Title: Coronation Day (also posted here at ashes2life)
Rating: White Cortina
Word Count: 1,500 words approx
Fandom: Ashes to Ashes
Spoilers for Ashes to Ashes episode 3.08
Warning: It’s impossible to give a warning without 3.08 spoilers, so please check out the title. If you don’t understand from the title exactly what I’m warning for, it’s best you don’t read this until you’ve watched 3.08 (Please note that this is written from the pov of someone who wasn’t there, so there are no details at all and certainly nothing graphic).
A/N: The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II took place in the late morning on 2nd June 1953. Those people who could afford a television invited friends and neighbours in to watch the ceremony with them. Afterwards, there were street parties to celebrate.
My apologies to people who are waiting for replies from me; half term is over and the kids are back at school today, but the idea for this hit me yesterday and I just had to write it before I did anything else.
~ ~ ~
At Farringfield Green in a field on a hill, the crows never settle.
They circle and call.
~ ~ ~
“Mrs Hunt? Need a word with your lad, if you wouldn’t mind, love.”
She stares at him, puzzled. The sunlight glints on his helmet badge as he speaks again.
“It’s all right, he’s not in any trouble, but Coronation’s over now, we need him back. He shouldn’t have gone off at all, rightly, but I can let him off this once, being as it’s a special day and he’s a good lad normally.”
The intangible unease she’s felt all day uncoils itself slowly beneath her smartest apron, and her heart beats faster.
~ ~ ~
As Gene walks down the path for his shift she watches with faint misgiving. A week now he’s been in this job and he still has that Gary Cooper swagger in his step, like nothing can touch him. He’s so proud of himself, keeping the streets clean as he calls it, but she worries every day that he’ll get himself into something he can’t handle. The night before he started the job she tried to explain her fears but he just laughed gently as he brushed his uniform and polished his precious new boots.
“I’ll be all right, Mum, I’m the Gene Genie! I can look after myself, trust me.”
She smiles at the memory as he turns at the gate and grins at her. He looks so smart, but he’s still just a boy really; her little boy. She smiles at herself - her little boy has been taller than her for three years, and now she can afford proper food he’s growing even more. At this rate he’ll end up taller than Grandad Mays, and a finer figure of a man never walked the streets of Manchester.
At the last moment, before the gate clicks shut, she calls him back.
“Mum! I’m going to be late!”
“Don’t argue with me, Genie.” She folds her arms and looks at him sternly. “Come here and give your mum a kiss.”
He walks reluctantly back up the path, but he’s smiling at her. When he reaches the step he looks up and down the street before leaning down to kiss her goodbye. As he does, bent old Mr Jones from number 23, shuffling past with the scruffy dog that’s as arthritic as he is, touches his cap to her then holds his hand level at head height. Nodding towards Gene, he raises the hand slowly as she smiles in acknowledgement - everyone round here knows how proud she is of her son, the police officer.
Gene shuffles his feet, embarrassed.
“What’s the matter, ashamed of your old mother?”
“Never, you’re a great mum. Just, you know...” He straightens up. “Shift starts in ten minutes, that’s all. Mustn’t be late for PC Morrison.”
~ ~ ~
Now she smoothes her apron, clean on this morning in honour of the occasion, and draws herself up.
“What are you saying, young man - our Gene’s not at work?”
“That’s right, love. Can’t turn a blind eye any longer.” He raises his voice slightly, looking over her shoulder into the house. “Dereliction of duty if he doesn’t get back soon. So if you see him, you tell him, OK?” He turns away down the path.
She watches him for a moment then calls out to him, beckoning him back.
“Hey, haven’t finished with you.”
He walks slowly back up the path as she speaks slowly, working it out.
“This doesn’t make sense. Our Gene’s mad for this job, been looking forward to it since he were fifteen. He’s not going to just go off without saying. You’ll see, him and that PC Morrison, they’ll be out chasing ... bank robbers or something. Being useful. Unlike some I could mention.”
He flinches slightly and straightens his shoulders, but speaks to her patiently enough.
