14 Sept 1940
Alarms ripped through the air. The only interruption to that haunting, whaling tone and the buzzing of German planes was the intermittent whistle of bombs above my head as my family and I scurried into the backyard shelter.
This happened so often that I should have been used to it, but every time, I huddled in the tiny bunker- mouth dry, hands sweaty, and body trembling. This time was no different.
“Stop squishing me!” my little sister whined, jostling my side.
I scooted away from her and into her twin. I always had to sit between Nellie and Bobby; they were always fighting with each other, but it was sometimes hard to keep my own temper in check.
“Now you’re on top of me.”
“There’s no where else for me to go, Bobby.”
Mother was no help. In the flickering lamplight, I could see her rocking back and forth, her eyes fixed on the floor. Another family was in there with us, caught outside on the way to their own house, but they pretended not to notice the squabble.
Bobby narrowed his eyes at me. “That’s ‘cause you’re so fat.”
A bomb struck the ground a couple of blocks away, and the shelter shuddered. Bobby licked his lips nervously and quieted down.
1 Oct 1940
My nightgown rustled around me as I again herded my family into the familiar brick-and-metal shelter. By now, I knew that we were the only children for a few blocks to be stuck like this. All the others had been evacuated, though at the time, had merely peered at me over the top of his newspaper and said with a shrug, “The government is being paranoid.”
Now he was fighting, and I was left to bite my lip and ponder over how unfair my life was. I don’t think the twins knew about the evacuation, but they still thought life was unfair. “I’m thirsty,” Bobby grumbled.
At least they were starting to agree with each other. All that time in a confined space was good for something, after all. “I restocked the shelter’s water supply this morning.”
“But I want milk.”
I grimaced. Talk about “small victories.”
6 Nov 1940
It took several weeks, but I finally found that the twins were quietest when I told them stories. Tonight was Cinderella, which Bobby pretended not to be interested in. All the same, he gasped as loudly as Nellie did when the clock struck midnight and Cinderella fled the ball.
Just at that moment, a rather different sound rang in our ears. A mighty CRASH sounded right next to the shelter as a bomb struck a few houses over.
Mother cried “NO!” and covered her ears, rocking back and forth even more frantically as fire engines raced over to put out the flames that ravaged our own little building.
That set the twins off, and I pulled them close. “Stop shouting, Mother!” I blurted out. “Why don’t you comfort us like a mother should!?” I instantly regretted the words, but my apology got caught in the lump that worked its way up my throat.
Mother never looked up from the floor.
The twins clung to me as I wept silently.
7 Nov 1940
The all-clear sounded, and I cracked the shelter door open with my right hand. Bobby still clung to the other one while Nellie had her arms wrapped around my waste. “The house is gone.” I sighed in resignation.
Then a rustle of fabric caught my attention from deeper inside the shelter. Mother shifted position and raised her head. “Don’t worry; it’s just a house. We’re all safe, and that’s what counts.”
My eyes widened in surprise. “Just a house,” I agreed with a cautious smile.
We may have lost a building, but I knew then that we got a family in its place.
“Just a house.”
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