Monday, December 21, 2015

The Empty Cabin

 This is a story that I wrote after watching our mailman walking his route and wondered to myself if he ever was tempted to look at the mail he delivered. I put my pencil to my yellow pad of paper and this is what unfolded...

Daniel drove his white mail delivery truck into the driveway that lead around the back of the cemetery. It was his favorite place to hide away for a lunch break. No one would bother him here and he could situate his truck so that he was invisible to the passing cars. He pulled into a sunny spot away from the large maple trees. They were still leaf-bare and the warm sun felt good even though the air was crisp. Dry leaves littered the side of the gravel-lined drive, dancing with every breeze with slight cracklings. Breathing deeply, Daniel leaned back and placed his arms behind his head. Delivering mail wasn’t a glamorous job, but he enjoyed the walking and the pay was sufficient. Solitude was normal to him, only punctuated by the occasional greeting from a little old lady or a friendly shop owner. Everyone seemed to like him and enjoyed the consistency of his punctual deliveries. He reflected on his twenty-two years and was proud of himself for having bought his own condo after college. 
A torn envelope in his top box of mail caught his attention. That wasn’t good. No one wanted to think that their mail was vulnerable to prying eyes. He pulled the envelope out and realized that the sorting machine must have caught the edge of the fold, ripping the top flap off. He placed the envelope in the bin next to his seat. He would have to tape it up later. Lunchtime was over and he needed to finish up his route through the Main Street section of town. Instead, he reached for the envelope. He never read the mail. Why was this envelope intriguing? The folded yellow paper said just a few words.
“Dear Marie, It’s been a long time and I’m sorry. I have some money for our daughter. Don’t ask questions, just try to trust me. It should be enough for college. Left it upstate PA under the key rock at the cabin on Mineral Springs Road where you used to love to go. Still have ten years to go. Ben.”
Daniel folded the note quickly and placed it back in the bin. Why did he read it? Who was Ben? He lifted the envelope to check the address. 413 Church Road. He knew the house and the name, but no face to put with it. Jumping back in his seat, he returned the letter to the bin to tape later and headed for town.
“Hi Dan! Thanks for the mail.” Mrs. Bartley was jovial this morning. He would have rather seen Celine, her granddaughter. He secretly admired her and enjoyed the brief encounters they had most mornings. It was her grandmother’s shop, but she worked the counter, hoping to earn enough to go to college. Daniel thought about her as he walked to his next stops. Her long blonde hair hung straight over her shoulders, but it wasn’t bleached blond, more of a natural mix of light browns. He enjoyed her simplicity and healthy look, not wearing the dark makeup that some of the other town girls wore. When she smiled, her brown eyes smiled, too.
Back at the truck, he sorted out a few bundles and glanced at his bin, remembering the letter. He would have to remember to tape it up so he could deliver it tomorrow.
What if the letter never made it? Marie would never know about the money. But maybe she would call Ben and it would come up in conversation. He had said it was a long time so he probably wasn’t in the habit of calling her or even writing to her. Questions ran through Daniel’s mind. He was ashamed that he had opened the letter but the message written in an almost scribbled handwriting played repeatedly in front of his brain. Why would someone place money under a rock? How much could it be? The note said enough for college, but college is expensive.
By the time Daniel finished his route and clocked out back at the post office, the April sun was dipping low in the sky. The letter stayed in his jacket pocket. “I’ll tape it up at home,” he promised himself.
His own mail was boring: a coupon magazine, his cell phone bill and a political campaign postcard. Tossing the junk in the trash, he grabbed a beer from the refrigerator and settled into the couch. It felt good to stretch his legs as he flicked on the remote. His laptop was sitting on the side table and he propped it open on his lap, switching it on with a tap to the keyboard. The early news was just background noise as he looked through his emails.
“Boring. Everything is boring. No good mail, no good emails. My life is boring.” He said it out loud, even though no one was there. Staring vacantly at the television, he pondered the letter again. Closing his laptop, he got the tape from his kitchen junk drawer and pulled the letter from his jacket pocket.
What if Marie thinks that I opened her envelope? The tear might look like someone just ripped it open. Maybe I should just put it in another envelope. No, there wouldn’t be any postage marks on it. I could put a note on it saying that it was ripped in processing. But then she would wonder if I read the letter. What if I just kept the letter? Marie would never know, at least not until Ben was released from prison. If that was where he was…if he made it out. The thoughts raced through his brain.
I wonder if there really is money under a rock, Daniel toyed with the thought, still staring at the television. I could probably find it. No one would suspect me. I’m the boring postman.
“That’s it.” Again, he talked aloud. “I’m tired of this boring life. I’m getting that money.”
Daniel sat on the couch and reopened his laptop, energized by his sudden decision. He studied the maps for Pennsylvania where he might find the cabin on a street named Mineral Springs. Some of the Mineral Springs Roads were in developments, others were in congested areas like Coatesville or Reading but finally he located what probably was the right street. Worlds End State Park had a Mineral Springs Road that led into a camping area. According to the map program, it was only about three hours from his home address.
Daniel was bothered by the fact that the cabins were rentals. What if someone happened upon the money? Several days had probably passed since the letter was written and each new day lessened the possibility of the money still being there. He had to get there right away.
Resisting the urge to drive during the night, he decided to leave early in the morning so he could actually see the cabin without using a flashlight and arousing suspicion.
The park was beautiful by any description. The river was roaring and ice hung off the rocks where the cold air froze the spray from the fast water. Daniel saw the cabins almost immediately. He parked his car in the gravel lot flanked by steep slopes leading up the mountain. He pulled on his hat, scarf and jacket knowing the cold mountain air was much colder than at home. His leather shoes crunched on the frost covered grass and gravel as he went up the pathway. Towering pines made him feel insignificant and he wondered if he should continue his search or just drive back home.
“Boring.” He remembered the reason why he was there. He wasn’t going to be boring any longer.
There were several cabins. Which one would Marie have loved? Some of them had cars in front. He didn’t want to arouse suspicion. Even though it was only 8 o’clock, someone was probably awake. A rather handsome cabin with walls of large river stones looked promising and Daniel walked up the path, looking for a rock near the cabin where a key might be hidden. Nothing, just gravel.
“Damn. It’s cold.” he muttered quietly as he rubbed his ungloved hands. His nerves were on edge from the lack of sleep. Fitful dreams kept waking him for the few hours he was actually in bed.
