I had to write this story for my AP Lit class, and I needed a lot of Ann Rinaldi to write it. That woman is my hero. I didn't want to waste a good story, and this is the category where I felt it would be accepted. I'd like to think it's Ann Rinaldi-like. Tell me how it was please, because my teacher didn't give me any feedback and I never trust my own writing.
As morning rose on the streets of London, Joanie leaned out the window. She knew her house still stood, but as she looked down the street, others had not been so lucky. For now the bombing had stopped, but it would soon start again. It never stopped for long.
She turned back to the bed, where her sister Beth still slept. Across the room, her brother William still slept in the bassinet. He had long outgrown it, but the war had forced everyone to make sacrifices. Even families were to be sacrificed.
Her father, one of the best doctors in London according to his patients, had gone first, off to France to save the young men who fought along the western front. Her brother Roger had also felt the need to be one of those young men, risking their lives to stop the German army from taking over the whole of Europe.
Joanie closed the window and shut over the shade. She changed in the dark, slowly taking out her rag curls and letting her dark hair fall on her neck. She sat on the bed and softly shook her sister awake.
"Are the bombs gone?" her sister asked with the innocence of the child, still trying to wipe the sleep from her eyes.
"Only for a while darling. Did you sleep well?"
"I dreamt that Father was spinning me above his head and laughing. And Roger was there too. He was playing with your hair like he used to. You hated that!"
If only he could, but France is too far away. Even letters are hard to get.
"I miss them," Beth finished, a tear welling up in her eye. Joanie pulled her up in an embrace, fluttering her eye lids to keep from crying. She had to be strong, like Joan of Arc her father had said.
She dressed Beth in a dress she had worn as a child, carefully preserved during the depression, and though out of style, still functional. She turned Beth's hair in a single golden plait down her back, before pushing her out the door to their mother.
Will turned in his crib and she picked him up, cradling him, though she knew he was too old for it. She noted that he still sucked his thumb as he rubbed his large blue eyes, inherited from her father.
She carried him out to their mother. Ruth Bates had once been a very beautiful woman, but she had long been overcome by the effects of tuberculosis, and for years had looked a decade older than her forty-three years. She supported herself against the counter as she served the meager breakfast she could muster.
Joanie placed her brother in one of the threadbare chairs as he uncurled from her arms. As he ate, she looked up at her mother, who struggled to smile before breaking into another coughing fit. She darted to the other side of the loft to pick up her sister's knapsack, and taking two lunch pails from her mother, went to the door. She was reminded of the autumn chill, and crossed the room, taking her sisters coat, and Roger's old one. Without telling her mother, she had been saving money for her siblings to buy clothes. At seventeen, she could manage with last year's.
Knowing they were already late, she raced her sister down the four flights of stairs of their building and onto the cobblestone street. Her sister's grammar school was only a few blocks away and the walk was comforting when there weren't missiles falling in the streets.
As if the Germans could read her mind, at that moment the air raid sirens filled the air. For a moment, Joanie froze, but after feeling her sister clutch her hand, terrified, she searched the street for an underground station. This was not the first time she had found shelter in the underground, but for Beth it was all new and scary. People of all ages were rushing down the steps, aware of the approaching explosions. She held on to Beth's small hand, aware that if she let go, the throng of people would trample her. As well as she could manage, she pulled toward a concrete wall, aware that she was one in a sea of thousands trying to do so.
It was then that she felt Beth's hand ripped from hers and she cried out in shock. It was then that she saw her sister in a man's arms, clutching his neck for dear life. He turned and Joanie saw a flash of bright green as his eyes met hers and he took her hand. He somehow managed to bring them to a wall, though they were surrounded by a mass of people. He pushed Joanie against the wall, dropping Beth into her lap and crouching in front of them to protect them from the pressing crowd.
It was then that Beth started crying. Joanie tried to quiet her, but the shock had made her sister inconsolable. The man, who, now that she got a look at his face, was more of a boy, smiled. He couldn't have been more than a few years older than her brother Roger. When he tried to shush Beth, her sobbing stopped, and she looked at him with wonder.
As she wiped the tears from her cherub-like cheeks, he asked, "Would you like to see a magic trick?"
She nodded her head as he took a shilling out from behind her ear and handed it to her. Her face lit up in a toothy smile as she felt the grooves of the coin. He looked up at Joanie, who thanked him for his kindness.
He responded by taking a seat in the cramped place next to her. By now, the panicked crowd had calmed down into a hopeful throng. She thought of her mother and brother, and hoped they were safe in the building's shelter.
She looked at her sister and noticed that all the crying had made her tired.
"Why don't you take a nap, darling? It is only German rain."
She heard the young man chuckle next to her but he offered, "Let her lie down across us. At least someone will have peace."
Before Joanie could answer, her sister lay across them, with her head in her lap. She stroked her head as she hummed a lullaby. The man watched protectively as Beth fell asleep.
"Do you think it will end soon?" she asked, more for herself than to him.
"It seems to go on forever, doesn't it?"
She looked at him as he looked, not into the mass, but through it.
"What is your name?" she asked.
"Lawrence Fitzwilliam Bailey, but please, call me Fitz. All of my friends do," he raised his hand for her to shake it, but chose not to disturb Beth by doing it.
"I'm Joan Bates, and this is my sister, Beth. She still isn't used to the bombing."
