A Change Of gender And Beyond
by F.W. Hinton
A week after returning from leave Shaun progressed in her
training to trucks and heavy transport. With her two friends
she was introduced to driving in convoy. Obstacles were set
in the path of the vehicles. Shaun usually managed to ease
her vehicle between Roxanne and Cynthia. They were shown how
to manoeuvre around huge concrete blocks that reduced the
width of the road to a single lane. They took tests on the
Skid Pads and squealed in alarm as their vehicles swerved
and rocked from side to side.
At night they drove along deserted country lanes. As her
eyes became accustomed to the velvet blackness spangled with
a myriad of stars, Shaun thought she had never seen a more
beautiful sky. It reminded her of the walks along the
moonlit beach with Maureen.
Full of confidence, almost arrogant about her ability to
pass her final examination, with her instructor she went for
her last lesson. Shaun sat behind the wheel of a Mac
semi-trailer. She slammed her way through the gears,
settling comfortably as she cruised along the dark lanes.
The instructor smiled as her star pupil showed off her
skills. They came to a village. A main street lined with
cottages on either side. The lights from television sets
thrown upon drawn curtains. The moon on it's back, over the
roof tops, dimmed by passing clouds. She remembered the
village close to the Convent. She thought of Maureen,
wondered if she was really missing her. Eager to tell her
she had passed all her tests, knowing she would be proud of
There was a slight incline in the road that led from the
village, at the bottom a lane on either side. Shaun saw the
cross roads, then slowed down although she was aware she had
the right-of-way. Seconds later their was a deafening
crunch of metal on her near side. The semi lurched, Shaun
stood on her brakes, spun the wheel to avoid slamming into
the corner store. The Mac semi- trailer stopping inches from
the plate-glass window. Shaun sat clutching the wheel,
resting her head on her hands as she began a violent,
The instructor jumped down from the cabin, worried about the
people who had crashed into them.
The front of a small car had jammed itself under the edge of
the semi. The two occupants scrambled out of the wreckage,
thankful they were not hurt.
" Brakes failed," the driver told the instructor, " thank
God your driver managed to swerve."
Shaun still shaking stood by the cabin door, not knowing how
she climbed down. She stared at the wrecked vehicle unable
to say a word. The car driver and his wife thanked her,
praised her for her quick action.
The instructor looked at her pupil with pride.
" All right Maclaren," she said after the car had been towed
away, " take the vehicle back to the motor pool for
" I can't Ma'am," Shaun told her lamely, trying to control
her quivering hands. " I-I'm sorry Ma'am you'll have to
The instructor stared at Shaun, her face flushed with anger,
" Now you listen to me Maclaren. You will get back in that
cabin and take me to the barracks. Do I make myself clear?"
" Yes Ma'am," she answered sheepishly as she started to
climb into the cabin.
" Come along Maclaren!" the instructor said impatiently, "
if you don't get into that cabin now and drive it will be
all over with you. You'll be finished. It will be the end of
your driving career."
Shaun hesitated. Half-way into the cabin she stopped,
gasped, put her hand to her mouth to stifle a cry, she saw
Casey Ann lying on the road.
" I can't Ma'am I can't," the tears streaming down her face,
" it's Casey Ann," she cried, " please-you don't
The instructor glared at her pupil, pulled her down from the
side of the truck.
" Now you listen to me. You will get back in that cabin. You
will drive back to the barracks. You will do it now and
stand up straight when I'm talking to you."
" It's Casey Ann," Shaun protested, " It's Casey Ann -you
" This Casey Ann nonsense has got to stop. It's all in your
mind, and I do understand. Your background was taken into
consideration before you joined the Service. Now get up in
the cabin or you will be on fatigues for the rest of your
Shaun gaped at the instructor. She was terrified of sitting
behind the wheel. She could still see Casey Ann, hear the
screeching of brakes and the clanging of the ambulance
siren. Automatically she did as she was told. She had
trouble with her shaking hands as she turned the ignition
key and the engine began to tick over.
