“So then Tom,” his mother wept, “don’t worry. I’ll see you again.” Tom was shocked, he’d never seen his mother cry before. Even when Dad left to help in the army, she had been very strong.
“But-but Mum,” he bit his lip, holding back his tears, “I don’t want to go.”
“I know, don’t worry,” then she started to cry more heavily while singing “We’ll meet again” to him, his favourite song.
Suddenly, a whistle rang loudly through his head, so Tom reluctantly stepped on to the train, his name tag round his neck and watched while his mother grew further and further away until she was no longer visible through his tears.
Tom calmed himself down and tried as hard as he could to find the positive points to this situation. Well, at least he was safe from being blown to smithereens. That was all he could think of. He wasn’t even going to start with the negative points.
“Hello there, “a small boy who looked about eight had just come into the compartment, “I can’t wait, this will be great. Such a brilliant holiday, Dad said it will be fun. I don’t know why he hasn’t come with me, though.”
Tom hadn’t the heart to tell him that he’d probably never see his father again.
“My name’s William, what’s yours?” The little boy said.
“Tom, nice to meet you William,” he felt terrible, “so, do you know where we’re going?”
“No, but it will be good,” said William excitedly.
The door to the compartment slid open and a girl Tom’s age came in. She was pale and looked very ill. She sat down and started mumbling to herself, tears rolling down her cheeks.
“Why are you crying, “William laughed, “this is terribly exciting. Holiday!”
“What on earth are you talking about,” the girl wept, “we’ll never see our parents again. This is no holiday, we’re being evacuated to the country.”
“I will see my Dad again,” William argued.
“No you won’t, trust me,” she was right and William was starting to realise the truth.
Suddenly, his bottom lip started to shake and he burst into tears. The girl took the boy into her arms and tried to comfort him the best that she could.
“My name’s Harriet,” she told Tom.
“I’m Tom… hi ,” he replied.
There was a long awkward silence between the two of them while William started to get to grips with the situation and settle down.
“That’s William,” Tom explained to Harriet
“Oh, the poor little boy,” she was starting to cry again, “he’s too young for things like this to be happening to him. It’s terrible!”
For the next few minutes they sat silently looking out of the window. Later, they each took a small lunch out of their bags and compared what they had.
“Bread and butter with a lump of cheese,” Tom was very pleased with his lunch, “and an apple!”
“I’ve got some cheese and cold sausages,” said William happily.
“Oh mother!” she looked disappointed, “she knows I hate grapes. I’ll swap them for your apple Tom.”
They ate happily chatting to each other about the lives they were leaving behind and dreaming about the lives they were leaving for. Some of their ideas were very far-fetched but none of them had been out of the city before and so didn’t have a clue about what would happen. Shortly after, they, one by one dozed off.
“Right everyone!” the guard was walking down the train banging on the doors of all the compartments, “come on, time to get off.”
Tom, Harriet and William collected their luggage and stepped off the train, staying close to each other. They were checked by a tall man and then led into a town hall.
“Boys on the left, girls on the right!” a small plump lady was hurrying the children along to the front of the hall where lots of adults were waiting and taking a close look at every child, “quiet please”
The lady then started to read out names and appointing children to a family.
“Harriet Mendal to Mr Magda please,” and so Harriet walked head down to her new father.
A few seconds later William was called out and sent to a Mrs Walner.
“Tom Fritz to Mr and Mrs Grundle,” the lady read out and so Tom was handed over to a grumpy looking man and a sympathetic looking woman. They were a middle aged couple wearing farmer’s clothes that he’d seen in a newspaper once.
“Hello Tom,” said Mrs Grundle smiling then turned to her husband, “well, say hello then John”
“Hello boy, well let’s get on home then,” he didn’t look at all happy about taking in Tom in.
“So Tom,” Mrs Grundle seemed very nice, “how old are you?”
“I’m , er, thirteen,” he replied feeling very uncomfortable for the duration of the walk to his new house. It would be his new house but definitely not his home.
Soon they came to a large stone house next to a field and a pig pen.
“Well boy,” Mr Grundle grumbled, “get upstairs and into bed quickly.” Mr Grundle seemed to be trying to make it very obvious to Tom that he already didn’t like him.
