“Owen! Come in here please.” Mrs. Watson called. Owen got up from his homework, glad for the distraction.
“Yeah?” He poked his head in the kitchen.
“Come sit down son, there’s something we need to talk to you about.” Mr. Watson patted the seat next to him.
“Am I in trouble?” Owen asked, his mind racing to think of all the things he could have done wrong in the past week.
“No, you’re not in trouble.” Mrs. Watson chuckled. “We just have a little surprise.”
Owen came and sat down, but he was worried. There were cookies on the table. They never had enough sugar for cookies anymore.
“Owen, you know how there’s been a war going on in Europe right now?”
Owen nodded. That’s all they had been talking about in school. Since 1939, a raging war over the Jews had been at full steam.
“Well, there’s this program to save a child whose mother and father have died from the war. And we signed up for it.” Mrs. Watson explained.
Owen was dumbfounded. “I, uh..” He stuttered.
Mr. Watson pushed a photo across the table to him.
“Meet Elisabeth, or Elsie.”
Owen stared at the picture in front of him. It was black and white like pictures usually were, so he couldn’t pick out any colors, but he saw a frown permanently etched on her face. Her eyes were big and mournful, and she was nothing but skin and bones.
“I know it’ll be a bit of an adjustment, but she has nowhere else to go. Once your mother and I saw her we just couldn’t let her go.” Mr. Watson patted his son’s arm.
Owen nodded numbly; taking a cookie his mom was handing him, still trying to process it. It would be an adjustment alright.
The Watson’s waited at the train station for Elsie to arrive. Owen shivered in the misty rain, wondering what she would be like. Would she talk? Would she have an accent? Would she like the food here? So many questions ran through his mind.
A train came to a creaking stop at the station, and a conductor opened the door for the passengers. Owen scanned the crowd anxiously for any sign of the girl. Then, he saw her. In the mist, she almost looked like a ghost. Her skin was very pale, and all she had on was a ratty coat and dress. Her hair was a bright mahogany and her eyes were a fitting mournful blue. Owen tugged at his mom’s arm and she smiled brightly.
“Elsie! Over here!” She waved. The girl looked in their direction with weary eyes and made her way over to them.
“Hello. I am Betsy Watson, this is my husband Jack Watson, and this is my son, Owen.” Mrs. Watson bent down to her level. Elsie turned her gaze to Mr. Watson, then Owen. “Pleasure to make your acquaintance.” She said hoarsely. Owen gave her a half cautious smile. “Hi, Elsie.”
“You must be very cold in that old jacket. How would you like a new one?” Mrs. Watson asked. Elsie looked uncomfortable. “Um..” She looked at the floor and shivered visibly. Without thinking, Owen unbuttoned his and draped it on the girl’s shoulders. “It might be kinda big but, you need it more than me.”
Elsie looked at him for a moment, before pulling the coat closer to her. “Thanks.” She whispered. “That was very nice of you, Owen. But will you be okay for the rest of the way home?” Mrs. Watson asked. Owen nodded his reply. He was already getting cold, but he tried to ignore the feeling. His shirt was probably warmer then her coat and shirt combined. The four began the trek to the nearest bus stop. They didn’t have a car as they were fairly new and plenty expensive.
“I think you’re really gonna like it here Elsie. There’s a good school, and plenty of food to eat.” Mrs. Watson babbled. Elsie didn’t offer more than a nod. She didn’t really seem to be listening but Mrs. Watson continued blithely. Owen almost felt embarrassed. He didn’t know why, he didn’t have to impress her. But a part of him wanted to. He nudged her slightly and whispered, “Sorry, she doesn’t really know how to take a hint sometimes.”
Elsie let the tiniest of smiles grace her face. “‘S okay.” She whispered back. “Thank you for the coat.”
“Oh, um. It’s no big deal. You need it more than I do.” He rubbed the back of his neck.
Elsie’s face changed into a scowl. “I don’t want you to feel pity for me. I don’t need it.” She mumbled.
“I’m sorry, I just..” Owen feigned.
“I get it. I come from a country that has war. I look sick and weak, but I have seen things that have made me as hard as a stone.It was the only way to survive.”
Owen nodded and sighed. “You don’t have to be like that here. You can be yourself!” He made a silly face to make her laugh, trying to keep up the spirits.
Elsie allowed herself a small smile. “I think I’ll like it here.” She said decisively.