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The Forgotten War
I wrote this piece after reading many love stories written in dual perspective and wanted to try it out for myself.
It was only a few moments ago that I tossed my cap into the air, signifying the end of my high school career. Being eighteen, I was ready to leap out of the small swimming pool that was Buckingham High, and take on the whole ocean known as the “real” world and explore all the “great” in Great Britain. There was nothing on my mind but starting work full time on the farm with my older brother, Andrew, who was now legally allowed to give me a salary.
How sweet the sun felt grazing over my skin and turning my pale skin to a tinted tan. I had my mother's pale skin.
When I was younger, my mother taught me the ropes of hard labor and kissed my sweaty forehead when I made her proud. That was ages ago. Now, I swear, she sits next to the sun and sends me kisses through its rays as I work.
An underclassman in a little red dress snaps me back to reality by falling into me. Thinking on my feet, I dropped my crisp, unrolled diploma and held out my arms to prevent a nasty fate.
“Wow I am so.. Oh my goodness. Keith Edward? Golly, what a spawny girl I am to have fallen into your arms. I hope I haven’t hurt you!” The girl rambled out in a spinning haze.
I nodded my head, reassuring her I hadn’t been harmed. I’d always been a rather quiet kid, and that wasn’t going to change now. She looked at me, confused, befuddled maybe, but I simply matched her expressions.
“Well,” she broke the silence, “Congratulations on graduating, Keith, it was a pleasure falling into you. I hope we can do it again sometime,” she waved, walked away and brushed herself off once more. It was in that simple moment that I knew…
“Keith! Are you coming to the party? Prince Jeffery’s palace! Come on chap, you just graduated! Live a little!” Harold barked at me, finishing my thought of how I knew, that moment had been quiet too long.
I nodded at my best friend, “It’d be my pleasure, Harold,” and joined him in walking toward the long, black bonnet that was ready to depart. I climbed in, high-fived and waved to almost everyone, and took off my graduation robe. As the vehicle rolled away, the music started blasting and the neon lights turned on. A relaxing feeling swarmed over me and I started to let go. Just as I let go of everything, so did the bonnets brakes, and dancing turned into tires spinning, and before I realized what happened, we’d crashed.
The sound of the crash echoed in my head, I was spinning, and suddenly I came jerking to a stop. The feeling felt familiar, like the one I had experienced moments before when Keith Edward saved me from conking my head on the pavement. After our small, unnotable endeavor, I walked away and got in the bonnet headed to the party.
The front of the bonnet was ripped off on impact and flames were sparking from where the engine used to be. I didn’t see how I could possibly get out, and this was worse than tripping and embarrassing myself in front of Keith Edward. Screams echoed from the crashed death trap, a few people began to pray. I myself, was reflecting back on my past decisions to even join this group. Admittedly, I’m not the most popular out of the bunch, but how exquisit would it be for an underclassman to attend Prince Jeffery’s graduation party? Beyond! Now, I was regretting the desire to taste popularity, even for an evening.
My parents raised me to be good and do well. They always told me I had a long, wonderful life to live, and I believed them. I still do. “Lauren,” they’d start. “You’re an unmarried seventeen year old. You aren’t even finished with high school. If you think going to parties is what’s most important, you need to wake up sweetheart!”
“Lauren!” a voice squealed, “Lauren get up! The bonnet has caught on fire! You’ve got to get out of here now!”
Get up? What did she mean? Wait, we weren’t spinning anymore? We were still, and I most certainly wasn’t moving. Such a helpless feeling, laying on the ground not even wanting to open your eyes. Get up. Get up. Get up Lauren! No matter how much I told myself I needed to live, I couldn’t help but feel that I was already dead. I felt too weak to move, there was no way I was getting out of here. My parents were going to kill me! That is, if these burning hot flames didn’t beat them to it.
I have always been a “happy, think positive, outside of the box, there’s another solution” kind of girl, but now all I could think about was, why me? Why was I in so much pain when I’ve done so much good for everyone else? As these questions flooded my head, I could hear the fuzz arrive and clear pedestrians from the scene, along with at least a dozen other emergency vehicles. The flames began to creep closer, so I closed my eyes. This way, I didn’t have to see what was going on. I decided I would lay here in silence until my fate reached me. I was mentally preparing myself for the worst, just as two hands grabbed me at my waist and scooped me up.
The bonnet was spinning for approximately seven point six three seconds, and only took thirteen point zero three seconds to catch fire. I knew this because I was able to calculate the speed we were going at, multiplied by our momentum, and divide that by the trip milage, and add in the distance we traveled after crashing into the old oak tree at the school’s main entrance. Yes, I did all that in my head, but that’s not the point.
