Title: “His Wife”
Author: TheQueenly1, a.k.a. Darkover
Characters: Ronald Speirs and OC
Disclaimer: I do not own “Band of Brothers,” the miniseries. I certainly do not own any rights to the men themselves; no one can, of course, since they were and are real people, and very impressive ones, too. Although the people themselves were real, and this story is inspired by some actual events, the story itself is pure fiction. No offense is intended, and I fervently hope none is taken. Nor am I making any money off of this, so please do not sue.
Summary: How Ronald Speirs came to marry the English widow, from her perspective.
She came to Aldbourne because her recently-deceased grandmother had left her a cottage there. For that reason, she was as much an outsider in this small village where the locals had known each other since birth as were the American paratroopers who filled the narrow streets. Most of them seemed to know how to behave, but there were many others who had no manners at all, called the place “quaint” or worse, and who whistled or called out offensively to any pretty woman who walked by.
She attracted many of those whistles herself. Really, in some ways Aldbourne was worse than London in that regard, because the village was a much smaller place, so small that there seemed to be no way of avoiding the Yanks. In general, the townspeople were philosophical about it. They could afford to be, she sometimes thought. They had family and friends for emotional support, homes to clean and manage, children to raise, shops to run, specific jobs to do. She had nothing, now, save a tiny cottage in an unfamiliar place.
Perhaps she should feel grateful to have a roof over her head, but at present it was difficult to feel much gratitude for anything. Her family home in London had long since been destroyed and her family too. Prior to that, following a honeymoon of less than one week, her husband had entered the British Army. She received exactly one letter from him before being notified of his death. Her friends, too, were all dead now. Every person she had ever been close to was now dead, all because of the War.
Perhaps if she had been a more optimistic, upbeat person, she might have started life anew in the village of Aldbourne. But her late grandmother had been an unpleasant old woman, much disliked by the locals, who seemed to have transferred that dislike to her. Never an outgoing person to begin with, she had trouble finding a niche. There was nothing she could contribute to the war effort, and no one knew that better than she. She did not join the local church because she was not religious; she was no longer certain she even believed in God. Not after the Blitz. Not after the War itself. She had no children, had nothing in common with any of the local mothers. It proved impossible for her to get a job. In desperation, she had finally applied for work in the local laundry. It was owned by Mrs. Lamb, whose business was thriving thanks to the influx of American soldiers, all of whom needed clean socks and underwear and their shirts pressed. But on the second day, she made the mistake of leaving an iron resting a bit too long on an officer’s shirt, scorching it beyond repair. The resulting row was disastrous. Mrs. Lamb made it clear to her and to everyone within earshot that in future, the jobs in this laundry were for the local girls alone, not toffee-nosed madams who clearly never did an honest day’s work in their lives. After that, no one in Aldbourne would consider hiring her to do anything. She lived on her small savings and the tiny pension she received as a war widow. She did not know what she would do when her savings ran out.
One evening she went to the local pub, but that did not go at all well. The pub was crowded that night, but it was filled with groups of people who already knew each other and did not even notice one woman sitting alone. There were also American soldiers, in groups or alone, who either drank and laughed uproariously with their dates, or who tried to pick her up. That was not what she had in mind, but she knew that if she stayed long enough, or drank very much more, her loneliness might lead her to do something she would regret later. She rose from her seat and left.
She was walking back to the cottage, mentally berating herself for not starting home before blackout, when she almost ran into two American soldiers. She apologized and started to walk around them, but one stepped in front of her, blocking her way. They seemed delighted, and she realized immediately that both of them were drunk.
“Hey, wanna drink, honey?” one asked, offering her the bottle he held in his hand.
“No thank you.” She tried to resume walking, but now the other moved to block her path.
“Hey, I saw you in the bar,” he said. “Hey, Pete—” he addressed the first soldier, who was grinning. “I saw this dame in the bar. She was drinkin’ by herself and turnin’ down sojers left an’ right. Whatsamatter, lady, you too good for us?”
