Not Just Romance

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: War and Military  |  House: Booksie Classic
A elderly lady tells the story of how she met her husband in the first world war. At the age of 17, Helen knows that she doesn't want to be like the other women. She doesn't want to stay at home, raise her children and look after the house. Helen believes it's her destiny to fight along side the men in the army. This story follows Helen's journey, finding her husband at her young age. The question is, once she starts training with him, will he let her join the army?

Submitted: February 23, 2016

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Submitted: February 23, 2016

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//Note: This is a piece of writing that I shall be submitting for coursework. It is currently a work in progress so any mistakes will be fixed in due time. Any comments on the structure of my writing or the storyline would be most welcome. Enjoy! //

Not Just Romance

I visit my Great Grandma a few times a week. She lives in a care home now as she is unable to look after herself since my Great Grandad passed away. Today, I walk in and the nurses say she isn’t doing very well. She had some sort of infection and she was fading fast. This could be ‘it’. I went to her room immediately and sat by her side.

“Hey Gran...I heard you aren’t very well. It’s okay, I’m here now.” I say as I press a kiss to her forehead. She smiled up at me. As her only great grandchild, I received all of her love.

“Hello dear... I’m not too bad at the moment, just getting old.” She chuckled, before breaking into a wheezy coughing fit. I hand her a glass of water to try and ease the cough.

“Sip this. Try to relax a little, you’ll be okay Gran.” I gently rub her back. She took a sip and eventually the coughing fit died down. She looks at me with a mixture of sadness and love upon her face; she knew that she didn’t have long. I tear runs down my cheek; I don’t know what I’d do without her.

“Don’t cry dear. I’ve had a wonderful life and this is where it ends. Before I go, get a piece of paper and a pen. I’m going to tell you the story of how Edward and I met. I’ve only ever told your Grandad this story and as he isn’t in the best of health either, soon the story will vanish.” She takes hold of my hand and presses a kiss to it. I look at her for a moment, wondering why her story is so important to keep alive. If this is what she wants, then I’ll do it.

“Okay,” I wiped away my tears and pull out my notebook from my bag, “I’m ready.” I smile weakly at her.

So, this is the story (in her words) of how my Great Grandma met her husband, in 1914 at the age of just seventeen.

War had broken out. The young men were being trained up to fight, and us women were left to raise the children and keep the country running as good house wives would. I was having none of it. I was determined to go and join the men and I would let nothing get in my way. Of course my Father refused the preposterous idea of a woman joining the army; women were not built to fight. Their purpose was to simply raise children and look after the house. I used to leave the house without my father’s knowledge to watch the local boys train. The training base was just down the lane from our cottage, and I had access to it as I would sometimes look after the horses there.

It was early one morning, on the 28th August 1914, I had left the house to go down and watch the men training. I slipped on my battered leather shoes and my long khaki trench coat and then made my way down the muddy lane towards the stables. I took up my usual spot on the stone wall, which was largely covered by thick bushes. I only had to wait a few moments before I heard the familiar clatter of hooves on the gravel. It was louder than usual, and I couldn’t really see where the horses were. It was too late when I realised that the horse and its rider were right behind me. I turned to see a young man in full uniform, gazing at me with a mixture of amusement and confusion. Looking sheepish, I hopped down from the wall with the least amount of grace.

“May I enquire as to what you were doing upon that wall, young lady?” The uniformed gentleman said sternly, although there was unmistakable amusement upon his face.

“I’m sorry Sir, I was quite simply fascinated by the horses. They are such beautiful creatures.” I replied in my sweetest voice. He paused for a moment, taking in my appearance as I did his. From what I could tell, he was tall for his age, with light brown hair and green eyes.  “My name is Helen, Sir. May I ask your name?” I said, hoping to try and get myself out of trouble.

