A white blanket of snow lay deep on the ground. Blistering cold winds brought sheet after sheet of swirling snowflakes. The 7.45 from Astonville was late. The clanking steam train only came twice a day.
The town had once set their clocks by its arrival, but that was before the war. The women who lived in the valley just out of town noticed its lateness first. They put their children to bed by the sound of the whistle and the trail of steam behind the ancient grinding engine.
However, they had other things to concern them. Ever since war broke out the routine of their daily lives had become unpredictable in so many ways.
Now the war was over, but not the waiting.
`Come away from the window, Beth,' begged her mother in a tired voice. `You are fogging up the whole front window.'
Beth sighed and stepped back a little, eyeing the circles of cloud her breath made on the glass. Grown-ups were so tiresome, she thought. Sometimes they didn't understand anything at all. Her mother had told her a hundred times that looking out that window wouldn't make her father come home any quicker. Truth be told, none of them knew whether Peter Renshaw had even survived the war, much less when he was coming home.
Beth was too young to know that it wasn't her tireless vigil that irritated Miriam, her mother, but it was the visible hope that shone on her daughter's face that pained Miriam. A hope that mirrored her own. A hope buried deep inside a woman weary with waiting and exhausted from caring for three children. A woman with the toil-worn hands of a man.