Stear came back from the war, alive...
On one beautiful summer morning, the sun smiled brightly and birds were singing, chipping happily. Such a beautiful day outside. What a sharp contrast to what's inside one prisoner of war's dark, cold, gloomy cell. The prisoner inside looked at the glance of the beaming ray of sun light that came trough one tiny hole on his cell's wall. Day after day, the same routine with almost nothing but self reflection. No more energy to sigh, or to hope, just a self reflection and past beautiful memories that kept him going, especially the memory of the woman he loved. Suddenly he heard his name being called, "Alistair Cornwall."
He replied, "Yes." Felt rather strange that someone called his name that formally. It's been years no one talked to him like that.
Somebody opened the containment cell, gave him a respected salute and took him and other prisoners like him to go outside. They needed to cover their eyes from the bright sun light momentarily adjusting to the outside brightness in contrast with their dark cells'. They stood up in lines and one army general made a speech. He treated them with much respect. The general said the war was over. The enemies were defeated, they were the UK allies and would bring them home. Some shouted with joy, some sighed in relief, some, including himself, was quiet. Something finally changed after the same day by day routine everyday for five or perhaps more years. After his plane was shot down, he was captured, tortured, and put in a solitary cell. They had tried to take as much information as possible from him which he really didn't have. He was just an entry level soldier back then who wanted to defend peace for the woman he loved. One thing he guarded for sure until the end was his real identity: Someone with connection the famous Ardlay family. He feared the information would endanger the whole entire family. Now, again, they asked about his family so they could take him home. He still said like what he had been saying for years, he had no one, he's alone in the world. He'd walk home by himself and refused anyone to take him home.
Months later, he's back in Chicago. Really had no where else to go, he went back to Lakewood. He knocked at the door. The servant was still the same old John. He seemed to recognize him since he stared for a while trying to be respectful but to satisfy his curiosity at the same time.
"John, I am Stear," Stear said finally introducing himself.
"Master Stear, is it indeed you?" he asked.
Stear only nodded as the reply.
For the moment John forgot all the protocol. He stood with eyes wide open. "You are alive?" he said almost dropped to death with shock. He ran to hug him before finally regaining his composure.
Stear asked,"Where are others? Archie? Grandma Elroy? Neal?"
He told him that Archie was in Chicago now for the weekdays, working. Neal was out of town. The Legans lived out of town often. John let him in still couldn't believe what's happening and took him to his room.
"Who still live here?" Stear asked.
"Sir William and his family and Madame Elroy."
Sir William, he thought without paying much attention to him. He heard about him a lot but never met him. Somehow he didn't think he would ever meet him. He went upstairs to his room. He looked at his room which was still the same as though got frozen in time. Everything was intact just like the last time when he left it.
"Madame Elroy was very devastated when they told her that you probably died. In her bereavement, she instructed us to never touch this room. She never gave up the hope for you to come back one day." *
Stear smiled to himself. Grandma Elroy with all the strictness she had, her love to the grandchildren was steadfast. As far as he remembered, it's her who took care of him and Archie since they were very little.
Stear dismissed him and decided to walk around Lakewood by himself.
The first place he visited was his little garage where he used to make his inventions. He entered and found all still intact untouched. Suddenly he felt very emotional remembering the past. He couldn't believe that he could ever come back. He almost broke down and cried when he heard a familiar voice at the door.
"Stear? I knew I could find you here!"
He turned around and saw Albert. "Albert?"
Both men hugged with hearty smiles. Stear wondered how Albert could be here, but since he was too occupied by his emotions he forgot to ask him. After exchanging greetings, Albert took him for a walk. Both were exchanging stories.
"Look, they 'buried' you there." He took him to visit his grave. "We thought you died, aunt Elroy was very devastated, all of us were."
After a while Stear couldn't help to ask how come he knew all this and called her "Aunt Elroy".
"I am that so called uncle William, strange eh?" he said with a smile. He told him his story, the amnesia and so on. It was a surprise to Stear.
"Come let me bring you to meet aunt Elroy," said Albert.
He asked Stear to wait behind the bush while he made a slow introduction to the aunt. She's in a good health but still one needed to be more careful not to surprise her too much considering her age. She was playing happily with two toddler boys. She looked very different from the strict woman she used to be in the past. She smiled, laughed a lot and looked very happy. Now that Sir William was all grown up and successfully became the head of the family, she felt much relaxed. Of course, she looked older too. Next to her was a beautiful woman with a gentle and kind face. Albert approached her, gave her a kiss and went to aunt Elroy.
"They look like Stear and Archie in past, don't they?" he said pointing to the boys.
Aunt Elroy's face suddenly became dark remembering the dark memory of the past. She didn't reply. She ignored him and continued playing with the kids.
Albert sat next to her and said, "I wonder, what if Stear came back home one day."
Aunt Elroy now was quite irritated by her nephew who non stopped reminding her of that haunted memory. She said, "Silence William. Don't you see that I am busy with these toddlers?"
"Will you be happier if Stear really were here right now at this moment?" he said really gently to the old woman.
"What do you mean?" she started to take what he said seriously.
