Valentine Joe by Rebecca Stevens

Valentine Joe by Rebecca Stevens

Valentine Joe

Have you ever stopped reading a book and it took you a minute or two to realise that you’re actually at home and not living between the pages? That’s exactly what Valentine Joe did for me.

I opened the book, and a few chapters in, I was thinking, ‘Really?’ The idea of it seemed absurd and downright weird to be honest. But as I continued reading, I fell in love with the book.

The whole reading process only took about two hours in total, so if you don’t think you have enough time, RE-THINK. YOU DO.

Now that that is over, maybe I can tell you why you should read it.

Ever wondered about those young men in the trenches? The ones who had who had lost their friends? The ones who had no desire to go home?

Valentine Joe was one of those.

A real boy, who died at age 15. His grave can be found at Essex Farm in Ypres. Stevens takes Joe’s name on a grave and turns it into a real-life, heart-felt story.

Rose, aged only fourteen, lost her dad a year ago. She goes to Ypres with her Grandad, who wants to pay his respects to his Uncle George. She visits the graveyard, and the name of one boy stands with her: Valentine Joe. That night, Rose hears marching, and when she looks out of her window, she sees a young soldier…

In a scattered way (you’ll understand what I mean when you read it), Valentine Joe tells a beautiful love story of two youngsters split by years. It changes the way you think about time, even just for a moment or two, and its tragic tale made me well up with tears at the end. Something I seem to be doing a lot recently (I blame it on the hormones), but I was forced to actually wipe my eyes as I was temporarily blinded.

The book may make you angry, but it’ll also tug at your heart-strings.

And if I haven’t said enough already, there’s a time-travelling dog who is just absolutely adorable.

You’ll also love the ending.

What are you waiting for? Go and read it!


Not your ‘normal’ book review, but I hope I’ve encouraged you to find this unique novella – especially given the year we’re in now. Try it.

The real Valentine Joe’s grave.

 

The Evacuee {Short Story}

The Evacuee

Wordcount: 1000
Prompt: ‘word grab!’ Words are: front, deprive, picnic, throw and mock.

~

You stare, in disbelief, at the book in your hand. The scratchy, knitted throw presses against your bare legs, and you play with the loose thread. Absent-mindedly, you run your fingers over the front cover of the leather journal you have just been given.

It’s 1943. You were evacuated just last week.

The family that you’ve gone to seems friendly to everyone but you, but they are motherless. You, too, are missing your mother, even though you know that your father is already dead.

You remember the day that the telegram came. The ship that he was on had been sunk by a submarine. Your mother had dropped to her knees, a silent scream on her face. Blood tricked down your ankle as a shard of a dropped plate stuck into your body.

That doesn’t matter now. You’re 500 miles away, in Inverness, Scotland, whilst your mother remains in London. During the Blitz.

A pretty, red ladybug crawls onto your ankle, where the cut still shows – a scar now. You let it climb onto your leg, and the combined tickling of that and the throw beneath you makes you chuckle in spite of yourself.

Here.” A sandwich, filled with lettuce and an odd sauce that you don’t recognise is thrust into your palm. You stare at the boy’s plate, which is piled up, mainly with Scotch eggs. Although the family seems nice, you can’t help but feel a bit deprived: after all, you only had the throw for a blanket last night, and it’s spring.

Albeit cold, the day is bright, and you eat your measly sandwich, savouring the disgusting taste. Crumbs fall onto the front cover of the journal, and you wipe them off carefully, making sure that they don’t stain the beautiful leather. It was the one thing that the family had given to you that you felt like they wanted to give to you.

The journal, with a pen in a pocket to the side, is brown leather. The front cover has a motif, an embossed Celtic triskelion. You run your fingers over it, enjoying the way they fit into the lines.

The father of the family stretches out leisurely on the large throw. He winks at you, and you smile back. So far, he is the only one that’s been kind and welcoming. He gave you the journal, after all.

Go and play,” he orders the others; three boys, with whom you’ve been sharing a small farm cottage with.

The eldest, two years older than you, glares in your direction, but says sweetly, “Ok, Papa. Shall we take her with us?” You feel your stomach drop when the father nods. The boys have been pests since the day you arrived, laughing when you dragged in a ratty teddy bear and ate with your fingers at the table, even though they were soaked in gravy.

You stand, carefully placing the ladybug and the journal on the throw. You give it one, last longing look before following the boys down the hill.

You aren’t very good at running. You can do it in London, but you prefer to stay in and read. Thankfully, the teachers understood there: but, in Scotland, it would seem that they would rather you went out and froze than stayed inside.

Stockinged feet in black, leather shoes pound down the hill. When you reach the bottom, you see that the boys are by a rope-swing, over a small river. Watching them for a while, you see them ‘play’ – if you can call it that. More shoving each other around.

Come on!” the eldest shouts gleefully, pushing the rope at you. You catch it; just about. “You have a go!” He laughs, clearly assuming that you won’t be able to.

And he’s right. When you take a running jump onto the swing, you miss, falling into the freezing water below, soaking through your thin dress.

The boys hoot with laughter. Fuming, you stand, glaring at them. “Oh, look at her,” the youngest says, “She can’t even jump properly! What do they teach them in London? How to be losers?” The comments set the boys off again.

