You may recall that Emma, Flora’s daughter, becomes a GI bride after the war and travels to the US to live with Samuel …………………
The Guest Who Stayed: Chapter 23 – August 1960
The swell from the grey sea rocked the liner slowly from side to side as she ploughed through the featureless ocean. Emma stood on the small third class promenade deck. The cold seeped through her coat but it was better than the claustrophobic quarters in which she was forced to make this return trip across the Atlantic.
She thought back to her previous crossing, a ‘bride ship’ they’d called it, with hundreds of other girls like her going to the United States to join their GI husbands and sweethearts. How full of hope and excitement she’d been. How happy to leave a dismal and gloomy Britain at the end of six years of war.
Of course, people had warned her about the dangers of marrying a black GI. But Samuel had said that it would be different after the war. They had fought alongside each other, black and white together – as comrades. People would treat them as equals now – as heroes maybe.
But she was unprepared for the squalor and poverty of the township in Mississippi that was Samuel’s home. A wooden shack shared with three other members of his family. No running water. A filthy shed for a toilet and no privacy. Their relationship never stood a chance.
And people were wary of her – both black and white. The blacks felt that she was an intruder, scornful of their way of life. The whites didn’t know how to treat her – with the disdain they reserved for blacks or with the hatred intended for a turncoat.
Samuel couldn’t find regular work and took to drug dealing. Emma and he drifted further apart. Finally, he was shot by rival dealers and died in Emma’s arms.
Emma couldn’t stay in the township – that was made clear to her. She managed to get work as a maid and it had taken her a year to save up for this return trip. She had thought about it endlessly. She didn’t belong in America. She had no roots. When Evie’s letter arrived, her mind was made up.
She pulled the crumpled letter from her pocket and read the last few lines again.
…' but if fate does ever bring you back to these shores, please visit Peter and Michael to make sure they are well.
You are a strong person Emma and I believe you have a bright future. If you could share a little of that strength with Peter and Michael, it would bring me great comfort.
I wish you every happiness.
Emma pushed the letter back into her pocket and pulled her coat tight. She had come to realise that her destiny lay not in America but back in the small town in England from which she had fled. But she would not be a victim – not like her mother. Her past and her future were intricately bound up with this family and she would find her roots there.
She remembered what Alice had told Evie in her letters, that when she married Jed, it was not for love but for ambition. It was a way out of the poverty and abuse she had known as a child. There was nothing wrong with ambition. It was what created success.
Spray from the cold ocean burst over the ship forcing Emma back into the cramped quarters which she would have to endure for another five days.