The girl on the other side of the compartment won’t stop staring at me. For a while, I just pretend to stare out the window, but there’s only so much smeared horizon I can bear to watch through the rain speckled train window. Customary January frost has settled on the marshy fields, and in the gloom of the winter morning, the sky is tinted a dull grey. A small gust of wind oozes into the car, chill and unpleasant. At this point she can’t be watching me anymore. I nonchalantly stretch and look over to her seat. She’s still peering over her small leather gas mask pouch perched upon her lap. She pretends to read her name tag whenever I glance over to see if she’s still gawking- but I know that by now, she would have read that identification tag at least 50 times.
It hangs gloomily at her coat lapel, and I know it will be read over dismissively at the next train stop, where host families grudgingly take in the prettiest girls and the neatest boys. I wonder what she’s thinking. Is she wondering at my behaviour, my rough brown jacket, my oversize boots. My small tin of heavily rationed bacon and crackers, taken from my family’s meagre food supplies is rather uncomfortably balanced on top of my knees, wobbling with every train jostle. It’s been hard to get eggs, milk, lard, and fruits ever since food rations were last year, 1940- but this girl has a full jar of jam, biscuits, and clean white bread. She must be one of the rich children, not at all like my family. Some of those upper class boys I always saw driving to school in Rolls evacuated all the way to Canada, shipped from Scotland across the Atlantic. I know it’s dangerous though- one boy I knew, Stanley, was killed in a German torpedoing of the boat. We’re just going to Tynemouth. Mum said I’d be safe over there. I suppose we’ll see.