The Girls of Pearl Harbor

Soraya M. Lane

Now available worldwide in kindle, paperback and audio formats!

From the bestselling author of Wives of War comes a harrowing tale of four brave young nurses whose lives change forever in the wake of the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.

When Grace, April, and Poppy join the US Army Nurse Corps, they see it as little more than an adventure, one made all the better by their first station: Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Joined at the hip, idealistic Grace, exuberant Poppy, and brave but haunted April frolic in the sun, attending parties, flirting with the handsome soldiers, and becoming fast friends with seasoned nurse Eva. Like the Hawaiian sun, their future seems warm and bright—until the infamous morning of December 7.

Within just a few horrifying hours, their sparkling hopes turn to black rubble and ash. Now embroiled in a war they never could have imagined, they must decide what truly matters to them and face grief as they never have before. Death may await them—but so do hope and purpose. In the midst of the carnage, can they find happiness and learn to fight not just for their country’s honor but for themselves?

What readers are saying about The Girls of Pearl Harbor:

“Sometimes fiction gives flesh to events in ways that pure history can’t and I found that to be the case with THE GIRLS OF PEARL HARBOR. I highly recommend this riveting novel for lovers of historical fiction and drama-laced romance with 5/5 Enthusiastic Stars!” - Literary Soirée

“Soraya M. Lane, Author of "The Girls of Pearl Harbor" has written a captivating, intense, heartbreaking, intriguing emotional and thought-provoking novel… I would highly recommend this story.” - Linda’s Book Obsession Reviews

Read the prologue & first chapter of The Girls of Pearl Harbor below!

PROLOGUE

December 7th, 1941

Pearl Harbor

 

‘No!’ Grace’s scream cut through the air, echoing sharply against the drone of aircraft overhead. 

            ‘Grace, stop!’ April called, her hand slipping from Grace’s wrist. ‘Grace!’

            The planes were deafening, the roar so low and loud, that when Grace looked up, she could see the pilot’s face, could see his smile before he unleashed a torrent of bullets raining down around them. They were under attack!

            ‘Grace!’ April called again.     

            But Grace ignored her, her eyes locked on Poppy, so close but so far away, bending down towards a cowering puppy. ‘Run!’ she screamed to her friend. ‘Poppy run!’

            Poppy stood still, the horror of her gaze striking Grace as she looked up, her mouth open as if she were about to call back.

            Grace started to sprint, desperate to get to Poppy, to do something, anythingto save her. What was happening? Who was shooting at them? Why wouldn’t Poppy move?

            Seconds felt like days as Poppy finally started to run, but then strong arms circled Grace from behind, her scream catching in her throat, holding her back, forcing her to stop. 

            ‘Let me go!’ Grace yelled, gasping as people started to fall across the field, as the relentless drone continued, ammunition raining from the sky like a ferocious storm lashing the land. ‘We need to get to her!’

            ‘No.’ The word was whispered, but it was still a command. Teddy had hold of her, Teddy was dragging her back, and no matter how much she clawed at him or struggled, he wasn’t letting her go. 

            Grace could only watch on in horror, screaming out to Poppy as one thought echoed over and over through her mind. Please let Poppy live. 

She couldn’t lose her, too.

            

 

PART ONE

Chapter One

Pearl Harbor, November 1941

Grace

 

            ‘You need to stop making eyes at Teddy,’ April whispered, nudging her hard in the side. ‘It’s embarrassing.’

            Grace glared at her sister, pulling away from her and crossing her arms tightly over her chest as her cheeks started to burn. ‘I’m notmaking eyes at him!’ she hissed.

            Teddy was her best friend’s sweetheart, and whatever she thought about him was never going to come to anything. Period. Besides, Teddy adored Poppy and her friend adored him right back. It would break Poppy’s heart if she knew what Grace felt about her boyfriend.

            ‘I still can’t believe we’re here,’ April said with a smile, linking arms with her again despite Grace’s protest. ‘Is this paradise or what?’ 

            Grace gave in and leaned against her, forgiving her sister in one big sigh as they strolled along the beach. April had her blonde hair loose over her shoulders and it was soft against Grace’s cheek, her brown eyes warm and so like their mother’s when she glanced down at her. ‘Definitely paradise,’ she agreed, shifting her gaze from her sister and staring out at the turquoise water, the tide gently washing in against the sand. It was her idea of heaven, and so far removed from their life in Oregon, with nothing but sand and palm trees as far as the eye could see. 

