They Told Her It Was Safer In The CountryMature

Now we will move onto the story of a young girl, this one thirteen years old, and English. Along with her ten-year-old brother and six-year-old sister, she was taken in a huge green steam train away from her mother -- her father, of course, having gone away to war already. The wireless set had told them taht it was safer in the country, that they were less likely to be bombed, and most of her school had been evacuated.

The family that took in Elizabeth were not exactly unkind. In fact, they were sympathetic and generous, though a little more serious that she was used to, but it was homesickness that really hurt her, that and worry for her two younger siblings who, although they were together, were parted from their older sister. Every night she looked out of the window at the cold black stars and searched, as though she could find her mother's face there.

The poor evacuee's family were understanding enough. "Would you like to listen o the wireless, poor lamb?" they said, and obediently Elizabeth sat and listened to the news headlines, only to find a bitter lump of fear in her throat as she heard of bombings in her part of London, and heard the staggering casualty figures.

"My parents..." she whispered. That night she cried herself to sleep, and the next day a telegram came to say that both her parents had been killed. Gone were the flowered frocks and bright ribbons in her hair: Elizabeth wore black, and only black. It was as though her life was an overture that had just switched into a minor key, a painful and agonizingly beautiful song of desolation. And every thump of the drum was a bomb.

The first shells fell nearby just three days later. Early in the morning, Elizabeth squashed her straw hat onto her head and ran, brown plaits flying, to the house were her brother and sister were staying. It was still standing, though those on either side had been hit. Not badly, but the roof tiles had fallen and the garden walls were smashed; windows shattered but for the gaffer tape holding them together.

Four days later she heard the news that her younger sister had been killed, just a minute too late to reach the Andersen despite the fact that the rest of the household had made it. Her short legs had not been able to move fast enough for her to run. She suffered very little, killed almost outright, but it was another devastating blow for her siblings, now almost alone in the world.

Ten-year-old Thomas left the family with whom he was staying and moved in with Elizabeth and her two guardians, because at that sort of time in their lives they wanted to be together. Which was why, when the bomb hit the little house -- a heavy, heart-beat  drum roll in a tense and painful symphony -- the entire branch of the Kinnan family was wiped out and the name would pass out of circulation. That was why, when the authorities visited the house, they found the blown apart remains of two children, not one.

They were hardly recognisable -- just limbs and bones held together by silly things like the leather of a belt or jacket, or coarse woolen vests. And they were buried together, with the remains of little Eleanor. What nobody realised was that, after her arm had been hit and blown off, Elizabeth had in fact still been alive. It took twenty minutes for her to die of shock and blood loss. Twenty minutes of horrific agony.

That was Elizabeth's story.

The End

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