" Well come along. What are we waiting for Maclaren?"
" Please Ma'am I think I've lost my nerve."
" You Shaun Maclaren are my star pupil. I will not allow you
to let me down. Now put the bloody thing in gear and take me
back to the barracks."
Shaun was surprised how smoothly her hands and feet managed
the controls once the semi-trailer was moving.
Instinctively the skills she had learned reappeared.
Although she thought about Casey Ann as they drove towards
the barracks, there was a calmness within her, a feeling she
had never known before.
In the dark cabin she smiled at the instructor. Pleased that
she had forced her to get behind the wheel. She pulled up at
the officer's quarters.
" You did well Maclaren," the instructor told her as she
climbed down from the cabin, " take the unit to the Motor
Pool for inspection. I will take care of the details.
Remember the accident was not your fault, and that your
swift action probably saved two lives. Oh!, don't forget
your finals tomorrow. Fourteen hundred sharp. I suggest you
get a good nights sleep." The test! the final exam. How
could she forget? All the weeks of studying, worrying, at
last it was here. She knew Maureen would be pleased when she
passed. Tingling with excitement she drove towards the M T
A few meters from the shed she saw Casey Ann lying in the
middle of the road. Shaun jammed on her brakes. The
airlock screamed as she pumped the peddle, The semi
screeched to a stop a few feet from her sister.
Shaun clambered, fell out of the cabin, mesmerised by the
sight of Casey Ann lying inches from the wheels of the
semi-trailer. She tried to gather her sister up in her arms,
scraped the road with her hands. Insensible to the pain of
the cuts and bruises the gravel made on her arms, legs and
palms of her hands.
" Casey Ann! Casey Ann!" she screamed. " Where are you?.
Please don't keep hiding from me. I know your
She knelt down again in front of the semi-trailer. Crawled
along the road trying to find her sister.
" It's the tests!" she shouted in the hospital the following
morning, struggling to get out of bed. " I can't be late.
I've got to pass."
She felt a sharp pain in her arms and hands as she tore at
the bandages wrapped around them.
Exhausted she lay back on the bed. The memories of Casey Ann
flooding her mind. She could almost touch her face, still
flushed by the breeze from the sea as they stood at the side
of the road at Westhill as dozens of Mac semi-trailers went
A nurse quickly drew the flowered curtain on the rail around
her bed. Minutes later a doctor, an older man sat in a chair
" It seems right in a way that Casey Ann died," she observed
as if talking to herself. " The only thing wrong is that I
should have gone with her," she smiled at the doctor, " is
that why she keeps calling me? I ought to go to her."
" You shouldn't say things like that Shaun."
" Why not? We both know it's the truth. Everyone told me it
was my fault my sister died. I must go with her."
" No Shaun. You mean a lot to many people. I know how you
must feel. Look to the future. You have your whole life in
front of you."
She looked at the doctor, her eyes pleading for help, the
silence between them unbearable. Gently he held her bandaged
hands and looked deep into her eyes, as if attempting some
kind of hypnosis.
" Your sister died a long time ago," he told her, " this
feeling of despair, with help it will pass. You must
realise that it is only certain things certain ideas that
can trigger the memory. With our help you will learn to
control them. I know you can overcome them."
Shaun nodded her agreement, wanting the doctor to go.
Desperate to be on her own. She felt unable to cope with his
sympathetic understanding the old man was trying so hard to
offer. Perhaps it was the look in his eyes. The specious
promise of a bright future. She knew she would never pass
the test. Worst of all she had let Maureen down.
When the doctor left she slumped back against the pillows
with an overwhelming sense of relief. Behind the drawn
curtain she could hear the whisper of voices and assumed
they were discussing her case. Her mind began to whirl as
she remembered the recruiting officer's warning.
Shaun found it almost impossible to eat as she lay behind
patterned curtains counting the bright flowers, longing for
the night when she would be alone with her thoughts. When at
last night came sleep eluded her. In the darkness she
listened for the muffled cough, a body twisting and turning
in sleep wishing it was her.