He rounded the bend in the pathway and saw a log cabin set back away from the road, pretty close to the river. It seemed empty. There were river rocks scattered along the pathway. Daniel walked up to the back of the cabin and peered into a window to make sure there was no one inside. Glancing around, he could see why someone would prefer this cabin. It was completely private even in winter with the lack of leaves, due to the wall of thick evergreens. An outdoor fireplace was set on a concrete lined porch in the back, perfect for a romantic evening facing the river in warmer weather.
Daniel rolled over a few round rocks with no success before he noticed a flattened rock a little larger than the others - about two feet wide. He lifted it slowly and saw the manila envelope immediately. It couldn’t have been there for more than a couple of days as the paper was slightly damp but not wet. Without stopping to open it, he stuffed it inside his coat and dropped the rock, only opening the envelope once he reached the privacy of his car.
There were hundreds of dollars. They were actually one hundred dollar bills and lots of them. He was rich!
The envelope sat in his sock drawer for six long months. He thought about it, looked at it, counted the five hundred bills and dreamed of the things he could do. Buy a new car, travel to Europe, buy a motorcycle, go to California--all things he had planned to do eventually. Celine was high on his mind. He had lingered at her shop a few times over the warmer days to cool down in the air conditioning. He liked watching her face as she talked and she made him feel at ease. He knew he was going to ask her out, it was just a matter of time. Although he had talked to her briefly the day she left for college, she promised to see him when she came back on break. He could show her good times and buy her new clothes now.
Guilt, fear and shame ate at his conscience every time he walked past 413 Church Road. Every day of his mail route, he wondered if he would be caught or if somehow the Post Office had figured out what he had done. Summer was long and hot and Daniel wondered if he could ever spend the money. He debated with himself for hours on end how to actually spend the cash. Fear strangled his enjoyment until one night he finally decided to try to use one of the hundreds. There was a truck stop just outside of town with a popular restaurant.
Daniel seated himself in a booth and looked around. There were lots of truckers and a few couples with young children. The atmosphere was casual and country music was playing in the background. He ordered the country-fried steak with mashed potatoes but really didn’t care about the food. He tried to act calm but his stomach was churning with worry about paying for the meal.
That’s it. I am sick of this money, he thought to himself. I am giving it back. My life is worse now than when I was just a boring guy. Celine likes me and she doesn’t know anything about my money.
The relief of his decision exhilarated Daniel. He left his half-eaten plate of steak and used his credit card to pay. He was giving the money back and he wasn’t about to get caught at this stage of the game. 
The envelope was there in his sock drawer along with the original torn-open letter. He put the small envelope in with the money and left the outside blank. The next morning, he slipped the envelope in with his regular mail. No one noticed as he delivered the mail to 413 Church Road. He would never know just what happened inside that house but it didn’t matter, he was a free man.
The door chimes sounded happy as he swung the door open to Mrs. Bartley’s shop. “Good morning!” He was so happy in anticipation of seeing her, that he spoke before he looked. 
“Good morning, Daniel.”
It wasn’t Mrs. Bartly. He placed the mail on the counter, a little confused at how the lady knew his name.
“I should introduce myself.” She extended her hand to him. “I’m Marie, Celine’s mom and Mrs. Bartley’s daughter. Celine told me about you and how she enjoyed talking to you. Of course, my mom thought the world of you. I offered to help her in the shop for a few days. This tragedy has taken a real toll on her.”
Daniel noticed her puffy eyes as she pulled a tissue from the box under the counter. “What tragedy?” He had asked it without thinking. “I’m sorry. It’s none of my business.” He tried to excuse himself.
She stared at him as though he should have known. “It’s Celine. She died two days ago. She was on her way to work when a drunk driver hit her. She was only trying to pay her way through college.”
There was nothing else to hear. Celine dead. It couldn’t be! Celine was dead. He was never going to see her again. Why her?
The thoughts spiraled around his head, dizzying him. He turned to leave the shop, mumbling his regrets.
Marie called after him, “Please stop by for the funeral on Friday. Celine would have wanted you there. The address is 413 Church Road.”

2015 copyright. Use only with permission.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Broken Friendship

A romantic story I wrote while meandering down by the waterfront park in our town, just imagining...

“Maria? Is it you?”
She felt his hand on her shoulder before he started talking, but even before that, she sensed his smell of soap, cotton, warmth and the instant familiarity of an old love. Memories flooded her brain instantaneously and her heart raced. She took a quick breath as if she were startled. She was leaning against the fence bordering the marina overlooking the water. She turned slightly towards his voice.
“Aaron! Yes, it’s me. How are you?” How many years had she thought about him, quietly wondering how his life had turned out? He was standing there in front of her like an apparition from the past, just a little older in a pair of jeans and a white collared shirt unbuttoned at the collar. He even said her name the name way. His mouth was slightly open in a smile that made his eyes squint.
“I’m fine. What are you doing in this neighborhood? I thought you moved out to California or Washington or something like that,” he said. Aaron was facing her directly, a little too close for Maria’s comfort. “You look great. You don’t know how good it is to see you,” and with that he wrapped his arms around her in an enthusiastic embrace.
Maria hugged him back but was a little uneasy about the sudden show of such affection from him and stepped back almost instinctively. She turned to face the pathway to continue her walk, slowing at first as if to invite him to walk beside her. The excitement of seeing Aaron was both frightening and wonderful at the same time. Where had he been? Why was he here? She focused on the path in front of her. It was straight for a while before it meandered along the waterfront and then out into the wooded area by the picnic tables. She thought for a couple of seconds before answering him.
“Yeah, I live in this town again. Not much has changed since we were kids,” she said looking around the park. “Maybe it’s a little more cleaned up.”
“Where have you been? I haven’t seen you since…” He paused and thought for a second. “I don’t know, years ago.” He kept stepping ahead of her and turning to face her and slow her down. “What brought you back?”
Maria looked at him amazed at the attraction she still felt for him. “Oh, Aaron,” she sighed looking at him and then out at the water, almost unwilling to face the events of the time passed. “I live here now after my husband died three years ago.” She said it quickly - almost bluntly. She knew she couldn’t skirt around things with him, he would only bring it up again until he got an answer. Nor could she fudge her words or he would see right through her deceptions. She took a deep breath and smiled slightly. “After things calmed down a bit, you know the funeral and the lawyers and settling all the legal stuff, I decided I wanted to be back on the water, by my childhood home.” She couldn’t tell him she wanted to find him, wanted to talk to him as an old friend. Instead she continued, “My parents invited me to use their house since they were retiring permanently in Florida.” She paused to look up at him, squinting in the sunlight, only to be flustered to see him watching her intently.
