Lucy and Maisie approached the house. As they walked up the path, the door was opened and another girl stood silently in the doorway.
'Gloria,' said Maisie, hastening ahead. 'This is Lucy. I met her at the church. Pastor Michael thought you might like to meet her.'
Gloria looked solemnly at the stranger. Blonde looked at blonde. Their eyes met, blue on blue and there was electricity in the air.
'Hello, Gloria,' said the strange girl, Lucy. She was tired and dirty, but she smiled bravely.
Gloria held out her hand and Lucy took it. The two girls walked into the house together and went straight into the parlour, shutting the door. Maisie went to the kitchen and put the kettle on, explaining to her mother that they had a visitor and she was with Gloria.
'Nice cup of tea will set them both right,' said Beatrice, when Maisie had finished telling her about Lucy. 'God love us, someone out there stealing babies - it's horrible!'
Lucy and Gloria were sitting close together, their blonde heads almost touching when Maisie arrived with a pot of tea and cups on a tray. The girls looked up, blue eyes tear-filled.
'She was just telling me about Stephen,' whispered Lucy.
'Lucy told me about Charlie,' whispered Gloria. They sat, hand in hand, looking at Maisie, who was starting feel a little teary herself. She pulled herself together.
'Here's a nice cup of tea for you both. Lucy, I thought I would make you up a bed in Gloria's room - how does that sound?'
'That would be nice, thank you,' replied Lucy, still keeping a firm hold on Gloria's hand.
Maisie walked back to the kitchen still stunned. Her mother was peeling potatoes and Maisie picked up a knife to help.
'You're never going to guess what I've just seen, Ma,' she said as the peel came away from the white potato. 'Gloria is talking.'
Beatrice looked at Maisie in astonishment.
'She's not!' she stammered. 'How wonderful!'
So confused was the dear mother that the peelings went into the potato pot. Both women laughed and set about fishing them out.
Meanwhile the two young girls sat in the parlour and talked long into the night. That night Gloria didn't take her medicine, and she didn't sleepwalk either. Lucy slept in a put-you-up on the floor of Gloria's room, but some way through the night she got up and quietly crept into Gloria's bed, lying with one arm around her new friend. Gloria felt the movement and turned, put her arm around Lucy and they slept like children, entwined, right through the night.
No one could explain it. The initial spark of electricity between the two bereaved young mothers seemed to have fused them together. Not only were they never apart from that moment on, but they were stronger. Gloria and Lucy became one functioning unit, speaking for each other and working side by side.
Slowly Gloria started to get her colour back. She and Lucy bathed together, Lucy washed Gloria's beautiful blonde hair and brushed it to shining dryness in the afternoon sunshine. Lucy prompted Gloria to eat, and gradually Gloria started to enjoy her meals again. When they were both stronger, they worked out in the fields with Brian, the girls and the labourers, and they both filled out and benefited from the fresh air and exercise.
James Jenkins watched the girls as they worked side by side. He was a young lad of eighteen, working the farm in preference to staffing his father's hotel in town. Tall and blond with an easy grin, James was the strong silent type and completely devoted to the Dennis family. Each of the girls held a special place in his heart, but he had yearned for Gloria since they were children together. He watched her grow, meet the stranger Mantell, fall in love and marry. He was at the church the day Gloria and Philip exchanged vows, and he raised a glass of ale to them that evening. Never once, in all their years together, did James ever give Gloria the slightest hint of his feelings. Once she met Mantell there was no right time anyway, it would have been totally improper of him to approach a betrothed or married woman. Since the marriage collapsed and Stephen's disappearance, James was equally reticent, reasoning that the poor girl had enough on her plate without one of the farm workers throwing himself at her.
Now, as he worked he marvelled at the change in Gloria since the new girl, Lucy had arrived. She had some life back in her. Brian and Beatrice said she was talking again, albeit briefly, and she was getting some of her old energy back. But Gloria now went nowhere without Lucy and Lucy was equally tied to Gloria. Nobody understood the special bond between the two girls. They had both lost babies, granted, but they met as complete strangers and bonded in an instant of electricity. Instead of crying together in corners, they were preparing to take on the world - but always together, Lucy and Gloria came as a package now.