A Black Day
Athene looked out the window and saw that it was a miserable rainy day. There wasn’t a jot of blue in the sky, and it was chucking it down.
But nothing was going to bring her down today!
It was the first day of the Easter holidays, and she was going home to Wales for three whole weeks. The Easter holidays were always somehow much more exciting than Christmas. No presents, but the weather was just so much better, so Athene could read outside under a tree rather than having to huddle up next to a radiator inside.
It wasn’t that she didn’t enjoy school, but she missed her family. Her Grandparents who she loved more than anything in the world.
Her Granny might be a bit old fashioned and strict, but her Granny loved her so much, and just didn’t want Athene to get hurt. They were going to sew together that beautiful material this holiday and Athene was going to have her first-ever grown-up outfit.
And Grandpa. He had always encouraged her to do whatever she wanted to and to follow her dreams. Instead of keeping her off the rugby pitch like some men, he had encouraged her to join in.
It was more than that though. She had always been taught to be proud of her heritage and of who she was. Whenever she left Wales, she felt like she was leaving a part of herself behind.
She packed her suitcase quickly and pulled on her raincoat over the top, the parents weren’t going to start arriving for another half an hour or so, but she was just so excited to see her family!
Usually, they all waited on the driveway, but it was raining so hard, that there were dozens of students waiting in the entranceway to the boarding house trying to keep dry.
Athene sat down on her suitcase and waited for them to arrive.
They didn’t come at ten o’clock. It was a long way from Wales, they’d be here soon.
At eleven o’clock, Mr Pennington picked up the boys and Julie, but the Richards still didn’t come.
At twelve o’clock, her grandparents still weren’t there, but there was still loads of students waiting to be collected, there was nothing to worry about, Athene thought.
By the time it reached two o’clock and there was still no arrival, she wasn’t so sure.
Most of the other students had been picked up, even the teachers had gone home. Mr Mitchell was staying at the school over the holiday to keep an eye on the building.
“Do you want me to ring the base?” asked Mr Mitchell as Athene looked out the window to the torrential rain.
Athene shrugged maybe something had gone wrong, one of them could be ill, or they might have thought they weren’t picking her up until next week.
Mr Mitchell came back looking deeply confused.
“Apparently, they left six hours ago,” said Mr Mitchell, “they’ll be here soon enough.”
Athene smiled slightly and looked out the window again.
But half an hour later, the phone rang and Mr Mitchell went to go answer it.
“Athene,” he said coming back out of the office, “it's for you.”
Athene looked up at Mr Mitchell, for some reason his usual jolliness had disappeared to be replaced by a look of pity.
Athene nodded and went to go answer the telephone deeply confused.
“Hello Athene?” said a familiar voice.
“Uncle Davy!” she exclaimed.
“How are you?” she asked excitedly.
“I’m fine sweetheart,” he sighed.
“Is there something wrong?” she asked nervously.
“There’s been an accident.”
“What?” she stammered hoping she’d been mishearing things.
“An accident. Your Grandparents were driving up to get you, but the weather’s pretty bad down here its chucking it down.”
“I know,” she nodded, “it's raining here too.”
“They are coming, aren’t they?”
There was an awkwardly long pause, and Athene worried that the connection had dropped.
“Uncle Davy, you still there?”
“Um yeah,” he muttered, “anyway there was an accident. They were driving down some pretty bad country roads, you know what the roads are like and in this weather, well you can imagine.”
“What happened?” she stammered.
“The road had flooded, and they turned the corner and drove straight into it.”
Athene was waiting breathlessly for Captain Llewelyn to finish.
“The car crashed into a tree.”
“Are they alright?” she asked desperately, “are they in the hospital.”
“They’re dead Athy.”
“Died almost instantly. The police found the car a few hours ago and rang the base because that’s where the car is registered about an hour ago. That was about five minutes after I talked to your Mr Mitchell.”
It was Athene’s turn to be speechless, the only family she had left in the whole wide world had gone. They were dead. It just seemed so final. They were dead. She had no family left.
“Athy,” he called, “Athy!”
“Hmm,” she muttered.
“They’re arranging for someone from the Aldershot base to pick you up, they’ll be there soon. I’ll see you in a couple of hours ok?”
“Hmm,” she muttered again.
“It’s going to ok Athy, I promise,” said Captain Llewelyn firmly, “we’ll sort this.”
“Athene,” said Mr Mitchell poking his head around the door, “the car’s here.”
She put the phone back and went into the hallway.
There was a young private in uniform standing there by her suitcase.
He gave her a brief salute as a form of greeting
“Yes sir,” she muttered picking up her suitcase and getting into the jeep outside.
No other words were exchanged between the two for the whole journey.
Athene spent the six hours staring out the window at the pouring rain as they drove through the English and Welsh countryside.
By the time that they reached the base, it was nearly nine o’clock at night.
Captain Llewelyn was waiting for her at the gate and helped Athene down from the car with her suitcase.
The private gave Captain Llewelyn a brief salute before turning the jeep back around.
The rain had finally left off as evening had hit.
Captain Llewelyn put his hands-on Athene’s shoulders, and looked at her firmly, he seemed to be close to crying.
“Come on Cariad,” he sighed, “let’s get you inside.”
He took the suitcase, and they both walked back to the house.
Only once they were both back in the house did Athene finally burst into tears.
“Shh, it’s ok sweetheart,” he muttered as they both sat down on the sofa.
He put his arm around her and rocked her soothingly.
“I just can’t believe they’re gone,” she sobbed having finally broken down, “I’m all alone!”
“You are far from it little one,” he said stroking her hair gently, “you’ve got me, and the Pennington’s.”
“Hmm,” she mumbled.
“But I don’t want you to worry about any of that for now, just get some sleep.”
Athene thought about protesting, but the next thing she knew, she had fallen asleep leaning into her Uncle.