Read Beyond the Shadow of War Online

Authors: Diane Moody

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Historical, #Romance, #20th Century, #Historical Fiction

Beyond the Shadow of War

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Copyright © 2015 Diane Moody

All rights reserved.

 

Published by

 

Cover design by Hannah Moody

Big Ben image | © Peter Zelei | iStockphoto.com

Statue of Liberty image | © kevinjeon00 | iStockphoto.com

Baseball and Glove | © eurobanks | iStockphoto.com

Old Steamship in Ocean | © kevinruss | iStockphoto.com

Christmas Candle| © my84 | iStockphoto.com

 

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®.

Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Though this is a work of fiction, many of the stories and anecdotes included were inspired by actual events that happened in the life of the author’s father. Some names used in this book are those of real people; however any dialogue or activity presented is purely fictional.

 

*Book Club discussion questions are included at the end of the novel.

 

In loving memory of

Joan Van Spyker

 

On a personal note

 

In early 2014, I received an email from a reader in England who’d just finished
Of Windmills & War
. Lydia Kindred Kirk told me that her grandfather, Percy Kindred, was the young farmer whose land was requisitioned by the government to build an airfield in the early days of WWII. That airfield became home to the 390th Bomb Group
‌—‌
the same base where my father was stationed in 1944-1945, and the same base where my fictionalized “Danny” was stationed. What were the chances?

 

But it gets even better. Lydia and her family
still live
on that farm land. Out her windows, she can see the control tower which now houses a museum dedicated to the 390th. Included in her note was an invitation to come for a visit and be guests in her home.

 

I got goose bumps the first time I read her email. I couldn’t wait to call Dad, and as you can imagine, he was thrilled. We immediately accepted Lydia’s invitation and started making plans to visit at the end of August that year. Lydia put together a full schedule of activities for us, and we could hardly wait to get there.

 

Writing
Of Windmills & War
was truly a labor of love for me on so many levels. But never did I dream it would one day lead us back to the base where Dad served 70 years ago, to visit the family whose land played such an important role in that war. It is indeed a small, small world.

 

Ours was truly the trip of a lifetime and such a joy to meet Lydia, her husband Steve, and their three children – Fliss, Tommy, and Betsy. They had decorated their home both inside and out with American flags and an enormous welcome banner in the kitchen, making us feel right at home as soon as we arrived. We spent a good deal of time at the Parham Airfield Museum located in the historic control tower. It’s a fascinating museum, and the passion of the docents who volunteer their time is contagious from the moment you enter.

 

There we met Lydia’s parents, Peter and Kath Kindred, who manage the running of the museum. Peter is a walking, talking historian who loves sharing his knowledge about the 390th and those who served there.

 

By the time we left England, I could envision Danny and Anya walking hand in hand down tree-covered lanes in Framlingham. I imagined them visiting London in the aftermath of war. I wondered about the challenges they would face as they put the war years behind them, and what their future might look like. They had more stories to tell, from both sides of the Atlantic. As the months of research ensued, I badgered Lydia and her father with pages of questions and found them both to be a tremendous source of help and inspiration. I couldn’t have written this sequel without them.

 

I’m so thankful that Lydia read my book and took the time to write to me, forever bonding our families together.

 

If you’re interested, to see photographs and learn more about our trip to England, visit my blog posts
HERE
.

 

Diane Moody

December 2015

 

The Kirk Family

Back row: Lydia, Fliss, and Steve.

Front row
:
Jocelyn, Tommy, and Betsy

 

 

 

 

 

In this world you will have trouble.

But take heart! I have overcome the world.

 

John 16:33 (NIV)

 

 

 

 

 

Diane Moody

 

 

Part I

1

 

8 June 1945 

Framlingham, Suffolk, England

A shiver skittered down Anya’s spine; a shadow of foreboding trailing in its wake. She cried out, but no sound emanated from her lips. She tried again. Nothing. She was lying down but had no idea where she was or how she got there.

A repulsive odor began a slow assault in her nostrils. Familiar, but she couldn’t place it. She tried to cover her nose, startled to find her hands bound behind and beneath her. A surge of panic raced through her.

As her eyes grew more accustomed to the dark, she turned her head, daring to glance behind her, only to find her hands not bound by rope, but clasped tight in the bony grip of skeletal fingers. Beneath her, a pile of rotting corpses with glowing eyes all fixed on her. She cried out again and again, her efforts useless in the cavernous grave.

