Frederic & Hannah
 
The war had been over for almost a year by the time Frederic returned home. He pedalled faster and faster as he got closer to Hannah’s house stopping only briefly to grab a handful of poppies from a farmer’s field. He fumbled to settle his impromptu bouquet in the basket on the handlebars of his bicycle and rode on confident that his fiancée would be waiting for him.

He propped his bicycle up against a stone pillar in front of her family home and walked up the two shallow and well worn stone steps to the front door. He held his breath and listened … to absolute silence.

It didn’t feel right. The once beautiful home looked bedraggled and sad. Frederic became anxious but, nonetheless, raised his left fist to rap on the door. It was a tentative knock but enough to practically jolt the door from its fragile hinges.

After the few moments it took the house to settle, silence returned. Frederic strained to hear the sound of Hannah’s dainty feet running down the stairs to greet him, anticipating the playful giggle she would emit upon seeing him. The thought of her smile had sustained him during his most difficult times and he knew the power of its light would revive all that had withered and suffered during their time apart. But she didn’t come. No one came.

She would be back soon, he told himself. And with that, he sat down on the step and waited.

Winters, springs, summers and autumns came and went and still he sat waiting for Hannah. Gradually he became one with the eroded stonework and rotting timbers of the house and passers-by no longer noticed him or whispered about him as they went about their daily business.

Decades passed and still he maintained his vigil until, one day, realising he was too old and bone weary to mount his bicycle ever again, he allowed himself to enter the house. Inside he curled up and waited to find Hannah in the next world.
The bouquet of poppies that he’d brought with him so many years ago had long since decomposed and been carried off in the air as nothing more than dust. But, once a year, when the winds are compliant, a handful of poppy seeds settles in the bicycle basket. There, they plant their roots and bloom for Frederic and Hannah and for the world the two young lovers never lived to see.