There it was. The blockwork was a darker grey than the fog that surrounded it. Castle Cornet. Molly was nearly home. The boat chugged around the lighthouse, pushing through the tattered curtain of fog that hung in front of St Peter Port. Molly looked frantically for the coloured fishing boats that had once jewelled the water. She couldn’t see any. The Island’s air caressed her face and tousled her hair, reminding her of how different the sea air was.
The town was coming into view. The spire of the Town Church saluted her militantly through the clouds, making her heart stop momentarily.
“Pull yourself together Molly”, she scolded. “Those days are over. He’s dead and rotting in hell. You are returning to normal life at long last.”
Molly was sure Papa would be waiting for his “petit pa’qurolle”, his little primrose. She hoped he would recognise her after all this time. She recalled when the note was sent from school, informing her parents that children were to be evacuated to Weymouth with their teachers and rehoused with UK families for their own safety. Papa read the note silently in the drawing room of their town house. He rubbed the inked paper between his thumbs and forefingers, desperately hoping the message would disappear. It didn’t. Mama and Vivienne, Molly’s sister, sat on either side of her on the couch in front of Papa, waiting for the verdict.
“Ma chiere, you are too young and too precious to lose. You cannot stay.”
“Is Vivienne going too?”, said Molly.
Papa shook his head, explaining that Vivienne was seventeen, six years Molly’s senior and was old enough to remain on the island.
“Papa, it’s not fair. No-one is even sure if the Germans will make it here. I won’t go! Not alone. Why does Vivienne get to stay and I have to leave?”
Sorrow bulged in her throat like a bolus of food that desperately needed to be washed down with water. Mama sobbed. She did not argue with Papa. It seemed no-one wanted Molly to stay, not even Vivienne who was studying the carpet, her eyes fixed on its elaborate pattern.
Bending down, Papa knelt in front of his youngest daughter and held her porcelain hands.
“Ma petit pa’qurolle. I am sorry. But you’ll understand one day why I had to send you away.”
Papa did not bring Molly to school the day the children were evacuated in June 1940. At 6am, Vivienne, Mama and Molly walked in silence through the streets to the school. Molly prayed that the arches of her feet would somehow get stuck permanently to the rounded cobbles. Then she couldn’t be sent away. They would have to build a house around her. She would never be able to move but at least she would be in Guernsey with the people she loved.
“We will say good bye here at the gate mon tchoeur”, said Mama.
Vivienne hugged her sister, holding onto her a little longer than usual.
“You’ll be home soon. You’ll see. The war will be over in no time.
Mama brushed the lapels of Molly’s coat and placed an orange into her pocket.
“For you, ma chiere fille”.
She gently put seven and a half pence into the child’s hand.
“Chances are you won’t even need it. You’ll be half way to Weymouth and the captain of the boat will get a message that the war is over and he’ll turn straight back.”
Molly remembered wondering why Mama wasn’t looking at her. She seemed to be talking to the buttons on Molly’s coat while straightening them and to the bows on her tightly braided hair. Five years on, she understood better.
Molly’s reminiscing was interrupted by another teenager.
“Look there, on the street. What on earth is going on?”