Letters



The pale rays of the harvest moon fall upon the fluttering curtains of the open balcony on the second floor of the massive Victorian mansion. Her flowing white dress reflects them, making her glow like a pale beacon in the dark room in which she sits. Her poise has not faded since she first assumed her pose, almost 12 hours ago. The clouds in the sky have gone on their way, but her bright blue eyes have not stopped staring at the space in the heavens, they once called their own.  A lone raven is perched on the parapet, screaming his laments, piercing the shroud of mournful silence that envelops the house.

And she smiles.

A silent gust of wind, knocks over a stack of letters kept on the corner table. They fly across the room to lie at her feet, breaking her trance. She slowly leans down, picks them up and quickly glances through them to find what she wanted. An old letter, the wrinkles on the onionskin paper testimony to the number of times it had been read. The blots on the paper, testimony to the care with which it had been written.

The first time he had written.

Dearest Elle,
I am doing well and I hope you are too.

We’ve finally reached our base camp I’ve just got settled in. the people here all seem very welcoming and brotherly. I guess we have no option but to trust each other when we depend on each other for survival. The food here leaves much to be desired but I’m not one to nitpick!

Sigh.

Here I am rambling about the food here because I haven’t the slightest idea how to put into words how much I miss you already. Hopefully I get better at doing this over the next year. Perhaps it’s better to hope that this thrice blasted war gets over before the year is up, so I can hold you in my arms again.

The memory of your eyes has kept me awake all week during transport. If it were up to me, I’d march on to Berlin myself and kill that German imbecile for keeping me away from you! Then again I guess that’s what everyone in our regiment wishes to do.

I would’ve written more about this place right now but I’m exhausted at the moment; my eyelids are drooping even as I write this. I promise to write to you again as soon as possible. Do take care of yourself till then.

Yours and yours only,
Andy.

She pulls out another letter from the stack.

Dear Elle,
Happy New Year!
How were the celebrations back at home? We had a small party of our own at our barracks. Nothing much really, just some wine your dad got for us and the company of my brothers. In retrospect, it was perhaps the second best New Year’s party I’ve attended, actually.

I assume you remember why it’s only the second best? I for one will never forget that fateful day, exactly a year ago when I met you. Didn’t you look stunning in that white dress of yours! I remember the looks my mates gave me when I asked you for a dance, can’t blame them, really. Who the heck asks the Captain’s daughter to dance with him! In fact, I was more than sure that you’d refuse.
But you didn’t. I remember every minute we spent dancing together. Though I don’t remember the song they were playing, the memory of your bright blue eyes, looking into mine through your mask, has been seared into my memory forever.

I still remember the soft caress of your lips on mine when we kissed as the New Year began. I had never really believed in the whole concept of “Love at first sight”, so I was more than a little surprised when I fell for you that day.

The rest of the year is a blur in my mind, with you being the only constant in it; those long walks with you in your garden, the silly little rhymes I wrote for you, the warmth of your hand in mine, the way the sun seemed to shine brighter when you would smile.

Sigh. The more I dwell upon these memories, the harder it is for me to force myself not to just slip away in the middle of the night and jump onto the next ship home. But these memories are all what keeps me here too. I want to fight, Elle, I want to fight these monsters. I’ve seen the heinous crimes they commit in the name of justice and I want to do my best so that you may live in a world free of such monsters.

I’m sorry to have plagued you with such dark thoughts. This war seems to be taking a toll on everyone these days. Perhaps I should take up writing again, to keep myself away from such morbid musings.

Do take care of yourself. Waiting impatiently for your reply.

Forever yours,
Andy.

P.S. Just wrote this for you before posting, hope you like it!
 I envy the breeze caressing your hair,
It mocks me with every stroke;
I envy the sun that dare look down upon,
Your face so wondrously fair.

Your eyes are like starlight,
Twinkling high above;
The clouds which pale before
Your beauty, my love.

Let me take you away to where we’d be alone,
Away from the elements that stare;
And say that I love you, and kiss your sweet hand,
Before the angels claim you as their own.


Her fingers trembling with emotion, she rummages through the remaining letters, 4 for each month that had passed, until she reaches a sheet, written 6 months after the previous.

