War is like winter. It comes with no warning finding every ounce of happiness and destroying it. It shows no mercy. Why should we?
I once thought that nothing would ever change. I had the perfect life, a charming father, a loving mother, and a beautiful sister in which I looked up to. But nothing ever lasts for long when I was 6 my mother became ill. No one wanted to tell me the truth, they were only trying to protect me, but nothing could protect me form what life had in store.
On June 1st, 1930 my mother was gone. After months of battling Tuberculosis her body could not take anymore. My sister told me that everything was going to be okay and I wanted to believe her. It took an even greater toll on my father. Slowly I could see him draw back. His heart was filled with grief and sorrow. To cope his grief, he began to drink.
Some nights he would come home with anger in his eyes and no matter what we did nothing could make it . One night almost a year after my mother’s death he came home so drunk that he could barely stand. When he sat down for dinner my sister asked what had happened at work that had made him so drunk. But that was the last straw. He snapped pushing my sister to the floor he went into our room and began to throw all our positions into a box. I went to bed in the hallway listening to my sister’s crying.
The next morning my bags were packed for a finishing school in London. My father said nothing as we walked to the train station. As he bought our tickets he told us to meet Mrs. Montaron once we had arrived in London.
Before we knew it, we were on the train for London. My sister tried to comfort me by telling me stories my mother used to tell us at bedtime, but I was too worried to listen.
How could my father abandon me? Why was he different? Did he not love me anymore? The experience was too much for my seven-year-old brain to process. It wasn’t until later that I finally stopped caring.
My sister had slowly distasted herself from me as the months passed she made new friends and was constantly with them. I spent my afternoons looking out my dorm room window thinking of where I would go if I ran away. No one cared about me. My sister pretended I didn’t exist and the thought of peeling another orange with a fork made me want to punch the closest to me.
One day my class and I were practicing how to pour tea correctly and make conversation when Mrs. Montaron called me into her office.
“Adeline” she said “do you want to be here?”
“I can tell” she said, “I am afraid that you will have to find another school that you can go to. You simply have no respect for those around you.”
“We will call for your Father and make arrangements for your departure next week. You are excused Adeline”
“Thank you, Madame”.
As I returned to my dorm I ignored the staring faces as I climbed the stars. That night I began to regret my actions. What would papa think of we when I returned home? Where would I go if he didn’t want me? I found myself tangled in a web of fear unable to escape. To distract myself I thought of what was happening in London but could find no relief to my worry. There had been small rumors running around the school of war in England, but my teachers denied it saying that War would never come because our Government was fighting to protect us. Though I knew that it was not true I brushed of the fact that war was right around the corner from us. But now as I lay enveloped in fear these thoughts came flooding back to me. That night I struggled to find the relief of sleep as I laid awake listening to the busy streets outside my window.
Today was my last day at the finishing school. After weeks of worrying about the future it was finally here. As I packed my bags my sister came in to say goodbye. The encounter was short, but it filled me with hope that my father would come to an understanding of our differences. I walked down the stars slowly because I knew that it would be my last time. A car was waiting for me outside and though riding in a car would be a once in a lifetime experience.
I did not want to get into the car. But when I opened the door there were four beady eyes looking at me the car smelled like sausage and cheese. Mr. Wright was in the driver’s seat. He introduced me to his children in the backseat that were too busy playing with dolls to notice me. He continued to ask me questions about school and other random things, but he ended up answering himself. I spent most of the ride staring out the window and day dreamy.
Somewhere along the way I fell asleep and when I woke we were surrounded by crowds of people. Most of them were carrying belongings. Everything from chairs to paintings. I asked Mr. Wright what was going on and he said that a nearby town had been evacuated due to the threat of the Germans at the airport.