Putting this thought behind him, he followed Mrs Grundle up the stairs and into a huge room. Inside, there was a bed, a chest of drawers and a wardrobe. There was a lot of empty space that made the room feel even bigger.
“Here you are Tom.” Mrs Grundle told him, “now, breakfast will be at seven o’ clock. After that, you’ll help John, Mr Grundle to you, on the farm until two o’ clock, then have lunch. Once you’ve finished your lunch you’ll help out with the pigs until six o’ clock when you can have dinner then go to bed at eight. I know it sounds hard work but I’m sure you’ll get used to it, okay?”
Tom nodded, changed, then got into bed. It was warm an comfy and made him think of his mother
“Goodnight Tom,” whispered Mrs Grundle as she turned off the light then went down stairs.
Tom slept very badly that night. He kept dreaming of his mother and the Germans dropping bombs on her house, leaving him here with Mr and Mrs Grundle for the rest of his life.
He got up when the alarm clock on the drawers next to his bed read six forty-five. He got changed and walked down the stairs. He entered the kitchen and was blinded by a dazzling light coming through the window. It was a beautiful, sunny day.
“What’s wrong boy?” Mr Grundle laughed, “never seen sunlight before?”
“Never as bright as this sir,” Tom told him, “it’s dazzling.”
“Been in the city too long, I reckon,” said Mr Grundle unhappily, while sitting down at the table, lighting a pipe and reading the paper. A breakfast of egg and bacon was laid out in front of him.
“Good morning Tom,” greeted Mrs Grundle, “here’s your breakfast.” She placed another plate of bacon and egg before him.
“Thank you ma’am,” said Tom politely.
“Oh nonsense!” giggled Mrs Grundle, “please call me Joan!”
Tom put a bit of bacon in his mouth and chewed. It was absolutely delicious. It was bursting with flavour and fit for a king. He savoured every mouthful. Then he turned his attention to the egg. He cut it like a surgeon, hoping it would be as good as the bacon. It most definitely did. The yolk melted in his mouth, it was delicious.
As quickly as the pleasure had started, it stopped and Tom was sad to see an empty plate.
“Right lad,” boomed Mr Grundle, ” let’s see if you can deal with a good day’s work, eh. You’ll be begging to stop before the first hour’s up no doubt.”
“I’ll try my best sir, really I will,” Tom still couldn’t understand why Mr Grundle didn’t like him.
They walked outside and opened the door to a large shed. Tom was amazed at how many tools and potentially dangerous things there were in there. He was passed a sythe then taken into the field and shown briefly how to use it properly.
“Now,” said Mr Grundle, “seeing as it’s harvest time, I don’t want you mucking this up. I want you cut this wheat from the bottom along these two rows, tie it up into bundles with that string next to the tractor then load it onto the wagon. Got that?”
“Yes sir,” Tom wasn’t looking forward to this.
For the next three hours Tom cut the wheat, tied it up and loaded it all onto the wagon. He was sweating like the pigs when Mr Grundle decided he could do another row of wheat.
“Get your back into it boy!” shouted Mr Grundle at regular intervals.
Finally, Tom finished and watched as Mr Grundle struggled with his tractor. He wanted to get the wheat down to his friends farm.
“Damn thing won’t start,” he wasn’t pleased, “come on Rusty. Oh I’ll have lunch first.”
They went inside and sat down at the kitchen table. Mrs Grundle laid a plate of sausage and egg in front of him. Tom ate it slowly.
“See those eggs lad?” growled Mr Grundle, “come from the finest chickens, they do.”
“Eggs don’t come from chickens, do they?” asked Tom cautiously looking at the eggs disgustingly.
“Of course they do,” laughed Mr Grundle, “where do you think they come from? Weren’t you taught that in the city?”
Tom pushed away his plate as though he was scared of the eggs.
“What’s wrong boy?” Mr Grundle shouted at Tom, “won’t eat? Well, I’ll do something about that.”
“Now John, don’t do anything-” Mrs Grundle tried to reason with him.
“You stay out of this woman!” Mr Grundle exploded. He dragged Tom up to his room in a fit of rage and threw him on the floor. He picked Tom up again and hit him hard. Tom screamed. He was hit again, and again, and again until he was bruised all over.
