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Coming of Age Fiction Adventure

The bombs had fallen near the village again the previous night, but this time, the house hadn't been hit. Billy and his mother had waited late into the morning around a small fire for news concerning the conflict. The room had a single bay window. It was patched up with cardboard, and harsh winds darted in and around it. Billy peered through curiously as the cardboard flapped. Being situated on a small coastal island, the circulating winds were not unusual in Hamley's Village, but today, amongst the brown leaves and ash, the wind carried a piece of paper. Billy watched as it zig-zagged from unreachable heights down to the dying grass of the yard.


"Mum, there is something out there."


"Stay inside, Billy. Stayed sheltered now," his mother replied.


"But I recognize that paper. I must bring it inside."


Before his mother could react, he pushed aside the cardboard, stepped over the window's up-pointing shards, and into the yard. The sheet had landed on the moist turf and was stuck there only by a corner. The lawn was sparse, and what remained of the surrounding fences was torn apart and jagged. Weeks of blasts had done their damage, and the wind had taken away the debris. Now those same winds blew, and Billy watched anxiously as the paper shook. He scurried over, snatched it from the ground, and returned to the house.


I miss you. We must never give up


It was Lyla's handwriting.


"It's from her, Mum!" Billy exclaimed.


Billy's home and school were here on the island, whereas Lyla lived on the mainland. He had grown close to her in class, but they had been separated since the island had lost power and the school had closed. Few dared venture over Hamley's footbridge, which crossed the strait and was the only link between the two landmasses; the mainland was considered at greater risk to the bombs, and the powerless island had little to offer except shelter to its inhabitants. On the island, only the lonely and despondent would populate the streets. They would gather by fires and hope for positive news, while others would stay home, leaving only to stock up on supplies from what remained in the village stores.


"Your pen pal, Billy? The girl from the mainland?" his mother said. "Leave her be until this is over. Until this conflict ends, it is a time for family."


Billy missed his time in class with Lyla. They had been leaving notes for one another for weeks under the litter bin on Hamley's Footbridge. Each would head out, leave a note, and wait a few days. Upon returning to the litter bin, the reply would be waiting. But by yesterday, Billy had counted eight days since Lyla's last note, so he feared the worst.


"Mum, this note has come from her hand. I just want to see if she is okay. I know where her house is. I will just say hello and come straight back."


"The streets are dangerous; the mainland more so," his mother warned.


She directed her eyes upward, gesturing to the shudders of the beaten house. The island winds were familiar, but many had come to fear them since the bombs had fallen. They whistled through the shattered buildings and rattled the broken brick, delivering a constant reminder of the damage done. They brought bitter cold into powerless homes, heated only by small fires threatened by their force. Billy didn't think of the winds this way. To him, they made the streets sound alive. Those familiar howls were invigorating, energetic, and the island's lifeforce—the defiant cries of a hurting village.


"Mum, the streets are dangerous, but isn't everywhere? This house has been hit once already. The wind is cold, but it always has been. I will be out thirty minutes only, an hour at most, and the bombs only drop at night. I just want to find her, and if that means going to the mainland, then so be it."


Billy's mother looked away. He felt her disapproval but walked into the neighboring room, where an old chest of drawers sat in the corner. He was determined to find Lyla. Aware of his dusty clothes, he opened the top drawer where several of his father's clean shirts were kept. On the top of the pile was a blue one with long sleeves. It was creased but cleaner than the shirt he currently wore. He removed his jacket and shirt before slipping the new one on. The chill of the room fell hard on his chest as he raced to button it from bottom to top. When he picked up his jacket, he noticed it had also become layered with dust, and he shook it before putting it back on. In a tall mirror hung on the wall, Billy attempted to neaten his hair, but his dark curls were stiff with dust and refused to move. With one silent look to the living room, he opened the back door and slipped out of the house and into the street.


Billy began his journey, holding his jacket in tightly as the winds swirled around him. He felt the chill, and dust blew into his eyes; light trash hit him on all sides. The empty wrapper of a sweet he was fond of stuck momentarily to his leg before blowing away. Memories of eating the sweet brought warmth to his cheeks.


On recent trips to the bridge, Billy had grown prouder of his quaint village. The buildings were blemished with black ash and thick dust, but the unique curvature of the dry stone down each edge had retained its charm. And while the absence of lighting from the houses and shops left the streets dulled, the lack of glare rendered the reddish cobbled roads more distinguished. Turning the first corner, he headed down Cottage Lane, walking alongside a damaged wall, jumping on and off where the bricks had fallen. It had formed the south perimeter of the village gardens, and ornate metal railings crowned the parts that still stood. Billy knew Lyla loved this park. She would tap at the railings, playing it like a xylophone, and it would make him laugh. He picked up a stick and dragged it along the metal, causing a stuttered ring. As he approached the wall's end, he began another jump but hesitated as he noticed a crack through the center of the brick.