            ‘One of the other girls said that we’re in for some football injuries soon,’ April said. ‘Apparently the boys stationed here all love the start of football season.’

            Grace nodded, watching as a horse and rider made their way closer, the girl’s feet bare, dark hair streaming out behind her as they walked along the water line. Grace squinted and held up a hand to shield her eyes from the late afternoon sun so she could keep watching her. If football injuries were the worst thing they were expecting, then she’d be just fine. 

            ‘Do you think we can go horseback riding?’ Grace asked. 

            As a girl she’d always wanted to ride, and seeing the horse crossing the sand was bringing that childhood feeling straight back. 

            ‘Wait up!’

            Grace turned at Poppy’s call, her friend’s bright smile infectious as she ran and caught up to them. She looked back at Teddy, strolling away in the distance now, but he still raised his hand to wave at her. Grace quickly turned away, sighing as she watched Poppy blow kisses to him over her shoulder. Her friend’s dark hair was glossy under the bright sunlight, her red lips making her look even more striking than usual, and not for the first time she was a little in awe of how beautiful she was.

            ‘Is he heading back to base?’ April asked. 

            ‘Yes. We’ll see him tonight at the party though.’

            Grace grabbed Poppy’s hand. ‘What party? I thought we had a curfew to keep us all in at night?’
            ‘Apparently there’s this big house by the beach and we’re all invited!’ Poppy told them. ‘The people here love all the nurses and soldiers, so the social life is amazing! We're going to have somuch fun here.’

            ‘Definitely paradise,’ Grace repeated with a smile, shaking her head. ‘Didn’t I tell you both this would be the perfect place to be posted?’
            The three of them walked, laughing, down the beach, in a row with their arms linked. She had no idea how they’d been fortunate enough to have all been sent to Hawaii, but they were and she was in heaven. They’d been thick as thieves since childhood, both claiming best-friend status of Poppy, who’d been like the third sister they’d never had. She’d always been the one to smooth things over between her and April, like the middle child stopping the other two from arguing. And now they were all stationed in Pearl Harbor for the foreseeable future, with their gas masks the only hint that things weren’t expected to remain peaceful forever.  

            ‘How many summer dresses did you pack?’ April asked Poppy. 

            ‘As many as I could fit in my case!’ Poppy replied with a laugh. ‘Although the gas mask took up so much space. Honestly, as if we’re ever going to need it.’

            They walked across the sand as the sun beat down on their bare arms, and Grace turned her face up to the sun. ‘What would we be doing if we were still at home?’

            ‘If we weren’t on duty and giving soldiers injections in their bottoms to stop them from getting yellow fever?’ April said. 

            ‘Ohhh stop!’ Grace moaned. ‘You know, I never knew men’s bottoms could look so…’

            ‘Hairy?’ Poppy teased.

            ‘Ugh,’ Grace flapped her hands and laughed. ‘There have definitely been more unattractiveones that I expected.’

            They all burst out laughing, before Poppy took off running, shoes in her hand, head tipped back as she splashed through the water. Grace ran after her, leaving April behind as she ran as fast as she could, arms pumping to help her catch up to Poppy. Her toes dug into the sand as she caught her, grabbing hold of Poppy’s slender wrist as they both collapsed onto the warm sand. 

            ‘How did this happen?’ Poppy asked. ‘How did we get so lucky?’

            Grace stretched out, her dark brown hair fanning out around her as she watched the clear, bright blue sky above. ‘No idea, but I’m so glad we did.’

            ‘Do you think we’ll ever see war? My grandfather said no one wants to see our boys sent off,’ Poppy said as they all lay, three in a row, arms outstretched. ‘He doesn't think it’ll ever happen.’

            ‘Let’s just hope we get to stay here for at least a year,’ April said with a yawn. ‘This is the life. Nothing’s going to happen to us here, it’s the safest place in the world for us to be.’

