she’s written her address – the girl who wrote this.”
Dunny was opening the notebook with the tip of his little finger. It had a cardboard cover, its original colour difficult to guess in the weak yellow torchlight.A funny smell rose from the pages. Old book smell. Damp. Sour. Mysterious.
“There.” Dunny set the torch on the edge of the bench so its beam hit the inside cover. The rest of the den, Pete realised, seemed to have grown very dark and shadowy even though it was full daylight outside.
“ 14 Cairns Road, Clydebank .” Dunny’s finger traced a single line of handwriting. And as he spoke, Pete’s scalp prickled.
“I’m number 12,” Pete whisp ered. There is no number 14 any more . “So whoever wrote this was my neighbour.”
“Not after the Clydebank Blitz she wasn’t,” Dunny said matter-of-factly. He didn’t seem nearly as spooked as Pete was beginning to feel; crouched in near-dark, in an old bomb shelter, looking at the notebook of a girl who… a girl who…
The memory of that sobbing Pete had heard through his bedroom wall was replaying in his head.
Should he tell Dunny?
Dunny who he’d just met and who probably already thought he was soft because of the cobwebs?
Dunny who was busy picking through Pete’s football figures, turning them over in the torchlight, checking their condition, muttering, “You were mince in that Cup Final by the way, Keano. And Beckham, don’t be an old diva if I bring you on in the second half.”
Maybe not yet .
Instead, Pete took a closer look at the notebook. He flicked a few pages; mostly blank, all of them stained with watermarks the colour of weak tea. When thebook fell open on the last page with writing on it, the paper was so spotted with damp he could hardly read the words:
Horrible in here tonig —
The rest of the word was missing.
It sounds like the end of the world —tside. Explosion after expl —
“Tricky, innit?” Dunny said, lifting the notebook closer to the torch beam, tilting it this way and that. “And wild. Writing in the middle of an air raid. You’ll read it better outside. Later though maybe?”
When Dunny returned the notebook to the bag, Pete was almost glad. It would be easier to read in daylight. Nothing to do with the handwriting.
He’d had enough of the shelter for now. He’d even lost interest in the football match, and was thinking of saying he was offski and he’d better bring Dad’s torch back when Dunny picked it up.
“Come see what else she wrote.” Dunny was pointing the light at the far wall of the shelter.
A verse was written there in thick black pen. There were drawings all around the words, a border of funny little characters: gnomes, animals, chubby fairies with open wings and wizards with wands, dolls, boys with cheeky faces that reminded Pete of the cover of the Just William books Mum used to read him… He whistled. “Wish I could draw like that.”
“Too right,” said Dunny. “There’s more in here.” He tapped the notebook. “That’s how I know she did them.”
Pete hunkered down to take a closer look at the drawings. They really were good. Really good. The eyesstaring out at him shone with life and personality.
“Poem’s alright too,” Dunny said, as if he could read Pete’s mind. Then he cleared his throat, and chimed:
“Adolf Hitler don’t strike here,
Take your bombs and disappear!
You are hateful, you are bad,
When we beat you, you’ll be mad.”
While Dunny was reading, Pete followed the words. He noticed a line leading away from the ‘A’ of ‘Adolf’. It ended in an arrow pointing to a simple cartoon face of Hitler himself. A thick black cross had been scored through it over and over by an angry hand, and underneath it all was written:
by Beth Winters. Age 11. 13 th March 1941.
“Is that…?” When Pete looked at the notebook, Dunny nodded.
“And that,” Dunny ran his nail under the date on the wall, “was the night of the