This is something I wrote for a Historical Fiction competetion at school. I won a prize for it so it must be sort of good. Though, to be honest, I didn't think I would get anything. Anyway, this was my entry and I hope you enjoy it! Please R&R!
What War Does
I can remember the day I received that telegram as if it was only yesterday. It was the telegram that was to change my life forever...
It was an ordinary day when it happened, though we were in the middle of the biggest war the world had seen, so there weren't that many normal days for those years. I had just woken up when the postman came to the house and knocked on the door. When I opened the door to greet him, his face was solemn and grim. He knew and I knew that this telegram was bad news. With one look of his face I realised what this telegram was about to tell me. My eyes were wide as I took the folded bit of paper off him and just as I shut the door, he looked at me and mouthed the words 'I'm sorry' and walked away. I watched him go before completely shutting the door and walking towards the living room.
Should I open it? I wondered to myself. I knew what it was. Well, I had a good idea to what it was. I didn't want to open it just in case my worst fears came true.
I sat down and looked at the parchment in my hands and toyed with opening it or not. I was so scared that what I had been given was something that would affect me for the rest of my life; whether it was short or long.
Finally, I gave in and began to slowly open the telegram. My hands were shaking and I thought at one point, I should drop it and leave it where it can never be read. I didn't want to know what was inside, but I knew I should open it. If I didn't, I would never know what was inside.
Slowly and oh-so-steadily, I unfolded the telegram. My hands were still shaking and I was more scared than I had ever been in my life. I could see the writing that had been held within now and I could make out a few words: 'Howard', 'blast', 'died'.
I dropped the telegram in an instant and fell to the floor after it. I needed no other words to tell me what had happened. I sank lower and lower until I was flat on the floor. My body shook with the sobs that overtook me and tears streamed down my hot cheeks as if there was no tomorrow. I had no control over my body at all. I grabbed the paper and hugged it to myself. I couldn't read all of it; I knew that I didn't have to. Those three words were enough to tell me what had happened. I knew from that moment that Howard had been killed in battle and for that moment I just didn't know what I was going to do without him.
I stayed like that for many hours, just crying. I felt empty; hollow; like nothing could ever make me happy again. It was like the life had been drained out of me in the most painful of ways. I lay there thinking – no wishing – that I would die there and then. But the relief of dying never came. I just lay there for hours on end thinking the exact same thing: 'Why him?' It's the thought that everyone who has lost someone in this dreadful war has thought at some point.
I screamed. I screamed at the top of my lungs. Nothing happened though. Nothing. I screamed until I could scream no more. My throat hurt and I was out of breath, but I kept trying. Even when I knew that it was doing no good, I continued to scream. Screams turned back into sobs and I spent the rest of the day just lying there doing the same thing. My world had been ripped apart and the words 'I'm so cold and all alone' echoed in my head.
I must have fallen asleep at some point because all these memories came rushing into my thoughts. I dreamt of the day Howard and I met.
It had been a beautiful summer's day and we were just kids. It was the year 1897 and I had just moved to the countryside with my mother and father. I had been six years of age and had been curious of what the area was like. So I had decided to go out on a little walk. I ran out of the house and began to walk up the hill that was about half a mile from where I lived. The view was brilliant. I could see for miles and miles, it seemed like it was never going to end. It made a huge difference from the city. The city to me, when I looked at the view I was looking at, seemed dirty and too manmade for my liking. This is where I wanted to be for the rest of my life.
I continued to dream about that first day in countryside, just exploring this remarkable new place I was in. I felt like I was in one of my story books. I sat down on the green grass and took in the colours of my surroundings. It was like a dream. I lay back on the grass and closed my eyes. I must have fallen asleep because the next thing I remember was waking up to the feeling of someone shaking me. I opened my eyes and saw a pair of bright green eyes staring at me. The eyes belonged to a boy of about my age and he looked somewhat worried.
"Hello," was what I first said to him.
"Are you all righ'?" He asked. He had a soft accent that told me he had lived here his whole life.
"Yes, I'm fine. Sorry, I must have dozed off."
"Phew, I thought you 'ad fain'ed or sommin'"
"No, I'm fine. I'm Karen, you are?"