"You be careful, lad," a voice called from over the street. It was the postman, Duncan Seymour, perched on a stack of two suitcases. He wore his postman's uniform. It was torn and marked with mud and dust, and his cap was lying on the floor beside him under a metal tin. He was drinking whiskey from a bottle.


"There are worse things out here than crumbling walls, lad," Mr Seymour continued. "These winds are carrying all sorts. Where are you going?"


"I received a letter, Sir," Billy replied.


"Letter? The post hasn't run for weeks."


"This isn't that kind of letter."


"I see. Well, what do you plan to do with this letter?"


"Find the girl who sent it, Sir."


"What, out here? Young girls are not seen walking around here much. They are home with family." Mr Seymour took a drink from his bottle. "Where is she, anyway?"


"The mainland, Sir."


"The mainland?! That was hit very badly last night."


"But I must try." Billy turned and walked away from Mr Seymour.


"Get yourself home, lad. It is way too dangerous. And I suggest finding a bottle of this."


Billy put his head down and began to walk more quickly. He waited for another call from Mr Seymour or a hand on the shoulder, but it never came. He turned a corner to the right onto Main Road. The stretch was long, and at the far end stood a church. A fire was burning outside, and people sat around it, warming themselves. As Billy approached, he counted five: two men and three women. Billy recognized one of the men as the village priest, who called to him.


"How are you today, young Billy?"


"I'm fine, Father. I am on my way to..."


"Has your dad sent you out for supplies again?" the priest interrupted.


"My dad was killed in the fourth blast. We buried him in the yard. I did most of the digging while Mum wrote some words."


"I'm sorry to hear that, Billy," said the priest.


"When was the last service you performed, Father?" said one of the women.


"Six weeks ago, now," the priest replied to the woman. "Folk have been dealing with it themselves, as Billy just described. I hear many from the mainland are being mourned collectively."


"You do right helping your mother, Billy," the woman said, rubbing her hands together.


"Yes, you acted with strength and showed great support," the priest added. "How old are you now?"


"Twelve, Father."


 "Very good," the priest said. "Well, you must send your mother our condolences and love."


"Poor child," another one of the women said. "So little hope to be had in this village."


Billy thought of Lyla. "But I have lots of hope, Miss," Billy exclaimed.


"That's the spirit, Billy," the priest said. "Now, be on your way home, wherever that may be now. Stay sheltered from these winds."


The group nodded in agreement, and with no further word spoken, Billy continued toward the bridge with greater urgency. He felt the fire's warmth replaced by the wind's chill, and he held his arms in tight. Grey skies had been carried over the island, and the daylight had dimmed. Around the next corner and across Saville Lane was Manor Square. It was home to many beautiful statues and a popular area for villagers to meet during the day and trade supplies. He would often see Lyla there with her family, and they would run away and hide behind market stalls.


Billy entered the Square. It was busy but quiet, and the shadows usually cast by the tall statues were absent under the grey skies. Many decorative slabs were cracked, but the greater floral spectacle they formed across the floor was still discernible. As Billy crossed, the people watched him with a curious sadness. Fires burned on all sides, and those warming themselves beckoned him to join, but he continued forward. A man playing a guitar was on the floor cross-legged at the Square's end. Billy was drawn to the gentle melody, and as he approached, he realized it was Mr Slattery, the music teacher from where he was schooled.


"Billy?" Mr Slattery said, looking up from his instrument.


"Hello, Mr Slattery. How are you? I must keep..."


"Oh, I'm as well as is possible in the current day," Mr Slattery interrupted. "The days are tough, but I can pass through them comfortably with this guitar."


"The music sounds very pretty. It reminds me of school."


"Yes, we must get you back there. Are you still playing your guitar?"


"It was damaged in the fifth blast, Sir."


"That is most unfortunate. If there is one thing the war should leave us with, it's music…"


As Mr. Slattery spoke, the guitar's acoustics resonated in the wind, and the sound hole voiced a low hum. Billy tried to concentrate on his teacher's words but found the hum pleasant and distracting.


"I'm sorry, Mr Slattery. I was distracted by the hum of your guitar."


"Isn't it wonderful? Yes, I would miss the winds if they disappeared. They tell me the village is still fighting."


"Yes, Mr Slattery. They make the village sound alive."


