ON WRITING

“It’s very easy to quit during the first ten years of writing. Nobody cares whether you write or not, and it’s very hard to write when nobody cares one way or the other. You can’t get fired if you don’t write, and most of the time you don’t get rewarded if you do. But don’t quit.” Andre Dubus

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Wednesday, 22 May 2013

RomanticFridayWriters : LETTERS : A Letter From Flanders Fields, 1914.

RomanticFridayWriters is underway again, after an hiatus for the A - Z. We are an online writing community who write to specific prompts/guidelines on the third Friday of every month. Our work is open to critique as we aim to improve our writing in a supportive community. RFW is open to every writer. Feel free to submit your name to the linky each month. There are guidelines in the Challenges Page at the RFW site. Come on. We'd love to read your stories or poems. 

This month the theme is LETTERS. It is also to be multi-generic, incorporating letters in some way. I immediately thought of war letters.

Letters to a Lost Love
  
Have you heard from Jake, Anna?’ Her mother-in-law squizzed Anna through her lorgnette, tipping the handle imperiously. Even though Anna sat at the far end of the long  table, Florence’s face commanded her attention.

The wine glass tipped from Anna’s fingers. A violent splash of colour seeped like blood across the pristine linen cloth.

Anna dipped her finger into the spilled liquid and brought it to her lips, the acidity sharp on her tongue.

Jason spoke, his voice suggesting an intimacy that was purely imagined. ‘Anna. What is it, my dear? You’re as white as a ghost.’

Anna studied her brother-in-law across the table. Her cheeks grew warm as if the bitter wine had set a fire inside her. Her fingers played with the soft stuff of her embroidery which she always brought to table.

‘Anna? Are you all right?’ Jason pushed his chair aside, stood up and walked towards her.

She stumbled to her feet, dropped her thread basket in her haste to escape. The colourful spools fell to the carpet. She couldn't leave them there; she scooped them up and ran.

Jason’s voice chased her up the staircase. ‘Anna!’

Safely in her room, she wrenched the lock, stumbled into bed and wrapped herself in the quilt. She huddled in a ball, humiliated, miserable, overwrought. She imagined she could hear the conversation between Florence and Jason the minute she'd left the room. She’d heard it all before.

‘A nervy piece.’

‘Perilously unsocial.’

‘Can’t handle her wine.’

‘Wouldn’t you think she’d accept Jake wasn't coming home by now?’

‘He’s lost to her.’

‘She says she’ll wait forever, foolish girl.’

‘Never marry a soldier I always say.’

Jason would have the last word. He always did. Florence allowed him to dominate every conversation.

‘It’s a long time to be missing in action, don’t you think, Mother? Maybe he’s found a mademoiselle in one of those dingy, damp, grey little French villages. Maybe he’s decided not to come home. Grass is greener and all that...’

Anna crammed her hands over her ears to stop the voices. How many times had she been forced to listen to Jason and his mother discuss her situation like she wasn’t even in the room?

She lay motionless, watching the moonbeams on the lake reflect in her windowpane. She remembered the feeling of Jake in her arms, their bodies entwined in these same sheets, kissed by starlight. Oh, Jake, why did you go? I begged you not to go and leave me. Now Jason thinks he’s going to get what he’s wanted all along…me...your wife.

She reached for her Bible, a parting gift from Jake, (to record the names of our children, he’d said), and opened it to the page where she’d hidden it.

The letter was no longer crisp; it felt strange in her hands. She ran her thumb over the address:

Mrs Jake Penfield,
Bury, Chichester,
      West Sussex. England.

She reached for the precious picture of Jake she kept on her bedside table, the only one she had. She touched her lips to his cold ones, then lay the frame down gently. She picked up the document again and began to read...


DEAR MRS PENFIELD

IT IS MY PAINFUL DUTY TO INFORM YOU...MR JAKE PENFIELD...THE BATTLE OF YPRES... 

...DIED BRAVELY...DEFENDING HIS COUNTRY...


The sobs came at last…

***

Jason stood outside the door, listening to the harsh racking sounds.