“No, I just want to go home. Now, if you’ll excuse me…” She gasped when the soldier grabbed her arm, his fingers sinking into her soft flesh.
“Not so fast. M’friend offered ya a drink.”
“Please let go of my arm.” She was genuinely frightened now, and wondered if she should scream.
Another voice, masculine, quiet, and as coldly sober as a hanging judge, came out of the darkness. “Is there a problem here?”
The second drunk let go of her arm with amazing speed, snapping off an instant salute. “Lt. Speirs, sir. No sir!”
“Yeah, there is,” the first drunk said simultaneously and belligerently, turning toward the officer. “This dame is the problem, an’ it’s none a yer business, so just butt out!”
It happened so fast she hardly saw the lieutenant move. He struck the man known as “Pete” very hard once in the throat, once in the belly. The man fell to his knees, gasping and vomiting. The bottle he was carrying fell to the street and shattered. Speirs kicked Pete in the face, sending him sprawling. She screamed. Speirs looked at her, and she covered her mouth with her hand, trembling. Speirs looked back down at the fallen man.
“When you talk to an officer, you say ‘Sir,’” he told Pete, in the deceptively quiet voice that some torturers use.
Then the lieutenant turned his attention to the drunk who had manhandled her. Already shocked out of his aggressiveness, the man flinched under Speirs’ unblinking gaze. “Both of you,” Speirs said, his voice low but intense. “Back to the barracks. Now.”
“Yessir!” the other man gibbered, hastily saluting again. He grabbed his friend and hauled him away, not concerned about the fact that the latter had to be dragged through his own vomit. As they staggered off together, Speirs turned his attention to her. She cringed away from him, but he did not seem to notice.
“Where do you live?” he asked her.
She told him. He offered her his arm; she took it, too intimidated to do otherwise. They walked the short distance to her cottage in silence. She was not sure whether to be grateful or frightened by his presence. Once there, reaction set in, and her hands shook so much that she could not fit her key into the door lock. Aldbourne was normally the sort of place where people did not lock their doors, but in between her grandmother’s death and her own residency, the place had been vandalized, so she kept it locked when she was not home. In the end, he took the keys from her hand and unlocked her door himself.
Once inside, she went straight to the kitchen and tried to fix herself a cup of tea; but her hands trembled so much that she dropped the cup, shattering it. The sound made her think of the soldier’s bottle shattering on the street, reminded her of what she had just seen, and she burst into tears.
It was only when she felt a firm hand on her elbow, guiding her to a chair, that she realized he had followed her inside. “Sit down,” he ordered. “I’ll fix your tea.”
“I don’t want tea!” she cried, like a child.
“What do you want?”
She looked at him, into his face. He looked back. Without another word, she took his hand and together they went into her bedroom.
* * * * *
He came to see her many times after that. Sometimes he took her places, either in town or in London; sometimes they went for walks in the countryside; but much of the time, they just remained together in the cottage. Most of the time, they ended up in bed together. Always, he brought her things. Often it was foodstuffs: canned goods, or fresh fruit, a great luxury. Or he would give her lipsticks, nylon stockings, new pairs of shoes. Once, he gave her a new wool coat. He had hired a tailor to make the coat, which was made from a U.S. Army-issued wool blanket, dyed and then lined with silk from one of his own parachutes. When he gave her that, she cried, making him look confused for the first time she had ever known him. He held her close, without speaking, until her tears passed.
The gifts made her wonder what she was to him. Did he consider her his mistress? His girlfriend? His whore? She didn’t know, and she was afraid to ask. Afraid of what his answer might be. Sometimes she wondered if a prostitute was what she had become. He did not give her money, but he always brought her things, things that in a time of strict rationing were rare and often expensive. She never asked him for the items, but neither did she refuse them. She had been deprived too long, in all ways, to refuse anything he might give. She enjoyed the sex as much as he did. Clearly, he knew his way around a woman’s body. Either he had a great deal of experience, or he’d had a very good teacher, but there was more technique than tenderness to his lovemaking. He never told her that he loved her, but she rationalized that this might actually be a good thing. If those three words meant nothing to him, if *she* meant nothing to him and he was just using her, would he have hesitated to speak them?