You storm back up the hill. The thin dress, the only one you could afford, sticks to your skinny body, and you shiver. You may be old enough to have started to grow a bit, but so far you still look like a boy.

Water drips down the front of your dress, keeping your legs in a constant state of wetness. Clenching your hands into fists, you ignore the mocking voices of the boys behind you. You race up the hill to your adoptive father. The picnic hamper is still open, and he is taking a glass bottle from it; you can see an amber liquid, then five cups follow.

Ginger beer?” he asks cheerfully, holding up the glasses. His face drops when he sees your stormy expression and the water dripping from your clothes. “What have they got you to do now?” he sighs. You shrug. You don’t want to talk about the humiliating experience. He pats the place next to him. “Come and sit next to me,” he smiles.

Even though you’ve only been there for a few days, you already understand the privilege of sitting next to the head of the household. As you sit beside him in the sun, beaming, the boys have caught up, and promptly begin to complain.

But Papa! She’s an evacuee!

Papa, you said that I could sit next to you!”

Yes, yes, I know,” he consoles them, “But look what you have done to her! She is soaking wet.” He shakes his head disapprovingly, but passes them a cup; although he gives one to you first.

As the boys glare at you, their Papa the only thing stopping their mocking, you poke your tongue out, relishing in the feeling of not being the piece of dirt on someone’s shoe: for once. 

~

As always, feedback is appreciated! 😀 Thanks, and I hope you enjoyed. 😀 

The Unknown Soldier {Short Story}

The Unknown Soldier 

Wordcount: 866
Prompt: a story set in the 1920s

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In June 1918, I died.

It was at the Battle of Belleau Wood. I was just one of the 1811 killed.

The bullet wounds hurt as they ripped jagged holes in my skin and pierced my internal organs. I was only hit in the stomach, nearly cut in half by machine guns, and it took me a whole, seemingly everlasting minute to die, writhing on the ground with my blood pouring all over the mud. That is the only thing I remember. The pain, the agonising pain. I cannot even remember what my name was. Perhaps that is a side effect of dying.

Dying was not like how I expected. It was not white as some people think. It was grey. Swirling grey in front of my eyes, until I flooded into nothingness. And then…I was nowhere. Floating.

I turned and could see my body, mangled and broken, full of bullet holes. An empty corpse, only identified by a bloody US army uniform.

And then, I forgot. The body below; I did not know who it was. I did not know who I was. I just knew that I was rising, and then I was amongst others, like me. The dead.

I am pretty sure I have a body as I am now – I can move around and do all sorts. But I still do not know who I am.

Others remember. Maybe it is me. Maybe it was my fault I forgot. Perhaps, I think now, perhaps I wanted to forget. Maybe I was a bad person.

And now I watch the last body I saw being placed in a tomb at the Memorial Amphitheatre. I guess that it is me, but I still do not know his name. I have followed this body around whilst I am enjoying being dead. Being nothing. It is great, being nothing; there’s no pain, or conscience.

If I was that soldier, I guess I must have killed some people, but right now, that does not bother me. Strangely. I reckon it is because I am dead. I died, like the ones I slaughtered did. We are quits.

I am not sure if I would rather be alive. I would like to have all my memories – family, friends, who I actually was. We even have birth and death days in this place I am in (for I do not know what it is called) but, because I do not know mine, I am always left out. I have been given a death day, of course, the day I arrived, but because I was floating in nothingness for a seemingly long time, I do not know if that is the actual day.

I can watch what is happening as if through a translucent veil from where ever I am. Through the nothingness as other souls join us silently above the Earth. I have even met Napoleon as I float around.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is what they are calling it. A body, brought from France, being laid, to act as a memorial to all those unknown soldiers. The body that I think is mine just so happens to be the lucky one, and has not just been left on the bloody battlefield to rot.

I can hear the cannon firing now, as a mark of respect. The troops march. I stay.

Floating down (because you can do that in the nothingness), I come to a stand in front of the tomb. People walk through me and pay their respects. I do as well. But not to me: I am not that vain.

I pay my respects to all the fallen soldiers on the day of November 11th, 1921. I thank them for all they did – even the German ones, for I know that many did not know what the cause they were fighting for was. I have met them. I know.

During my time in the war, I climbed over bodies as they were strewn over barbed wire to protect myself. Once, I even used a dead man as a shield to stop myself dying, holding him by his bloodied shirt. I retrieved weapons that had been discarded from cold, unfeeling fingers, and used them to kill more.

I am the Unknown Soldier. I do not know my name, or who I was. I know some of what I did during the war, the most recent memories. Sometimes, I regret what I did. I regret taking lives. I am not proud of it, but I cannot take them back. And as I float up into the nothingness for the last time, an image of a boy comes to mind. I do not know who he is, but he is young, with brown hair and intelligent blue eyes. He is kissed on the head by his mother as he marches to join his regiment, a rifle hastily slung over one shoulder. That boy was me, and I am him. I may not have lived for a long time, but I did my duty and that is something I am proud of. Finally, I have been buried; my body is at rest.

And now, I am, too.

~

As always, feedback is appreciated! Thanks 🙂 Hope you enjoyed. 🙂