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My mother has helped me enormously with Unravelled, the novel I plan to self-publish this summer. Although the plot is pure fiction, some of the details came from the stories she has told me about her parents and growing up during WWII.

The other day, I told her about a scene I’d written where a young New Zealander named Jack who had been training in Canada to be a pilot, leaves for England. In my story, Emily (modelled after my mother) and Ann (modelled after my grandmother) take Jack (based on a real Kiwi named Jack) to the train station.

Mom corrected me. “My mother didn’t go with me to the station, my brother did.” But in my case, I need the fictional version for other purposes. Here’s the scene:

In October, Jack finished his training and returned to Toronto for a few days leave before going overseas. On the day of departure, Ann and Emily saw him off, walking through the great hall of Union Station, heels clicking on the flecked marble floor. Jack was in uniform, a duffel bag over his right shoulder and a smaller bag in his left hand. Emily’s arm was linked with his. Once in England Jack would begin flying for real; in all likelihood, he would soon be dropping bombs on enemy targets.

The station echoed with footsteps and conversation. Loudspeakers proclaimed the departures of each train with a swoop of place names—North Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Fort William, Port Arthur, Brandon, Winnipeg—conjuring images of stations large and small, where anguished parents met polished caskets and women waved lovers good-bye, where bewildered children watched fathers in unfamiliar garb climb narrow, iron steps then lean from windows with mouths stretched in grotesque smiles.

The hall was crowded. Ann remained with Jack’s bags as he and Emily searched for information about his train to Halifax. She knew they were fond of one another; writing frequently while Jack was at flight school and spending hours together whenever he visited Toronto. She imagined they would find a quiet spot for a last embrace before joining her again.

My mother really was fond of that young Kiwi. But that story will have to wait for another day.