Dolly pushed her nose against my shoulder. Warm smells of manure and hay and horse enveloped me.
‘Go on, now,’ I said, gently pushing her back.
She sensed something was different, a wrongness that made her nod and kick the stable door.
‘All right, I know.’ I pressed my face against hers, felt the brush of her whiskery lips, soft as kid gloves.
I turned then, hefted my pack and crossed the yard, cobbles and runoff slipping under my boots.
Mother stood at the farmhouse door, arms folded, a barrier never to be crossed. I nodded and she slipped back inside without a word.
Tom paced at the crossing, tipping his cap back when he saw me. ‘For King and Country, then,’ he said.
Poppies shivered on the bank along the lane, a scarlet ribbon leading us on to adventure.
‘For King and Country,’ I said.
And to accompany the story, an apt song from the time.