“Oh, really. Your parents’ house, huh? That place brings back a lot of memories.” He said it with a smile as if he was thinking about the home. “I loved their house. That stone fireplace was amazing. Remember all the times we spent hanging out watching football and stuff?” 
Maria smiled nervously in agreement. “What about you?” She tried to take his attention away from her face. “Why are you here? Didn’t you move away, too?”
He looked out at the sparkling water and a slight frown came over his face. After a pause, he said quietly, “Bob died.”
“Your brother?” she asked, stopping now to look at him. Bobby was a year younger than both of them were, and although she never got to know him very well in high school, she knew that Aaron and Bobby were very close. “I’m so sorry! That’s terrible.”
“Oh, I’m alright now.” He shrugged his shoulders as if he had a chill. “It’s been three months now so I’ve had some time to adjust. He was living in a portion of an old house up on Smith’s Hill while he renovated it. After he died, his wife, Roseanna decided it was too painful for her to stay there, which I can understand, so she was going to put it on the market to sell.” He stooped to pick up a rock and fling it out to the water. “Anyhow, I saved her the hassle and bought it from her so I could finish what Bobby started. This week I am here helping her pack up and move out.” He kicked a stone in the path. “I love his old house and hope to bring it back to its full potential.” He looked at her again, “You’ll have to see it; you’d like it, Maria.”
Maria loved the way the breeze mussed up his hair. She studied his face as he talked, taking in short glimpses to not act too friendly too fast. His hair was grayer around his temples and tiny squint lines framed his brown eyes. The sadness in his face while he talked about Bobby made her want to cheer him up. Why did she just want to wrap her arms around him? She hadn’t seen him for over twenty years.
“That’s excellent! Good for you.” She smiled up at him hoping that her words would encourage him. “I love this town. I always have. There is a certain endearing quality about it.” Maria spoke with a quietness almost as though she was thinking to herself. “I‘m sure Bobby would be grateful to know you are finishing his work. You were always good at building things.” She bumped her shoulder against his arm in fun.
“Thanks, Maria. Man, it’s good to talk with you.” He slipped his hands into his pockets and it reminded her of high school - he did it the same exact way.
She wondered how she should broach the subject of Nancy, his wife. She and Aaron had been close friends during junior high and then started dating in their tenth grade together. She was an only child and Aaron was always at her parent’s home talking with her dad or helping her mom with dinner. His home was a chaotic place with no real schedule for the five kids, so his coming and going was just normal to his parents. They watched football together on Sundays and he always walked her to school in the mornings. They argued together and then laughed at themselves for fighting; she missed the laughing. Maria pursed her lips as she remembered how her family had moved to South Carolina for a year for her dad’s job. When she came back for her senior year, Aaron was dating the new girl, Nancy, from California. Maria was heartsick, devastated and angry. They avoided each other the whole year and then she left for college.
“What are you so quiet about? I didn’t mean to make you sad.” He wrapped his arm around her like they were old friends, drawing her close to him and for a split second Maria almost felt like it was the old days as she let her head lean into his shoulder.
“Aaron, we have so many years between us now. It’s a little hard for me.” She left it at that hoping that he wouldn’t make her explain her feelings.
“Yeah, I suppose we do. I was just so happy to see you.” He smiled at her. “You still look as wonderful as ever.”
“Come on let’s keep walking,” Maria said as she pulled away from his grip. She had to ask about Nancy before she could comfortably talk with him.
“So… where is your wife?” There she did it.
“Nancy? Well… that was a poor decision on my part.” He paused and was quiet for a few steps. “Don’t get me wrong. Nancy was a decent person but we weren’t friends. If I had been honest, I would have admitted that long before, but I have a hard time quitting anything. I guess we had different ideas about life and we ended up as two people living our own separate lives under the same roof. We tried to make it work long enough for the kids to have a decent home.” He clenched his jaw.
“I do have two sons, you know, Brian and Mark, both in high school.” His face lightened as he turned to look at her.
“No, I didn’t know. Good for you.” She hoped he would continue and silently wondered if his sons looked like him and what kind of dad he was. She was almost envious.
They walked up to a wooden bench overlooking the water. “Want to sit?” he asked.
She sat down and turned to face him, one arm on the back of the bench. “Go on. I like listening to you.”
He grinned at her, “You always were my best listener.”
“But tell me more about you. What happened?” she insisted, tucking one leg under the other. She felt amazingly comfortable with him and wished time hadn’t spaced them so far apart.
Aaron looked at her eyes for a few seconds and then looked down to watch his fingers tracing over the boards in the bench. “Aww, Maria. This is tough,” he paused. “I guess I owe you an explanation, though.” He paused again for almost a full minute. “Nancy seemed like a movie star to me when I first met her, back in 11th grade.” He said it somewhat quickly as if he was excusing himself. “I was such a stupid kid back then. After you left, school wasn’t the same.” He glanced at her briefly. “It was like something was missing. I don’t know. I really missed you a lot, Maria.” He stopped again and looked at her as if to see if she understood his words. “I thought Nancy would fix that, even though we were never friends like you and me.” He was wringing his hands together, and looked around over the water and pathway. He continued, “I got instant recognition when I started dating her, you know - the California girl with her long blonde hair. It was kind of fun having all the attention. At least until you came back.”
He looked at her searchingly as if to make sure she was all right with the topic. Maria looked back at him with her lips set together, waiting for him to go on. They had to talk about it - it had been twenty years of questions for her. He owed it to her and as painful as it might be, they couldn’t pretend the past didn’t hurt.
“Well,” he squinted and looked out at a small boat motoring away from the dock. “I was too caught up in the Nancy scene to come back to you, and I figured you probably hated me for it.” He stopped and smacked his hand on his jeans. “You have no idea what a heel I felt like and how much I really missed your friendship.” He ran his hands through his hair. “Geez Maria!”
Maria smiled faintly. “Go on.”
He sighed. “We got married the year after graduation. I had a good job in my father’s construction business and Nancy really wanted to get married.” He shrugged one shoulder. ”And so we did.” He took a deep breath and leaned back against her arm. “Ten years of marriage, two kids and now I am a divorced man of five years sitting here talking to you, my old high school friend. How’s that for a record of accomplishment?“ He smiled at her with a wry look on his face. “The kids are the only thing that I am proud of for that time.”
“No one else in the five years?” Maria asked him rather bluntly. She knew she should have comforted him but her own hurt and resentment hardened her response. If there was anyone else in the picture, she wanted to know, now. She pulled her arms across her chest.
