They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old; Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning We will remember them.
– Laurence Binyon, “For the Fallen”
June 6th, 1994 0900 hours
I feel his grip on my hand tighten. I know how difficult it is for him to return after all of these years, but it’s important to him to see it one last time. I can’t help but to stare at his profile as the car winds down the country road. His hair is mostly silver now, but I can still see strands of blonde here and there. His profile is still strong and his jaw line squared, even if his features have sagged somewhat with age. The scar beneath his right eye is nothing more than a barely visible silver line in his otherwise perfect face. I squeeze his hand in return and when he looks over at me the corners of his mouth twitch up ever so slightly. After 50 years have passed, on this very day, I’m still enthralled by him. We each face forward again and I know each of us is remembering that day.
June 5th, 1944 2200 hours
I can’t help but to pace back and forth, my body full of adrenaline. I try to calm down knowing I need to save my energy for the paces we’ll be put through in the next hours and days. I light a cigarette and look up at the full moon in the sky remembering the line my first commander, Major General William C. Lee spoke to us almost two years earlier. “The 101st Airborne Division, activated at Camp Toccoa, Georgia, has no history, but it has a rendezvous with destiny. Like the early American pioneers whose invincible courage was the foundation stone of this nation, we have broken with the past and its traditions in order to establish our claim to the future.” It really was a lot of trial and error then since we were literally the first airborne division in the US. Looking around at my fellow soldiers now, remembering all of our previous missions, I’m confident we will prevail.
We were all told of our mission only hours earlier, dubbed Operation Chicago. We, the 101st, would lead the way on D-Day with night drops prior to the invasion. Our division’s main objectives were to secure the four causeway exits behind Utah Beach, destroy a German coastal artillery battery at Saint-Martin-de-Varreville, and capture numerous other buildings and command posts before ultimately meeting up with the 82nd Airborne at Les Forges. Tonight’s full moon meant the spring tide would rise helping the sea-landing forces arriving on the beaches of Normandy tomorrow.
I and 26 other paratroopers climbed aboard what had been nicknamed the Gooney Bird, a C-47 Skytrain airplane destined for Drop Zone C. All of us were nervous as we sat, not talking. The noise of the propellers would have made it impossible to hear anyway. In an effort to distract myself I attempted to recall any of the French I had learned in high school, but soon realized that was a lost cause.
At ten miles out we became subjected to intense antiaircraft fire. Our plane held steady at first but we were then blown to the right by the force of another C-47 exploding on our left. We heard the sounds of the left propeller being hit before it caught fire and died all together. We weren’t over our drop zone yet, but as the plane started to veer downwards we all knew we had to jump now. Everyone was out of their seats and we jumped one by one. I was near the end of the line, pushing the lower ranked men in front of me. I had just made it out of the plane when it exploded in mid-air. I felt something sear across my face and was blinded by the explosion. I counted to 10 and when my vision didn’t come back I had no choice but to pull the ripcord of my parachute not being able to see how far I was from the ground. I pulled on the risers in an attempt to steer my parachute, but it was useless because my vision still hadn’t returned. I felt my knees give way when I hit the ground unprepared and blacked out.
June 6th, 1944 0100 hours
The sound of the antiaircraft guns woke me from my sleep. Our farmhouse was only a few miles east of the Sainte Marie du Monte where the Germans that had infiltrated our region had set up their artillery. I was alone in the house. My mother had died giving birth to me and both my father and my brother were gone working with the French Resistance. The Germans had occupied France for four long years at that point. The coastal area had been declared a military zone and was off-limits to French civilians with the exception of the few of us locals that had remained in our homes, but we required a special pass. I knew something big was happening soon because of the messages playing on BBC’s French service from London. Earlier in the evening I had heard the coded messages coming through on the radio. Les carottes sont cuites (The carrots are cooked) and Les dés sont jetés (The dice have been thrown).
