The last portion of this chapter was done in a hurry (as in, this morning. Between nine and ten.) since I didn’t realize that it was due this week, not having seen a place to turn it in on StudyPlace. It will probably be refined a good bit in the next couple of weeks…ok, maybe a lot. Also, in the last chapter I said that Rosamund had gone to a “Mrs. Johnson’s house.” I changed that to choir practice at the church so as to include a bit more drama. Just what kind of drama? Well, you’ll have to just read it and see. =)
A Wing and a Prayer: Chapter Four
There was no clock in the cellar. Elinor wished that there was so that she could know that she was not mistaking moments for hours. So that she could find just one sound in the darkness to steady herself against. But bombs marked the time here…just the bombs and the sound of her own voice weaving a story to keep the children from being as afraid as she was. At the moment she felt rather like a child – a little one who had scraped her knee and wanted to run home to mummy.
“…and the prince and the princess were married and all the people of the land rejoiced greatly. And they lived happily ever after. The end.” It was an old, worn-out story, but Elinor could do no better under the circumstances. As she ended, they heard a high-pitched whine. This time it was quite close. There was an enormous blast and the ground shuddered violently beneath them. Another whine, this time without the fulfillment of violence. And then all was still.
“Is…is it over, Elinor?”
“I don’t know, Polly.” It was Derek who answered. “I’ll go see.”
“No! No, don’t go out, Derek. We…we should wait.” Elinor felt a strange sort of undefined panic overtake her.
“Because…well, what if they…just five minutes, Derek. And then if they don’t come back, we can go out.”
“I’m not saying we should go out, Elinor.” His face was turned away from the torch’s beam, but Elinor did not need to see it to know what expression it wore. The same look that, years ago, had been accompanied by the stamp of a petulant little foot had lost none of its stubbornness. “I’m saying I will.”
“No, you will not. It’s still too dangerous. And I want you to wait for five more minutes.” It suddenly crossed her mind that she had switched her tone of voice from request to command. “Please, Derek?”
“You can’t tell me—”
“Well, why do you want to go so much anyway?”
“Elinor, haven’t you read the newspapers? Looting is going on all over England – and it usually happens within the first few minutes after an air raid! All I’m going to—”
“Derek…” Elinor turned the torch toward his face. He looked so young and thin in his gray work-shirt and brown pants, revolver stuck conspicuously into his belt – like a little boy playing detective. But no coherent arguments came to mind and Elinor stood silently, listening to her heart throb in her ears. “It’s been about five minutes, Derek,” she whispered finally.
He didn’t answer. The door banged open, letting in splashes of mud and the rain which had settled into a fine, voluminous mist.
Elinor breathed a stormy sigh and turned on her heel.
“Jack and Polly, I would like for you to wait here until Derek comes to get you, all right? I’m going to take Lucy home now so that her mother doesn’t worry about her, but I’ll pop in first and tell Derek to come get you in ten minutes You’re not afraid to stay here, are you?”
“Oh, no,” piped Jack stoutly, drawing himself up to his full height. “If any Jerrys come to take Polly away, I’ll hit him with my torch!”
Unbending a little, Elinor surprised herself with a soft chuckle. “That’s right, Jack. Only make sure that it is a Jerry before you crack him on the head, or you might find you’ve knocked out your brother.”
“Yes, sir,” Jack replied. Polly giggled and began to busy herself folding blankets and returning jars to the shelves.
“I’m not scared, Elli. I’ll just brush the room up a bit so that Mummy won’t say it looks like a pigsty,” she offered, her little voice a comical mixture of the childish and the housewifely. “Goodbye, Lucy, it was so nice to have you.”
Elinor knelt down to button Lucy’s coat and wrap her scarf more securely around her neck. “Are you warm enough, Lucy?”
“Yes, Miss Poole, I’m plenty warm, but I losted off my hat…”
“This is it, isn’t it, Lu? This red beret? There you are – I believe we are ready now. Yes, Polly, you may leave the door open. I won’t be long.”
At first glance, the sleepy little town looked as though it had not been disturbed at all by the recent air raid. The planes had targeted the military testing site just a mile or two away. The town had not been hit at all. A good portion of Elinor’s tension blew away along with the empty newspapers that scuttled down the deserted street. But then she saw it.
A crumbled stone wall, a twisted chunk of metal that once had called the town to church – the ground bejeweled with glittering shards of stained glass. The peaceful little churchyard where once Elinor had played hide-and-seek among the trees, where two gray headstones lay in the shade was now scattered with the rubble of war. Mum…
“Elinor! Elinor Poole! Have you…where is Lucy?” It was Lucy’s mother, her face white with panic.
“I’m here, Mummy! We had a picnic in Miss Poole’s cellar with Jack and…” began Lucy, darting from Elinor’s side through the small puddle of people that had begun to gather on the chapel’s outskirts.
“Lucy is just fine, Mrs. Daly…what has happened here?” Elinor felt her words tighten in her throat.
The older woman was nearly wild with the joy of having her daughter in her arms once more. “Oh, thank God! Oh, my dear…Lucy, darling…”
“Mrs. Daly! The choir was practicing here…did they get out in time? Did they hear the sirens?” Elinor could feel dry sobs rising in her chest, but the woman was oblivious to her frantic question. A woman behind her touched her shoulder soothingly.
“As far as I know, dear, they are still in the chapel, but I hear—”
Elinor did not wait to hear more. Throwing off her hat and coat, she ran for the knot of men who stood trying to make an entrance through the still-intact wooden doors.
Chapter summary: In the last chapter there was an air raid while Elinor was teaching piano. This chapter follows Elinor through the last portion of the air raid, a brief argument with Derek, and her trek across town to return her piano student to the piano student’s mother. While out she realizes that the church where her mother was practicing with the choir was bombed during the raid.