This is the first in a series of one-shot stories linked by the theme of a promise made to or by the central character.
My thanks to Purupuss and Jules for proofreading, my acknowledgement to Granada Ventures as the owners of the original characters and my thanks to Gerry Anderson and his team for creating themAlan
When Alan looked back on that day, the first thing he remembered was the rain. He stood beneath his grandmother's dark blue umbrella, his hand clutched tightly in hers listening while the raindrops pattered on the fabric and dripped over the edge to form puddles on the grass He pressed himself against her side for comfort. So much that was happening today was confusing. A lot of things were confusing when you were only five years old. A couple of times he had tried to ask Grandma what was happening but she had only 'shushed' him and gripped his hand even tighter.
For a start, he was sure it wasn't a Sunday, but this morning he had been dressed in his best clothes and they had all gone to church. There, instead of sitting in their normal seats near the back (in case he needed to be taken out to use the washroom) the family were sitting in the front row. Gordon sat on Grandma's other side, looking solemn, which wasn't like Gordon at all. The older boys sat with Dad. John and Virgil both looked like they had been crying, while Scott seemed to be trying not to. That didn't make sense either. They were all big boys and big boys didn't cry. Dad's face was even stranger. Normally Dad was smiling, sometimes he looked worried. Just occasionally he looked cross, especially if Alan and Gordon had been arguing or making a lot of noise. But today his face just looked tight – as if he didn't want to move it at all.
There was a lot of singing and talking from the grown-ups like there usually was in church, and all the standing up and sitting down. One thing that was different was a big wooden box at the front. He wondered if it was some new sort of table. He could see there were flowers on it at the moment.
After the singing and everything else was over, many of grown-ups came up to shake Dad's hand. Some of them Alan knew, they were neighbours, or people he called 'Auntie' or Uncle', but a lot were people he hadn't seen before. Nobody looked happy.
After this the family had climbed into a big black car. It wasn't their car and he didn't have his booster seat so he couldn't see out of the window very easily. The car drove very slowly. Alan wished it would go faster. He liked it when Dad drove fast and the scenery whizzed by, even if Mom sometimes got cross with Dad and told him off.
They had ended up at this big park place, in the rain. It seemed silly to stand around in the rain – why couldn't they come back when the weather was better? Then he could run around and play.
There was more talking from the grown-ups, while Alan stood and watched the rain. He would have to be careful as there was a lot of mud around, and he knew he would be in trouble if he got his best shoes dirty. Normally he would wear trainers if they were going to the park, because nobody minded so much if you got them muddy – as long as you took them off when you got home and didn't get mud on the floor.
Then the big box that had been brought with them was put in a hole in the ground. Dad's face got even more closed up then and he had shut his eyes so he couldn't see it happening.
People started leaving after that. One of the ladies came up to Grandma and spoke to her, then ruffled Alan's hair and told him he was a good boy. Alan didn't like it when people did that. He liked his hair nice and tidy. And he was being good. Grandma had made him promise this morning, but he knew he had to be good anyway. When Mom had left to go and see her friends, she had given him a big hug. "Be a good boy and I'll be back in a few days," she said as she had kissed him. Alan had been good. He had been good for ages and not lost his temper once. Well, OK, only once at school, but that was Sally Henderson's fault – it had been his turn to go on the swing, not hers.
John had said Mom wasn't coming back. He had been crying when he said it, but Alan was sure he was wrong. He couldn't believe him. He didn't want to believe him. Mom had promised to come back if he was good, and he knew Mom wouldn't break her promise.
Of course she wouldn't.