Felicity Rivers jumped as her older sister, Darrell, darted into their room and scrambled onto the end of her bed.
"They're back!", Darrell whispered.
"The same ladies?", Felicity asked, putting her book on the side.
"And a new one!", Darrell was so excited that she bounced on her knees on the mattress, "Come on, they're gossiping away so now's our chance. We can find out what they're up to".
"I don't know Darrell…", but Felicity was following her sister even as she protested, "Mummy and Daddy said you weren't to get into anymore trouble remember?".
"That's different, that was about school", Darrell whispered.
"I think they meant any trouble", Felicity pointed out but she too fell silent as they snuck along the landing. Darrell carefully nudged the door to their mother's room open. Their father had returned from overseas but was now working at a hospital in Kent, overseeing the treatment of hundreds of troops returning from the war.
"It's only trouble if we get caught", Darrell said. Felicity put her hand to her mouth and began to worry her thumb with her teeth, it was a nervous habit that some of the children at their new day school made fun of her for. They pushed her and called her a baby for sucking her thumb at seven years old. And when other children teased Felicity, Darrell lost her temper and did things like get into a scuffle with two boys and make one of their noses bleed. Then refuse to apologise.
"I'll say it was all my idea, don't worry", Darrell said, "now come on!"
Felicity got up onto the windowsill and waited while Darrell retrieved the crudely constructed rope ladder they had built when their mother was out the other day. Darrell had been very pleased that the lady who was meant to be minding them had fallen asleep while listening to the radio.
"Down you go", Darrell said and Felicity carefully climbed down the rope ladder, jumping from the last rung onto the grass. Darrell followed her, having tied the ladder to something so they could get back.
Felicity had to admit, she was just as curious to find out what their mother was up to with these strange ladies as Darrell. Both girls had sworn that the last time they overheard them talking, one of them had been talking about U-boat and reinforcements and dates. Felicity knew a little bit about the war and Darrell, three years older and quite accomplished at finding out things she shouldn't, knew quite a bit more.
It was all very exciting but their mother had become much more careful about them being overheard and no matter how careful they were sneaking down the stairs, they always got caught. Of course, that only served to make Darrell even more suspicious about what was going on.
"Quickly, I propped the window at the side open just a bit so we should hear them if we're silent", Darrell whispered as they crept around to the room at the back of the house. There were bushes running along the side of the house which would keep them hidden from sight.
Felicity pointed to the open window and Darrell beamed, obviously no-one had noticed it. They settled in under the window and they could - just - hear the conversation inside.
"Go over those last three messages again would you Lucy?".
Felicity knew who Lucy was, she was nice and a little bit peculiar. Darrell had said that she was a memory genius or something and that made this mystery all the greater. Lucy rattled off some things that didn't make sense to Felicity and then she heard their mother's voice,
"Do we think this is real or a diversion? If we say it's real and it's all smoke and mirrors then we risk letting the Germans advance", and Felicity watched as Darrell's eyes grew wide.
"I think it's real. There were too many layers to uncover for it to be a ruse", that must be the new lady because Felicity didn't recognise her voice.
"Then this convey is full of soldiers and it's heading right behind our front line, we're just spread too thin out there…", that was the lady Darrell said was the boss, because she looked stern like a teacher. She did sound like she was in charge.
"Then let's get the rest of these decoded and sealed before the messenger arrives", their mother said, "pass me that one, Susan you take that one there…".
"Are your two in upstairs?", that was the stern lady again, "they're mighty quiet".
"Darrell was warned to be on her best behaviour, she got into a fight at school", their mother said and Darrell's cheeks went red at her words, "but once I've finished this section, I'll go and check on them".
"Are the works at Bletchley nearly done with?", Lucy asked.
"Mmm, they are it'll be much simpler once we're tucked away there again".
Darrell gestured back towards the front of the house and they scurried like mice back around to the rope ladder. Felicity went up the ladder first, resolutely not looking down because it seemed a rather long way when you were only small. She took her shoes off once she was on the windowsill so she didn't leave dirty footprints.
Darrell followed quickly behind, took her shoes off as well, then rolled the ladder up behind her and closed the window while Felicity untied the ladder from the head of the bed. They snuck back across the landing and into their room just as a door downstairs opened. Darrell shoved the ladder and their shoes into her cupboard.
"Your knees", Felicity whispered and Darrell quickly brushed the dirt off of her knees. It was a good thing she was wearing shorts for she never would have had time to get changed. Felicity pulled her drawing book off the shelf as their mother's footsteps reached the top of the stairs. Darrell quickly jumped onto her bed as the door opened.
"You better not be bouncing", were the first words out of her mother's mouth, though she was smiling while she said it. Darrell shook her head.
"Look what I did", Felicity quickly distracted their mother who took the drawing book and looked over the drawings Felicity had done earlier that day.
"Can we go outside to play?", Darrell pleaded.
"Tidy your room, then we'll have lunch and after that you can go out", their mother said, handing the book back to Felicity. Felicity didn't think their room really needed tidying but she guessed that their mother was trying to keep them out of the way for as long as possible.
As soon as she heard their mother's footsteps heading back to the backroom, Felicity said,
"That was close ".