Every year, the village of Oldeford invites villagers to count insects! The insects are labelled, counted and returned to where they were collected. Insects numbers had fallen due to pollution and warmer weather. People wanted to ensure there were still plenty of insects, as many beautiful birds and animals need to feed on them to survive. Best friends, Emma and Preeti, wanted to help. The two twelve-year-olds, from London, were holidaying in Oldeford with Emma’s mum, Sue. They were staying with Sue’s brother, Uncle Toby. He lived in a cottage on the edge of woodland, near the village centre.
It was a beautiful day. Emma and Preeti were keen to go out for a walk and see the pretty village that Uncle Toby lived in.
“Let’s go to the village store for ice cream?” suggested Uncle Toby.
“Yes please.” both girls responded, with beaming smiles. Sue and Toby chuckled at the delight on Emma and Preeti’s faces. They set off for the short walk via thatched cottages, flower gardens and the village inn. It was such a peaceful place, in comparison to busy London. They arrived at the village store, which was freshly painted in a deep red, with matching awning offering shade from the heat of the sun. Sue and Uncle Toby went in to buy the ice creams. Emma, hot from walking, shook her loose, curly brown hair. Preeti’s long dark hair was tied into a pony tail.
“I can’t wait for my ice cream.” said Preeti to Emma, who nodded in complete agreement.
“Ice cream? What a good idea.” replied a voice from inside the shop. A pretty old lady appeared, smiling and carrying groceries. “I used to love ice cream when I was a girl. My Gran used to make ice cream at home. A rare treat, though, due to the War.” The old lady sighed and said goodbye. Emma and Preeti noticed the pretty gold earrings the old lady was wearing. There was something eye-catching and unusual about them. Both of the girls were almost unable to stop looking at them, but they smiled at the old lady and said their goodbyes, as Sue and Uncle Toby appeared with delicious ice creams.
They made their slow and content walk back to the cottage. The sound of birdsong, the gentle buzz of bumble bees and even the occasional sound of water trickling into a garden pond could all be heard in the restful peace of the village. As Emma looked around, she thought about how she would love to live somewhere so quiet and pretty. She wondered why her mother made them live in noisy old London? When they arrived back at the cottage, Emma and Preeti were handed their insect collecting kit, by Uncle Toby. Smiling at each other, they hurried through the garden gate and into the woodland; still in view of Uncle Toby’s kitchen window. They sat at the foot of a very tall cedar tree and Emma scraped back soil while Preeti noted where they were digging.
“There’s something here!” exclaimed Emma, pulling something shiny and gold from the ground.
“It’s a bracelet!” announced Preeti, excitedly, as Emma revealed a beautiful gold bracelet with the design of a hare in the centre.
“It’s a rabbit.” said Emma.
“No, look at the legs and ears. It’s a hare.” replied Preeti. Suddenly, without warning, there was a flash of light! Emma and Preeti felt a lurching in their stomachs, just like the feeling you get when you are in a car that drives over a hump-backed bridge a little too fast.
“What happened?” Emma asked, feeling dizzy.
“I don’t know. I feel quite dizzy. Let’s tell your mum and Uncle Toby.” said Preeti, taking charge. They dropped everything, even the bracelet, and ran back to the cottage.
As they approached the cottage, the two girls stopped, in complete shock.
“Preeti! It all looks different!” shouted Emma. It was true. They looked around. Instead of Uncle Toby’s pretty cottage garden and hedgerows, there was a vast open area of allotments; neat with vegetables growing! The kitchen window looked different; there were net curtains instead of wooden blinds. The kitchen door was black, instead of green. There was no garden patio. Emma reached out and held Preeti’s hand, confused and a little bit afraid. The two friends looked at each other in disbelief.
A loud noise rumbled overhead. A group of very old-fashioned military airplanes flew over the cottage. The girls stood, shocked, looking at the planes. From the country lane, at the front of the cottage, came the loud noise of two trucks passing by. Preeti and Emma noticed that there were soldiers sitting in the backs of the trucks. As quiet returned, Emma and Preeti heard crying! They turned from looking down the lane, toward an allotment patch. To their surprise, a tearful young girl of maybe eight or nine years of age was dirty from gardening.
“Are you okay?” asked Preeti, as she and Emma walked over to the upset and muddy girl.
“Who are you and what’s happened to Uncle Toby’s cottage?” demanded Emma, as she looked at the strange leather boots the girl was wearing.
“I’m Fay, named after Fay Wray from King Kong, my ma says” replied the girl. “Who are you? Why are you dressed like that?” asked Fay.
“I’m Emma. This is my friend, Preeti.” said Emma. Preeti smiled.
“How come you’re dark?” Fay asked Preeti, noticing the difference in their skin colour.
“Yeah, right!” said Preeti, annoyed. “My grandparents are from India, doh.” Replied Preeti, who thought that Fay was being rude. A bell rang. Fay looked worried.
“Oh no! I should’ve planted these carrots! My mum and the other women will be back from their rest in a minute.” said Fay, in tears. “I want my daddy back.” she cried. Emma and Preeti comforted Fay and they knelt down and helped Fay to plant the carrots. Fay explained that her daddy had been killed a little over a year before, by the Germans, in “…a big ship sinking.”
