Carly looked at the faded picture of her grandmother. It was still hard to believe that she was gone. Was it only a few days ago the woman was regaling a war-time story to her as if it had happened only yesterday?
She gazed long and hard at the sepia likeness of her, realizing that in her younger years her grandmother was a real 'babe'. Was she as chaste as she had always claimed she was or was it for the benefit of her grandchildren? Now that Carly was all grown up she knew that her grandma probably wasn't as innocent as she had told them.
The four women in the photo were laughing as they left the bomber in the background. How could one smile during that time, with death only a heartbeat away? In those days life was too short and too precious to pay attention to the delicate sensibilities of polite society. Any day could bring the order for battle, and their lives would once again be on the line for 'King and Country', as the English would say.
While she had never experienced it herself, Carly had heard about how wartime soldiers lived on a knife's edge, that every moment was one to be cherished and lived to the fullest in case it was their last. Imminent death had a way of putting everything into perspective, and decisions that had been difficult to make before became inconsequential.
Carly looked from woman to woman in the faded photograph, wondering about their lives. Were they going home to loved ones? To family? Or were they alone, seeking solace from one another in a local bar, or hoping to find an eager body and a warm heart for the night to help them forget the horror of war.
She turned the photo over and on the back were four names - Alice Graham, Elizabeth Walker, Grace Travis and Jennifer Davis. Grace Travis was her grandmother, she already knew that, but the other names made the faces in the photograph more personal. The women were no longer anonymous and that put them on a level above a casual glance as far as Carly was concerned.
They were sisters-in-arms to her grandmother at a time when she needed it most, and in Carly's book that made them family, albeit a temporary one. She ran her finger over the aged paper, tracing each line of her beloved grandmother. It had only been a couple of days since her death but Carly missed her like crazy. She glanced at the old metal box on the coffee table and the pile of old photographs inside still to be perused. While the photo in her hand had revealed a lot about her grandmother, Carly felt that she was about to discover a whole lot more. As she placed the photo in her hand on the table, she whispered wistfully, "Bless them all."