“Are you kidding? I knew I was stupid for leaving my best friend when I married Nancy but I was so proud back then I did it anyway. I wasn’t going to do that again until I found you and had a chance to talk to you.” He stopped talking and looked at her. “There you have it. I think I have dumped the baby out with the bath water!” He stood up nervously.
“Can we walk some more?” Maria asked him. She had a thousand thoughts running through her head. “It’s a little easier.” Her face was flushed and she felt warm.
“If you’re not sick of me yet,” he said it with a sarcastic smirk as he helped her to her feet.
“No, I am not sick of you.” She paused, trying to pick the right words. “I would like to clear the air between us, though; it has been way too long.”
He slipped his arm over her shoulder again briefly and then released her. “Thanks, Maria. I wasn’t sure what you would think of me.”
They walked on in silence watching the others in the park. Maria was tempted to just leave things be and enjoy the niceness of having Aaron walking next to her. Part of her was content while the nagging questions that had plagued her mind for years kept interrupting her peace.
 “Well.” She said it as she drew a deep breath. “I am not quite sure how I feel. I was married, too, you know?” she looked up at him to see if he knew or not.
“Well, I figured you had; you did mention it earlier.” He held out his hand to help her walk over the rocks lining the edge of the water.
Maria loved the feeling of his hand, the warmth. It was rougher than she remembered. “Right. Yeah, I left for college, full of ambition and hurt at the same time.” They sat down on some flat rocks. “I had to get away from here and all the memories of us. I met Matt in my senior year.” She looked out at the water to choose her words slowly. “He was a graduate student and so kind to me. We dated for about two years before we got married.” She slowed down and waited for a second before continuing. “I was working in a law office in South Carolina when we found out he had cancer - lymphoma.” Maria turned away from Aaron. She didn’t want to cry but she wanted to finish her story. She took a deep breath as he sat quietly listening to her. “The next eight years Matt slowly died. We tried everything to stop the cancer but it kept coming back.” Maria breathed deeply and slowly. “He finally got too tired and I had to let him die.” She lifted her hands as if she were tossing something in the air and then ran her fingers through her hair.
“Maria, come here.” He stood and sat next to her on the rock. He pulled her shoulder towards him and reached his arms around her. “I am so sorry.” He pulled her tight and buried his face in her dark hair. “I’m sorry! I really am,” he whispered.
She relaxed in his arms, feeling safe and secure for a second, leaning into his shoulder. “But why didn’t you come back to me?” she pulled away from his arms. She had to deal with her pain. “Why did you just ignore me?” The tears started running down her face.
“Please, Maria. I’m sorry now. I was so stupid. I have been sorry for years.” He tried to hold her shoulders.
“Do you know what I went through? You were my best friend for almost my whole life. The only reason I could bear to be away for the year was knowing you were going to be waiting for me when I got back. You said you would.” She was accusing him now, angry for her years of hurt. “You were my life. All my plans were with you. I loved you.” She pushed away from his hands reaching out to her as she stood up and walked further along the path to get away from the other park visitors.
The years of grief of missing Aaron coupled with the memories of Matt dying made her sob heavily. After a few minutes, she realized that she also was crying for relief. Relief that Aaron had loved her and did miss her over all the years. Her anger melted and her brain was quiet as her sobs quieted.
Aaron had caught up with her almost immediately and walked silently beside her, his shoulder next to hers and his hands back in his pockets.
“How do I know you aren’t going to walk away from me again? I don’t want the pain of the years I went through to come back again.”
“Is this painful?” he asked her.
“What?” She was confused.
“Walking here beside me?” His voice was almost pleading in its quietness.
She took a deep breath. “No,” she sighed. “It’s really nice. Really, really nice,” adding the second part quietly with a little smile. She wiped her face on her sleeve.
Aaron stopped and pulled her against his chest. “I don’t like it when you cry, Maria.” He whispered as he held her tightly for a few seconds with his arms wrapped around her back. He breathed deeply and released her.
“How about we start by just walking together for a bit and take it slowly from here and see if we like being together again. Could you handle that?” he asked looking down at her.
Maria grabbed his hand in hers. “”I’d like that,” she said smiling up at him.
Aaron pulled her close again and wrapped his arms tightly around her shoulders squeezing her affectionately. He kissed the top of her head.
“Friends it is, then.”

2015 copyright. Use only with permission.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

A Car Ride

A story I wrote after reading a news article about some school kids who had stolen a car up in a western Canada area. I tried to imagine how easy it would be to get out of school and take an afternoon off for some fun with another friend, an older brother in this story...

Cliff jerked as his cell phone buzzed in his pocket. Who would be texting him in the middle of school? His tenth grade English Comp teacher was droning on about some idea he had about writing an interesting paper, and was writing on the chalkboard so Cliff took a second to check his phone. He knew the cell phone was not allowed in class and that he was supposed to leave it in his locker, but that was a nuisance.
“Meet me behind dumpster at one thirty.” It was from his brother Ryan.
“Whaaaat?” He grimaced to himself as he quickly responded back, “?”
“Wanna go for a ride?” was the text.
This didn’t make any sense. Ryan didn’t have a car. It was school time.
“Ok.” It was the only answer he could give. His curiosity had the better of him and if Ryan was doing the asking then he probably would take the blame if they got in trouble.
It was late November and the Canadian sunlight was sparse during the day. By the time Cliff started school, there was still another hour before sunrise and by the time school let out, the sun was starting to set. It was depressing. He had half an hour to wait until one thirty and the anticipation of running out of school began to build. He thought through a plan of heading to the bathroom after class, waiting until the bell rang and then heading to his locker to grab his coat and book bag before slipping out the back door. He knew he had to be quick ‘cause the teachers monitored the hallways a few minutes after the bell rang.
Mr. Hormer finished his dialog and turned to face the class. Cliff sat quietly, suddenly alert, but his cell phone hidden back in his pocket.
This was it. Cliff tried to stay calm as the bell rang. Everyone pushed for the door with the usual jabbering but he held back a second, pretending to straighten some papers in his textbook. Walking slowly out of the room, he read the announcement board to give the bathroom crowd a few minutes to clear out. His watch showed 12:50 before he washed his face in the bathroom sink. Everyone was out and the bell rang.
“Cliff, you’re late!” his American History teacher chided him as they passed in the hall.
“I know. I’m hurrying,” he answered back, pretending to start a slow jog. Instead of stopping at his classroom door, he turned and ran to his locker and then down the hallway to the back door. It was a back entrance that hardly anyone used that led back to the dumpsters. He closed it quietly and slipped behind the main dumpster.
“Ryan,” he called quietly, hoping not to arouse anyone.
