All of the stories were so unique, and yet they all shared the same sweet reminder – war tearing families apart and spreading heartache. Judging was an absolute chore. (To be perfectly honest, I may or may not have had each of you as 1st place at some time or another... Yeah, judging was that hard. ;) Every time I read an entry it was like, "oh, this is getting first!" :P)
A huge thank you to all the lovely ladies who entered! :) I know you all want to read the stories and see who placed where, so let's move on!
After much thought and consideration of all entries, I'm pleased to announce that first place goes to Victoria Minks! Victoria, your short-story "A Picture of Truth" was outstanding! I love the POV!! I hadn't even considered the person who captured the sweet moment!! :)
I snatched my hat off and wiped my brow. Boy, was it hot! I shifted my camera bag, then afraid it might somehow sense my grumbling attitude, gave it a loving pat. "I wouldn't trade you for the world, baby," I grinned. "You're all I got."
"Hey!" A curly-haired girl ran up to me, holding out a couple tickets. "Buy a ticket for the new movie mister? Eighty percent of the proceeds is going to the army."
"Army, huh?" I frowned. "Well, I ain't got any money. Sorry."
"You joining up, mister?" the girl trailed me as I pushed past and continued down the sidewalk.
"Not if I can help it." I snorted.
"There's a whole shipment of soldiers going out today at the train station."
"Look," I spun around and faced the girl. "What is with you?"
Her cheeks reddened, but I detected an odd glimmer in her brown eyes. "My daddy is somewhere in Europe by now, I guess."
I took a step back, sucking my breath in with surprise. "Sorry. I didn't mean-- I mean--" I shrugged helplessly. "Sorry. I ain't too good with words and-- and stuff. I didn't mean to make you cry."
"I'm not crying." She sniffed and her jaw jutted out. "But if you want some good pictures--" she jerked a thumb at my camera bag, "Then maybe you ought to get some of the men leaving. You know. Sell them to a newspaper or magazine as a look into real America or something."
"Say," I let out a long whistle. "That's a pretty keen thought. Thanks!" I was about to jog off when I chanced to take a look at her again and noticed the firm set of her mouth. Her arms were crossed and I felt as though I suddenly knew exactly what determination looked like. "Hey, can I come back when I'm done and take pictures of you?"
She tilted her nose up a bit. "Certainly not. But you can use that money you get from selling those pictures to buy War Bonds or something useful."
I grinned and held up my hands in surrender. "Ok, ok. Well, thanks for the tip-off." I darted away, clutching my bag to me. When I got to the train station I was puffing from exhaustion. I elbowed through the soldiers, trying to get in the midst of them for a chance at a good shot.
"Daddy!" I heard the shout of a little boy before I spotted him, dragging his mother through the crowd. "Daddy, you forgot to kiss me goodbye!"
The man leaned further out of the train. "Here, Jimmy," he called. Jimmy? I thought. Weird, that was my name. I slipped closer to hear better.
The mother lifted her little Jimmy up, and her husband reached down to reach him by the arms. The grab turned into an embrace--the kind that breaks your heart at the tightness of it. The father buried his nose in the little boy's collar as he kissed him.
The mother was silent, hanging onto the boy's ankles as if that would stop him if he fell. My throat felt clogged, and I blinked. "I'm sweating into my eyes, it's so hot," I complained to myself. I pulled out my camera and focused it quickly on the trio by the train.
There was a satisfying click and I lowered the camera, frowning. I wondered if the father would ever return to his family. He finally released his grip on his son, lowering him slowly back to his mother.
"I love you, Daddy!" The boy Jimmy called. "I love--" his voice broke and he tried again. "I love you, Daddy! Don't forget!"
The man stretched his hands out as the last few soldiers boarded the train and a whoosh of steam rose up from the wheels. "Be good, Jimmy," His voice was husky, the kind that hints at tears in the soul. "You're the man of the family while I'm away."
"I know." Jimmy nodded, scrambling down from his mother's arms.
The man glanced at his wife--just a glance, and it said so much. She raised her hand until the train disappeared, but still stood even after it had been gone for a few minutes.
I felt like I was going to choke. So that was what family was like...and that was also what courage was like. I felt like a miserable coward. This photo was not going to be sold to a magazine, but I was still glad I got it. It had opened my eyes to the truth--there was a job to be done. But could I do it?
By the time I reached the girl selling tickets again, I had made up my mind. "Hey, where's the recruiting station?"
Her eyes grew wide, then she gave a shy smile. "I could take you."
Second place goes to Amy Lane with her heartbreaking tale, That Day When He Left. Amy, your beautiful story evoked such emotion in me. :') I loved the way you told it with the wife thinking back to his departure. :)
December 25, 1944.