I said nothing else as we drove through the crowd of people. Are speed slowed to crawling as we tried to move through the people. Soon we ran out of gas and had to abandon our vehicle with the rest of the forgotten belongings that were too heavy to carry or pointless to bring. We walked for what seemed like eternity and into night fall before we finally stopped. Along the way I became separated from the Wright family, but I was too tired to notice. When we finally stopped I was so parched thirsty that I could feel my throat start to swell. I could smell the amazing aroma of a cooking stew. I was so hungry that my stomach cried out. I was too weak to argue so I followed my nose. I was welcomed by an old man. I was skeptical at first, but I was so hungry that I ignored it. I sat down with the old man and ate the stew it was so good the potatoes melted in my mouth and the carrots tasted like candy. The old man made conversation about his old life and what he was planning to do in the war. He talked about how he had just gotten out of prison.
My face must have told it all because it was not long before he asked, “does that scare you.”
“No. It’s just … unexpected. I guess, my apologies.”
“You should be scared,” he said, I was unable to tell if he was joking or not but the glint in his eye said other wise. As he pushed his greasy hair out of his eyes.
“Anyway, you are safe with me. I have other things in mind.”
“Like what” I asked him.
“I am going to check on my mother and sister and then find a regiment to join and go fight for our country.”
“You’re lucky,” she said with a sigh.
“I would give anything to fight for our country”
“But you can” he said “every little bit helps”
When I was finished eating I thanked the old man and followed the rest of the crowd towards Paris.
When we arrived in Paris it felt more like a zoo than a city. People were crowding every building in site. Every hotel was out of rooms. I was forced to move on along with thousands more.
Automobiles died around us left abandond in the middle of the street. Cartwheels broke. Horses stopped and wouldn’t move again. Adeline felt herself becoming tired and dull, exhausted by heat and thirst. She longed for the cool days she spent in her dorm. A woman limped along beside her, crying, her tears stained brown with dirt and grim. Another older woman in a thick fur coat was sweating immensely and seemed to be wearing every piece of jewelry she owned.
The sun grew stronger, became more intense, and staggeringly hot. Children whined and complained and women ached but still everyone pushed on. The stuffy scent of sweat filled the air, but Adeline had grown used to it that she barely noticed.
It was almost three o’clock, and the hottest part of the day, when they saw a regiment of retreating French soldiers walking alongside them, dragging their rifles in defeat. The soldiers moved in an unorganized fashion, not in formation. They walked lazily.
She wondered who was fighting for us in France. As the line of soldiers continued to march past her she gathered the courage to stop one of the soldiers.
“You’re going the wrong way” she said. “Why aren’t you fighting in France.”
“There is no hope” the man said.
“Who is going to fight for us” a woman next to Adeline said.
“We will” Adeline said.
At each town the crowds thinned but Adeline kept going by the fourth day her feet were swollen and worn down to blisters.
It was 12 in the afternoon and the heat were over whelming. Fly’s buzzed around her head.
She knew the sound.
She stopped, frowning and confused. What was she trying to remember?
The droning grew louder, filling the air, and then the she remembered.
As a kid she grew up next to an airport. She knew the sound it was airplanes. Then they appeared, six or seven of them. Adeline watched the airplanes fly closer, lower … then someone yelled, “It’s the Germans!”
In the distance, a wooden bridge exploded in a spray of fire and wooden shrapnel and smoke. The airplanes dropped lower over the crowd. The world became pure sound: the roar of the airplane engines, the rat-ta-ta-tat of machine-gun fire, the beat of her heart, people screaming. Bullets ate up the grass, people screamed. Adeline saw a woman fly into the air like a rag doll and hit the ground in a heap and not get up again. She threw herself onto the ground trying to make herself as small as possible.
Trees snapped in half, people yelled. Flames burst into the air and smoke filled the air. She pushed hair from her eyes and sat up There were bodies everywhere, and fires, and overwhelming clouds of black smoke. People were screaming, crying, and dying.
An old man moaned, “Help me.” Adeline crawled to him on her hands and knees, she realized as she got closer that the ground was marshy with his blood.
“Is there a doctor” she yelled. And then she heard it again. The droning.
“Here they come” someone yelled as she had pulled herself to her feet. She almost slipped in the blood-soaked grass.