Me, Evacuee

It is September 1st 1939 and World War Two has begun.
Jimmie is only ten years old and yet he is thrown into an unexpected situation which forces him to grow up much faster than he should. There is a call for children living in the cities to evacuate to the countryside and soon Jimmie finds himself all alone on a train to Devon and to an unknown world that is very unlike his own. However, when all seems on the upturn everything gets worse, as his father is sent to the battlefield, leaving his elder sister, his mother and her expected baby to abandon their home in Coventry and move to Cornwall. Jimmie finds it hard to keep track of his family's safety and under these hard circumstances he grabs onto the only links he has with home, while making friends with the unlikeliest of people.
Evacuation isn't as Jimmie expected. Will he make it through? Will his friends and family?
Everything goes into disarray when the bombs begin to fall...

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9. Back to School

Back to School

Jimmie

                I woke up from a bout of horrid nightmares; the declaration was what set it off I’m sure. I was sweating uncontrollably and no doubt, I had cried out. Blearily, I pulled my blankets off of me and slid out of bed. It was morning yet the window was covered over with black material and it shut out any light from outside.

                The clothes that I would wear on my first day to school were folded up at the foot of my bed. It was much too early yet, but there was no way I was to fall asleep again, the frightening dreams also made me a little scared to, in case they became any worse.

                I was unsure what I should do, but I thought that going to the loo might be a good start, so I slipped on my shoes, pulled on my jacket and opened the backdoor. I ran down the garden path towards the toilet, eager to be quick, as already I was felt numbness in my fingers. I was fast.

                After shutting the dining room door behind me, I made my way through to the lounge, dropping off my shoes in the hallway on the way. The silence was eerie so I turned on the radio. It wasn’t only to break the silence, but in the hope of hearing that the call was only a hoax and that we were no longer at war. No such announcement was made, unfortunately.

                As I listened to depressing reports on how to prepare for war, Mrs Elsie walked through the doorway. I ran to help her to the sofa.

                “Oh no, Jimmie dear. I’m okay.” I helped her to seat anyway. I sat back down in the red armchair. “You’re turning into a lovely young gentleman.” I blushed.

                “Did I wake you, Mrs Elsie?” I asked.

                She laughed. “Oh no. I heard you moving is all.” She answered, leaning her walking stick against the arm of the settee. “Why are you up so early?” she asked me.

                “Starting school… couldn’t sleep.” I said, missing out the detail of me being too frightened of returning to bed. It seemed as if Mrs Elsie understood however, as her face softened and she told me it was only expected from a boy of my age, leaving the life I knew to live with strangers.

                “You’re not a stranger Mrs Elsie. We’re family now.” I explained.

                She smiled; I didn’t understand how that had made her feel, however. “Would you like a bath, Jimmie?” she asked me, rising from her chair. I thought and nodded. We made our way to the kitchen. She opened the door into the little room which held the washing equipment and the bath tub.

                Mrs Elsie began to heat up some water in a pan and in the kettle and we talked as we waited for them to heat up. When they did, we poured the hot water into the bath. Mrs Elsie gave me a towel and I collected my school clothes. She also gave me a bar of soap and went to sit in the lounge while I washed myself.

                I was glad to have a wash finally, after my journey; it felt good to be clean and to scrub all of the dirt off my arms and legs. The warmth eased my muscles and I felt the most relaxed I had in the last few days.

                When I was clean, I climbed out, dried myself and pulled on the clothes I would wear for school. I wore my brown shorts, a white shirt, my jacket and a pair of knee-length grey socks. I walked into the lounge and sat beside the fireplace which was now slightly alight as it was still quite nippy inside the house. Mrs Elsie looked up at me and saw me shivering a little.

                “I almost forgot!” she exclaimed and disappeared out of the room for a little while. When she returned she was holding a bundle of green in her arms. She hobbled over to me and handed me the green material. I took it from her and gasped in delight as it tumbled open to reveal a soft, sleeve-less sweater. It had a wonderful zigzagged stitch across it and a hugged it tightly.

                “Thank you Mrs Elise!” I said and quickly pulled off the jacket I was wearing. I grasped the bottom of the woollen jumper and tugged it over my head. It felt so soft and warm. I admired it for a little while, before putting away my jacket on my peg.

                Mr Jim soon walked down the stairs followed by Tommy, he then went to make breakfast while Tommy washed and also got ready for school. Mr Jim walked into the sitting room while the food was cooking. “Nice jumper, Little Jim.” Big Jim said aloud. I looked at Mrs Elsie and smiled, she smile in return.

*

                After we had had breakfast and everybody was ready, Mr Jim unlocked the door and he, Tommy and me stepped out, the cold air hitting us like a brick wall. It was good that I had both my old jacket and my new jumper as they kept me warm, however my legs were exposed to the wind.

                The three of us walked down the road to our new school, while Mr Jim pointed to various buildings along the way, saying things like, “Mr Smithy lives there. I used to go to school with him. He stole my banana once, but got caught and paid the price. I’m sure he hasn’t eaten a banana since…” or “That’s Mrs Anna’s house. She gave me tips on how to grow the best cabbages...” Tommy and me laughed at the stories that Mr Jim had to tell and we had a good time. Slowly the countryside was feeling more and more like home and Mr Jim and Mrs Elsie more and more like family.

                However, when our new school came into sight, my heart began to beat twice as fast and my feet wanted to turn around and run back the other way, but I couldn’t cause trouble, I had to behave; I needed to be grown up. So I gave Mr Jim a hug and pulled my bag higher up my shoulder, before strutting confidently towards the high iron gates. I heard Tommy say goodbye behind me before following behind.

