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We'll Meet Again

by Elissa Dawson 10 months ago in Historical · updated 10 months ago

Juliette discovers a forbidden part of her childhood

Photo by Matthew Henry from Burst

There was only one rule when Juliette visited her grandparent’s farm growing up... “Don’t go near the old barn!”

Juliette had grumbled and asked why on many occasions, but it was the one question she’d never received an answer to, her Grandpa Albert leaving the room and Grandma Edie humming instead and staring off into space.

Juliette had so many happy childhood memories of the place. The farmhouse itself was homely, scattered with cushions and filled with the scent of fresh bread. Outside, she could vividly recall running through fields, swinging from long ropes over streams and picking fresh apples from the orchid in a sunny haze.

The old barn though, was out of bounds, and being so made it irresistible. Juliette would climb the only tree that overlooked the barn with her binoculars and spend hours staking it out. Her imagination running wild, she pictured an inventor in there working on a spacecraft, a secret underground intelligence base, a famous criminal in hiding, all despite from the outside it appearing completely ordinary and abandoned.

And now here she was again, peering through the trees at the barn for the very last time, saying goodbye.

Her grandparents had lived a long, happy life at the farm, her Grandpa passing away only a few years ago and her Grandma living to the impressive age of 95. They’d hired a farm manager for years, but her Grandma had insisted on staying on in the farmhouse itself and could often be found out feeding the chickens at dawn. Looking back up at the house, Juliette couldn’t believe she’d gone.

The funeral was yesterday and Juliette had spent today packing her Grandma’s remaining possessions. As the only grandchild, everything had been left to her. She was just waiting for the van now. The door swung open and the best bit of Juliette’s inheritance bounded towards her, a red ball in his mouth. ‘Lucky’, a stunning golden Labrador, had been her Grandma’s last dog. He had a calm temperament and lived harmoniously with the farm animals, which made him a perfect companion for her Grandma in her later years.

‘Hey, good boy! Come here!’ Juliette called him, prising the ball from his mouth. She threw the ball up high, and Lucky ran to catch it. The game went on for a few minutes, until he ran off towards the old barn and didn’t return. Peering through the bushes, goose bumps prickled on Juliette’s skin as she spotted Lucky stood staring at the barn and growling.

‘What is it boy?’ Juliette called, picking her way through thorny branches, ‘It’s ok!’ she said, reaching him and stroking his ears. She took in the barn up close for the first time. The structure appeared unstable, with rotting timber and large sections of the roof missing. The barn windows had a magnetising effect, big black holes, drawing her gaze in. A sudden movement in the bushes made her jump and she held her breath until she realised it was just a young doe, staring back at her, with its right-front hoof held up awkwardly.

By Jordan Pulmano on Unsplash

‘Oh, are you hurt?’ Juliette hushed, slowly treading forwards. Lucky let out a yip and the doe turned and limped off at speed, disappearing into the barn.

Juliette followed.

Inside, the old barn was nothing like she’d imagined; in fact, it was completely ordinary. Cobwebs hung from every rafter and dusty bales of hay were stacked up against the walls. At one end of the barn, circular tables and chairs were laid out, some rotted and all coated in a thick layer of dust and straw. Abandoned glass bottles were dotted around and a long string of faded bunting weaved across the floor.

At the other end of the barn, where a lofty mezzanine cast shadows over an abandoned stage, she saw the doe’s eyes, sparkling marbles in the shadows. Juliette made her way gently over, shushing reassuringly as she went. Up close, she could see a sharp piece of plastic protruding from the doe’s hoof. The doe lay down, which gave Juliette the chance to swiftly reach down and remove it. The doe reared up, tested its legs and quickly scarpered away without a backwards glance.

A noise on the mezzanine above drew Juliette’s attention upwards. She spotted a tall ladder and after giving it a quick wobble to check its sturdiness, Juliette began to climb up. She reached the top, despite a couple of rungs feeling soft beneath her boots and sat down amongst the hay, taking in the vastness of the barn. From up here, she could sense the story in the scene below. It was a party of some sort, abandoned part-way through. Drinks scattered around, hastily discarded as the band started to play and the owner was dragged up to dance and a trestle table of plates at the back, untouched as everyone was too busy talking to eat. In the centre of the roof was a large hole, which married perfectly with a circle of wooden debris and a deep, dark hole in the floor below.

Juliette spotted a large grey owl stood sleeping in a nook. It was a magnificent sight that she’d never seen before outside of a zoo. She crawled forwards on her hands and knees to get a closer look when there was a large crack and Juliette was suddenly weightless. She realised the mezzanine had collapsed and she was falling quickly and inescapably to the floor below. Everything went black.

...

“Is she ok?”

“She fell pretty hard.”

Juliette’s eyes swam and her head buzzed, registering the voices around her. She blinked and tried to focus. She thought she must be dreaming, either that or she’d been out for a very long time. Above her, bunting and string lights came into focus and the distinctive hum of chatter and clink of glasses reverberated around her.

