Historical Fiction Fantasy Romance

There had to have been over a hundred photographs strewn across the floor, all of which were enveloped in memories with varying emotions. They were destined for a large and thick album Sergeant Plundell was holding on his lap while he sat with his back to the desk in Commandant Westheimer’s office. He felt like a child again, putting together an album of pictures he found interesting or delightful. Ever since he knew he was in love with a young lady named Monnie Abberton, he had wanted to give that album to her.

Sadly, that album was back in Britain, and he was stuck in Germany for the foreseeable future. With Valentine’s Day around the corner, he felt obliged to make something for her, and it would take too long to write his parents and ask them to send the album to Monnie. Mail was only collected and sent once a week. That, and Plundell wanted to feel like the gift was coming from him. It needed to be special. So he went around taking pictures of things and people around Stalag V C that he found interesting or delightful. Little things, like the miniature oak tree Private Liebermann grew for him, and big things, like the recreation hall. His friends among the other prisoners, and the guards.

Plundell was pulled from his thoughts when he heard the slight scratching of a pen on the desk behind him. He turned and got into a kneeling position to rest his arms on Westheimer’s desk. The older German warlock was signing something in a folder. “Am I interrupting anything, sir?” Plundell asked.

“Just the ever-present joy of paperwork,” Westheimer replied. “Do you need something?”

“I was thinking . . . do you do anything for Valentine’s Day?”

“Not exactly. That has never been much of a holiday here.”

“Even among witches?”

Westheimer gave Plundell a look. “I have already told you that love is not exactly . . . widespread among witches. Otherwise, I would not have fled my home.”

“Sorry, sir.”

“Frankly, I find it a strange holiday. Why limit showering your dearest with love and gifts to only one day?”

Plundell shrugged. “It’s a fun thing to do, I suppose, but it doesn’t mean I love Monnie less any other day of the year.”

“I still find it pointless. Just like New Year’s.”

“It’s probably the only thing to look forward to the first two months of the year. It’s a spot of happiness amidst the gray dreariness of waiting for winter to end.” Plundell glanced at Westheimer’s wedding band. “So, when do you take the time to just do something fun for Anneli?”

“Whenever I feel like it. Granted, I cannot do that now because I have a prisoner-of-war camp to run, but before I took this job, I would do something special for Anneli at least once a week. It is basically a habit for us to surprise each other with special things. However, a truly loving relationship is about supporting, respecting, and caring deeply for your partner. Anneli has pulled me through some particularly dark times, and I have done the same for her.”

Plundell nodded. “I haven’t had the chance to do that for Monnie. It . . . Sometimes, it feels like we’ve only just met. I mean, I met her on leave, and we’ve only met up a few times. It doesn’t feel like I should care this much, or that it’s nothing more than an infatuation, a lust.”

“The way you talk about her does not sound like lust or infatuation. I have not once heard you talk about physical intimacy with her, nor have I seen you in the recreation hall when some of the others are showing off their—” Westheimer cleared his throat, “photographs sent from their women back home.”

“I’ve asked for pictures, but none like that. Actually, the last photo I asked for was this one—” Plundell held up a picture of a young woman with dark hair that was curled at the ends. She was standing in front of a wide Christmas tree that was covered from top to bottom in decorations. She wore a somewhat embarrassed smile on her rounded face, and was wearing a dark-colored sweater and ankle-length skirt. Underneath the picture were the words “Merry Christmas, Elliot.” “That was from the Christmas party with her family. She’s not too fond of having her picture taken.”

“Neither is my wife,” Westheimer said. “She was a nightmare when it came to family pictures as a child, because she would always make a face at the camera.”

Plundell smirked. “I’ve always had a slight interest in photography. I doubt I could’ve been a war photographer or something similar, though.”

“You did a good job at capturing daily life in the camp.” Westheimer fell silent, then stood to get a better look at the photos spread across the floor. “I still do not understand why you think this would make a good gift for Monnie specifically, aside from the pictures of you.”

“It’s hard to explain. I came to Stalag Five C thinking I was going to be trapped in a barracks for months on end. Instead . . . I’ve made friends, learned new things about myself.”

“You got lucky. No other place in Germany could have given you that.”

“Yeah. I think . . . I think Monnie will appreciate your compassion. Showing her you and Liebermann and the others will let her know I’m safe. I’ve told her a lot about you, but I haven’t yet shown her.”


The completed album was about as large as a single-volume encyclopedia. Proud of his creation, Plundell tenderly slid it into a cardboard box, silently praying it didn’t get damaged.

Naturally, Westheimer had been concerned about some of the pictures falling into the wrong hands, so the album would be sent to Switzerland first and then covertly delivered to Britain.

“You’re sure it’ll arrive before Valentine’s Day?” Plundell asked, carrying the box over to where Westheimer was waiting for Major Kersting’s car to show up.

“Positive,” Westheimer replied.

Plundell hugged the box to his chest, and let out a breath. “You know, you didn’t have to do this for me. I . . . I know you probably have more important things to do.”

“Your comfort and safety are my top priorities. If sending this to your girlfriend will make you happy, I will do it.”

The camp gates opened to let Kersting’s staff car in. As the vehicle came to a halt, Kersting was already halfway out the door, giving his driver a friendly squeeze on the shoulder. “Good morning, gentlemen!” he called. “I was told I have a package to deliver.”

“It’s for my girlfriend back in Britain, sir,” Plundell said, holding up the box. “It’s a collection of photographs from here.” He handed it to Kersting, who nearly dropped it.

“Good gracious, this is heavy!” Kersting grunted. “What else is in here?”

“A very large album and some letters.”

