Mom always made a casserole for Tuesday dinner. We could never eat it all, and sometimes the leftovers lasted through Thursday. I got really tired of those casseroles, let me tell you. Made me wish Albert, my cat, was a dog so I could slip him some of it under the table when she wasn’t looking. But Albert didn’t like the casseroles either. There was no meat in them, just rice and stuff.
I ate as much as I could, filling up instead on buttered bread, then picked at it until Mom couldn’t take it anymore.
“Leave the table then, Harry,” she said, shoving her plate away and looking at it balefully. She didn’t think much of Tuesday dinner either. I think we were both wanting a good juicy steak, like the old days.
Albert and I escaped to my bedroom, where I pulled out the watercolors and a sheet of scrap paper. Albert played in the water cup, sticking his paw in, then pulling it out to watch the drips. He used to lick at them, but I guess he didn’t like the taste of the paints, and he quit doing that.
I made a mess; I usually did. So did Albert, but I couldn’t be mad at him. Dad brought him home for me just before he left. Found him wandering in an alley, he said.
“He’s naught but skin and bones, Harry.” He’d handed him to me. “You’ll have to feed him up, get him nice and fat again. He’ll make a good mouser, he will.”
Albert, resting in my arms, had looked at me with big green eyes. Under my hand, I’d felt his small sharp bones, and there’d been a patch of grease on his back. He’d need a bath, too. I’d wondered how kittens felt about baths, and an hour later, soaked to the skin, I found out.
I was cleaning up when Mom came in. “Is it time?”
“Yes.” She looked at my painting. “That’s a fine picture of your father.”
I turned pink with pleasure. He’d been wearing a plaid shirt when he’d gone, and I’d struggled to get it right.
“It’s very nice, Harry. We’ll hang it on the wall tomorrow, but right now, you and Albert should get ready for bed. I’ll read to you when you’re settled.”
Crossing to the window, she pulled the heavy blackout curtains across the shade. It was June, 1940, an hour before sunset, and everyone in London was doing the same thing.
Dressed in pyjamas, I got into bed and pulled Albert onto my lap. “I’m ready.” She was reading Peter and Wendy by J. M. Barrie, and we were at one of my favorites parts, where Wendy and the boys reach Neverland.
If Peter Pan had flown in my window, I’d have taken Mom and Dad with me to that magical place. I glanced at the blackout curtains; there wasn’t a chance Peter Pan would see my bedroom light through those.
I sighed and slid farther under the covers, Albert, still on my lap, happy to go under them for the warmth. My mother read, I listened, Albert purred, and the war went on.
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Genre: historical fic
Word count: 530