‘The Button’, chapter 5. A book by Katherine M Waters

Being dragged around Sainsburys was usually a huge bore for Charlotte but standing in front of the mushrooms in the vegetable aisle she’d become transfixed by some dark yellow trumpet like ones. “Hey Mum, we must try these”. “Chanterelles? But you don’t like mushrooms and those one are very mushroomy, even meaty”. “I want to try them; cooked slowly in unsalted butter; then erm, we need some really tasty bread, something, a bit sour”.

Passing by the living room door later that evening she heard her mum on the phone. “You’d think she’d been away on a Gastro Tour not a History trip. Suits us though, we can actually start to eat rich food without her normal sanctimonious nagging. Maybe Tony will start getting home earlier, yeah I know, miracles can happen”.

A slap on the face would have hurt less, then anger, how dare she talk about me to that gossipy airhead Shena, Charmain Evans’ mum. Storming upstairs and into her room, Charlotte went straight to FB. It had been three days since saying Hi to Piotre and out of guilt she’d not checked back in. But now! What was the point of trying to impress her mum when she’d betray her like that!

“Hi to you”

Three syllables, three empowering syllables.

Then, the inner struggle. The anger, the hurt child, wanting to retaliate against her mum verses the computer savvy young adult, knowing the stupidity of allowing a dialog with a stranger, just the kind of idiot thing Charmain would do.

The child won, outright.

“How old are you?”

Nothing

Then

“Think I’m an idiot, you might be some sick peedo, I’m not telling you anything about myself without seeing your profile”.

Wow, she hadn’t expected that. She was hoping for an elderly survivor of WW2 and had got an angry dork instead.

Exit

Scrolling through her play list, nothing caught her eye. She still had some credit so downloaded Chopin sonata no. 2 in b-flat minor, it calmed her. She put it on loop and went to bed.

‘The Button’, Chapter 4, a book by Katherine M Waters

She was at the river again, this time she could see the mermaid, well, it wasn’t actually a mermaid, just a sculpture of one. There was a boy standing next to it but she couldn’t see his face; he had his back to her and was looking out across the water. She could see he was fit, proud even; the way he stood, held himself, like a meerkat head held high looking across the planes. She woke up laughing and thinking of sunshine.

Charlotte’s Aunty Anna said that if you wanted to remember dreams, you had to lie in bed and remember the details as soon as you woke up, otherwise they were gone. Lying there she thought hard, one memory jogged another. She’d never laughed in a dream before, but even as it was happening it struck her as funny that a boy could also be a meerkat; that’s the sub-conscience for you.

Sausages, she needed sausages, with lashings of wholegrain mustard and beetroot on half a french stick, with, erm, apple juice, freshly squeezed apple juice.

The smell of the sausages brought her Mom and Dad into the kitchen, she cooked more and they sat together laughing and reading the papers. “This is what Sundays should be like”, Tony was relaxed, her Mom was relaxed, “Let’s do something today”.

It was the nicest day Charlotte could remember in a long time, sitting in her room later she had an urge to talk about it. She wasn’t allowed a Facebook account but found herself on Piotre Kowaluk’s page, it was, sparce, yes , it was sparce, minimal. a name, no place of birth or education, no hobbies, or friends.

There must be thousands of guys with that name.

“Hi”, shit, she’d done it, on auto pilot, said hi to a total stranger. Heart thumping she cursed herself, knowing she’d gone bright red and waited. Nothing. Thank Christ.

Shut down

School tomorrow.

‘The Button’, Chapter 3, a book by Katherine M Waters

Charlotte’s mother was furious about the laptop but couldn’t appear to be as her daughter had been away for four days and needed a good welcome home. Charlotte got off lightly and her mom spent the evening searching through her reboot cds.

She was standing near a river and knew that a mermaid was close by. Waking up she felt an enormous sense of well being. She wasn’t lonely, in fact she wasn’t alone.

Going downstairs early for breakfast she was surprised to see her father. Tony was cooler than her mom, well, who wouldn’t be! He just wasn’t around much. She made eight slices of cheese on toast, emmental , for it’s sweet nuttiness, white stilton to create a bridge and halloumi to add salt. Split in equal shares, she added diced russett and cucumber to balance the effect. “Hey Jamie, calm down, when did you develop such an appetite? Did they not feed you in Poland?” Tony was always a big joker. But not, it seemed such a big eater, leaving two slices on his plate that Charlotte polished off before heading off to meet Ellie.