‘Ah, my girl, he’s not coming back, is he?’ he whispered, just loud enough for her to hear.

‘Go away!’

‘I’m not going anywhere. I can wait, you know. I’ve waited a long time already.’

‘I’ll never marry you!’

‘I’m a patient man. I will have you.’

***

Anna finally slept. She dreamed. She woke screaming.

‘Anna! Let me in!’ The thumping on the door scared her more than the nightmare of Jake being gunned down, falling into the filthy trench, his feet eaten by rats the size of the hares in the forest where he once loved to hunt.

‘Go away, Jason.’

***

Anna reached for her journal, her most prized object which contained her innermost thoughts. 

Jake wasn’t coming back, but her love for him would go on. It would go on in her poetry.

She turned to the first entry, the one she’d penned the day that Jake said goodbye:

September 4th, 1914.

The story that I tell here
(As you’ll gather once you’ve read)
Is that when we weave with love,
We need no other thread.


With shaking hand, she picked up her pen:

December 1st, 1914.

Love’s the strongest thread of all,
It never really breaks
In parting it gets stronger
And greater love it makes.


There was no room for Jason in her life. Jake had always been her love, no matter how his twin had lied, cheated and fought in his efforts to steal her from her true love. Anna knew Jason’s motivation wasn’t really love—it was more that he couldn’t stand his older brother winning…again.

Oh why couldn’t it be Jason who went to fight the Battle of Ypres? Why did her darling Jake have to fall at the first battle? Which German soldier shot him? Or did he die from poisonous gases?

Answers to these questions fuelled her nightmares.

The journal was too painful. She’d write a few more lines, then lock it away forever, like her heart:

December 10th, 1914.

My story’s told, dear journal,
But what’s not yet been said
Is how many times both hope and faith
Have hung just by a thread.


Anna reached again for her Bible. She turned to the page where she would add the name of Jake’s child. 

She stroked her tummy then collapsed onto her bed.

 ©DeniseCovey2013
WORD COUNT: 948

Full Critique Acceptable

Sources: Original document: http://www.greatwar.nl/frames/default-feared.html
Journal: http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-ynceq7RQgIQ/UAMJ0JOlXZI/AAAAAAAAC_A/uxfJgoPTr7M/s1600/DSCF5037.JPG&imgrefurl=http://creativecafegirl.blogspot.com/2012/07/vintage-junk-journals.html&h=1600&w=1470&sz=519&tbnid=aebp1pJHbGR_EM:&tbnh=90&tbnw=83&zoom=1&usg=__xMySogOKq3tr2EuE7OilgIOyp7g=&docid=VliT3mNTiWguvM&sa=X&ei=GoiIUZDqDePoiAeyoICABQ&ved=0CHkQ9QEwFg&dur=7911
Poem excerpts: The Red Thread, a love story. Author unknown.



I hope you enjoyed my story, LETTERS, for the multi-generic RomanticFridayWriters prompt for the month of May. Click here to read more stories.

If you're up for a little June romantic writing, the month of June will be devoted to romance and weddings at RFW. Each Friday there will be something happening - a book review by Donna, a guest post by romance writer Kate Walker (with a giveaway), and prizes for the best entries for June Wedding. The challenge will be to write flash fiction or poetry to 1,000 words, incorporating a wedding any way you like. This can be hearts and flowers, a 'til death do us part' dark tale, or twist up a fairytale wedding from one of your favourite fairy tales. Prompt will be published at RFW on June 7 with further details. Posting starts on June 21.




26 comments:

  1. The first paragraph was a bit cramped with names.

    But . .

    I loved the several ways you included writings - correspondence in the form of a letter from Jake and an official telegram, the Bible, and then her poetry. So many ways that "letters" can convey an entire story with no additional words needed. This was sentimental and intensely emotional.

    And oh, what a neat twist with the baby.

    Well done Denise :)

    ........dhole

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  2. Beautiful descriptives...I am a fool for a generous detailed descriptive.

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  3. You made my eyes smart, Denise. In the end though, I believe Anna wins via the spark of new life she carries. You made me wonder with the letter and the MiL's question, but then I realize Anna kept her secret close to her chest.

