As the sun rose above the horizon, the first BBC news accounts of the Allied invasion were broadcast across Britain. Marie anxiously huddled with her neighbors around their landlady’s radio. Someone handed her a cup of tea, but she let it grow cold without taking a single sip. One by one, the others left for work or to take care of errands, prepared to go about their daily business with rigorous emotions held in strict control.
Fear for her three brothers, for Ian and Frost, churned Marie’s heart and stomach. She didn’t know where any of them were, what dangers they might be facing. Unable to sit still any longer and tiring of the repetition of the broadcast, she headed for the city streets.
She meandered from one district to another, expecting to find throngs of worried people crowding the newspaper stands and nearby pubs. Instead, taxi drivers uncharacteristically competed for the few fares needing their services, and even the most popular restaurants entertained few diners. A calm, surreal serenity rested upon the beleaguered city.
Her wanderings took her past the fire-bombed ruins of Christ Church Greyfriars, an early casualty of Germany’s Blitz on London. The smoke-scarred stone tower rose from the rubble of the demolished church, a slain bishop in Hitler’s tyrannical chess game.
Hands clenched at her side, she stared at the centuries-old church.
She gritted her teeth, pushing back the fearful question she had never dared to ask. The early teachings of her childhood forbade it. But it refused to retreat.
Where are you, God?
Following the line of the battered tower upward, she raised her face to the dull, rainless sky. Tears coursed down her cheeks as she searched the underside of heaven for solace.
“It’s a Wren church.”
Startled, Marie stared at the man standing beside her as her breath caught in her throat.
“This time I came prepared.” Frost dabbed her eyes with an oversized cotton handkerchief, then handed it to her. “My little Sparrow. Must you always cry?”
Without saying a word, she nestled into his embrace, finding in his solid warmth a semblance of the strength she craved.
Frost held her tight for a few moments before tilting her face to his. “Your British friend, does he fight in Normandy?”
“No,” she blubbered, swiping her nose with the handkerchief. “At least, I don’t think so. I don’t know where he is.”
Frost faced the ruined church. “Eight of the Wren churches burned that night of the Blitz. And for no more reason than to fulfill a madman’s ambition.”
“What’s a Wren church?”
“Ugh,” he groaned. “What do they teach in the American schools? Sir Christopher Wren was an important architect in the 1600s. He rebuilt many of London’s churches that had been destroyed in the Great Fire, including this one. We can only hope that God sends another to rebuild what has been lost.”
“Do you think God cares?”
“I do.” He clasped her hand. “Let’s walk.”
They strolled through Paternoster Square to St. Paul’s Cathedral. Somehow the grand church with its Renaissance-style towers and Roman-inspired dome had escaped harm. A stone phoenix rising unscathed out of the ashes of destruction.
“Look at it, Marie. Surrounded by ruin and yet it stands. So proud. So defiant.”
“Yes. Like England.”
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