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The Rain and the Glasses

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CHAPTER THIRTEEN

The Rain and the Glasses

Ralph was in a daze. The white-clad naval officer had led them aboard onto the ship and left them in the mess hall on the main deck. There were tables with adjoined benches that were bolted to the floor. Mumbling about calling the medical unit, the officer left with a curt, “Don’t fight, boys.”

All of the boys stood there in silence, save for the occasional sniffle from one of the littluns, staring at the tables as if not comprehending that they have been rescued from the island. The moment broke when Jack pushed his way past the other boys and sat at the table closest from the entrance they came from. Seeing this, the rest of the boys followed suit, arranging themselves into little groups at the different tables.

Ralph stood there distractedly watching the littluns huddled at one table, drying their eyes and wiping their noses, until a grown-up patted him on the shoulder to get his attention, startling him just a bit. Ralph turned to see another white-clad grown-up beckoning him over. Unlike the naval officer, the man wore a simple sailor’s cap and had a friendly gleam in his dark eyes.

“C’mon now, let’s get you cleaned up.”

Ralph nodded dumbly and allowed himself to be dragged into the hall as he wiped at his tear-streaked, dirt-covered face weakly with his hand.

The man sat Ralph on the bed that lay in the corner of the small room, next to the desk that had medical supplies placed on a cloth. Ralph was wiped down and his wounds were cleaned. The wound on his right rib from Jack’s spear had been bandaged. His face was cleaned of almost all of the dirt and blood and he felt better.

The naval officer from before entered the room and began to ask him questions about where they were all from. Still distracted, Ralph managed to answer all the questions without forgetting anything too crucial while his eyes were locked on the man’s epaulettes and the wild horses of Dartmoor were running through his mind.

When Ralph eventually returned to the mess hall he was waved over by the twins as they sat in their own little table in the back of the room. At Jack’s table were the rest of the biguns, with Roger nearest to Jack holding his head in his arms and glaring off to the side while Jack had a muted conversation with Maurice and Bill.

The room was a bit stuffy, but Ralph paid no mind to the heat as he fiddled with Piggy’s glasses in his hands while he weaved past the other tables to get to Samneric’s table. The broken glasses had been attached to the waistband of his pants, and when asked about them by the affable man back in the medical room, he quietly replied, “They used to be my friend’s,” and left it at that.

Ralph had taken Piggy’s glasses back from Jack when they were still on the island about to board the boat that would take them to the main ship. He snatched them from the waistband of Jack’s bloodied and torn shorts without taking his eyes off of Jack’s painted face. Jack had tensed and glared at Ralph, but he said nothing save for a grunt of surprise and made no move to take the glasses back. Jack tore his eyes away first, glare faltering at Ralph’s tear-streaked face, and Ralph could see from the corner of his vision a stick sharpened at both ends. Roger brought his spear up as if to attack Ralph but was held back by the quick and strong grip of the naval officer. The naval officer then proceeded to confiscate the weapons of all the hunters standing in bewilderment with their feet dug into the sand, all the while the fire of the burning island blazed behind their still forms.

Greeted with simple “hullo’s” from Samneric, Ralph took a seat on the bench opposite to the one they sat on. They sat close to one another, checking the other’s injuries while they waited for their turn in the medical room. Ralph put Piggy’s glasses down and placed his elbows on the cool surface of the table. He rested his chin in the palm of one hand, the other reaching up to brush his too-long hair back.

At the same moment the twins turned their identical gazes to Ralph, quirking the corners of their lips into shy, apologetic smiles, hoping their forced switching-of-sides to the hunters would be forgiven and forgotten.

“We were rescued—”

“—by a ship!”

Ralph gave them a little grin of his own. They were rescued.

“We can go home now,” he added, still smiling.

At this the twins relaxed their tense shoulders and allowed their smiles to widen. They looked at one another, simultaneously thinking about their little family and were quickly taken into the depths of their minds to reminisce.

Ralph began to think of his own family, thinking of the cottage on the edge of the moors. His eyes began to droop and his shoulders started to sag from exhaustion. The morning spent running for the sake of his life was beginning to take its toll on his being. He was currently too tired to even comprehend the fear for his life that he had had to have. It may have been from the watchful protection from the white-suited guard looking over the boys, but Ralph felt safe, even sitting not too far away from the boys that had sharpened a stick on both ends meant to stab him just a few hours earlier.

As he was daydreaming of sugar and cornflakes before bed once again, the naval officer with the epaulettes and the fancy cap came to the room bearing news.

“The other officers in the radio room have been able to contact the people in charge of arranging your evacuation flight. Your schools have been contacted and they will inform your parents.” He paused, sweeping his gaze over to the littluns who had begun sniffling some more at the mention of their parents. Most of them had been cleaned, leaving only a single littlun and the rest of the biguns to be cleared of their paint and dirt.

“We will be sailing to the port of the city from whence you first boarded the plane. Your guardians have will be told to meet us there. Luckily, we had already been sailing in that direction, so it’s likely that we’ll reach the port by late afternoon.” Ralph took in this news with the joy of a homesick boy.

“Sorry boys, you’ll be missing afternoon tea.” The officer gave a wry quirk of his lips.

“But my men are preparing food rations in the galley currently. They should be here shortly.”

With that the officer gave a nod and allotted the boys a small, supportive smile before he pivoted and strode briskly away.

Ralph, feeling drowsy once again, gently took hold of Piggy’s glasses in his right hand and rested his head in his arms, shutting his eyes softly as his exhaustion led him to a dreamless sleep.

A couple of hours later, Ralph woke to the gentle, yet excited rousing of Samneric.

“Wake up Ralph!”

“Them officers say we’re almost to the port!"

Ralph slowly opened his eyes to see Samneric bouncing around him, eager to go home.

