She sits in the parlour, hands neatly clasped, noises outside remote. Like echoes from a distant place.
The door opens.
“Coming? The whole street’s out there. Celebrating.”
She shakes her head. Tries to smile.
He hesitates, steps towards his mother. She waves him away.
“I’d prefer to stay here. With my thoughts. With the other two.”
He nods, wants to kiss her cheek, but is afraid he might cry. A grown man crying. After what he has seen. Survived.
Outside, jubilant cheers grow.
“Arthur,” she murmurs. “And Gordon. My sons. My lost boys.”
“Their duty,” he says mechanically, “they did …”
But the word implodes, like an unexploded shell.
“Wasted lives,” she says. “The futility of it.”