"What if he really weren't dead? They never found his body."
"Stop playing with me, William. Why you suddenly talk about him? Did you hear anything about him?"
"As a matter of fact, I do."
Aunt Elroy looked at him clearly moved, "What did you hear? Tell me."
"He's here right now," said Albert looking at her eyes and held her hands firmly.
She couldn't help to gasp.
Albert called Stear and gave a sign to the servants to take the two young toddlers away. As soon as she saw him, she tried to stand up to hug him. But somehow she felt her legs too weak to support her. She could only looked at him silently with tears rolling down her cheeks. Stear walked slowly to her, knelled down in front of her and hugged her.
"Grandma Elroy, I am Stear. I am back."
She observed him, touched his cheeks to make sure it's real and hugged him tightly
"Stear, I always knew that you'd come back," she said in tears.
Albert watched their emotional greetings in silence very touched by the scene. The woman stood next to her started to cry, although she didn't know Stear, the scene was too touching to see. Albert put his arm surrounds her. He later introduced Stear to her. She was his wife. From his face, it's clearly shown how much he adored her. The toddlers were their sons and they're expecting a new baby in a few months.
That night he also met Archie. The two hugged emotionally. He also met Annie, and Candy. When he saw Candy, he said to himself how his prediction was correct. She indeed grew to be a beautiful woman just like what he, Archie, and Anthony used to believe. Candy told him that she's engaged now to Neal much to his disbelief. How come that guy could beat so many contenders, he thought. "What about Terry?" he asked. She told him the story about Terry and Suzanna.
"Is this one of his many intrigues?" Stear couldn't believe it. It sounded too surreal.
Candy laughed and said, "You're almost correct!"
Candy told him the story of the infamous engagement party which was annulled by Albert. He listened in disgust and suspicion. But she assured him this one was real. After that incident, he went to really join the army and then went to New York to study. He wrote her many letters which she gradually replied. During the holiday he always came to visit. Slowly but surely, she started to know him better. After a while she fell for him. He's in New York now, working.
"He proposed to me a few months ago," said Candy proudly showing him her engagement ring. "Now you are back, you have to come to our wedding!" Stear nodded with a smile, promised her he'd go.
That weekend Stear met Neal who especially came from NY to see him. He gave him a respectful soldier to soldier salute before hugging him.
"I am like a toy soldier compared to you, Stear," he said with a happy smile.
"How come now I am the shortest in the family?" Stear hugged him with a laugh. "Look how tall you and Archie are now."
Many times, instinctively he still tried to stand in front of Candy when Neal came to approach her. In his head, he still remembered him as that obnoxious boy who liked to tease her. It's hard to believe that they are now engaged. Indeed the flame looked real from the way they held hands and stole kisses secretly to one another every once in a while while no one was looking.
And of course the dearest Patty. She had heard about Stear from Candy.
Stear came to visit her in her dorm in University of Chicago. He stood momentarily at the door before knocking. His heart stopped beating for a while anticipating meeting the person who'd to open the door. The person who gave him hope to survive day by day in that cell. The door opened and he finally met Patty. Both just stared at one another. Their hearts were full of emotions, too full in fact until they didn't know how to express it. Patty reacted first, she jumped to hug him.
"Stear I always know that you're alive!" she said repeatedly between tears. Tears started to flow from his eyes too. This was the woman that he had in mind every single moment while in the confinement cell. Now he could really hugged her in his arms. They took of both their glasses that became wet because of tears. They hugged and exchanging their stories. Both were happy that they could be in each other's arms.
It's been a few months now since Stear came back to Lakewood.
Patty visited him in Lakewood often, likewise he visited her often too. They enjoyed each other's company as before but somehow Patty noticed that only part of Stear was back. Part of his was out somewhere unreachable and unseen. He didn't invent much. He went to his garage often, but he just sat there. He often sat on the lake shore for a long time looking at the horizon and his mind was somewhere far away. She wanted to reach out to him and had tried a couple of times but failed. All she got was silenced. He still had his friendly smile to her but the stare seemed hollow, it passed her eyes seeing somewhere far away. He seemed to still enjoy her company since he never said otherwise and still came to visit her often.
On his birthday, he told anyone that he refused to have a party. Patty's heart felt heavy seeing his solitary attitude. Decidedly she tried to reach out to him, again. She came and invited him to come to her apartment for a little birthday celebration.
"Thanks Patty, but I'd rather be alone tonight," he said quietly without looking at her.
The reply was such a blow to her heart. What happened to the past outgoing Stear? The laughter, jokes, spirit, invention, motivation all seemed buried in this ice cold man. She didn't think he's happy that's what bothered her. It's regrettable that a sunshine in him was replaced by a frigid winter. She really wished she could bring his motivation back in life but she didn't know how. Finally she encouraged herself to give one more try.
"I waited for you to return for years, Stear. I don't mind to wait longer. I love you Stear. I will wait for you to come back as long as I live. I will prepare you a birthday dinner tonight regardless you come or not. Because that's what I have done every year because I always knew you were there somewhere. And one day, you'll come back."