    Good job!

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  4. May 22nd, 2013

    Dear Denise,
    This is a cleverly constructed story using, the background of historical events (=WWI) the secret telegram, letters and the family bible. The twin brothers is a curious twist (I've used it myself, as you may recall) and, of course, the baby is Anna's secret weapon.

    Do you ever write happy stories?

    I don't see this as a happy end. How will this child learn what love and happiness is when its life is founded upon sorrow, grief, loss, an absent father and the hatred of an uncle?

    I'd like to see more genuine love. Give me more of a flash back to show the man she loved and married. The part about wanting to write the names of his children in the family bible is a good start.

    But eventually Anna may end up marrying his twin brother. It's happened before. Loving a memory can be tiresome and lonely in the long run. Or. She may marry another man entirely.

    Just a thought.

    Best wishes,
    Anna

    Anna's REW challenge 'Letters'

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  5. Sounded good Denise. Reading through the comments now...

    Everyone agreed!

    Nas

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  6. A lot of women lost their true loves due to the 'Great War.' It will be difficult to bring up their baby on her own especially with the culture of those times. Let's hope she is able to and doesn't have to compromise and give in to the 'evil' twin brother.

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  7. How lovely, and yet sad. Great piece.

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  8. I loved this, Denise. And my heart broke for Anna.

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  9. Poor Anna - at least she will have little of her love to cherish. So many women had to bear this sorrow.

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  10. You boke my heart! I was so glad to read of the baby!

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  11. Awesome Denise, very clever, weaving your story around found poetry. Anna will have to learn not to drink and stitch if she wants to keep her secret from that ghastly family.

    Great story - boo to the evil twin!

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  12. Well done on the emotional piece. The character holds up well and we feel for her. Reading this piece the first thing that came through my mind was, well, cause the title it had to be: "In Flanders Fields the poppies blow, between the crosses row by row..." I wish I remember the rest of the song made out of the poem but I can still hear the altos singing their part in the beginning.

    Great letters story.

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  13. You showed so many pieces of writing that tell a story. Messages meant for us can indeed be found everywhere. Very emotional piece!

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  14. I really liked and enjoyed the consummate ease with which you have incorporated different types of writing in the story - the letter, the couplets in the journal, the Bible. Especially enjoyed the couplets, obviously :) The best stories for me are always those where hope and faith hang by a thread, and I love the ending on a note of hope. I see the mc carrying on with her child, whether she gets married again or not is immaterial, just that if she does, I would hope it is to a man who she loves.

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    1. So would I Nilanjana. Thank you for your positive comments.

      Denise

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  15. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  16. Hi - just stopping by to say you're right, I didn't see any blog update since May 6th!! Maybe I'll remove you from my blog roll and re-add you and see if that helps!

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    1. Thanks for checking for me Trish. I sure hope i can get to the bottom of it!!

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  17. Thanks for stopping by and letting me know things aren't working right. I've been editing and paying little attention - and next month will take a break. Too much to get done, and a vacation coming up.

    I loved your story, really told well, and the death notification, I really liked how she's keeping that under wraps to keep the Jason away. Such a sad tale, the poetry really adds depth, and the baby, I think makes it a much better ending. I love the hope despite the sorrow.

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    1. Thanks for coming by Yolanda. Glad yoy like the story. Will miss you on wedding month, especially seeing you have a tendency to win prizes...good luck with edits.

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  18. Hi, Denise,

    The found poetry, especially the second stanza was absolutely stunning. You wove it in beautifully with YOUR story.

    So sad, but honest and true. Well done.

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    1. Yes it was the poetry that makes this special for me. Thanks for your warm comments.

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  19. Hi Denise,
    Great story as always. Clever use of little snippets of poetry and letters. Sentimental, romantic, and with a little twist at the end that promises that love and life will go on. One little nit--you refer to Jason and Jake as twins and then make reference to "older brother." It kind of stops the reader for a moment.

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    1. Thanks for picking that up Linda. I didn't realise.

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