The moment has finally come for the first post in my new series, in which chacters pop out from fiction to meet you. While in some of the later posts, characters will introduce themselves directly, in this first post, you will observe from the sidelines as Dirk writes to Eleanor.
Dirk has come from A Nightingale in Winter by Margaret Johnson. Over to you, Dirk.
You won’t believe this, but I’m writing to you from prison! That is, from a stable I’ve been imprisoned in. But I must explain. After I left you and Kit, I caught a train to get closer to the line and stayed overnight in a pension.
The next day, I arranged with the landlady to leave my belongings there for a few days and set off on foot towards the Front. Idiot, I can hear you saying, and you’d be right, but not for the reasons you think. You see, I’d gone only about three miles or so, when I came face-to-face with a battery of French soldiers. The commanding officer demanded to know what I was doing, and didn’t believe me when I told him I was a reporter. At least, I can only assume he didn’t believe me, because they slung me in here, and just laughed when I demanded to be let out. I think they’ve had more than a few drinks now, Eleanor, and have forgotten all about me. I can hear them singing and laughing, and my head is starting to ache like crazy. I think I might explode if I don’t get some water soon. Hold on a minute while I try hammering on the door again.
Well, I’ve got some more fine splinters in my hands now, but at least I finally made them hear me and managed to beg for some water. They even threw in a crust of bread! Now I suppose it’s just a question of waiting the night out. Not that I fancy sleeping in this filthy straw much; I’m sure I can hear rats scurrying about. No, I don’t think I’m going to risk it. I’ll sit on this bucket instead and think about you going about your work.
I’ll bet your patients feel safe just knowing you’re around; after all, I know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of your ministering hands, don’t I? You’re such a professional, unlike me. Four hours as a war correspondent, and I get arrested and locked up. My dad would laugh, and that isn’t something he does very often. Still, we can’t choose our parents, can we? Although they can choose us sometimes. For some unknown reason, sitting here feeling sorry for myself I suppose, I’ve been thinking about my mom and dad a lot. I think I may have told you on The Sussex about being adopted and how mad I was with them both when I found out they’d been lying to me.
Maybe that’s why I wanted to be a journalist. I’m certainly hungry for the truth. Not that it’s doing me any good right now. Everybody told me I was crazy coming out here, and maybe they were right. Though if you get this letter at all, it will mean that I haven’t been shot at dawn for being a spy, so I’m bound to be in a more optimistic mood, and the thought of the letter you’re going to write to me in reply will keep me going. I want to hear all about the dreaded Sister Palmer and Kit of course, but most of all about you, since you’re my angel of mercy.
Anyway, that’s all for now, it’s practically dark, and I must rest before I drop off my hay bale. Maybe I’ll have to take my chances with the rats after all…
PS: The French finally saw sense and let me go after two days with dire warnings about what they’ll do to me if they catch me again, so I’ve decided it might be safer to head to the British lines. They have to be a bit more reasonable there; after all, you and Kit are British. I’m trying to keep from thinking about Sister Palmer!
Anyway, I don’t have an address for you to write to at the moment, but I’ll let you have it as soon as I do. By the way, I’m busy writing down a blow-by-blow account of my ordeal in captivity in case it comes in useful in the future. We writers never miss a chance!
Margaret K Johnson began writing after finishing at Art College to support her career as an artist. Writing quickly replaced painting as her major passion, and these days her canvasses lay neglected in her studio. She is the author of women’s fiction, stage plays and many original fiction readers in various genres for people learning to speak English.
Margaret also teaches fiction writing and has an MA in Creative Writing (Scriptwriting) from the University of East Anglia. She lives in Norwich, UK with her partner and their bouncy son and dog.
A Nightingale in Winter is available from Amazon UK and elsewhere.