She thought that somewhere there had to be a joker who took
a fiendish delight in turning the tables against her.
Trying his hardest to destroy the memory of the good times
she had with her cousin.
Shaun felt that one could have everything-or nothing. In the
brooding shadows she listened to the voices inside her head.
Remembered Maureen telling her she refused to believe in
fate. That you made your own decisions in life no matter how
painful it might be.
Suddenly aware it was time she stopped feeling sorry for
herself, Shaun knew she had to make up her mind to get the
best out of Army life. She accepted the fact that she would
never sit behind the wheel of a semi-trailer again.
Cynthia visited her the following day. Told her that she
had been posted to General Duties.
"I didn't want it to come as a shock. Thought it might
soften the blow if I broke the news." The posting she knew
was inevitable still filled Shaun with terror. She imagined
herself peeling mountains of potatoes for the rest of her
" Did you and Roxanne pass?"
" Afraid we did," Cynthia answered with a smile.
The following day Shaun was discharged from hospital. In the
evening with her two friends she went to the local dance.
Cynthia, still bright-eyed with relief and a sense of
accomplishment, looked smart, and Shaun thought very pretty.
Roxanne, by far the more dazzling. Her make-up
sophisticated, her hair, perfectly in place.
" There'll be some action here, " she said full of
confidence, " the Navy's arrived for special transport
The floor of the local Town hall was packed with couples.
Some of the men dancing, many sitting around in groups at
the tables. It was obvious there was a shortage of females.
The only competition the girls from the village.
Shaun looked around, wanted to go back to the barracks. She
knew if she did Cynthia and Roxanne might ask difficult
questions and she wondered how long it would be before they
found out that deep down inside her she really detested most
males. She pushed the thoughts quickly out of her mind.
" Let's get a table," Cynthia suggested.
" Not yet Cyn," Roxanne replied smoothing the front of her
skirt, " we'll take a walk and show ourselves. I want a
chance to inspect the goods."
Roxanne moved away from the doors, her walk exaggerated by
the tightness of her skirt. Shaun hung back, following her
two friends at what, she considered to be a safe distance as
Roxanne observing their audience as much as they were
staring at her placed every male in a category of her own
Satisfied that the trap had been baited she selected a table
at the far end of the hall. Cynthia sat next to her.
Shaun, trying hard to conceal her feelings sat apart from
" Come on Shaun," Roxanne said loudly, " come and sit with
us. You won't get a date sitting on your own."
Cynthia kicked Roxanne's shins under the table.
" Ouch! What the hell was that for?"
" Can't you see she's upset. I reckon that John of hers has
dumped her. We didn't even see him when we came back off
leave. She was with his sister Maureen something, some name
" Serve her right Cyn," Roxanne commented, " she's a moody
bitch. Didn't even try and take her test."
" We ought to do something about it."
" We could write to this bloody John of hers, if we had the
Two Navy men came to their table, one with a gold ring on
the sleeve of his jacket. He hovered over Roxanne. The other
one appeared to be shy and stood back.
" Can we look after you?" The one with the gold ring asked.
" We can look after ourselves," Roxanne answered, her gaze
holding onto his.
" I bet you can," he murmured, " do you mind if we join
He saw the look that passed between them.
The hesitation in Cynthia's eyes. The reluctance in Shaun's.
He beckoned his friends to join him then aimed a smile
directly at Roxanne.
There were hurried movements to find extra chairs as a man
with two gold rings produced a bottle of scotch.
Roxanne told them about Cynthia throwing up after passing
the test. Cynthia, her face red stood up, kicked back the
chair and was about to hit her, when Roxanne changed the
subject. She told them about Shaun not even taking the test
because she had seen the ghost of her sister. They all
laughed and said she was weird.