            Grace couldn’t imagine war ever coming to Hawaii; from the moment they’d stepped off the boat, it had seemed impossible for anything terrible to ever happen on the picturesque island. Until now, home was all she’d known, but this? This was something else. 

            ‘Daddy told me that America was pretending the world wasn’t at war, but that they couldn’t stay out of it for much longer,’ Grace said, remembering what their father had said the night before they shipped out. But when April turned, clearly poised to contradict her, she wished she’d lied and pretended she’d thought it all on her own. 

            ‘There’s no reason for us to join the war, not yet, whatever Daddy says,’ April said, her voice full of authority, as always. ‘Besides, we’re definitely safe as a church here. I heard it’s far too shallow for an aerial torpedo attack, and there’s too much fighting in Europe for them to ever bother with this little island.’

            ‘How about we just have fun,’ Poppy said, rolling her eyes as if they’d already bored her to tears. ‘We can let our leaders in Washington take care of the threat of war while we’re here sunning ourselves and enjoying the beach. And how on earth do you know about aerial torpedoattacks anyway?’

            ‘Hello ladies,’ said a deep male voice, distracting them all. 

            Grace tipped back, hand raised to block out the sun, quickly tugging down her skirt with the other hand when she locked eyes with not one but two Navy boys in their starched white uniforms. They looked good, but she still preferred the green uniform with golden wings pinned to the lapel that Teddy and the other flyboys wore. 

            She rolled over and pushed up to her knees before standing, giving April and then Poppy a hand up. ‘Hello Officers,’ she said, smiling at the handsome young men.

            ‘When did you lovely ladies arrive?’ one of the men asked. 

            ‘Just today,’ April said at the same time as Grace opened her mouth to speak. April was always doing that, speaking for her, and it wasn’t the first time Grace had to bite her tongue to stop from arguing with her big sister. April was only eighteen months older, but sometimes she made it feel like years. ‘Our ship docked this morning.’

            Grace fingered the flower lay around her neck as she studied the men, wondering if they tried the friendly welcome routine on every new nurse they met. 

            ‘Have y’all been invited to the party tonight?’
            ‘Yes,’ she said, before April could answer for them. ‘Will we see you there?’
            The men nudged each other and smiled. ‘You sure will.’

            Poppy had lost interest and was taking her sunglasses from her bag, the big white-framed fashion statements pushed high on her nose. Grace waved goodbye at the same time as her sister, and turned back to face the water. 

            ‘Shall we head back to the hospital, then go explore the island and meet up with the other nurses later?’ Grace asked. 

            ‘Yes. Then we can all get dinner together before we head out,’ April said. 

            Poppy nodded her agreement and they all started walking, watching as some aircraft performed training drills in the near distance, darting back and forth. The planes didn’t seem real with the towering palm trees as a backdrop, their skinny trunks extending so high in the air, but then nothing about being posted to a tropical island seemed real. When she looked one way, it was sand and water, the other it was trees and lush green grass, as picture-perfect as possible.  

            ‘I hope we actually get to save some lives here,’ April said. 

            Grace fought the urge to roll her eyes again. Save lives? She was far more comfortable doing some light nursing duties, meeting handsome officers and kicking their heels up like newborn foals every night. April might have grander ambitions, but then her sister’s stomach was a lot stronger than hers. 

            ‘Anyone up for a swim?’ Poppy asked, her perfectly painted eyebrows raised in question.

            ‘You’re insane,’ April said, hauling Poppy along to stop her from leaping into the water. ‘Absolutely not!’

            ‘Tomorrow,’ Grace whispered in Poppy’s ear. ‘We’ll leave Miss Prim and Proper behind and we could ask one of the boys to teach us how to surf!’

            She held tight to Poppy’s hand as they made their way back toward Tripler General Hospital to get their shift schedule and find out exactly how many hours a day they’d have to make the most of Hawaii. The other nurses would be milling about and she couldn’t wait to see if they were all going to the party, not to mention what their barracks were like and where they’d actually be living for the next year or two. It was going to be the best time of their lives, she just knew it. And maybe she’d finally be able to step out of her big sister’s shadow

#

            ‘Let’s go ladies!’ Poppy announced, swinging around the room, her pretty skirt flaring out around her. Her hair was pinned up high on her head, her full lips painted red again, cheeks rouged just enough to enhance her high cheekbones. 

