I didn’t want to say goodbye. I love him and the uncertain dangers ahead for him scare me. I have always suppressed my feelings for him and have learnt to hide my love. Now that the war has come to take him away, I don’t know how to show him I care.
Miranda’s thoughts were interrupted as Emily, her best friend, poked her in the arm with a knitting needle.
“Are you listening to me?” her friend queried.
Miranda and Emily were sitting under the big apple tree beside their childhood playhouse. Both young women were quietly reliving their days as children while knitting socks. The woollen socks were for Stephan, Emily’s brother.
“I said, remember when Steve never let us sit on the top branches?” Emily asked.
“Yes. He used to be so bossy about it!” Miranda laughed in reply.
Emily sighed. “He was, but I’d give anything to have him back.”
The day seemed long as Miranda fixed on her nightcap and got into bed. She stared at the wooden ceiling above and listened to the wind outside. She shivered and snuggled under her blankets.
“What are you doing right now, Stephan? Are you cold or warm? Laughing or crying? Do you miss me as I miss you?”
Miranda prayed a silent prayer to God, asking Him to keep Stephan safe. Her weary eyes drooped and she was soon left to dream.
Miranda was washing the breakfast dishes when Emily burst through the back door in tears.
“Why Emily!” Miranda exclaimed, drying her hands on her apron, “Whatever is the matter?”
Emily say down heavily in an armchair and sobbed. She held out a crumpled telegram. Miranda took it and opened it. Once finished reading, she looked at her friend with tears in her eyes.
Miranda pulled her friend to her feet and hugged her tight.
“Not knowing where he is right now is worse than knowing where he was headed.” Emily wailed. “And they aren’t going to even look for him. They know that if he chooses to come home, public humiliation will be all the punishment he needs for going missing!”
Missing? thought Miranda, How can he be missing? Where is he?
Miranda finished writing, put down her quill and reread the short note she’d written to her parents. Satisfied with the note, she propped it on the kitchen table. Miranda slipped into her jacket, picked up her bag and quietly moved out the back door. Silently, she tried to ready her horse, Fally.
“Shhh, Fally. It’s okay boy.”
Miranda jumped onto Fally and rode into the cool, dark night. The note Miranda had left for Emily was beside her parents’ note and she hoped her parents would give it to her. As Fally settled into a rhythmic canter, Miranda wondered whether leaving to find Stephan by herself had been a good idea. However, being the determined girl she was, Miranda did not turn back.
It was midday, two days after she’d left home, when she finally saw the soldiers’ camp where Stephan had last been. Women who weren’t nurses were forbidden to enter the camp. Thinking quickly, Miranda remembered her cousin at that camp. He had said to her that if she ever needed him, she could go to the outskirts of the camp at sunset when he came out every day to get water. Miranda would have to wait five hours for her cousin, but it was a wait she was willing to accept .
After tying Fally to a tree, Miranda snuck off to the camp’s entrance to meet her cousin. Upon seeing her, her cousin looked around then casually walked towards her. Then coming closer, he exclaimed “Miranda!” After greeting each other, Miranda told her cousin what she doing.
Finishing her explanation she added, “So, can you tell me where he went?”
Her cousin shook his head soberly. “Not really. All I can say to you is he headed south along the coast. I think he might have been heading back home.”
Thanking her cousin, Miranda made her way to Fally.
“Come on Fally. Let’s go find Stephan!”
Approaching her home town again, Miranda sighed sadly. She had searched everywhere she thought Stephan would be. He had never been the best at playing hide-and-seek, and Miranda had thought it would not have been that hard to find him. From the soldiers’ camp to home, she had looked in every cave and abandoned house she could find. Making her way to the local beach, she had a brainwave. The underwater cave that she used to play in with Emily and Stephan, had always been his favourite place. Excited she galloped another hour south. Once she arrived near the cave, she got off her horse, tied him up, and walked towards the cave. She jumped into the ocean and swam under water and into the cave. Popping her head up, she caught a mouthful of water. Coughing and spluttering, Miranda climbed onto the reef rock.
Alarmed, Miranda looked up. She saw a man in a very wet soldiers’ uniform.
The man stood up and walked over the rocks to her. Miranda smiled and hugged him tightly.
“What are you doing here?” Stephan asked in a husky whisper.
“Finding you.” Miranda replied. “I thought you might’ve been here!” With tears rolling down her cheeks she added, “We all thought we’d never see you again.”
Stephan sighed and let her go. “You can’t tell anyone you found me.”
“They’ll send me back. Truth is, I’m…” Stephan took a deep breath, “I’m terrified to leave for war.”
Miranda could hear the embarrassment and the fear in his voice. She didn’t know what to do. Stephan’s family would be so relieved to know how and where he was, yet, if Miranda told them, they would tell everyone.
“Well, what should I do?”
Stephan held her hands. “Stay with me.”
By Amariah Corowa