Marie was a sixteen-year-old from France. She had been born into a rich family and had inherited her mother's looks: thick blonde hair, chocolate-brown eyes and soft lips, but when her father went off to war their income plummeted and it became more and more difficult to afford the luxuries to which they had been accustomed. Oh, they weren't starving, but that was an end to the horse-riding lessons and the new dresses every month. It was just as well that Marie was not a spoilt child, or she would have been disappointed more than once.
The whole country was terrified. Bombings and fighting, death and misery ... these things haunted the cities with their crowded streets and the spaced-out agricultural land in the country, filling every waking hour and shattering the sleepless nights. Each day, news reports and casualties. More widows, more orphans. But so far, Marie and her mother had been lucky. Timothee still wrote to his patient wife and daughter every week, if it was possible, and told them of the narrow escapes in his plane and the German fighters he had shot down.
"I wish I was at home with you," he had written, although in French. "But I know I am needed here. Of the other pilots I am the strongest and the fastest, and have shot down the most planes with the fewest injuries. Just yesterday two men were sent plummeting down to their deaths through the very route which I had taken, and yet I sustained no injuries."
"Mon Dieu," said Marie's mother, reading one of these tales. "My God." She shook her head. "He's going to get himself killed some day soon, and then where will we be?" Marie, seeing that her mother was about to cry, moved forwards to comfort her.
"Don't cry," she said. "Please don't cry.
They recieved a message the next day. It was from Timothee, to say that his plane had crashed. Though he was still alive he was in hospital, suffering from shock and several broken bones, and was having stitches put into his face. "I'll be able to come home to you as soon as I'm discharged," he promised.
In the hospital, many miles away, Timothee was lying on a bed. The painkillers had numbed his mind so that all his thoughts were fuzzy and unclear, but he couldn't help a strong sense of longing. When he had left to become a pilot, they had told him that he would have a hero's welcome on his return, that his family would be waiting at the door to welcome him. It was to this that now he looked forward.
Alas, it was not to be. That night, Marie, Timothee and Alison's town was bombed. Their house, and all of the others on the street, was flattened. The two women were killed and their possessions destroyed. Timothee knew nothing of this until he left the hospital, around six weeks later, and made his way home. Upon arriving at the station he was heard to remark on how quiet it was. On reaching his street, several survivors ran forward to catch the wounded pilot as he fell to the floor in a dead faint.
There was nobody left to see him come home.