As I lay there in bed listening to the gunfire I heard another noise, only this time, it was much closer. It sounded like a thud followed by moaning. Getting out of bed I put my robe on over my nightdress and tied it shut before going outside. A curfew had been established and without an Ausweis (Authorization) it was forbidden to go out at night. The full moon was bright enough in the sky that I didn’t have much trouble seeing out into the night. I only heard the moaning sounds sporadically so it took me a few minutes before I saw him. I cautiously walked forward and could see a very big man, lying on the ground with his legs underneath him and a parachute billowing next to him still attached at his shoulders. His helmet wasn’t sitting on his head properly and his reddened face looked as though it had been severely sunburned with a two inch gash underneath his right eye that was bleeding profusely.
As I got even closer I could see from his uniform that he was an American. I quickly looked around to make sure there wasn’t anyone coming. I was far enough away from my neighbors that we couldn’t be seen, but I knew if the Germans found him here they would take him away, if not worse. I ran back into the house and came back with a knife that I used to cut him free from the parachute. I gathered it quickly and ran back to the house leaving it in a pile just inside the door. Running to him once more I gently straightened his legs feeling them for any obvious breaks. When I couldn’t find any I crouched behind him hooking my arms underneath his armpits and pulled him towards the house.
He must weigh a ton I thought. I was stronger than most young women from growing up on a farm. Even though the majority of the farm work became a thing of the past with the German invasion, I still baked loaves of bread and the occasional pies using the blueberries from the few bushes scattered around the house that I secretly sold in town to make ends meet, so the muscles in my arms got a daily workout. The fear of getting caught helped to fuel my adrenaline and we made it into the farmhouse in less time than I would’ve imagined.
After making sure the door was locked and the shutters were closed I lit a few candles so I could tend to his injuries. He had stopped moaning and I would’ve been more concerned if I didn’t see the rise and fall of his chest. Now he only appeared to be sleeping, even thought I knew that wasn’t the case. I took off my robe and balled it up to use as a pillow for him before carefully removing his helmet. His hair was the same shade of blonde as mine. I grabbed a couple of rags and wet them before I attempted to clean his face. While using one to hold over his cut I applied pressure to get the bleeding to stop, and used the other to clean the trails of blood from his face and neck. I couldn’t help but notice how handsome he was. All of his facial features were perfectly symmetrical and he had a well defined jaw and prominent cheekbones. I gently went over the burns on his face, but they didn’t appear too bad. The skin wasn’t blistered or broken open. After 20 minutes the gash still hadn’t stopped bleeding so I knew he needed stitches. I’d sewn up a few cuts on both my father and my brother over the years, but it still made me a little squeamish.
I opened my sewing basket and took out a needle and some thread, wiping them down with some vodka I had gotten out of the cellar. I carefully poured water over his wound and then a little vodka hoping the alcohol would kill off any germs. I knew it would’ve stung, so when he didn’t flinch at all, I carefully sewed his wound shut without worrying it would cause him more pain. I broke off a stem from an aloe plant sitting in my kitchen window and spread the moisture dripping from the stem over his burns.
With that done I looked him over thinking he should be laying in a bed and not on the floor in my front room. I remembered, again, the hidden messages that The dice has been thrown and his arrival proved it was true. Something big was going to be happening soon and I was afraid for either of us to stay out in the open while it happened.
My father had turned the cellar into an underground hideaway before he left, covering the original opening with floorboards and making a hidden trapdoor that blended in with the floor and was only accessible through a bedroom closet. It was well stocked with candles and cans of soup and a mattress on the floor. I decided to take him down there and then would come back upstairs and carry down everything else we might need.
I went and opened the trapdoor making sure nothing would be in my way and then dragged him again, descending the stairs slowly so that only his boots bounced off the stairs and not his head. I almost lost my hold a few times and we both would’ve tumbled down but I managed to hold on. As I dragged him closer to the mattress I noticed that his uniform was covered in blood, soot, and mud. I knew I’d have to be the one to take it off of him since he was still unconscious, but I still blushed at the thought of having to do it. I was 19 years old and had, literally, never been kissed. I went back in forth in my mind, but my desire for HIM to be comfortable won out over MY desire to be comfortable.
I removed his boots first and would swear that I had never seen feet that big before. I looked at him again, seeing clearly now how tall he must be. I guessed he was close to two meters tall. I continued to strip him of his harness and utility belt and then his jacket. Since I knew I would have to roll him from side to side to get his arms out of the sleeves I left his jacket on while I unbuttoned his shirt so I could take them off at the same time.
