Some more Remembrance for you!
Fifteen minutes later, Ruthie and Annie stood alone in front of the cinema. A quick check inside told them that Nora was most definitely not there.
“Maybe she went home,” Annie proposed. “She might have thought we left and did the same.”
“Yes, you could be right,” Ruthie said, even though she didn’t believe it. Nora would not have left if she didn’t know her friends were safe. Where could she be?
Annie was keeping a remarkably cool head, given the situation. “Why don’t we go to her house and check? Then we can make sure she’s not waiting at one of our houses.”
Ruthie agreed and they set off. The cinema was not far from Annie and Nora’s street and soon they were knocking on the Savidge’s front door. Nora’s mother answered, opening the door to let the girls step into the foyer.
“Ruthie, Annie, what a nice surprise. Nora’s not here, I’m afraid. Wasn’t she meeting you two at the pictures?”
Ruthie’s heart sank at Mrs. Savidge’s light tone. Obviously she didn’t know what was going on – how could she?
“Are you girls all right? You look worried. Your families are all right aren’t they?”
They rushed to assure her that their families were well, but then both hesitated. Finally, Annie spoke up. “So… Nora hasn’t come back here during the last hour?”
Mrs. Savidge looked between her daughter’s friends. “No, she said the film wouldn’t be over until about half past five and that you girls might get a fizzy drink afterwards.” She saw the girls exchange glances. “Why? Did she leave the cinema and not come back?”
“No,” Ruthie said. “We had an air raid drill in the middle of the film and we all got separated. When we came up from the basement, we couldn’t find Nora.”
Mrs. Savidge had begun to look panicked. “Philip?” she called behind her. “Philip!”
Nora’s fourteen year old brother appeared at the top of the stairs. “What’s wrong, Mum?”
“Have you seen your sister since this morning?” Her voice was begging her son to say yes.
But Philip shook his head. “Sorry, Mum. I haven’t seen her since I left for practice this morning.”
“Oh, God…” Mrs. Savidge cried. “Where could she be?”
Ruthie tried to reassure her. “We haven’t checked our houses yet – she could still be at one of ours. We’ll ring you as soon as we know. Promise.”
Five minutes later, Ruthie hurried up the steps to her own house. “Nora!” she shouted as soon as she got in the door.
Her mother poked her head out of the front room. “Ruthie! Why are you shouting in the house?”
“I’m looking for Nora. Is she here? Please tell me she’s here,” Ruthie said without stopping for a breath, looking around and hoping that her friend would appear.
“No, she’s not here. What is the matter?” Mrs. Halpert now came fully out into the foyer, looking concerned.
“We had – there was an air raid drill at the cinema and we couldn’t find Nora afterwards. I have to call Annie. No, I have to call Mrs. Savidge. Phone – where is the phone?”
“It hasn’t moved from the kitchen, Ruthie. Now, sit down and calmly tell me -”
But Ruthie wasn’t feeling calm at all and she certainly was not going to sit down. She dashed to the phone in the kitchen and snatched up the receiver. For a second, she could not remember the Savidge’s number and her fingers fluttered nervously over the dial. Finally, she recalled it and spun it in. With each whir of the disk, she whispered, “Please... please… please…”
Mrs. Savidge picked up before the first ring had finished. “Ruthie?”
“It’s me, Mrs. Savidge. Have you heard from Annie?”
“Yes.” The woman’s voice grew tighter. “Nora wasn’t there. Is she – is she at your house?”
She didn’t want to say it. Her word was the final one and she didn’t want to give it. But she had to. “No, Mrs. Savidge,” she said, her heart heavy. “She’s not here.”
Nora’s mother let out a little moan on the other end of the line. “Where could she be?”
“Is there anywhere she might have gone?” Ruthie asked. “Could she have forgotten something at school yesterday and gone back to get it?”
“I don’t – I don’t think she did,” Mrs. Savidge said, and Ruthie could tell she was on the verge of tears “I – I have to go now, Ruthie. Thank you for your help.” She hurriedly hung up the phone.
Ruthie stood in the kitchen with the receiver pressed to her ear for a full minute after Mrs. Savidge had hung up, as if she were hoping she could change what she had just said. Only when Mrs. Halpert entered the room and gently took the receiver from her daughter’s hand did Ruthie sit down in one of the chairs at the table.
Mrs. Halpert pulled out the chair next to it and sat down as well. “Ruthie, what’s going on? Tell me.”
It took a moment for Ruthie to find her words. “Nora is… she’s missing.”
Mrs. Halpert was silent as she took this in. Then she said, “Are you sure?” Ruthie gestured toward the telephone, indicating that was what the call had been about.
“Oh, Ruthie,” Mrs. Halpert said, and stood from her chair to embrace her daughter. But Ruthie stood up, too, fending her off.
“I need to find her.”
“Ruthie…” her mother warned.
“No, I have to,” Ruthie said, pacing around in tight circles. “This is not just any missing person, Mum, this is Nora. How can you not understand that?”
“I do understand it, Ruthie, believe me, I do. But I will not having you putting yourself in danger to find her. If Nora has been taken by someone, do you think they will spare you if you get in their way? They won’t, and I will not allow you to put yourself in that situation.”
“No! And if you try to do anything of the sort, I will make sure you can’t. Your father or I will escort you to school and back and you will not be allowed out of the house. Do you understand me? I am completely serious.” Ruthie was silent. “Ruth Ann, answer me!”
She did not answer her. Instead, she turned on her heel and ran upstairs to her room, slamming the door behind her in frustration. It was not her mother she was angry with, really – she knew that she had a reason for telling her what she had. She was not even frustrated with herself, for if she could search this very instant, she would. It was aggravation with the situation that was making her feel like this – trapped, desperate, short of breath. The trouble was that there was nothing she could do. She had no idea where to go or what to do even if she were allowed to search. She didn’t know if Nora was close or far away – by now, it could be either one. Had she been taken in by someone kind enough to help a girl alone, or was she even now fighting for her life? It was driving her mad not to know what was happening. She wished it were her instead of Nora that had been taken – then, at least she would know what was going on.