“Sure doesn’t feel like it. Feels like there’s a brick in here.”

Plundell resisted a smile. “Sorry, sir.”

“Oh, don’t worry about me. I need the exercise anyway.” Kersting put the box in the trunk of his car, then switched his gaze between Plundell and Westheimer. “Is there anything else you need me to do?”

“Just make sure you are not caught with that,” Westheimer said.

“I’ll do my best. Besides, if I wasn’t caught with the Christmas tree, I probably won’t be caught with a photo album.”

“Still. Be careful.”


Within a few days, a young man in a dark-blue cloak was strolling up a street in Leicester, a large package tucked under his arm. He glanced around cautiously when he approached a house, then knocked on the door.

A woman with a round face and dark, curly hair answered, and gave the man a confused look. “Can I help you, sir?”

“Is this the residence of a Miss Monnie Abberton?” the man asked.

“This is. What is this about? I’m not expecting any visitors.”

“I have a package from Sergeant Elliot Plundell.”

A gleeful smile crossed Monnie’s face. “This is quite unusual. He typically sends things through the mail.”

“I was only told it is something incredibly special, and for your eyes only, madam.” After handing Monnie the package, the man tipped his hat. As he lowered his arm, Monnie caught a glimpse of a polished stick up his sleeve. Yes. Quite unusual.

Closing the door, she carried the heavy package back into the house, and set it on the kitchen table before cutting the brown paper off. Underneath was a plain cardboard box. Heart racing with excitement, Monnie took the lid off the box, and covered her mouth upon seeing the cover of an album, embossed with the words Dearest Monnie in a beautiful cursive script.

Unable to contain her excitement, Monnie took the album into the living room, sitting and gently opening it. A piece of paper greeted her.

Dearest Monnie, I hope this gift finds you well. This is our first Valentine’s Day apart, so I wanted to do my best in making it special. I put together this album with photographs from Stalag V C. Remember how I’ve been writing that I’ve been treated very well here? I wanted to show you the people who have been making this time much more bearable, the people who have changed my life for the better.

To be honest, I didn’t think magic existed outside of fiction. This past October, I encountered something of the supernatural sort, and I probably wouldn’t have survived if it weren’t for Commandant Westheimer—yes, he’s a wizard. He can cast spells and make potions and all that. This may sound strange, but it’s true. Wizard or not, he’s a good man, something I wasn’t expecting when I was sent to this camp back in September. He’s not the only one. Several of the guards are wizards as well, and while many of them just want this war to be over so they can return home to their loved ones, some have embraced their new life here. Namely, Private Liebermann. I think it’s safe to say that he’s become my best friend, and a brother. After losing my unit in Italy, I didn’t think I would find anyone that I felt I could call a brother again. You knew how much those men meant to me, after everything we went through together in North Africa. At the same time, I don’t feel like I’m replacing them. They still have a place in my heart.

It is always wondrous to find small joys in a place where joy seemingly cannot exist. I took pictures of the landscape around the camp, and inside the camp. Did I tell you we have our own greenhouse? I’ve been trying to grow lilies for you. There’s a lot to do in the recreation hall, and we mostly make our own things. A couple of our men who were woodworkers before the war made a chess set, and that sees a lot of use. We’ve made card sets and it’s not unusual to see spirited games of bridge or Oh Hell at night. The tournaments are probably the best—the only time Westheimer will let us leave the lights on for an extra hour, and the only time where we can truly forget about everything around us and enjoy each other’s companionship.

That being said, this is still a POW camp. Despite Westheimer’s best efforts, homesickness and feelings of being cut off from the world persist. We’re only a few kilometers north of Augsburg, a sizable city, but it feels like we are in a remote part of the world, completely alone. Frankly, what goes on in my head is the most frightening part. Arguments will break out over the smallest things. Sometimes, people will wake up angry and sad after having a dream that they finally went home. Depression is rampant, so much so that you can feel it deep inside. I haven’t been here that long, and I can only hope I don’t become like the men who have been here since the camp’s creation three years ago. There are some, like Sergeant Angove, who are wonderful people making the best of a bad situation, but there are others who look like shells of their former selves.

At times, the camp feels like home, which is definitely a strange thing to say. Other times, I feel like running back to my real home. I miss Mum and Dad. I miss you most of all. When I’m at my saddest, I try to turn my thoughts to you. When I return to England, I hope to see you waiting for me at the airport. Or, perhaps, you’ll come to me. I would love for you to meet everyone. I’ve told them so much about you, about how beautiful you are, about how you make me laugh and smile, about how you make the perfect cup of tea—oh, did you know Corporal Fossey and his wife have a tea place in Birmingham? I would appreciate if you paid his missus a visit to help them out, but I understand if you’re busy. Anyway, please enjoy the album. I’ve written captions under every photo, and I do hope this gives you endless amounts of joy—I certainly enjoyed making it.

Words alone cannot express how much I love you. All the best—Elliot Plundell.

Monnie’s hands were shaking as she put down the paper. She felt more joy at knowing her Elliot was safe and healthy. Once her relief subsided, she whispered, “Magic?” to herself as she opened to the first page of the album. On that page was a large photograph showing the members of Elliot’s barracks, along with some of the camp guards and staff. She found Elliot off to the right side of the group, standing in front of a tall and thin German officer, who she assumed was Commandant Westheimer. It was confirmed on the back of the photo, along with a guide to who was who.

Tears ran down her face as she looked at Elliot’s smiling face. It was the first time she had seen him in almost a year. The photo was only a few weeks old, and for her, it was good enough as seeing him in person. For now, it would have to do.

February 14, 2022 01:00

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