"I hope I never get used to the bombing. I don't think I'll survive if my ears ring in silence. But what you told her, German rain, it sounds appropriate. Raining fire, thunder, clouds of smoke from burning buildings…almost makes it sound natural doesn't it?"
"But it's not. It'll never be natural. Not when I have to pray that the Germans won't plant a bomb dead center on my building. I don't want to have to hold Beth to know she's still there. I don't want my brother and father fighting a war across the channel. I want to go back to the comfort of the depression for God's sake! I never thought I'd say that, but it's true."
For a moment he looked like the picture in her old school books of the sculpture of The Thinker. His eyebrows were knitted in the middle of his forehead, and his ever-present smile had disappeared.
"All's fair in love and war"
She scoffed at his statement, especially when he put his arm around her. She was about to vouch for her reputation, when he leaned in to whisper in her ear, "I don't like the way that man is looking at you. He looks like he'd try anything."
"And you wouldn't?" she added, secretly glad that he was protecting her.
"But I would be dignified about it!" he answered, giving the man a dirty look before pecking her on the cheek to spite him. She was starting to warm up to his smile and his emerald eyes.
One of the bombs hit nearby, and plaster shook from the ceiling. Beth started awake and clutched the collar of her sister's coat. Joanie tried to calm her, but once again, Fitz's comforting smile was more convincing.
As the bombs fell overhead, Fitz recalled stories of fairies and princesses. As she listened, almost as intently as her sister, Joanie became entranced with the detail. She almost expected to see a hoard of fairies flight out of the tunnel, or a princess enter down the steps into the station. But no princess, or peasant for that matter, would find themselves on the street now, as streets were torn and houses destroyed.
But suddenly all went silent. Hundreds of whispers went silent in the station. The raid was over, for now anyway. Slowly people stood up and went crept up the stairs, afraid there was an unexploded shell on the street above.
The crowd trickled out as others trickled in to use the train. The trio rose, still shaky from the raid. They had been there for a few hours, though it hadn't seemed that long at the time. Beth was almost unable to stand on her own feet, and without a word, Fitz lifted her in his strong arms as if she was weightless. Joanie tried to object, but when her arms we occupied with the unopened lunch pails and knapsack, she didn't have any other plausible solutions.
She led the way back down the street to the apartment building, assuming that Beth's school had been closed. She hoped that she wouldn't be fired when she showed up at the factory the next morning, but at that moment, she was more concerned with the condition of her mother and brother than the status of her job. Neither said a word as they climbed the five flights of stairs up. At the end of the hallway, Fitz set Beth down, and she ran back to the apartment.
Joanie turned to him, "Thank you, for everything."
"If you really want to thank me, you'll go out with me, tomorrow, nineteen hours. I'll meet you here."
When she couldn't think of an argument, she simply nodded her head and walked toward the apartment. She turned before she went it, and caught him smiling at her. Who could have known that something good could have come out of all of this?
Joanie rushed home the next day. She had asked to borrow one of her mother's party dresses for the occasion, and she planned hairstyles the whole way home from the factory. The sun was just starting to set, and it was looking like a beautiful night. For the first time in a long time, Joanie refused to think about the bombs, or the Germans, or the war. For once, she was happy.
When she got to the apartment though, all hell had broken loose. William was crying, and Beth was trying to quiet him. When she looked around the apartment, she could not see her mother, and ran down the hallway to the bathroom. She could hear her mother coughing on the other side.
"Mama, let me in! It's Joanie! Let me in!"
The door opened and she could see that her mother was coughing up blood. It only took her a moment to realize that she needed to get the doctor. She paused only a moment to tell Beth to watch William, before she flew down the stairs two steps at a time.
By now the street was dark, and she had a moment of fear. With all she had been through, she was still afraid of the dark.
You are strong. Live up to your name Joan. Joan of Arc saved the whole of France. Be that strong! She heard her father's voice echoing in her ears.
With a new sense of courage she ran down the street. She didn't even notice the familiar face that stepped out until he held her around the waist. It was Fitz.
"I'm sorry about our date Fitz, but my mother, she needs a doctor," she panted, using the moment to catch her breath.
"Go back to your mother. I'll get the doctor, okay?" He kissed her quickly on the cheek before running back down the street turning quickly to flash a smile.
She didn't have the energy to run back to the apartment, so she walked as fast as she could, counting the blocks as she went. She paused at the gate to the underground platform that they'd taken cover in the day before. She hadn't heard the bombs in a while. She only spent a moment pondering that they could be over for good, before the familiar buzz of aircraft filled the skies and the sirens started.
The street crowded with people pressing towards the entrance. Joanie found herself being pulled down the stairs as she fought. She found an officer at the bottom of the stairway, but he wouldn't let her back up. Tears streamed down her face as she took a place against the wall.
Her mother and her siblings would all be stuck on the fifth floor of their apartment building. Ruth could barely stand, let alone go down five flights of stairs. She could only hope that Beth knew enough to take William down to the basement shelter.
And Fitz, she had sent him on a suicide mission. How foolish she had been. How close could he possibly be to an underground station now?
Someone came around with blankets. They were going to be down there all night. She would be left to her thoughts, unable to sleep, for hours. Had she killed them all?
Be Strong…Joan of Arc…She tried to remember her father's words as the explosions made plaster fall on her head.
She tried to picture Fitz's smiling as the ground trembled. He would be safe, he had to be.
It's only German rain, she heard herself saying, though it seemed more like a year than a day ago that she'd said it, "It's only German rain."