“We provide hospitality,” spat Mr Grundle, “and you throw it back in our face. You should try to be a bit more grateful!” Mr Grundle hit Tom one more time, then dragged him outside to the pig sty. “Feed the bloody pigs, then wait out here until dinner and you will eat it! Got that boy!?!”
Tom fed the pigs then waited. He stared at Mr Grundles broken down tractor and an idea arose in his head. Tom remembered that before his father had went to help with the war he had taught Tom how to fix a broken down car. Would a tractor be the same? Maybe if he fixed the tractor, Mr Grundle would like him. Tom would need tools. His dad had loads because he was a mechanic.
“Get in here boy!” shouted Mr Grundle from the back door.
Tom ate slowly then went to bed early to avoid Mr Grundle and another one of his beatings.
Over the next few days Tom tried as hard as he could to stay out of Mr Grunde’s way for as long as possible.
Every week Tom was shown a new tool from the shed and he took a mental note of what else was in there and whether he would need it for the tractor.
One night, when Mr Grundle was in the house talking to Mrs Grundle, Tom had a look under the bonnet of the tractor. There was hardly anything wrong with it, this would be an easy job. He would only need a few tools.
“Boy,” Mr Grundle called him inside surprisingly quietly, “get in here. Something’s happened.”
“What is it sir?” asked Tom anxiously.
“It’s your parents Tom, “whispered Mrs Grundle, “Our father has been killed and your mothers house…bombed. A direct hit. I’m so sorry Tom.”
Tom was speechless. He felt as though he had hit in the stomach by Mr Grundle all over again. He walked outside almost in a trance, and was violently sick in the pig pen. When he felt better, he lay on the ground looking up at the night sky. Tom didn’t cry, he couldn’t cry, not yet. He had just dried up and shrivelled away from the real world and he didn’t feel as though he would ever return.
Mrs Grundle opened the back door slowly and crept out to Tom, leaving her husband looking uncomfortably out of the window.
“Come on Tom,” she said softly, “let’s get you to bed.”
Tom didn’t know what he was doing, he just followed silently.
Tom didn’t leave hi room for the next two days. All of his meals were brought up to him by Mrs Grundle. Tom could finally cry, and did so , heavily.
The next day, Tom awoke and felt that it was now time to take a step out of his room, go downstairs and out the door to work. He worked tirelessly without breakfast. When he was directed by Mr Grundle to collect a large bag of seeds, he slipped under his shirt a pner, a screwdriver and a ranch. He sneaked them up to his room at lunch.
“What are you doing up there boy?” shouted Mr Grundle impatiently, “come on, let’s get back to work.
“Coming,” Tom replied and ran downstairs. Tonight was the night, he would fix that tractor.
He did his work hurriedly until another dinner of eggs, that he was now getting used to, then went to bed. Tom somehow kept himself awake until e was sure that Mr and Mrs Grundle were in bed. He crept outside in the dark and fixed the tractor as quickly as he could.
He ran inside feeling very pleased with when he was greeted by a very red Mr Grundle.
“Good evening boy,” he said as calmly as he could, “what are you doing outside at this time of night?”
Tom stayed silent.
“Well boy?. Answer me!” Mr Grundle spat.
“I was fixing your tractor sir,” Tom turned white as he watched Mr Grundle’s face burst into a nasty laugh.
“Oh, is that right? Well, let’s have a look at your handy work then shall we? “Mr Grundle dragged Tom outside into the cold night. He was placed on top of a haystack next to the tractor. Tom watched Mr Grundle get in the drivers seat and turn the key. Mr Grundle’s face fell when he heard a loud roar and his tractor started. He was absolutely gobsmacked. He got down off the tractor and let his hand fall on Tom’s shoulder.
“You’re a genius lad,” Mr Grundle’s face broke into a smile, “oh lad. Thank you so, so much. Come on, let’s get inside and back to bed.”
The next day, Tom woke up, got change and bounced down the stairs with a large spring in his step.
“Tom,” Mrs Grundle said carefully, “now, because of your parents, er, well, we’ve been asked to take care of you, would that be okay with you? We would be happy to take you in.”
“Of course Joan,” Tom was actually pleased to be asked to stay.
“You realise that you will have to stay for a long time, don’t you?” asked Mr Grundle, “as I get older, I’ll need more help on the farm, is that clear, Tom?”
“That would be great,” Tom knew he would be fine, Mr Grundle had just called him by his real name.
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