I remember that day, when he left. It was the spring of 1942, and the sun was rebeliously shining in the morning sky like a war wasn't raging. I wonder how many times the sun has shone over a scene like that one—a scene of longing and fear, of love and selfish wishes.
As my husband, Jackson, my son, Lawrence, and I drove to the train station, Lawerence wouldn't stop asking why Daddy had to leave. He had been told many times before that Daddy had to go defend America, but he didn't understand. When we arrived, Jackson parked the car, and grabbed his things, "Well, Martha, this is it."
I just looked at him, with tears of sadness forming in my eyes, "Oh, Jackson, I wish..." My tears sufficed for words as I rushed into his arms, and cried. He gently held me, stroking my brown hair.
"Okay, I'll be late."
I pulled away, composing myself and wiping my face, "Right....I am going to miss you."
"I'll miss you to," Jackson assured.
Before he left, I gave him one last kiss and hug, and Lawrence did also. I watched as he dissappeared into the train and then through the window as he found his seat.
With smiling face and torso out the window, he said, "No matter what happens Martha Wright, I love you."
"I love you, too." I said, trying not to choke up, for his sake.
"And I love you, buddy," He said to Lawrence.
"Momma? I want to hug daddy."
I told him he couldn't. But looking at my husband, said, "I'll lift you up."
Picking up the toddler, I lifted him as high as my arms would carry him—halfway up to the train window. Jackson took over, and grabbed his son up till all I had was Lawrence's legs, and hugged him, saying something to him that I couldn't understand except for fragments.
But just as I had started to tear again, the station master called out, and I took Lawrence back, holding him on my side.
"Daddy leaving," Lawrence sadly said.
The train jerked to a start, and I reached for Jackson's hand, holding our son with the other.
"May God keep you safe; and don't forget to write!" I called to him over the loud train noise. I walked quickly, and didn't let go of his hand until I had to for the speed of the train.
"I love you" I called.
"I love you," He replied.
And then, as he rode away in his green uniform, I held on to his memory.
"Wave at Daddy," I said to our son.
We waved until he was out of eyesight, and then, putting Lawrence down, we walked back to the truck. On the way home, I cried both in my heart, and out.
"Don't worry, Daddy'll be back," Lawrence comforted, "He said not to worry, and that no matter what happens, God will take care of us."
I listened to his words, and was ashamed I had let myself cry so much in front of my son, who sat beside me in the middle seat, "Anything else?"
"Daddy said that he was proud of me, and that he loved me. He said that he had to leave to help the army, but he will always remember us. So don't worry, Momma, God's got things under control," He reassured, bouncing in his seat, and a confident expression upon his face.
"You're right, Lawrence, He does."
Yes, I remember that day. It was sad, but I had hope—hope that the war would end, and Jackson would come home and be the husband and father I needed him to be. The days following were tough, but we managed. Jackson and I wrote each other and Lawrence drew pictures. Sometimes it was difficult because I would not hear from him for months. But then, I would rejoice when I recieved a letter saying that he was safe somewhere in Europe.
A year later I recieved a telegram that Jackson was reported MIA, followed two weeks later by a killed in action telegram.
I was devestated, and didn't know what to do. But I knew I could find comfort in God's arms, so that's where I ran.
What I didn't know that day my husband left, was that I would only see him a few times more, before he died. If anybody told me, I would've never let go. But we can't know these things. So we have to place our lives in God's hands, not ours. And if tragedy happens, we have to trust Him that things will turn out fine in the end. And I'm am still doing it today. The war has still not ended, but I trust God will bring us through.
Coming in at a third place is Jesseca Dawn! Your entry was amazing, Jesseca! It was the only one from the father's POV and also the only entry not written in first-person! Woo-hoo! :D
Betty blinked away tears as they neared the station. Gil clutched her right hand, toddling as best he could after insisting on walking.
Her left hand was tucked securely in Walter’s arm as he led the way up the boardwalk.
Just a few more minutes. Then he is gone. The thought pierced her heart, and she no longer attempted to hold back the tears. This felt right. Her, Walter and Gil. A family. But in minutes they would be separated. And only the Lord knew if she would ever see him again. The war had taken many loved ones, and in her heart Betty knew it would claim many more before everything was over.
Walter squeezed her hand in an effort to comfort her. She only clutched him closer as they made their way toward the train.
The station was filled with many other men in uniform. All ready to be shipped off to some place overseas.
Walter stopped and turned her to face him, and everyone around them seemed to fade. She studied him, etching his face in her memory. The laugh lines around his eyes, his lips when he smiled, and those blue eyes that looked so much like David’s.
