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Fallen | They Have a Story

Today I'm posting my take on the picture for They Have a Story. There's still time to link up if you want to join in! What is They Have a Story? It's a monthly historical fiction link up hosted by yours truly. Once a month I'll post a historical picture. Your job (and mine) is to write a short story inspired by it. It can be as short or as long as you like. Have fun with it! Post the monthly picture, your story, and blog button on your blog, then link up. Let’s see how many different stories we can get from the same picture!

by Emily Ann Putzke

A mere day can change your life in the most unimaginable way.

You let your mind mull over the grandeur of a bright future, but torrents of reality cascade down your back and you know there’s nothing you can do but accept its cold touch upon your skin. Jean would tell me to stop feeling defeated and to do something good with my life … to stop mourning him. And while part of me would rather succumb to the abyss of despair and strangle the words courage and bravery, the other part of me longs to be like Jean. It trumps the incessant melancholy that has tried again and again to overtake me. I think he would be proud.

Mama dubbed us the twins, though we weren’t in reality. He would always be my older brother, and I his little sister. He was nineteen that October day—the youngest member in his sector of the resistance. Neither of us knew that he’d never be twenty. If I had known—no. Jean wouldn’t want me entertaining hindsight. It won’t bring him back. I didn’t know they were going to catch him that day, so what good would it do?  Besides, I did my utmost at trying to talk him out of the assignment.

We were sitting at the kitchen table, sipping our ersatz coffee. I ran my finger along the inside of my mug handle, peering out the window as the crimson, amber, and russet leaves clung to the tree branches. The leaves seemed to be begging the trees to not let them go. Beyond them was a remnant of war—our church and school in ruins.

“Are you all right, Colette?” Jean lifted his eyes from his toast. “You seem upset.”

My face always betrayed my emotions without me knowing … or perhaps Jean just understood me so well. I turned to him, eyeing the hair cut Maman had given him the day before. It made him look even younger, like a mere schoolboy. His face was clean-shaven for he couldn’t grow a proper beard yet, and his dark eyes were on me.

“Do you have to go? What if something happens?”

He sighed and leaned his elbows on the table. “You say this every time I go out on an assignment.”

“Because I’m worried about you. Why can’t someone else do the tracks today?”

“That’s not how it works. The boys and I work together. We can’t just take a day off because we’re feeling a little skittish. This war is already too damn long … how much longer do you want it to last?”

I wanted to lash out at him for using foul language in front of me, but he was already standing up, indicating that we were done with this conversation. He tossed his plate in the sink and snatched his suit coat and black beret from the hall closet. He plunged his arms through the sleeves and began buttoning it. I could see that his fingers were trembling. He dropped them with an aggravated scowl.

“Here, I’ll help you.” I planted myself before him and slipped the buttons through the holes. “I'm sorry if I made you mad, Jean. I understand what you’re doing ... and I’m proud of you.”

He smiled down at me. “France will be free again, Colette. Just you wait and see.”

I nodded as I maneuvered the last button through the hole. “I wish I could help.”

“You are. I can’t even button my own coat.” He gave me a boyish smirk.

“I mean something big to help France. I’m scared something’s going to happen to you and I’d feel better being close by.”

He placed both hands on my shoulders. “You remember that verse—” he chewed his lip as he tried to remember all the wording, then a spark of recollection flamed in his eyes. “A person's days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed.’ Don’t try to get in the way of God’s plans, Colette, even if you don’t understand them now.”  He leaned in and kissed my forehead gently. “Be brave, all right?” He threw open the door and strolled out, confidence in his gait. He glanced back one last time, tossing me a grin.

He didn’t come home that night. Or the next night.

When I heard the news that he and his comrades had been arrested and executed, I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t even cry. I knew that my life would never be the same again. I was ready to give up on life. I was ready to live the rest of my days in a numb state of mind … feeling nothing, loving no one. But I can’t. I won’t. If Jean died for France, he would want me to live for France.

And that's what I intend to do.

Beautiful People | Friendship Edition

Well, hello lovely people. I've been all over the place this week ... working on rewriting Resist, brainstorming something wonderful with Emily Chapman, herding kittens (aka preschoolers at VBS) ... anyway, I saw that this month's edition of Beautiful People is friendship and I couldn't pass it up. I'm going to share Hans and Alex's friendship in Resist.

1. How long have they known each other, and how close are they?
Hans and Alex have known each other since 1940. In the short time they've known each other, they have become like brothers.