The Days Before

My name is Lilian Tracy. I was born in Boston, years before the war. Back then, I was just like anyone else. Young, pretty, wealthy and, most of all, stubborn. But not stubborn enough. Back then I made one mistake, a mistake that rippled through my life, tearing everything apart. I fell in love. This time, I'm not making that mistake again. I'll die first.

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4. The Great War

1918

 The tea was cold already. I knew that. Of course I knew it. I’d been waiting for hours to drink it, after all. Just sitting and staring at the still surface of the liquid, as though I might find something there.
 I didn’t know what I was waiting for exactly. It wasn’t as though there was anyone coming. At least, not the one person I really wanted to see. Tony would come back, I had to believe that, but there was no way he’d arrive today.
 I knew it, but still I hoped, and I thought, and I waited. I waited until the sweet scent of the tea faded away, until the sun set and the air grew chill, until the candles started to flicker and go out and the birds stopped their singing.
 “Ms. Tracy, Ms. Tracy! Come quickly dear! Mr. Renolds has brought the paper, and there is such wonderful news!”
 I sighed at the insistence in Lucy’s voice. The newly wed Mrs. Barnes might have been my friend for a long time, even offering my refuge after Tony left, but she was more than I could handle sometimes. But if I tarried it would only prompt another round of summons, so I rose swiftly, cold tea forgotten on the deck behind me, and hurried to her side.
 “Look here, Ms. Tracy! Mr. Renolds says that we’ve won! Isn’t that amazing!”
 “Now hold on a moment, Mrs. Barnes please. I only said we won one battle, not the whole war. Please, don’t go getting poor Ms. Tracy’s hopes up like that.” Mr. Renolds favored me with one of his trademark patronizing looks. At least there was no leer in it this time. I hated the man, but Lucy simply adored him. I think that, now that Tony was momentarily out of the picture, Mr. Renolds was eager to take his place. My parents had preferred him as well, so much so that one could almost say he was the very reason they had expelled me in the first place.
 “Let me see it, sir.” I held out my hand impatiently, then snatched away the crumpled paper when he moved too slowly. Pacing a few steps away from the other two, I scanned the paper as swiftly as I could.
 The tide of the Great War was turning. We’d won the battle at Amiens, and now were pushing deep into Germany. The article sang the praises of the war without mention of the cost, as though death were a game. I tossed it away angrily. Did they not realize that empty promises meant nothing?
 “Ms. Tracy, where ever are you going this late?” Lucy called after me, optimistic and cute as ever.
 “Don’t mind me, I just need some air to clear my head. I’ll only be a moment.”
 

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