"My dearest Doris, I dream that we pass each other daily in the street, but no longer look at our feeble frames which old age has given us in our twilight years. No more can either of us see the one-time object of our love; my blindness the result of a war wound and your cataracts the cause of your cloudy vision in old age.
In my dream , my dearest, we never speak, but I know in my heart of hearts that we never pass each other by without sensing each other's presence. There is no need to say anything as our deep feelings for one another make all manner of words wholly redundant. Instead, we just look in each other's direction and sweetly smile before we go on our way back to our lonely flats; allowing but a gentle tap of our walking sticks upon the stick of our old dancing partner as the only sound to pass between us. This walking stick tap is much more than a mere matter of courtesy from one old man to one old woman; it is a secret acknowledgement that we were once young sweethearts who planned to marry in more peaceful times.
We never did get around to getting wed Doris, but by God we loved each other with an intensity that occasionally bordered on the indecent haste of unbridled passion. I'll never forget how often we danced many a night away at the old Mecca in Bradford until the time came to run for the last bus home. And we might have danced on and on, had not the Second World War interrupted our courtship and took me away from you; placing me in the fields of Flanders amongst a squadron of frightened young men who'd never previously left the comfort of their parent's home. Before I could find my feet in the muddy, bloody trenches of a battle field on foreign soil, a round of German artillary shells shattered our future hopes. The bunker I fought in was blown to smithereens, killing half my regiment and leaving the remainder no more than part fragments of their former selves. So before we had chance to exchange too many letters of love, I was seriously wounded and left for dead without an identity tag. The War Office then posted me 'missing in action and presumed dead' and after a suitable period of mourning had passed and you'd lost the baby you were carrying, you married my old mate Billy Stevens who'd always fancied you.
But I hadn't died, Doris. It was our son who'd died; a small bairn who was buried alongside his parent's one-time dreams. I'd come back; having eventually returned from the war severely wounded and blind, but never broken. Upon hearing of your marriage to my old mate, I realised there and then that our lives and prospects had greatly altered and that our time together was now but a thing of the past. Having found myself abandonded at the altar of my affections left me with a broken heart, but discovering that you had given birth to a still-born robbed my soul of all future purpose and rocked my senses to the very core. I buckled down and tried to get on with my life the best way I could, but knew full well that our dancing days together were now well and truly over. For a number of years, I was pleased that I could no longer see the world around me. I no longer held any desire for any of its empty pleasures and had I not been brought up Roman Catholic, I would have ended my meaningless existence without second thought.
My dancing days have now long passed and can be found only in the recess of my mind as a fond rememberance of unbridled youth and the plans which we made for the future. I will never forget how it felt to hold you and how you felt in my arms as we danced around the floor. I can still smell your perfumed presence as we embraced and can still taste that last kiss you gave me as you waved me off at Keighley Railway Station. I treasure your touch and the gentle way you held my hand as the departing train unclasped our intertwined fingers. Ten seconds later, you'd left my life in a puff of steam and I never saw you again.
I'd like to think it's you my love that taps my stick each day we pass. I can still sense your shadow in my mind's eye as we danced the night away and swore eternal love. Though I know that you never forgot your old dancing partner, I hope that Billy Stevens treated you kindly as his wife and never took unmanly liberties with you during times when you just needed to be alone with your own thoughts.
I will think of you this Chrismas, my dearest Doris, as I have done every Christmas since I returned from the trenches. I vividly recall that last dance we went to at the Town Hall on that Christmas Eve before I went off to war. If you still think of me, my dearest, then the next time we pass each other in the street, tap once for 'yes', but don't bother tapping for 'no' as I would prefer to go to my grave with my memories of happier days of our past. Merry Christmas Doris. I love you lots, my darling. I always have and always will x." William Forde: December 21st, 2013.