In the soft lighting over the tables Shaun watched as
Roxanne downed a large scotch, then with Cynthia taken off
for a dance. For a long time Shaun sat on her own sipping
the beer that some one had bought her. She watched the
couples gyrating under the coloured lights. It reminded her
of Maureen when they danced at the Sandwood Hotel.
An Army lieutenant pulled up a chair abandoned by the
couples. He sat opposite Shaun drinking in her troubled eyes
and painted lips. Although she was only a private he thought
that the smartness of her tunic and crispness of her shirt
gave her an air of authority.
Shaun, aware of the fury inside her felt intensely
uncomfortable under his stare. He was one of those people
she had an burning desire to treat with contempt. She knew
she dare not, afraid of the consequences if she were caught
out. Her friends, she would lose them. The humiliation, the
gossip, speculation, it would run riot all over the
The lieutenant having consumed more than a fair share of gin
decided that there was something about her that excited him.
In his befuddled mind she presented a challenge. He asked
her for a dance. With natural propensity she declined.
Seconds later wishing she hadn't. She stood up, intent on
leaving. He pulled back the chair and whirled her across
the dance floor before she was able to protest.
" Come on smile," he said holding her close to him, " let
your hair down. You don't know what you're missing."
The smell of cigarettes and stale gin offended her. She
managed to keep him at arms length. He mumbled something
about John and her being a sullen little bitch, then swore
as she ground her heel on his instep. Shaun felt he had
tried his luck, thinking she might be easy, and smiled
knowing she had wounded an officer's pride. Minutes later
the music stopped and Shaun offered a silent prayer.
" I'm being transferred in the morning," she told him,
hoping he might leave her alone. Then I'll walk you back to
the barracks, after we've had another drink."
" No thank you Sir," she said with a faint smile, " I have
to get an early night. "
He glared at her. Afraid of his reactions she promised to
wait while he ordered more drinks from the bar. She sat at
an empty table. Watched him place his arms around a female
officer and kiss her. Anger, panic took over. She stood up,
hoping he hadn't noticed, not caring if he had. In the
moonlight she ran back to the barracks.
The hut was in darkness. Exhausted by her dash from the
dance hall, without bothering to turn on the lights she
undressed and got into bed. Staring into the blackness she
wondered if the lieutenant had suspected the way she felt,
decided he was probably too drunk to even notice.
She thought of Maureen and their special love. It didn't
seem right to Shaun, that two people with a relationship
such as theirs should be bound by morale conventions to hide
their unending love.
She thought of Roxanne and her remarks as the hours of dark
torment continued. She was drunk, perhaps more than usual,
and Shaun hoped she had not encouraged Cynthia to celebrate
her success in a similar way. Pride, then bitter fury took
over as eventually she fell asleep.
She dreamed of her two friends, that they were drunk and
fooling around. In her dreams she tried to help them. Heard
herself telling them it was wrong. Roxanne was swearing
about John, that they were going to stop him from ruining
Shaun awoke long before Reveille. Her locker had been broken
open. All Maureen's letters were strewn over the floor. As
tears welled in her eyes, she gathered them up and returned
them to their special place. She sat on the bed and cried,
knowing her two friends would have read of her secret.
In the half light Roxanne crept up behind her and held her
by the hair. Cynthia, a wild look in her eyes, filled with a
loathing of her one -time friend, struck Shaun across the
" You Lesbo Bitch!" Roxanne screamed, " there never was any
John. All the time it was your cousin, the one at the
station. Wasn't she enough? Is that why you've been making
up to the officers. Instructor's star pupil, Ha! we all know
why that is. So will everyone else. We'll make sure of
The enmity hung in the air for a long moment between the
three of them. To Shaun held in a vice like grip by her
hair, unable to break free it was more than a challenge. It
was like a gauntlet thrown down. One she was aching to take
Roxanne, naked, dragged her off the bed and forced her to
stand beside Cynthia, wearing only her pyjama top. They
stared at her, their eyes eager for bloody combat and war
for their pleasure, neither willing to listen to Shaun's
pleas for understanding. She remembered the new woman's
warning at Morris and Sons.
