Morning break was always Ella’s favourite snippet of free time. It lasted fifteen minutes, so Mrs Fothergill had told her, showing her what that looked like on the grandfather clock standing at a perilous yet comforting lean in the schoolroom. Its left feet were on a firm footing, planted on the red, cream and not quite navy blue diamond Victorian floir tiles, its right feet touching nothing but thin air, hovering above that place where the neighbouring tiles had mysteriously disappeared long ago.
Fifteen minutes, one quarter of the way around the dial with its smiling sun and moon faces painted perfectly in the middle of the Roman numerals. Fifteen minutes was just about long enough for her to watch the other children running round and round, the boys arms outstretched pretending to be one of those marvellous new aeroplanes or, every now and again, chasing after Polly, the prettiest girl in the whole school. All they wanted was to be in her presence, bask in one of her glowing, all-encompassing smiles.
All Ella wanted was to watch. She didn’t want the attention of the boys or the other girls, for that matter. She didn’t want to face their obvious delight at her threadbare blouse, her skirt with the pocket that was obviously a patch meant to disguise a hole that could no longer be darned, her shoes that had been soled and heeled beyond the life of the cracked and worn leather, her stockings that should have seen the bin last winter. Worst of all, she had no coat, no scarf, no gloves. She wore the same clothes season upon season. She was poor.
Miss Fothergill watched Ella hovering in the shadow of the schoolhouse wall, knowing without being told that the little girl was trying to soak up any warmth that might be seeping between the bricks at the back of the fireplace, where the coal fire burned merrily indoors to keep the schoolroom warm. She wondered if she could find a coat to fit the poor child, alter one of her own even, but knew it would be in vain. Mrs Adams (and everybody knew that she’d never been married in her life, everyone knew that Ella had been, as some more kindly put it ‘an accident’) was far too proud to accept. Miss Fothergill sucked her teeth in momentary disapproval at Ella’s plight and shook her head. She supposed the little girl would have to learn. Life wasn’t going to improve that much for her, given her wretched start in life.
Such a shame. She really did deserve a break.
Hello! Welcome to my entry this week to the lovely Linda’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday, where we were invited to use break/brake as our inspiration.
Do you know what I love about these prompts? I have absolutely no idea what Im going to write until I’ve tapped out the first few words, and even then, the end is rarely what I thought it would be when I first began! It’s so much fun.
Please do consider taking part, or at the very least hop on over to Linda’s blog and enjoy the writing – our entries are in the Pingbacks at the bottom.
*And in case you were wondering, ‘cancelled stamp’ was 1920s slang for a shy, lonely female, a wallflower. I think it’s quite sad.