This story will eventually contain character death.
Disclaimer – All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc., are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Thank you to my two Project Team Beta betas, Barkleybear19 and thir13enth, for all their help and kind words.
WOOHOO! I'm so excited! Several months ago one of my lovely readers, Cared, was kind enough to review and recommend I remain, Yours on Rob Attack, and I thank her very much for that! Now, as we are at the end of another year, they are having a poll to vote for your favorite fic reviewed and recommended during 2012, and IrY is in the running for Best WIP of the Year! Now, since I am very definitely not above begging for votes, I am doing just that-so please, PLEASE, PLEASE, vote for I remain, Yours for Best WIP of the Year on Rob Attack! I do have a link, but FFn won't allow links-they delete them automatically-and I'm afraid to try to post it removing the dot com's and risking pissing of the FFn Gods and getting my story pulled. If you google Rob Attack Best of 2012, it'll take you to the site and you can scroll down to the right link, or check out Twilighted or The Writer's Coffee Shop for the link if you have trouble finding it.
Please vote for I remain, Yours!
June 24, 1918
I hope this finds you well. I fear not much here has changed since my last letter. My mother continues in worrying herself sick over my intention to enlist as soon as I am able and continues in her attempts to dissuade me. She has now begun a new tactic. I am afraid she is intent on marrying me off to the first girl who will have me, if you can believe that. She has apparently decided that if I had a wife, I would not be so eager to get myself killed. I wish she could understand, I have no wish to "get myself killed" as she says. Our country is at war, and it is my duty to defend her. I cannot hide behind my mother's skirts while others fight for our family's freedom. She has, in the past few weeks alone, presented me with no less than five eligible young ladies. I do not know how she expects I would provide for a wife having only just turned 17 and still in school. So far, we have had the new assistant district attorney with his family, the Martin's, and the Rollins' for dinner. I have also escorted two of her friends' daughters to the movies together with some friends. At least the movies were good. The girls, however, were silly, foolish things. Is it too much to ask to be able to carry on an intelligent, informed conversation? To hope for her to have an original or clever thought in her head? They were all pretty faces and empty heads. Young Miss Assistant District Attorney's Daughter seems to be the frontrunner in my mother's eyes, though I cannot see why. I have been informed I will be inviting her for a walk through the park, where I will buy her an ice cream I really must remember her name first.
Thank you for your invitation to visit this summer; however, I am unable to accept. With school out, I have begun assisting my mother in her volunteer work with the Red Cross and at the hospital. There is really so much work to be done. She is now serving as secretary on the executive committee for the Chicago chapter and is instructing classes in home nursing. She recently worked a number of others in organizing a successful War Chest Auction. They visited every prominent family and business in Chicago and collected enough donations to net $2050 in sales for the benefit of the Red Cross.
There is a brilliant young doctor at the hospital named Dr. Cullen. Almost without fail, the patients treated by him fare far better than those treated by any other doctor, even those with many more years' experience. He is truly gifted and works tirelessly with the injured soldiers. The man seems to never rest. Between his work at the hospital and his volunteer work with the Red Cross, I don't know how he finds time to eat and sleep. All the nurses are half in love, half afraid of him. I have spoken with him of my intention to become a doctor after the war, and he has been so kind as to lend me some of his medical texts. He has even gone so far as to talk to me of some of his cases and explain to me their treatments.
My father and I attended the White Sox game on my birthday. It was a good game. We beat Cleveland 5 - 4. Ray Schalk was hit by a pitch in the 3rd and stole second; Nemo Leibold singled and brought him in. Eddie Collins hit one out to make it 3 - 0. Cleveland scored in the 5th and 7th and took the lead 4 - 3. After already scoring two in the 7th, Cleveland had the bases loaded with no one out, but Dave Danforth struck out Ray Chapman and got Steve O'Neill to hit into a double play. We scored two in the 9th to win it.