" Look at the pair of you," she screamed in her own defence,
" you're a bloody sight worse than I've ever been, You've
been sleeping together, playing with each other for months,
can't get a man between you. We, Maureen and I at least
love each other, and I'm not ashamed of our love."
As Shaun struggled free Roxanne tore out a handful of her
hair and Cynthia struck her across the other side of her
face. Her head spinning, Shaun clutched the bedspread as she
fell to the floor. The drab coloured cover wrapping itself
around her like a drapery in an old Roman play.
" Maclaren Ma'am."
Shaun fell in behind the Admin Sergeant, drew herself to
attention and saluted.
" At ease Maclaren," the officer sat poised on the edge of
her chair. Her elongated face set in serious expression. It
gave Shaun the impression that she had caused the officer
" As you were informed by the recruiting officer," she
continued, " if you failed in any of your driving
examinations as set down by the Service you would be
transferred to G D. It is my painful duty to inform you that
you have been found unfit to drive service or maintain any
Army vehicle that you are being transferred. Because of a
recent incident in your quarters, which will not be noted on
your records. I have arranged for you to be sent to a
training depot in the Southern Command, where you will be
trained as a stewardess."
The officer smiled at her. It was a friendly smile. To Shaun
it seemed to be filled with a warmth and understanding that
she had only ever seen in the eyes of her cousin. The
Sergeant standing on the opposite side of the desk nodded
" You have our deepest sympathy over the loss of your
sister. Even though it was a long time ago, one can never
forget. To avoid further problems we suggest you leave for
your new posting as quickly as possible. The Sergeant will
escort you to the rail station." Shaun looked at the officer
" It's for your own good Maclaren," the officer continued,
feeling the need to qualify her actions, " we believe that
contact with Howard or Anderson would not serve any useful
purpose. The Sergeant will give you your travel warrants and
other documents. That will be all Maclaren. Good luck to
you. You are dismissed."
For Shaun it was another new beginning, and Roxanne and
Cynthia were out of her life forever.
After six weeks of intensive training she was posted to a
special unit. They had asked for someone who could look
after them without supervision.
The posting, near the coast was only a few miles from the
Sandwood Hotel. Eagerly she wrote to her cousin. Maureen
delighted, stayed with Shaun at the Sandwood hotel whenever
she managed to get a weekend pass.
Shaun took pride in her work. The officers, all nursing
sisters who she looked after were kind and understanding,
never questioning her relationship with her cousin. When
they saw them together at the hotel or a dance they greeted
Shaun and Maureen like old friends.
For over a year Shaun found a happiness that knew no bounds.
She whisked through her work, wrote regularly to her mother
and longed for her weekends with Maureen.
The other stewardesses were all friendly, sharing with Shaun
their worry over their latest romances. Each of them knowing
that Shaun Maclaren would listen to their special problems.
" If you want to go and see him I'll cover for you," she
told Sarah a stewardess in the officer's mess, " you sure
you're doing the right thing."
" I love him," Sarah told her, " I really do. He's lost his
job, says he needs me. Please Shaun, cover for me, just
" Of course I will. I can understand you wanting to marry
" But what?"
" Don't get me wrong Sarah. I know you love him. Have you
really thought it through? I'll cover for you for a few
days. If you do go AWOL, get married without permission, you
could be in a hell of a lot of trouble." Shaun stopped.
Angry with herself. What right had she to tell Sarah what
she should or should not do?
" I know I shouldn't have said anything. Please Sarah don't
get upset. All I meant was, you are only eighteen, not bad
looking-- and there is plenty of time. The right kind of
love will come along - -one day."
Although it annoyed her, Sarah knew Shaun was right.
" If he really loved me he wouldn't dream of asking me to go
AWOL would he?" she said suddenly after moments of silence.
" I bet the bastard only want to marry me so he can get half
my pay and not have to work anymore."
" Then you're not upset with me?"