Ellie was late, very late. In fact the last two days of the trip, she’d been a real; Charlotte wouldn’t demean herself by saying bitch, but actually….. what was wrong with her best friend? When she eventually turned up Tanya was with her and they wanted to go to NewLook…..ehhm hello, didn’t we outgrow that in year eleven?

Charlotte was home by 4.30pm and kinda at a loss what to do.

Turning on her laptop, she looked up the address in Warszawa again. The screen looked different somehow, googling Piotre Kowaluk nothing much came back except a Facebook page. “no luck there…thanks Mom”, she clicked on to it out of habit, expecting the usual block but was allowed through. “Woo, Mum forgot the restrictions, thankyooo, now my precious, let’s play”.

‘The Button’, Chapter2, a book by Katherine M Waters

The coach had got them back to school by 3 o’clock but they’d been allowed to go home early. It made no difference to Charlotte, she always got in before her parents. Sitting on her bed she had the buton in her hand. Faded blue and white, scruffy material covered the top and was then tucked into the split that separated the two halves. “Such an ordinary thing but imagine if it could speak?  Actually that’s rubbish,  I bet it’s a repro”. She lent over to her bedside cabinet and picked up her nail file. Prising open the two halves she expected to see ‘made in China’ stamped on the inside. Instead there was a thin but long, rolled up piece of paper.  “Oh shit”. She very carefully unrolled the letter,  because that’s what it was.  On one side, in tiny writing it looked like an address, though she couldn’t understand any of it. On the other side was incredibly small writing, that ended with a name, Zofia.
“Need a magnifying glass,  no hope there. Scan, then enlarge,  ha, they didn’t have that in WW2.
Zooming in she could see that it was a letter, address one side and message the other. Maria Kowaluk, Rycerska 4 Warszawa
Her parents had had installed a very specific search engine into Charlotte’s laptop,  that didn’t allow access to so many things,  Facebook included but Google maps, Earth and Translate were classed as educational and therefore allowed.  Within minutes she had sourced the apartment in the Old Town, that she thought probably hadn’t been classed as Old at the time.
The message was a bit creepy and probably not ‘quite right’.
Beloved sister, don’t let Piotre visit uncle Frank, he’s dangerous very.  Zofia.
With that the screen crashed. Charlotte swore and pushed restart but it wouldn’t come on.
An overwhelming hunger came over her and she realised that she hadn’t eaten since breakfast.

‘The Button’, Chapter 1. A book by Katherine M Waters

Charlotte was on a school history trip in Warszawa,  she wasn’t in Warsaw, she was in Warszawa.  As she’d explained to Ellie it was always cooler to use the local name. “It separates the travellers from the tourists. No one says I’m going to Florence,  we all say we’re off to Firenze. Its like, when we get back to school,  don’t say Urg Autzwitz was gross, say the most disturbing visit was to Oswenciem, it makes you sound so much more sophisticated”. Anyway, Ellie hadn’t ‘got it’, it was their last day and she’d chosen to sit in a juice bar in the Old Town with Tanya, rather than visit the Getto with Miss Fijalkowski. So Charlotte was standing in an old prison cell, in Pawiak Prison Museum, what had been the ghetto prison. Josh, Sam and Amy Tyler had all been there a minute ago with Miss, until Sam pointed out that the majority of the first prisoners were teachers. “Why did that happen miss?” “They wanted to get rid of all the intelligentsia,  so that no one would question what came next” “Sick”. “It’s not sick, idiot”, Charlotte said it’s terrible.  “Well this place is boring, there’s nothing to see”, “oh, I think it’s great,  it’s less touristy than the others, more, authentic.” With that Charlotte had pointed to the objects on the table. Everyone left the cell but she carried on looking at the table.  This museum was different from the others,  it was quieter, the objects were not behind glass and there were no cameras. Bending forward she reached over and picked up a little button,  she knew she was alone, she put it in her pocket and walked out to follow the others.