            Grace finished sweeping pink lipstick across her lips, smacking them together as she snapped her compact shut and hoping she looked even half as good as her friend. The little mirror had been almost impossible to do her make-up in, but she was finally done. She touched her hair, the blonde curls just skimming her shoulders, and picked up her purse. 

            ‘Ready,’ she announced, trading grins with Poppy. There were other nurses busy chatting and getting ready too, and across the room April was zipping up her dress, her arms twisted at odd angles as she struggled. 

            Grace crossed over to help, tugging the zip to the top and gently putting her sister’s hair back over her shoulder so it could fall down her back. They were both blonde, the same shade almost as their mother had been, but April’s hair was long and wavy, so much easier to curl than Grace’s and so impossibly thick. But she knew that to anyone else they looked very much like sisters, their eyes the same deep brown, although April was taller than her and not quite as petite.

            ‘Thank you,’ April said as she turned. ‘Excited?’      

            Grace nudged shoulders with her sister. ‘Ridiculously!’ She’d never lived anywhere but home before, and now here they were, miles from home and about to have the time of their lives. She still felt guilty that they’d left their father behind, and worried how he’d be coping on his own, even though he’d happily pushed them out the door and told them to enjoy themselves. 

            ‘We might not be so enthusiastic when we have our first shift tomorrow,’ April cautioned. 

            ‘I’ve heard it’s a cakewalk. It’s just cuts and little injuries, nothing difficult,’ Poppy said, collecting both their hands as she came between them and dragged them with her towards the door. ‘Now come on, Teddy said he’d pick us up in a car to save us walking!’

            Grace swallowed away a shiver of nerves, wishing Teddy wasn’t stationed at the exact same place as they were. He’d been away for months now and she knew Poppy was insanely excited about being with her man again, but still. It would have been easier without having to see him at every turn, so she didn’t have to worry that someone might figure out how she felt about him. She’d tried to tell herself it was just a crush, but seeing him again made her wonder if she’d ever get over her infatuation with him.

            ‘Teddy!’ Poppy called as they stepped out of their quarters, a handful of cars all lined up and waiting nearby. 

            And there he was. Teddy was leaning against the car, a cigarette dangling from his lips, wearing his olive-green uniform, long legs crossed at the ankles like there was nothing else in the world he had to do but wait for them. His dark brown hair was pushed off his face and to the side with Brylcreem, making him look even more handsome than usual, especially with his tanned Hawaii skin. He looked up then, his eyes crinkling as he smiled, dropping his cigarette and crushing it beneath his boot. Poppy leapt down the steps to him, running until her body collided with his, her arms circling his neck as he bent to kiss her. Grace and April stood, side by side, the space where Poppy had been the only thing separating them. They swapped glances before erupting into embarrassed laughter.

            ‘I think they need some privacy,’ April muttered. ‘I’m blushing just watching them.’

            ‘Come on ladies,’ Teddy called out, one arm still tucking Poppy to his side as he opened the door for them. 

            ‘Thanks,’ Grace said as she quickly passed him, climbing in and scooting over to make room for April. 

            Poppy sat up front beside Teddy, pressed beside him, his arm around her shoulders as they drove. They’d been sweethearts for more than a year now, but Grace could still vividly recall the night they’d met him, at a party, when he’d walked straight over to the three of them, his smile wide. She’d opened her mouth to talk to him, his eyes on her, the anticipation flooding her as this handsome man she’d never seen before stood in front of them, excited to tell the others that she had dibs on him. And then Poppy had dazzled him with her larger than life smile and batted her lashes, holding out her hand and telling him she was ready to dance. And suddenly the new guy in town was smitten with her best friend and not her. 

            ‘All the guys will be so jealous when I arrive with the three most beautiful nurses in the Pacific on my arm,’ Teddy teased, glancing back at them. 

            Grace felt her cheeks heat but she quickly looked out the window. 

            ‘Well, don’t go thinking you have the three of us all to yourselves,’ April teased straight back. Her sister might make fun of her crush, but she’d never let on to anyone else and she always covered for her, although Grace wondered if even April knew how she truly felt about him. ‘You’re not the only handsome pilot in town, Theodore.’

