These Winter Days - A Short Story
The snow had fallen, and with it came a great blanket of dreariness that seemed to be deterring anyone’s attempts at feeling any positivity. The sun rarely shone, and when it did, it didn’t do much to enhance the bleak landscape visible from Lucy’s bedroom window. This weather was combined with the weight already on the people’s shoulders caused by the war. The mixture made it nearly impossible for Lucy, nor anyone, even with the highest of spirits, to have a hopeful outtake on the winter days to come.
She sat here now, in the chair in front of her window, gazing out at the naked trees and the blinding white snow. The minimal sunlight caused the snow to sparkle like diamonds. It was a sight Lucy remembered she had once thought beautiful. However, to her, it was no longer so. Beautiful was a word that has slowly died from people’s vocabularies and their minds. There wasn’t anything or anyone that could be called beautiful during these hard times. Beauty simply wasn’t to exist. The people’s minds were with the men – husbands, fathers, brothers, and sons – that were away from home on the western front, fighting for their country.
If snow had fallen here, there wouldn’t be a doubt that snow had taken its presence over to the troops, as well. How awful it must be, to be out lying in cold foxholes, just with the warmth of their uniform and rough blankets to shield them from the temperatures. In letters written home, it was said fires were made but were kept small; enough to boil water and cook food, but often it was the case that flames in the barren forests would serve nothing but a giveaway to positions.
It was hard for the women and children at home, to fully understand the conditions described to them in the letters. In most cases particular details were spared, in order to keep worry at bay, but word and rumor alike travelled quickly about the conditions in which their men were fighting. News of the bitter cold, the lack of supplies and food, and the enemy artillery that came from the skies day or night like death itself. It was nowhere near comforting.
Lucy glanced over her shoulder, as her little sister ran past the room, her face lit up with a smile, chasing a paper airplane that she had tossed. Momentarily, Lucy felt the jealousy, wishing she could be a child again and have a carefree outlook on life, and not know about all the horrible things going on with this war. At the same time, however, she wanted to scold her sister for her lack of respect. There was no excuse for her to be running about, a smile on her face when their brother was off fighting for them, for their country, for their freedom!
This bitterness was eating away at her, Lucy then realized. Why, she was as nearly as bitter as the ladies who had been through the previous war, who would barely offer a polite smile to passerby, even on their best of days.
“They have their reasons,” Lucy thought, “They have their reasons to not smile. They recall the Great War and are bitter about it, even more so now that they’re living to see another one. They have their reasons, and so do I.”
If there was one thing Lucy knew for certain, it was that her thoughts and prayers would be with her brother, hoping for his safety. She wanted him home, back on their farm. Thomas loved their horses as much as she did. They had ridden together often.
Not until she could run out, meet him on the front doorstep and run into his arms, would she be able to feel herself again. Not until then would she let free all of her worries, not until then would she truly smile, truly laugh.
She looked down to the letter she had clenched in her hand. The paper had been worn from being folded and unfolded so many times. Dirtied before it had even been sent, written in muddy conditions, it was streaked with dried mud, and what looked to be a couple of drops of spilled coffee. The words, hastily scrawled in pencil, were the last words of correspondence she had had with her brother.
Lucy was startled by a hand on her shoulder. She turned, and saw it was her father. His expression was solemn, and he took one glance to the letter in her hands to realize what had her silent and thoughtful.
“I miss him, father.” She said, feeling the lump beginning to rise in her throat. Her father’s grip on her shoulder turned into a light squeeze. The supportive gesture encouraged tears to well in her eyes.
The letter had been dated 26th November, 1940. Written and sent from “Somewhere in France”. He described the conditions they were living in, muddy, cold, miserable, and how “I miss mother’s cooking”. He had lost one of his best friends to a mine field, but he mentioned little about any battles, “to spare you any further worry, dear sister”. He said that he missed her, mother, father and little Vera, and hoped the war would be over soon so he could return to them.
“We all do.” He replied, gazing out the window at the snow, “But you must remember he is doing a brave thing for this country, for our future.” Father had said similar things before, he always did. For morale, Lucy knew. However she knew that deep down, he wanted Thomas home as much as she did.
“I read this over and over,” she confessed to him, gesturing with the letter, “I’ve memorized his words. It’s been two months – two months since we’ve heard anything.”
Lucy looked over her shoulder to her father’s face, and too, could see he was fighting back tears. She recalled the memory of him, proud when Thomas had come home, announcing that he had volunteered to go overseas, and how his pride melted into sadness and worry as soon as his son had left the room.
“It won’t be long now,” Lucy announced, her voice quivering. Her vision of the winter landscape outside the window blurred. She reached up to place her hand over her father’s firmly, “Whether the news we hear is bad or good, something has to come. I know it won’t be long.”