Recap: While Bayla, Sophie, and Aliza are waiting for the bus, an air raid siren blares and they run to the Underground. The bomb drops nearby but doesn’t explode. A bomb squad comes and sadly one of the men is killed. The girls decide to risk leaving the shelter and catch a bus back to Sophie’s home.
Driving through London towards Golders Green, there was devastation everywhere – rubble, debris. I couldn’t stop looking, and part of me didn’t want to look. Everyone on the bus was silent, surveying the terrible destruction from all the bombs.
Aliza fell asleep leaning next to me.
Sophie and I whispered over her head. “That was so scary,” I said.
“Yes. Baruch Hashem, we were able to get to the Underground.”
“That man who tried to dismantle the bomb. He was a hero,” I said. I was shaking, thinking of what he had done and what happened to him.
The bus pulled up to our stop and I had to nudge Aliza gently awake. We piled off the bus and headed home.
Things here looked more normal, with no bombed-out buildings or piles of destroyed homes or buildings.
When we reached our house, the rows of familiar lilies were a welcome sight. Tante Aimee welcomed us with hugs and lavished a lot of attention on Aliza.
“So happy you came, Aliza. We set up a special bed for you with the other children.”
Mimi ran into the room and hugged us all. I introduced her to Aliza. Benny was standing to one side and eyeing the new guest.
When the children were busy playing outside, Sophie and I told Tanta Aimee about the siren and the bomb. “Chana called. She told me she was so worried. I’ll have Aliza call her. I’m so thankful you’re all okay. Parents are evacuating the children away from the city. The government is recommending it.”
“We’re fine here,” I said.
Sophie joined in. “It’s good here. We don’t have to leave.”
Tante Aimee sighed. “I hope you’re right, girls. If the bombing keeps up though…”
I ran outside. I didn’t want to hear the end of the sentence. I didn’t want to leave here.
Aliza was sitting away from the others. Benny was throwing a ball to his friend, and Fraidy was running back and forth, enjoying the game. I plunked down beside her on the grass. “You don’t want to play?”
“I’m not good at catch.”
“What do you like to play?” I asked.
I rose and headed back into the house. I told Sophie we needed a jump rope and together we looked in the storage closet. Sophie found it first. “That was my favorite one with the bells in the handles.
I raced outside with it and handed it to Aliza.
Her whole face brightened. “Thank you, Bayla.”
It was the first time she said my name.
“So, show me how you jump.”
Mimi came outside. “Wow, what a nice jump rope.” Aliza started jumping, and Mimi and I counted. When she reached 100, Benny and his friend Michah wandered over to watch. She was huffing and puffing but she kept going all the way to 200.
“Does everyone want a drink?” I asked.
“Aliza, that was amazing!” I said and hugged her.
That night, Aliza wanted me to tuck her in. I told her a story and kissed her cheek. We said Sh’ma together and I asked her to tell me something she was thankful for. “My Mama used to do that with us every night when we were little.”
“I’m thankful I came here with you and you gave me a jump rope.”
She lay down and soon her breathing was even. I tiptoed out of the room.
Mimi met me in the hallway. “She’s attached to you.”
“I really didn’t think she would listen to me. I assumed she would feel more attached to you.”
“You don’t realize your own gifts,” Mimi said.
That night, Sophie was in the den, speaking to her parents.
Mimi and I sat up late, whispering. “I was terrified,” I said. The siren went off while we were standing at the bus stop. Everyone was racing to the Underground and I was worried about Sophie. She fell behind and I couldn’t get to her. It was so scary.”
I felt my heart pounding, just remembering those moments running to safety. “Then the whistle – that ominous whistle. I hate the wait for the explosion. It happened, but the second one, the second whistle, was the unexploded bomb. Sophie told you what happened?”
Mimi’s eyes were wide in the dark. “He was a hero – that man who went to diffuse it.”
“Mimi, when will it end?”
“It will end. Hashem will end it. We have to keep davening.”
“There are signs everywhere about evacuating children. Mimi, I don’t want to leave here.”
“Hopefully, we won’t have to…”
A few days later, on a night when no bombs were being thrown at us, Sophie and Mimi were upstairs playing checkers. I was on the porch writing in my pink journal. Tante Aimee and Feter Dan were in the dining room that connects to the little terrace. I overheard their conversation.
“Did she write back?” Tante Aimee asked.
“Yes, I received the reply today by telegram.”
“What did she say?”
“She said the older children can come. She needs help on her farm, but she has no accommodations for the little ones.”
Tante Aimee sighed. “Can’t she make accommodations? We’re being bombed here.”
“Look, she offered to take the three older ones. We have to be grateful.”
“When can we get them their tickets?”
“I’ll see what I can do. It’s not so easy to gain passage. Everyone is scrambling to send their children away.”
Passage? Sending children away? I stopped writing and listened with growing dismay.
“I’ll miss them so.”
“It’s a farm. They’ll get fresh air and they’ll be away from this awful bombing,” Feter Dan said.
“I know it’s the right thing. I’m sure my brother would want me to send them to America.”
America! No, I don’t want to go to America.
I stepped into the room. “Tante Aimee, please don’t send us away. The bombs are going to stop. ”
Feter Dan’s eyebrows shot up. “Are you a military expert, Bayla? I like your prediction but, eh, can you guarantee that?”
I knew he was partly joking, but I really didn’t want to be sent away.
“Please, we’ll be careful.”
“Bayla,” Tante Aimee came and put her arm around me. “It won’t be forever. It’s the right thing to do. We love you and we want you to be safe. The government is urging all parents to evacuate their children. It would be irresponsible of us.” Her voice broke. “When you’re a mother you’ll understand. Only I pray you’ll never have to make a decision like this.”
Feter Dan sighed. “It won’t be for long, G-d willing. The Brits will hold back Germany and the Americans will come in. Hitler can’t keep this steady bombing up forever.”
To be continued…
Susie Garber is the author of Secrets in Disguise (Menucha Publishers 2020), Denver Dreams (a novel, Jerusalem Publications, 2009), Memorable Characters…Magnificent Stories (Scholastic, 2002), Befriend (Menucha Publishers, 2013), The Road Less Traveled (Feldheim, 2015), fiction serials, and features in various magazines, including A Bridge in Time, historical fiction serial (Binyan Magazine, 2017). Fiction serial in The Jewish Press – Falling Star (2019), article in the Winter 2019 Jewish Action Magazine. She contributes to the community column for the Queens Jewish Link and writes freelance for Hamodia. She works as a writing consultant in many yeshivos and teaches creative writing to students of all ages.