“You know I’ll come back, Betty.” He reached up a hand and stroked her cheek. “I’ll do everything in my power to make it back to you.”
Betty nodded. She knew he would. Yet, sometimes it wasn’t enough. War was no respecter of persons. She caressed his fingers, willing herself to believe he would come home. “The hardest thing I’ve ever had to do is let you go.” Her words were hardly a whisper, and Walter had to lower his head to hear them.
“God is with me, Betty. He’ll see me through.”
Betty bit her lip. She knew it was true, but sometimes God didn’t see them through the war … instead He saw them through the pearly gates and into paradise.
Leaving her alone.
“Hey, Betty.” He tipped her chin. “The first thing I want to see when I come home is your smile. And you. You and Gil both. Thinking of you will help me work harder to make it through and come home to you. And then I’ll never leave.” His eyes bore into her, wearing the most serious look she had ever seen on his face. “I’ll never leave, Betty. You hear? We’ll build a life together. We’ll have our farm, raise our kids, and grow old together. And that’s a promise.”
Betty smiled through her tears. “It sounds wonderful. I love you, Walter.”
The train whistle sounded, and Walter grinned. “And I love you, Mrs. Sullivan.” He turned as if to leave, but then swiveled back around and pulled her to him, pressing a kiss onto her lips. For one breathless moment, all her worry seemed to melt away as his arms went around her. This is how it should be.
But all too soon he stepped back. “I’ve got to go, but I’ll come home soon.”
He turned and picked up Gil, who had been watching the exchange solemnly. “Now you watch over your mamma for me, ya hear?”
Gil smiled and nodded. “Don’t worry, daddy. I’ll keep her safe.”
A grin spread over Walter’s face. “That’s my boy. “
He set Gil in Betty’s arms. “Now, this is how I want to see you both when I come back. Standing here a-waiting for me.”
With that, he turned and bounded up the steps to the train.
Walter shoved his way past the other men, and situated himself at a window seat. Leaning out, he saw Betty and Gil standing where he had left them. An ache filled his heart as he saw them there, alone in a sea of people. Had he done wrong marrying Betty before he shipped out? She had already lost one husband to the war, and through it had been nearly two years, he knew that in times like this, the pain was still fresh.
He was putting her through this a second time, and that was more than any woman should have to bear.
At that moment Gil spotted him, and reached his chubby hands toward the train.
A smile stole across Walter’s face as he propped open the window. Betty stepped closer to the train, and Walter chuckled and pulled Gil close. “I’ll sure miss you, buddy.”
Gil didn’t reply, only landed a slobbery kiss on his face. “I love you, daddy.”
“I love you, too, buddy.” He lowered Gil down to Betty, and once again was struck with how much Gil looked like his father. He had blond hair and blue eyes, the opposite of Betty’s darker hair and hazel eyes.
Gilbert would have loved his son. The thought flitted across his mind. Walter had never been close to Gilbert, but because David and him had been best friends, he had gotten to know him like an older brother.
Gil will know what his father was like, Walter vowed. He’ll grow up proud of the Wilson name.
His gaze traveled to Betty.
Her eyes shone with determination. She knew the risk of losing someone, yet she still stood strong. God bring me back. He blinked hard as the train moved away from the station, leaving the two he loved most in their world behind. Please bring me home, and back to Betty.
Our shortest (but nevertheless sweet!) entry comes in at fourth place with Raechel Lenore's story, Forever. :D Your writing is so beautiful, Raechel! I can feel the love between these three. <3
I had to keep a smiling face for him. For them. Really, for all of us. I knew that if I didn't smile, I would cry. And I didn't like crying - before today, I never had much reason to cry. There was always so much to be happy about.
"Give Daddy one last kiss now, my lad," Jim's strong voice brought my thoughts back to reality - the crashing reality that I wished was not true.
Our little boy, Timothy, swung his arms up around Jim's neck, clinging to him with the fierceness of a child. Jim clung right back.
The train would pull away at any moment. I held tight to Timothy's little legs as Jim gave him one last fatherly hug and kiss.
Then it was time for me to pull our boy back to safety. If only I could pull my Jim back to safety too. Forever. But a man must fight for his country - I understood that, but my heart yearned for something else.
"Goodbye, Leslie." Jim said my name so softly it was almost like an embrace. "Goodbye Jim. Be safe. I love you, darling."
Jim leaned far out his window and kissed me gently. A sweet goodbye kiss. I hope it wouldn't be the last. "I love you too, my dearest Leslie. My beloved. Forever."