“Hey,” Ryan came in behind him. “Wanna go for a ride?”
“How? You don’t even have a car,” Cliff asked, as he pulled on his jacket.
“Mom’s car. If we hurry, we can be home in ten minutes and still have an hour to drive.” Ryan said as he pulled Cliff’s jacket and started running towards the tree line behind the school. There was a worn footpath where a lot of the kids from the high school cut through to the housing development bordering the property line.
“You asked Mom?” It couldn’t be right.
“No, dummy. Mom and Dad are away on that trip. She left the keys in the kitchen.” Ryan was running faster now and Cliff had to speed up to stay up with him.
“You’re crazy. You know that right?” Cliff panted as they neared their street.
“So? It’ll be fun.”
The keys were hanging on the hook behind the kitchen door. Dad bought the used but beautiful Corvette for Mom as a wild Mother’s Day gift after her minivan broke down. She didn’t drive it much after the snow came since she didn’t want to dent it up. Anchorage was pretty good with keeping their streets cleared of snow, but Mom was cautious, Cliff thought to himself.
“You want to drive?” Ryan asked him with a grin, dangling the keys in front of him.
“Very funny,” Cliff responded with a smirk.
Ryan knew Cliff only had a driver’s permit and that only for a few weeks. There was no way he was going to let his younger brother drive this car. He chirped the remote and jumped into the front seat.
“Yes. There’s plenty of gas.”
“Where do you want to go?” Cliff asked as he slid into the passenger’s seat. He was only an inch shorter than Ryan was, and people said they looked like twins, even though they were fifteen months apart.
“Just want to hit the open road,” he said as he started the engine.
“And you do know that Mom is going to kill you, right?”
“What she doesn’t know won’t hurt her.”
They backed out of the driveway and then made their way out of the development. Ryan was careful to stop at all the signs and slow down through the congested areas. The car had good acceleration but he didn’t want to attract attention. Following the roads out of town, they turned onto the ramp for north on Glen Highway. Traffic was very light and the roads were bone dry.
“Shall we see how fast this car will go?” Ryan asked Cliff as they rounded a bend facing a long stretch of straight road. He asked but didn’t wait for an answer as he pushed the petal to the ground. The car lurched forward with a sudden burst of speed and they flew down the road.
“Seventy, eighty, ninety, ninety-three, one hundred!” Ryan shouted as he let his foot off the gas. “One hundred miles an hour.”
Cliff cheered with him as they pumped fists. There was a car ahead of them and a few approaching from the rear so they slowed down to just about the speed limit. The sunlight was intense, reflecting off the snow banks lining the highway. It was a beautiful day with the high mountains in the distance, topped with their white caps. They drove over a river gorged with water, paying no attention to the signs for moose crossings--just enjoying the open road. The day was perfect.
No school, an open road, a great car and a brother to share it with, Cliff thought.
They didn’t talk much and Ryan played around with the radio controls until he settled on a station beating out a good rhythm. Twenty minutes passed quickly and Anchorage slipped away behind them.
“Let’s do a little exploring,” Ryan suggested as he braked suddenly and took a road off to the right.
“Where does this go?” Cliff asked as he braced himself for the turn.
“That’s what we need to find out,” Ryan was smiling now, thoroughly enjoying the afternoon. The road banked to the left and went under the highway and towards the mountains. Driving was easy but the constant curves kept them at a slow speed.
“Look out!” Cliff shouted as a deer stepped into the road a few hundred feet in front of them.
Ryan braked the car smoothly and they slowed to watch the deer stare back at them. It was in no hurry to get away, but they had places to go. Speeding up, they followed the road for another five miles or so before they saw signs for a store ahead.
Let’s get something to eat,” Ryan said. “Got any cash?”
Cliff rummaged in his backpack as Ryan picked up speed in anticipation of roadside food.
There was a strange crackling sound in Cliff’s ear. Something had happened. It was so quick. The silence was louder than his breathing. Why was his face so cold? The side of his face felt wrong. No pain, just weirdness. Someone started a heavy pounding. Who would be doing construction out here? They were miles away from anyone. His thoughts focused to realize his heart was banging in his chest. Moving his fingers slightly to understand he felt stickiness. His shoulder was cold and he rolled slightly. The weirdness in his face was stronger and he focused to open his eyes. He blinked. His left eye was blinded by the bright sun, but his right eye stayed black. Closing them, he stretched his toes and fingers as if to test if they still worked.
Time had stopped. He was only aware of the side of his face, coldness and weirdness. His breathing filled his chest and then let it down, over and over. He had to figure out why his face felt weird and slowly lifted his hand. His stomach churned as his fingers felt sharp hard things and a spongy surface where his smooth skin was supposed to be. Glass? It felt like glass. Why would there be glass in his face? He licked his lips and breathed deeply. Pain. His stomach hurt with the breath.
Ryan? Where is Ryan, he thought as the remembrances of their drive came barraging into the front of his brain. Pulling himself to a sitting position, he tried to open his eyes again. He felt nausea and dizziness wash over him. Only one eye. A twinge of panic. Ryan!
Concentrating, he focused his eye on the ground. There was snow, some red snow, some branches, tree trunks. No road. No wait; there was a road but way over there. He could barely focus and kept his eye closed as much as he could bear. His ankle twinged sharply as he pulled himself to his knees. More panic. Shuddering his breath in, he lifted himself to a stand, holding on to the rough bark of a tree. He felt like the world was falling over. There was blood on the snow but he didn’t look at it. He focused forward to the road. “Ryan!” He tried calling.
The snow banks were low here, only about three feet high. Lots of sun. Cliff took one step forward and flinched as he lifted his left arm to steady himself. His shoulder hurt. Hanging his arm loosely, he took little steps. His sneakers sank into the snow and blood was dripping from his chin on the snow in front of him. He lifted his head to look farther ahead and avoid the sight of the blood. Nothing felt right. His left ankle hurt with each step but it held him. The snow bank was hard and he stumbled over it, falling on his right side, landing on the rocks and gravel of the road.
More pain. Dizziness. More nausea. Ryan! He had to get to Ryan. The car. Mom’s beautiful blue corvette was crunched. Shoved into a massive pine tree. Ryan! Ryan! He remembered he had to use his voice.
“Ryan!” He was almost angry. Why didn’t he answer? He limped through the snow to the back of the car and then steadied himself along the side. Ryan was dead. His head was at a strange angle and there was blood in his ears. Cliff’s stomach cramped and he heaved, vomiting at the shock. Pushing away from the car, he dragged his feet back to the road. The bright afternoon sun was behind the trees and he knew darkness was coming fast.