            They all laughed and Grace gave her sister a grateful smile. 

            ‘So what do you make of all this peace talk, Teddy?’ April asked. 

            ‘Let’s not ruin a fun night by talking about politics and war,’ he said as he drove. ‘The pacific will stay as peaceful as can be, mark my words. Everyone knows we’re as safe here.’

            Grace looked at April and saw the serious look on her face, the tight set of her jaw giving her away. She didn’t know when her sister had become so interested in politics or what was going on, but she seemed all twisted in knots about things today. Did she know more about the threat of war than she’d let on?

            ‘Why are you so concerned about the peace talks anyway?’ Grace asked. ‘I don’t even know what you’re talking about. Did you hear about it on the wireless?’

            ‘It’s nothing,’ April said, before frowning and leaning closer. ‘Sorry, I didn’t mean to ruin the mood, it’s just something I overheard the other day about the peace negotiations with the Japanese, and it’s made me nervous that there’s more going on. I don’t know, maybe I’m overthinking things. I just keep worrying that we’re not as safe as we think we are.’

            ‘April, just enjoy being here,’ Teddy said. ‘This island is heaven, and the longer we get to spend here, the better. I want you to forget all about war for tonight, okay?’

            Grace watched her sister as she sat back and frowned, clearly still lost in thought. Grace had always been the fun one, the risk taker, whereas April was more serious and always quick to come to her little sister’s rescue. She wished April could loosen up and just relax sometimes like the rest of them could, but she recognized that worried frown. It had started when their mom had died, and it always reminded her just how much had always fallen to her older sister to deal with. 

            Theydove along in silence, bumping along, her elbow colliding with April’s every so often, until Teddy cheerfully announced they were there. 

            ‘Here we go, ladies,’ he said, getting out and opening a door for them. ‘Don’t forget to behave.’

            Grace smiled up at him as she got out, before grabbing her sister’s hand as they surveyed the beautiful house in front of them, music filtering out and drawing them in, young men in uniform swarming everywhere and about half as many women in pretty summer frocks filling up the rest of the space. She’d never seen anything like it in her life. 

            ‘I feel like I’m finally all grown up,’ Grace whispered. ‘This place is amazing.’

            ‘You areall grown up,’ April said with a laugh, looking more relaxed again as she slung an arm around her shoulders. ‘Now come, let’s go find us some handsome men to dance with!’

            Grace glanced down at her pretty powder-blue skirt as it twirled out around her and happily followed her sister, her arm looped around her waist. She could hear Poppy and Teddy behind her but she didn’t turn, happy to leave them to themselves. What she needed was to meet some soldiers, because when she found the right man, she was certain she’d forget all about her crush on Teddy. 

            ‘We probably should have brought our gas masks,’ April muttered. ‘Imagine if something happened so far from our quarters?’

            Grace groaned. ‘You’re such an old lady sometimes, no one’s going to tell us off for not having them. Just enjoy the night!’  

            ‘Evening ladies,’ a few Navy officers’ said as they passed. 

            ‘Evening,’ Grace murmured back each time, feeling her cheeks heat up as one of them let out a low wolf whistle. 

            ‘Can I get you ladies a drink?’ A flyboy asked, his uniform catching Grace’s eye. 

            ‘Certainly,’ April answered for both of them. ‘So long as you have a handsome friend?’

            ‘You look after those girls!’ Teddy hollered from behind them. 

            Grace shot him a quick glare, not about to let Teddy get over protective and tell them who they could and couldn’t drink or dance with. He’d chosen Poppy, and as far as she was concerned that meant he didn't get a say in what she did or didn’t do.

            ‘Who owns this house?’ Grace asked as they followed the pilot past groups of people, all parted to make way for dancing. 

            ‘Some wealthy family who’ve told us to enjoy their holiday home!’ the flyboy said, passing them a cup of something alcoholic from the smell of it. Grace took it and held up the paper cup to April’s. ‘Folk around here love us, they don’t seem to mind opening their houses up.’

            ‘To Pearl Harbor then,’ Grace said. 

            ‘To Pearl Harbor,’ April replied, as the pilot clinked both of their cups too hard and made them spill straight away. She jumped back, cup extended in front of her to avoid the splash. 

