I find Flo’s story much more fascinating that Millie’s.
Poor Flo is betrayed in the worst possible way by her sister Martha, who is a really disagreeable woman. Her pregnancy is hidden from everybody, but one day when she thinks she is alone in the house, she is surprised by Albert, who had forgotten his wallet. He is surprised by her condition, and then he sheepishly suggests they could get married and he could look after her and the baby. His late wife died in childbirth, so he thinks he could love the child Flo is expecting, and he doesn’t even expect for their marriage to be physical in any way. Flo is moved by the gesture, but she knows that that down the road Albert could fall in love with someone else and regret the marriage, and she doesn’t want to hurt her sister Martha, who has designs on the man, so she turns down his proposal. On hindsight Flo will regret that decision as she will realise that Martha doesn’t deserve her considerations, and things will have gone easier if she had accepted Albert’s proposal.
Flo’s plan is to leave with her baby as soon as it is born. Yet, things don’t go to plan. Her mother and Martha are too worried about appearances and keeping her pregnancy hush hush. Martha swore that she had hired a midwife when the moment arrived, and the woman had promised to be discreet. Yet, the day that Flo goes into labour, it is clear that Martha has done no such thing as she is too worried about keeping her dignity. So the two sister and their mother help Flo to give birth. The pain is excruciating, and at some point Flo loses consciousness, and when she wakes up, her baby, a boy, is gone. Martha has taken him to the parents she claims she has arranged for the baby to go to. Flo is bitter and miserable, no wonder. Then as she is on a walk one day, she sees Nancy O’Maran, pushing a pram, which she leaves outside the butcher’s. Curious, Flo takes a peek at the baby inside, and she realises that this is her son. Martha gave Nancy her child, and when the woman comes out of the shop, she threatens to kill the baby if she so much thinks about taking him from her.
That day Flo swears she will never forget her sister, and she announces at home she will move out of the house. She can’t live under the same roof as Martha. A few months before she had started working for Mr Fritz. His wife wasn’t pleased, but the man persuaded her. Then Mr Fritz was arrested and sent to he Isle of Man just for being Austrian. His wife and Flo run the laundry, hiring some other women. Estelle, Mrs Fritz, is not happy as she hates life in the city for her and her eight children. When Flo tells her she wants to leave home, she offers her a flat on the basement of her house. It is a good, comfortable place as well as cheap, so Flo doesn’t hesitate to accept. When the air raids increase, Estelle decides to return to Ireland, and Flo is left to look after her house as well as the laundry.
Flo is feeling lonely, especially as she doesn’t want to return to the house where Martha is. She has finally married Albert and is expecting a child. Flo wonders what she could do to help in the war, and one night when she is out, she comes across a lonely service man, a very young lad, afraid, so she thinks what she can do to help: give these poor chaps good memories when they are fighting. So over the years she takes these young officers as lovers.
Then her mother and Albert are killed in an air raid, and she feels more lonely than ever. She goes to the funerals, but she tells Sally she will only be civil to her sister Martha, but she won’t forgive her. Then Mr Fritz returns after being released. He has been to Ireland to see his family, but Estelle and his children don’t want him in their life, so he returns to Liverpool, where she takes over his business. He and Flo become closer than before, and when after the war she agrees to go with him to some meeting with the men he was locked with during the war, they become lovers that weekend, and they decide to go away and have their passion once a month while in Liverpool they will only be friends.
As for Millie in present time she leaves James when he becomes too clingy. That is not the single reason. Tom O’Mara has become her love just as Tommy O’Mara was Flo’s. She knows that being involved with Tom is not sensible. The man is married, has two children, and is the owner of a club where everybody knows deals with drugs and gangsters. Yet, she couldn’t help herself, and she feels drawn to Tom regardless. Tom seems to feel for her the same way, but I’m not sure where this relationship will lead.
Millie has discovered a few things about Flo through the letters and documents. She discovers passionate letters in which men proposed, and she guesses that Flo didn’t lead the chaste life that her friend Bel thought. She also discovers receipts of the hotels when Flo stayed with Mr Fritz. She also sees the photo of little Hugh O’Maran with his class, and we know that Flo befriended the boy when she was free on Friday and bought the photo that his school had taken. Millie guesses that Flo could have been Tom’s father’s mother when Tom takes her to see his grandmother Nancy at a home, and Nancy, who is a confused old lady, thinks she is Flo and repeats the words she told Flo so many years ago about Martha giving him the boy and her threats to kill him if Flo took her.
Things at work are not good for Millie. One of her colleagues, Diane, who had a reputation for being unfriendly and too ambitious, goes behind her back to hurt her. The woman loses her father to cancer, and then Millie tries to help her, assuring her she could talk to her if she needed someone. Diane takes her up and turns at Flo’s flat where Millie is with Bel and Charmain. Diane tells them about her grief, and when it is time to go, she claims she doesn’t want to be alone, so Bel tells her she can stay with her, which she does. Then the next thing Millie knows, Bell calls to tell her that after days of staying with her and emptying her fridge, Diane has gone without even a note. Then her boss George comes to her, berating her for the way she has tried Diane. Millie doesn’t know what he is talking about, and apparently Diane has told him a tale about Millie getting her drunk and then Bel almost kidnapping her. The tale sounds so ridiculous that I don’t know how a grown man like George could believe something like that. From then on George is cold towards Millie, and from the conversations with Diane, it seems he and the woman has started a relationship.
One positive thing is that Millie now has a better relationship with her mother. That happens when in one of her visits her mother tells her that when Alison turns eighteen, she will be sent to Oxford. The thought of having her youngest daughter so far has pushed her to come to a decision. She is going to leave her husband, something which she admits she should have done many years ago, and she is going to move to Oxford to stay close to Alison. This hasn’t happened yet as it will months until Alison leaves, but I wonder what Norman Cameron will do when his wife tells him. We know that Norman was also abused as a child, and that is why he turned into an abusive man himself. He and Kate grew up together. Martha moved to live with Norman’s mother when her husband and mother died. It’s strange that two children who grew up together, almost like siblings, would end up married.