell her it was only two dollars. ‘Women aren’t meant to know about racing, my dear,’ he would say, his jovial manner blending with the shrill heartiness of the crowd. She caught my eye then and I saw it: the raw pain, the bleak despair beyond the tears, the mystified frown above her eyes as she wondered how she could go on holding the pain. Because her beau had been killed in the second year of the war. Yet there was comfort in her father’s touch. She took his arm and pressed her face into his warm shoulder.