"Exactly... Alive! The winds are as much a part of this village as the people. They sing to us and, soon enough, will sing a victory for us. Now, where are you heading?"


"I wish to find my friend, Lyla. You know her from school. She also has a guitar... and plays the piano."


"Yes, Lyla, sweet girl. But where is she?"


"The mainland, Sir. We leave messages underneath the old litter bin on Hamley's Footbridge, but this one was brought to me only by the wind. I want to see that she is okay."


"But… the bridge was taken out in last night's blast. Much of the mainland was hit very badly. These people in the Square await news concerning their friends and loved ones."


Billy's shoulders dropped. 


"Billy?" Mr Slattery said. "Are you okay?"


Billy took the note out of his pocket.


I miss you. We must never give up


"I have to try, Mr Slattery,” he exclaimed, running off toward the bridge.


"Be careful," Mr Slattery shouted from behind.


Billy darted around the first corner, leaving the Square, passing people and fires left and right.


"Where are you going?" a man in the street shouted.


"Be careful out here," another said.


A dog lay on the sidewalk ahead, and as Billy passed, it jumped up as if wanting to play. Billy continued straight, and the dog lost interest. He ran to the end of the street, turning right, left, and through the alley opposite, which led to the Hamley's Strait. As he exited the alley, he stopped sharply, and he was met with the water and the ruins of the footbridge. The structure stood fractured and useless at each end, while its arch had vanished. Thin fragments of green and red floated atop the water, reminding Billy of the bridge's beauty, but the waves thrashed at the island’s edge and strait was uncrossable. Dejected, he paced back and forth, kicking at stones and branches wedged into the dirt. He looked for the litter bin, but it was nowhere to be seen. He paced in circles as the wind chilled his neck and ears until he heard a voice muffled by the wind. He stopped his kicking and listened, hearing the voice again almost immediately. Across the strait, Lyla was standing, waving her arms, calling.


Billy ran to the edge, but the strait was deep. He took the letter out of his pocket and waved it above him. Lyla nodded. Her red hair was billowing wildly. He longed to make contact, hug her, hold her in any way. The paper in his hands was creased but dry and crisp. Lyla's beautiful words stared back at him. 


I miss you. We must never give up


Spotting a smooth surface on a nearby wall, he laid the sheet down. A region of dirt moistened by splashes from the strait was to his right. He pressed his thumb into the dirt and then onto the sheet, leaving a thumbprint, punctuating Lyla's words with a piece of himself. Concentrating hard, he went to work. He curved the sheet, corner to corner, and folded it in half. Beginning with the corners at one end, he folded the sheet bit by bit until he was left with a perfectly formed paper plane.


Billy waited for a moment of calm. The winds were powerful, but they eased as if only for him. As he threw the plane, it sailed forward, only to curve upwards. He grimaced as it rocketed toward the sky, but the wind returned, and the plane was sent to the left, wobbling in all directions, and then lower until it was caught by a second gust and sent skyward, this time way up. The plane was tossed across eddies, flipping over and under until it vanished against the grey skies. Billy looked at Lyla and saw she was fixated on the aerobatics. She gasped; the plane, thrown from an air pocket, had come back into view. It glided elegantly but to the right and toward the water, but as the winds lightened, the plane found its wings, curving to the left and in Lyla's direction. She waited with her arms stretched wide, twenty feet away, fifteen feet away, ten, five, before a final gust sent the plane upward and above her head.


The winds paused, freezing the plane in one of its pockets, and Billy listened as the waters calmed. The plane began to fall. He watched it topple downward like a dying bird, landing safely in Lyla's hands. He met her gaze momentarily until she closed her eyes, and he watched as she held the letter to her chest and smiled.

March 07, 2024 21:57

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32 comments

C Zwick
20:53 Mar 19, 2024

Very nice end :) I was also one of the ones concerned if Lyla was alright, and quite relieved to see her get a return letter. Def a good setup and follow through

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Darvico Ulmeli
19:19 Mar 14, 2024

I was afraid that Lyla would die. So glad it wasn't. Nice story.

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Tom Skye
20:15 Mar 14, 2024

It's interesting, a few people have mentioned they expected a sad ending. It's good feedback because the story must be directing it that way. Thanks so much for reading

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Jason Basaraba
17:09 Mar 14, 2024

Tom, You have a p Poetic way in which you describe the conditions that war has on our MC. and friendship The paper plane at the end with the pause in the wind. Beautiful

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Tom Skye
17:26 Mar 14, 2024

Thanks so much Jason. Glad it all threaded together ok

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Helen A Smith
18:18 Mar 13, 2024

Great story about a friendship in the turmoil of war. I wanted to keep reading to see how it would develop. I really hope they get through the war and are able to spend time together again. I longed for their ultimate safety and admired him for not being prepared to give up. Loved the idea of the plane too. There was a beauty to that image. Really well written.

