The Letters

By
I was nineteen when my fiancé told me he was going off to fight in the war. That was the day that I grew up. Everything inside of me turned to stone. I could barely breathe as I wrapped my arms around Daniel. My embrace wrinkled his uniform; my tears stained it. I dug my nails into his back, I kept repeating over and over again, “Please don’t leave me, Danny. Please don’t leave me...” I smeared my red lipstick on his cheek as I gave him a final kiss goodbye.

“I love you, Julia. But this is just something that I have to do. I’ll take you dancing under the stars, soon, baby.” Daniel took a few steps back from me and looked down. His hat covered his face, and for a moment, he looked like every other soldier around us. I threw my arms around him once more and buried my face into his chest. I was almost too weak to stand. Daniel held me close to him; he was my rock.

Before I could say another word to him, he kissed the top of my head and turned around. He walked slowly towards the train doors.

I stood on the platform with my arms dropped down to my sides. I clutched onto my handkerchief as I watched my fiancé board the train; he didn’t look back. My eyes scanned every compartment that I could see from where I stood, but all the soldiers looked the same. I frantically started running to where I last saw Danny; I couldn’t let him go. I wanted him to stay home. But when I reached the doors, they had closed, and the train began to move.

I started running alongside it; I didn’t know what else to do. My life. My love. It was being taken away in that train, and I couldn’t let it. My skirt flew up my legs as I ran faster and faster, “Come back! Come back!” My voice turned into a whisper, “Don’t go...” My breathing became shallow and quick as I tripped and landed on my knees. I beat my fists on the ground and sobbed uncontrollably. A woman rushed over to me and tried to help me up, but I pushed her away and bent over the ground. I rested my forehead against the cold pavement and cried until the point of exhaustion.

Once the tears stopped coming, I stood up and walked to my car. I had wanted to be one of those strong women who could wave to their departing loved-ones with a smile. But there was nothing to smile about. He was being shipped off to a foreign land where people waited for him with guns.

Once I returned to my empty, placid home, I sat down and wrote a letter./



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I propped my head up on a rock as I watched everyone around me. There was an interesting group of men here. One that stood out was a tall, lanky blonde who wanted nothing more than to shoot anything that moved and spoke a language other than English; that was Rob. He was kind of hot-headed. Mostly all talk, no action. I think if he ever saw a real Jap, he’d run and hide. Either that, or start marching and screaming in Japanese.

He was surrounded by a few guys who looked a little bit younger. Maybe eighteen or nineteen. James was bigger and looked like he might belong here; he had dark hair and eyes that looked as though they hadn’t seen happiness in a long while. He hardly ever spoke, but when he did, they were short, emotionally detached phrases.

And then there was Daniel. We shared the same name, but that was the only thing we had in common. He was younger than I, but he seemed like a fighter. His hair was kind of a dirty blonde, but considering where we were, it was probably actually dirt. He had green eyes that told a million stories without even having to say a word. I could tell that he had someone back home, because there was a twinkle in his eyes.

“Daniel! Come on man, let’s go play some cards or something. We gotta find something to do while we wait for those damn Japanese to show up.”

I watched as Daniel completely disregarded the kid, “Rob, go find someone else. I’m busy writing to my girl.” He sat against a tree and continued writing in his notebook.

“Y’know... I’ve got a girl back home, too,” Rob lied. “And she’s a real winner.” He winked and traced the outline of an ’hourglass figure’ in the air, “Y’know, blonde, blue-eyed, real skinny, doesn’t talk much. Just the way I like ‘em.”

I interrupted him, “Rob, quit kiddin’ yourself. The only blonde in your life answers to the name ‘mom’ and has to wash your skivvies.” Everyone laughed while Robert sat down, defeated.

He tried to reply to me with a snappy remark, “Well y’know what, Danny? Y-Y-You...Agh!” Rob followed this with a scowl and turned his back on me.

I ignored the stammering fool and focused my attention on the other Daniel, “So, tell us all about your girl.”

“Well...” Dan looked up to the sky as if he could see her face in the stars, “She’s real beautiful. And smart, she’s... she’s real smart. Her hair’s long and real dark, but not too dark, and she’s got the most beautiful smile anyone could ever have. We met six months and four days ago. What can I say? It was love at first sight. We were walkin’ down the street, in opposite directions o’ course, and I walked right up to her and said, ‘Darlin’, you’re gonna wanna marry me one day.’ She laughed, but I was serious. I looked at her and I just knew.”

“Oh come on, you’ve gotta be kidding me, man,” For some reason Rob felt like his input was necessary, “Enough with the love. Tell us the real good stuff.”

I slugged Rob a real good punch on the arm and told him to shut up, “Let the man talk.”

“Her name’s Julia,” Daniel looked through his notebook and held up a picture of her, “and I’m gonna marry her when I get outta this place.” He tucked the photograph into his pocket and smiled to himself.

“Well then,” I said, “Don’t let her down. I’d hate to see a pretty girl like that cry.” Rob started to deal some cards between the four of us when we heard someone shouting.



