NP6 – A Wing and a Prayer, Chapter Six

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Chapter Summary: In the last chapter Elinor went into the bombed-out church building after the German air raid to try to find her mother.  She found Rosumund lying on the ground beneath the rubble, injured but alive, and made arrangements to get her home.  This chapter begins with Elinor writing a letter to her fiancé who is fighting in North Africa.

I was fairly pleased with the beginning of this chapter but the ending seemed to fall a bit flat.  I knew I wanted to include Pearl Harbor and the possibility of Derek being called up, but the way I have it now seems awkward.  Suggestions, anyone?

Also, I’m still on the lookout for a less cheesy novel title, so if any of you have any forties-inspired inspirations, I’d be most grateful to hear them.  =)

Oh, and one last thing…I just ran across the problem that many of you have already and which I wasn’t expecting to have.  Namely, what to do with cursing.  This is British cursing so I included it (it not being considered bad in America), but my apologies to anyone who might take offense to the word “bloody.”  =)

Chapter Six

and when I finally got to her she was so still, so white, with blood running down her face.  Until she spoke I truly thought that I had lost my mum.   I wanted you so much, Ethan…

The pen paused in its rapid flood of words, ashamed.  Elinor pushed back her chair and glanced around the little room that she shared with Polly.  There on the bed lay Polly’s well-loved toy bunny, spread contentedly over the worn quilt-top.   Chubby fingers and childhood fears had grasped that bunny so many times that his body had grown dumpy and his ears hung lopsidedly down around his loyal face.  Polly had long outgrown the comfort he gave, but she staunchly withstood her family’s every attempt to put her beloved plaything in a box in the attic.  Somehow the sight of the stuffed rabbit brought tears to Elinor’s eyes and she dropped her aching head into her hands.

Is that what I am doing?  Clinging to Ethan like a child clings to some toy…are You not enough for me?

Outside, the windowpane wept the tears that Elinor would not let herself cry.  They rolled down in long, glistening drops, twinkling with the light from the brass lamp on her desk.  The half-formed question reminded Elinor of something her mother had said at Dad’s funeral six years ago.

“Sometimes God takes love away from us so that we will learn to give that love into His hands.”

For a moment it felt as though the bottom dropped out of her heart and scattered its contents all over the faded rug. 

God, I’m afraid that I love him too much.  And I’m afraid that You’ll take him away from me.  I’m afraid…but I’m so ashamed to say it.

“Elinor!  Mummy wants to know…”  Elinor jumped as Polly paused breathlessly to throw open the chipped white door.  “Mummy wants to know if you’ve started supper yet?  ‘Cause Derek’s going to be home in just a few minutes, and – oh, what happened to my bunny?”  Polly went to the bed where the rabbit perched haphazardly on his side and tenderly cuddled him in her arms.

Swallowing hard, Elinor nodded.  “It’s in the oven.  Tell Mum I’ll be right down.”

Rabbit now dangling from her hand by one ear, Polly skipped out of the door.  Elinor turned back to the closely-written paper on the desk and stared at it for a moment longer.  And then she crushed in her hand and tossed into the wastebasket.

Tap-tap. “Are you awake, Mum?” Elinor asked softly, peeking through the bedroom door.

“Come in, Elinor; I wasn’t asleep.”

“Are you hungry?  Derek isn’t home just yet, but supper is hot now and I thought you might like me to sit with you while you eat.”

Rosamund smiled.  “That’s sweet of you, darling, but I’m really not hungry at all.”

“Can I get you anything, Mum – a book, some water, tea, anything?”

“Jack left my tea on the table, but it’s just beyond reach.  I feel so worthless, you know, just lying here.”

Unsure of what to say, Elinor said nothing and handed the cup to her mother in silence.

“The doctor said at least a month.  I’m sorry, Elinor,” said Rosamund.  “I know this makes things harder on you—”

“Mum, please…don’t worry about that.”  Elinor attempted a laugh and was more successful than she expected.  “It wasn’t as though you intended to get bombed.”  She switched on the table lamp against the growing darkness and turned to drop a kiss on Rosamund’s forehead.  “And even if you did…I’m just so happy that you’re going to be all right.”

“Then what is wrong?” Rosamund asked, watching her daughter’s face dim a little.

“I don’t know,” Elinor replied honestly, all traces of the laugh now gone.  “I suppose it was – is – hard for me.  But not because of any extra work.”  She paused and the silence spoke eloquently.  Too eloquently.  “I’m just…just not myself.”

The rain whispered softly for a few moments and the two women could hear Derek banging in the back door.

“I’ve got to go get supper on the table, Mum,” Elinor murmured.

It wasn’t until after the meal when the dishes were washed, the twins in bed, and the Brown Betty teapot steaming contentedly beside a stack of blotted schoolgirl papers that she finally sat down in the living room to mark last week’s compositions.  It was easier to occupy her thoughts with childish variations on the inspiring subject of “Faith and Hope” than to try to sort through her emotions just now.  There would be time enough for that when the rain and Polly’s gentle breathing kept her awake.  Time enough when she was alone in the dark and Derek could not see the questions roll down her face and soak into the pillow.

She glanced down at Derek, who sprawled comfortably on the rug by the fire with the morning’s newspaper, working through it backwards from the cartoons to the main reports as always.  He bolted upright suddenly, startling an unsightly blot from Elinor’s pen.

“Bloody Japs!”

Elinor looked at him, shocked at his outburst.  “You watch your language, Derek Poole.”