            ‘Want to dance?’ he asked, as another man in uniform appeared nearby. 

            ‘Sure,’ Grace said, as her sister was whisked away by the hand to dance, too. 

            She gulped down her drink to quell her nerves and then set it down, before letting him lead her out. It struck her that she didn’t even know his name, but the music was loud now and she didn’t want to lean in any closer to ask him. 

            Grace placed her hands on his shoulders as he touched her waist, his palms as warm as the balmy air brushing her shoulders. With so many bodies inside it was stifling, and she was already looking forward to finding some cooler air outside as sweat tickled her neck and forehead. She wasn't used to this kind of humidity. 

            ‘You know, I think I fell in love with you the moment I set eyes on you back there,’ he said into her ear. 

            Grace tipped her head back and laughed, only to realize when she righted herself that the expression on his face was serious. ‘I don’t even know your name! You can’t be in love with me!’

            ‘Sam Chapman,’ he said. ‘Saying hello to you was…’

            ‘Whoa, stop right there,’ she said, as his hands moved lower and skimmed her bottom. ‘Waaay too low!’

            He kept hold of her, smiling away as if he thought she liked having his paws all over her. Grace struggled and yanked at his wrists, trying to force his hands away.

            ‘Hey, back off flyboy,’ a loud female voice commanded. ‘Now!’

            He jumped back as if he’d been caught red handed by his own mother, looking back sheepishly at Grace. She didn’t take her eyes off him, her burning cheeks betraying her as she stared defiantly at him, not about to run away upset. How dare he! 

            ‘Go,’ the young woman said, appearing from behind the officer. ‘And touch a lady like that again and I’ll make sure you regret it.’

            A warm palm found its way into Grace’s, but this one was welcome and she held on tight to it. She found herself looking into dark brown eyes that belonged to a woman easily half a foot taller than her, with a mane of red hair that fell most of the way down her back and over her shoulders. 

            ‘You need to be firm with them,’ she said. ‘They've all been away from their mamas too long and they've forgotten their manners.’

            Grace laughed, grateful for the joke, and squeezed the hand she’d ended up holding. 

            ‘Thank you. He was getting…’

            ‘Frisky?’ the red head laughed. ‘Because trust me, I could see that.’

            ‘Grace Bellamy,’ Grace said, shaking the hand already in hers. 

            ‘Eva Branson,’ she said, letting go and touching Grace’s shoulder, leaning in as the music became even louder. ‘Want to find someone else to dance with?’

            Grace shook her head, suddenly not as confident as she’d been earlier. She saw her sister being twirled around and smiled, happy that April was having fun, and then she saw Poppy, folded into Teddy’s arms like she was never going to let go of the man. Her heart skipped a beat, imagining what it would be like. Why did Teddy always have to be so perfect? 

            ‘Maybe a drink and some fresh air?’ Grace suggested instead. 

            They walked over to get some punch and then Eva led the way, walking outside and stopping only when they reached the sand. 

            Grace bent to slip her shoes off, loving the sensation of sand beneath her feet as she wiggled her toes and let it slide across her skin. She’d been so excited about going to a party and meeting boys, but suddenly the best feeling in the world was hearing the music behind her and facing the water, twinkling beneath the moonlight. Maybe she wasn’t as confident as she liked to think she was, or perhaps it was that the atmosphere was different here, the boys in uniforms more like grown men than the young guys back home she’d flirted with. At home, dances had been strictly supervised and she would never have talked to men so openly, let alone danced and had a drink with them, but here? It was like a different world to the one she’d grown up in, shielded from anything sinister.  

            ‘So how does a girl manage to bark orders at an officer so confidently?’ Grace asked, taking a sip of her drink. ‘I think I might need to take lessons if I’m going to survive here.’

            ‘Try having two big brothers and an ex-sergeant major for a father.’

            Grace felt her eyes widen. ‘Ahh, right. Now it makes sense.’

            ‘I learned fast that the only way anyone ever got my brothers and their friends to do anything was by being assertive.’ Eva smiled. ‘If it doesn’t sound like an order, they don’t bother listening.’

            ‘Have you just got here as well?’ Grace asked, intrigued by her new companion. ‘I arrived early this morning. My sister’s here with me too.’

