(1940-02-04) Mum's the Word Part II
Details for Mum's the Word Part II
Summary: Faulkner finishes the task he began several months earlier in trying to help Rena locate her mother's grave.
Date: 1940/02/04
Location: St. Peter's, London Docks
Related: Mum's the Word

After some delay, Faulkner has received the information he requested from the General Registry Office about Irene's mother. So, the day brings them by one of London's big red buses back to her old neighborhood, and to within a short walk of their eventual destination, "The only Church of England Parish covering this area is St. Peter's London Docks…" Faulkner says, as they walk along, his hands in his overcoat pockets with his elbow out for Irene to walk along with him.

The weather is cold and clear - perhaps not as cold as it might be outside of London, but there is a chill in the wind, none the less. Shivering a little, Irene clings close to Faulkner as they walk. She has mixed feelings about their sojourn… gratitude, uncertainty, anxiousness, hopefulness, she just isn't sure how she feels at all.
This part of the city is familiar to her, and yet, for some reason it feels slightly foreign today. "Birdie," Irene says at length, "Is it strange that I feel so nervous? I don't even know what about."

"No, it's not strange. This is something you've been wondering about. It won't be the same as if you actually got to know her, but… well, it will be nice to know, won't it? Where she is?" Faulkner pulls his hand from his pocket so he can reach over and pat hers reassuringly as they continue to walk through the East End's crowded streets. "Take a deep breath. You've been on stage, you know how to handle it, right?"

Faulkner's remark causes the young woman to realize that she hasn't really been breathing properly for the last few minutes. It's that tight, anxious feeling one gets inside that causes you to breathe only into the top part of your lungs. His mention of her experience on stage being able to help causes her to smile wryly at herself. "It's a bit like stage fright, come to think of it. I bet you don't think I ever feel it - but I do. I've often 'ad the whole works, butterflies in the stomach included." Pausing, Irene chuckles and looks down at the ground: "I also tend to ramble on when I'm nervous." As though he couldn't tell.
"She were on stage too, you know. Before she 'ad me, I mean." She says after a moment. "I can't remember if I ever mentioned that before. Went further than I ever did. Even made featured singer." Clearly, this is something she feels proud of, although most people in the higher walks of life would probably look down on such an accomplishment.

"I hadn't noticed." Faulkner says, deliberately looking across the street and away from her as if to drive home that he's being teasing. Because he's certainly heard her start to ramble. The church is only down the block now, and so he continues on the way. He looks at Irene again, and says, "Oh, I didn't know your mother was a singer. I guess we know where you get it from, then. And it makes sense, with your father being on stage. It's in your blood, hrm?"

Irene glances up at Faulkner, quirking one eyebrow and giving him a look. Of course she knows that he's teasing - and she doesn't mind. "I suppose it is - in my blood, I mean." She says at length. "What little I know about my dad's side of the family says the Lees 'ave been on stage or performing in public for a very long time." How the daughter of Irish immigrants came to be involved with a trooper and got onto stage herself is something she doesn't know. That may always be a mystery.
"Sometimes, I wonder why I ever left. Maybe I'd be better off if I'd just… stayed where I belonged." Irene says thoughtfully as they walk on. "I mean, just listen to me talk and you know I belong on the East End with the lower classes." Another troubling aspect of her personality beyond her incessant worrying is the fact that she holds fast to belief that she belongs on the other side of the proverbial tracks from Faulkner.

"Oh, nonsense." Faulkner says, firmly, "Yes, it's true. How you talk and act marks you in our society. But those are skills, just like how to use a gun, or fly a plane, or drive a car. What separates the classes is the opportunity to learn those things. You know, you'd hardly be the first girl from the East End to wind up marrying some 'toff 'o a propah gent 'e ois'." Birdie takes them down to the crosswalk and then proceeds to the other side of the street - he's the jaywalking type, but Irene is in heels, as usual, and making her run between cars isn't his idea of daily excitement.

Shoot a gun, fly a plane, drive a car… "And 'ere I've done all three!" Irene responds rather brightly. Upon reflection, she's done some pretty remarkable things in the last year, alone. Of course, she didn't do a proper job of flying a plane. There was a good deal of hand-holding from Teacher involved; but still, it was one of the most thrilling things she's ever done.
"You're not a toff!" the little redhead objects to this description of Faulkner as they cross the street. "Propah gent, you may be, but you ain't a… aren't a toff." She blushes and corrects herself quickly, recalling the lesson that- 'Ain't ain't in the dictionary, so it ain't a proper word.'
"I know I'm not the first, either. Kitty landed 'erself a right 'ighbrow, she did - now 'e were a propah toff. I'm sure wherever she is, she's probably still rolling in it." This offhand remark undoubtedly makes sense to Irene, but poor Faulkner probably hasn't a clue who she's talking about.