I am glad we were able to attend the game, because it is unlikely my father will have much time for baseball in the coming months. His office is the very busy with a new case. Have you seen it in the papers? I am sure you must have. It is the biggest news in town as of late. The police arrested four people two days ago, and over one hundred waiters were taken into custody. They say they'd been poisoning drinks of people who tipped poorly. The four arrested were a man and wife charged with manufacturing the powder used and two bartenders for selling the powder at the bar of the waiters' union headquarters.
Well, I must close. I hope you are all well and happy. I remain,
"Edward, dear, may I come in?"
Edward tensed; he looked up from the letter he had just written to his cousin, Mic, and saw his mother standing in his doorway. Elizabeth Masen had copper hair and green eyes, both of which her son had inherited from her. She was a thin, petite woman, which combined with her fair skin gave an initial impression of frailty. It was an entirely false impression, as Edward well knew. His mother was the strongest woman he had ever known; indeed, she was stronger than many men he knew. After her own mother's early death, she had been largely responsible for raising her four younger siblings and had gone on to become a hospital nurse. No, his mother was anything but frail. As he looked at her, he could not help but notice the worried look in her eyes that seemed ever present since he told his parents of his intention to enlist in the military. He hated being the reason for that look.
He answered as he put his pen and ink away, and she came in, sitting on the window seat beneath the bay window. Anyone who did not know her well would likely not notice, but Edward could see the fear in her, and he knew that fear was for him. He could see the smile that did not reach her eyes, eyes that were faintly rimmed with red. He could see that her back was a little too straight, as if her body wanted to slump forward in exhaustion but she was stubbornly refusing to give in. He could see the hands folded on her lap that were gripping her handkerchief so tightly her knuckles were white, the handkerchief bearing a small tear. He sighed; she was once again going to attempt to persuade him to reconsider enlisting.
"Mother, please don't. I am quite determined. I have not made this decision lightly, and I am very aware of the danger. Please try to understand. Our country is at war, and I have a duty to defend her, just as my grandfathers did before me. I remember the stories they told me, and I have spoken with several of the wounded men at the hospital regarding their experiences. I am not romanticizing."
Elizabeth looked at her only child and words deserted her. She had known what he would say. Yes, she knew what he would say, and she was prepared for it. She was not the wife of a very prominent, successful attorney for nothing. She had learned much from her husband in the nearly twenty years of their marriage. She had listened to her husband perfect his opening statements and had heard him deliver such eloquent, compelling closing statements that she believed he could persuade any jury in the world that up was down and black was white. She had listened, and she had learned. Elizabeth had gone over what she would say, even going so far as to rehearse in front of the mirror in her room. She had planned to make her argument against his decision calmly and rationally, having carefully thought out answers to every point she knew he would make, but now as she sat here before him, she could not remember a single word of it. All she could think of were the men returning from the war he was so eager to fight in. All she could see were their broken, crippled bodies, and every one of them now bore her son's face. She could feel the tears swelling behind her eyes, but she would not let them fall. Edward was just like his father: logical and determined. She needed to be equally logical and equally determined. Tears would not sway him. On the contrary, she knew they would hurt her case. If she let them fall, he would not truly listen to her but simply dismiss her words as merely those of a distraught mother desperate to keep her son safe. She needed to make him see reason.
She squared her shoulders, and if that failed, she was not above drugging him and keeping him locked in his room until the horrible war was over.
Elizabeth Masen looked at her son, took a deep breath, and steeled herself. "I invited Dr. Cullen to dine with us tonight, but he wasn't able. He is working yet another extra shift at the hospital. They have lost so many doctors and nurses to the war, those remaining are barely able to keep up. He works the night shift, but I believe he is there most days as well. He told me again how invaluable your help has been. There are many women volunteers, but to have a young man is a wonderful thing. The men need another man to talk to, a confidant. He seems to have taken a genuine interest in you. You are very fortunate. He is thought of very highly at the hospital, and his recommendation will be very helpful when you apply to medical school." She relaxed slightly as she finished the speech she had planned. All in all, Elizabeth was pleased with her delivery, and she had touched on the topics she wanted to drive home to her son - Point out to him that help is needed here. He can serve his country by staying here and becoming a doctor as he'd always planned.