She left and cried silently. When the distance was far enough for him not to see nor to hear her, she took off her glasses which got blurry by her warm tears and sobbed hard. Her heart was torn to pieces feeling sad for the depressed Stear.
Stear looked at her from the far. Her gentle words had an effect that was louder than a thunder. It's true, he had not returned. Although physically he might be there, but his mind was somewhere else. Part of him was forever trapped in that cell. Ever since he came back he noticed things changed so much that he didn't know where he could fit anymore. Even the little world of Lakewood was very different. Albert was Sir William? Candy got engaged to Neal? Not to mention the larger society, the world surrounds him. While his mind was still frozen in the event that happened five years ago, everything around him raced to differ. The dark days in the solitary confinement was still vivid in his mind trapping him and made him refuse to change. Among all this, he realized that there was only one thing that was still the same, the love of the woman that kept him going in that cell. The one whom he vowed to protect but now he seemed to ruin her more than to protect her. He felt awful. Something needed to change. If the world couldn't change for me, then I'd be the one who'd to change and adjust, he said to himself. With determination he decided to break the chain of the painful memory that had been trapping him. It'd start with a small step, the step to tonight's dinner.
That night, Patty was sitting alone in the dining table with wet eyes thinking about Stear. She didn't give up hopes that he'd come and knock at the door. Every second that passed brought one more tear drop to her cold cheek. Finally, she heard the knock at the door she had been hoping for. Before even giving the person time to knock twice, she dashed to open the door. It's really Stear, she hugged him and said, "Thanks for coming. Happy birthday," very emotionally. He could only hug her tight and whisper, "Thanks. I love you."
Throughout dinner, although both tried to be courteous to one another, it's obvious there's some icy silence between them. After dinner, she cleaned up the dishes, washed the dishes and Stear helped to dry them. After all finished, she suddenly felt him hugging her from behind. He put his arms around her waist.
"Patty, I am sorry that I didn't follow your expectation."
Patty was very surprised, the tension was too much for her to bear. Tears started to flow again.
"I hadn't been good to you since I came back," he said.
Patty replied with a broken voice, "No, you are good to me."
"No, I am not. Patty, part of me hadn't come back. It was still living in that cell. I was forever chained and trapped in that cell until this afternoon when you came to set me free. I thank you for forever standing by my side, for having a faith in me. You helped me to see the point of moving on. I want to go back to college. Would you allow me to walk to school with you every day?"
"Yes, of course," she said still with her back facing him and tears flowing.
" Would you allow me to study together with you?"
" Would you allow me to walk home together with you?"
Patty turned around and said, "I can't wait to those with you. I love you, Stear."
Both hugged each other very happy to have one another.
From then on, Stear gave his best to leave the past behind. He studied engineer the field that he loved the most. He studied hard to make his mind busy and occupied to forget the bitter past. He also stayed in the dorm like Patty. In the morning, hand in hand they walked together to the cafeteria to have breakfast. Then, they gave each other a good bye kiss before going to their classes. They met again for lunch. They studied together, had dinner together... At night they again gave each other a good bye kiss before going back to their dorm rooms. After a while, he started to forget the past and embrace the new beginning. He started to invent more and more sophisticated machines from what he learned in class. Everyone was all excited to see his new inventions. Especially it's such a delight to see his motivation and cheerfulness back. His toddler nephews couldn't feel more excited to see or try his new inventions whenever he came to visit them in Lakewood. Needless to say, he's their most favorite uncle. It was awesome to have uncle Stear around. He's much more likable than uncle Archie who always told them to keep away from him so not to make his shirt dirty or uncle Neal who always teased them. In fact they were quite afraid of this latter uncle. Once he teased them badly until they were very scared and ran to Albert to cry. Albert could only shake his head.
On one clear summer night, Stear took Patty to see the firework he just invented. It was lovely, Patty couldn't help to non stop shouting and clapping her hands to see the beautiful lights that came from it. Some had loud noises too and with full of laughter she closed her ears.
"Now try this," Stear said and took a new set of fireworks. "Tell me what you saw." He lit the firework, and after some hissing and noises she saw beautiful letters coming.
"M, wasn't it? Wow you could make an alphabet!" she was very excited.
"A," said Patty still clapping her hand really excited and felt so happy. "Marvelous, Stear!"
"R…Y�," and she was silent. The firework was still sparkling showing the last two new letters.
"What's the rest?" he said tenderly.
She was quiet."M, E," she replied finally.
"Marry me," he said reading the words out lout. He knelled down and said, "Will you marry me? Patty, you bring me life. When I was young you were my play friend, in the cell, you were my hope, now you give me new life. You are everything to me. I love you, Patty." He took out a box of ring from his pocket.
Patty buried her face in her hands disregarding how dirty her glasses became. She nodded. Stear pulled her hands gently, took off her glasses and kissed her� Both hugged and kissed happily anticipating the bright future that waited for them ahead.
Both lived happily ever after. Both continued their life in the academia world, becoming professors in the early years of University of Chicago.
* This idea is taken from a real story of a French Soldier Hubert Rochereau who was killed in World War 1. His parents kept his room intact afterwards :(
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