The only injury I had was a small gash on my forehead. Other people had worse injuries, so I could forget about mine for a while. I helped guide those who were burned to medical help, reassuring them that they would be fine. Some people would call my actions brave or protective, I preferred fulfilling my duty to my country.
“Somebody help!” an underclassman wept as she stared into the increasing flames.
I rushed her away from the crowd so she could have some air. “Mille! What is it?”
“Lauren’s still in there!” She squeaked out, swallowing hard and rubbing the tears off her face.
I didn’t know who Lauren was, but I knew there was someone in that bonnet who needed saving. A classmate of mine who didn’t deserve to die today. I knew what had to be done.
Without taking any form of precaution, I jumped into the danger zone. Laying on the floor, I saw red fabric and a mess of chocolate brown, tangled hair on the ground. It had to be her.
I placed my hands around her waist and yanked her towards me. I pulled her into my chest and rushed out of the burning bonnet.
“Lauren?” I questioned once we escaped the fire.
She slowly opened her eyes and gazed at me. “Am I dead?” she asked me. I couldn’t help but giggle. Thank god, I was relieved she was alive.
“No, you’re not dead,” I reassured her. “You scared me today Lauren. I thought I was losing a peer, and a beautiful one at that.” I still wasn’t ready to put her down, but judging by her body language and tight grip, I don’t think either of us were ready to let go yet.
She blushed. Trying to hide her flushed cheeks, she turned her head in the other direction to see all the injured people and the burning car. Her weight got heavier, as if I could feel her heart sink, and she began to weep. I held her tighter to my chest until she was calm and steady enough to be placed on her feet.
“I am very grateful for what you did today,” she thanked me. “Here’s a little something to show my gratitude. She leaned in to kiss me, just as the emergency sirens went off. She stopped before she reached my lips. Something was really wrong.
I looked at her panicked face. “Go Lauren, get somewhere safe. Now,” I kissed her forehead and waved her away. As I watched her take off, a man in uniform approached me.
“Are you Edward F-5?” he stated, as if it weren’t a question, but an accusation.
“Yes, that’s my draft number,” I said calmly, hiding all the worry and fear behind my stone cold expression. I spun my head in a circle, searching for a familiar face, but not being able to find one.
I looked back into the officer's eyes and he matched my stare. “Then I believe it’s your time to come with me,” he further stated, grabbing my arm, and pulling me to the entrance of a world where I didn’t want to be in.
People were being rushed into houses and bunkers, young men were being carted away, women and children were being escorted to safer zones, and all I could do was wonder, what’s next?
The officer slammed the bunker door behind me and I tumbled down the descending staircase. I couldn’t see anything, until I stumbled across a candle and some matches. That should do the trick.
Nothing was on my mind more than if Keith was safe or not. The alarms above had stopped sounding, but more crashes and echoing still boomed above me. What was happening to our small little town? Who had done such a thing to us? Oh my goodness gracious, my parents! They must be worried sick about me! Were they hidden away too? I hoped so, I hoped they were safe, I hoped this madness was over soon.
There wasn’t much in the bunker. A few things of food and some water for supplies. No bed, just a pile of four or five blankets. A tiny crank radio sat in the corner and I bolted over to it. I cranked it up and tuned into the local news. The machine buzzed and beeped for a moment, then the monotoned message began to play.
“Buckingham residents,” the sound blared around the small room. I turned it down a few notches and tuned back in. “There was a crash this afternoon involving many high school students and graduates. There was only one death reported from this incident despite the fact that the car crashed into a tree and caught on fire. The death was the driver, terrorist, Nathan Logsnos. Those injured and seriously affected have received proper medical help. Breaking news: This crash was on purpose. The legal driver was found tied up at the vehicle company office and gagged. The terrorist driver had control over the vehicle holding 27 young teens. The German terrorist, who by lighting the bonnet on fire, took his life, and created enough commotion and diversion for the German army to advance and attack and starting a war between our two lands. The following young men were called up to train and fight for our country. Adam Anderson, Jackson Barryl,” and the radio shut off.
“No no no no!” I screamed, cranking angrily again. The box revved back up and spit out the name, “Keith Edward.”