Oh God … save me! Please save me!

“Anya?”

Yes God, I’m here! I hear You!

“Anya, wake up, love.”

The groans of the dead grew louder as they pushed her up, up, up, until she could finally break free‌—‌

“Anya!”

She slapped at the hand patting her cheek. “Let me go! Let me go!”

“ANYA! Wake up. It’s just a dream.”

Her eyes flew open, her heart pounding against her chest as she gasped for air.

“Anya, it’s me‌—‌Sophie. See? Look at my face. You’re safe. You’re here in Framlingham, in our home, and you’re safe. See?”

She blinked as Sophie’s face came into view, warm in the soft glow of the lamp light.

“But I‌—‌”

“Shhh, you had another nightmare. That’s all. Here, let me help you sit up so you can see where you are. Today is your wedding day, Anya. Remember? No time for nightmares.”

“But they were everywhere‌—‌corpses. So many corpses! And their eyes were like fire, and the smell was‌—‌”

“Shhh, look around you.” Sophie stuffed a pillow behind Anya. “You’re safe and sound. You’re here in Framlingham, in England. Danny brought you here, remember? You’ve just had another bad dream. That’s all.”

As the remnants of the images faded away, Anya forced herself to focus on everything around her. The bedroom above Quincy’s Pub. The framed photographs on the mantel of the small fireplace. The lavender sachet leaning against the lamp on the bedside table. Her hand trembled as she reached for it, then pressed it against her nose, allowing the familiar soothing scent to replace the last trace of death’s stench.

And Sophie. Dear Sophie. The kind English girl who’d recently married Charlie Janssen, Danny’s pilot and friend. Sophie and Charlie lived here too, in this home above her father’s pub. Sophie, who’d welcomed her like a long-lost sister, and in the span of a few days, became her friend. Seated now on the bed beside her, the calming warmth of Sophie’s hand over hers comforted her.

“I’m just … I’m so sorry.”

Sophie shook her head. “There’s nothing for you to be sorry about.”

“But I’m a guest in your home, not a stupid crybaby‌—‌” A silent sob caught in her throat.

“Anya, no one thinks you’re a crybaby, least of all me. What you’ve been through … it’s too much. It will take time to recover; to be healed of all the painful memories. It’s still too fresh. But I know someday the scars in your heart will start to heal‌—‌”

“But that’s just it. I’m so afraid they
will
heal and I’ll forget them. My family, my friends, the other Resistance workers. I’m scared I’ll forget all of them.”

Sophie pressed a handkerchief in Anya’s hand. “No, you won’t. You will never forget them. But time has a way of taking away the stinging pain that accompanies those memories. That’s all. Your family and friends will live in your heart forever. I promise.”

Anya wiped her eyes then folded and refolded the hankie. “I think it was a mistake to leave my home. I think it’s a mistake to marry Danny when‌—‌”

“No, it’s not a mistake. He
loves
you, Anya. Before he went back for you in Holland, he was like a caged animal, so anxious to find you and take care of you. I may never know everything that happened to you during the war, but of this I’m sure‌—‌you and Danny belong together.” She smiled as she squeezed Anya’s hand. “Which is a good thing, since today is your wedding day.”

Anya’s heart skipped a beat. Just hearing the words sent another shiver down her spine. She took a shaky breath and tried so hard to compose herself.

My wedding day?

It was no use. She dropped her head in her hands and groaned. “Sophie, I can’t. I can’t do this.”

“You can, and you will. And we shall have the most fun, you and I, getting you all dressed and ready. You’ll see. I’ll go make us a pot of tea. You stay here, and I’ll be right back.”

“You don’t have to. Really.”

“Nonsense. Might as well make the most of it while the house is still quiet. Charlie won’t be up for another hour, and Da‌—‌well, Da could sleep through the Blitz. So we’ll have it all to ourselves.”

It still felt strange having someone like Sophie watching over her. After all, they’d only just met when Danny introduced them after her trip across the Channel. The same day she’d left her home in Holland on a ferry. The same day Danny picked her up at the dock.

She still couldn’t quite comprehend all that had transpired.

