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Historical Fiction Romance Sad

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

Miracles happen.

The daffodils bloomed before the snowdrops fell this year, making the churchyard a veritable carpet of yellow. However, in late March,primroses blossomed among the graves, and some late daffodils put theirdelicate heads on the northern facade of the church. Together they replenish the yellow hues in time for Easter. On Good Friday morning, I turn my face to the sun. The weather is unseasonably warm, and the sun’s golden rays reach the rich earth, encouraging growing plants to bud forth. Birds twitter in the trees, nesting, while larks sing, winging on the air currents above. In the first year after the war, my life should be joyful because of the hope surrounding me. I would be completely happy but for the endless aching emptiness that dwells where his love should be.

Sighing, I turn my mind to feeding the animals. Ezra has planted the far field with wheat and has built a fence to ward off our neighbour’s marauding cows. He is lucky to have some, for we had scant animals when I returned from Paris last summer. He explained that they were killed for food or pressed into service when enemy vehicles ran out of fuel. ‘I hid mine,’ he said with a superior tone and a smile that did not reach his eyes.

You connived with the enemy, I thought, heat suffusing my body. Did you expose the men for in exchange your beasts? I walked away before I said something that could inflame passions when we need peace.

Christabel, father’s favourite cow, survived thanks to Ezra. I do not know how he concealed himself from the enemy’s hands yet cared for her. Now sleek coated, she supplies us with fresh milk. She lows with contentment, heavy with her calf due in another month. My sole consolation is Andrew’s son, the image of his father. Sometimes it breaks my heart to see his smile, but I want my son to grow strong, tall and brave like Andrew. I pray Mama’s mind, damaged by Papa’s execution at the hands of Gruppenfurher Klocke, will heal in his presence. Papa was hanged with five other men in the autumn of 1942 forconcealing British spies, and she has not spoken since.

There has been no word of Andrew since he left us that hate filled autumn. Perhaps he drowned trying to reach the submarine or ended up in some Nazi concentration camp and did not survive. Maybe he has married and forgotten me. It’s the hardest thing to bear. So I have learned to be content with Andre’s birth in the cellar, attended by Ruth. Mama could not help as Nazis were everywhere in those days, even in our kitchen. They laughed, their jackboots on the scrubbed table, smoking Guitaines. They drank Papa’s best Beaujolais too, sneering at him. ‘You are nothing but ill-bred French peasants’, Gruppenfurher Klocke said with hate in his guttural tone that fateful autumn night.

Ruth’s rich tones call out from the kitchen and break my reverie. ‘Francoise, your son has his hand in my dough again. He is a mischievous imp.’ She speaks with such fondness, but I know her sorrow, too. She and Ezra escaped the SS, finding refuge in our barn behind a false wall, but not their sixteen-year-old son. He got caught helping Pierre in La Résistance and sent by train in a cattle truck to some terrible place in Poland the Americans found. They know he will never return.

I shake myself; it does not help to dwell on the past. I must endeavour to make the farm profitable to ensure our security. I close the barn door, pick up my basket and walk across the yard as I once did with Andrew. The piglets scramble for the vegetable peelings I throw, squealing with excitement, and the chickens

cluck as I throw them bread crumbs. I wish I could share their simple joys.

On Easter Sunday, I take Andre to church for the first time since his baptism. I avoid the other villagers. We sit at the back of the church for the service, shunned by many villagers. There, I bow my head and pray for a miracle. Upon exiting, the priest asks after my son, patting him on his head and gazing at me with soft eyes. He wishes us well, and we walk over to Papa’s grave. I pick a bunch of primroses for Andre to place on the mound where the fresh, bright green grass grows. Kneeling, the words on his gravestone blur, and I dash away the tears -a silent waterfall. ‘ Mama, don’t cry,’ says my son, his small brow creased with concern. ‘Grandpapa is in Heaven.’ He hugs me and touches my wet cheek with a fat finger. I smile and take his hand,and we walk along the path by the stream. Andre whoops when he spots a fish, but we cannot tarry, for I have Easter lunch to prepare with roast lamb for the first time since 1939.

It should be a happy occasion for my sister and family will join us.

When we are seated, Ruth serves the meal. The lamb is succulent, the potatoes crisp, the dried green vegetables tender. Jeanne congratulates me. Then, in Papa’s memory, I raise a glass of Beaujolais the jackbooted enemy did not steal. After lunch, my sister and family return to their farm in another village. We hug goodbye, shedding tears at our loss of beloved Papa. Mama retires to rest, and Andre snuggles beside her. He tries to make her smile, and I sometimes see the corners of her mouth twitch when he hugs her, but nothing more, not even today.

As the shadows of the old oak tree lengthen through the kitchen window I sit in Papa’s old armchair dozing, a glass of Beaujolais to hand. A knock at the door rouses me. ‘Come in, Ruth. Mama and Andre rest, so you can wash the dishes now.’ I close my eyes as the door opens, but the step I hear is not light. Fear of jackboots still clings to me, and my heart bangs like a hammer on a blacksmith’s anvil. But Klocke is dead. Pierre shot him in the back after he hung the six men, including his father.

 A shaft of light almost blinds me as the door opens. I see the outline of a tall figure. ‘Francoise, ma cherie,’ a familiar voice says, and my heart leaps, for it cannot be. I force open my eyes, the eyes that reminded him of the violets in the garden of his family home. He drops a small bag to the ground and steps forward, holding out his arms. ‘I have come from Father Armand. He will marry us next week if we get a special licence.’ 

I gasp and say, 'Andrew is it you?' I leap up and the world fades for now I am in his arms, his lips on mine. I am completely happy, the emptiness gone and I believe in miracles.

March 04, 2023 13:47

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1 comment

Nathan Landrum
22:06 Mar 15, 2023

Yay! A happy ending! You did a great job of painting a picture in my head of the world on that Good Friday and Easter Sunday. (also great us of allegiry using that timeframe) You provided a good windows into the world of the different characters. A few things could have been cleaned up grammar and writing wise, but I imagine that is more because this is written for this prompt. Definitely a story worth polishing. And great as a short on it's own.


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