Shirley gazed longingly at the steep fields of green, the bluebell scattered meadows, and the orchards of plump, crimson apples. Candyfloss like clouds drifted in the sky, and Shirley let her mind wander. There was no sign of war or destruction, and almost everyone looked happy – except the lookout soldiers of course – who looked alert. Shirley turned around, and flopped down on her bed, lying on a quilt that Old Rose had bought. Old Rose had always wanted a girl, and tried her best to spoil Shirley with knitted socks and sprinkles of sugar in her tea. In return, Shirley did the chores.
In the afternoon, she had to go to school in the village hall. The teacher was nice enough, but her broad accent made it hard to understand anything she was teaching. However, Shirley could already read and write, which made her soar to the top of the class. Sitting at the front of the class, Shirley could only think about her Mam and what she was doing. Working in a factory? Sewing clothes? Or could she possibly be planning to come and visit her, and perhaps stay? Her heart fluttered with hope, and at the end of class Shirley skipped happily out.
Weeks soared by, and even though Shirley’s Mam didn’t come and visit, she started to feel happy, and started to form a routine. In the morning she mopped the floor, or did the laundry. Then Old Rose would make porridge, and sometimes for a treat an egg and half a rasher of bacon. Shirley would read or play among the long grass, and then she would go to school. The broad accents were sounding more familiar now, and Shirley found that she was speaking like a country girl, although her manners were still pristine; not at all like a country girls. Soon, frost clung to the withering blades of grass, and small snowflakes drifted down from the sky. Flaming, furious fires flared in chimneys, and Old Rose’s needles clicked speedily, making new blankets by the second. It was perfect.
Yet, there was something that Shirley couldn’t stop thinking about. Old Rose always left the house at exactly 11’Oclock, armed with a tiny lantern, and herbs and a small knitted blanket. The tiny lantern would bob to Merriby Lake, on the outskirts of Acorn Forest. Where was she going? Was she meeting someone?
Shirley didn’t have to wait long – in fact, two weeks later, Old Rose woke her up, and together they walked through the night. To any other villagers, it was an old lady and her evacuee going for a midnight stroll. Though Shirley knew it was something much, much more.
The cold icy fingers pricked Shirley’s hand knitted shawl, and the thin trees round her whispered accusingly. She suddenly regretted reading paper books. The moon hovered eerily above her, and the fog started to close in. Shirley hurried on.
Old Rose stopped by Merriby Lake, (More of a swamp really) and went over to a head sized tunnel. Shirley could feel the tension in the air, and she could also see huge white feathers peeking from underneath leaves. Old Rose made a beautiful sound, the sound of a flute, the sound of winter. And from the tunnel emerged a beautiful, white bird. It’s long tail puffed up into a semi circle, revealing perfect feathers lined up neatly.
‘He’s a peacock. ‘ Old Rose whispered, chuckling at Shirley’s wide, startled eyes.
‘He’s called,’ The old lady paused for effect.