Wednesday, 9th April 21:34 BDST: Smethwick, England
Doreen wakes up with a start, sitting up quickly and feeling helpless, as she watches the magazine flying through the air to fall onto the floor in a heap. She looks down at Laurence’s crumpled face and at the cat staring back up from out of a crease as it slowly dawns on her that the air raid siren is blaring out. “Oh no!”, her words sigh out in a whimper under her breath. She stands up quickly, just looking around her, not really sure what for. Her world is spinning, the sirens are blaring, but for some reason, Sylvia Cecil still sings on – it’s all so bizarre, all so crazy.
She feels so alone. “Mom, Mom!”, she screams out, “Where are you mom?!?” The last words breaking up as she begins to sob then stops, wiping her hand across her face and collects herself. Running into the kitchen, and skidding on the polished floor, she stops like Tom chasing Jerry, then runs back out again to head up the staircase. She pushes open Amy’s bedroom door, banging it against a wall to see her asleep with her glasses still on and a book open next to her. Doreen grabs her mother by the shoulders and shakes her quickly. Amy’s eyes startle open, she gasps, and she’s speechless as she stares up at Doreen, her mouth stuck open. “Come on mom,” Doreen shouts, grabbing Amy’s wrist and yanking her upwards into life. Before she knows it, she’s halfway down the stairs. “Under the table mom, come on!”, Doreen yells, pointing ahead with a finger at the tip of her outstretched hand.
Mother and daughter fall to the floor, huddled up under the dining room table, as the sounds of the guns all the way over in Victoria Park blast shells out into the night sky. Amy sits there wringing her wrists with her hand, trying to breathe through her tears. “Oh, mom,” Doreen gasps out, pulling her in again and holding her tight under the table. Both women jolt apart and then hold each other even closer again as a mobile ‘pom-pom’ AA gun trundles down Thimblemill Lane, firing blindly into the air.
Beyond the music from the radio in the world next door they can hear the high notes of the Smart children crying and their mother trying to comfort them. Beyond the pleasantries of a “how’d you do?” when their paths crossed while leaving the house, or hanging out the washing, they hadn’t really had much to do with the Smarts. Doreen had blown a fuse from time to time when the children’s ball had come over the fence, but strangely, right now, as Sylvia Cecil still sang on, both Amy and Doreen felt a strange connection to them all next door, cowering too, all in the same boat.