Love story set in World War 1
|They had been friends for as long as she could remember. As children they used to play in the fields and swim in the sea and later that budding friendship had developed into a blossoming romance. In the few seconds that she read those terrible words, everything came back to her. How they had danced in the moonlight, under the stars. The way his soft lips seemed to caress hers when they kissed, her joy, as well as his when he knelt before her with a ring in his hand. Why? Why did he have to go to war?
Heidi sat at the table, the papers held loosely in her hand. She stared down at the formal, emotionless writing for what seemed like the hundredth time.
Mrs. Schroëder 19 November 1917
This war we are fighting is of great importance to our proud nation and we have many brave, young men risking their lives for their country. We regret to inform you that your husband, Mr. Heinrich James Schroëder has been killed in action.
Tears rolled down her cheeks and her whole body seemed numb. It seemed impossible to her, how all that happiness could be erased in a few seconds. Why do the ones we love always have to be taken away from us?
Thinking back, Heidi did not know how she managed to make it through those next few days. She felt like she was stumbling through a never-ending tunnel of darkness. It was as if some small part of her still believed he would come back.
She carried on with her duties, working hard on the farm by day, trying to rid her mind of memories of him. At night, however, nothing else occupied her thoughts as she cried herself to sleep. This carried on for months, until one day she decided to take a walk down to the beach. She stared at the great mountains of foam and water, crashing onto shell strewn beach. She remembered dashing into the waves, with no cares, while the man she loved held her hand and shared her joy. Suddenly, the small, unbelieving part of her, it gave way and she finally accepted that Heinrich was gone. Memories of him would never leave her, but she understood that she could not dwell on him forever. She decided to devote all her efforts to the farm he had left behind as this, she knew, would have made him happy.
Heinrich was not the only one who had been enrolled into the army; along with him had gone all the farm workers. Now all that remained were a few animals and the dry, empty fields. Alone, Heidi had managed to rebuild the farm. Within months the soil had been ploughed and fertilised and seed sown. Soon, the first of many wheat seedlings had started poking their leafy green heads above the ground, bringing something Heidi had not had in a while. Hope.
Months slipped by and the wheat grew taller than a fully-grown man. Heidi worked from dawn to dusk with only the thought of Heinrich to motivate her.
The harvest season was nearing and Heidi began to feel anxious as she realised she had no workers for the harvest. As every day passed and the wheat grew taller, Heidi felt the sense of trepidation growing in her. All her work would be for nothing if she could not harvest.
Unexpectedly she remembered that one of her neighbours has told her about the prison where the prisoners of war were kept. It was getting full and they no longer had enough money to feed all the prisoners.
Apprehension suddenly dawned on her; she would use the prisoners as her farm workers.
Heidi sent an urgent telegram to the prison warden detailing her request. She told him that she would provide the workers with food and shelter.
The warden was very reluctant to give her prisoners as he was worried that they might escape and cause havoc in the surrounding area, but he assured her he would do his best to help.
A few days later, Heidi received another telegram telling her that three prisoners of war would be sent to her farm the next day. For the first time in months, she smiled. Her life was finally coming back on track. Early the next day, an old horse wagon arrived at her farm with the three prisoners. They were all in their thirties and introduced themselves as William Carter, James Scott and Thomas Blythe.
Heidi had presumed that they would need training before they could work on the farm, but they told her, in strong British accents, that they had all worked on farms before they joined the army.
The next few weeks were busier than ever before, the workers, to Heidi’s surprise, worked very hard. They fed the animals, cleaned the stables and harvested the wheat. After the wheat was harvested it had to be tied into bundles and packed into the barn. This was all done in 3 weeks and Heidi began to feel a weight lifting off her shoulders. Things had finally turned out the way she had hoped they would. She still thought about Heinrich often but the fact that the farm was succeeding helped her not to mourn his loss, but to remember the good times they had spent together.
When the harvest season came to and end the workers did not return to the prison but they stayed and helped at the farm. Heidi soon found that her preconceived ideas about the workers were very wrong. She had thought that they would be arrogant, unkind and sour, but they were friendly and enjoyed working on the farm because they said it reminded them of home. The more Heidi spoke to them, the more she liked them. She felt especially attracted to William.
One day, Heidi was rummaging through her cupboard looking for old clothes when she saw her wedding dress, tucked away near the back. Slowly she removed the dress, sat down on her bed and stared at it. Suddenly memories of Heinrich flooded her mind, memories that she had been ignoring the past few months. She felt tears come to her eyes and the next thing she knew she was sobbing. She was crying so much that she didn’t notice someone at the door, the figure crossed the room and then she felt strong arms wrap around her. After what seemed like hours she stopped crying and looked up, to find that the person who was with her was William. At first, she was so shocked that she was lost for words, but then she realized that she had also been ignoring her growing feelings for him over the past few months.
What had happened in her room neither Heidi nor William spoke of, but over the next few months her feelings for him grew stronger until one day, she realised that she was in love, she was in love with William. Heidi felt guilty for loving someone else, someone other than Heinrich. Over time she understood that Heinrich would only have wanted her to be happy and with William she was happy.
She and William spent many evenings together. He told her about his home in England and she told him stories about her life in Germany. Their time together continued for many months until news came that the War was finally over. William would be released as a prisoner-of-war and was free to return home. In the back of her mind Heidi knew that it was going to happen, but she never really believed it would and now suddenly it was upon her.
The sadness was too much for Heidi to bear. She had lost Heinrich and now she was losing William. William told Heidi how much he loved his family and that he hadn’t seen them for three years. Heidi understood how he must have felt, but yet again she was stumbling through her tunnel of darkness and it seemed like the light would never come. Weeks after William left she still felt lonely even though all the old farm workers had come back. She went back to her normal routine and managed to forget about William.
“At least,” she told herself, “he is still alive and I could perhaps see him again.”
A year had passed and Heidi no longer grieved, neither for Heinrich nor William, she was content. She sat in her room on a bright, sunny day when there was a knock at her door. It was one of the workers informing her that she had a visitor. When she opened the front door, there stood William, holding a suitcase.
“Will you marry me?” he shouted.
“Yes!” cried Heidi, running to him and throwing herself into his arms, “yes, I will marry you!” There they stood embracing and laughing. Heidi had finally found the light at the end of her tunnel of darkness and thinking back, she realised the plan for her life was more wonderful than she could ever have imagined.