Friday, October 4, 2019

Beneath the Bright Sky

Spring, 1939 
I was nineteen and in my second year at King's College; I'd spent my first year studying literature in its cloistered halls. I met Thomas on a weekend outing to Hyde Park. He hadn't been a soldier or pilot that day, but a handsome young man. He'd spied me as we strolled through the stone archway into the gardens beyond. When my eyes met his, we'd fallen into step with each other like old friends. He held out his hand with a kind smile, one that felt as if he had never been, nor ever would be, a stranger.
We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering the park, my skirt brushing his leg as we walked and talked, hand-in-hand. When daylight waned, the moon rising in the sky, we'd kissed our goodbyes at the college gates. It was no longer safe in the city after nightfall; the threat of air-raids kept Londoners in a constant state of fear. That evening with Thomas, however - I felt freer, happier - aware this was a moment to seize, my fear momentarily swept away.
But as open as my heart felt, I knew the realities of a country beset upon by Nazis, a people driven underground by the drone of enemy planes looming in the darkness above. It was the sound of evil, and when it came, the bells of London began to peel. You ran, hid - and if you were lucky, lived another day.
Autumn, 1946
I shook my head, wiping dirt from my hands as I stood. I had traded dresses for trousers, the bustle of city life for quiet countryside.  The air was fresher, the land richer, and life quieter, simpler. I tended my fields and felt pride in their small harvests. My pickled and canned preserves sold well, and I read, wrote and studied in the evenings. It wasn't the life I'd planned, but it was the life I had - and I was grateful for it.
I often thought of Thomas in those long, quiet evenings. But time had drawn a mist over his memory, and I knew that someday, the feeling of his kiss would fade. I kept a wooden box by my bedside with the mementos I had from the beautiful spring we'd spent together, before he'd gone to enemy skies. Pressed wildflowers, a book of Tennyson we'd read beneath the wide blue sky - and a single photo, taken after he joined Her Majesty's Armed Forces late that summer, 1939.
I closed my eyes, seeing his face smiling up at me, his uniform starched and pressed. There was no doubt in that smile that he would return, victorious. But Thomas never answered my letters, and when the war ended in May 1945, he hadn't returned. Officially listed MIA, I'd mourned my love privately, moving away from London three months later.
The wind grew heavier at my back, shadows creeping higher as late afternoon spilled into early evening. I opened my eyes, watching the heather sway. The sky hung empty and quiet. Then the rumble and whine of an engine came, and a terrible sound of crunching metal as an airplane spiraled downwards, crashing in the fields. I gaped, frozen in surprise. The airplane had landed only a few hundred feet from where I stood in the heather.
My baskets dropped and forgotten, I ran as fast as my boots would take me towards the airplane. I had seen the letters, written in faded black script on its side as it came to a crashing halt: LT. Thomas M. Williams.
"Thomas!" I cried, rushing towards the broken plane. Thomas lay sprawled on his side, unconscious, a few feet away; he must've jumped or been thrown upon impact. "Are you alright?" I gasped, shaking as I knelt beside him. "Please, answer me." I pleaded.
A few moments passed, the only sounds my unsteady breathing and the song of crickets as night fell. I reached a shaking hand to touch his face, tracing his features with my fingers. "You came back to me." I whispered, kissing his cheek, letting my tears fall.
"Amelia, my love," he said, his breath ragged. "I am here. I am alive," his chest rose and fell, his eyes fluttering open, sparks of blue in the darkness. "And I am yours, always." His smile was mixed with tears; the war had left its mark upon him. We were both older than we had been that beautiful spring. But fate had been kind to us, and our love hadn't diminished.
"Rest now," I told him after he'd seen the doctor, eaten some broth, washed and gotten settled into bed. "We'll talk after you wake."
"Millie," he asked, his fingers laced in mine. "Will you lay beside me, until I am asleep?"
"There isn't anywhere else I want to be," I nodded, "Than here, beside you."
"Amelia," he said, "My Millie. Marry me. Be my wife, as you should've been years ago." He faltered, his breath shallow. "Will you, my dearest?"
I pulled the blankets back, gently sidling in beside him, my legs touching his. Then I moved our fingers together across my chest to the warm space where my heart lay beating, ferocious and alive.
"Yes, Thomas," I answered, "My love. A thousand times, yes!" I smiled, a shiver of delight stretching from the tips of my toes through the lengths of my fingers. "And I'll tend to you as I do the fields, so tenderly that you have no choice but to mend."
I traced the curves of his neck, his chin, his smile. Thomas sighed deeply and closed his eyes, his breaths slowing and fingers relaxing as he fell into deep, dreamless sleep. I watched the steady rise and fall of his chest, listening to the sounds he made as night stretched into dawn. We woke to a sky of brightest blue, the beginning of our life together.
I hope you enjoyed Millie & Thomas's romantic story of perseverance and love in a time of war. Written for a flash fiction contest, it's the first historical romance I've ever written - but it won't be the last. :-) Thank you for reading, and for visiting my Author Blog. Have a wonderful day. -Stacie 
*This story is also posted in Mosaic: A Short Works Collection by Stacie Eirich on Wattpad. See it here: Beneath the Bright Sky by Stacie Eirich

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