Walk. Walk. Walk. He told himself hundreds of times. He kept his eye closed and only checked his bearings occasionally. His brain was barely focusing and he started to feel almost like he was floating. His body was working by itself and he didn’t have to do anything. Sleep. He wanted to sleep.
“You there.” It was a voice. A man’s voice. An old man? “Hold on there? Are you okay?” The voice kept talking. His feet kept walking. He felt the rocks on his ear. His feet rested. His body slumped over the rough surface of the road. An engine. A car door. Pain. Stop!
“Stop!” His voice finally broke the silence. His body was being pulled up and he wanted to keep still on the road.
Silence. The smell of cigarettes. No it was a pipe. Sleep. Bumpy sleep. Shouting. More bumps. Silence and darkness.
The smell was strange. He was warm. His toes moved. A strange beeping sound. He blinked.
“Cliff! Nurse! He is blinking.” It was his mother. No. He didn’t want to talk to her. Her car. Ryan. Ryan was dead. His throat choked and made him cough. Go away! Leave me alone! He drifted back into the sweet darkness.
That beeping. It was there again. Something was stuck to his face and itched. He itched badly. Where am I? He lifted his arm but it wouldn’t move. He felt like he was tied up. His other arm lifted and he tried to scratch his mouth.
“Cliff! Wake up! Can you hear me? Cliff. It’s Mom.”
He knew it was Mom. Somehow, he sensed that she was there in his sleep. Her voice was close to his face.
“Wake up, Cliff! Can you see me?”
“Ma’am, you need to take it slow.” A voice came in the room. “The doctor is coming.”
He could see her face. She was smiling. Tears poured down his cheek and he mouthed, “I’m sorry!”
“Why are you crying? You don’t have to be sorry! Quiet now.” Her voice changed to a whisper as her own tears fell on his face. She was kissing him but he didn’t mind. She smelled good. But Ryan? The question plagued his mind.
“Cliff. Nice to see you are waking up,” a man’s voice spoke close to his face. Cliff could feel his hands as he placed a stethoscope on his chest. “Can you look at me? Tell me how many fingers I am holding up?”
“Ryan?” he whispered the question.
“Don’t worry about Ryan right now, Cliff. Listen to the doctor.” His mother’s voice corrected him.
“Two fingers.”
“Good! Now let’s see if we can’t get you sitting up today.” The doctor stepped back to talk to the nurse.
“What happened to me?” he whispered to his mother.
“You were in a car accident,” she said quietly. “We have been waiting for you to wake up for three weeks.”
He nodded slightly and focused on her face. “Am I okay?”
“When the car hit the tree, you went through the windshield and the glass from the windshield scraped your cornea and the rest of your face pretty badly. That’s why you have this big bandage over your face.” He could feel the pressure from her hand on his face through the bandage.
“What else?” he sensed her hesitation.
“You had a grade three concussion, a broken collar bone and a fractured ankle. But you are getting better,” she assured me.
“Cliff.” It was Ryan’s voice but he knew it couldn’t be him. The tears came again and blurred his vision.
“Cliff. Hey, good looking. We look like twins.” How could it be Ryan? He was dead. He had seen his dead body.
He opened his eye again, focusing on what looked to be Ryan with white bandages around his head.
“I thought you were dead,” he whispered as the sobs choked him from talking more.
“No way, man! I am as alive as you are. You just have been sleeping a lot longer.” It was Ryan. He was alive! Relief spread over him like a warm blanket.
“Let’s set you up a little.” It was the nurse again and she lifted the head of his bed by a couple of feet.
“Hey!” Cliff tried to stop the nurse as the dizziness from the change washed over him.
“Now take it easy, honey,” she calmed him. “You will get used to this in a minute.”
“Cliff, I am going to call Dad. He will be so excited that you are awake. Ryan will stay with you,” my mother whispered quietly to him, somehow knowing that his head ached.
He put his good hand up to give her a little wave and turned to look at Ryan again. “I saw you dead.”
“Well, here I am. So I can’t be dead.” Ryan cleared the blankets a little to sit next to Cliff. “Mom’s car had that safety thing that calls you when you crash. Apparently, they called shortly after the crash and when they didn’t hear anything, they called for police. The police located the car and called for an ambulance. They said I was unconscious, but bleeding a lot in my head from the force of the crash. Apparently, your airbag didn’t go off and you went through the windshield. My concussion was also a grade three but I never went into a coma. They put a shunt through my skull to take some of the pressure down, but my swelling only lasted two weeks. Right now everyone is most worried about your eye.”
Cliff motioned for Ryan to give him some water. The tube in his nose was irritating him and he felt it with his fingers. 
“Hey, don’t fuss with that. They had to give you a feeding tube so you wouldn’t starve while you were in the coma. They’ll probably take it out soon, now that you are awake,” Ryan instructed him.
“Is my eye okay?” Cliff whispered with his husky voice from not talking for weeks.
“Not sure yet. The doctors have to wait and see. They did surgery to try and repair it, but won’t know until it heals.”
“How did I get here?”
“Some old guy found you all bloody on the road and took you to the hospital in his pickup. He keeps coming by to see you every few days. He said you looked like a monster with your face all torn up.”
“Was Mom mad about the car?” Cliff was curious.
“She never said a word about it. I guess she was just glad we were alive. Not the nicest phone call to get when you are away on a trip,” Ryan jokingly said.
“No,” Cliff sighed deeply, closing his eye. “Pretty good to see you alive.”

 2015 copyright. Use only with permission.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Abandoned Unknowingly

This is a story I wrote based on my imagination of what it was like as a little girl to live through the evacuation of over 5000 children from Guernsey, an island of the English Channel Islands. Prior to the German Occupation in 1940, the citizens and their children were shipped to the English mainland and other countries. There is a good book written on the subject,Guernsey Evacuees for more information. The characters are fictional.

This is my story of a short but monumental event in my life that changed me forever. It was not planned, as most catastrophic, frightening, achingly miserable events tend not to be. I was only five years old. Kindergarten was the extent of my exposure to life outside of my home, and even that was limited to several months. After a few hours away from our pleasant farmhouse, I wanted nothing more than to come home where I could kick off my stiff school shoes and don my worn-down leather shoes. Ten cantankerous sheep, five golden Guernsey cows and a couple of stubborn donkeys were my source of entertainment along with several dozen Freedom Ranger chickens my father raised for selling at the market for a few extra pounds when we needed them. He prided himself in growing the best tomatoes on the island, jabbering on in French about how he had the best soil and the angle of the sun was just perfect. We spoke French and English at home, and sometimes mixed them together, since school for me was only in English.
