The front line

Emma is spending the summer at her grandparents. What was supposed to be a boring day turns out to be the journey to her past. She travels in time through a series of notebooks belonging to A. Parke and C. Rexach whom lived during World War 1. What will she encounter in her journey back in time?

That's up to you to find out...



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2. Journal of A. Parke

 

March 10, 1917

 

   It has been a hectic day at the War Office. Filing officer's names through telegrams and letter to loved ones was terrible. I couldn't help thinking that one day, it could have my last name.

"Colonel! Colonel!" Someone yelled from a distance. "Colonel Parke!" The same repeated.

"In here." I said exasperated, I had been looking at maps of Northen France and Germany.

"Colonel, Sir, it's news from Scotland. Your sister in law is in labour, Sir. Your presence is immediately requested." A chap said, older than me, but of lower rank.

  Without time to loose, I set way for Scotland. After twelve hours, Virginia gave birth to a healthy boy. He was cheerful and already feeding. He reminded me of Andrew. Where was he? Most probable in France, fighting for his life. I instantly knew I had to find our HQ in Scotland. Once in the proper office with the proper people, I explained the situation and offered the solution. They were not pleased about it, but they accepted my offer.

 

March 13, 1917

 

  I returned to England three days ago, but I had the true reason to return and not go to my enforced placement. The chap at the lodge in Yorkshire offered to take me to the Banks' estate. I thanked him for his generousity, but declined and told him I preferred walking. He nodded and wished me a good journey.

  I thought quite a lot on my way to the Banks' estate. How would I tell them? How would Elizabeth take it? When I reached the entry I slowed my pace. Keep calm, Alexandre. It's Elizabeth for Christ's sake! I knocked on the big, pine doors. I heard feet shuffle-ling on the inside. Mathilda, their maid greeted me.

"Oh, Alexandre! I will tell Miss Elizabeth ye came to see her! She will be so cheerful!" She said when I crossed the threshold. I am about to tear her to pieces, I thought. Mathilda led me to the interior garden, she said she'd return with Elizabeth in a few. Moments later, I heard foot steps and Elizabeth questioning her presence. I couldn't stop a smile from spreading across my lips.

"Here she is, Sir, Miss Elizabeth." Mathilda said opening the door. She stepped aside to allow Elizabeth to step through. As soon as the door clicked shut, she leaped towards me. Just with feeling her there, the true purpose of my visit was erased.

"Oh, I'm so happy you're here! With the news of bombs falling over London, most believed you dead! But I knew you weren't, I just knew it!" She held tightly to me, and I to her. I inhaled her aroma, like it was the last time I would ever have her close. If it weren't for the war, she'd be my wife. I loosened my grip around her, she looked up. "What's wrong?" She asked scrunching her eye brows.

  I motioned her to sit down . The smile she had plastered moments before had vanished completely. She sat and indicated the spot next to her, which I took. I cleared my throat, and opened my mouth, but no sound escaped. "Alexandre, you can tell me." I took a deep breath, took her hands in mine and began "Elizabeth, I'm being relocated..." She interrupted me. "To an office in Scotland?" It was very eager. I looked down at our hands and slowly shook my head, "No, to the French front; Verdun most probably." I said, still not looking directly at her.

  Her breathing deepened and she began to shake. I looked at her face and saw she was fighting to hold back the tears. "Why would the head office do something like that? Andrew is already at the front, is it their plot to kill both of you?" Her voice was a faint quiver, complete frustration. I thought of the best way to explain it.

"No, my superiors didn't place me on the front. I asked to be placed on the front..." She let go of my hand and got up. "Why? Why would you do something like that? Do you plan to get yourself KILLED?" She shrieked. "Elizabeth, please lower your voice." I pleaded. She began to say incoherent things and began to pace uncontrollably. "Virginia gave birth to a boy. I've done this so their child can have both their parents. If Andrew dies, it won't be at the front, but of old age." I heard her sigh. "If I die, I won't loose anything." I kept my voice neutral. "What about me? You and I could marry!" She whimpered.

   I shook my head. "If I die. you would move on. If Andrew dies, I would never be able to live with myself, because I have the power to do something. I have done military service my entire life. He's a lawyer that was sent to the front because there were no others, I was still in office." She refused to listen to any further explanations, and dismissed me.

