Anne looked at her watch again as she approached the station. She was 40 minutes late for the poor boy. If only she’d been able to drive.
There he was, crouched next to the broken vending machine. A battered clarinet case rested against the scuffed toes of his school shoes, a small suitcase propping his back. His skinny arms clasped around his bare legs, long grey socks rumpled to his ankles. His eyes expressed forlorn bewilderment as he stared blankly at the grey concrete of the railway platform. Momentarily Anne recalled similar looks in the eyes of the children being evacuated to the country during the blitz. The great storm, Anne thought, that’s what the press are billing it. Such an anachronistic use of the word, a word that once meant vast, today has overtones of something good. What could possibly be good about a storm which had cut a swathe through the south of England downing over five million trees, and had destroyed the homes of so many people? A storm which had seen a young boy, whose parents lived half a world away, sent from his boarding school, while they effected repairs, to the home of a barely known elderly family friend.
“Granny Annie” her reverie was broken as his arms clasped around her waist. She winced as he pressed against her aching hip. The roads hadn’t yet been cleared of debris and her aged limbs had not taken kindly to clambering over the felled trees which littered the route.
“Are you OK Granny Annie?”
She bent to his level and hugged him tightly. “Of course darling. It’s lovely to have you to stay.”
They began the long walk home and he raced ahead, pausing only to take directional cues from her. The case and clarinet interfered not a bit as he relished in playing Robin Hood amongst the branches rising from the tarmac, but he seemed to notice her struggling gait and fell back to her side. His tongue did not follow suit. It rattled away at a rate of knots, recalling the last time he had visited, a time she’d been sure he would have forgotten, and how they’d visited The Mary Rose and HMS Victory. There was barely a pause for breath between his reminiscences and the ensuing queries as to what further adventures this trip would bring.
“Sorry sweetheart” she had to say, “but I will be too busy I’m afraid. There are some families staying at the guild hall while their houses are being fixed. I’ll be spending most of my time cooking meals to take to them.” His disappointment was heart-breaking. “I did get some books from the library. I know how you love to disappear into a story” which satisfied him.
She opened the front door and watched him as he surveyed the gloomy interior. Most of the windows were smashed and boarded over and the smell of still damp carpet was overpowering.
“Here are the books, sweetheart.” She motioned to the pile on the hall table. He picked them up and she was amused to see him already mentally vanishing into the spy worlds of John le Carre, the adventures of Alastair MacLean. He put down the books again.
“Can I rather help you make food for the homeless people Granny Annie. Please.”
She knew it would take ten times longer with him getting under her feet.
“That would be lovely Darling. Thank you.”