The trouble in town bothered my parents. We lived just half a mile inland from the busy St. Peter’s Port. Repeated visits from neighbors and numerous town meetings for my parents left my brother, Roger and I sole caretakers of the farm on many days. He was twelve years old but I thought of him almost as an adult. He was a bright chap and kept me on my toes with his clever whit. Trying to outsmart and outrace him was the sole purpose of the majority of my days. He loved Father with a passion and hated when I would catch him dressing up all proper with Father’s hat and jacket. He made me giggle. Mine was a family of love set in the atmosphere of the lovely island I called home, Guernsey. If you didn’t know, Guernsey is a tiny island, but the whole world to me, set in the English Channel about thirty miles off the coast of France. I knew I lived on an island, but it meant nothing to me as we had a proper town, schools, churches, stores and beaches, just like every other family’s community.
The tension at home got much worse. Father and my mother argued often and on several occasions, I found tears running down my mother’s face as she washed the dishes in silence. The difficulty of staying happy bothered me until I was able to pester her into explaining her troubles. There was a war in Germany, she explained. The loud planes we saw daily were carrying soldiers to the war for fighting. I am not sure I understood her concern, but her worried face etched my memory forever as I watched her mouth move and tears flow down her face. The Germans wanted to use our island almost as a hiding point; my mind seemed to interpret, to launch attacks on war traffic through the English Channel. They wanted to use our town. Father was angry and would shout that he was not leaving. My brother sided with him and would mutter angry words about the invaders as he worked in the barn, throwing the corn at the unsuspecting chickens.
The town leaders decided that we children needed to leave to go inland to England. They did not want the soldiers taking advantage of their daughters or influencing their sons. It was not safe for us. School stopped and our teachers told us to take our belongings home and to help our parents. As a young child, I did not mind. The evacuation was way off in the future and I could stay home with my brother at our farm.
Finally, the day came when my mother said we needed to pack my satchel for a trip. I was excited. It was going to be a boat trip off the island that only Father made when he first bought our chickens or when my mother wanted special cloth for a dress she made. Roger was supposed to come with me.
“Non, je ne veux pas y aller! I am not leaving my home so some soldiers can come here and take our farm!” he argued in French. He sounded just like my father and was eye-to-eye with him.
“Your mother and I will stay here and protect the farm, but you must understand, il n'est pas sûr, it is not safe for Amelie. We need you to go in our stead and watch out for her.” Father stood up to him and held his shoulders firmly.
“Je ne peux pas aller. I cannot go. It is shameful. Our island needs us to stand up to the soldiers. I don’t want to be taking care of a girl.” He was angry but flustered to have to speak against Father.
“I can take care of myself here, Father. Why do I need to go?” I inserted, trying to ease the conflict since I seemed to be the cause of it.
“It’s a bloody shame when we can’t even stay in our own home. Ce n'est pas notre guerre! This is not our war,” my brother continued, echoing the words he had heard around town switching back and forth between French and English.
“No, Roger. The decision is done. You and Amalie are leaving in the morning on the first boat out. There are some families that have agreed to take you with some other children into their homes until the Conseil agrees that our island is safe again.” Father spoke with resolution.
Roger clenched his fists, knowing he couldn’t argue anymore but without resolve. He stomped upstairs to his room, muttering under his breath.
I tried to reason with him but he just shouted, “Ce n'est pas pour vous. This is not about you, Amelie. I am supposed to stay with the men and not be a déserteur. “
Mother cooked us a wonderful dinner of roast beef, potatoes, sweet parsnips, haricots, gravy and my favorite dessert, sticky toffee pudding. The wine flowed that night and even Roger and I enjoyed a glass of wine mixed with a little water while Father told us stories of his childhood. My mother’s cheeks were flushed and she kept staring at me as though I had food on my face.
I slept fitfully, dreaming of chickens running away with the sheep hiding behind the trees. Roger was shouting at me to go home and my mother kept crying as she hoed the carrots. The best part of the dream was the hug Father gave me. He picked me up and squeezed me into his chest, rubbing his scratchy whiskers over my cheek, smelling of the smell of Father. I never wanted it to end. To me it meant he loved me. I was his little girl and he was my father. I was safe.
“Amalie. Vous devez vous lever maintenant. You have to get up now,” I heard my mother call me softly.
“I am awake already, Momma,” I answered as I scrambled out of my covers. I pulled the blankets up quickly and smoothed them out.
“Wear your Sunday dress and your school shoes. You might have to walk a bit when you descendre du bateau, (get off the boat).” her voice instructed me quietly, as though she didn’t want to wake the rest of the house. I could hear Roger’s footsteps as his boots clumped down the stairs. Father was always up early, coming back in from the barn by the time I was ready for breakfast.
I decided not to argue about the shoes. I was going to be good today. I tossed my knit doll into my satchel and slung the strap over my shoulder.
“Nous devons nous dépêcher (we must hurry). The boat is leaving at 7 o’clock and we cannot keep them waiting,” she chided me. She pushed a wedge of warm sausage pie wrapped in paper into my hand.
“Je vous remercie! Thank you, Momma!” My eyes lit up with the delight of such a wonderful treat. Roger was outside with his satchel, but looking irritated and bothered. He had no jokes for me and didn’t tease me at all.
The whole family walked down to the docks. I felt special. I walked to Kindergarten by myself each morning. This was almost like a holiday, walking alongside Father trying to get my steps to match up with his. My mother clung to my hand, walking with her head held high but with red-rimmed eyes. I loved her for her tenderness. Roger walked behind, scuffing as many rocks as he could. He was mad and I understood him. The road was steep as we descended into the main part of the town. I loved coming here and seeing the shops and the people everywhere. Other families were walking on the streets towards the long pier.
Baskets of tomatoes were lining the docks, waiting for the outgoing boats to carry them to the mainland. Potted flowers were everywhere in pots, brightening our path as we walked. I cringed as my shoes rubbed my ankles, but refused to complain.
‘’Les jeunes, en ligne ici! (Children, line up here!),’’ a man shouted as we neared the pier. A long row of about three hundred children stood holding their bags while their parents stood back almost silently along the main dock. Hundreds of mothers holding babies and young children were also crowding the docks.
“Roger et Amalie mettre en ligne (get in line),” my mother instructed.  “’Cela ne sera pour un peu. (This will only be for a little while.) We will send a boat to bring you home shortly.’’
