The REPERCUSSIONS of TOMAS D
One Small Lie - Can Change History Forever
Hammer & Tong (Print or Kindle)
Air Raid - Portsmouth: An Extract
Tomas was examining his new glasses in an estate agent’s window. Wondering if Gabby would approve the design, he slipped them back into the hard case. Thunder rolled overhead and it was growing really dark. Tomas hesitated. His bike was locked to the railings by Waitrose car park. He’d never get it unlocked and home before the heavens opened. The café was his best option. They wouldn’t mind. He was a regular.
Lightning exploded right beside him. He sprinted though crackling, electrified air, his hair standing up with shock. A double clap of thunder followed, so loud it shook nearby buildings. Tomas swung his school bag around his neck as rain fell like stair rods. A car hooted as he dashed across the road, the rain swilling around blocked drains. Lightning flashed again as he jumped across a puddle and he could smell burning – saw a crimson brightness all around him. Rain fell hard around him with an intense hiss of anger, more lightning and thunder followed out of the blackened sky.
He reached the café doors and burst in, slamming it shut behind him to stop the rain coming in with him. He turned around, wiping the water from his eyes, shaking it off his blazer and bag. He realised that his hair and sleeves were singed. He’d nearly been fried out there. He blinked.
This wasn’t the café. He was in a butcher’s shop.
Thunder rolled overhead again and two men in butcher’s aprons looked at him with surprise.
‘Bit wet out is it?’ They laughed. It wasn’t even funny.
‘Sorry. Thought it was the café. Wasn’t looking where I was going,’ Tomas told them turning around as if to leave. The door was exactly the same as Lou-Lou’s Café – clearly he had made some stupid mistake.
‘Stay lad. Can’t have you going out in that.’
Tomas looked back at the butchers and the lone customer in her headscarf and realised he was staring at the same tiling on the floor as in Lou-Lou’s. How was that even possible? He looked up. The same hooks hung from the ceiling. This was most definitely Lou-Lou’s, but somehow in the brief time he went to get his glasses it had been turned back into a butcher’s. Impossible.
‘You all right lad? Never seen liver before?’
Tomas realised that the man was chopping liver on the wooden butcher’s block counter.
‘You’re a lucky woman, Violet. There’ll be a rush as soon as they discover we’ve got liver in. Lucky for you liver’s off ration as well. Two ounces?’
‘I was hoping for more. There’s four of us now.’
The butcher pulled a face. ‘There’s quite a few who’d fancy this. Three ounces and that’s it. Fourpence ha’penny.’
‘For liver, Mr Braithwaite?’
‘That’s the price, Violet. There’s a war on y’know.’
Tomas stared. He was in a butcher’s shop. It was selling meat by the ounce and the woman was dressed like she was from a play or something. He figured that he’d either been hit on the head by lightning or …The rain intensified. Tomas turned to look outside and realised with horror that Waitrose supermarket had disappeared. Instead there were houses and more shops. No sign of his bike, or the railings that he’d locked it to. There was only one car parked in the street; a vintage black car flying a sodden Navy flag. There was a horse and cart, the poor horse just standing and steaming as the rain fell on its back. This had to be his nightmare back again. But he had no recollection of going home, let alone going to bed. He dug his phone out of his pocket. It was 4.45pm. No Service. He turned it off, never a good idea to have a phone on during lightning.
‘I hope this storm keeps up,’ one of the butchers said. ‘They won’t be bombing us tonight in this.’
‘Bombing?’ Tomas asked turning his head.
‘You sure you’re all right, lad?’ He sniffed the air and caught the smell of Tomas’ burnt hair and cloth. ‘Close shave you had there, sonny. Lightning must have wanted you for tea. You look pale. What’s the uniform?’
‘Millbrook.’ Tomas replied, surprised. ‘It’s been there eighty years.’
‘Millbrook College? It’s the public school on Elm Grove. For toffs,’ Violet declared with a rasp of her cigarette throat. ‘It just opened before the war. Eighty years? More like five.’
Five? Tomas was thinking. They were wrong. Had to be.
‘Oh, he’s a toff,’ the butcher remarked with a smirk.
Tomas was annoyed. ‘I’m not a toff. I got there on a scholarship.’
The butcher looked at Violet and raised his eyebrows. Tomas was a toff to him at least. Scholarship meant bright and Tomas was bright. Couldn’t help it. It was Gabby that had made him enter for the scholarship and her father who’d coached him through it. Another case of Gabby looking out for him.
‘Can I ask what today is?’ Tomas asked, confused. ‘I mean the date?’
‘Hear that, Vi? Pay all that money to go to a posh school and he doesn’t even know what date it is.’
‘I…’ Tomas was embarrassed now and prepared to leave.
‘It’s May the 8th lad.’ He turned to the woman as he wrapped the liver. ‘Bombing raids on Liverpool and London again last night and pretty much everywhere in between. They say they downed 40 bombers but hundreds got through. It’s sinful, Vi. Sinful. If we don’t do something about it England will be under the German jackboot by ’42, mark my words, and it ain’t treason to think it. They’ll be back here again no doubt. I’ve given up replacing the glass in the windows at home.’
‘It’s 1941!’ Tomas felt dizzy with realisation. ‘We’re at war?’
They mocked him. ‘And it’ll be over by Christmas,’ the butcher added. They all laughed bitterly.
Tomas was reeling. Surely this was totally impossible. It was May 8th when he left the opticians. It was still May 8th, but seventy-three years earlier. Utterly impossible. He was dreaming for sure. The air-raid siren began to crank up.
‘Bloody hell, talk of the devil. Those bastards. Can we get no peace? Get to the shelter. Away with you all.’
Tomas opened the door and Violet dashed passed him in a rush to get outside. ‘Buggers come early. Our boys will be waiting for the storm to end and here they come again. We’ve suffered enough. There’s nothing left standing in the port.’
The butcher grabbed his gas mask box and pushed Tomas out into the rain and locked the door behind him. Tomas began to run, following those who were running towards the end of the street and the Chapel. He saw that some of the buildings around him were in ruins, propped up with huge wooden beams. The sirens were still screaming in waves, up and down, but the distinct sound of approaching bombers was audible. It was still daylight. Tomas didn’t remember any daylight raids in his war movies.
‘Come on,’ a man in uniform with a whistle urged him. ‘Get down to the shelter, boy. Where’s your gas mask?’
© Sam Hawksmoor 2020
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