• Vol. 08
  • Chapter 11
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A Family History in Pica

Great Grandmother Ellen wasn't the first girl in the village to lose her heart to a soldier at the training camp. But she was the first to fall pregnant and the first left behind when the trainees shipped out to Flanders. She never had a chance to tell him; within a week he lay face down, bleeding out into a muddy field.

Farmer Jenkins brushed his ginger hair, put on his best tweed suit and called at the cottage with a basket of eggs and a bunch of flowers. It was Sunday, a month after Ellen received the news. He'd noticed she was looking a bit peaky, and wouldn't a walk do her the world of good? If he knew she'd been stepping out with a soldier, he didn't mention it. If Ellen's mother thought she was a bit hasty accepting a proposal from a man twice her age, a widower with two young daughters, she didn't say.

The wedding was a joy with news from the front being so bad. A baby on the way, so soon afterwards, was more reason to celebrate. Chewing on coal was nothing unusual, all pregnant women have strange cravings. And if anyone noticed the boy was a good size for a premature baby, they put it down to good fortune and fresh air.

Edward grew into stocky lad, dark haired with eyes as black as pitch. Adored by his stepsisters, he was his father's pride and joy. By the time he was in his teens he was a competent farmer. On his twenty first birthday he took over running the farm.

Grandmother Lucy caught Edward's eye one market day. Newly arrived from London she was a flounce of ribbons and lace, an heiress expected to marry wealth. That she chose Edward over all his rivals and against her mother's wishes surprised most people; that she willingly swapped her frocks for serge skirts and dungarees shocked everyone.


A Family History in Pica

Edward knew immediately when the first of their seven children was on the way. He was a farmer and knew the signs. When she developed a craving for marshmallow he laughed, blamed it on her sweet, soft heart and ordered boxes of candy - white, pale pink, baby blue.

My mother was Lucy's third baby, their first and only daughter. Caro might have grown up spoiled by her protective brothers, but she preferred being one of the Jenkins tribe, running wild across the acres of her father's land. And wild she might have remained if a young doctor hadn’t taken over the village surgery. Who knows the magic that turns a rough and tumble kid into a beautiful woman? Or the magic that turns a committed bachelor into a suitor?

Within the year, they were married. As my mother’s belly swelled she hungered for citrus fruit: blood oranges, ruby grapefruit, bitter lemons. Pica, my father explained. Cravings. As normal as morning sickness. And when I was born he chose my name. Clementine.