They talked a great deal at first, or more accurately, she talked and he listened.
She told him about the death of her husband in North Africa, and how he had been her childhood sweetheart. She told him that one of her brothers had also died in North Africa, and the other was killed in Italy. She told him how her remaining family, all of them, died in the Blitz. How her grandmother had not been popular with the locals, and so when she inherited the old woman’s cottage, she had apparently inherited the local grudge, as well. She told him all these things, but he told her very little about himself. She knew nothing about this man, really, except that she did not want to give him up.
Usually after their lovemaking, he fell asleep first. When she eventually woke, it was almost always to find him either already gone, or up and getting dressed prior to his departure. Once, however, she woke to find herself still in his arms. He was watching her intently, his expression pensive as if he were trying to decide something. “Ron, what are you thinking?” she asked softly.
“You shouldn’t love a dead man,” he told her, and released her, rolling out of bed before she could react. At the time, she assumed he was speaking of her feelings for her late husband. Later, she was not so sure.
Shortly after that, he disappeared for a time. The troops were moved to Upottery and restricted until after D-Day, although she knew nothing of that until later, and heard nothing from him until well after D-Day, when he had shown up at her door. She had all but dragged him inside, into the bedroom, where they undressed each other frantically, fell into bed, and mated almost savagely. He never even thought about a condom; she momentarily thought about it, but for reasons she never consciously examined, she did not mention it.
It was not long after that she realized she was pregnant. She knew. She told him. He said nothing, but held her when she began to cry. He kissed her on the forehead, the first time he ever kissed her outside of the bedroom, and told her it would be all right; he would “take care of things.” Then he left, and she thought about how she had ruined it all. She spent the next few days weeping, but then to her astonishment he reappeared as if nothing had happened. He told her matter-of-factly that he received permission from his superiors to marry, and added almost as an afterthought that he had made an appointment for her with a local dressmaker, so that she could have a dress she liked for the wedding. She *really* cried then, flinging herself into his arms. He embraced her and stroked her cheek in a rare show of tenderness, and for the first time, she thought she saw something soft in his dark eyes when he looked at her.
The night they were married, when they finished making love, he did not caress her briefly and then turn away and fall asleep as he usually did. For the first time, they slept together spoon-fashion, and as they cuddled up together, his hand rested gently over her abdomen, as if protecting it, and her. She knew then that everything was indeed all right, or at least as all right as it ever could be in this world.
After the wedding, their lives were still much the same as they had been before. She lived in the cottage, and he came to see her when he could. More than ever before, he brought gifts of food, particularly eggs, fresh vegetables, and fresh fruit, at least some of which he must have procured from the black market. He did not say, and she did not ask. He often insisted on watching her eat the food, although he very seldom ate any himself, and he would glance sometimes at her lightly-swelling abdomen. They discussed names for the child, but otherwise he did not mention the pregnancy, although he listened to her whenever she wanted to talk about it. They decided on “Robert” for a boy, “Roberta” for a girl.
Then he was sent back to the continent again, returned to battle. He seemed less worried than she. She wrote to him every day; he wrote seldom, but she assumed that he wrote when he could. His letters were not romantic, not passionate, but neither were they dull or indifferent. He never mentioned what he saw, or what he did. His letters were full of admonishments to her to eat properly, get enough rest, to take care of herself. He wrote dispassionately about how she should go about collecting widow’s benefits if he died, apparently quite oblivious to the effect his words would have upon her. He received medals, including a Silver Star, but would never tell her how he came to earn them. She learned of his reassignment as the new C.O. of Easy Company only because it entailed a change in his mailing address, and he mentioned his promotion to captain only because of the raise in salary that it brought. He promised to send her more money, and did so. Most of all, he sent her things, many things, as frequently as he could: expensive goods that he looted as, like a conqueror of old, he battled his way through the countries of Europe. He seemed almost frantic to send back valuable things. Was this because he wanted to be rich? Or because he wanted her and the baby to be provided for, particularly if he did not return? Was this his way of showing love?
