The next day, the sun blazed like it had never done before. Grass shrivelled into fried, crispy straw. Insects perished on the hot rock. In fact, some villagers boiled eggs on black paving stones that absorbed so much light that children burned their feet. It was as if the sun was falling, closer to earth, boiling humans like we boil our food. Shirley couldn’t take it. She just lay on the hot floor, smothering herself in as much ice packs as she could, feeling very sick indeed. Old Rose practically moved into the fridge, though even the fridge was warm now. All the rationings were going to waste. Outside, the priest was shouting,
”God is punishing us! Pray now! Mend our sins!”
But Shirley could not wait any longer, for she was scared for Arjun. Even though she felt sick with heat, she needed to know what temperature peacocks were used to, and if they could survive 39 degrees. She knew that she needed to find someone, someone who could cure a cold in minutes, someone who could fortune tell, and someone who knew all secrets. Miss Reid.
Outside, the sun scorched Shirley’s body, even burning the soles of her shoes. Sweat poured off her like a fountain, and she felt so dizzy and tired that she could barely put one leg in front of the other. Soon, she was practically crawling, but not letting her knees and hands come in contact with the floor – it would burn her. Eventually, after forty-five minutes of heat and hell, Shirley got to Miss Reid’s house, and fell through the door.
She lay there panting, her body only dimly aware of the voice she could hear.
“What on earth are you doing on the floor, leaving the door open, and bringing all this heat in with you?!” exclaimed Miss Reid, feeling sorry for the girl, but also furious that she had let the heat in.
After a lot of sniffing remedies that Miss Reid had made herself, Shirley began to feel like a human again.
”Miss Reid, is-”
”He’s OK. Peacocks are used to temperatures higher than this!” said Miss Reid, bustling around to make tea. Shirley felt an overwhelming sense of anger. She had come all this way for nothing! Then the radio crackled, and Miss Reid tuned it. Shirley sat down, and started reading a medical book. By chance, she looked out of the window.
Outside, thousands of flags were were being waved, and joyful shouts erupted from houses. People danced, spinning like their lives depended on it. Inside, the radio crackled, and Churchill’s solemn voice echoed around the house.
”The war is over. We have won. Rejoice!”
This happened 70 years ago. Mrs Reid survived the whole war, but she suddenly caught a disease. She died in a week. The lady would never hear the secrets of Arjun again. Old Rose wrote to me, saying that Arjun had disappeared without a trace. I still dream of that peacock. In fact, I still have my quill with his feather. But I know he is always there, a shadow in the sun.
My life started with him. He’ll always be with me.