  When Mathilda escorted me to the door, she did everything to smile, but I knew she couldn't possibly. "Mr. Alexandre, do be careful." She said, tears streaming freely down her cheeks, trying to keep a steady voice. "I will, Mathilda, I will." And I would. "I will assure ye,Sir, she will forgive ye. Miss Elizabeth isn't one to hold a grudge." She said. I nodded in agreement. "Please tell her that I love her dearly. You will Mathilda, will you?" My mind needed to rest and my heart needed to know that she knew that I love her. "I will, Mr. Alexandre, cross me heart." And she crossed it.

 

  March 20, 1917

 

         The journey on train back to London was the easy part. The treacherous journey by ship and the slow paced rides by the country side seemed eternal. Once at the British HQ in Verdun, I asked for Sargent Parke.  As a Colonel, I was positioned in the head office above Lieutenant Daniels. As soon as Andrew saw me there he asked why I was there. I explained him my mad yet helpful plan. He thought I was bonkers, which is possible.  "I have nothing back home that means enough to me to do otherwise. " I said after he calmed down. "Elizabeth is in England" He said looking at ,e straight in the eyes. He began to scratch his head. It wouldn't surprise me if he suffered from lice. "It doesn't matter, your wife needs you." I said sympathetically. "All their wives need them and want them back home! Do you think they chose to be here? You're but a boy, Alexandre! You are beginning to live in what we call life! You are only nineteen!" He protested.

  I was out of sorts. I looked around the office. It was much smaller than the ones at the War Office. "Your son needs you. Andrew, you barely reach age twenty-five. You can't just give up on that!" I made a pretty good point. His expression grew full of concern. "If I die here, and now, he would understand." He replied. I took a deep breath. I do not want to go to what I was about to recur to. "Unlucky for you, I am your superior. Younger than you, yes, but with a longer military career. Whether you like it or not, you embark for London at dawn. You will continue your duties as a desk officer in the HQ. You will continue to serve on military service until your death or the end of the war, which ever comes first." I said, looking at him directly in the eyes. "If I find out you pull any tricks on us, I will destitute you from your rank and exiled; even if it's the last thing I do. You are dismissed, soldier."

  He got up from the chair and headed for the door. He reached the handle, before twisting it open, he turned to me. "If you die, I will miss you. You still are Parke, no matter how much you want to erase it from paper, ink cannot be erased." He said with remorse. "You'll need a survival tool. There's a  village a kilometer or two from here. There's a pub that serves as a lodge. Ask for C. Rexach. Don't you dare to go alone." He didn't offer any further information and left before I could thank him. Now I have to find C. Rexach.

 

 

April 1st, 1917

 

 

    Life on the trenches is terrible, If it isn't because of enemy attacks, soldiers die from hysteria or diseases. So many of them just stop breathing, it is unexplained. I cannot seem to stop wondering how the human soul is capable of such destruction upon something that could have resolved in a simpler way. May be I am being ignorant to the fact that an heir to a throne was murdered, but, at those moments I was a school boy with no understanding.

  I met Ponchel, a French officer, and Lieutenant Valjean, the head office for the French. I explained my situation and they agreed to take me to the village to see C. Rexach. Valjean had some business to tend to.

    Walking in disguise to the village was very odd. We were in French quarters, ally quarters, but attacks from Germans are always a mystery. It took a little more than an hour to reach the village. Once there, it was easy to find the pub, because it was the only one there. There were companions in frilly dresses, men in uniform, and children playing with pieces of scraps.  Valjean entered the pub with me, there were many women inside; there was this one woman in particular that caught my eye immediately, she had dark hair and light skin, she is probably the youngest there. She saw Valjean and motioned to an empty table at the back.

   We took our disguises off and took the table she indicated. I could feel everyone looking at me, boring their eyes on my uniform, the uniform of a Brit. The girl came moments later with a wash cloth over her shoulder; she gave me a dirty looked an turned to look at Valjean. She spoke a fast French in a high pitched voice: "Comment osez-vous mettre un Brit putain ici! On est déjà parti! Vous risquez votre putain de vie!" "Tais-toi! Au moins me saluer avant de vous m'insultez. Comment Henri est en train de faire? C'est sa maman va bien?" Valjean said. If they found out I understood every word, they would most probably kill me. She responded that Henri was alright, and asked what we wanted to drink. Valjean asked for Vodka, and I felt tempted to ask for a Scotch, but said I'd go for Vodka.

