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Prompt: ‘word grab!’ Words are: front, deprive, picnic, throw and mock.
You stare, in disbelief, at the book in your hand. The scratchy, knitted throw presses against your bare legs, and you play with the loose thread. Absent-mindedly, you run your fingers over the front cover of the leather journal you have just been given.
It’s 1943. You were evacuated just last week.
The family that you’ve gone to seems friendly to everyone but you, but they are motherless. You, too, are missing your mother, even though you know that your father is already dead.
You remember the day that the telegram came. The ship that he was on had been sunk by a submarine. Your mother had dropped to her knees, a silent scream on her face. Blood tricked down your ankle as a shard of a dropped plate stuck into your body.
That doesn’t matter now. You’re 500 miles away, in Inverness, Scotland, whilst your mother remains in London. During the Blitz.
A pretty, red ladybug crawls onto your ankle, where the cut still shows – a scar now. You let it climb onto your leg, and the combined tickling of that and the throw beneath you makes you chuckle in spite of yourself.
“Here.” A sandwich, filled with lettuce and an odd sauce that you don’t recognise is thrust into your palm. You stare at the boy’s plate, which is piled up, mainly with Scotch eggs. Although the family seems nice, you can’t help but feel a bit deprived: after all, you only had the throw for a blanket last night, and it’s spring.
Albeit cold, the day is bright, and you eat your measly sandwich, savouring the disgusting taste. Crumbs fall onto the front cover of the journal, and you wipe them off carefully, making sure that they don’t stain the beautiful leather. It was the one thing that the family had given to you that you felt like they wanted to give to you.
The journal, with a pen in a pocket to the side, is brown leather. The front cover has a motif, an embossed Celtic triskelion. You run your fingers over it, enjoying the way they fit into the lines.
The father of the family stretches out leisurely on the large throw. He winks at you, and you smile back. So far, he is the only one that’s been kind and welcoming. He gave you the journal, after all.
“Go and play,” he orders the others; three boys, with whom you’ve been sharing a small farm cottage with.
The eldest, two years older than you, glares in your direction, but says sweetly, “Ok, Papa. Shall we take her with us?” You feel your stomach drop when the father nods. The boys have been pests since the day you arrived, laughing when you dragged in a ratty teddy bear and ate with your fingers at the table, even though they were soaked in gravy.
You stand, carefully placing the ladybug and the journal on the throw. You give it one, last longing look before following the boys down the hill.
You aren’t very good at running. You can do it in London, but you prefer to stay in and read. Thankfully, the teachers understood there: but, in Scotland, it would seem that they would rather you went out and froze than stayed inside.
Stockinged feet in black, leather shoes pound down the hill. When you reach the bottom, you see that the boys are by a rope-swing, over a small river. Watching them for a while, you see them ‘play’ – if you can call it that. More shoving each other around.
“Come on!” the eldest shouts gleefully, pushing the rope at you. You catch it; just about. “You have a go!” He laughs, clearly assuming that you won’t be able to.
And he’s right. When you take a running jump onto the swing, you miss, falling into the freezing water below, soaking through your thin dress.
The boys hoot with laughter. Fuming, you stand, glaring at them. “Oh, look at her,” the youngest says, “She can’t even jump properly! What do they teach them in London? How to be losers?” The comments set the boys off again.
You storm back up the hill. The thin dress, the only one you could afford, sticks to your skinny body, and you shiver. You may be old enough to have started to grow a bit, but so far you still look like a boy.
Water drips down the front of your dress, keeping your legs in a constant state of wetness. Clenching your hands into fists, you ignore the mocking voices of the boys behind you. You race up the hill to your adoptive father. The picnic hamper is still open, and he is taking a glass bottle from it; you can see an amber liquid, then five cups follow.
“Ginger beer?” he asks cheerfully, holding up the glasses. His face drops when he sees your stormy expression and the water dripping from your clothes. “What have they got you to do now?” he sighs. You shrug. You don’t want to talk about the humiliating experience. He pats the place next to him. “Come and sit next to me,” he smiles.
Even though you’ve only been there for a few days, you already understand the privilege of sitting next to the head of the household. As you sit beside him in the sun, beaming, the boys have caught up, and promptly begin to complain.
“But Papa! She’s an evacuee!”
“Papa, you said that I could sit next to you!”
“Yes, yes, I know,” he consoles them, “But look what you have done to her! She is soaking wet.” He shakes his head disapprovingly, but passes them a cup; although he gives one to you first.
As the boys glare at you, their Papa the only thing stopping their mocking, you poke your tongue out, relishing in the feeling of not being the piece of dirt on someone’s shoe: for once.
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