You can never go back – isn’t that what they say?” Angus closed his eyes, remembering those days on the farm in Austria. He could hardly believe it was over sixty years ago. Where had the time gone?
His granddaughter watched him. "But Granddad, you were always talking about it when I was little. I know you were officially a prisoner but the farmer treated you well.”
“Like one of the family,” murmured Angus wistfully. “But he was getting on even then, Jess. He must have died years ago.”
“I realize that,” she persisted. “But what about the children? They were only teenagers like you. They might still live in the village.”
Angus smiled. “Lisa and Karl? Don’t know what happened to them. When I was repatriated I meant to write, I really did. But things were so difficult here and I lost touch. And then later on, I met your mother.”
“You never forgot them though, did you?”
He shook his head. “They meant a lot to me. I’m not sure I’d have got through it all without them. I was only a kid and it was a terrifying experience – getting captured, I mean. ‘Course once the Germans realized I was off a farm, they put me to work on the land. Most of the local lads were in the forces, so the British POWs were a godsend to the farmers.”
“Come on holiday with us,” urged Jess. “Paul and I would love to see where you spent those years. And maybe we’ll be able to track down Lisa or Karl. What do you say, Granddad?”
He sighed. “I don’t know, love. Perhaps they’re right. Maybe you shouldn’t go back.” But that night in front of the fire, he began to think about those days…
Angus watched the young Austrian girl collecting the eggs. She fascinated him. Not that he was exactly a man of the world. Back on the farm, his dad always had some job or other lined up and he didn’t have time for girls. It was a sadness to him.
“Guten Morgen,” said the girl, her long fair hair tied back with a blue ribbon. “I’m Lisa. My father owns this farm.”
“You speak English?” said Angus, surprised.
“My mother was English.”
He wasn’t sure what that meant. “Was?”
“She died when I was ten.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” he started, but she shook her head.
“What about you? What are you called?”
“Angus.” He wished he had more experience. This girl was beautiful but he couldn’t think of a single clever remark.
“How old are you?” she continued, apparently unaware of his problem.
“Eighteen.” He had to come up with more than one word answers. He felt such a fool. "You’re very pretty,” he said brusquely. He felt his cheeks begin to colour and he turned away.
“You’re not so bad yourself,” giggled Lisa, as she ran back into the kitchen.
“Father said you must have your meals in the house with us,” said Karl, helping Angus get the calf on its feet. “It’s stupid bringing them out to the barn. And it’s getting cold too,” he added.
“That’s nice of him,” replied Angus. “The food’s much better here than in the camp.”
“The lad who was here last year used to complain about that.”
Angus looked up. “I thought I was the first POW you’d had.”
Karl shook his head. “But he wasn’t anything like as good as you. The sheep ran a mile when they saw him with the clippers…”
Angus laughed. “I would be in terrible trouble with Dad if everything wasn’t done just right. He’s a real stickler that way.” He glanced across at Karl. “Your dad’s all right, isn’t he? He’s been real good with me, considering I’m a POW an´ all.”
Karl smiled. “We’re lucky. Since mother died, he’s taken good care of us. I don’t just mean physically. He was always there when we were upset about anything. And now I think he’s trying to do the same for you.”
“I wish my dad was more like him,” murmured Angus. “I really like your family.”
“Does that include Lisa?” asked Karl, his eyes twinkling.
But Angus turned away. Why did he always have to blush like that? It was humiliating.
Karl grinned. “It’s all right, Angus. She likes you too.”
“So what happened, Granddad?” asked Jessica, turning round in the car. They were driving through spectacular scenery. The peaks were still touched with snow and the ice glistened in the sun. Jessica hardly noticed. This was too important to her.
Angus chuckled. “Not a lot really. Don’t forget times were different then. A young lad could hold hands with a lass and even steal a kiss or two. But that was it.”
Jess sighed. “But you thought a lot of her?”
He nodded. “Aye, I did. But eventually I got sent back to England and then Dad took ill almost immediately. I had to look after him and try to keep the farm going all at the same time. I didn’t have a chance to think about anything else. Things got easier with time – but then it was too late. I reckoned Lisa would have got herself married. Then I met your mother and we had a very happy fifty years together,” he added meaningfully.
“I know that, Granddad, don’t worry,” said Jess. “But it would be nice if we could track her down, wouldn’t it?”
He smiled. “It’d be grand, love, but don’t build your hopes up. It was a long time ago and anything could have happened.”
“I suppose so,” agreed Jessica. She stared out of the window, trying to imagine him as a young boy working in these fields. Before the war, he’d hardly been away from the village. He must have been terrified. And yet she knew he’d been happy here.
“Hey, this is the lane that led to the farm. I’m sure it is,” called Angus, peering out. “How did you know where to find it?”
Jessica glanced at Paul and he smiled.
“Jess hasn’t been completely honest with you, Angus. There’s something she neglected to mention.”
Angus frowned. What was he talking about?
“Just wait a minute, Granddad. From the directions in the letter, we should be almost there.”
She smiled and for a moment she looked like a child again. The little girl who knit him a woolly hat but couldn’t wait until his birthday to present it.
Before she had a chance to explain, Paul slowed in front of the old Tyrolean chalet. Angus stared in amazement. The house was exactly as he remembered it. Nothing had changed – except perhaps for the two elderly people standing in the doorway. He couldn’t make out their faces. And he hardly dared ask the question.
“These people,” he whispered. “Are they new folks? Or do Lisa and Karl still live here?”
Jessica took his hand. “It’s them, Granddad. And they can’t wait to see you again after all this time. It seems you meant an awful lot to them too.”
Angus grabbed the door handle and struggled out of the car. “Is it really you?” asked Angus, his eyes filling. “Karl? Lisa?”
The tall man nodded and reached out his hand. “It’s very good to see you again, Angus.”
Angus grasped his hand and held it between his. He could still see the young Karl in those smiling blue eyes. “You haven’t changed a bit, Karl.”
The other man laughed. “Oh yes, I have. I’m old and I look it. We couldn’t throw calves and sheep around so easily these days, my friend.”
Angus grinned. “My back would complain and that’s a fact.” He turned to look at Lisa and his voice softened. “But you’re still the same, Lisa. I’d have known you anywhere.”
She smiled. “You have a much better way with words nowadays, Angus. I was expecting you to blush when you saw me.”
He burst out laughing and hugged her. “Lisa, I’m sorry I didn’t write. So much happened when I got home…”
But she interrupted him. “None of that matters, Angus. I’ve had a good life and from what Jessica tells me, you have too. The only thing that matters is that we’re all together now. We’ll have a chance to catch up – and become friends again.”
“Did you say Jessica?” said Angus.
“Yes?” answered his granddaughter innocently.
“You arranged all this, didn’t you?”
She grinned and the child shone through again. “The Internet’s a wonderful thing. I finally managed to get in touch with Lisa three months ago. You have no idea how hard it’s been for me to keep it a secret.”
“I’ll second that,” concurred Paul, obviously having suffered.
“Let’s go inside,” said Karl. “Naturally you’ll be staying here with us.”
“Unless you’d prefer to eat out in the barn for old times?” asked Lisa.
Angus grinned and hugged her again. Folks were wrong. Sometimes it really was good to go back…