GilPlease, would you take a look at the fifth part of my short story, "Two women", and correct my mistakes:
I saw a solitary house on a hill, and its position seemed to be a perfect place for our command post. It overlooked the village and gave me the opportunity to keep my soldiers away from the villagers, because I wanted to prevent incidents at any price. We walked up a gravel path amid the overgrown lawn. It was a newly built, two-storey house with a grey facade - a beautiful building with flower boxes and flowers in full bloom on all the front windows. I knocked on the door gently and heard steps within. A plain woman in her thirties, dressed in black, opened the door. She looked at me with her sad, dark eyes while I told her why we were here. I wanted to appear calm and polite, aware that our presence could cause fear and anxiety. She moved out of the doorway and silently invited me inside.
“Are there any men in the house?” I asked her.
“No,” she answered. “Only my daughter and I.”
“Jelena!” she shouted and a young girl came down the stairs from the first floor. (It may be different where you are, but in the US the first floor is where the door to the outside would be. If the girl came down the stairs she had to come from the second floor, unless there were more floors above)
She was an ordinary girl with her mother’s dark eyes and long dark hair. I asked her how old she was, and she told me she was 16. By coincidence, I had a daughter of the same age, and immediately I felt warm feelings for Jelena. At least my daughter and wife were safe in our flat in the capital, while here everything was insecure. Nobody could foretell when and where this conflict would end and who would pay the ultimate price. I wanted to hug her and tell her that as long as I was here nobody was going to hurt them, but I was a soldier, an officer of the enemy army who was not supposed to make friends with the other side.
The mother told me that her husband died last year in a tragic accident at
thea building site in Germany, where he had been working infor the last 20 years. This was the reason for her wearing dark clothes. She was mourning her husband today, and she was going to mourn him for the rest of her life, because for these village women existedonly one man existed in their lives. They would never marry again, even if the most beautiful (Usually women are beautiful and men are handsome) men would appear on their doorsteps and ask for their hands. She told me that her name was Gordana, and when I heard it, my mind turned to the past for a moment. I had a schoolmate with the same name. She was only 13 when she had her first boyfriend, and we all admired her, thinking how exitedexciting it must be to be in love with someone and hold his hand. How naive and beautiful these times were compared to the hell of nowadays!
“My husband is dead, but at least he had a proper burial. I know where his body lies. I can put flowers on his grave and sit beside it, but think of those women whose men and children are lying all over the country in mass graves without names. Their sorrow must be unbearable,” Gordana said.
The women agreed without saying much to move to the first floor and let my two soldiers and me move to the ground floor. The other soldiers pitched their tents at the end of the orchard, under the trees sagging with fruit. Gordana showed me around her house, which was well-built and clean. Her husband did not spare his money to give his family a comfortable life. He was sweating blood and probably lived in squalor in Germany, but he knew that a few hundred kilometres away, there was a place where he would return and
werewhere his family eagerly awaited him. If he had been alive, he would have been happy to see his house still standing on its foundation s, which could not be said about hundreds of similar beautiful homes which had disappeared in flames, sometimes together with their owners.
I peeled off my sweaty, dusty uniform and took the first proper bath in days. I lay in the warm water, admiring the shiny taps, decorative tiles, washbasin pedestals and a mirrored
cabinedcabinet, and asking myself how much all that luxury must have cost the poor man and how much he had sacrificed to make his dream come true. At least he had created something beautiful and rewarding, unlike our nationalistic leaders who usually created chaos and hatred.
In the evening, Gordana made coffee for us all, even for my soldiers outside, which Jelena served in plastic cups together with cakes. Everyone became nostalgic, thinking of their homes and families they had left behind. Many of them could not remember when
therewas the last time whenthey drank homemade coffee with their wives and girlfriends. They had to buryburrow deep into their memories andto invoke those happy days when life seemed simple and untroubled.
After the signaller had erected his antenna, I was able to communicate my first report to the headquarters. I was so tired that I immediately went to bed. It felt surreal to sleep on the smooth snow-white sheet with the open widow and the scents of flowers floating inside.
To be continued.
- For Teachers