Whistling past me onto houses, which exploded.
Smoke, mixing with the cold wind and choking me as I ran along the icy pavement.
I had to get home, I had to get home.
Vera would be sick with worry. She was only sixteen, and I was her responsibility. Nancy would be crying.
When Thomas went to help put out the fires from the explosions on the docks in September, he’d told me that the grain from the warehouses melted and that the grain stuck to their boots like treacle. They could barely walk, he’d said. I’d laughed and wished I’d been there, because to me, the bombs had seemed so distant, so unimportant back then.
But I was stupid to think that way.
Another bomb landed nearby, and I instinctively dropped to the floor and lay there as windows shattered from a nearby house. I could feel tiny shards of glass falling onto me, and into my hair. I wanted to yell, I wanted to cry, but adrenaline coursed through my veins and I knew I just had to keep running, running, running, until I reached home and then I would run into Vera’s outrstretched arms and breathe in her floral perfume and feel her light brown curls on my forehead and then, and only then, I would cry.
The air was thick now. Shells were snapping and cracking overhead.
I wasn’t thinking straight. Everything seemed blurred, filtered, as I got to my feet and broke into a run once more.
I heard a bomb whistling, closer to me this time. The ground seemed to shiver as it approached.
I thought that the bomb would land further away than it did.
I heard the explosion before anything else.
And then, along with bits of debris and shrapnel, I went flying.
My eyelids felt heavy as I opened them. I could hear the sound of lots of voices. Girls’ voices. I couldn’t hear explosions, or yells. I found myself staring at a ceiling patterned with intricate wooden leaves and flowers, painted gold and blue.
That ceiling wasn’t in our house.
And, as far as I could remember, the sky didn’t have a ceiling either.
But I was outside, wasn’t I?
Remembrance washed over me as I sat up. Vera, Nancy, running, the bomb, the…
I was in a bedroom, papered with a grey blue wallpaper and bright blue and green peacocks, and a rich oak writing desk stood beside a large window, looking out onto some green, grassy grounds lined with hedges. I was sitting on a large double bed draped with expensive looking silks and furs. This wasn’t my home. This wasn’t anywhere I knew.
Pain coursed up and down my arm, and I stared down at the bandages. Had I hurt myself?
The bomb. I must have been really hurt.
My head ached, and my leg felt very sore. I felt my forehead, and it felt damp, as if I had been feverish, and the fever was over.
Vera. Nancy. I swung my leg over the bed, wincing with pain. I had to find them. See if they were alright.
I jumped, flinching. I jerked my head in the direction of the voice, grimacing as I moved my arm. It hung limply by my side, and it hurt too much to move it.
“Don’t,” the voice said softly again.
“Who’s there? Is it Nancy?” I asked hopefully, trying to adjust my eyes towards the end of the room.
“No,” the voice replied, and I could see a small little alcove in the corner, full of cushions and a shelf of books, and a girl. She wore a floral blue dress, and she was not too tall, with tawny hair and sky blue eyes. Her skin was pale, and she had a smattering of freckles on her nose. She began to walk towards me, and I realised she had a slight limp. She could tell I had noticed it, because she smiled and said, “I don’t need crutches though. Not anymore.”
She was timid as she approached me, and I almost forgot how much my arm hurt and my leg and head ached, while I looked at her. She was so slight, so calm.
“My name is Beatrice. You can call me Beatle, because that’s what the others call me.”
“Are we in London?” I demanded thickly.
Beatle stared at me, her sky blue eyes wide, as if trying to think of something to say.
“You’re - you’re in Wales.”
She’s lying. “No, I’m not,” I said loudly.
I’m in London. “I can’t be,” I yelled. “You’re lying!”
“I’m not,” Beatle whispered. She reached for my hand, but I shook it away.
“I’m from London. I’m in London. And I need to find my sisters! Have you seen them?”
Beatle shook her head.
“I’m so sorry,” she whispered.
Beatle said nothing; she just bit her lip. I wanted her to smile and say that she was joking - we really were in London, and Vera and Nancy were waiting to see me.
“Where are my sisters?”
“I don’t know.”
I was in London, I was in London, I was in London. I just had to prove it.
Make Beatle believe it.
I made a run for the door, but my leg half collapsed underneath me and I reached for the doorhandle and leaned against it, grimacing.
“Don’t!” Beatle cried, running after me, but I quickly slipped through the door and into an immense carpeted hallway. Full of girls.
“No, no, no,” I whispered, ducking, trying to ignore the dizziness I felt, and the sharp pain in my arm. But adrenaline took over and somehow I managed to dodge the girls, who stopped and watched me go, confusion rippling through them.
“Wait!” Beatle’s voice was lost amongst the chatter of the girls. I stumbled down stairs.
“No, no, no,” I repeated, my arm swinging painfully.