Edward smiled fondly at his mother. He hoped his cheeks had not grown pink at her praise. "My help at the hospital is hardly invaluable, mother, unlike yours. I am seventeen and untrained. I can do little more than follow orders and run errands."
Elizabeth continued, "You do not understand the value of someone who can be counted on to follow orders and run errands, Edward. Your doing so enables those who are trained to work where their skills are needed, rather than running those errands themselves. You would be amazed at the number of people who are completely incapable of following even the simplest of instructions, especially with regard to poor Dr. Cullen. Why, I have seen intelligent, skilled, experienced nurses forget what they were saying half way through a sentence when speaking to him. I cannot comprehend it."
Edward was much more relaxed now; he was almost laughing. "Dr. Cullen is very rich, very handsome, and very single. I am sure that has something to do with it. I think it was very kind of you to invite him. As highly regarded as he is, he does not seem to have any friends at the hospital. It almost seems as if people are afraid of him, though I cannot see why."
Smiling faintly, Elizabeth thought to herself that this was going even better than she had hoped it would. They were talking. She knew how much Edward admired the young doctor and how much his apparent regard meant to her son. Rather than try to deter him from military enlistment, she would need to remind him of his first love, medicine. She had always felt that Edward was born to be a doctor. He had endless patience for the sick and injured combined with a natural compassion for those in pain and afraid that could not be taught. He was very bright, among the top of his class, and had a thirst for knowledge that was insatiable. She had been a fool to think a young lady would suddenly interest him enough to change his mind. It was a foolishness inspired by blind panic. Edward came from a long line of soldiers. Both of his grandfathers had fought in the Civil War, and his father had served in the military as well, though fortunately before the war with Spain. He had been raised since the cradle to understand the duty one had to one's country. She understood the necessity of fighting and supported the war effort in any way she could. She volunteered her time with the Red Cross helping the returning wounded, whether they be wounded physically or be suffering from shell shock. She visited with the families of men serving and and assisted those of men who were lost. Yes, she would do her part, but she would not sacrifice her son.
Elizabeth persuaded herself to believe Edward would be of greater service to his country as a doctor, who could devote a lifetime to serving those soldiers injured during the war rather than as a soldier himself. What difference could one more soldier make compared to one more doctor? Now, she just needed to persuade him.
"Most people are more easily intimidated than even they themselves realize. Their confidence in their own abilities is too easily shaken by someone more skilled than themselves. Even more so when that person is younger than themselves, and as you pointed out, very rich and very handsome. You are not one who is easily intimidated—you never have been—so I do not wonder that you cannot understand it. Dr. Cullen is almost too good to be true. Too good, I fear, for his own good."
Edward looked at his mother, "What do you mean, too good for his own good?"
Elizabeth answered him, "I fear Dr. Cullen is so dedicated to his profession, so committed to helping his patients, that he neglects to take care of himself. Why, just look at the man. He is as pale as a ghost. He looks so tired sometimes, as if he never sleeps. There have been days I have seen him so engrossed in his work, I believe he has simply forgotten to eat. I have asked him on more than one occasion if he had eaten yet, and he has seemed almost surprised. I do not know whether the surprise was due to his not having noticed the hour or due to someone's noticing he had not yet eaten. I admit, I am concerned for him. He has no family of his own: no parents, no siblings, and as you have stated, no close friends."
Edward was not surprised that his mother had noticed these things about Dr. Cullen. She had always noticed things about people that others had not, another trait he had inherited from her. Before he could answer her, she spoke again as she rose. "Don't let me keep you, dearest. I only wanted to tell you that dinner will be served soon. Your father telephoned earlier. He will be home to dine with us tonight. I don't expect that will often be the case until this retched trial is over, which will not likely be for quite some time. I am glad you and he enjoyed a ball game on your birthday. I am afraid there won't be many ball games this summer. My word, poisoning people because they did not tip generously enough. What is this world coming to? I will let you get back to your letter. To whom are you writing?"
Edward rose from his desk as his mother walked to his door. "To cousin Mic, but I've finished. I will be down in a moment."