His eyes met hers over the top of the newspaper.  “They’ve gone and attacked the Yankees.  A place called Pearl Harbor, in Hawaii.  Elinor, there were families living there, women and children, and two thousand of their husbands and fathers were killed and they had no idea…they weren’t even a part of this bloody war—”

“Derek…”

“You do know what this means?”

“That the Americans are in the fight at last.”

“And that Churchill’s going to throw everything that he’s got into this now that he can count on support.”

There was something in her brother’s eyes that Elinor had never seen before, something stronger than fear, nobler than anger.  She gathered her finished papers and stacked them in a neat pile.  “What are you getting at, Derek?”

“There’ll be more call-ups soon.  And the draft is eighteen to twenty-five.”

Elinor did not trust herself to answer for a long moment.  He was only two months away from his eighteenth birthday, but he seemed so young…he was her baby brother.  She remembered holding him in her arms when he was just a wide-eyed bundle of soft blankets and tiny brown curls.  She remembered how excited she had been when he called her “Ellie” for the first time and how he and Ian used to…God, I can’t give him up, too.  You have already taken my dad and one brother.  Please don’t take Ethan and Derek from me as well…

“I suppose we just wait and trust, Derek,” whispered Elinor at last, wondering where her mother found the faith to carry her through every storm she had ever encountered.  “Whatever happens.”

~c. a.

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. mekame31 says:

    Alright…I have a new method today. I’m going to say the criticism first and the praise second. To end on a good note. We’ll see how this goes.

    Here’s how this chapter lays out in my mind. Your writing in this chapter is some of the best yet. The actual events aren’t my favorite. I’m going to use Twilight as an example here (no, your story is NOT in any way like Twilight). From excerpts and reviews I’ve read and, even more, from the trailers for the two movies (which constitutes my sole exposure) it seems largely the story of a girl who is obsessed with Edward and spends the better part of a large series wandering around saying “Oh, Edward. I can’t live without you.” and Edward saying “I can’t live without you either.” Mope, mope. They just pout around mauling over the same ideas over and over and over and over and…well, you get the idea. Now, I am *not* saying that you do this in your story, and I *am* saying that your story is highly preferable to Twilight. However, I am thinking that if you take the ideas from this chapter any further, Elinor is going to turn into a sort of moony, mopey “I miss Ethan. I shouldn’t, but I do. And I don’t know what to do with Derek. And I’m all sad.” Over and over, kind of like in Twilight. You definitely haven’t gotten there yet, but I can see the potential to if you are not careful. Just my thought for the chapter.

    But I mean, you could probably say that about my chapters as well. That Scott mopes around too much focused on one thing. I honestly don’t know. So maybe you should ignore that entire previous paragraph. *shrugs*

    On a more specific criticism, I have to note that when Polly said “What happened to my bunny?” And Elinor said (about the dinner) “It’s in the oven.” It sounded like she was saying that the bunny was in the oven. Which made me laugh and kind of broke the moment. Not a big deal; just sayin’.

    Now, for the good stuff. Great descriptions, especially of the rain (crying window), etc. You always have those great descriptive moments, of course. My other favorite aspect of this chapter was all the little details that brought it to life. The bunny, the chipped white door, the Brown Betty teapot, Derek reading the paper backwards, etc. They just got me all the more into the story and helped me visualize.

    Bringing in the historical details of Pearl Harbor is great as well. If you think the end is weak…well I thought it was fine but maybe what I said above would help.

    As you kind of said with my chapter six, this isn’t your best chapter but it is still great. It sounds like we were both having trouble with a dead spot here at the halfway point.

    And I think you solved the swearing predicament in a fine, non-offensive way. It is a tricky thing. There is a point in my next chapter in which I am tempted to just give up and bleep Scott. Literally. As in “oh, *bleep*”. We’ll see…hehe

    1. carreena says:

      I saw the word Twilight and just about had a heart attack. *pant pant* Ok, I’m good now. Yes, that definitely is something I’m struggling with in this novel. It seems to me like it came through a bit strong at the beginning and then almost dropped away completely for a couple of chapters and is now back strong to plague me again…argh. Can’t do with it, can’t do without it. =) I guess that in this chapter I didn’t know what to write so I took off on the fact that (if Elinor is at all like any girl I know) right after the adrenaline subsided from the air raid she would naturally fall into a sort of emotional slump. However…I also realize that can be depressing or single-minded…like I said…argh. That’s what comes of having a novel in which nothing happens…for the next like three chapters I don’t really have any specific direction for it to go.

      As to the bunny in the oven, I thought that sounded a little funny but (knowing exactly what I *meant* to say) couldn’t figure out what the problem was. I’ll go fix it..lol.

      Come to think of it, with the swearing…that might be kind of unrealistic. I mean, bloody is like…one of the worst things you can say in England (I think…you probably would know better than me) and if Derek doesn’t habitually swear it might make more sense for him to use a “lesser” swear word but then you’ve got the problem that “lesser” English swear words are “worser” swear words in America. Oh, well. And as for Scott…honestly, I think that would be a bit cheesy. Maybe you’ll be thunderstruck by some awesome answer to all your swearing problems (that sounds bad…you know what I mean) and you’ll put it in without really putting it in but you’ll do it in such a way it is way cooler than if you did put it in. Savvy? =)

      Thanks as always for all your help…I will try to apply your suggestions to my next three nothingness chapters…=)

      1. mekame31 says:

        I don’t think that “bloody” is *that* bad in England. Not one of the worst things you can say, anyway. Although I have not exactly spent a lot of time educating myself on multicultural profanity lol…

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