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Photographs - The Beginning

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London, September 1936

The showers were packed with girls, all humid from the steam of the hot showers. Claire’s hair dripped down her back as she stood in front of one of the sinks, carefully prying off her silver ring. She hadn’t taken it off since Jamie had given it to her, but she felt the need to clean her hands well after having dissected a frog in an anatomy class. She’d showered, but it wasn’t enough, so she pulled out her nail brush to scrub her hands well. She’d worn gloves, but still felt disgusted by the activity. She hoped this wasn’t a sign that she wasn’t cut out to be a nurse. The head nurse teaching the lesson told them all they’d get used to it, and Claire hoped she was right.

She pulled the ring off, gently resting it at the edge of the sink, making sure it wouldn’t fall down the drain. The thought of having to write to Jamie to tell him she’d lost his ring was enough to make her feel ill, so she kept her eye on it while she worked.

She scrubbed her left hand first, rinsing it then switching the brush and beginning on her right. The brush felt good against her skin, even as it began to sting a bit. She glanced at her nails, then nearly dropped the brush as a hand slapped down over Jamie’s ring, one of her fellow nursing students having grabbed it.

“Hey! Give that back!”

Claire whirled around to face the ring snatcher, a smug look on the older girl’s face. She vaguely recalled that the girl’s name was Anna, and that she had always seemed a bit obnoxious. Anna held the ring between her thumb and forefinger, daring Claire to take it back. She tried, reaching for it as Anna moved her hand away just before Claire could get it.

“What are you doing? That’s mine!”

Claire was getting angry, her voice rising, her face going red. She clutched the towel tied around her so it wouldn’t fall as she moved, trying to grab the ring to no avail. The girl smiled, then, turning her back on Claire to face the other girls in the washroom who were now watching with great interest.

“Everyone! Let’s ask Beauchamp about her lover boy!”

Claire huffed, rolled her eyes, then moved to stand in front of the girl again, holding her hand out for the ring.

“I don’t have to tell you anything. Give me my ring, please, Anna.”

“Give her the ring back,” another girl said, Claire shooting her a grateful look.

Anna smiled again, examining the ring up close, then she gasped.

“What’s JAMMF mean?” she asked, eyeing Claire with some suspicion.

“What?”

Claire was dumbfounded. She knew what the letters meant of course, but she had no idea the ring was inscribed. And she’d found out like this. She sighed, impatience flowing through her veins as she did her best to hold her temper.

“You didn’t...wait. You didn’t know? Or… you don’t know what the initials stand for? Did you steal the ring or something? Or...maybe it’s a dead relative’s, and you don’t have a boy back home at all!” Anna laughed, apparently amused by her observations. Claire bit the inside of her cheek, desperate to explode and let Anna have it.

“That’s none of your business! Give. Me. My. Ring.”

Nursing School is off to a great start, Claire thought. Only a week in and she apparently had an enemy. She fought the urge to roll her eyes again, and just stood, staring Anna down.

“No, I saw her start a letter one night, addressed to a ‘Jamie’…” one girl spoke, the girl whose bed was right next to Claire’s.

Okay, that’s two enemies. Claire narrowed her eyes at the girl, then threw her hand up at Anna’s, catching her by surprise. Claire grasped the ring, clutching it tightly in her fist so it wasn’t taken again. She held it against her chest, wanting to wait til she was alone to look at the inscription.

She suddenly wanted to sit down.Wanted to be in her old bedroom, curled up on the window seat, gazing at the back garden. Claire shut her eyes momentarily, before hurriedly gathering her things and racing from the lavatories.

She got dressed, then quickly made her way out to the courtyard, where she'd have some privacy to write a letter. She had to know: was Jamie's ring inscribed, too?