"I think I'd have problems introducing my family to someone named 'Kitty' unless it's a nickname. Which, you will no doubt be unsurprised to learn, those finishing school types have in great multitude." Well, I mean, he's Birdie, and he's never said what his school chums call him, so he's got a few nicknames, too. "Irene Lee, on the other hand, is a perfectly reasonable name." He gives her a little wink as they make it to the pavement on the other side and head towards the rather unprepossessing church. "Well… I doubt this is Wren's work…" Faulkner says, looking up at the enormous cross over the door of what looks like a block of low-rent flats.

"Sure, but Katherine ain't the best 'andle to go by on stage if you're a fan dancer." Irene replies smartly, not even skipping a beat. Most society people would probably stumble at such a declaration, but fortunately, Faulkner is not easily fazed by these things. "Kitty suited 'er better. Me on the other 'and, I've never seemed right as anything but Rena or Irene. I'm too plain."
The young woman's dark eyes pass over their surroundings calmly. It's all very familiar to her. In fact, this is a fair bit better than some of the areas in which she lived as a child. "People wonder why I love the parks so much. They were the only flowers and greenery I ever saw as a kid - if I were lucky enough to go there." Pausing, she smiles faintly to herself, remembering: "The only other flowers were the ones that showed up for ladies back stage after hours." What a strange childhood she must have had.

"It's a very nice name, Katherine. Not as good as Irene, of course." Faulkner says, teasingly, then stops just outside the church, turns to face her, and gives her a light kiss on the cheek, "I'm here with you, dear. Don't worry." He curls his lip slightly, and says, "So do I need to bring you flowers more often?" A beat, "That's a loaded question, I suppose. No man has ever been told to bring home flowers less often."

"Flowers - every single day - and without fail!" Irene answers, trying to look as convincing as possible. As if she could ever be so demanding. It takes so very little to make her happy when it comes to such things. "You know I'm teasing." She adds, softening her expression immediately. "I like that I never know when you take it in your mind to give me flowers. It makes the surprise so much better."
Turning to gaze up at the full height and breadth of the church, Irene bites her lower lip. Despite his reassurances, she can't help but feel unnerved - and just a little sick inside, truth be told. "It's been such a long time since I've been inside of a church… I feel badly about that." She remarks quietly. "As if I didn't 'ave enough to feel nervous about. Well… nothing for it, as they say."

"Yes, well, I doubt you'll burst into flames or anything." Faulkner says, "Though in my case, I think the old saying is that there are no atheists in foxholes. Or cockpits, as the situation may be for me." He puts his hand gently in the small of her back and urges her on, opening the door for her before they walk into the church, heading back towards the door leading off into the churchyard.

A nervous little laugh escapes, but Irene quickly sobers down. Really, she oughtn't laugh about such things. But still, despite being a "witch," she's never fallen into the category of enlightened witches who don't believe in religion. She's simply fallen out of practice of going.
Once they are inside, the young woman's steps falter, and she seems to feel incredibly small… almost like a child again, looking around herself in a frightened way. Hanging back, she seizes Faulkner's hand for reassurance and hangs very close to him, now. "I'm afraid I'll be spending a lot of time thinking of you and praying for your safety in the future." She murmurs softly. It's so good to be with him when he has time for her here on the ground; but the rest of the time, if things get worse… It hardly bears thinking.

"We all have to make our sacrifices for King and Country, Irene, darling." Faulkner says, turning and putting his arm around her slim shoulders, "You've known that from the moment you met me - longer, since you knew Guy and the others. Even if we were totally at peace, there would still be a chance of things going wrong. Pray, I hope it helps, and I could use all the good luck the man upstairs can give me, but please try not to dwell on it. Besides, I'll be too busy worrying about whether you're safe." He starts to lead her towards the churchyard door, and the target they are seeking outside. "Ready?" he asks.

