Excerpt for An English Heaven by , available in its entirety at Smashwords



Julie Bozza


An English Heaven



LIBRAtiger

Smashwords Edition



Published by LIBRAtiger 2017


Smashwords Edition, License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.


Text, format and cover design: © Julie Bozza 2017


Cover image: © Annie Spratt | unsplash.com


Characters and situations described in this book are fictional and not intended to portray real persons or situations whatsoever; any resemblances to living individuals are entirely coincidental.


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And think, this heart, all evil shed away,

A pulse in the eternal mind, no less

Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;

Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;

And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,

In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.


‘The Soldier’ (1914)

Rupert Brooke



An English Heaven


They’d agreed to meet at the dogleg of the communications trench – out of anyone’s direct line of sight, with the chance of a few minutes undisturbed. Opportunities to be alone together had been rare since they’d shipped to the battlefields of France, and non-existent since they’d each finally come to a better understanding of their own natures.

Tom turned the corner, and giggled in nervous delight when a shift in the shadows meant Michael was already there. “Parlez-vous Allemand?” he asked. Do you speak German? They’d heard that was the code for asking if another man was so. Not that Tom had any doubts about how his friend would answer, not anymore, but it had become a running joke between them, that you wouldn’t want to ask such a thing in The Wrong Trench.

Michael shifted again, and moonlight revealed his tense posture … his tormented expression.

“What’s wrong?” Tom asked in alarm.

Then Michael’s brother stepped out from behind him, cruelty on his face – and the Beholla pistol, his prize from captured German trenches, held firm in both hands. Aimed squarely at Tom’s heart.

Tom froze in confusion, though somehow he was already watching what was about to happen. Michael’s torment was turning to heartbreak. Both of them helpless to prevent it.

“You traitorous, lecherous filth!”

A thump in the chest, not hard enough to knock him over – yet a moment later Tom lost his sense of balance, and collapsed to his knees.

Michael was reaching for Tom, protesting, “You were only going to give him a scare!” even as he was dragged away.

“Come on, you idiot. What did you want? This or a court martial?”

Tom collapsed further – and blackness took him before his face hit the dirt.


#


After a time blackness became darkness, then darkness became the night sky, and he was in it. He was in the sky looking down at the edge of France, and the dark blue Channel, and the warm lights of England. It wasn’t cold up there. The breeze was pleasant, and somehow he knew not to worry as he began descending towards the Kentish coast.

A four-leaf clover was outlined below. As he sank closer, this became a circular keep surrounded by four curved bastions, perched just beyond the beach.

Tom’s feet found the bridge over the moat, and he was walking towards the gatehouse. Light spilled from the windows, and a smooth jangle of music rose from beyond the keep.

The door swung open long before he reached it, and a hearty old chap stood there waiting for him. “Welcome to Walmer Castle!” he cried, and he shook Tom’s hand. “Hello, I’m Beauchamp.”


#


There seemed to be a party going on. Tom looked down at his rough khaki, stained with sweat, mud and – He glanced away.

“Never mind that. The dress code is ‘come as you are’, but you can change later, once you’re comfortable. There’s no hurry. There is always a party here, and you can stay just as long as you want.”

Tom let himself be led through the gatehouse and around the keep. One or two figures passed by, or loitered in nooks with friends, but Tom was too baffled to form any real impression of them.

“Come out to the garden,” Beauchamp was continuing. “That’s where most of the fun is to be had. As you can hear, there is plenty of dancing.”

“To this – ?” Tom stuttered.

“The music?” Beauchamp again considered Tom’s uniform. “It takes getting used to, but there’s no past or future here, only an eternal present. Perhaps you weren’t yet familiar with jazz, and I do recall it’s a taste that needs acquiring. Well! You’ll have opportunities to acquire whatever you want. Some of us, of course,” he added quietly as they passed two men sitting in a loveseat, mutually gazing, completely absorbed in each other. “Some of us don’t ever care to dance.”

Tom was gaping. “But isn’t that – ?”

“Yes, Mr Wilde and Lord Byron. Leave them be, dear chap. They had precious little peace in their lifetimes, and if they find it here, that is all to the good.”

Tom hadn’t much education, but even he knew Oscar Wilde had died some years before the Great War broke out, and surely Lord Byron decades or even a hundred years before that. “But, Mr Beauchamp –”

“Just Beauchamp, my friend. It’s a lot to take in, but that’s how it all began, d’you see? To welcome back across the Channel all those poor fellows who were forced into exile at one time or another. And then – then there was the need for more. Too many of us were lost before our time.”

Tom pressed a hand to the wound over his heart; it seemed to have healed now, at least physically. He wondered what had become of Michael. Any fate he imagined quickly became dire.

“Nothing to be ashamed of,” Beauchamp was continuing – “I can see you know that already. There’s no time here for shame or hatred. Look at these sweet fellows, free to be whomsoever they are …”

A bevy of men passed by, one dressed in silk pyjamas and a crown of flowers, another in nothing but trousers and strings of pearls. They were beautiful to Tom. The very idea of them was beautiful.

Beauchamp and Tom emerged from rosebushes to see the jazz band playing by a fountain, surrounded by dancers – including some women, each obviously dressed in ways that appealed to herself alone, and fie on convention.

“There’s Gee and Bess,” Beauchamp commented; “they’re often here. There’s John, Mabel and Una; you won’t have known them yet. But I must repeat, dear chap,” Beauchamp said, stopping to address Tom directly, “you only need stay as long as you wish. There are many doors that lead from here. Some offer peace, and others the chance of a life lived on your terms. Or you needn’t leave at all. It’s entirely up to you, d’you see?”

“Yes,” said Tom. “Yes, I do see.” And he already knew what he wanted, for this while at least. “May I change clothes now, sir? Something suitable for a party?”

“Of course!” Beauchamp beamed at him, and turned back towards the keep. “Come along, let’s find you something you’ll like. And then, if you’re staying, perhaps you’ll say hello to my son, Hugh. He’s a good chap, my Hugh. I feel sure you’ll like him.”

“Thank you,” said Tom. “I’d be delighted.”


# # #



About Julie Bozza


Ordinary people are extraordinary. We can all aspire to decency, generosity, respect, honesty – and the power of love (all kinds of love!) can help us grow into our best selves.

I write stories about ‘ordinary’ people finding their answers in themselves and each other. I write about friends and lovers, and the families we create for ourselves. I explore the depth and the meaning, the fun and the possibilities, in ‘everyday’ experiences and relationships. I believe that embodying these things is how we can live our lives more fully.

Creative works help us each find our own clarity and our own joy. Readers bring their hearts and souls to reading, just as authors bring their hearts and souls to writing – and together we make a whole.


If you want to know more, please do come find me at juliebozza.com and libra-tiger.com.



Other titles by Julie Bozza


The Butterfly Hunter Trilogy:

Butterfly Hunter

Of Dreams and Ceremonies

Like Leaves to a Tree

The Thousand Smiles of Nicholas Goring


Albert J. Sterne:

The Definitive Albert J. Sterne

Albert J. Sterne: Future Bright, Past Imperfect


The Apothecary’s Garden

The Fine Point of His Soul

Homosapien … a fantasy about pro wrestling

Mitch Rebecki Gets a Life

A Night with the Knight of the Burning Pestle

A Threefold Cord

The ‘True Love’ Solution

The Valley of the Shadow of Death


Anthologies:

Call to Arms

A Certain Persuasion

A Pride of Poppies



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