“They’re letting us go onto the deck—”

“—and see the port in the distance!”

The twins each grabbed one of Ralph’s arms and pulled him up. He stood up and stretched out a little before he put Piggy’s glasses back securely in his waistband and allowed himself to be led to the deck.

All the boys were exiting the room, keen on getting out of the stuffy room. Ralph saw a glimpse of Jack’s cleaned face and red hair go out the door before one of the twins stuck something in his hands.

“It’s your food ration—”

“—we kept it for you.”

Ralph grinned his thanks and took a bite of his snack as he followed the line of boys out onto the deck. Distracted by the pungent smell of seawater that hit his nostrils as he climbed onto the deck, Ralph could hardly focus on his food and ate the whole thing without tasting a bite of it. His attention was quickly diverted to the sparkling waves hit by the sun’s rays that managed to escape past the clouds up in the sky and to the ever-growing closer landmass he could see straight ahead.

Many of the boys chattered excitedly at the prospect of going home, though some acted as if they were still in disbelief that they had been rescued. In the midst of this, the naval officer returned to them to inform them of their next actions.

“We will be arriving shortly.” He paused to gather the attention of the littluns who were still focused elsewhere.

“We’ve received the news that many parents have already arrived at the port.” Soft, happy cries erupted from the group of boys.

“When we arrive we will disembark, and I will lead you to the area where your parents have been instructed to wait for you.”

Ralph tuned the officer out, thinking of Mummy and Daddy waiting for him at the port and let out a pleased sigh as he leaned against the rail.

Soon, the ship docked at the port. The crew helped them off the ship and the officer led their bare-footed selves across the port bridges. They padded along in a clump behind the officer until they spotted the figures of their parents waiting not too far away.

Some of the littluns who quickly spotted their mums and dads broke from the group and ran into welcoming arms. At the sight of his mother, a littlun remembered what he had forgotten and jumped into her hug, tears dripping down his face as he repeated, “Percival Wemys Madison! The Vicarage, Harcourt St. Anthon—” His sobs interrupted his words. His mother’s eyes, at the sight of her small child giving a heart-wrenching cry, welled up with tears as she cradled his form in her arms and whispered, “Yes, yes, dear. You are Percival, my little son.”

Soon, all the boys were off looking for and reuniting with their families. Some of the grown-ups had written signs with their child’s name to help them find each other. As Ralph spotted a lady standing near the back of the crowd holding a sign with what seemed like his name in his mother’s fancy script, he heard another lady passing by calling out for her boy.

She had coarse black hair pulled back into a bun, and she tried to keep a friendly smile on her face, though an anxious expression was creeping up more and more as she called for a boy who didn’t answer.

“Simon!” She repeated, cupping a dainty hand around her mouth as she held up a sign in the other with the aforementioned name.

“Simon?” She called again, causing Ralph’s heart to sink as he knew Simon wouldn’t answer.

Turning away from the direction of his Mummy, Ralph walked up to the lady who appeared to be Simon’s mother. She appeared confused as to see a disheveled boy that was not her son walk up to her, but she greeted him amiably. He held out his hands to her, and she took them, startled.

“Are you Simon’s mum?” He asked, already sure of the answer.

She nodded and was about to ask him what was wrong, when she felt a wetness on her fingers. Ralph was clutching her hands close to his chest, not taking his eyes off of her as tears streamed from his eyes.

“I’m sorry.” He released one of her hands and quickly wiped his eyes. He took a deep breath to calm himself.

“Simon’s gone.”

Her eyes widened and filled up with tears as she took in the news. Around them, the boys who were part of the same choir group as Simon was heard Ralph’s words and couldn’t hold in another bout of tears. Maurice, Bill, Robert, Harold, and even Jack and Roger mourned for the death of their former choir friend.

From the corner of his tear blocked vision, he saw his mum coming towards him. He gently squeezed the lady’s hands before he excused himself and left for her to have some time alone. He began to walk faster over to meet his Mummy when he spotted someone else. He changed his direction and, now conscious of the glasses at his waistband, took hold of Piggy’s glasses with a purpose.

She was a plump lady, who was very round and was bespectacled. She seemed anxious, though it was hard to tell, as her specs flashed so you couldn’t see her eyes. She held a small handkerchief in bulky fingers and wiped her glasses.

As Ralph neared her, still wiping tears from his face, he realized that he didn’t know what to say. He didn’t know Piggy’s real name. In his mind he sent a small apology to his lost friend of whom he didn’t even know his name.

“Are you looking for a boy called Piggy?”

She looked at him, surprise plastered on her round face, framed by short, curly hair. Indignant at her nephew’s foul nickname, she placed her hands on her hips and thought to defend him until she was interrupted.

“I’m—” Ralph began to speak, but the waterworks began once again. He thought he already cried all he could, but the tears surprised him once again.

Ralph held back a sob and held out Piggy’s glasses. The plump lady gasped quietly.

“Oh my,” she began softly. She held out her hand to take the specs. Ralph gently placed the broken frames into her pudgy grasp.

“This is my nephew’s.” It wasn’t a question.

Ralph nodded, not trusting himself to speak.

She nodded numbly, thanking him for returning Piggy’s glasses to her. She shook his hand and walked off, her own glasses flashing as tears pricked her eyes.

Ralph watched her go, until his mum stepped in front of him. She didn’t say a word, instead holding out her arms. Ralph threw himself into her embrace and let himself cry into her shoulder.

As he stood there crying, the families around him cried as well, crying for the lives of those who lived, those who were lost on the island, and those who hadn’t even survived the plane crash.

Up above, the clouds gathered, covering the last rays of light from reaching the ground and letting their own tears fall: tears for the lost innocence, the lost lives, and the ever-present evil in people.