A Liverpool Lass

A Liverpool Lass by Katie Flynn

Book: A Liverpool Lass by Katie Flynn Read Free Book Online
Authors: Katie Flynn
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    Because it was getting near Christmas the children got up, now, whilst it was still dark, dressing by candlelight, shivering in the unheated dormitories and the long, cold corridors, quite eager to get downstairs to the dining hall even when the breakfast porridge was burnt or their morning drink more water than milk. But there was something in the hush from the house which told Lilac that it was still early, that the bell would not be rung for a while yet.
    So why was she awake? To be sure the footsteps had woken her, but that was no reason not to return to sleep once she had convinced herself there was no danger, so why did she not just snuggle down again and go back to sleep until morning? Was there something special about today, apart from beingawake when everyone else still slumbered?
    And then she remembered. No one could be certain when Lilac’s real birthday was, but Nellie had decided that since to all intents and purposes Lilac’s life had started on the day she arrived at the Culler, her official birthday would be the second of December.
    And today was the second, Lilac remembered, and felt excitement course through her. Not that the Culler made anything of birthdays, not with sixty inmates all of whom had got themselves born at some time or other, but Nellie never let the date go by without a gift, however small, and a treat of some sort. They had been twice to Lewis’s, a favourite outing, so that Lilac could gaze enviously at the beautiful toys and clothes. Once they had taken themselves off to Bold Street to drink coffee and eat a squishy, delicious cake in Fuller’s, served by real waitresses in frilly aprons. Another time Nellie had taken Lilac to the Royal Studio, where either Mr Brown, Mr Barnes or Mr Bell, they could not tell which, had sat her before a country scene with a bunch of artificial roses in her hand and taken her photograph. Nellie had a copy of the photograph on her wash-stand and Aunt Ada had one on her sideboard. Lilac liked to look at the photograph and imagine that one day her rich relatives would see it and demand to be told the name of that beautiful child who was so like the baby stolen from them years ago, but other than that she felt slightly cheated by the photograph. The main gainers had been others and not Lilac Larkin!
    But today Lilac was nine years old and despite the fact that the country was at war with Germany, Nellie had promised it would be a specially good birthday. Davy would be in the ‘Pool, on leave from his frigate, for he had joined the Navy on the outbreak of war, and there was to be a special Christmas pantomime stagedat the Royal Court theatre opposite Queen’s Square so that troops who would not be in Blighty at Christmas should still have something seasonal before they were sent abroad. It was Davy’s excellent suggestion that he should treat Lilac and Nellie to a seat in the stalls as his own particular birthday present.
    And Nellie, not to be outdone, had said that on the Saturday afternoon, when she was off, just the two of them would do something nice. Not Davy, since he would be working aboard his ship all day, though he would join them in the evening for the theatre trip, just Nellie and Lilac. Like old times, Lilac thought to herself; she was not jealous of Davy, that would have been silly because she knew she was the most important person in Nellie’s life, but she did like to have Nellie to herself on her birthday.
    ‘Tell you what, we’ve talked about it often enough,’ Nellie had said the previous evening, when she was supervising Room nine’s undressing. ‘Tomorrow we’ll go for a trip on the overhead railway! We’ll tek the tram up to Seaforth and come back by rail, then we’ll have a fish supper at the pier’ead, make a day of it.’
    ‘Oh, Nell,’ Lilac gasped. ‘Oh, I can’t wait! You are so lovely to me!’
    ‘I’ve always wanted to do it meself,’ Nellie confessed. ‘All the big ships ... you can see ’em best of

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