"Howard. Nice to meet you Karen." He shook my hand and helped me to stand. "You new?"
"Yes, I moved here from London." I told him. "How long have you lived here?" I asked him, though the answer I received had been what I was expecting.
"I've lived 'ere me 'ole life." Howard told me.
"I thought as much."
"So 'ow long have you lived here, Karen?"
"I've only really just arrived." I told him.
"Ah, I see. So likin' it?"
"It's beautiful, I've never been outside London before, and so it's all new to me. It's amazing though, I never want to leave."
"Yeah, it's certainly something." Howard and I looked up at the sky. "Hey, look, it's getting dark now, so I'll walk you home. I know this place like the back of me 'and. Come on." Howard took my hand and led me home. I told him what my house looked like so he knew where he was taking me.
When we reached the house, my mother was outside looking for something. I instantly knew that that something was me. I hadn't realised how long I had been gone for. I thought it had only been for a short while, but like I said, I must have fallen asleep and lost a couple of hours.
"Karen, there you are. I thought you had gotten lost." Mother walked up to me and hugged me.
"Sorry, mum, I didn't think I would be gone so long."
"That's all right, sweetheart. Who's this?" Mother let go of me as soon as she saw Howard standing by us.
"Mum, this is Howard. I met him in the hills. He brought me back here." I said.
"Well, thank you, Howard. What a sweet boy you are. I take it you know the area well."
"I do, like I told Karen, I've lived 'ere me 'ole life."
"Well, thank you again. I look forward to seeing you again soon. I'm sure we'll get to know each other."
"OK, I'll see you soon. See ya Karen." Howard smiled at me and I smiled back.
"Bye Howard." I waved to him as he walked away back to his house. I knew then that I would build a long lasting friendship with him. He was a kind boy.
I awoke after that with tears running down my face. I sat up and hugged the telegram. It was dark now, I must have slept the whole day just thinking about my husband whom I was never to see again.
I leant up against one of the walls in the room and brought my knees up to my chin and rested it there. The tears had not yet left me, but I was now in much better control of my body. Every now and then a sob would attack me, but I controlled it and stopped myself from having another sob-attack. I needed to stay strong; Howard wouldn't ever want to see me like this. He would want me to be strong for him and get through this. But the thing was, I didn't know if I could. At that moment it seemed like I would never recover from this pain that just kept building inside my heart. It was the pain of emptiness/loneliness.
I closed my tired eyes and thought of the memory when Howard and I finally got married.
It was the summer of 1913 and the sky was bright blue and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. I had woken up to the sound of birds singing and my first thought was that this was going to be the best day of my life. And it was. Nothing went wrong. In fact everything went better than we first thought. We knew that this day was going to be amazing and it turned out to be more amazing than anyone could have thought.
I got out of bed feeling like I was on top of the world. The smile on my face could not fade away. Even when the wedding was in full swing and we were taking our vows, my smile never once faded. I thought that by the end of the day I would be permanently stuck like this, but I didn't mind. I could smile like this all my life if the rest of my life was always like this day.
The memory kept playing and I didn't want it to end. I would do anything to go back to that day and relive it forever. I don't think I would ever get bored of it.
My mind wanted to replay the last time I ever saw Howard. The day he left for war, but I tried my hardest to keep that painful memory away, but nothing I did worked. I remember telling him to come home safely and that I would see him when he got home. But of course he's not coming back, not now. He's gone and I'll never see him again. I would do anything to turn back the clock and stop this war from ever happening. Why? Why did it have to happen? All the tension between countries and then as soon as a bullet is fired it brings the whole of the world into the biggest war we have ever seen. Of course there is much more to it than that, but that's basically the gist of what happened. I just want everything to go back to normal.
I started to cry again and this time I had no control whatsoever. I cried and cried and cried. I thought that I would never stop. I wanted him back so much. I needed him back. There was no way on God's Earth that I could ever live without him. But that's what war does. It takes those you love away from you in the cruellest of ways and rips you apart. Rips your life away and takes your soul. That's what war did to me. It took the thing I loved the most, ripped me up and left me in pieces on the floor.