Sarah flung her arms around her. " You are silly Shaun
Maclaren. How could anyone be upset with you? What are
friends for if we can't be honest with one another. I do
really need you as a friend."
Within a month Sarah had forgotten all about getting
married. A new romance had entered her life. A lieutenant
from somewhere up North.
Remembering the warmth and understanding Shaun had given her
brought a grim smile to Sarah's face when she saw Shaun a
few weeks later. There was no denying Shaun Maclaren had
changed. Sarah thought she was sickening for something, and
when she went to bed the moment she had finished her duties,
Sarah became more than a little concerned.
Shaun admitted she had been getting some bad headaches and
cramps in her stomach. Sarah at first put it down to unusual
period pains and thought she might even be pregnant,
dismissing the idea the instant she thought of it.
Maureen thought she looked pale. It was obvious she had
slipped up in her appearance having abandoned the regular
pressing and cleaning of her uniform. She seemed to have
neglected her hair, and on their last weekend at the
Sandwood Maureen offered to fix it for her. Shaun just
glared at her and went to bed.
For hours Maureen lay awake worrying about her cousin. When
Shaun began to cry in the middle of the night with pains in
her stomach, Maureen told her she should go and see a
doctor, or at least talk to one of the nursing Sisters.
" Why don't you leave me alone?" Shaun screamed at her, "
it's only a pain because I've eaten too much of the wrong
Sarah, aware of the special relationship between Shaun and
her cousin, had come to accept their unusual way of life
even though she felt unable to condone it. But Shaun
Maclaren was her friend and now she needed help.
Friendly towards Maureen for Shaun's sake, she kept that
friendship at a safe distance. Over lunch at the Sandwood
hotel they talked about their mutual friend.
" She has to see a doctor," Sarah told Maureen, " she can't
go on crying every night in agony. It's affecting her work,
and her appearance. If she's not careful someone is bound to
notice and put in a complaint."
Maureen suggested that they should both have a word with one
of the Army nursing Sisters.
Shaun's bed was opposite the ward door. With the television
set above her head everyone stared her way, although she was
unable to watch the programs. The ward Sister came in and
fussed around the patients who sat in chairs or on the edge
of their beds.
" It's gone seven Sister!" someone called as the ward door
The Sister looked around her Kingdom.
" No one is coming in the ward until it is straight and
The breeze that moved the door strengthened, opening it a
little further. Suddenly a horde of people spilled into the
ward, each going in a different direction. Eyes, fixed on a
" Why am I here? how did I get here?" Shaun asked as Maureen
and Sarah sat by her bed. 101
" You collapsed last night in the mess," Sarah told her, " I
phoned Maureen, she sat with you all night."
" You've had a few tests," Maureen added, laying the flowers
she had bought on the bed, " they told me you'll be going to
a civilian hospital tomorrow. Do you want me to tell Aunt
" No, not really. Mum will only think the worst and start
worrying. You know what she's like." It seemed they had only
just arrived, when the bell to clear the ward rang. Maureen
wanted to stay longer, but the ward Sister gave her a stare.
They kissed Shaun goodbye and she watched as Sarah followed
by Maureen left the ward.
Every day at the civilian hospital Shaun was given a test.
They gave her a long tube to swallow, and when she gagged
they pushed it up her nose. She had Barium meals, X-rays and
scans. Then there were days when she was not allowed to eat
a thing. She detested the notice above her bed that said
'Nil By Mouth'.
For Shaun the nights were worse than the days. There was no
such thing as silence. Someone was always stirring,
groaning, coughing or muttering. There was a whisper of the
night nurses behind jabbing flashlight beams, and the slow,
slow hiss of oxygen.
Outside the muted moan of the night traffic from the road
that ran alongside the hospital. There were shuntings in
the railway yards not far away. The clanging of buffers,
the soft pantings of locomotives with an occasional snort
like an animal in pain.
Amidst the faint mournful cry of train whistles Shaun wished
she was back at the Army base hospital, where at least she
would have a visit from her beloved Maureen.
