Finally all moved in at my new house and back to writing. With moving my schedule has gone out the window and hopefully I’ll be publishing One Minute in about 6 weeks from now.
But, for everyone being so patient I thought I’d post the first half of chapter one.
“William, please! Is it not enough that your father is gone?” Mum pleads with me. She gave up on yelling half an hour ago, the only thing she has left to do now is cry.
“How do I wait at home everyday to see if either one of you makes it home?” I don’t want to look at her face. She takes advantage of my silence, “How do I do that William. How do I wonder if my son and husband will come home to me? You tell me what I am supposed to do if neither of you come home?”
“It’ll be fine Mum, they would have called me up if I didn’t volunteer anyway.”
“Not today, you’ve only just turned eighteen, why can’t you wait. Wait for them to ask you. They might not because your father is gone. We need some men at home. Please William.”
“Mum.” I hold her by the shoulders, looking down into her eyes. I am trying to speak gently. I have to make her understand that I am not here asking permission. “I’m sorry that I am disappointing you, but I have to help. I can’t wait here doing nothing everyday.”
Mum stiffens her shoulders like I insulted her, “You aren’t doing nothing, you are with me and your grandparents. You’re making money where you can.”
“I haven’t earned a cent in weeks and probably won’t. Please mum, let me go.”
“No William, please that is enough.” Mum turns away from me. She picks up the frying pan to make us supper, she turns the pan around and around in her hands.
Mum half turns back to me, it looks like she is going to say something, but she closes her mouth and turns back to the range and starts frying some potatoes. I take that as my queue that the conversation is over, walking out of the kitchen, softly shutting the door behind me.
I lean on the back of the door in my room for a second, before pulling out my one backpack, stuffing it full. Ticking off the items on the list the recruitment officer gave me.
Mark’s dad is taking us tonight.
I know you don’t want me to go, but I’ll be fine. Sorry about leaving you with just Nan and Pop, but I have to do something to help. I can’t get any work, we all know that there is nothing for me to do, but wait for them to call me up.
Don’t worry about me; we will be back before you know it and you can yell at me all you want then!
Two Months Later
“William, come in close.” I huddle in around all the others. “There’s only six of us going. We need to drop in supplies to company Dee. We’re going to have to go across on a row boat. It’s dangerous, but there’s no other way to get across the channel without being gunned down, and we still might. We have five minutes, get your packs.”
“Yes Sir.” We call in unison, spin on our heel and march away.
I can’t see where I’m going, I just know where I left my pack. Mark is close behind me, he’s excited to be chosen, but after everything Luca told me about what’s happening over there, I’m not sure I want to go.
I hoist my pack over my shoulders, and pull the straps down hard until they’re biting into my shoulders, but if I have to run it won’t fall off.
The command comes. “Company.” Softly, but firmly through the still, damp, night air. Unseen, I walk swiftly to the edge of the sand, the edge of home, and position myself at the far end of a wooden row boat. Two oars on each side and the whole English Channel in front of us.
Luca’s pack, along with mine and John’s, get wedged under the wooden seat. We load up the middle section with medical supplies. Small wooden boxes stack three high between the two benches at each end that the six of us have to sit on. Three at each end.
“You have your map Luca?” Our commander asks.
“Good. It will be burned if anything happens, understood?”
“Yes Sir.” He replies seriously.
“William, you have the extra soft pack in your supplies.”
“Yes Sir.” I nod my head as well. I’ve checked three times just to be sure, Mark laughed over my shoulder, saying that I was turning into his mother.
“They must have that. If nothing else make sure they get that.” He says to me.
“Sir.” I bark out as four others push us softly into the inky black night. Luca and John pull on their oars at the same time, then a few seconds later Mark, Paul pull on theirs. Karl is in the middle, like me, spotting, but from behind us.
We glide out further and further into the black, Karl nods at me and we both swivel around pulling up our binoculars and scan the horizon for any light. There’s not a lot to see, but the tiniest spark of light means someone else is out here too and we are too small to put up a fight to anyone. We need lots of warning to turn back.
Luca sheds his coat after half an hour, but doesn’t lose his rhythm.
After an hour Karl sits up, making the boat rock slightly to one side, my signal that he wants me to check something. He points without a word and I follow his finger with my binoculars looking for whatever he saw.
“A house?” I ask.
“Maybe.” He whispers. “But on what side?”
“Can’t tell.” The shorelines between Dover and Calais aren’t that far apart and we can’t see either coastline tonight.
We have been waiting for a night like this for the last four nights. It’s not raining, but it looks like it could any moment. The clouds are covering the moon, but not low enough to block our sight of the coasts, but it means that people can see us too.
The wood on the boat is wet and black like the water. We are all dressed in dark green wool. No army uniform, no identification other than our accents. No one knows we are going except our commander and the commander of Company Dee.
For the last two months I’ve been learning basic French, learning mostly to wipe the English accent off my words. Out of everyone, I can’t get caught. I need to get whatever is in the soft pack to Company Dee. There’s one extra map in the soft pack. If I get separated for any reason, I can get myself to where we are going.
“I think my arm just fell off.” John whispers after a couple of hours of constant rowing.
“It’s fine.” Luca says. “It will just join mine. I lost it an hour or two ago.”
“I can’t feel my feet anymore.” I admit. I’ve been kneeling for so long that the blood has stopped running down there, but I can’t move unless I see something. Even then I have to be careful, there’s too much weight on the boat, too much shifting will send us all into the water and I can’t swim all that well. Mark can barely keep his head above the water, he’d probably have five minutes before he went under. So I stay on my aching knees and hope that I have toes when I’m finally able to stand up again.
“What are you complaining about.” Mark says, “I don’t see you pulling on an oar.”
“You want to swap and have you knees soaking wet, your feet numb and your back feeling like someone’s packed a bunch of ice down the back of your shirt?” Karl hisses, straightening his back, he’s so tall that he’s eye to eye with Mark.
“Always complaining.” Mark says, but doesn’t lose time with Paul, everyone keeps the boat going at a steady rate.
“Slightly to the right.” I whisper up to Luca watching my compass for the first time. I was starting to worry that the moon wasn’t going to shine through the clouds at all tonight.
“Ease it round boys.” Luca gives the quiet command. Mark puts his oar in the water and holds it for a second while the other two row and the boat moves slightly to the side, then Mark and Luca start pulling again.
I push my compass back into my pocket and scan the horizon again. I stop, go back and look again. “I think we have company.” I breathe to Luca.
“Behind your left shoulder.”
“They got a tank out?”
“Don’t know for sure. But there’s something moving on the cliff.” The boat rocks, Karl must be turning my way.
He swears under his breath. “There’s someone up there.”
“How many?” Luca asks again.
“It’s too hard to tell. It’s a long way up.” I say.
“Then how can you tell that someone is moving up there?”
“We can’t be sure that there’s anything. But it looks like a big something moving. They must be using a covered light down on the ground so they are back-lit.” Karl says.
“How big?” Luca asks, his eyes narrowing, he’s probably running through all the maps of the coast, trying to remember the best one if we can’t make our original landing point.
“Tank size.” We both say. Luca nods.