Octavia's War

Octavia's War by Beryl Kingston

Book: Octavia's War by Beryl Kingston Read Free Book Online
Authors: Beryl Kingston
crying. ‘I hate being evacuated,’ she said.
    When Octavia arrived at the station with her two helpers, the dispersal was well under way. She saw at once that the drivers were in a rush and that her comfortably organised groups were being split up and parted from one another, but there was nothing she could do about it, annoying though it was. They obviously had their system, even if it wasn’t a very good one, and if she tried to change things she would only be getting in the way. She stopped to talk to the girls who were climbing aboard the first of the two buses in the square, so at least she knew where they were going and could follow them there, andwhile she was wishing them luck, she saw Miss Fennimore still standing guard with her pole.
    â€˜Can’t help you much, I’m afraid,’ Miss Fennimore said. ‘It’s all being done so quickly. They’re going to a golf club somewhere, that I do know, and a village hall, but apart from that I’m afraid I don’t know where they are. I’ve told the staff to keep a note of the girls’ new addresses, if they can manage to do it.’
    â€˜Don’t worry,’ Octavia said. ‘This is a start and you’ve all got my phone number so you know where I am if you need me. I’ll see you all at ten o’clock tomorrow morning.’ Then she set off, determined to find as many of her girls as she could and knowing that it might be a job.
    â€˜I’ll take you to the house first, Janet,’ she said, as she drove away.
    â€˜Yes please, mum,’ Janet said, ‘if you doan’ mind. I got a list a’ things I got to do there as long as me arm. Mrs Thompson give it to me this mornin’. An’ the supper to get, which’ll be a little ham salad if that’s agreeable, bein’ it’s so hot, like, an’ I doan’t know when you’re likely to be hoame.’ She patted her basket. ‘I got me things.’
    It felt most peculiar to Octavia to be turning in at the drive of an unfamiliar empty house. When she’d decided to rent it she’d thought it was quite a pleasant place, built in the Edwardian style with a wide bow window to light the drawing room on the ground floor and a good-sized kitchen and four bedrooms, one with its own dressing room. There were also two extra rooms in the attic both completely empty, so they would have plenty of space. But now, as she put the key into the lock and smelt the dank, unwelcoming odour of dust and emptiness, she felt homesick and irritable, recognising in that instant that she didn’t want to be there,that she dreaded this war that none of them had wanted, that she needed the familiar smell and order of her own home. She shook the thoughts from her head at once. This was no time to get maudlin. There was work to be done, a challenge to face, children to be cared for.
    â€˜Let’s have the windows open,’ she said to Janet, walking into the dining room. ‘This place needs an airing. And then we’ll get the luggage in.’
    So windows were opened all over the house and they carried in the cases and boxes between them and left them in the hall for Janet to sort.
    â€˜What a difference a bit of fresh air does make,’ Octavia said. ‘Now we must get on with our treasure hunt, Maggie, and see how many of our pupils we can find.’
    They drove about the town for the next four hours, visiting the dispersal centres they knew about, discovering others, praising the girls who were still there for being sensible and waiting so patiently, and questioning every WVS worker they found to try to discover who would have a full list of all the billets their pupils had been sent to. Eventually, when they were finally given a name and told that the lady in question would be outside the station at half past eight the next morning, Octavia decided that enough was enough.
    â€˜Let’s go home and have

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