The following morning she struggled out of bed and gingerly
made her way towards the window. Dizziness overcame her. She
looked around for a chair, grabbed the window sill for
support as she slid gently to the floor. Someone pressed the
emergency bell a nurse appeared, lifted her up and sat her
in a wheel chair.
" You shouldn't be out of bed Miss Maclaren," she said
sternly, " they're sending you back to the Army base the day
At the Army hospital she was forced to stay in bed for the
next four days. The Sisters she had looked after visited her
and Maureen came every night. Even the orderlies treated her
with a special consideration, aware of the cautious interest
in the air, of the knowing looks that understood.
A civilian doctor and an Army Captain sat by her bed.
" You are being discharged from the Service," the Captain
informed her, " you have been classed as being medically
unfit. It will take a few weeks to transfer you out."
" Why?" Shaun asked as the tears welled in her eyes, "
everyone knows I can do my work. The Army is my life," she
pleaded, " It's all I've ever wanted. It isn't fair. Surely
I have the right to appeal."
" You have a few medical and psychiatric problems," the
civilian doctor said softly, " these problems have to be
dealt with by specialists. It's no disgrace Shaun. The
medical board has examined your case most carefully. They
are of the opinion that you are not fit for further military
service. Unfortunately I have to agree with them."
The day Shaun left the hospital a sadness came over her.
More than a sadness, a feeling of hopelessness. She wanted
to with Maureen, knowing she would understand. But the Army
Admin Corps told her to stay at her mother's house. It was
they said, the address to which her discharge would be sent.
Her mother being her only next of kin.
Shaun wrote to her mother, telling her she was coming home,
of her medical discharge from the Service. That she would
have special treatment from civilian doctors for a few
months. She knew she would have the love and support she
longed for from her mother. There was no reply to her
letter, no welcome awaiting her.
She stored her service trunk and cases under the house,
knowing she would have to stay in her old room, where there
was barely sufficient space for a bed and a few clothes. It
was late when her mother and Pauline arrived home, their
greeting cold and unfriendly. Shaun assumed that they were
just over tired. Pauline told her she was expecting her
husband home on leave within a few days.
Her mother glared at her.
" You're a dismal failure Shaun Maclaren," she said angrily.
" It's all the fault of that Maureen. I know I should never
have allowed her to stay here. The two of you sleeping
together. No wonder you were thrown out of the Army. It was
because of her you joined up." Shaun began to protest, her
mother ignored her and went to bed. Every night Shaun cried
herself to sleep. During the day she went for long walks,
sat on a bench in the park, or drank endless cups of coffee
in cafes down the high street. All she wanted was to get
back in the Army or go and stay with Maureen.
She had to report to the barracks three times a week. It was
impossible to go down to the coast and back, even on a
weekend. She had a driving license but no vehicle.
Shaun pleaded, begged the Army to consider taking her back.
The Depot Commander felt sorry for her. She thought that by
some stroke of good fortune her medical condition might have
improved. She studied Shaun's service record, decided that
she deserved a last chance. For a week Shaun stayed at the
hospital. There were more tests, X-rays, examinations and
consultations. In the privacy of her room she wrote every
day to Maureen, asking her not to reply to her letters in
case Pauline or her mother might pick them up.
At the end of the week the hospital doctor confirmed the
medical boards findings, that Shaun Maclaren was unfit for
No one visited her at the hospital and when she arrived home
Pauline was full of unwarranted criticism, her mother
ignoring her completely. Shaun treated their attitudes with
contempt hoping that one day her mother might listen to her,
perhaps even forgive her. Pauline's husband came home on a
months leave from the Air Force, and life for Shaun became
unbearable with Pauline watching her every movement.
Shaun came home late from one of her walks. She felt tired,
drained and irritable having just got her period. A letter
was waiting, that her mother had opened telling her that her
discharge from the Army was complete. The following morning
she reported to the service depot collected her records and
went down to the coast where she knew Maureen would be