Historical Fiction Drama

        They say I was born in a terrible time. My dear grandmother always says, “Oh I wish you could have seen the days before. The days when life was more peaceful! But you will never see that age. I pity you, my little Margaux.”

               My parents worry about our future. They say Max and I will have it rough when we are grown up with our own children.

               Papa says we are in the middle of a “revolution”. He says Frenchmen are turning on their own brothers. That a man named Robespierre is beheading people in the streets. I wouldn’t know, I haven’t ventured into town in weeks. My Mama tells me to go to school and come straight home. She takes care of all the errands while I care for Max.

               I miss my friends. Yes, we have school, but that isn’t enough time. I miss our afternoons together, playing all day until the sky is dark and Mama calls me home.

               But I did see my best friend Clara a few nights ago. She came over for supper and sat next to me at the table. Mama passed around a plate of hot bread. Papa took a piece and winked at her. “Merci, Madam.” Mama smiled and did a little curtsey.

Clara giggled at them and bit into her bread. Clara’s Papa left a long time ago. No one knows where he went. He may have died. I’ve never asked.

I looked around at our house. The walls are dark wood. The fireplace is burning and crackling, giving the room a cozy orange glow. The windows shine in the late evening light. The wind blows, but very little comes inside. We are safe and warm here. I help myself to another slice of bread, making the table wobble as I stand up. Papa’s coffee sits on a woven coaster, almost spilling over. I look at Clara. Her chin-length blonde hair swings as she compliments Mama on her baking. Mama smiles back with her deep brown eyes and brownish-grey hair swept up in a bun. Papa strokes his moustache. Max plays on the floor, his little fingers grabbing hold of the wooden horse Papa carved for him.

We heard a bang outside. Two men started screaming. They were yelling in French, but I couldn’t understand what they were saying. Suddenly, someone started to pound on the door.

“Quick, upstairs!” said Papa. We all ran and huddled under the bed. Clara grabbed Max and hugged him close to her. Mama and I held each other.

The men went away, and Papa came upstairs, smiling. “Let’s go back downstairs, there’s nothing to fear.” He pulled out his violin and played a happy little tune called Frere Jacques. All the children know it by heart, and Papa plays it very well. Clara and I joined hands and danced in a circle.

Frere Jacques. Frere Jacques.

Mama grabbed Max and swung him around, all while he shrieked with laughter.

Dormez-vous? Dormez-vous?

Sonnez le matinez. Sonnez le matinez.

I love these evenings with family.

Ding, ding, dong. Ding, ding, dong.

               They say I live in a terrible time. They talk of carts being pulled around by angry men. They grab innocent people in the streets and throw them on the cart, then take them away from their families. Max has been getting nightmares about it. Ones where he stands in front of the king as he bellows, “Off with his head!” And then they come and take Max away. Poor Max, he’s only six years old.

               As bad as it sounds, I don’t fret. I can still take pleasure in my day to day activities. There will always be warm bread. There will always be humming and dancing. The fields will always have wildflowers to pick in the spring. War looms on the horizon, but I don’t have anything to fear.

               There will always be Frere Jacques.


My brother always told me, “Judith, we made it through the Depression. We’ll make it through this.” That was before he went to go fight. That was before Papa had to leave and work elsewhere. That was before Mama had to start doing odd jobs for people in hopes of getting enough money to eat. It was nearly impossible. No one else had any money either.

               Regardless, I was left to do all my schoolwork, all the house chores, and take care of baby Nancy at the same time.

               It got a little easier when all the schools in London closed. Some children were even leaving the city to go to Oxford. Supposedly, it was a little safer there. We aren’t moving. Mama says there is no chance of anything happening in London. “Germany and Poland are where all the bad people are. Not in London. Mr. Churchill will make sure of that.”

               Yesterday, Mama asked me to cook all the turnips from the garden. She hasn’t been home for days. The only time I see her anymore is very late at night and very early in the morning.

I trudged into the kitchen to make more turnip stew. We have eaten turnips from our garden for the past three months. It seemed like an eternity. I despise turnips.

The soup bubbled, and I thought about my brother. He could be anywhere, and he hasn’t been sending letters. I missed him so much.

Papa was probably somewhere miles away, working fourteen-hour days. He sends us his paycheck every month. It was barely enough money to live.

I picked up the pot of soup and carried it to the table. Before I even knew I had tripped, the pot of soup hit the ground, splattering on the walls and the floor. I began to cry. That was at least three days’ worth of food. Mama was going to be so mad.

               Suddenly, baby Nancy started to scream. I ran into the bedroom to comfort her.

               “Shh, shh. It’s okay, little baby. Don’t cry.”

               She looked up at me with her big blue eyes and grabbed my finger. I touched her little feet and held her in my arms.

               We cried together, and then I felt guilty. As bad as it seems, I still cling to hope.

               Sometimes I think about the people before me. During the Revolution and WW1 and all those scary times. I think to myself, if they can do it, I can too.

               I must be strong for little Nancy.


 I can’t watch the news anymore. It’s too scary.

               A spike in cases has led to a statewide lockdown.

               The Mask mandate takes effect immediately.

               The Western United States burns to the ground.

               Yesterday, my little sister, Jana, had her first Zoom piano lesson. I sat and watched. For the first five minutes, the teacher, Mrs. Shelby, tried to teach all the kids how to mute themselves so that you could even hear her. A girl’s internet went out, and she had to leave. A little boy was eating pizza and shoving it in the camera. Another kid was dancing. Mrs. Shelby asked Jana to play a piece of music. She played it perfectly, but no one could hear over the shrill laughter of the other kids. Then Mrs. Shelby’s internet went out. She couldn’t get it fixed before it was time to end class.

               Jana closed her laptop and squeezed her eyes shut. I thought she was going to cry.

               Poor thing hasn’t had a piano lesson with her friends in six months.

               I heard the other day that someone in my grandma’s nursing home got COVID. No one has been able to visit her, even for her 80th birthday last month. I’m worried about my grandma. I remember the last time I saw her.

               “Hello, Izy-belle! How are you this fine Saturday?”

               I smiled at my grandma and suppressed a laugh. It’s not Saturday. “I’m good. Who brought the flowers?” I gestured to a vase of six bright pink roses on her little bedside table.

               “Oh, those? Marie got twelve from her son, and she gave me half of them. Wasn’t that the sweetest thing?”

               “They are beautiful.”

               She touched one of the flowers and grinned. “Are you coming to play bingo with me next week?”

               “Absolutely.” I stroked her arm.

               “That is wonderful!”

               I was never allowed to go back.

               I haven’t been allowed anywhere. School is canceled. I’m not supposed to see my friends. We got grocery delivery. Clarinet lessons are canceled.

               Sometimes I feel selfish for being so absorbed in my problems. Even my dad has much bigger problems than me. He lost his job.

I like to read about history. About crazy times when everybody was scared. It makes me feel like I can get through this.

               Maybe I was born in a bad time. I don’t know. But there will always be hope. There will always be hope.

September 29, 2020 18:46

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