The war is over; I’ll never get to be a soldier
Peace again, how many have we really lost?
Ben will be coming home!
Teddy, the 17 year old, looks at his books sadly. Now he will have to study harder. Then his face brightens. The dream of becoming a vet can return. It was quite exciting to dream of being a soldier, experiences far away, killing the enemy, returning home victorious, but really his heart is too soft for killing.
He would prefer to be out there with the farmers, keeping their livestock well, keeping the working dogs healthy, helping decide which dog should be bred to which bitch for the best result. He sits down, anticipating anew the day when he can walk out of the surgery having saved the life of someone’s beloved pet, see their shining eyes when he tells them Spot will be well again.
Mariah sits quietly, her eyes worried. Remembering. The last war, how she longed for her Johann to return to her and the children. Watching them every day and resenting the war that stole the growing days from him, being far away and not seeing Sally write her first letters, Teddy take his first steps. Then that day. War over, peace declared. Only a few men returning home.
Then slowly the other men coming round. Sympathy in their eyes, too much pain they have seen. Or the one who visited her. He could not look her in the eyes, he told her, Sargent Johann Brenner, missing in action, not found in a POW camp. We must assume he is dead. How her world would have ended if it hadn’t been for the children and their need for her.
How she hopes it will be different for Sally. She and Ben falling in love that autumn as they finished university. Imagine falling in love during final exams, how wonderful. Getting ready intellectually and emotionally for the next steps in their lives. Then the war. Ben being conscripted before they could marry. The rush from exam room to the depot and on to the train, barely time to say goodbye.
She sits now every day, watching the street, anticipating another man, dead eyes coming to tell Sally that Ben will not be coming home.
Sally brushes her hair, again. Ben loved running his hands through it. Now it’s longer, more for him to touch and play with. She hasn’t cut it at all since he left, like a talisman to ensure his safe return. The few letters, damaged by the censor, telling her the only important news. He was alive, and he loved and missed her. Nothing else mattered.
Its evening. A car pulls up outside. A man in uniform gets out, bends down to say something to the driver.
Sally looks out of her bedroom window, her heart dancing. Ben, home for good. She dances out the room and down the stairs, anticipating his first kiss and hug.
Mariah looks out of the downstairs window, her heart thudding painfully. Here is the man to break Sally’s heart.