At that the train pulled out. It was too soon. But I lifted a hand to my lips, blew him a kiss, and hugged Timothy close to me.
I smiled for him. "Goodbye, Jim. Come home soon," I whispered in my heart. And I know he felt the same. We were one, even when apart.
"I love you forever".
Coming in at a close fifth is Kaitlyn Krispense! Kaitlyn, I loved the way you used the POV of the father's friend, and then carried us away from the train station and clear to the battlefield. Bravo! :)
I watched with tears in my eyes as my best friend, Lucas, said goodbye to his family, leaning out the train window. When Lucas received his son from the arms of his wife, Millie, and held him close for a long moment, I realized just how much family meant to him. It was a scene I’ll never forget: the early morning sun bathed the platform with its golden light, illuminating dozens of wives, mothers, sisters, and girlfriends saying their goodbyes to men they might never see again.
The train jolted and started to move. Lucas quickly handed his son back to Millie, and she blew him one last kiss. Then she turned to me. “You keep him safe for me, y’hear, Micah?”
I nodded, swallowing around the lump in my throat. “I promise, Millie.” We waved, leaning far out the windows, until we went around a bend and they were out of sight.
No one told me what I’d go through to keep Lucas safe; I never would’ve believed them if anyone had.
Gunfire; cannon booms; the cries of wounded men. War is terrifying.
All of a sudden they were upon us: Germans, in their gray uniforms, surrounding us on all sides.
“Retreat!” I heard my commander shout. “Retreat!”
Lucas and I backed up together, side by side, shooting our way backward until we were safely in the cover of trees. Then we turned and ran like madmen. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Lucas grab his shoulder and fall to the ground with a groan.
I stopped short and turned around. A mental image of Millie’s tear-streaked face at the train depot filled me with determination. “You keep him safe for me, y’hear, Micah?” Her voice came back to me, shaking with emotion. I would keep Lucas safe, even if it was the last thing I did.
I ran back to him and dropped to my knees. “Can you walk with me?” I asked anxiously.
He nodded and rose to his knees. I helped him to his feet, and together we slowly made our way back. I was walking backwards, guarding us with my gun in my right hand, supporting Lucas with my left.
I kept a wary eye on the brush ahead of me, all the while walking backward, when the first kraut stepped into my line of vision. I swung my gun around and fired once before he got a shot off at us. The man spun around and fell to the grass.
I still heard shooting and cannon fire, but it was somewhat muffled by the foliage around us. Then, about five hundred feet in front of me, a German stepped out of cover with his gun raised. Everything seemed to happen in slow motion; I shoved Lucas to the ground and stood between him and the kraut. I raised my gun, but it was too late.
I saw the German’s machine gun jerk with the force of its unloading bullets; I felt a searing pain in my shoulder, in my leg, my head. I was falling, and I couldn’t do anything to stop myself. I hit the ground. My vision was obscured because of the pain. Then everything went black.
Drip, drip, drip. Something was on my face. Drip, drip, drip. I opened one eye, only to receive a drop of the wetness in my eye. I didn’t burn, so I knew it was water. I opened the other eye, and received the same treatment. I tried rolling my head to the side, but that just brought awful pain to my head.
“Oh, you’re awake; here, let me take care of that.” I heard a voice above me say, and the dripping suddenly stopped. I opened my eyes to see none other than Lucas sitting next to me.
I sat up suddenly, instantly regretting it; Lucas did too, what with the look he gave me. “You do know that every time you move, you make your wounds bleed again, and every time your wounds bleed I have to change the bandages, and when I have to change the bandages I move and my wound bleeds again, which means-”
“All right, I get the point!” I said with as much of a chuckle as I could muster. I settled back against the tree I had been leaning against. Rolling my eyes upward, I saw that Lucas had draped his own jacket over a low-hanging branch to keep the trees from dripping their early-morning dew on me.
“How long have I been out?” I asked with difficulty; my wounds made my entire body ache like never before.
“Just a few hours. Right after that kraut shot you, I managed to get him. Then God gave me enough strength to drag you over here. The medics are going through this area; they’ll be here soon.”
“I was supposed to take care of you; fine job I did.” I mentally kicked myself.
“Are these words coming from the same man that stood between me and a bloodthirsty German? Micah, you took three bullets while protecting me. That doesn’t sound like a bad job to me.”
“But you’re the one that dragged me here while wounded.” I could see the medics now through the trees.
“That’s what friends are for, buddy; besides, I’m just returning the favor.”
And there you have it, folks! Weren't these all some great stories?! :D Any thoughts on if I should have monthly or bi-monthly writing challenges?
Hope y'all have a great week! :)