This article belongs to Australia - Land of the Free? column.
They arrived at about the same time. He came from the left, she from the right. They looked at each other briefly. Then he walked to her and placed his hands on her shoulders. He gazed into her eyes and took her in his arms.
She had changed. Gone was the young girl he had left two years ago. He had his arms around a woman. He had taken all this in with his first glance. She seemed so self-assured and in control as she came to him. She was still beautiful, but in a more mature way.
He had pictured this home coming many times; it was nothing like the way he had thought it would be. He imagined they would run into each other's arms, he would swing her around, and they would kiss passionately on the platform. He would feel her breasts as she pressed into him with a promise of something more. Then they would go off and get married. His excitement rose when he saw her, but fell when he saw her lack of enthusiasm.
He kissed her on the lips and she returned his kiss with control. ‘It's so good to see you again, ‘he whispered. ‘I've longed to take you in my arms.'
‘I've missed you,' she said.
‘I used you to survive Sara. When the heavy artillery and bombs rained down on us at Tobruk and El Alamein, I would crouch down in the stinking trench as this incredible noise kept us awake. I thought of you all the time. I brought your beautiful face into my mind because I wondered whether I would ever see you again.'
The train started with a large expression of steam and noisily made its way out of the station. Jim picked up his bag and placed his slouch hat on his head as they made their way to the exit.
‘How long are you home?' she asked.
‘Three weeks. When I go back, we will be training in Queensland for a while. Then I reckon it will be New Guinea.'
They walked through the station gates and made their way into town. The main street was narrow and during this time had a variety of traffic and vehicles parked in the street. The Government had rationed petrol, so there were many horse-drawn vehicles, drays, and sulkies with small and large horses pulling them. There were many horses, bicycles, and motorbikes. Cars and trucks were also meandering down the street or were parked at the curb. Some of them had weird contraptions attached to them so they could run on other than petrol. There were also convoys of Army trucks travelling to points north or back to Adelaide. Clare was on the road to Darwin. There was a passing parade of humanity through the town.
As Jim took in the atmosphere with the sounds and smells of the town he asked, ‘Are your parents living here now?'
Sara stopped and faced him. ‘No, they're still on the farm. I work at the hospital as a nurse.'
‘Do you live with other nurses?'
‘Do you live on your own?'
‘No I live with someone.'
‘Will I meet her?'
‘Yes, you'll meet him.'
‘Him!' Jim stopped and stared.
Sara smiled, ‘It's not what you think. Come on.'
She stopped at an old house and opened the door. ‘Jean, I'm home.'
A woman in her forties entered the room. ‘Now you're back, I'll get going,' she said, then left by the front door. Jim looked around quizzically as Sara entered another room.
She returned holding a little boy about eighteen months old. He was rubbing his eyes after wakening. ‘Sam wake up. There's someone I want you to meet.' She handed the toddler to Jim. He took him and cradled him in his arms. ‘Sam meet Jim. He's your father. He'll love you as much as I do.'