As his mother left his room, Edward sat back down at his desk and shook his head, smiling. His mother was the only person who could always surprise him. He had been so certain she had come to speak to him solely to once again try to convince him not to enlist once he turned eighteen next June. He hoped she had finally accepted his decision, but he knew her well enough to know that she had not yet given up hope of dissuading him. Edward laughed to himself. This was a lull in the battle, but he had not yet won the war.
Sitting at his desk, Edward was reminded of his Grandfather Masen. It had now been six years since he had passed, and Edward still missed him terribly. Sometimes, he almost felt that if he closed his eyes and really listened, he could still hear his voice. Having previously belonged to his grandfather, Edward's desk was his most prized possession. Made of mahogany with a beautiful green embossed leather writing surface, it appeared to have nine drawers with brass swan neck handles, four on either side and one long, shallow drawer across the middle. However, what appeared to be the bottom two drawers on both sides was in fact one double depth drawer. As a child, Edward had been mesmerized by his grandfather and the stories he told. He remembered his grandfather showing him the desk's hidden secret as a child. It contained a hidden compartment, and they would draw secret treasure maps and hide them there. It was childish Edward knew, but he continued their game even now, after a fashion, by hiding any letters he wrote in there before posting them. As he did so now, he thought of both of his grandfathers and hoped they would be proud of the man he was becoming and of the choices he was making for his life.
Rising from his desk, Edward went down to dinner. His mother was where he knew she would be, in her sitting room with her knitting all around her busily making warm clothing to be sent to the men fighting in Europe. He smiled at her as he walked passed and opened the pocket doors to the music room next door.
"Oh, that would be lovely, Edward. Your music always makes my work seem to go faster."
"What would you like, mother? Debussy?"
"Please, Edward. You know he is my favorite. Such a tragic loss, his passing. Though one suffers so terribly with illness that perhaps for the poor man, it was a blessing."
Edward stood at his piano trying to keep his laughter silent and his shoulders still. The way his mother would always look away and say illness when discussing someone with cancer, as if daring to say the word aloud would cause it to spread, would never ceased to amaze him. Elizabeth Masen could nurse a man missing limbs that had been blown or ripped off in battle, bandage any wound, dress the most severe burns, but she refused to say a simple work like "cancer". And really, the poor man, indeed. It was well known that as a young man, Claude Debussy had begun an affair with a married woman and had lived with another woman out of wedlock for several years while being briefly engaged to still another woman. He later married but began an affair with the mother of one of his students and abandoned his wife for his mistress, who was with child. And that was only what was known. How much more had he done that was unknown? His mother would never have a man such as Claude Debussy in her home, but as he is now dead, she calls him "poor man". Even during his lifetime, Debussy knew little censor for his conduct until the attempted suicide of the wife he abandoned. Edward understood that he was only seventeen and not at all worldly, but he felt strongly that if he lived another hundred years, he would never understand society's willingness to forgive artists for sins that in anyone else would be unpardonable.
As he sat at his piano and began playing, he admitted to himself that he was no better than society as a whole. He held no respect for Debussy as a fellow man, but he respected his talent greatly.
He had been playing for some time when they heard their maid opening the door for his father. His father soon entered the room, and Edward and his mother rose to greet him.
"Now, this is what a man likes to arrive home to. If every man would have such a scene greet him at the end of the day I believe there would be much less work for men like myself. Elizabeth, my dear. Industrious as ever, I see. Edward, please keep playing, my boy. Your playing is soothing after a trying day."
Edward sat back down and began playing again. He knew this new case was especially trying for his father. Having prosecuted many difficult cases in the past, such as murders and kidnappers, he had seen the worst of humanity for far too long, but Edward knew this case was different. Always before, there was a motive to the crime; there was always a reason. Money, hatred, jealousy, revenge, violence whether brought on by rage or drunkenness or sheer cruelty... Whatever the reason had been, there had always been a reason. This case was different, though. There was no valid reason. Edward supposed reasons were very rarely valid to anyone other than the culprit himself, but this was truly incomprehensible. Over one hundred people had been perfectly willing to poison countless others, slipping Mickey Finn powder into their drinks, for something as trivial as how much they left as a tip. It was indefensible, the blatant disregard for the harm they might have caused. It was nothing short of a miracle that they had not killed anyone. Edward strongly believed such people had no place in society, and he was very proud of his father's commitment to protecting the innocent by prosecuting them to the full extent of the law.
