This short piece I wrote two years ago. It was inspired by ANZAC and love and loss. I wondered if those whose bodies never returned, may have found another way home? To find their peace and rest forever in the knowledge that they were loved? I originally entered it into a contest and it was published online. I have since made some major edits.
I hope you like, it is in no way meant to offend.
For Love Alone
The shrill of a rooster pulls Lulu from dark dreams and into another day. She tugs at the covers, pulling them over her head.
‘Just a little longer.’ She whispers to the rivulets of warm morning sun which spill into the room and onto the bed.
Dawn is the only time of day she loves. The pocket of happiness in which her world is whole. She lays still and savors the moment of make-believe between here and there, sleep and awake.
The house is empty but not silent. The wooden floors and ceilings creak and groan with memories of times gone by.
The walls, like her heart, echo voices from the past. The grinding of machinery and calls of farm workers in the fields, tug her reluctantly from white cotton sheets and warm recollections.
Once dressed she steps into the passage. The clacking heels of her navy pumps disturb the haunted silence of the hollow hall, as she makes her way to the whitewashed door leading out on to the front verandah. She pauses and glances to the right.
A solid, round oak table patiently bears its burden; a wad of paper – which gives her the willies – and a photo. His bold stare pierces her soul, and she shudders at the memory of their last touch. Her fingers trace the plump red skin of her pinning lips.
The war was drawing out to a long untidy end, and returned remnants of its platoons, in broken-minded dribs, and shattered- body drabs, or plain old wooden boxes. Loving fathers, brothers, and lovers — now hardened and changed — expected to fall back into a life forgotten. Are their women luckier than those left with Sunday visits to empty graves?
An overwhelming ‘Yes!’ reverberates through Lulu’s shattered soul as she strokes her husband’s printed face. Mindful not to touch that piece of paper – yes, they are, dammit!
Clayman’s son returned last month. Physically sound, but mentally warped. The young man spent his days fighting long gone ghosts, beneath the large oak which overlooked the vineyard. He sat and rocked, and howled, and paced, oblivious to the peace around him.
At night, Clayman said, he slept not a wink for the screaming, as demons of the past pulled his son back into nightmare trenches.He looked at her with sad, sunken eyes that mirrored his purgatory, “best my boy had died. Hope you’re spared this pain.”
Musky morning air, redolent with aging hops and overdue grapes washes over her as she steps onto the patio. Breathing in deeply, she gathers strength for the day ahead.
Her ears pitch; a voice calling out to her – his voice? A uniformed man – her uniformed man – standing beyond the garden gate.
“Lulubelle,” he reaches out to her with long thin arms.
“Douglas!?” She launches herself off the steps and sprints toward her husband.
“Douglas! Douglas!” Petrified he might vanish into a murky mirage.
Lulu wills her legs to move faster, cursing the restrictive pencil skirt as she kicks off the damned shoes, not caring that her bare feet are shredded and torn by a gravelly dirt path.
Their bodies collide in a smash of clothed skin and bone.
“God Doug, is it you?” She cups his drawn face with her trembling hands.
His skin chills her palms, and his once starry gaze is stark. Her thumbs run along his chapped lips as he whispers a hoarse, “yes.”
She pulls him in to her, promising never to let go.
“You waited,” he enfolds her in his battle-weary arms.
“You came home,” she sobs into his shoulder and the remnants of war, cigarettes, cordite and death invade her senses.
Gripping his cold, calloused hand, she leads him home.
In the bathroom, she sits him on the stool and runs a deep, hot bath. Steamy fingers rise from the chipped porcelain tub and stroke the air around them. His vacant stare draws a shiver through her. Clayman’s words of ‘best my boy had died’ echoe in her mind.
A stubborn “no!” escapes her lips.
“Uh, what?” Doug frowns, confused.
“Nothing, it’s nothing.” She smiles.
Lulu moves to help him undress.
“What are you doing?”
“I am going to wash you,” she says, as unsure fingers fiddle with his jacket.
“It’s okay Doug. You’re safe now. You’re home.”
Slowly he relaxes and the lightest blue returns to the dark holes in his head.
Lulu rubs the soap-lathered sponge slowly up and down his back and arms. To her heart, so close to bursting, this all feels like a dream.
Un-cried tears dissolve her vision.
A wet hand cups her cheek. “Lulubelle…”
He steps out of the bath. His long, lanky arms pull her into his wet naked body. Cracked lips possess hers, and she gives her husband all she is.
Hands grope and claw, like feral cats.
They reach the bed, “slow,” he utters in a throaty whisper.
Lulu knows his need. Bit by bit, she peels off her skirt, cotton top, and underclothes. His ice blue eyes make her shudder, but she pushes it aside – he’s come back! Time slows – it very nearly stops – as the two lovers meet again. Entwined in one another, determined never to be apart again.
Through the open window, the bright rays of another dawn tickle Lulu’s skin. She reaches over – gone?
With a sheet wrapped around her, she races down the hallway toward the foyer – and collides with the shadow of the weeping woman clutching a crumpled letter.
“We regret to inform you…”
Outside the open door, a uniformed man stands, his wild gaze filled with a loved farewell.
A whisper drifts in on the breeze. “I came home Lulubelle.”