Stepping onto the dew glistening grass on the hillside, I could already smell all the released gunpowder. I had only trained for about 24 hours, but our country was in need. I hadn’t slept. I learned how to scale walls, use hand to hand combat, survive on low supplies and serious conditions, and finally, how to load and fire a gun. The feel of the worn wood on my hand, in my grasp, made my stomach turn. I could taste the sweat dripping onto my lip as I feared the battle ahead of me and cooked in my wool uniform, the sounds of weapons booming and echoing in my head. We were the second fleet to go into the field, and the battle had only been going for approximately a half hour.
“Right flank proceed on the East route. Left, hold your position at the Southeast hilltop. Center group, you’re with me. All or nothing men,” The general gave the orders, we followed.
I wonder what flank my father was in when he was killed in World War One. That war ended only five years ago, so I was still grieving and thinking a lot about him, especially being out here myself.
Following the right flank leader, General William, we quickly descended down the hill and hid behind the stone wall stocked with extra gunpowder. We got into position and aimed. People called me brave back home, but here, I was a chicken in comparison to those who voluntarily came out here to serve.
“Fire!” The cue was given, I did as I was told. I shot about twice per supply of powder, and would restock every now and then. Suddenly, after a few rounds, there was no more powder. The German army was strong, so we knew we had to get out.
“Retreat back!” William ordered. I did as I should, and ran for my life. I stopped over a body, it was Harrison. My heart sank, I could’ve helped him. I could’ve been there, and I wasn’t, just like when my father was shot and killed years ago.
Before the tear that welled up in my eye could fall down my face, an excruciating pain in my side sent my dead weight to the ground. The gun dropped to the ground and my breath went away. The last sight I saw was Harrison, my best friend’s, stone still face, and I joined him in laying on the ground with my eyes closed.
A week had passed since the Germans declared war on us, and no one had come to find me. That also meant it had been a week since the car crash. No one lived on the land this bunker was on, so low and behold, I was a “bunker orphan”. I had very little water, and not even a morsel of food left. I rationed the little candlelight I had, and I spent all my days thinking and letting my thoughts consume me. The most recurring thought was about Keith. He was out there on the battlefields protecting his family. Protecting his country. Protecting me.
I managed to find a handbound notebook and an ink pen in the bunker next to where I had found the tiny crank radio. In this sort of diary, I logged my thoughts, my health status, what I could hear from above, and one good memory to keep a part of me looking on the bright side. Although it seems like something that should work fairly effectively, the only memories I could write about were the ones with Keith.
When we were about four and five years old, Keith and I would have play-dates every single day. We ran around Buckingham like it was our playground, we blew raspberries at the guards in front of the palace, and sometimes, we went to Harrison’s, Keith’s best friend of all time and assistant captain on the Buckingham High soccer team. I heard Harrison’s name also called up on the draft list in between my sobs that very first evening.
Oh golly, this was starting to hurt more than it was helping. My ability to think positive started to fade and my hopes of ever getting out of here alive were slowly dissolving. I was tired from crying so much at night, and I was shivering most of the time. Blankets helped, but my little red dress didn’t do much. I broke the radio trying to crank it too quickly, so I had no contact with the outside world anymore. I don’t know what else there is to say, things were bad.
*Machine beeping* *Doctors scrambling* *Beeping increases* *Nurses file in with tools* *Beeping turns into one solid tone* *People stop working*
The door blew right off it’s hinges. I didn’t hear the banging coming from outside, must’ve been in a deep sleep or something. I was carried out of the bunker by an officer who found me weak and cold in a heap of blankets on the floor. As I was rushed into an ambulance, I heard doctors spilling information to me like, “you’re going to be okay” and “this may hurt a little”. Also, “how were you eating the past month?” and, “what’s your name young lady?”
They took me in for a few examinations, followed by a sending warm clothes, heated blankets, and a trayful of warm foods to choose from. They told me I would have to stay a night or two, and that my parents were notified I was alive and were on their way. Relief flooded me, and also the realization of how much I missed my parents.
Soon enough, we were reunited. My mother sobbed, my father shed a few tears as well. They asked a lot of questions, and my answers were usually followed by a fairly similar question.
After talking for about two and half hours, mother decided she would stay the night with me and father could go home and tend to the house. I kissed him goodbye and so did mother. A nurse came in with sheets, blankets, and a pillow for my mother and placed them on the pull-out couch in my room. She thanked her and started to unfold and make up the bed.
“I’m going for a walk,” I stated.
“Okay, do you want company?” My mother asked.
“No thanks mum,” I kindly answered, “I miss being able to wander.”
“Alright darling, don’t be too long.”