He continued to play some minutes longer until dinner was announced, and they went into the dining room together.
After dinner, they spent the evening together with Edward and his father playing a game of chess while his mother continued her knitting. It was quiet times like this, just the three of them at home safe and secure, that Edward most thought about what it must be like for the men serving in Europe and their families at home. He looked up at his father, contemplating his next move, and his mother, quietly humming to herself as she knitted a warm sweater for a man she would never know. He worried what it would be like for them after he left. Instead of quietly humming, would his mother cry while she worked, worrying for him? Was he safe... cold... hungry... Was he injured? Was he still alive? Would his father sit at this same table, staring at the chess board and his empty chair? Would they worry each time the telephone rang or someone knocked on the door?
Edward wished more than ever that he had siblings. They had a large extended family and several close friends, but that would not be the same as if they had other children of their own to keep them busy and occupied, to keep them distracted from thinking of nothing but their worry for him. He sighed to himself. It was no good to dwell on things that could not be changed. Other families were facing these same things. Some were calling this The War to End All Wars. By all that is holy, Edward hoped they were right. Poison gases, aeroplane fights, submarines attacking passenger vessels, it seemed there was no limit to what man could create to kill other men. Never before had the world faced a situation like this; the entire world was at war. They needed to end this and ensure it would never happen again. They needed to ensure that no other generation would ever again have to face this.
It had been a hot, sticky day that had started bright and sunny but had grown increasingly cloudy. The sky quickly grew quite dark, and they had already turned on the electric light before his father had returned from work. Now the wind had picked up, and they could hear thunder in the distance. Edward's mother looked up from her knitting at the first crash of thunder.
"We appear to be in for quite a storm tonight. That wind is terrible." She began putting her knitting away and rose. "Edward, dearest, I would like to arrive at the hospital early tomorrow. Does that sound all right to you?"
Edward looked up from the chess board. "Yes, Mother, that is fine. Old Mr. Robards is expecting a shipment of comfort items from the Rockford Chapter tomorrow. I promised to go with him to pick them up at the station. He said he would come fetch me at the hospital."
Picking up her knitting bag, Elizabeth walked over to her husband and son and kissed them both lightly on the temple as she wished them both good night.
Now alone, Edward and his father were able to speak freely. Edward was taking his father's bishop when his father spoke, "Mr. Wilson heard from his son, Matthew. At the front. Somewhere in France. Can't say where. He said that they had been shot at very heavily by the Germans the night before. Shrapnel falling all around them. Gas alarm was given. He said they had to get their masks on in a right hurry. Said those masks have saved their lives many times. Said Fritz shoots gas at them quite often, and he can get his mask on in five seconds." His father was determinedly looking everywhere but at him as he spoke. Edward had heard his father preparing arguments for a trial many times and knew what an eloquent speaker his father was. To hear him speak now, unable to speak in full sentences, unable to look at him, he knew just how afraid his father was.
Edward addressed his father, "I received a letter from Albert Fletcher today. Do you remember Albert? He was ahead of me in school, a senior when I was a freshman. He was on the baseball team with me and is a cousin to the Collins'. He's only just shipped out. He wrote that his ship arrived safely. They had fine weather and a mild sea, and he was not a bit sea sick. He asked that I tell all our friends to write to him. A word from home goes well there he said."
Edward and his father were very evenly matched at chess. He watched the board as his father moved his rook and thought how much life was like a chess game, with his parents on one side of the board and himself on the other. They make their move, and he counters.
"Yes, I believe Mrs. Wilson writes almost daily and sends parcels often. You should write your friend right away. Send a newspaper. Mr. Wilson has said Matthew has written that all the boys are cheered with papers from home. Pass them around after they finish reading them, they do."