By Andrew Knechel on Unsplash

“What’s going on?” she mumbled.

“The dance?” smiled a middle-aged woman with kind eyes and beautiful curly hair, “Well it’s for our boys remember?” Juliette looked blank, so the woman continued, “They’re being shipped out tomorrow, so we’re having a gathering to send them on their way!” Her forehead creased at the lack of recognition from Juliette.

“Off to where?” Juliette asked.

“Egypt, I don’t know where exactly...” The woman looked at her, waiting for recognition.

Juliette took in the people milling around her. The women were reminiscent of Vera Lynn with their 1940s curls, red lips and drawn on stockings and the men were all dressed out in army uniform. “Oh, you’re one of those groups?” she smiled at the woman now, “You’re re-enacting the war?”

“Re-enacting?” The woman’s face fell now, “Oh if only, we’re very much still fighting it. You must have hit your head pretty hard? Let’s get you a drink.”

The woman gestured to a man standing nearby and they helped her up, while someone else pushed a cold glass of water into her hands. The woman took her arm gently and guided her over to a chair at the side of the room, “I’m Pearl by the way.”

“Juliette.”

“A pleasure to meet you Juliette, I guess you’re with the band?” Pearl continued, “Well you sit here until you’re feeling better. I’m sure they can manage a few songs without you.” Pearl smiled again and bustled off.

Juliette started as the band struck up on stage, the familiar brass intro to In the mood immediately bringing the room to life and couples everywhere to their feet. She gazed open-mouthed at the scene all around her, couples swinging each other around so gracefully, having the time of their lives. Somewhere over the rainbow played next and the couples moved closer together, heads resting on shoulders now as they swayed together.

Pearl reappeared at her side, “How are you feeling?”

“Much better, thank you. You’ve made it look really beautiful.” Juliette smiled up at her.

“Well lots of people helped,” she leaned in closer, “My daughter’s fiancé is one of the soldiers leaving tomorrow and she’s beside herself, so I had to do something.” She pointed at a young couple on the dance floor, “That’s her over there.”

Juliette felt her heart swell and then stop. It couldn’t be.

“Edie!” they said together.

“Oh you know her? Great! Then you probably know her fiancé Albert too?”

Juliette nodded, speechless.

“I just hope he comes home again in one piece.” Pearl said, pensively.

“He will!” Juliette interrupted, “He will come home and they’ll both live a full life and be so happy.”

“That’s kind of you to say. I hope you’re right!” Pearl started to speak again, but an air raid siren sounded outside and the lights began to flicker, then went off. The band stopped playing and men pulled huge black cloths down over the windows and closed the barn door.

“Damned drills!” Pearl muttered angrily, “They’ve had us doing them every day over the past few weeks. They think Hitler is planning to attack Britain! Nonsense!”

“But he does... I, I mean he will! We should move to a bunker.”

“It’ll be another drill!” Pearl tried to reassure her, “The all clear siren will sound in a minute.”

Staring up at the ceiling where the hole used to be, realisation hit Juliette, “No!” she cried, more forcibly now, “We have to get out! Please, trust me.”

Pearl stared at her face for a moment and then said, reluctantly, “Ok” and they both went from table to table, asking people to head home. Slowly, the crowd began to leave.

“Where are you all going?” cried a familiar voice from the centre of the room.

Juliette turned to see her Grandma Edie, a vibrant young woman, standing on a box in the middle of the dance floor, trying to coerce everyone to stay. Edie began singing, her beautiful voice carrying across the room.

“We’ll meet again... don’t know where... don’t know when....” People around the barn began to stop and join in with her. Powerful and moving in the darkness, Juliette paused for a moment and let the singing wash over her.

Then she heard the faint hum of an aeroplane.

Juliette hurried over and pleadingly, looked up at her Grandma’s young face.

“Edie!” she cried.

“Do I know you?” Edie peered down, puzzled.

“No... but I know you, and you need to leave here right now, for your safety, for the sake of your future children, your grandchild...” Juliette trailed off.

“Come on darling, there’ll be other dances!” came a male voice from behind her. Juliette turned to see a handsome, young Albert sweep Edie off her feet and carry her off to the barn door.

Juliette watched them go, smiling.

“What’s your name?” Edie cried, twisting her head back round.

“Juliette.” Their eyes locked for a second until a crack above her head made Juliette sweep her gaze upwards and everything went black again.

...

When Juliette came around, she was lying on the barn floor, next to the big hole. She shook her head, a sad smile playing on her face. How wonderful to have seen her grandparents one last time if only in a vivid dream.

She dusted herself off and turned to leave, but as she did so something caught her eye at the bottom of the hole. She knelt down and as her eyes adjusted, her mouth fell open.

There, at the bottom of the hole was a poppy wreath, with a wooden cross at the centre. On the cross was written one word.

Juliette’.

Historical

About the author

Elissa Dawson

UK based writer and avid reader who aspires to create work that is both beautiful and meaningful.

Sustainability advocate and green ally.

I am working on a children’s novel.

Find me on Twitter: @WriterElissa

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