"Let me guess, Parke, you understand French." He said between snickers. I nodded smiling. He began to laugh. "If she finds out she will freak out. She is a feisty one, but with good intentions ." He  said before she came back with our drinks. When she was about to place them on the table, a man hicked up her skirt. She screamed and spilled the drinks. She turned around and slapped him. Infuriated, he pulled her close to him and began to unbuckle his belt. "Je vais vous monte comment un salope bon comportement!" He yelled. Something took over me. Valjean tried to reason with her so she would apologize, but she refused. "Monsieur, elle est juste surpris. Vous êtes un gentleman, un Français. Je suis un sauvage britannique, pernettez-moi de la punir de son audace." I said in fluent French. She looked at me, both at them shocked.

  He hit her before letting go. She spit on him. Valjean and I had to get between them before he could charge her. I turned to her and whispered at her ear. "Excusez-moi, mademoiselle, mais je dois vous chercher." I picked her up. She began to scream, and to kick. It connected me on the chest, that happens when you carry someone over the shoulder. Valjean and a girl led us upstairs. The girl pointed to the last door at the end of the hall. Once inside, I gently put her down. She slapped me. "Why didn't you tell me you spoke French?" She squealed in perfect British accented English. The side of my face where she hit me began to sting; she had a good arm. I opened and closed my mouth repeatedly to check my jaw. "You never mentioned you spoke English, so I guess we're even." I muttered looking directly at her eyes. Valjean had left me with both women. One with dark hair, almost black, the other a soft caramel. Both enchantingly beautiful. "Josette, gardez un oeil sur. Il est un ami de Valjean, il doit être soigné. Il est britannique, il mérite la meilleure des femme entre nous ne peut offrir." The girl, Josette nodded and left. I was alone with her now. "Thank you for saving me from JeanLuc, he thinks every woman under this cursed roof belongs to him." She sat on the bed that crunched under her weigh. Looking at her more intently, she was tall and thin, thin caused by war and hunger. Her face doesn't look hallow, it is still beautiful. Her hair was shinny and her eyes receive so much focus. They are so dark, they reflect everything she gazes upon. I felt myself falling perfectly on her web. I wanted her as an ally, she makes everyone like her.

"Miss, your audacity got you in trouble. If you already know how he behaves, I suppose you should know how to react." I am sure my comment is very sexist, but she should understand. He wouldn't have thought it twice before doing what he would have done. "Well sadly I am not a woman that conforms with men. I'm not English, but even your now dead queen Victoria was living proof that we have to stand up to our rights. So pardon me, Sir, but the French were born to rebel, not live with it like the English." She spat. The pure audacity of her direct tone with me was flabbergasting. Her strict show of recklessness urged me to have her near me. I want her in a way that seems sinful. "Rebellion of one's country is a completely different situation than one of daring nerve by a young woman in the middle of war that doesn't fear loosing her virtue. " It might have sounded cold, if by that she didn't seem to accept the nonsense and my rambles, I'm afraid it wouldn't make any sense in her.

   She looked at me intently, I believe she was debating on a way to answer. "Concern is most regarded, but defending oneself is important. And believe me when I say, my virtue is one thing, but my pride is nothing next to it." I could decipher honesty in her voice. I looked around the room, brightly lit by candles. They are living in splendor while others struggle to keep warm.

  I didn't respond her. Josette burst in to the room and said something I wish I hadn't heard. If my ears don't kid me, it had something to do with "passion". Le petite France, how I call Valjean's friend responded saying to what Josette. I am so ashamed of the situation I refuse to pour it over in this notebook.

  When I returned down stairs, my shirt was slightly undone, and I have a red stain on my neck. Valjean tries to hide the smirk, but fails. He asks what happens up stairs, even I though I think he already knows.  I didn;t answer him, and got ready to leave the pub. On the journey back to the trench, I held tightly to one thing that had startled me inside the room.

  I still haven't quite understood. When I got back, I yelled a few orders and locked myself in the office.

   Before I left the pub, Le petite France kissed a the crucifix that hung on my neck. she did a silent prayer and bid me farewell. When I asked her what she had prayed for she said: "English or not, you are still  human. And not men are bad, you are one of them." She went and kissed me, something she obviously doesn't do to just any one.

  Before I turned to the door she turned around and began to undo her blouse. I felt something, faint, and small. For her.

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