Moments before he showed up at her abandoned home in Utrecht, she’d been curled up on the dirty floor of her bedroom. She’d lost everyone. Everyone she’d ever loved was dead. The war had ended, but she was too exhausted to celebrate. Too defeated. So she’d begged God to just take her then and there.

So foolish, to expect anything from the same God who’d remained so silent during the long years of war. How many times had she cried out to Him? How many times had she shaken her fist in His face, furious at His neglect? And how many times had she asked Him for a sign?

Anya closed her eyes, remembering the moment.

Still lying there on the floor of her room, with her view skewed at such an awkward angle, she’d noticed something. There, over in the corner ... something. What was it? Silent hiccups had quaked her body as she tried to sit up. She crawled across the floor, trying to see the tiny object barely visible in the late-afternoon shadows. She reached out and grasped it, bringing it into the light. And as she opened her palm, what she saw took her breath away.

There in her hand, with half a wing missing and a splintered snout, lay the winged piglet her brother Hans had carved for her so many years ago.

“When pigs fly,” she’d whispered, cherishing the memory and missing him so much.

Footsteps had sounded behind her, someone coming down the hall. She dropped the pig in her pocket and dashed away her tears, not wanting Helga to find her blubbering like some helpless child. Clumsily she’d stood and turned to find her mother’s friend standing in the doorway, the woman’s gnarled hands over her mouth and the strangest expression on her face.

“Helga, what is it?”

“Anya, there’s someone here to see you, dear,” she’d said before moving aside.

And there, in full dress uniform with his cap in his hands, Danny McClain had stepped into the room.

“Now, that’s more like it,” Sophie said, returning with a tray and tea service. She set it on the bedside table.

Anya blinked at the interruption. “What do you mean?”

“You’re smiling. That’s progress if you ask me.” She poured a cup of tea and handed it to Anya, then pulled up a chair beside the bed. “Now tell me. What were you thinking?”

“I was remembering when Danny showed up at my house last month. I still can’t believe he found me.”

Sophie took a sip and set her cup back on its saucer. “Ah well, of course you’d be smiling about that. It’s such a sweet love story. One you’ll tell your children for years to come.”

Anya couldn’t help smiling. “Not anytime soon, I hope.”

“Perhaps not for a while yet. I trust you’re keeping that little carved pig somewhere safe?”

“Yes. I keep thinking …” Anya stared into her tea, struggling to find the words.

“What is it?”

“It’s just that I keep thinking how pleased Hans would have been to know that Danny came back for me. That I wasn’t alone after all.”

Sophie smiled. “I’m sure he knows. At least, I like to think those in heaven know about the good things that happen in our lives.”

“It’s so ridiculous, of course, that Danny and I ever became friends.”

“Hardly. It’s so obvious the two of you were meant to be. Your brother died, and yet in the midst of your grief, you wrote to tell his pen pal far away in America. Then he answered your letter, then you replied to his letter … shall I go on?”

Anya smiled. “If you’d known me then, you’d know how unlikely it was for me to write to anyone, let alone my brother’s pen pal.” She shook her head, remembering all the letters they’d exchanged. “I’m not sure why I kept writing back to him.”

“Destiny? It was certainly ordained,” Sophie teased. “I keep telling you, Anya. You and Danny were meant to be.”

She took a deep breath then slowly released it. “If I could only convince my heart that what you say is true. I’m not good at such things, trying to figure out emotions. Perhaps I never will be. And then what? Suppose I marry Danny and go to America and realize it was all a mistake? Suppose he tires of me once we’re there?”

“Anya, stop.” Sophie set her cup aside and leaned forward. “Every bride is nervous. It’s the most natural thing in the world. We all try to second-guess ourselves, wondering if we’re doing the right thing. So don’t let all these questions worry you. You only have to think back and see how the two of you found each other in the first place‌—‌in the midst of a
war
, no less. That’s no coincidence. That’s no chance meeting. I have to believe with all my heart that God brought the two of you together for a purpose. How else could you explain it?”

“I want to believe that,” she whispered. “I do.”

“Then believe it. And today of all days, grant yourself the freedom and the joy of believing it with all your heart. Can you do that?”

Anya held her breath for a second. Then, “Yes. Yes, I think I can.”

“Wonderful. Now, finish your tea. We’ve got to get you ready for your wedding!”

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