Days became weeks, weeks became months. Her belly swelled with his child. She hoped desperately that the baby she could feel moving within her would know his father. When in due time she gave birth to their son, she wished more fiercely than ever before for Ronald Speirs to be safe, to come home to her and to their baby. Even though she had stopped believing in God after the Blitz, even though she had not prayed since childhood, she now prayed daily. “Please, God, keep my husband safe. Please bring him safely back to me.”
As is so often the case, her prayers were answered, but not in any way she had foreseen. One day there was a knock at the door of the cottage. She flew to answer it, feeling irrationally certain that it must be him, coming back to her.
And it was her husband. The first one. He was not dead; all this time, he had been a prisoner of war. He had been liberated at last. He was surprised, but not shocked, at the revelation that she had remarried in his absence. He was not angered nor even very upset at the presence of another man’s child in the house. While he was not pleased, he was philosophical about it. These things happened. He took up residence with her in the cottage as if nothing had happened, taking it for granted that he was within his rights to do so. After all he had been through she had not the heart to make him believe otherwise, or to send him away. Besides, she was not certain she should tell him to go. She loved him, too, and his survival meant that her marriage to Ronald Speirs was invalid.
She did not tell Ron. She knew that she should, but she could not. Not now. Not when the War was so close to the end, when telling him something like this might make him careless, cause him to do something foolish. Not, she admitted to herself, when the longer she put off telling him, the longer she could pretend she was still married to him. Then he would still come back to her, and she would see him again.
So when the knock came on her door, she should have been prepared for it. But she wasn’t. It was early in the morning; she had just fed the baby and was beginning to prepare breakfast when the knock came. She went to answer it.
It was Ronald Speirs. Her Ron, so handsome in his uniform. Smiling, holding out his arms to her—
“Who is it?” Her husband came out of the bedroom, knotting the belt of his bathrobe around his waist. Ron’s expression froze; for just a moment, she was very glad that U.S. Army officers did not carry firearms when off duty.
“Ron,” she began, as her husband said simultaneously; “Oh, you must be the Yank my wife married. Well, come on in, sit down, and we’ll get this sorted out, eh?”
Speirs turned on his heel and marched away more rapidly than she would have believed possible, leaving her first husband staring after him. “Ron!” she screamed, and started to follow, but her first husband took hold of her shoulders, shaking his head.
“He’s too upset now, love. There’s no reasoning with him. We can see him later, or you can, and explain things to him.”
But she could not, for he would not see her. He returned almost immediately to the continent and to Easy Company. In the end, she wrote him a long letter, explaining matters as best she could, assuring him that she loved him and always had. He did not respond. He never came for any of the loot he sent to her, so she and her first husband kept it. Speirs never came to see her again, although he sent money for the support of their son. When the boy, Robert, was old enough, Speirs wrote letters to him. But only to his son: never to her. When Robert reached the age to be sent off to school, his father did sometimes visit him there, although infrequently, as Speirs made a career of the Army. She sometimes suspected that he had accepted, or perhaps even requested, the post of governor of Spandau Prison so that he would have at least the occasional opportunity to come to England and visit Robert at the latter’s school. But he never visited her, never had any contact with her ever again, save through their son.
And sometimes she wept, remembering the look on his face that day. Knowing that this man, whom everyone else regarded as being so fearsome, so cold, hard, and ruthless, did indeed have a heart, and that she, however unintentionally, had broken it.