Festive lights remind us Christmas is fast approaching. We’ll spend it alone in the small French gite we’re renting. It seems we’ve been here an age, but it’s only been a few weeks.
I remember the fog on the day we left, and how anxious Tom was for us to set off early. He even yelled for me to get a move on.
I put the lights on a timer and double-locked our front door. Why? I don’t know. Anyone could break in if they really wanted.
We’d booked our autumn escape months before. Our possessions—those things my husband deemed essential—were crammed into our old red Corolla.
The driving was treacherous—we could barely see the road ahead. Luckily, it was a route we knew well. Even so, Tom had to swerve on several occasions to steer clear of accidents. Normally he’d stop to offer assistance, but that day he drove on.
Due to the fog, there weren’t the long queues we’d anticipated at the ferry terminal. Even so, I was relieved we had a booking and were able to join the shorter queue for those ‘With Reservations.’ In the past, Tom would joke about ‘not having any reservations about taking a holiday to France.’ There were no jokes that day.
At border control, the young official appeared distracted and anxious. After a short delay, he gave us clearance and our lane number. The wait was interminable. We could hear car horns outside the port, and then sirens. There was an unspoken fear the ferry would not arrive. Tom sighed with relief when it came into view. Very few vehicles disembarked. I wondered if the occupants had any idea of what was in store. Boarding commenced almost immediately.
It was spookily quiet on board. People kept to themselves, speaking only in whispers.
There was a muted cheer when the ferry arrived at Dunkirk. Tom gave me a big hug before we got back in our car. We had no clear idea of where we were going.
Later, we heard on the radio that when the fog had lifted, airports and terminals were overrun by people trying to escape the madness. Things quickly got out of hand; shots were fired and all the borders closed. Martial law was declared that afternoon. News coverage has been sporadic since.
A newspaper reminds us it was recently Thanksgiving in America. We also give thanks and count our blessings. We know we owe our survival to the thick fog that prevented the hordes from reaching Dover before our escape.
© 2011 Patricia Mahoney
Patricia Mahoney started her writing career as a playwright with five professionally-produced plays and since released a book/CD of stories.