“They’re here! Dammit, they’re here!”

We all jumped up and grabbed our helmets and guns. Before I had even fastened my chin-strap, Daniel was running towards the gunfire about three hundred feet in front of us. I scrambled to grab all of my equipment and tried to follow him closely. Rob and James were a bit farther behind, but I could hear them cursing a mile away.

At first, every gunshot I heard made me cringe, but I tried to focus on staying alive, so I just ran. Every few strides, I would stop, drop to the ground, and shoot. I didn’t really know what I was shooting at... But I was hoping the bullets hit someone who didn’t speak English.

Eventually, I finally caught up with Daniel. “Come on, man,” he kept saying, “You’ll be fine, just remember to stay alive.”

I laughed for a moment and then yelled back, “Yeah, right. I’ll try to remember that.” I’m not really sure why I was laughing; it was good advice.

We fought for what felt like years, and then finally everything went silent. I crawled over to Daniel and whispered, “That wasn’t so hard.”

I had spoken too soon.

Just then, it was as though it was raining bullets and bombs. Explosions were everywhere I turned; they blinded me as I held onto my helmet. I felt as though my eardrums had burst. My ears were ringing so loudly that it drowned out every other sound. For a moment, the explosions stopped again. I took the opportunity to look over at Daniel, “You still alive?” I got no response, so I said it a little louder, “Dan, are you okay?” I paused, “Danny...?” As the silence continued, I crawled over to where he was. He wasn’t okay. Dirt caked his face, along with blood and tears. From his mouth came a thick trail of blood, falling down his cheek and pooling onto the ground below him. “Oh God, Oh God. Danny.” I looked down at his stomach and saw a gunshot wound. Red was pouring out of him. I ripped my sleeve off and bunched it up, placing it over the hole. I pressed down hard. He screamed and cursed. “I’m not going to let you die, you hear? You can’t let that pretty girl of yours get away. You just can’t.” The blood soaked through my sleeve and started covering my hands. I clenched my jaw and looked away for a moment, “Somebody help! He’s been shot!” But no one was paying any attention at all. If they weren’t broken and bleeding, they were running back to their tents. I felt a tear of frustration roll down my cheek.

“Hey,” Daniel started to speak, slowly and barely audible, “I need...” he paused and started choking on his own blood, “-need you to take Julia’s let-...” blood spurted out of his mouth as he coughed, “-Julia’s letters. Take them to her, please.” He stopped talking for a moment and closed his eyes. I watched as he turned pale, “Tell her I’m sorry...” His body relaxed and his breathing ceased.


Once I returned to camp, I went through Dan’s things and found all of Julia’s letters, including a letter he hadn’t finished writing. I wanted to send it for him. I read her letters first, and then read what he had started. He was in mid-sentence when he stopped, so I debated whether or not I should finish it for him. I read it over and over again, and then finally decided to finish at least that one sentence for him. But then I felt compelled to write more. I made sure to make my handwriting similar to his own... I’m not sure why I was doing it. It was horrible of me, but I had no one to write to. I wanted someone to love, and here she was... Saying how much she loved “Daniel”. I almost forgot she wasn’t talking about me... “I won’t send this,” I kept telling myself. But I did.


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/Being away from Daniel was getting harder and harder. I laid in bed so many sleepless nights while I thought of everything he must’ve been going through. I think the war was changing him, he seemed different in his letters; more homesick. It broke my heart to know that all he wanted to do was come home and be with me. I cried almost every minute of the day. I hated not knowing if he was hurt or sick or dying.

The only thing that really kept me from going insane, were his letters. It was as if he was falling in love with me all over again. Each time he would write more and more; his letters went from being about a page long, to three or four. He always ended them, “With all the love I possess, your Daniel.” I couldn’t wait until he could come home so we could get married and finally spend the rest of our lives together.

Every few days, I would go out with my girls. We would gossip and laugh and tell stories about our boys. Sandy’s husband also went to fight; he was a pilot. She brought all of his letters and held them to her heart as she told us what he went through that month. We would play a little game, trying to tell the most elaborate war story. But after a few months, Sandy stopped telling stories. She received a visit from a soldier one morning. He slowly walked up her front steps and knocked on her door gently. When she came to the door, she took one look in the man’s eyes and started crying. Her husband’s plane had crashed in the Pacific.

She cried for weeks; I had to visit her every day to make sure she was eating. Watching her fall apart made me want Daniel to come home even more. I didn’t know what I would do if a soldier walked up my steps. He was the only thing in the world that I had ever really loved, and I wasn’t about to lose him./



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I made the mistake of continuing with the letters. I really began falling in love with her. I could smell her perfume on the paper, and once, there was a stray hair in the envelope. I knew what I was doing was wrong, but she made me feel so right. “I love you, Daniel,” she would always say. I wanted to be the Daniel she was talking about, so I hoped against all doubts, that she would end up falling in love with me, too.

I wrote to her for weeks, and with each new letter, she seemed happier. Especially when I told her that I was coming home. My last day in Okinawa, I packed up all of my things and placed her picture in my pocket after kissing her forehead.


