Mum tied it on. ‘So they’ll know who you are,’ she said. Wearing half me clothes, the rest squeezed into a small suitcase, I felt like a badly wrapped parcel – but it didn’t feel much like Christmas. I bit me lip, pushed my fingernails into my palms until it hurt, glad I’d stopped biting them. Though I’d start again soon enough.
We were in the school playground first off. They gave us each a cardboard box. Thinking it was a present, some kids got all excited. I knew better: ‘Gas masks!’ I told the boy next to me; his face dropped.
From there we was herded on to buses that took us to Paddington station. Knuckles clenched, holding myself together, I didn’t shed a single tear. Others did: girls mostly, and mums. Not mine. Kissing me on the cheek mine told me ‘all that fresh air’ would do me good. ‘Like all those holidays we couldn’t afford thrown into one,’ she said, sniffin. And wiping her nose with her sleeve she was gone.
The train stopped at a place I couldn’t pronounce. I was nearly nine, but reading wasn’t my strong point. Though I was good at sums. Could add up well enough to know this didn’t add up to much of a holiday…