"Just one more thing, okay?"
I shut my eyes tight as my mother pressed her soft, warm lips against my forehead. I didn't know when that would happen again, and I wanted to savour it. She lifted my chin up with her finger so my gaze met hers, and I tried a watery grin.
"Look after yourself, Clea. You're a good girl." A tear. A glistening, solitary tear falling onto the train platform. "It won't be many months until you and I are together again. Until then you must be brave." One last look. A last smile. I hitched my satchel further up my shoulder and checked my label was fastened tightly to my duffel. Mum always said I would lose my head if it wasn't screwed firmly to my shoulders.
The thing is, with the war, this wasn't beyond the realms of probability.
So that's why I was being sent away. So stupid Adolf Hitler could have his way and blow our heads off. Mum said I was lucky. I was fourteen and three months, just the maximum age that a child could be evacuated, or I would be stuck making bombs with Mum and the other unfortunates who couldn't get away. I considered this. Then decided that I'd much rather stay at home.
Head or no head.
I was just shoving my way onto the train, a million children's hands and faces and satchels all congregating together just to block my way onto the carriage, when I felt my mum's voice in my ear again. "Take it." I turned around to find her face but all I could see was her long, thin, bony hand stuck out from the rest of the crowd, clenched together in a tight fist. "Clea. Open my hand." I blinked away the tears that were threatening to fill, and eventually overflow from my eyes down my cheeks, took my mother's fingers and prised them open. Inside there lay a locket; it wasn't huge in size but it wasn't small either, it had a metal chain with a beautiful gold pendant on the end, engraved with a pattern I couldn't explain, or describe. I took the locket, searched again for my mum's face.
"Thank you," I told the weeping, cheering, throbbing crowd of parents, soldiers and train conductors filling the station like a mob, "I'll look after it, mum. I promise."
But she didn't hear me. Nobody heard me. Before I could even utter a squeak of protestation I was pushed hard onto the carriage by an older boy and left, breathless and motherless, on a train where I knew nobody, no one.
I stood motionlessly in the carriage as the other children propelled themselves towards the huge windows of the train and waved with desperate feverishness towards their mothers and grandmothers and (in some cases) nannies and servants, their anguish visible from their small, grubby faces, their scrawny hands stuck outside the train carriage dancing a tormented, devilish dance as the train pulled out of the station and into the afternoon.
When the throng of children had finally cleared away from the windows and had returned to their lonely and desolate carriages where tears would inevitably be shed, I stole a second glance at the locket my mother had pressed on me before the train had left London. The gold pendant had an inscription, and I rubbed it with my thumb to make the writing clearer.
I took a breath. 'Dum vita est spes est'.
'While there's life, there's hope'.