“Love, I’m PC Morrison. And young PC Hunt ... Gene ... is supposed to be with me. I’m looking after him. Well, I was, but he wandered off while I was, um, talking to some ... potential witnesses. Are you sure he’s not here, love, been listening to the Coronation? Because I can overlook it this time, as long as he comes along with me now.”
She looks at him steadily. The Coronation finished hours ago. He shifts uncomfortably under her gaze, praying she won’t ask the obvious question.
She doesn’t, and he talks a little faster now, anxious to get away from this woman who seems to see the guilt he hasn’t even admitted to himself.
“Look, I’ve got to get back; my beat won’t walk itself. Your lad’s probably found himself some company - a bit of how’s your father, eh? Being a special day and all? All right for some, I say. When he comes home, you tell him to look lively before he’s missed down the station.”
She’s furious now. This man is responsible for Gene’s safety and he’s been drinking - does he think she doesn’t know the signs? - while her boy is out there alone. She steps forward, gesturing angrily.
“Don’t judge by yourself - my Gene is a good lad, and a good copper, and he would never go off from his duty for a bit of ‘how’s yer father’. I’ll have you know my son’s walking out with a nice girl, money in the family and everything. He’s done very well for himself and he’d never do anything to risk that.”
PC Morrison looks sceptical but he doesn’t say anything. She has a few last words for him.
“He’s always done right by his young lady, has my Gene, and he’s a good lad to his mum, too. He went off to work just the same as usual this morning. I was here, I watched him go.”
~ ~ ~
This morning, just for once, she decides to treat herself and instead of the usual casual pat on the shoulder as her son leaves, she throws her arms round his neck and pulls him close. His thick woollen tunic tickles her nose, its acrid newness mingling with Gene’s own familiar smell, and just for a moment he leans into the hug, putting a hand on her back. Then, too soon, he’s pulling away and straightening his tunic, glancing around again before giving her a peck on the cheek.
As she reluctantly lets him go her watch-strap catches on his shoulder badge, and she makes him stand another moment as she gives the silver figures one last polish. He squirms impatiently.
“Mum, give over. I’m a big boy now, can look after myself. I’ve got to go, all right? You take care and get a good seat, and tell Margaret it’s dead kind of her mum to let you come and watch.”
“She’s just showing off the new telly, love. You’re right, though, she didn’t have to ask the whole street.”
She steps forward quickly and aims a kiss at his cheek.
“And she hasn’t got a son like you to be proud of, has she?”
He steps back, her handsome son, brushing at his face as if to clean it, but he’s smiling still.
“You’re right, mum. Son to be proud of, me.” He grins at her but can’t help sneaking a look at his brand new watch.
She gives him a gentle shove.
“Go on then. Don’t want you being late, do we? You keep those streets safe for me and Margaret, all right?”
She watches as he walks down the street pushing the shiny new bicycle. A son to be proud of, indeed.
~ ~ ~
Now she speaks angrily to PC Morrison.
“If my son’s missing he’s in trouble and you should be ashamed of yourself for not keeping an eye on him, you drunken lummox. This is your fault - you get out there now and you find him!”
“Now, now, love, keep it calm, everything’s under control.”
As he escapes down the path, he turns to offer faint comfort.
“He’s a canny lad, your Gene. Got the makings of a good officer when he grows up. He’ll turn up, never you fear.”
~ ~ ~
But he never does.
He’s never seen again.
~ ~ ~
In 1963 he’s declared officially dead. She doesn’t want it, but they say it’s not her choice and it does mean she can have his Post Office Savings Account. She doesn’t want that either, but she keeps the book safe on the mantel for him, next to his picture.
In 1973 Margaret persuades her to get a phone put in. He doesn’t ring, but she knows he’ll be thinking of her and he would if he could.
In 1983 she has her eightieth birthday. Margaret brings a cake and they have a cup of tea. They don’t talk about much and Margaret doesn’t stay very long.
~ ~ ~
At Farringfield Green, in a field on a hill the crows never settle.
They circle and call.
~ ~ ~
In the Summer of 1983 she goes quietly to her grave. She never finds out what happened to her fine son, her pride and joy. But she goes in the sure and certain knowledge that, somewhere, Gene is always doing his best to keep the streets safe for her and Margaret.
~ ~ ~