“The Germans?” asked Emma. “Hang on. Why would they do that?” Emma asked, confused, remembering that her art teacher at school was a nice German lady. Before Fay had time to answer her, Emma felt a sense of shock as she started to realise what had happened. “What year is this?” she asked Fay. Preeti frowned as she looked at Emma.
“It’s 1942, silly.” Replied Fay. Preeti and Emma were stunned into a moment of silence. They gasped and looked at each other in wonder and a little fear. Just then, they heard the sound of women’s voices. There was a little laughter, chatter and a little singing. The song sounded odd to Emma and Preeti. The words sounded like ‘Chatting Ooga Chew Chew’, thought Emma as she smiled at the cheery song. The sound grew louder as the women got closer. The women were returning from their break.
“We have to go.” said Preeti, feeling that it would be safer to remain hidden.
“Go where?” asked Fay, looking slightly disappointed at the idea of her two wonderful new friends leaving her.
“Back to the year we come from, somehow. Back to 2019” said Preeti. Fay simply frowned and stared at Preeti, unable to make sense of why Preeti and Emma kept making a fuss about the date of different years. The girls hugged Fay who, realising that Emma and Preeti really were going to leave, pulled out of her pocket a drawing she had made. It was the drawing of a hare. She gave it to Emma as a gift for them to remember her by and thanked them for their help. The girls set off, waving at Fay as they ran toward the familiar setting at the back of the cottage. Emma put Fay’s picture safely into her pocket.
“Will we get back?” Emma cried out to Preeti. Emma was feeling scared and she looked to her friend for comfort. Emma realised, in that moment, how glad she was that Preeti would always make the decisions and look after them both.
“We’ll find a way.” said Preeti, taking charge and reaching down to pick up the bracelet they had dropped, earlier. In an instant, as she picked up the bracelet, there was a flash of light!
“I feel so dizzy” said Emma, her head feeling heavy and finding it hard to focus.
“Me too.” replied Preeti, rubbing her eyes as if to shake off the fogginess that she was feeling. “Did it work?” The girls pulled themselves up and ran back to Uncle Toby’s cottage. They stopped. Bursting into broad smiles, they could see the familiar hedgerows, the green door, the garden patio and Uncle Toby’s neat wooden blinds at the kitchen window.
“We did it!” yelled Emma, as she and Preeti held hands and ran with cheerful excitement toward the cottage.
Emma’s mum and Uncle Toby laughed at the girls’ story and told them they had great imaginations. Emma and Preeti were disappointed by this reaction but they knew they would not be believed, so they gave up trying to persuade Sue and Uncle Toby to believe them.
“I have to nip out to the village store for milk. Want to come?” asked Uncle Toby. Everyone agreed. The girls looked across the garden, recalling the allotments, Fay, the planes, the trucks, the soldiers, the carrots and the women. They looked at each other, knowingly.
At the village store, while Sue and Uncle Toby went inside, Emma and Preeti decided to wait outside. They heard footsteps behind them and turned to see who was there.
“Hello young ladies.” said the lovely old lady they’d met that morning. “Back again? Me too.” she chuckled. As she turned to enter the store, Emma caught site of the old lady’s gold earrings once again. She remembered why they had caught her eye that morning. The design on them were beautiful gold hares!
“I like your earrings.” said Emma.
“Thank you my dear.” replied the old lady. “They were my mum’s. She had a matching bracelet but lost it back in the war.” As the old lady was speaking, a boy walked up to them.
“Grandma Fay, let me help you with the shopping.” said the boy.
“Fay?”, boomed Preeti a little loudly. The old lady turned and looked at the girls as if in sudden thought. Yes, there was something about these girls that seemed so familiar. Then she remembered. She remembered being a young girl working in an allotment patch at the old cottage by the cedar tree, many years ago. Back in a time that she had tried to forget. The time of war. She remembered the day that two very unusual girls had appeared and helped her plant carrots. The old lady gasped and stepped back, putting her hand to her mouth in disbelief.
“Oh my! Emma? Preeti? I remember! You helped me plant carrots before my mum and the women returned. You appeared from nowhere! You asked me what year it was! You said you had to get back…get back to 2019! That’s now! You really did come from another year! It did happen!” Fay’s grandson could not make any sense of what was being said. He stepped back and just listened, while his gran and the two girls chatted like old friends. He scratched his head and frowned as he stood, puzzled by what he was hearing.
Preeti pulled the bracelet, that she and Emma had found only hours earlier, from her pocket and handed it to Fay. Emma pulled out Fay’s drawing of the hare, still freshly in place in her pocket having only been given it by young Fay just an hour or two before.
Fay’s eyes welled up with tears of joy and she smiled as she pulled out a handkerchief from her handbag. Uncle Toby and Sue appeared from the shop to find Emma and Preeti hugging the old lady; all three crying and laughing. They looked at the boy standing nearby and they joined him in looking puzzled and they scratched their heads in wonder.
© Deano Parsons. 2018.