We hugged our parents trying not to look too sad in front of the other children. My mother had tears running down her cheeks and shook Roger as she told him to take good care of me. The boat looked like a huge building to me with its gray sides and big chimneys.
‘’Nous vous aimons! (We love you!),” they called repeatedly as we edged into the line of children. The morning sun felt good and the water was beautiful. If my parents weren’t so sad, I might have been happy, but instead a heavy lump filled my throat. Roger let go of my hand to open his meat pie. I had almost forgotten about it in the hustle to get to the boat. I pulled it out of the pocket of my jacket and peeled back the paper a little.
We started moving forward as the boat captain started helping children climb onboard. This was a boat from the British Royal Navy and far larger than all of the fishing boats and ferries that normally came to the port. We maneuvered around some tall boxes on the pier as the line slowly edged forward. Roger pushed me forward, “Attention si vous ne tombez pas dans le. (Pay attention so you don't fall in.)”
“Wave to Momma and Father,” he said as we neared the ramp.
I shoved the rest of my pie back into my pocket and looked back to find them. There they were waving at us. I lifted my arms and waved vigorously, “Au revoir! Au revoir!’’
Other kids were pushing me and I tried to hold my satchel tight as I walked up the ramp into the huge boat.
‘’Find a seat on the floor.’’ A tall Englishman was herding us into straight rows along the open floor. There were windows all around but too high for me to see out of. I sat down and crossed my legs, holding my satchel on my lap. I saw a few kids I knew but no one seemed to want to talk. Roger wasn’t behind me so I saved him space on the floor next to me. He must have gone to check something out.
Apprehension filled me with a strange feeling in my stomach. I tried to concentrate on my satchel and the children around me. There were a couple of scared faces and when I saw a little chubby boy look at me with tears running down his face, I couldn’t help crying a little.
“Why are you keeping this space open?” the Englishman asked me.
“My brother is supposed to sit here. We are going together.” I managed to speak clearly.
“Why isn’t he with you?”
“I don’t know. I thought he was behind me,” I answered guiltily.
“Ok, we’ll see if he shows up.” He went away to help other children come in behind us.
I searched the group and noticed my schoolteacher several rows in front of me.
“Mme Carey,’’ I called.
“Amalie,” she motioned for me to join her. “I am going to help take care of you. Where is Roger?”
“I don’t know. He was right behind me,” I almost cried. My teacher Mrs. Carey was nice, but she was not my friend as Roger was.
“Don’t fuss. I am sure he will find us.” She tried to dismiss the fact that Roger was missing as nothing important, but I was so scared. Hundreds and hundreds of people were cramming into the ship and there was no way for her to find Roger. I scanned the crowds, hoping to catch a glimpse of his face. Babies started crying and little children were whining as the crowds pushed further into the room.
I heard the ship horn blast and felt fear wash over me.
“Momma,” I whispered. “I can’t find Roger, Momma!” Tears flowed from my eyes as I could see the land starting to back away from the ship through the window. “Where am I going? What am I going to do?”
“Roger!” I shouted, hoping to hear his familiar voice answering back. I ran to the doorway. “Roger!” I ran down the side of the ship, struggling to get through the people. He had to hear me. I was shouting so loudly, “Roger,” as the tears blurred my eyes.
“Little girl, come on now. Go back in with the children.” A tall navy man tried to stop me and turn me around. He put his hand on my shoulder but I ducked down and got away behind some other women.
“Roger! Where are you?” Frantic with finding him in this crowd of hundreds of people, I started climbing some stairs to get a better view.
“No, no. You can’t go up there. Who are you looking for?” It was the same navy man. I tried to explain that I couldn’t find Roger. He was very kind to me and told me he would help me look for him. We walked around the entire ship but there was no Roger.
People were crying all around me now. Children, mothers, even older teens gave in to the tension of the evacuation. Men in uniform walked around trying to comfort and help as they could. Children without parents were assigned to schoolteachers that came to help. One man told me to stay with Mrs. Carey, but where else would I go? I didn’t know anyone else.
I worked my way closer to a window so at least I could see outside for a minute. Our ship was so high but I could see seagulls circling overhead. The bright June sun calmed my nerves, making me feel a little better as I waited the time away.
“I don’t have any parents or Roger with me - no one.” The phrase kept passing through my mind but I kept pushing the panic away.
I noticed some children snacking and remembered I still had part of my sausage pie. Gratefully, I opened the rumpled wrapper and enjoyed the food as it filled my empty stomach. We had been on the ship for a couple of hours now. The strangeness of the crowded room as I listened to the jumble of half-French and half-English conversations. The navy men spoke with clear accents and smiled at me whenever they looked my way. They certainly were nice men. I wondered if they were the soldiers that were going to live on my island.
I contented myself with my knit doll and pretended she was my fellow passenger, rambling on about the trip we were taking and the frozen custard we were going to buy. After a while, Mrs. Carey asked me to come sit by her so I did. After another hour of doing almost nothing but watching the people, I fell asleep.
“Amelia.” Someone was shaking my shoulder. “We are at the port. You want to wake up and be ready, mon chéri. ‘’ I remembered my strange journey with a knot of apprehension in my stomach. I stood up and brushed my clothes smooth.
Crowds were starting to push towards the doorways, anxious to get off the boat. I watched, hoping to catch sight of Roger. Mrs. Carey was busy with other children so I followed the crowd off the boat, holding tightly to the handrail in case I fell in as Roger warned me with his last words.
The dock was the scariest place I had ever seen. I knew no one. Mrs. Carey was nowhere in sight. Thousands of people were walking the streets, cars were honking but there was nothing familiar for me. I heard the ship’s horn blast and watched it slowly slide away. It was my last connection with home.
My satchel over my shoulder, I walked towards the town away from the docks. A police officer at a large street stopped me and asked me where I was going all by myself. Since I had no answer, he took me to a building on the docks.
“Hey, I have a little girl here that got lost in the shuffle of the evacuation from Guernsey,” he told the officer behind the desk.
“Oh, my. I think I can take care of that.” he replied in a jovial tone.
I didn’t hear the rest of the conversation but somehow he arranged for me to go to a family’s home from a list of volunteers who had opened their homes to the evacuees. A car drove me out to their home and I lived there for twenty years. My new family attempted to contact my parents but apparently, my father was one of the first casualties of the bombing on the island. Roger joined the Royal navy during the later years of the war so I didn’t see him until eight years later when he came to visit me. My mother agreed to let me stay with my foster family until I finished school, although she was faithful to visit me every a month once the war was over. She died when I was sixteen and just finishing school, so I never did go back to the old home except to visit the island.

 2015 copyright. Use only with permission.