Evie followed the headmistress to a chamber she had known as the sewing room (and even as a girl she had considered it too grand), and sat down on a comfortable old chair. The big oaken desk in front of her looked familiar. “This desk was here when I was,” she told Mrs. Warren. “Look, here’s where Tommy Waghorn carved his initials one day. You should have seen the trouble he got into!”
Mrs. Warren smiled excitedly. “I wondered what that stood for! All the years I’ve been touching it, thinking about it, and now I know... This is exactly what I wanted to talk to you about. The children are in the process of finding out about the history of this school. I was wondering whether you might like to come in, maybe once, maybe more, just to tell them some stories of the time you were here. I think they’d like that.”
A thrill rose up in Evie. She would love to do it, and told the headmistress so immediately. “And now,” she said, “Perhaps you can help me. I came here looking for a teacher I met yesterday. She was really kind to me and I wanted to thank her for a present she gave me.”
“Certainly,” agreed Mrs. Warren, pleased to help. “What’s her name?”
“I only know her first name; Ivy.”
“Ivy?” asked Mrs Warren, her brow wrinkling, “Are you sure?”
Mrs. Warren shook her head. “I think there must be some mistake. There’s no Ivy working here. Could you describe her?”
Evie did so, all the time wondering more and more if Ivy had been lying; why was she outside the gate anyway?
“The only thing I can do to help you is to show you some photos of the staff. Perhaps you can point out the woman there.” Mrs Warren rose from her desk and picked a large photograph album from a high shelf. “There are photos in here dating back to before your time. Every year a photo of the entire staff is taken and added to this. You should find your Ivy in here.”
Evie leafed through the pictures, starting with the most recent. No Ivy. No one who even looked faintly like her. She shook her head sadly. Mrs. Warren poured out a cup of coffee as Evie looked even further back through the album, just out of curiosity now, having given up her search for Ivy. She went back to her final year of schooling. She picked out faces she recognised and told Mrs. Warren a few facts, although her heart wasn’t really in it now, not after such a disappointment.
“Look at this one,” commented the headmistress, sipping her coffee. “That dress; very similar to yours.” Evie looked closer at the picture. She froze. In the front row of the group of smiling staff members was a young woman wearing a beautiful dress. The photo was in black and white, but Evie knew the dress was blue. Because now she remembered.
“That’s Miss Shaw,” Evie told Mrs. Warren. “The other children called me teacher’s pet, but I didn’t care. She looked after me. I had forgotten.”
“Forgotten what?” asked the teacher, concerned about Evie’s ever-paling appearance.
“Do you have any information about this woman?” asked Evie desperately.
“Of course.” Rising, Mrs. Warren pulled open a drawer in a large metal filing cabinet. “Shaw you say? Here you go.” She flipped the small file open and handed it to Evie.
“Ivy Shaw,” the older woman read out in a whisper. “I remember now. She died. A bomb. She was coming to my house. I invited her to my birthday party. She was bringing me a present, a dress she had made herself, and the siren went. There was nowhere for her to hide. I suppose I blocked it out of my mind; I blamed myself so much.” Tears were running down Evie’s face now. “But she came back and gave me this dress.”
Mrs. Warren was pale. Normally such things didn’t faze her; she was used to dealing with hysterical children saying they had seen a ghost somewhere around the school; the ghost of a young women in a blue dress. But something in Evie’s face and voice made her believe it. From now on, although she would still tell the child there was no such thing, she would no longer be so convinced that what she was saying was true.
Evie stood. “I’m sorry for taking up so much of your time. Give me a ring and we’ll arrange a date for me to talk to the children.” The women silently shook hands.
As Evie reached the door to the office, Mrs. Warren spoke; “I’m glad Ivy still cares.”
Evie smiled, silently left the room, and left the school. She walked home, hoping to see some sign of the woman she had so looked up to.
Later that evening, as the sun turned into a fiery ball of pure gold, she watched the shadows moving, and knew that one of them was Ivy’s, finally saying goodbye.