A Change Of gender And Beyond
Chapter 5
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
          her achievements.

          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,
          uncontrollable shake.

          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
          don't understand."

          " 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
          beside her.

          " 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
          Army life.

          " 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
          like that."

          " 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
          her life.

          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
          considerable effort.

          " 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
          her agreement.

          " 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
          in amazement.

          " 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
          this once."

          " Of course  I  will.  I can understand you wanting to marry
          him, but-"

          " 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
          moved slightly.

          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
          after tomorrow.

          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
          military service.

          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