                There were lots of children running around in the playground outside. An older woman was stood at the gates, welcoming children in and making sure, that none escaped.

                “Hello, young man. What’s your name?” she asked me. I wanted to speak, but I was frightened of anything to do with a new school and nothing came out. So much for being grown up. Thankfully, I felt Tommy’s hand on my shoulder and felt his presence beside me.

                “He’s Jimmie, Mrs, and I’m Tommy.” He said politely.

                “Hello Tommy. My name is Mrs May. I don’t remember seeing either of you before.” She explained, scratching her head as if trying to remember.

                “No. We’re evacuees and this is our first day at this school.” Tommy explained confidently, but I think he was also a little intimidated by the sheer number of new people around.

                “Oh I see.” She said kindly. “Who is looking after you then?”

                Tommy gulped and shifted his bag strap nervously. “We are living with Mr Jim and Mrs Elsie.” I looked behind me to look for Mr Jim, but he wasn’t there, knowing that fact now made me feel extremely vulnerable and scared.

                “Oh, Jim! Yes, I know him. He’s such a gentleman.” She said. Tommy nodded, preoccupied with the sheer mass of children.

                “Well I suppose you’ll be wondering what to do and what class you’ll be in?” she asked and Tommy and me nodded in reply. “How old are you?” she asked us.

                “Ten.” I muttered shyly.

                “I’m eleven.” Tommy said.

                Mrs May told us which classes we would be in and where that class had to line up. She told us to wait in the playground until the bell went, then we would line up and our teacher would come and lead our class into our classrooms. Tommy thanked Mrs May for her help and we made our way to one of the benches at the side of the playground, avoiding colliding with other children who flew past.

                We sat down beside one another and I hugged my bag upon my knees. We didn’t speak. We didn’t need to. We both knew the others thoughts for the feelings were mutual. We just watched and waited, my stomach was flipping in expectation. We couldn’t help but judge the children around us, wonder whether they were in our class, what kind of person they were, whether they would be our friends in the future.

                When the bell rang, I leapt out from my skin and me and Tommy rose from the bench, to take our places in line. Tommy’s eyes met mine in a way which said ‘good luck’. I returned the look. Then we spilt ways, him to the right hand side of the playground and me to the left.

                Children fought to be the first in line, whereas I waited nervously and joined the end of the queue. Generally, the evacuees were distinguishable a they either looked scared or held back a little. It gave me some comfort to know that there were actually a fair few other evacuees around.

                I stood at the back uncomfortably. Slowly the teachers opened the huge front doors to the school and walked over to their class. Slowly the children who had been loud only minutes before became silent, though occasionally one could hear parts of whispered conversation.

                I saw a woman who couldn’t be any older than thirty, making her way over, back straight, hair in a bun, a black dress and high heels. She didn’t look happy. I gulped and was greatly thankful I was stood at the back.

                “Here comes Mildred Mildew.” Said the boy in front of me, bitterly. My eyes opened wide in fear. This woman must really be awful. Miss Mildred, her name sounded nasty as well.

                She stopped at the head of the line, her eyes seeing every single one of us. Her face had a look which made me certain that I would never want to cross her. She said nothing but waited until everybody paid her his or her utmost attention. Then she turned on her heel and strode towards the front door. You could hear a pin drop in the playground.

                Our line followed rather reluctantly and I trailed along, climbing up the steps and walking through the unwelcoming doors. The corridors were rather plain and the classrooms were just a wooded door with a small window. Each classroom door had a metal plate with the room number on it. We walked through about three corridors but it all just felt like a maze to me.

                We finally came to a halt and Miss Mildred unlocked the classroom door and turned on the light. Then children made their way to a desk in silence. The teacher stood by the door, counting us as we walked in. I looked up at her, about to ask where to sit, but when I saw the frightening look on her face, I looked away and hurried into the nearest seat.

                I removed my bag and placed it on the floor under my desk. I tucked in my chair, quietly, but then a shadow fell over me and I looked up. Another boy loomed over me and he didn’t look happy.

                “You’re in my seat.” He whispered, but his voice still held a little venom.

                My eyes widened and I quickly scooped up my bag. As I hurried away, I muttered a word of apology. I didn’t look where I was going and I tripped over, my bag spilled open and all of my things tipped out. The group behind me sniggered as they sat down. I quickly picked myself up and gathered my things which had scattered over the floor and just dumped them into my bag.

                By the time everything was back in my bag and I was on my feet, it was silent, everybody had found a seat and was staring at me, including the teacher. I hurried over to the only empty desk at the back and sat myself down, not daring to look at anybody.

                The teacher stood and began to talk to the class which drew all of the attention away from me. I didn’t listen though, as I was too busy trying not to replay the latest events through my head and was desperately wishing that the throbbing in my head would die down. Soon the teacher sat down and the pupils began to talk amongst themselves. I sighed.

                I then noticed that my bowler hat was under the desk of the person on my right; it must have fallen off when I was picking up my things. I politely asked the boy beside me whether he could pass it over to me.

                When the boy’s head turned in my direction, I saw his face and my heart jumped into mouth and began to thump uncontrollably. The boy at the desk beside me was Joe, ‘Joe the King’. I knew him well. Too well. He saw it was me and his amusement at the fact lit up his face. My eyes widened and my breath became staggered.

                I had finally thought that the country wouldn’t be so bad; at least there wouldn’t be my old school bullies here. However, right here, in front of me, was the evidence at how wrong I had been. My old school bully, the one which had gained me the reputation of being a rebel, was sat at the desk next to me. My old arch enemy was in my class, here to make my life misery. I had nowhere to run and I wanted to cry out, but there was nobody to turn to right now. My new life was sure to be hell, just as my last had been. What had I done to deserve this?

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