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/After months of him being gone, he finally sent me a letter saying that he was coming home. I had never been happier. When the day of his arrival finally came, I drove to the train station where I had said goodbye to him.

I was wearing my best dress with my best lipstick. Tears of happiness streamed down my face as I waited in anticipation./


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I stepped off the train and saw her standing there. I took her picture out of my pocket and held it up to compare. She was beautiful, and it was obvious that she had been crying. I walked up to her as her eyes scanned the crowd frantically. I wanted to rush to her and kiss those ruby red lips. I wanted to hold her against me and never let go. When I got about three feet from her, she ran towards me and placed her hands on my arms. She looked up into my eyes and said, “Excuse me, do you know Daniel Davis?” She continued to look over my shoulder for her lover, occasionally meeting my glance, but only for a moment.

I breathed deeply and shook my head, “I’m sorry, ma’am. I don’t know him.” She let go of my arms and walked past me. I turned around and watched her walk away from me. I didn’t know what to do; I was in shock. Instead of chasing her, I continued walking... I wasn’t sure where I was going, but I couldn’t go to her. She wasn’t in love with me, she wanted him. She didn’t even know I existed.


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/I stood alone amongst hundreds of people as I waited for my Daniel to step off the train. I ran frantically to several soldiers, hoping they would know Danny, but no one knew anything about him. “He didn’t come home.” I whispered to myself. I waited for hours, men came off the train, women cried, they kissed and embraced. And I just stood there and waited. I was there for hours. I decided I should go home once darkness fell.


The next morning, a soldier came up my front steps./


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I didn’t sleep at all the night I came home. All I could think about was her face. She was waiting anxiously for her Danny to come home to her, but he was gone. And she had no idea. I couldn’t let her think that he abandoned her.

This was the hardest day of my whole entire life. I decided to go to the address of the woman whom I had written to so often while I was away. I didn’t really know her, but I loved her. She didn’t know who I was, but she still told me she loved me. No, not me. Daniel Davis. I was Daniel Campbell. She didn’t love me.

I walked up her front steps and knocked on her door gently. She walked slowly and stopped before opening the screen, her eyes filled with tears.


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/I answered the door and looked up at a soldier I had never seen before, but he seemed slightly familiar, “Can I help you?” I knew what he was going to say. But I wanted to hold onto hope for a little while, if only seconds.

“Are you Julia Hoffman, ma’am?”

“Yes,” I replied before my lip started trembling, “Who are you?”

“I’m Private Campbell.” He held his hat down by his sides as he breathed deeply.

“What can I do for you, Private Campbell?”

“I’m here to tell you that... Daniel Davis was killed on March 26th. He made me promise I would tell you and give you your letters back.” He tried to hand me a bundle of letters I had sent to Daniel.

“No, no. You’re wrong. He’s been sending me letters. He said he was coming home!” I fell to the ground and began crying more than I ever have before. When I looked up again, Private Campbell was walking down to his car. I closed the door and crumpled on the floor./


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I watched the woman I loved die inside as I told her what had happened to her fiancé. I wanted to hold her and tell her that I loved her, but I was just a stranger. She didn’t even know my name.


Years later, I decided to finally go back to Julia Hoffman’s home. I had to tell her the truth. So once again, I walked up her front steps and knocked on her door. She answered and smiled. “Hello, Private Campbell.” She remembered me.

“Hello, ma’am.” I smiled, but then frowned, “I was wondering if we could talk about Daniel.”

Her smile dissipated as she invited me inside. She led me to the kitchen and gave me a cup of coffee, “So, what would you like to talk about, Private?”


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/I sat in the kitchen next to the man who informed me of the death of my fiancé. I never thought I would see him again, but for some reason, it was almost a comfort. He knew what had happened to my Daniel.

“I wanted you to know... that when he died, he told me to tell you he was sorry,” the soldier stared in his lap.

“It’s alright, I know how he felt.” I leaned in close to him and whispered something I had never mentioned to anyone before, “I think after he died... he continued sending me letters. He never really left me... I don’t think, anyway. He wanted to make sure I was alright...”

Private Campbell looked up at me with a tear in his eye, “Yes, ma’am. That sounds like him. He always wanted everyone to be happy. He really loved you.”

I nodded and led him back to the front door, “Well, thank you for coming by... It was nice seeing you again.”

“Yes, ma’am,” he sighed and looked at his feet, “ I hope you find happiness.”

I slowly walked outside and sat on my front steps. I watched the man drive away before going back inside and crying. He made all the pain come back, and I couldn’t handle it anymore. I walked into my bedroom and opened the drawer next to my bed. I took out the letters from Daniel and put them on my lap. Next, I grabbed the gun that had laid dormant for years and pressed it against my temple. I pulled the trigger./


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I slowly walked down her steps and got into my car. I drove away from the one woman I had ever loved. I knew that I could never go back there, but I also knew that she would end up being happy. She’d fall in love again, have children, and live happily ever after.





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