Sunday, 8 March 2015

Brave Soldat - Salt and Caramel Writers' Workshop

The children ran towards the gate.

Erika was running ahead of the younger ones, her red hair streaming behind her. As she quickly moved from shade to light her curls looked more than ever like flames dancing around her, in turn as bright as the Sunday dress she was wearing or as dark as her black buttoned boots.

If it had not been for her hair, so much like his own, he would not have recognised her. She had grown and changed so much in the years he had been away. They all had.

As he watched them he felt a longing so deep he could hardly bear it. It seemed he had been almost as young and carefree as Erika when he left to fight in the war. And now… He felt so worn out, so old. He thought his children had changed but he had too. He lifted a weary hand to his forehead, his rough fingers feeling the deep grooves imprinted in his brow by all the years of pain and fear. Before he was called he’d had the face of a boy still, his wife had always teased him about it.

Would she know him? Would she even expect him to be still alive?

He had been made prisoner just before the end of the war and it had taken a long time before he was released. It had felt like a lifetime, a life not his own anymore, slowly escaping him.

Closing his eyes he tried to picture his children as they had been when he had last seen them. Another sunny evening, another garden... The children ran towards the gate. Erika clumsily carried the baby in her arms. They were as carefree as they seemed now but his wife, coming slowly behind, looked worried. She knew that he could be called at any moment. And, as it was, the time had come.

He opened his eyes again. The children had reached the gate and were embracing a tall man dressed in work clothes.

"Daddy! Daddy!" Their shouts echoed in his ears.

He let go of the fence, watched the palm of his hand, all streaked red and white from gripping the cold metal spike so tightly. He turned around and went on his way.

I wrote this story for this month Salt and Caramel Writers' Workshop. It was inspired by one of my favourite songs, an old ballad called Brave Marin or in some versions Brave Soldat (It's an old use of brave as good, as in Mon brave: my good man). Like my story the song tells the tale of a soldier coming back home to find that his wife had received news of his death and remarried.
It's a song that has a particular meaning for me too, as I used to sing it when I was expecting my first baby whom I lost at 32 weeks. It took me a while to sing it again but I did and have sung it as a lullaby to all my children.

Voici une histoire courte que j'ai écrite pour un atelier d’écriture en ligne, sur le blog Salt and Caramel. Le sujet était : Les enfants couraient vers le portail...

Brave Soldat

Les enfants couraient vers le portail.

Erika courait devant les plus jeunes, ses cheveux roux flottant derrière elle. Alors qu'elle passait rapidement de l'ombre à la lumière ses boucles semblaient tour à tour être aussi sombres que ses bottines noires ou aussi lumineuses que sa robe du dimanche, donnant plus que jamais à sa chevelure l'aspect de flammes dansant autour d'elle.

Si ce n'avait été pour les cheveux de la jeune fille, si semblables aux siens, il ne l'aurait pas reconnue. Elle avait tellement grandit et changé pendant les années où il avait été absent. Ils avaient tous changé.

À les voir ainsi il ressentait un manque si profond qu'il se sentait prêt d'étouffer. Il avait l'impression d'avoir été presque aussi jeune et insouciant qu'Erika lorsqu'il était parti pour la guerre. Mais maintenant... Il se sentait tellement usé, vieux. Il trouvait que ses enfants avaient changé, mais lui aussi avait changé. D'un geste las il porta la main à son front, sentant sous ses doigts rugueux le profond  sillon que des années de peur et de douleur avaient marqué entre ses sourcils. Avant qu'il soit réquisitionné il avait encore le visage d'un jeune garçon, sa femme l'avait souvent taquiné à ce sujet.

Est-ce qu'elle le reconnaîtrait ?  Est-ce qu'elle s'attendrait seulement à ce qu'il soit encore en vie ?

Il avait été fait prisonnier juste avant la fin de la guerre et sa libération avait pris beaucoup de temps. Cela lui avait semblé aussi long qu'une vie entière, une vie qui n'était plus la sienne mais lui échappait.

Il ferma les yeux et essaya d'imaginer ses enfants, tels qu'ils avaient été la dernière fois qu'il les avait vus. Un autre soir ensoleillé, un autre jardin... Les enfants couraient vers le portail. Erika portait maladroitement le bébé dans ses bras. Ils étaient tout aussi insouciants qu'ils le semblaient maintenant mais sa femme, marchant en retrait, avait l'air soucieux. Elle savait qu'il pouvait être appelé à tout moment. Justement l'heure était venue.

Il ouvrît les yeux. Les enfants avaient atteint le portail et se jetaient dans les bras d'un homme en vêtements d'ouvrier, grand.

"Papa ! Papa !" Leurs cris résonnèrent dans ses oreilles.

Il lâcha la clôture et regarda la paume de sa main, striée rouge et blanc d'avoir serré le froid pôle de métal tellement fort. Il se retourna et continua son chemin.

1 comment:

  1. I'm struggling to find the best way to express this.

    I loved reading this because it was beautifully written, but it's so upsetting to be reminded of how many lives are fractured by war, and how the tale could be transported to absolutely any time - from the Roman Empire to the current events of Homeland.

    I am sorry that you have experienced such a huge loss. I hope that your writing brings you great comfort.

    Thank you also for the opportunity to read it in French - I'm very rusty but I was delighted to see that I recognised more than I thought I would. xx