“Edward Hayes. Pleasure to meet your acquaintance, Miss. Now you best be on your way, this is no place for a young woman,” he said as he dismounted his horse “I shall escort you home myself, it can be dangerous walking alone, what with the war on. You can hardly tell friend from foe these days.”

I glared at him. I did not like being spoken to as if I were some fragile young child when I could protect myself perfectly well.

“Mr Hayes, I shall be fine. I may be a young woman but I know how to protect myself. I can fight and I’m willing to fight in this war too.” I gave him my most serious expression, to which he returned a brief laugh, cut short as I flashed my mother’s dagger at him.

“I am serious, Sir. Just because I’m a girl, does not mean I can’t fight. I can be as strong, if not stronger than half you young men.” I nodded good day to him before walking away, leaving him standing beside his horse in shock. “That’ll teach him,” I thought. I managed to get half way home before I heard the sound of hooves following behind me.

“Young lady. Stop right there,” I heard him say. I continued walking nonetheless. “Helen, stop. You are in serious trouble, you shouldn’t possess such an item.” I huffed and stopped walking, allowing him to catch up.

“What are you talking about? What item?” I said as I smiled up at him innocently.

“Don’t try to fool me little Miss,” he said sternly, his bright green eyes betraying his amusement.

“I’d never try to fool someone of your authority Sir. I do apologise if you had that impression,” I said. He looks at me for a moment before deciding my fate.

“You really want to fight?” He said.

“Yes, with all my heart yes. I’d do anything. I want to help win this war,” I said desperately.

He paused a moment before saying, “That’s fighting talk, soldier. Meet me up by that wall you sat upon at dusk and we’ll see what you have.” He smiled, nodded slightly and rode away, round to the stables.

I paused for a moment, watching him disappear into the distance before returning home. I spent the rest of that day carrying out chores, trying to keep myself busy and trying not to seem ruffled. Dusk soon came, and I made my excuses to leave the house. Edward was there, waiting at the wall with two horses when I arrived. One of them I recognised as his horse and the other I’d not seen before. It was a dappled grey Irish mare, the most beautiful horse I’d ever seen. She did not seem very old and from the way she was standing I could tell that she’d need some training.

Edward’s voice interrupted my thoughts, “Beautiful isn’t she?”

“She’s the most beautiful horse I’ve ever seen. Is she new to the stables?” I asked, enraptured. To my amazement he handed me her reins.

“Yes, in a way she is. I am entrusting her to you. If you really do want to fight then training the horse as you train will ensure a close bond between you. She’ll keep you safe if you treat her properly.”

“She’s perfect. Thank you.” I said to Edward, smiling at my mare, “What shall I name her?”

He paused and then said, “Whatever you like. A strong name, you want her to be full of courage.”

I thought for a moment, a few names come to mind before I choose one, “Cher Ami. It means ‘Dear Friend’ in French.” I smiled and kissed her forehead.

He laughed, “Do you have a hat? I can’t be seen to be training a girl. It’s not allowed.”

I sighed, “No. I can put my hair up though, make it look short. Nobody will look too closely, it’ll be fine.” I did so to prove my point and he nodded in agreement.

“Let’s get to work then,” he said.

I interrupt her story, “So did you ever actually go to war?” She smiles sadly and shakes her head.

“No my dear. Your Great Grandad, Edward, left for the remaining two years of the war and I stayed at home and trained the horses and the men that rode upon them.” She coughs, her breathing becoming shallower. I take hold of her hand and press a kiss to her soft skin.

“It’ll be okay, won’t it Gran?” I could feel the tears stinging my eyes and my throat tightening. I don’t want her to go, she’s always been there for me, and I can’t bear the thought of life without her.

She gave me a weak smile, “You’ll be fine my dear. Remember the Winnie the Pooh quote I always read to you before bed?” The wheeze becoming more and more obvious.

“If there is ever a tomorrow when we are not together, there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart, I’ll always be with you.” I recited to her. The smile on her face grows and her eyes close.

 


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