The following piece was presented at the Jersey City Writers’ monthly genre event–Rendezvous: A Literary Celebration of Historical Romance. Please enjoy.
If you get this letter, know one thing: I miss you desperately. These days away from you – this train that carries me away – is a hell with no escape. But I think of you and I’m saved, if just for a moment.
I remember the day we first met. It was at La Coupole. You were new, and you spilled my beer all over my lap. But I barely noticed. When our eyes locked, I understood this one thing: I had never truly known love before. From that moment you were my universe. How I miss those summer days running wild along the sunset streets of Montparnasse. Do you remember that Saturday at the cinema? Your broken heel? My stolen hat? And the way you laughed, so drunkenly happy, always, and I was happy too.
I close my eyes and I am not locked in this train. Instead I’m lying with you in the cool grass of Parc Monceau, reading you Tintin until you tickle me into submission, sipping brandy and smoking Gauloises, the sky above always blue, always ours. When the Germans made me wear that yellow star you flashed your crooked smile and called me your sheriff. You swore to me the madness of this world would never sweep us up, that we would be together, forever. But forever has gone, my beautiful Isabelle, and left us behind.
The wheels of this train grind on, and my heart breaks as it takes me further from you. But in my mind it is still that last night. The air was steaming. Our clothes, they were soaked with sweat. We climbed the gate and sneaked into the Molitor pool. Once we’d stripped beneath the bare moon I’d never felt so exposed – or so safe. The water shimmered on your naked shoulders, your breath warm against my skin. I can still feel your kisses and caresses, the swell and curve of your breasts, the rise and fall of your hips, our bodies united for the first time. Isabelle – I felt so whole. Until you I was never truly alive.
But I was such a fool. If I’d only left earlier and hadn’t ignored the curfew. When we said our goodbyes I ran home as fast as I could, but they caught me. And now I’m packed like an animal in this train. I cannot lie: my hope grows dim. I fear the rumors of what awaits me in the east are true. Yesterday we stopped for an hour. Strangers—brave, kind people—slipped us apple slices and chunks of bread through the cracks of the door. If we stop again I will pass this letter through and pray to whatever God remains that it will reach your hands.
My beautiful Isabelle, if you get this letter – if you truly love me as I do you – promise me one thing: run! Run from the hounds of war before they devour you as well. Run and never look back. Build a new life for yourself, one that is safe and warm. And when you are old and on your deathbed surrounded by your grandchildren, think of me, your Leo, the boy taken from you too soon, the boy who never stopped loving you until his last breath.