Chapter Seven – The Storm

My story is almost finished.  One more chapter to go.  I hope  you have enjoyed my story and will keep reading. I have one shorter story, which I may start blogging  sometime in June.  Lots to do now and hard to keep up.  This blog has been a starting point for me, and given me the confidence (thanks to your comments) to continue sharing stories from my life. Every single story I am writing at the moment is based on events that truly happened to me.  I embellished a little to make it fun, but there is a great deal of truth in what I write.  For now anyway.  Enough of my ramblings, let’s get on to the next chapter.  I hope you enjoy it, feel free to comment. Happy Mothers Day.

 

CHAPTER SEVEN 

            We arrived at the gate to the playground just as Mr. Robinson rang the bell for assembly.  He stood by the school doors as everyone filed through them.  Judy and I tagged on to the back and stopped as we got to the door.  Mr. Robinson, Mrs. Ball has taken Sonia home, she had a fall on the way to school.  I think the lightning startled her and she fell over.  She asked us to tell you, and to let you know she would be here soon.  Mr. Robinson looked slightly amused. “Lightning you say, I heard a couple of rumbles of thunder, but I never saw any lightning.  Are you sure?”  I nodded my head and was just about to speak when a huge fork of lightning crackled over to our left in the cornfield, followed almost immediately by an enormous clap of thunder.  We all ran inside quickly because when the thunder and lightning was that close together, it meant the storm was right overhead.  It was even more dangerous because there was no rain.  Dry lightning was bad when the corn was turning yellow.  I heard Freddie say that one day when we were riding in his horse and cart.  Mrs. Ball was the only other teacher apart from Mr. Robinson, so we all got together in one class and Mr. Robinson decided to tell a story.  He liked stories, and took this one from his Hans Christian Anderson book.  I enjoyed his stories, but I couldn’t concentrate, I was hypnotized by the storm.  It got so dark that we had to put the lights on, the sky was black and a howling wind seemed to come from nowhere. I was very glad we weren’t still walking along the road to school.  I wasn’t usually afraid of thunder and lightning, in fact I enjoyed it, but this was a little scary.  The trees outside in the orchard were blowing so bad that the blossoms were flying off sideways, making it look like a pink and white blizzard. Far off, in the teacher’s staff room the phone was ringing.  Mr. Robinson ignored it as he was trying to keep everyone’s attention and if he left to answer the phone his class, especially the infants, might focus on what was going on outside.  I could tell Mr. Robinson was a little uneasy too.  It was like night outside our school and it looked like the sun had a big blanket over it. The phone stopped ringing for a moment, but then started again.  I think Mr. Robinson had decided he should answer it, and stood up to do so when something hit the big window at the side of the classroom.  A branch had blown off a tree and hit the window with such force that the window cracked, catching the end of the branch as it did so and leaving it flapping and banging as it hung there threatening to break in.  Lynne, one of the younger children, started crying and Mr. Robinson went over to her to try to calm her down.  Judy, who was younger than me and not normally in the same classroom, came and sat next to me, her little clammy hand clasped mine and we sat there wondering if the world was going to end.  It felt like it was.  Mr. Robinson gathered us all together and led us into the passage way by the cloakroom, he was trying to be cheerful and not alarm us, but by now several kids were crying.  He told us all to sit down against the wall and explained we were safer there, in the corridor because there were only a couple of small windows , so if any more tree branches were flying around, we wouldn’t be hurt by breaking glass.  Almost on cue, we heard a huge crashing noise as the window in the class room we had just left, finally gave in to the flapping branch, and shattered.  Two or three kids screamed and some just continued to whimper.

            I had never been in a hurricane, and I didn’t know if this was a hurricane, but it felt like one.  I could see things flying past the little windows in the cloakroom.  Branches, leaves, and other things I couldn’t make out.  They looked like flying people, the sort sometimes seen in book illustrations, not quite cartoons, but not totally real either, it was scary, hurricanes couldn’t make people fly about could they? I rubbed my eyes and looked again and was sure I saw a face staring in the cloakroom window, a sad pale face with huge eyes looking directly at me, and then it was gone. I saw what looked like seats and clothes flying by too. It was the darkness outside playing tricks with the shadows from inside.  I squeezed my eyes tightly shut, and as I did so, I must have squeezed Judy’s hand too.  It sounded way in the distance, but I could hear her crying “Stop, stop, you are hurting me” I opened my eyes and released my grip, she immediately snatched her hand away from me.  The wind seemed to be calming down a little, I could hear someone else crying, the sound was not coming from the group of children crouched against the wall, it was coming from the infants classroom at the far end of the corridor. I tried to see who was crying all alone in the classroom just as the lights went out.  Everyone screamed!

