A short story serialised in four parts over the next four days
The story is based on real events.
A Lucky Escape
Without which, I would not exist.
19th November 1940
Lucy huddled in the dark polished oak wardrobe among the coats, rocking forwards and backwards, porcelain hands clamped over her ears, fingers tangled in auburn curls, eyes shut tight, her greying pinafore stretched over her knees. Burned toast now mingled with the sickly-sweet, aroma of the lavender pomander on the rail above. At seven, Lucy was now much too big for the wardrobe and the boxes of letters behind her, meant the door would no longer close.
Moonlight filtered through the box-room window between the diagonal lattice of brown gummed tape that was stuck to it. The moonlight picked out fingerprints on the glass and made the dust which eddied, lazily about the room sparkle dimly like feeble stars. Through her hands, Lucy heard her mother's sharp, shrill shriek.
"Jack, you're a copper for goodness sake! Just take the gloves back. They're stolen. I don't want them!"
"Stupid, ungrateful, cow!" Boomed her father. "And you burned the damn toast! What kind of wife are you? You can't even cook."
Lucy rocked harder, head down, hands clamped so hard over her ears that her elbows touched.
"Half a pound of tuppenny rice," sang Lucy to her knees. Neither her hands nor the singing could entirely block out the yells or thumps coming through the bare floorboards.
She felt the vibration of something heavy thudding against the wall in the front parlour below. "Half a pound of treacle," her voice shaky, the familiar words reverberating in her skull. Lucy heard or rather, felt more bumps and scrapes."That's the way the money goes," she sang, louder, but not loud enough to block out the pleading high-pitched voice:
"No! Jack, stop it, you're hurting me!"
"Pop goes the weasel," crash.
"Pop goes the weasel," smack.
"Pop goes the weasel," Lucy sang, over and over, louder and louder.
"Stop it Daddy. Pop goes the weasel!"Lucy was sweating with fear and tears formed at the corners of her tightly-shut eyes.
There was a short silence and then – SLAM! The walls shuddered as the front door shook in its frame. Lucy stopped singing and listened hard. After what seemed like an age, floating up the stairs, she heard a scale being played hard on the piano, up and down, "doh, ray, mi, fa, so, la ti, do ray, mi, fa, so, la ti doh, ti, la, so, fa, mi ray." Tears coursed down Lucy's cheeks as she sang along to her mother's fingers hammering out the scale.
Lucy shifted in the wardrobe, the box behind her dug into her back. As she changed position, she spotted an opened envelope on the floor of the wardrobe by her feet. She recognised Uncle Edwin's familiar lettering. She slid the letter out and held it up in the moonlight to read. The writing was clear and legible enough that even at only seven she could read it.
15th September 1940
We heard through a friend, of the bombing of the rifle factory at Small Heath in August. We fear for your lives and pray our letter finds you and the children alive and well. The police houses might offer you a cheap place to live, but you're on the doorstep of those awful factories. We fear for you every day.
I beg you, come back to Stockport where it is safe. The Jerrys aren't interested in hat factories so you will be spared any more bombing raids.
You have no reason to stay in Birmingham. Your loyalty to that rogue is misplaced. He has not done right by you or the children and it's only a matter of time before his superiors find out what he is up to.
I promised to take care of you when Daddy died. It may be a bit of a squeeze, but Lucy and Henry can stay with us for as long as it takes you to find your feet. There's plenty of work here for an intelligent young woman who knows shorthand.
Please, my dear Babs, for the sake of your safety and your children, come HOME.
Your loving brother
...To be continued...