            ‘Fresh meat,’ Eva said with a grin, tipping her head back slightly. ‘That’s what all those boys in there will be calling you. No wonder he put his hands where they don’t belong.’

            Grace was starting to realize just how little she knew about dealing with men.. Now here she was, with no one but her sister and her own wits to rely on, surrounded by a bunch of men who’d probably had one too many drinks before she’d even arrived. She was going to have to be more careful; not everyone was as polite and friendly as Teddy.

            ‘I’ve been here a few months already. I’m a Navy Corps nurse stationed on the USS Solace.’

            ‘Where is it moored?’ Grace asked, staring out at the ocean.

            ‘Over that way in the stream,’ Eva said. ‘We’ll be heading back soon, but we all wanted to come have a couple hours of fun first. It’s boring as hell being on that boat all the time with nothing much to do.’

            ‘Please, don’t let me stop you. Head back in to dance if you’d like,’ Grace said, embarrassed that a stranger had been forced to rescue her and then sit out the party. ‘I’ll be fine.’

            ‘Don’t be sorry, this is nice,’ Eva said. And Grace believed her. ‘The boat gives me cabin fever, and the heat and music in there are enough to give anyone a pounding headache, so this is perfect. My fiancé wasn’t allowed leave tonight, so it’s nice to have someone to talk to.’

            ‘He’s based here too?’ Grace asked. 

            ‘Yes. He’s air force, but he’s being reprimanded for something and he isn’t allowed to leave his barracks. He’s pushing the boundaries, and I think he’s pushed his luck too far this time.’

            Grace smiled over at her new friend, pleased she’d met her. She sat down, her legs curled up at beneath her, the sand cool against the tops of her feet. She sipped her drink and glanced at Eva, straightening her shoulders as she noticed the perfect, almost dancer-like way the other woman sat, so elegant and tall. 

            ‘So where did you do your training? What made you want to nurse?’ Eva asked.    

            Grace often wondered why she’d decided to train, but she knew why. No matter how often she told people that she’d always wanted to nurse and she liked taking care of people, the truth was far removed from her perfect little story. She wasn’t lying, she did love people and she’d always help someone if she could, but nursing wasn’t something she loved the idea of, and she doubted it ever would be. 

            ‘Promise you won’t hate me?’ she asked. 

            Eva frowned. ‘Hate you? Why?’

            ‘When I admit that the only reason I’m here is because I didn’t want to be left home while my sister and best friend went on the adventure of a lifetime,’ she admitted. ‘I’ve never told anyone that before, but the truth is, I’m squeamish around blood. I wasn't about to sit at home though and let them do this without me.’

            Eva stared at her, her eyes wide, before she erupted into laughter, spilling her drink as she reached for Grace’s wrist. Grace knew her cheeks would be bright red, the burn making her entire body flush as she went to stand up. 

            ‘Stop! Don’t go!’ Eva pleaded as she wiped tears from her cheeks. ‘I’m sorry, but that’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard! You can’t nurse if you’re scared of blood, you do realize that don’t you?’

            ‘I didn't say scared,’ Grace corrected. 

            ‘Grace, if you’re funny around blood, you need to get out now. What happens if we end up at war? What will you do if you’re dealing with amputations and surgeries and…’

            ‘Stop!’ Grace begged, her stomach turning just thinking about it all. ‘Everyone back home seems so certain we won’t join the war, and I’m fine with needles, so I can do the injections when they’re needed and bandaging, all that sort of thing. It’s just full on blood that makes me feel sick.’

            Eva leaned in closer to her, her smile kind. ‘I’m sorry I laughed at you, it wasn’t fair, but I’m serious. Maybe you should consider volunteering in another way if you’re not sure about nursing? Before it gets worse, I mean.’

            Grace shook her head. ‘I’m fine. Honestly, I shouldn't have even said anything.’    

            ‘I understand why you wanted to stay with your sister though,’ Eva said. ‘And it isan amazing adventure here. In fact if we don’t end up at war, it’ll be the adventure of a lifetime. But we need to remember what we’re here for, if things change. We could be sent anywhere if we enter the war.’

            ‘Grace! We’ve been looking everywhere for you!’ 

