I’ll Be Mother

Slide26

Day 26, Play 26 – I’ll Be Mother

IN THE BLACK, an air-raid siren. LIGHTS FADE UP
on Margaret, 14, and Helena, 8, two waifs who’ve
returned to their neighborhood in London during
the Blitz.

MARGARET:
Oh, for Pete’s sake, Helena, come on.

HELENA:
My shoe’s untied!

MARGARET:
Haven’t I taught you how to do up your laces, young lady? Haven’t I?

HELENA:
I forget. Just tie them for me this time, Margaret. Please?

MARGARET:
We can’t stop every hour on the hour for this, Helena.

HELENA:
My feet hurt.

MARGARET:
Be a big girl, Helena!

HELENA:
I am a big girl. My feet hurt.

MARGARET:
I’ll give you a toffee if you stop complaining.

HELENA:
Can I have an Eccles cake?

MARGARET:
We’ve got two left. If you stop complaining, and don’t stop walking for    the next hour. And learn to tie your shoes. We’ll have our tea and the Eccles cakes.

HELENA:
You have tea?

MARAGRET:
I took a tin of it.

HELENA:
I’m telling Mumie. I want an Eccles cake now.

MARGARET:
Well, you can’t have one. How about a Pontefract?

HELENA:
Ew! No, they turn your teeth black.

MARGARET:
Do you still have your toothbrush?

HELENA:
What toothbrush?

MARAGRET:
The one they gave you at the home.

HELENA:
I think I lost it.

MARGARET:
You can use mine.

HELENA:
EW!

MARAGRET:
Or do without

HELENA:
I’m tired of doing without.

MARGARET:
Well, we’ve got a bit more of it, before we see Mummie again.

HELENA:
She sent us away

MARGARET:
She didn’t want to.

HELENA:
She sent us to a bad place.

MARGARET:
She sent us to Scotland.

HELENA:
Because we were bad.

MARGARET:
We weren’t bad, Helena. Other people were bad. They sent the fireworks, remember, and Mummie was afraid— Mummie didn’t want the fireworks to frighten us. So she sent us away.

HELENA:
How come we had to live with the bad children?

MARGARET:
That was a mistake. We weren’t supposed to go to the orphanage, we were supposed to go straight to a nice foster home.

HELENA:
I didn’t like the Froster home.

MARGARET:
No.

HELENA:
It was cold all the time, but they said they didn’t have any money for cold.

MARGARET:
Money for coal. No, a chilly reception that was. They must have thought they’d get posh children with extra pocket money to spend on coal.

HELENA:
Mister Froster was nice. He gave us candy.

MARGARET:
Mister Froster wasn’t really very nice at all.

HELENA:
Mrs. Froster got mad ‘cause he liked you.

MARGARET:
Yes.

HELENA:
And those other girls. They were mean.

MARGARET:
They were in a bad spot. I don’t blame them. Anyway, we got clear of that.

HELENA:
Mister Froster yelled.

MARGARET:
I’m sure it hurt him, but he’ll not be maimed by it. Thought about it, but no.

HELENA:
And I ran all the way to the train station. And you didn’t think I could do it.

MARGARET:
Good for you, Helena. Now we’ve only got a little way more before we get our flat.

HELENA:
Where is it?

MARGARET:
It’s down from the factory. But where’s the—

HELENA:
No Fractury.

MARGARET:
No, we must’ve got turned around. There’s Tyburne Street. That can’t be the—

HELENA:
It is. There’s Mummie’s gate!

MARGARET:
Then this must have been Tyburne.

MARGARET falls apart. She’s been sustaining a terrific run, getting free of foster home, training south from Scotland, navigating the city of London. She collapses.

HELENA:
Margaret! It’ll be okay. We’ll find Mummie. She went to the Tube, didn’t she? We’ll just have a cuppa and then go down to the Tube and find her.

You got them Eccles cakes? Cup of tea, we’ll feel better.

(beat)

C’mon, then. I’ll be mother.

LIGHTS FADE TO BLACK. END OF PLAY.

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