            Mr. Robinson was talking to everyone in a calming voice telling them it would be all right and it was most likely a branch falling on a power line that had caused the lights to go out. Judy was holding  my hand again and was whimpering quietly. I hadn’t screamed, I had hardly noticed the lights go out, I was trying to see who was in the doorway of the infants class, it was dark, but I knew someone was there.  Lightning flashed, in that split second of light I saw an angel looking in my direction, there were tears running down her cheeks. It was the little girl from my dream, and from the beach in Blackpool.  It looked like a light was shining from within her, her curls were blowing softly as if there was a breeze, even though she was inside and there was none, she was looking out of the window, up to the sky. She didn’t look frightened, just sad. She raised her arm up to one side, almost like she was reaching up to hold someone’s hand and then lightning flashed again and she was gone.

            Now I was scared because something just wasn’t right.  I had a feeling in my tummy, just below my ribs, it was an uncomfortable sickening feeling.  It felt like the air had been sucked out of me.  This was the very first time I had that feeling. As I got older, it was something I felt often, but in 1964 I was only seven and it felt wrong, I could hardly breathe. Tears trickled silently down my face, I didn’t really know why, but I was more scared right then than I had ever been in my whole life. The wind was still howling outside, but not so much.  It was still very dark both outside and in. Judy was holding my hand still and I could feel her looking at me. I daren’t look up because I was afraid of what I would see.  I felt like this day and the whole world, had gone crazy.  Although the little girl didn’t look scared, seeing her had made me scared, it made me think of my sunstroke dream again, and all of the horrible sounds and smells it brought with it. Lights flashed outside, very close and I was scared even more. “Looks like Mrs. Ball made it, it’s a miracle” Mr. Robinson was talking now and sounded genuinely relieved. The flashing lights I had seen were the headlights of her little Morris Minor. I looked along the corridor and saw her by the front doors, which were made of glass.  She had trouble opening them and I willed her to come in quickly.  There were things outside that could follow her in, things that needed to stay outside, things that were just beyond our vision, but they were there, waiting for the opportunity to come in and move among us.  Mrs. Ball looked awfully disheveled, her normally neatly curled hair, looked like it had been pulled through a hedge backwards, but she made it through the doors and she actually turned around and locked the doors after she entered, maybe she had seen the faces too.  She stood by Mr. Robinson and they looked at each other as though their eyes were talking.  Mrs. Ball took the younger kids to one end of the corridor and started talking to them, Mr. Robinson stayed with me and one or two of the older kids.  Our whole school, which was a converted church, only had twelve pupils, so we were a small group, which under the circumstances was a good thing.  A large group of kids could quickly get out of control in a situation like this. 

            I don’t know how long the phenomenon outside lasted.  I never looked at the clock on the wall, but when the lights came back on, we were all very relieved. The wind died down and it got lighter outside. Mrs. Ball led us all into the assembly room and sat down at the piano, she started playing ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’ which was one of her favorite hymns.  We didn’t need any one to tell us to sing. Everyone sang their little hearts out, even the Jehovah’s Witness kids who didn’t normally join us to sing hymns. They didn’t need help with the words either, they sang louder than anyone.  The sun came up again, the wind dropped and then it rained, not a hard drenching downpour, just a gentle early summer rain.  Mr. Robinson led us all to the doors that opened on to the playground and we all stood and looked at an amazing sight.  The playground was covered in petals, pink apple blossom petals, it looked beautiful.  Mrs. Ball and Mr. Robinson looked at each other and then opened the doors, the rain was easing up and we all ran outside, it smelled so wonderful and fresh out there.  We ran around the playground as if we had been imprisoned for days instead of a couple of hours, we kicked apple blossom into the air, we bent down and picked it up and threw it all around us. We lifted up handfuls of it and pressed it to our noses.  I forgot how scared I had been and joined in, the mood was contagious. Kids heal quickly and I was healing again.  The little girls smiling face still haunted me, but I dismissed it quickly, she was probably still on my mind from Blackpool and my mum always said that your mind played funny tricks with you sometimes.

            Melvyn, my first childhood crush, was standing at the far end of the playground, quietly on his own, no one noticed him but me, probably because I was the only one who had a crush on him. He was looking up at a tree at the edge of the cornfield.  I followed his gaze. At first I thought the tree was full of blossoms and toilet paper, which was an odd combination in itself.  I went and stood by Melvyn, next to the wall, to get a closer look.  He looked at me, and instead of pushing me or making fun of me, like he normally would.  He just said, “How did that happen?” I looked at the tree again and saw it was full of pink ribbons!  Full is a slight exaggeration, but there were about thirty pink satin ribbons fluttering from the branches, the same sort of ribbons that the little girl from my dreams wore in her hair. No one noticed us standing there, and in a little while, Mr. Robinson rang the big school bell and we all went back inside.  Melvyn and I didn’t say a word, just went back to class.

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