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Tom Skye
19:24 Mar 13, 2024

Thanks for comments, Helen. People seemed to have liked the ending so I am happy about that. I thought it was a cool way to include the wind in the end as well as at the beginning. Your reading and comments are very appreciated. Thanks so much

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Amanda Stogsdill
17:40 Mar 13, 2024

Very powerful. War is devestating, but hope is strong. The boy never gave up, even when the adults were discouraging.

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Tom Skye
17:47 Mar 13, 2024

Thanks so much Amanda. Glad it worked out ok. Will read yours in a bit :)

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Marty B
01:16 Mar 13, 2024

I appreciate a well made paper airplane, and Billy made a good one! The dramatic swirls and swoops brought a fitting end to this tale of devastation. The number blasts really stood out, 'My dad was killed in the fourth blast.' 'It was damaged in the fifth blast, Sir.' Thanks!

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Tom Skye
01:22 Mar 13, 2024

Thanks so much, Marty. My paper airplanes were always wobbly 😂

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Uncle Spot
20:42 Mar 12, 2024

Sweet story with plot-enhancing drama. I didn't see it ending the way it did. Nice work.

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Tom Skye
00:01 Mar 13, 2024

Thanks so much, Uncle :) glad it worked out

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LeeAnn Hively
03:55 Mar 12, 2024

A story worthy of a movie adaptation, sir.

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Tom Skye
11:16 Mar 12, 2024

I'll take that :) Thanks so much

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Kailani B.
16:53 Mar 11, 2024

You had me worried there for a moment, but the sweet ending is just perfect. Thanks, Tom!

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Tom Skye
22:12 Mar 11, 2024

Thanks so much Kailani

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Jessie Laverton
16:24 Mar 11, 2024

I was dreading a sad ending and of course nothing is resolved for them but the ending is really poignantly beautiful. Haven’t been this moved by a story for a while. Well done 👏🏻

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Tom Skye
16:31 Mar 11, 2024

Thank you, Jessie. That response makes me so happy.

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Martin Ross
19:48 Mar 10, 2024

Wondrous and beautifully told, and what a great cinematic ending! Excellent writing!

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Tom Skye
20:32 Mar 10, 2024

Thanks so much Martin. I wanted to also make the wind significant in the finale and that felt like a good way. The whole plane flight sequence felt like an opportunity to be dramatic so I put some thought into it. I'm glad it came across alright. I enjoyed writing this one. After some previous efforts, I wanted to attempt a more linear tale. I found myself falling into a voice more suited to a children's story, which was a nice change for me. Thanks so much for reading.

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Kristi Gott
02:10 Mar 10, 2024

Love it! So creative and unique. Amazing that you thought of this story all from the prompt. Great writing techniques. I enjoyed reading this very much.

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Tom Skye
22:12 Mar 11, 2024

Thanks so much Kristi

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PJ Peterson
21:24 Mar 09, 2024

What a lovely touching story! I was caught in the wind myself, waiting for the airplane to find its target.

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Tom Skye
21:32 Mar 09, 2024

Thanks for reading. I wanted to to honor the prompt, but also try to make the wind significant for the finale. Glad it came across alright

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Mary Bendickson
05:38 Mar 08, 2024

A sweet love story amidst turmoil

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Tom Skye
22:12 Mar 11, 2024

Thanks so much Mary

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Alexis Araneta
02:24 Mar 08, 2024

Tom, as usual, what a brilliant, poignant tale. I'm happy Lyla and Billy were able to see each other despite the war. What lovely imagery. A very riveting tale. Absolutely amazing !

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Tom Skye
12:00 Mar 08, 2024

Thanks so much, Stella. I tried to write something a bit more linear his week. Riveting is always the best word to get on here, so I appreciate it very much :) Your story was very moving his week. Thanks again for reading.

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Alexis Araneta
12:29 Mar 08, 2024

Thank you so much, Tom. It means so much coming from you.

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Trudy Jas
23:13 Mar 07, 2024

Amids the rubble of war, two young people are able to touch, if only b/c the wind. What a lovely story. Each adult, cautious and full of admonitions, does not deter this young man on a mission. Thank you, Tom.

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Tom Skye
23:21 Mar 07, 2024

Thanks so much for reading, Trudy. I wanted to try and write something a little sweeter this week :)

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