Thunder. Growling, rumbling sounds from above and below. Screams. My heart beating fast. Smoke. Screaming. Crying…Quiet.
I wake up frightened and it’s morning. I don’t want to go to school today. I tell Mummy I’m sick but she doesn’t believe me. She doesn’t get angry like she normally would. She comes and sits on the bed beside and strokes my hair, looking concerned.
‘Are you frightened, Eleanor?’
‘Worried then? Are you worried about going into school today?’ I nod. I am very worried about school today.
‘It’s alright. You’re safe now, darling.’ Safe? No one is safe with Caroline Charleston on the loose. Caroline Charleston is horrible.
Daddy is always going on about Jerry and Hitler and how Hitler is a crazed, power-hungry maniac. Hitler hasn’t got a patch on Caroline. She could make Hitler cry. And Jerry too. Mummy thinks I don’t want to go into school today because of the bomb yesterday. It was awful. We were all in class when suddenly the whole building shook and there was a loud noise. Then everyone was screaming and shouting and we were running outside. Mr Dennis started to cry. That was even more scary than the bomb. I never knew men cried. It made my heart beat even faster and I was nearly trampled by everyone rushing to get out. There was a horrible smell in the air, I don’t know what it was but it made me feel sick.
Once we got outside, a few of our teachers tried to herd us into some kind of order. We were told to wait in groups for a while. I stuck with Johnny. I started to cry when Mark Hudson told me we would never see our parents again. Johnny Douglas told him he was an idiot and held my hand. I’d never held Johnny’s hand before. It felt really good. After that I stopped crying and we waited. Then, later on, when mummy and daddy found me it was actually all a bit exciting, once I knew I wasn’t going to die and that we were together again. I saw lots of grown ups running up to the school playground. They were crying and screaming at the teachers, asking them where their children were. I saw one dad ask Mr Dennis about his daughter and Mr Dennis began to sob, uncontrollably and then the dad grabbed Mr Dennis by his coat collar and shook him and shook him until some of the other teachers ran over and pulled him off.
Then the dad walked away and was sick. He sunk to his knees and his whole body started to shake. I couldn’t stop staring until daddy grabbed me and pulled me away.
‘What’s wrong with him?’ I asked and daddy was about to speak but mummy gave him a glare, through big red eyes and he stopped. School was over for the day. When we got home, mummy made me hot cocoa and gave me a huge chunk of bread and real butter! We never have real butter. Even daddy asked where it came from but mummy didn’t answer. She kept wiping her eyes (she’d been crying all day) and gave me a big hug while I munched my bread. Later on, daddy sat me on his knee and read me stories before bed.
Miss Mepham, our headmistress, sent out word that evening that the school would be open the next day.
‘Keep calm and carry on.’That’s what everyone should do according to Miss Mepham. I heard mummy and daddy arguing after they put me to bed. I just heard daddy saying something about what would people think and sticking together and mummy said she didn’t care about anyone else except her family.
I got tired and began to drift off but then I suddenly remembered that I had a lesson with Caroline the next day. I felt sick and hot and cold all at once. If the school was open like Miss Mepham said, then daddy would definitely make me go and there was no escape. Caroline would get me!
The problem is you see, I ask for trouble. Like talking to Johnny. I knew Caroline would hate me talking to Johnny. Last week him and me got talking about drawing. He’s really nice is Johnny. He knows so much about art. It was funny, even though I was interested and not bored, the whole time he was talking I just kept noticing his bare knees and I kept wanting to reach out and touch one. I got hot all over and a bit dizzy so he gave me his lunch. He said it would stop me feeling dizzy. It didn’t but I thought it was the best food I had ever eaten. I really like spending time with him. He’s a bit quiet and shy but everybody likes him. Especially Caroline. I was right about her not liking me talking to him. She got really jealous when she saw Johnny hanging out with me all the time. I saw her watching from the other side of playground and she scowled the biggest scowl you’ve ever seen. I think she was hoping that looks really could kill.
She came up a few times and tried to tell Johnny to join in their game. He said he didn’t want to and that made her face so dark I almost wanted him to go with her. I’m really glad he didn’t. I paid for it later. She made Adam Hendricks punch me in the playground. Her and Adam cornered me against the wall and she said ‘Hit her,’ and I said ‘You wouldn’t dare,’ but he did. Smack in the face. Tears stung my eyes and I couldn’t believe what had happened.
Then Caroline laughed and they stalked off together. Johnny was off sick that day. When he got back he drew me a picture of Caroline’s head on a stick. It made me laugh. I hid it but Caroline saw it yesterday. Before the bomb. I found her searching through my stuff at my desk and she had the Caroline’s head on a stick drawing right in front of her. She sent me a note through Adam Hendricks later that morning. It read: I WILL GET YOU. That put the fear of God in me. When the bomb hit, at first I thought it was Caroline, until I realised it was the Germans. I hide deep under my covers and imagine ways I can stay out of harms way tomorrow in school. I wish Miss Mepham had kept the school closed. Caroline will get me today. I know she will. I wish she was dead.
Daddy walked into my bedroom and said I had to go to school. Everyone else was going. Mummy seemed really upset but daddy has the final say. He drops me off at the school gates. He doesn’t usually but today is different. It was different when we left the house too. Mummy looked strange and when I looked back after we said goodbye and I saw her covering her mouth with her hand and her face looked all crumpled and wobbly. We walk silently to school. We see a few other mums and dads taking their children too. Everyone is quiet. When we get to the gates daddy kisses the top of my head. He looks sad.
‘Nothing to fear, love. I’ll see you later.’ Nothing to fear? Has he even met Caroline? I trudge towards my fate, my eyes darting all over for a glimpse of her. There aren’t many people in school today.
At assembly Miss Mepham tells us that there will be normal lessons as usual but first she will read out the names of those who were killed or wounded. We all stand quietly. Miss Mepham starts to read. She reads and reads. There are so many names. I don’t know all of them. It was mostly the younger ones. Their classroom was on the top floor. I feel really sad when she reads out my favourite teacher’s name, Miss Turner. The list rolls on.
My heart stops. I hear Johnny gasp next to me and I look at him and he looks back but we daren’t move or speak. Miss Mepham reads on, like nothing has happened. I get hot all over, like when you’ve done something really bad but not told anyone. Caroline is dead. She is dead. I stare at the floor hard, hoping no one can see me, or is looking at me in case they know. In case someone realises how much I hated her. I had wished she was dead.
I never meant it, though.