Birdie is right. She has known for a very long time that things happen when men go up in those planes. They're marvelous machines, but frightening at the same time. So much can go so very wrong, and with so little time to react. "I'll try," Irene answers quietly. Worrying is one of the things she does best, though. "You'd better not be worrying about me when you're up there in the sky, though," she admonishes him. "Keep your mind on staying up there and landing safely. That's all that matters."
Again, the young woman's footstep falters slightly, and she pauses just long enough to swallow some of the butterflies plaguing her insides just now. "I'm as ready as I'll ever be." She answers, giving a tiny nod. Is she really ready for this? So many years of not knowing; so many years of uncertainty, all rolled into one big moment that makes a person feel small.

He smiles reassuringly, and then opens the door outside to the small churchyard. Finding out that her mother was buried here wasn't all that much trouble. Waiting for the Registry to get back to him and then a quick ring to the Rectory. But, of course, it might as well be magic to Irene, who hasn't had to worry about such things. The door shuts, and they are in the snowy churchyard filled with its headstones. He worries his lower lip, and says, "We may have to poke around a bit. I think it's in this general area over here." He points to a distant part of the churchyard - relatively distant, it's not that big.

Churchyards are somber places to begin with; but, what with the wintery weather, the place seems even colder and more eerily quiet than it normally would be. Already pensive about the whole thing, Irene's gaze sweeps uncertainly over the vast array of time-stained headstones. Her eyes sting and smart with the tears she's trying to hold back, and she sniffs a little: "Didn't really strike me till now, Birdie," she says sadly. "I don't like to think of 'er being left 'ere without anybody to care or look after the place, or to visit for all these years." She feels so guilty all of a sudden that she could just kick herself. "Oh, why didn't I try to look for her before? What kind of a daughter am I…"

"You didn't know where or how to look. It's not your fault, Irene." Faulkner is always chiding her not to be so hard on herself about everything - even things that aren't her fault. But he doesn't know, perhaps because the importance of the moment is evident to him and he thinks Irene needs to work it out on her own. He stops and brushes snow off some of the headstones with his gloved hand.

What Faulkner says is very true. Irene didn't have a clue where to begin looking for her mother; she didn't even know the woman's full name or where her family came from until he helped her to find the information. It's just so much easier to blame herself than to throw more anger in the direction of the one person who is responsible for her lack of knowledge.
For a time, they move in somewhat opposing directions through the hinder part of the churchyard, and Irene stays very quiet. A lot of things are going through her mind, and she doesn't feel inclined to speak as she too clears snow from the headstones. Although she doesn't find the name she is looking for immediately, she is careful and reverent about what she does.
Beginning to feel discouraged, Irene sighs and moves to a partially sheltered corner of the yard. Something appears to catch her eye on one of the graves - a bouquet of roses. They aren't in the best of shape and must have been there for a day or so. Looking up at the writing on the headstone, Irene draws a sharp, surprised breath: "Birdie! I… I found it. It's right 'ere."

Faulkner heads over in Irene's direction, removing his peaked cap and tucking it respectfully under his arm. His hand comes to rest on her shoulder as he stands next to her, "Roses?" he asks, looking at her, "Who did that?" It has to be her father, right? There isn't anyone else. Or is there? He knows so little of her family, really, having never met them

For a long, heavy moment, Irene forgets to breathe again. She just stands there, looking down on the grave of Cassandra Lee. It takes time for her to slip out of her reverie and lift her gaze to Faulkner. He's such a gentleman, taking off his cap in the presence of her mother's grave.
She raises her hand and lays it atop his on her shoulder, giving it a small squeeze. "I… I suppose it must be Dad." She murmurs, thoughtfully. "It couldn't be anyone else, surely. And if it was…" The thought is incomplete. She would rather not think about her troubles with him just now.
Leaning down slowly, she reaches out with her hand and lovingly traces the letters carved into the ice cold stone. Blinking back the tears again, Irene struggles to find the words she wants and needs so desperately to say. When at last they come, they must surely sound trivial. "M-mother… Mum, it's me. Irene. I… I know you aren't really there… maybe you can 'ear me anyway." At least, she hopes.

What is there to say at a moment like this? Irene, after all, was named in honor of her mother, and Faulkner loves her, so he's glad to be here. But this is a rather personal moment, and so he merely settles for being a supportive presence. His thoughts probably can boil down to 'I should have brought flowers'.

It helps to have Faulkner there beside her. His being there - his having made this possible - it means the world to Irene right now. She can't even believe that she's finally here. The whole world just seems to be standing still, and everything around the pair is very hushed.
"I wish I'd known you." She says after a moment, gradually losing her fight against the tears. "I know you do too. You'd 'ave never gone away if you could 'elp it. I never 'eld it against you - I hope you know that." She goes on, words beginning to come more easily. "A-and… I always loved you, even though you weren't there. Always tried to make you proud… but… Oh, mother, I wish I'd had a chance to know you!"
A sudden sob seizes her, and she buries her face in her hands. Turning aside, she leans against Faulkner, just needing very badly to be held.

