White Cliffs (Story by Risa Peris)

My mother used to play the song on a record when I was young. Vera Lynn. The White Cliffs of Dover. It was confusing at first because I went to a dance studio called Vera Lynn. It was owned by an elderly woman with dyed jet black hair and who carried a poodle around the studio like a suckling baby. I thought she might have been the one singing. But then I learned it was a WWII song and I knew about that war because I watched old war movies with my Dad. My Dad explained who Vera Lynn was. I loved the song. It touched me. I didn’t know why. Dad got out the Encyclopedia and showed me a picture of the white cliffs.

“But the song was written by an American, I think. There aren’t bluebirds in England. But there are in New England. Bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover. Impossible.”

The song was impossibly romantic and I was in rapture.

“I’m going to meet my husband on the white cliffs of Dover,” I told my Dad. He laughed.

“Okay, sweetheart.”

Thirty-three years later I was standing on the actual cliffs. In Dover. The light changed so fast with clouds scudding across the sky. The wind was brisk. It was a chilly day. There wasn’t really anyone on the top except two painters and they didn’t notice me and when I looked at them I realized I didn’t want them as a husband.
I had coffee later in a little cafe. I was near tears. I had always thought the magic moment would happen on the cliffs. I sipped my coffee. Well, the trip wasn’t a waste. At least, I saw the white cliffs.

“Could you lend me your sugar? My table seems lacking.” A man, with pale red hair, was looking down at me. He looked about my age. He was very tweedy. I pushed the sugar to him.

“Take it.”

“Many thanks.” He had a posh English accent. He went to his table that was across from me.

“Have you been to the top?” I asked.

“Oh yes,” he said. “Just an hour ago. But my shoestring split so I had to leave and find a shop.”

“I must have just missed you,” I said. The man smiled widely.

“I came here…because of the song. You know…”

The man laughed. “That’s why I came here. Usually, I never stop in Dover. I take the train from London to Paris all the time but today I decided to roam the cliffs. My Dad used to play the song all the time.”

“My mother did…” My heart was beating a little faster.

“Care to join me for tea?” he asked.

“Why not?”

I moved my purse and coffee to his table. And then we talked. I don’t know if it was love at first sight but we went to London together and talked some more. I felt less lonely in the world. Thank you, Vera Lynn.


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