Edward looked again at his father, who was still not looking at him. "I will do that." He looked back down at the board; his father had made a mistake. He could put him in check. He moved his queen across the board. "Check."
His father started and looked at the board. "I did not see that. Good move, my boy. Well played." His father studied the board for a few moments before moving his remaining bishop to protect his king. "I forgot to mention it to your mother, Frank Carrington's wife and daughter came by the office today. They've invited us to dine with them on Friday."
Edward thought to himself, "Oh, marvelous. Miss New District Attorney's Daughter." Out loud he said, "I'm sure that will be nice. Mother said they have been discussing a possible dance to raise funds. The War Chest Auction was so successful; they have been looking for something to follow it up. I believe she said they are considering a harvest theme for the fall. Perhaps Mrs. Carrington and Violet would be interested in assisting with the plans." "Violet!" Yes, that was the girl's name. Edward was very proud of himself for remembering and laughed to himself, "How could I have forgotten? Mother is so fond of Vi-O-Let LifeSaver candies, no wonder she is partial to the girl."
His father's mind was clearly no longer on their game, and Edward soon had him in checkmate. His father looked at him, possibly for the first time since dinner, and congratulated him on his game.
Edward smiled as he put the pieces away, "Thank you Father, I had a very good teacher."
His father acknowledged the complement; he had been the one to teach his son chess. He had taught his son to catch a ball and to throw... to ride a bike... to drive. He had taught his son pride and respect and duty. Edward, Sr. was very proud of his son. He had hoped Edward would follow in his footsteps and study law, but anyone could see he was meant to be a doctor. He understood his son's desire to enlist and fight for his country, and he respected him all the more for it. It was himself he was disappointed in. So many people he knew had boys fighting over there. So many of those boys he had known since they were in knickers. Too many of those boys would never return home. Every time he learned of another boy killed, another boy crippled for life, even as he expressed his sympathy, his head was filled with, "Thank God, it's not my son. Thank God, my boy, my Edward, is safe."
Edward Masen, Sr. found that now that he had looked at his son, he could not make himself look away. "Edward – "
Putting the chess board and pieces away in the closet when his father called his name, Edward turned to answer him, "Yes, father?"
He wanted to tell his son not to enlist. He wanted to tell him to leave the fighting to someone else. He wanted to tell him so many things. In the end, he said none of it. "It's late, son, and I'm tired. I am going to retire for the night."
"Good night father, I will see you in the morning. I am going to retire as well."
"Good night, Edward." As Edward, Sr. turned and climbed the stairs tiredly, his only thought was, "God, let this miserable war end soon."
Edward entered his room and sat at his desk. He had thought of something else he wanted to tell Mic and wanted to add it to his letter. He opened the hidden compartment, but his letter was not there. Had he not put it there? No, he had. He was sure he had. It was his habit. Always when he wrote letters, he put them there, if he didn't post them immediately. And he clearly remembered putting it there. Yet, it was not there. Well, he must be mistaken he rationalized; he must have mislaid it. That was all. He looked in all the drawers and on the floor all around his desk, but it was not there. Nor was it in the waste paper basket. He thought it might have slid down behind the desk and was stuck between the desk and the wall, but it was not there either. This was ridiculous. He could not think what he could have done with the letter.
"Oh well, no matter," Edward told himself. "It has to be here somewhere." He would look again tomorrow.
After all, it was not as if his letter could have vanished.
This story is completely written and 50 chapters, about 380,000 words. It took over a year to write. I read a lot of letters written by WW1 soldiers to try to get the right expressions and wording.
This may remind you of the "The Lake House" with Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves, at least at first, but I actually got the idea from a made for TV movie from about 15-20 years ago, "The Love Letter."
I tried to be as historically accurate as possible in an everyday way. The War Chest Auction Edward mentions was really held and did net (a whooping) $2050. The baseball game Edward describes is the real game the White Sox played on June 20, 1918, and the case his father is working on was a real case in Chicago that June. The description of the life of Claude Debussy is from Wikipedia. And yes, Life Savers did once come in violet flavor, as well as chocolate, licorice, cinnamon... and clove. (Ewww!)