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Inspiration Behind The Mind’s
For Jackson Freeman:Henri’s
Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye…”
they were singing, all along the train. Hordes of children much
younger than me, singing and dancing in their drab school uniforms,
flinging their gas masks at each other like catapults. Some of them
had lost the name labels that were supposed to be pinned to their
lapels, those little white tickets that told the billeting officers
where they’d come from and where they were going. But they didn’t
care; they just went on singing.
“…I didn’t feel
Cheerio, here I go, on my way…”
much like singing. It was all too sad and too sudden, leaving Mum
at the station in London, being herded onto the great grey engine
like cattle. Leighton didn’t understand my thoughtful expression as
he stood beside me, rocking with the motion of the carriage. He
wanted to sing, I could tell. But he was only ten, a full five
years younger than me; he didn’t even know how to feel the way I
did. He didn’t worry about when we’d be able to see Mum again.
Or Dad, for
Go and join in Leigh,” I pressed, “I’ll be all right without
brother didn’t seem sure about that, but he took the opportunity
he’d been waiting for all the same. I watched his skinny legs skip
into the throng of children until I lost sight of his brown
bowl-cut head of hair in the crowd. I looked around hopelessly,
confirming once again that I was the only teenager on the train. I
cursed under my breath. I’d forgotten to tell Leighton to take care
of his label. It didn’t matter so much for the other kids, now
trampling on a sea of white paper name tags on the train floor, but
our labels were important. Ours were green.
another careful look at the train. The guard had passed through our
carriage quite some time ago, which meant that the children who had
been initially well behaved had now worked themselves up into a
frenzy. They were chattering excitedly about where they were being
sent, asking the ones that were good at reading to read out notes
from their parents, hanging their heads out of the window to catch
a taste of the bitter September breeze flying by. They hadn’t
noticed me. Nobody really did. So they wouldn’t notice if I were to
do something odd.
I closed my
eyes, lifting my arms until the base of my palms rested on my
forehead. I took two slow breaths. In and out and in and out. I
brought my hands gently down over my face until I could feel them
casting a shadow against the light streaming in from the window.
The chatter of the children faded into a low hum as I began to
concentrate hard on Leighton.
A cold shiver
passed through me. When I opened my eyes I was four feet tall and
standing in the middle of a mass of giggling boys and girls. One
girl with curly blonde ringlets gave the shoulder I was attached to
a push. I felt her pinchy grip.
What’s your name then?” She demanded with a lisp.
Leighton Cavendish,” I heard my brother’s voice
“I felt a
Are you goin’ on your own?” The girl asked.
little dizzy as my brother shook his head.
No I’m with my sister, Kit,” he explained, “she’s back in the
other part of the carriage.”
Oh yeah,” said the little blonde girl, who I was beginning to
think was a rather nasty piece of work. She screwed up her piggy
face and shoved Leighton again. I felt the jab harshly. She had
hurt him. “Where are you goin’ then? I bet it’s not as good as my
place. I’m going to An-jel-see.”
, I thought, but I tried my
best to keep it to myself. Leighton was fidgeting with his lapels,
confirming my worst fears when he dropped his head down to look at
them. Through his eyes I saw the pin that should have been holding
his green paper label.
Oh, um,” he stammered, starting to look around.
his gaze in deep concentration, trying to ignore the piggy girl’s
laugh as I helped him search the floor of the crowded carriage. I
could feel the tension building in his little body, like he knew
how angry I might be at him for losing his paper after all the
warnings Mum had given him that same morning. His glances became
more erratic and harder to follow as he twirled around, but I
caught a flash of something in a pea green shade on one of his
twists. But I couldn’t make him move back to it and he didn’t seem
to want to turn that way again.