Dear Elle,

No doubt you’ve already heard the news by the time my letter reaches you. I cannot believe it’s finally over! You know what this means don’t you?

I’M COMING BACK!

I also have some more news to give you. I know you didn’t want me to do this until I got back, but I couldn’t stand it any longer. Last night, after the end-of-war celebrations were over, I approached your dad and asked him for your hand in marriage. I know it sounds a bit formal and everything, but I would not be at peace till I did it. I must say I was pretty nervous; I was mentally braced to be shouted at. But your family seems to have a habit of surprising me! He said he would be proud to have me as his son-in-law; if you agreed, of course. He was a bit surprised to know that we had been in love for the past 3 years but he laughed it off and said that we could be married as soon as we’re home again! He also said something about killing me if I ever hurt you but, never mind.

So, let me ask you once again, “Estelle Burke, though it may imply a lifetime of cheesy rhymes and endless nights of me looking into your eyes, will you marry me?”

Your next letter won’t be able to find me as we’re starting back tomorrow, but I will be coming directly to your house with your father. If your answer is still the same as it was when I had asked you a year ago, be there when I come, wearing the same white dress as that night when I met you, with that radiant smile on your face that I’ve missed so much.

I hope I’m not rambling too much so I’ll end what will hopefully be the last letter I’ll have to write to you with something I wrote a while ago.
I think of your face as the day turns dark,
I think of your smile as the night turns cold,
I dream of your voice that has changed my fate,
As alone I sit in endless wait,
As alone I sit in endless wait.

Lots of Love,
Andy.

She’s reached the end of the stack. Only one letter remains. It’s different from the other letters as this one is typewritten. Fingers trembling, she extracts it and read it.

Dear Miss Estelle Burke,

                        It is with real sorrow that I write this letter; for it brings you, I am afraid, very bad news about your fiancĂ©, Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Richardson.


                        It is indeed deeply unfortunate that his battalion was ambushed, as they made their way back to port, by a group of German refugees. He played his part gallantly and helped carry your father to a place of safety when he was wounded. However, shortly afterward he was himself hit by a piece of shell and soon succumbed to his injuries; I am deeply grieved to say.


                        I cannot tell you how sorry I am; in fact I assure you that there is not one who doesn’t feel his death as a personal blow. Everyone thought so much of him, and admired his fine sturdy character and his unfailing cheerfulness.


                        I wish I could help to soften the hardness of your sorrow, especially as this occurred when we were all under an illusion of safety. There is one comfort at least in knowing that he gave his life in a sacred cause, fighting for justice and helping his comrades to the end. It is the greatest sacrifice that a man can make.      


                        Let pride then be mingled with your tears. We laid him to rest in a little military cemetery at Betancourt by the side of several of his comrades who have died so that England might live, and a cross now marks his grave. His soul we commended to the loving care of our Heavenly Father, who will keep him until that day when you will find him again, never more to be parted.


                        May God comfort and console you in your sorrow. The prayers of all who knew your fiancĂ© are with him and also with you in truest sympathy.


M.P.G. Leonard

CHAPLAIN

8TH Kings Own (R.L.) Regt.


A tear trickles down her cheek and splashes onto the page.

Words. Hollow, empty, mechanical words to soothe the pain in her heart.

She chuckles and lets the wind blow away the sheet of paper and watches it flutter across the courtyard.
Lies. She thinks.
He’ll come for me. He promised.

She settles back into her silent vigil, smoothening out the wrinkles in her dress as she lowers herself into the armchair.
Alone I sit in endless wait.
A lump rises in her throat but she swallows it, stemming the flow of tears with an impatient shake of her head. He won’t like to see her cry.

The wind calms down, restoring the stillness in the room. The moonlight shines, as bright as ever, illuminating the folds on her dress, making her pale skin glow. The raven on the parapet had flown away. The mansion was drowned in tragic silence again. She stares at the moon till, overcome with weariness, she drifts off to sleep, her neck hanging at an uncomfortable angle off the chair, losing herself in the world of troubled dreams.
Yet she doesn’t forget.

Eyes closed, she smiles.