Faulkner still isn't saying much, but as Irene (again? They are making a habit of this.) turns to him crying, Birdie wraps his arms around her and pulls her against his shoulder to let her cry, his hand stroking the back of her hair soothingly. "She knows, Irene. Wherever she is, she has seen all that you've become. Remember, you've done more with your life in the time you've had than most people ever will."

Poor Faulkner. Will there ever be a time when Irene doesn't have a reason to cry? It doesn't look likely, times being what they are.
For a while, the young woman just clings to him, letting out the torrent of tears and pent-up emotions that have been held back for what feels like forever. His words comfort her, though. The thought that somehow, Mum must know how much she is loved and missed by her little girl causes the tears to slow. Eventually, the storm tapers off, and Irene begins to recover some of her composure.
Looking down on the grave again, she sniffs and offers a faint smile: "Oh, mum - th-this is Flight Leftenant Charles Faulkner." It may seem silly to offer introductions like this, but somehow, it seems right to her. "He's an awfully good and kind man - a real gentleman. I think you'd be proud to know 'im. I could've never found you if it weren't for Charles… And the fact is, I love him very, very much." Here, she pauses and looks up at Birdie with a gentle smile.

Faulkner nods as she slowly pulls away from him, and holds his hat in front of him with both hands, "You'd be very proud of what your little girl has grown into." He lowers his voice into something of a stage whisper as he says, "She's very hard on herself - had a rough patch, you see, and so she doubts that she can do it. She doesn't realize that the rest of us see what a splendid person she is. But I know she'll make you proud. I think she just needs someone to have faith in her." A pause, and he says, more lightly, "We are going to have to do something about those haches, though."

Faulkner smiles as he teases his girlfriend for a moment, but then grows more serious, "She doesn't know it for sure yet, but we're going to marry, you see. Because I wouldn't want to go on without her. She has doubts about that, too, but I'm sure it will all work out in the end."

Irene falls silent and watches Faulkner, listening to him speak to her mother. Although his words make her happy, some are a little harder for her to listen to. She is terribly hard on herself, and she blames herself for everything that has gone so terribly wrong in her life over the last year. But still, the praise brings a small self-conscious smile to her lips, and a blush to her cheeks.
Dark eyes fix Faulkner when he says very clearly that he intends on marrying her for certain, and Irene's expression becomes harder to read. Pensive happiness - if there can be such a thing - might describe it best. "Charles," she says softly, "Do you really…" No, she isn't going to ask. Enough uncertainty and fear - she trusts him.
"And when the war is over," she says firmly, looking back to the grave, "Charles will go back to being a teacher instead of a pilot. See? He's got a good, steady, important job waiting for 'im when it's all done."

"Yes. And I'm looking forward to it more and more each day. So if you have any pull up there, I'd appreciate an eye being kept out. Irene is a rather extraordinary woman, you know. I'm sure, when she has more time to talk, she'll tell you all about her life. But she could use some looking after too." Faulkner finally says, then gives Irene a hug. "Do you want some time alone?"

Once again, Irene is overcome by emotion - however, at least this time she doesn't burst into tears. She seems to have a better grasp on herself now. The hug helps a great deal, of course, probably more than Faulkner knows.
Smiling contentedly, the little woman closes her eyes and lingers in the embrace for a while before finally letting go. Shaking her head a little, she answers: "You've given me the keys so that I can come back and visit any time I need. I'll come back another time, alone so I can talk… if that's alright?"

Faulkner nods, "Of course it's alright. We should find someplace warm and have something to eat before I have to head back out to Biggin Hill." He gives her a reassuring smile, "You can bring the flowers next time."

"I'd like that," Irene answers, still smiling. Before she turns to leave with Faulkner, she runs her hand lovingly over the top of the headstone, whispering: "I'll come back, Mum. I promise."
Slipping her arm through Faulkner's, she nestles up close to him as they walk. With his remark about flowers, she glances this way and that as if looking for someone who might be listening: "Well, I could've conjured some up - but I didn't think it was a good idea at the time."

She makes such a fuss over being given flowers, and she can just conjure them any time she likes? Witches - they can be infuriating at times.

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