Rain and tea

Grace Mary Potts

Australia

My life is comprised of inconsistencies, daydreaming, procrastination techniques and occasionally, writing.

Message to Readers

I wrote this about a year ago and it actually ended up winning Highly Commended in a local state-wide competition. Looking through some files recently, I came across it again and thought I'd put it up here for your judgement. Please let me know of your thoughts, I'm always looking to improve :)

Fault Lines

June 7, 2015

FREE WRITING

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‘It’s only for a little while sweetheart,’ she assured him, smoothing imaginary wrinkles in Timothy’s coat. ‘You’ll be home before you know it.’

The piercing hoot of the train’s whistle drew him from his thoughts, the memory shattering as he became aware of his surroundings. The floor was trembling, the seat rocking gently beneath him as the train barrelled down the tracks. The steady rumble was something he once found soothing but now it did nothing to ease the churning in Timothy’s gut.

Closing his eyes, he sucked in a deep breath and then let it go; wearily letting his flushed face fall against the cool glass of the window. Beyond the pane, hills and fields rolled in and out of sight, scattered houses and roads jutting out among the green.

The sight was so reminiscent of another scene from years ago that he thought if he closed his eyes and let the world fade out around him, he might just be ten years old again. Though this nervousness niggling at him hadn’t existed back then. The absurdity gave him the insane desire to laugh. Five years ago he was leaving his home and his mother; now it was over and he should be happy. Should be. Yet his heart continued to thump like it was going to burst from his chest.

1940 seemed like such a long time ago, but the day he left London was as clear as it ever had been. He could still recall how his mother’s eyes were sad and shining too bright as she knelt down in front of him, shaky smile wavering when he frowned.

‘Mother, where am I going?’ he asked.

She simply pinned the tag to his coat and gathered him in her arms.

‘It’ll be alright Timothy, we’ll all be alright,’ she murmured, brushing a stray lock of hair behind his ear.

His mind cast back to the mad frenzy of that day. The bewildered confusion as he joined his classmates at the window, forcing his arm out to wave to his mother as the station slipped out of sight. The floor beneath him had quaked and trembled as they left the epicentre, riding the aftershocks.

The people he had stayed with were kind but that only served to intensify his longing for home, even as years passed and childhood left him behind. The War had hit like an Earthquake and the aftershocks lasted longer than they ever thought they would.

When it finally stopped it happened like clockwork. All of the city children were packed up one by one and sent home. There was a lingering knowledge in the back of his mind that he should be happy. So, why were his thoughts laced with trepidation?

The train rocked, seemingly undulating to the drumbeat of his pounding heart because one miserable thought refused to be ignored.

‘What if I’ve changed too much?’ he croaked, voicing his fear to the world in a frosty whisper that clouded the glass beneath his lips. Will she even recognise me?

For years their only contact had been in letters; they hadn’t been able to see each other face to face. Would she accept him even though he’d changed? Would she welcome this weary fifteen year-old he’d become? He’d bet a pound that he was taller than her now. When he tried to imagine what it would be like to hug her again he found he couldn’t quite conjure the image.

The world around him melted into brick buildings and plumes of soot and smoke billowing from ashen chimneys. The city had changed, bruised from the war. He wondered, not for the first time, how it might have taken its toll on his dear mother. She’d been here, all alone, for five years.

Another bubble of anxiety formed in his gut as he remembered his father though his mind only supplied the vaguest of blurred memories. It had been too long since he was shipped away. He didn’t even know if his father would be among those troops to return from the battlefield. But sometimes Timothy found that if he tried hard enough, he could almost recall a smile, maybe some large hands throwing him up in the air. Almost.

He was returning to a home he barely knew.

The station Timothy stepped out onto was crowded, people bustling around like each had somewhere more important to be; Londoners. His eyes swept the platform, chest tight and breaths catching in his throat as he searched for recognition in those faces. He couldn’t see her. Panic made his heart clench as the minutes passed by and then he heard his name being called amidst the pandemonium.

Everything stilled and the air seemed to have left his lungs. Turning, his vision tunnelled and locked onto the eyes of a woman not five feet away from him. Her eyes were suspiciously bright. Five years ago the world had unbalanced, leaving him scrambling for purchase. In that moment, Timothy was finally slammed back down to Earth.

One step.

Two steps.

They met each other in the middle and warm arms were suddenly encompassing him in a familiar embrace.

‘You’ll be home soon,’ she whispered.

He lifted his head from her chest and met her gaze with furrowed eyebrows and a quiet mumble.

‘Promise?’

‘Promise.'

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