            She turned and looked over her shoulder, seeing her sister standing there with Poppy trailing behind her. 

            ‘I was just enjoying the fresh air,’ she said, standing and brushing the sand from her skirt. ‘April, this is Eva. Eva, this is my big sister, April.’

            April came forward and shook hands, her smile wide and her warmth second to none, as always. Sometimes she felt it was like introducing people to her mother; April had an elegance and way of putting people at ease that made her seem so much older sometimes. 

            ‘You’re stationed at Tripler with us?’ April asked. 

            ‘No I’m with the Navy, on the USS Solace,’ Eva said. ‘It’s nice to have my feet on solid ground for the night.’

            ‘Want to join us inside? I met a charming officer who promises me his friends are desperate to meet us. I’m sure they won’t mind one more lady to bat their eyes at.’

            Eva gave Grace a look, almost as if she was silently asking if it was okay to join them, and Grace smiled and nodded straight away. 

            ‘Who’s this gorgeous girl?’ Poppy asked when she came closer, grabbing Grace’s hand and walking backwards to look at Eva.

            ‘This is Eva, she’s a navy nurse,’ Grace said. ‘Eva, meet Poppy.’

            ‘Well the more the merrier, I say!’ Poppy said with a wink. ‘Come on girls, let’s dance!’

            ‘You’re certain I’m not intruding?’ Eva asked. 

            Poppy tucked her arm into Eva’s as Grace watched on. ‘Of course not. Just promise you’ll show us around this gorgeous island the second you have a day off.’

            ‘Done.’

            They walked back in together, four of them in a row, and the wolf whistles didn’t take long to start. 

            ‘I’m off to get more drinks! See you girls soon,’ Poppy called out. 

            Eva took a young man’s hand and twirled off onto the dance floor within seconds, and Grace felt a nudge at her elbow and turned. 

            ‘Oh, hi Teddy,’ she said. 

            ‘You look like you need someone to dance with,’ he replied, and his grin making her cheeks flush. 

            April grabbed her other arm then, smiling as she stepped away toward the dance floor. 

            ‘Don’t go disappearing on me again, Grace. I want to be able to see you at all times, okay?’

            Grace nodded, resisting the urge to make a face at her sister as she was treated like the child yet again. 

            Teddy shuffled closer beside her and she laughed at the expression on his face when she turned, his eyebrows drawn together as he frowned and wagged his finger. ‘Don’t you move, Grace Bellamy, I want to make sure you’re not up to mischief!’

            She burst out laughing, play-punching Teddy on the arm. ‘Stop it! She might hear you, and then you’ll wish you hadn’t mocked her.’   

            ‘She’s only looking out for you,’ he said. ‘But I get it. She’s like a mother hen sometimes when it comes to her baby sister.’

            ‘Yeah, and I’m her precious little chick who has no idea how to think for herself.’

            Poppy was coming back towards them then, but just as she was about to step away from Teddy, to put some distance between them, he grabbed her fingers and gave them a squeeze. 

            ‘I dare you to dance all the way over there,’ he nodded towards the other side of the room. ‘You don’t always have to do what she says.’

            Poppy passed Teddy a drink and tucked against him and Grace gave him a quick smile as she accepted an offer to dance from a nice looking soldier. This time, she ended up in the arms of a nice man, who kept one step between them at all times, and she wished her first experience had been so pleasant. She glanced over at Eva, seeing her being twirled, her smile wide, and she thought for the hundredth time that day how incredibly lucky they all were. The music became louder and she laughed as her enthusiastic dance partner spun her around, grinning when she passed by Teddy again, who gave a little point to the far side of the room, daring her to defy April. 

            Teddy might be handsome as sin, but there were plenty of gorgeous men in uniform filling the room. And while it may have broken her heart once that he hadn’t chosen her, now she had her pick of eligible young men, and she wasn’t going to waste another second wishing she’d been faster to catch Teddy’s eye. Even if he did seem to be the only person who seemed to see how hard it was for her, struggling to emerge from her sister’s shadow. She couldn’t help the way she felt, that she’d fallen for the same man as Poppy, but her friend’s happiness meant the world to her. She needed to stop mooning over Teddy and just enjoy herself. 

 

Text Copyright © 2019 Soraya Lane