I strolled around my hall in which the more stable patients were being held. There was a dark, narrow hallway at the end of mine. I saw one light at the end of it. I don’t really know why, but I was drawn to it. My feet were dragging me in that direction before my brain could process anything.
The light source came from a small room in which there was a body that was clearly just worked on. The skin was ghost white and some of the sheets were bloody. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a shiny silver dog tag. It was a soldier. Did I know this person? I just had to find out.
Carefully and quietly sliding the door open, I snuck into the room and pressed my fingers to the tag without even looking at the body. I rubbed my pointer finger on it until I realized what name it was spelling out.
“No…” I gasped.
“Hey! You can’t be in here!” A nurse scolded me. “Go back to your room and go to sleep, this patient doesn’t concern you.”
I did as he said and sprinted back to my room. I arrived winded and choking.
“Darling what’s wrong!” My mother rushed over to me.
“He’s, he’s in, he’s in a coma Mother. Oh lord.”
“Who darling, who?” she pressed.
My lip quivered for a moment until finally, I spit it out, “Keith, Mother.”
A long, red hallway stood in front of me. A little girl, maybe four years old, in a dress matching the wall color stood at the end. She had a brown bow tying up her short hair.
“Keith,” The little one said, “let’s go play!” she jumped. I knew her, but I didn’t know from where. Maybe a childhood friend?
“Okay,” I said, walking toward her, when suddenly, gunshots made my ears ring.
“What’s wrong, Keith?” A twelve year old version of the girl asked me. I grabbed my hair and yanked on it, trying to get the ringing to go away. Instead of focusing on the sound, I kept walking towards her. I ran into one of the walls and found it to be soaking wet. The walls were coated in blood, hence their blood red appearance. A scream arose from the end of the hall and I could smell smoke.
A seventeen year old Lauren stood before me, the little red dress and her brown bow disappeared and morphed into long brown hair. Her hands were tied to the ground with bonnet seat belts and fire creeping up behind her. The blood from the walls dripped onto her skin and the fire touched her foot.
“Lauren I’m coming!” I shouted, but as I ran toward her, the tire from the bonnet was rolled behind me by a German soldier. I was able to jump over it, but then I realized.
“No!” I shouted and ran after it. But sadly, I couldn't catch it.
The tire ran straight into Lauren, snapping her belt chains and shoving her right into the fire. I broke down into tears, but before I could collapse onto the ground, the soldier shot me in the torso and my weight dropped dead.
Ironically, since the attacks, the sunsets have been glorious. Much of our beloved country had been damaged, and Buckingham High was nothing more than a pile of rubbish and a burnt oak tree. Now, I sat on the very hill Keith had been on in battle, while I was staring out at the sunset and the remains and debris from the war.
It had been three and a half months since I had seen Keith in his coma. All the soldiers who fought had either returned home, or their families had been notified of their deaths. Keith however, had yet to wake up from his coma. This scared me, but I tried not to think about it.
I had my hair up in a tight ballerina bun and I had on a lavender romper with a dark gray scarf around my neck. I didn’t wear shoes for the sake of feeling real grass and ground under my feet again. I closed my eyes and I could almost see him, hear him, feel him. The remainder of the warmth from the sun was keeping me surrounded as it left a trail of pink and orange sky behind it. How extravagant.
“It’s almost as stunningly beautiful as you are,” a raspy voice said.
Jumping at the sound of a voice, I flipped around to see Keith, standing there, gazing at me.
I squealed, “Keith!” He had a bruise on his forehead from the car crash, and a crutch under his right side. A bandage wrapped around his torso stuck out below his button down shirt. I jumped up toward him and he dropped his crutch and held onto me.
“I, I can’t believe you’re here. You’re, you’re alive.” I stuttered and got all choked up.
He pressed his hand to my cheek “Honestly, it surprises me too. I had dreams about you almost everyday. I remember you,” He said, rubbing his thumb against my cheekbone. It was soothing, the rugged feeling on my smooth skin. “What’s that bruise on your arm? Have you been hurt? Where were you during all the fighting? Did you get home that night?”
This was the most I think I’ve ever heard him speak. He was asking questions because he was concerned, and I intended to fully answer every single one. But for the moment, lying in his arms again was more than enough.
Maybe the world was damaged, but at least something was mended. Together, we could help make a change. Together, the sunset was even more astonishing, and we both saw it. We took the time to sit and stare for a while. Suddenly, I glanced over to find him entranced with me, eyes locked in. We examined one another until we both broke out into smiles and a little giggling. And with that, he took my face in his rough hands and kissed me.