WW2 flashfic written for a review blog anniversary celebration.
The world, which is now grey, used to be full of colour.
That was before the war.
When I look back, it’s as though it was always summer then. The years have somehow merged, in my memory, into one endlessly long summer day. A day spent lazing by the river with Oliver, the sky innocently cloudless above us, the water summer-still, its glassy surface only disturbed by the occasional plop of a frog hopping into the water. Insects droning contentedly.
In my memory, the wine stays magically cold, no matter how long it’s been sitting open and the strawberries are always perfectly ripe. And when I kiss Oliver, that is what I taste—strawberries.
In my memory, I make love to Oliver in the open, under the sun. There is no fear of discovery. We are the only two people in the world.
I have carried this memory with me through the war. I have carried it like a dried flower, carefully pressed, somewhat preserved. Liable to turn to powder if handled too much.
I worry about how much I’ve built on that memory. The impossible weight of all my hopes and expectations. Because I know the sun did not, in fact, always shine, and sometimes the strawberries were green in places.
And we did not make love in the open. Not at all.
We wrote to one another, when we could. We even managed to meet once, for a whole afternoon. We went to the cinema. Saw Mrs Miniver, hands clutched under my coat. That was nearly three years ago.
And now the war is over. And miraculously, we are both alive. Only, I am not that innocent, carefree boy by the river anymore. The reality of the man I now am weighs heavy on me. I can’t imagine Oliver could possibly want the man I have become.
I walk the two miles from the train station to the river. It’s not sunny. It’s grey and looks set to rain.
When I wrote to Oliver to say I was coming, I said I’d meet him at our favourite picnic spot, and sure enough, when I climb over stile and turn down the path, there he is, leaning against the old tree, his shoulder propped against the great, gnarled trunk as he watches the river glide smoothly past.
I take a step forward and a branch snaps under my boot.
Oliver turns. There is hope—and fear—in his eyes.
And then he’s running towards me.
I throw my pack to the ground an instant before he reaches me and then his lean, solid weight is slamming into me and he’s crushing his mouth against mine. The memories scatter—everything is made new.
There’s not so much as a strawberry in sight, and I don’t give a damn.