Roman and Ella series
Meggy, the original and still chief troublemaker of the Harris clan has been feeling overlooked recently. Determined to make her own path in life she takes off after completing her HSC and decides to enlist in the Army. Only one problem with her plan, she didn’t tell anyone! After finally tracking her down Roman and Ella confront their daughter in not the most ideal circumstances.
Megan Hope Harris stood at the large industrial sink her hands plunging into the hot soapy water inside it. She was washing her millionth plate and was starting to seriously reconsider her choices in life that had brought her to this moment.
Rubbing her cheek against her shoulder to shift the tendril of hair that had escaped from the bun she’d pinned it in at the back of her head she looked up, her eyes picking out the details on the white industrial mass produced tiles stuck to the wall in front of her. It was such a change to back home and she had to suck in a sharp breath at the pang of homesickness that washed through her. Home was where her brothers and sisters were, together with the always understanding support of her parents.
Not that they would get much understanding at the moment. She’d forsaken the name ‘Harris’, instead adopting her mother’s maiden name to cover up her connection with her infamous father. The song in her IPod changed distracting her enough that she paid attention to another girl rushing into the stark utilitarian kitchen to stand near her.
Pulling out one of the ear buds and looked over at her and waited. This was bound not to be good news and she had the feeling she knew why.
“They want to see you in the office,” the girl announced breathlessly.
“I didn’t run all this way for nothing,” the girl pouted her blue eyes meeting with her own.
Meggy eased up straighter and pouted herself before grabbing a tea towel and carefully drying her hands. She straightened her clothes, rolling down the sleeves and making sure that her ipod was neatly stored away in the pocket on the side of her trousers.
“Guess you are taking over from me,” she said with a grin gesturing to the pile of washing up remaining.
“What …no…” the other girl groaned.
Meggy grinned again feeling a bit mean that she’d enjoyed that before fatefully spinning on her heel and heading out the door and along the long corridor. As the sound of her footsteps echoed around the walls she could feel her heart beginning to pound inside her chest as she got closer to the main office. Lifting first one foot she rubbed it against the back of her opposite leg before repeating the action with her other foot performing a quick improvised shine of her boots. She did another check of her uniform before she was ready to knock on the door.
Her hand remained poised when she stopped and listened. Angry voices were coming from inside, one of them was her mother. Bloody hell, she thought with a groan. Sucking it in, whatever ‘it’ was, she knocked once before hearing the single word command of ‘enter’ from the other side of the door.
“You wanted to see me Sir,” she murmured saluting the man behind the desk feeling all eyes on her. She straightened up even more as she waited for the salute to be returned.
This was only the second time she’d been in his office, the first being the official greeting that he’d given her squad and now this. As before her eyes flicked around taking note of her surroundings, large wooden desk and office chair, two chairs in front of it, where her parents were now seated and the back wall taken up with book shelves. The paraphernalia on them was impressive, from military history books to awards and commendations. The view from his window was on the courtyard that 1st year cadets were not allowed to use.
“At ease,” her CO murmured.
Removing her beret she tucked it away before she assumed the ‘at ease’ position, arms clasped behind her back and her feet slightly (shoulder width) apart. Then she waited for someone to speak first, either the CO or in all likelihood her mother.
“Meggy,” her mother began.
She caught sight of her Mum leaning forward as though to reach towards her only for her father to place his hand on her arm to urge her to show restraint.
“Now then your parents are under the impression that you have joined the army under false pretences,” the CO murmured.
“I’m 16 and six months,” she began her explanation even though she hadn’t been given permission to talk. Biting on her bottom lip anxiously she cast a look at her parents before continuing. “Sir my birth certificate is on record.”
“Officer Cadet in addition to the required birth certificate permission has to be given from your parent or guardian. I can’t stress enough the penalty for joining under false pretences.”
“Sir,” Meggy froze and cast an anxious look at her parents.
“We didn’t sign for you to join up Meggy,” her mother gasped out giving her a reproachful look. “You know I wouldn’t have… not the army, not for you.”
“Is this true Officer Cadet?”
“Sir,” Meggy silently groaned and then looked at her Dad in silent appeal.
“I signed,” Roman said slowly returning her look.
Her mother gasped, “Roman… what…”
“My father signed my papers Sir,” Meggy said quickly her eyes meeting her fathers in silent appeal.
Although she hadn’t known the CO long she could bet that now she was in for it. How could her mother create a scene like this? It was okay for Mike and Georgie to join up but not her? Huh!
Just at that moment a knock sounded on the door and the CO’s adjunct walked quickly in carrying what she suspected was her personnel file. Her CO began to go through it before reaching the parental authorisation paperwork. He glanced down at the signature block before passing it over to her father.
“Is this your signature?”
Meggy was forced to stand there and watch as first her father glanced at her mother and then back at the CO.
“It is,” he confirmed giving her a look.
“Let me see,” Ella muttered grabbing at the page.
Her mother looked at the signature block and then in turn she looked at her father and then at her. “Megan Hope Harris is this really what you want? Why do you think we wouldn’t have supported you?”
The hurt tones in her mother’s voice made her suck in a sharp breath but other than that she remained silent and looked to her CO, as though asking permission to answer. He gave a minute inclination of his head and she took that for permission.
“I want to join the SAS like my brothers,” she announced.
Her CO’s head shot up and he gave her an assessing look before looking over to her parents.
“Mum, Dad,” Meggy began, “You need to stop running my life. I told you I didn’t want to go to Uni but you pushed and pushed. The army is good enough for Mike and Georgie,” she sucked in another breath as she remembered all the arguments about her attending University. Sophie had opted out by taking a gap year as had Sammy and maybe that was the reason her parents had put all their pressure on her to go after completing her HSC. “It was good enough for you Dad,” she added quietly.
“Would you like to explain why you have enlisted under the name Addison?” Her mother shot out with clearly upset with her.
“Because the name Harris has certain connotations with it,” she bit out. “If I’m lucky enough to get selected for the SAS, and incidentally be one of the first women in that role then I want it to be because of my merits.”
“One of those connotations would be my record I suppose?”
She flinched at the tone of voice her father used before looking down at her boots without answering him.
“Your record?” Her CO asked the question Meggy was dreading.
“I was in the SAS,” Roman confirmed his eyes on his daughter.
There was a significant pause before her CO spoke with a certain reverence in his voice. “Roman Harris.”
“Yes,” Meggy confirmed, “Sir,” she only just remembered to add.
“I see,” he muttered.
“As you can see from my file I obtained legal permission to use my mother’s maiden name, Sir.”
“Quite,” he said still seeming shocked that he was in her father’s presence.
Great, she thought, now she had something else to worry about.
“Lieutenant Roman Harris, Victoria Cross, Distinguished Service Cross, Distinguished Service Medal, Commendations and Awards for bravery. Tours in both Afghanistan and Iraq.”
“Yes Sir, he’s that Roman Harris,” Meggy muttered gritting her teeth briefly before focusing back on the matter at hand. Her own career was in jeopardy right now.
“And you think that you can top his career?”
Meggy frowned at the unexpected question, not coming from her CO but from her mother. She could tell that her Mum was unhappy with her choice but there wasn’t a lot she could do about that until they could talk in private.
“I think that I want to create my own path,” she murmured quietly.
“Ella,” her father muttered her Mum’s name.
She glanced at him then, seeing his cheeks had coloured at the mention of his career. Even twenty years after he left the SAS he was still infamous she thought with a silent groan.
“Of course I only put the two and two together on account of your recent…”
“My recent dealings with the Army over my court martial,” Roman said a note entering her father’s voice.
“Well yes,” her CO confirmed.
“Another reason for you to use your mother’s name,” her Dad was saying to her.
Looking at her Mum she bit her lip anxiously.
“I think we’ve taken up enough time. Meggy we’ll be in touch, especially now we know where you are.”
She knew she was blushing as all eyes seemed to fix on her. “I’ll call you this weekend,” she promised quickly.
“Officer Cadet I suggest that you escort your parents out before reporting to your training officer.”
Meggy nodded acknowledgment before putting on her beret and saluting her CO a second time. She turned and exited his office following her parents before leading them out of the building and over to the carpark.
“Megan Hope Addison we will be having words,” Ella promised her daughter, “And Roman Harris that was not your flipping signature,” she added in a strident voice.
“No,” Ella muttered at her. “I’m furious at you Meggy. And your father. You had so much potential and you’ve thrown it away.”
“I haven’t Mum; I want to be in the army. The SAS even.”
“Isn’t it enough that…”
“Ella that is enough. Leave her alone before you drive her even further away.” She watched as her mother seemed to sink back within herself before blinking away tears as her father moved over to her side and gave her the briefest of hugs. “We’ll expect weekly phone calls and emails.” He said before easing away and guiding her mother to the car.
She watched them go feeling the need to call back her earlier words, wanting to go home with them even but she’d made a commitment to the Army and she had to live up to it. Squaring her shoulders she watched them drive away before turning on her heel and marching quick time to go find her training officer as instructed.
Ella turned to Roman as they reached the car. She knew that her eyes had the unshed tears in from her daughter’s rejection of her, of them.
“Was that too much?”
“A little,” he said back before leaning down and pressing his lips to hers. He gave her an encouraging smile as he helped her into the car before heading around the other side and climbing behind the steering wheel. He put the keys in the ignition but didn’t start the car. Looking over in the distance she knew that he was watching a couple of cadets being put through their paces by their instructor and thinking back to his days when he’d been responsible for training his own men.
Reaching into her handbag and pulled out the piece of paper that she’d found in Meggy’s room after she left. It was a list of Roman’s signatures on where Meggy was practicing forging his name to sign it on the parental authorisation slip. She found herself tearing up all over again.
“Why did you lie?” She asked him anxiously biting on her bottom lip.
“About signing her enlistment papers you mean?”
“Yes, we could be bringing her home right now,” Ella sniffed. “Look we have the proof here.” She waved the paper with the forged signatures on.
He gave her a look, “And how did you feel each time your parents dragged you home?”
“Meggy isn’t me,” she protested.
“No, she isn’t, she’s me. She probably had this in the back of her mind for ages.”
“But she should be at Uni with her friends. She should be a kid. Not..”
“No. Bad enough that Georgie is.”
“Are you going to blame me for that too?”
Ella groaned finally recognising the strain that Roman was feeling, “No of course not and Meggy is almost our most stubborn child.” She gave a sudden grin before turning to him. “You didn’t like your record brought up.”
“I didn’t like the fact the man was in awe of my record. The only thing he didn’t mention was my confirmed kills.”
“Yes, well…” she reached out and placed her hand on his knee. “If Lily joins up we’ll be in so much trouble.”
“If Lily joins up it will only be because Marcus has and she’s stalking him.”
“Poor Marcus,” Ella said her lips twitching with amusement. “Luckily he has no idea of Lily’s feelings towards him.”
“Let’s get home we should probably check on her.”
“You mean the rest of the kids?”
“Definitely just Lily,” he said his lips twitching as she glared at him for a second before smiling.