I rolled him onto his back once his arms were finally free of his sleeves and took in what was in front of me. His chest was broad and I could see the outline of each of his chest and abdominal muscles through the tight t-shirt he wore. I suspected he might have had a difficult time finding clothing in his size that would fit properly. I was curious what his bare chest would look like but couldn’t bring myself to sneak a peek. I could see the outline of his dog tags under his shirt and I pulled them out to see them. It said his name was Eric Northman.
“Eric Northman” I said out loud, and I jumped when he moaned again. Oops! I wondered if he was coming around, but when several minutes had passed without him making another sound I decided I had stalled enough and started unbuckling his belt so I could remove his soiled pants.
I could feel the heat flush my cheeks as I unbuttoned his trousers. I gripped them on each side of his hips and shimmied them down, but ended up having to roll him once more to get them down to his thighs. I guessed that I had inadvertently been gripping his boxer shorts as well because when I gave them the final tug the waistband of his shorts slid down exposing the most glorious rear end I had ever seen. Well, technically, I hadn’t seen ANY naked rear ends but I still doubted there were any others that could even match his much less beat it. I stared long enough for my morals kicked in and I quickly pulled his boxers back into place before rolling him onto his back and removing his pants all together.
I set his uniform in a corner of the cellar and went back upstairs to retrieve clean sheets. Once the mattress was covered I pulled him onto to the side closest to where he had been on the floor and propped a pillow underneath his head.
I couldn’t help but stare at him again. He looked so peaceful and yet so vulnerable. I wondered what color his eyes were but I didn’t dare try to see. I was worried about whatever injuries he might have sustained that I couldn’t see from the outside and didn’t want to cause any more damage.
I returned upstairs and gathered everything I thought we might need as well as some books and my sewing basket and two bolts of fabric to pass the time and took everything back down into the cellar, locking the trapdoor behind me. After I put everything away I felt the last of my energy leave me and it was replaced with exhaustion.
I looked at him lying on the mattress and then glanced around the rest of the cellar. The mattress was large enough that I could sleep next to him, but I was struggling internally over laying in a bed with a man that I didn’t even know. The floor was cold and hard and the only other furniture down here was a small bistro table and two chairs. After spending at least a half hour trying to get comfortable in the hard chair I gave up and crawled onto the mattress beside him and fell asleep within minutes.
June 6th, 1944 0700 hours
I woke up with a massive headache. I could hear gunfire in the distance and had no idea where I was. I slowly opened my eyes but couldn’t see anything. I lifted my hands to my face feeling it with my fingertips. I could feel that my eyes were open but I could only see a blinding bright haze. The pain of it forced me to close them again. My whole face felt sore and I came across what felt like stitches underneath my right eye. I dropped my hands down and could feel that I was only wearing my t-shirt and boxers. I spread out further on the mattress I was laying on and my hand came across a body lying next to me.
My hand instantly shot back to my side and I said, “Hello? Who’s there?” My throat was parched and my voice was scratchy.
“Mmm…” I heard next to me and I felt the movement of them turning over on the mattress and an arm draped across my chest. The voice sounded female and as I carefully ran my hand along the arm on my chest, it felt female.
I tapped on the foreign arm with my hand saying, “Uh, excuse me? Miss?” I knew my attempts to wake her were successful when I felt the arm disappear followed with, “Oh mon dieu! Vous êtes éveillé!” (Oh my God! You’re awake!)
Shit, I knew I should have paid attention in French class. “Uh…parlez –vous…uh, English?”
I was relieved when she answered, “Oh, of course. I am sorry Monsieur Northman. How do you feel?”
“My head hurts, and I can’t see anything. Who are you? Where am I?”
“My name is Sookie. You’re in my house. Actually, my cellar.”
I felt the mattress move as she got up and heard the sound of liquid being poured into a glass. I then felt her hands touch mine and she said, “Are you able to sit up? You need to drink some water and I have aspirin for you as well.”
I instinctively opened my eyes again and was blinded once more. I reached up covering my eyes with my hands grunting, “Aahh..” When that pain subsided I pushed myself up while keeping my eyes closed and felt her place the glass in one hand and two pills in the other. I gratefully swallowed everything and felt her hand on mine again before removing the glass from my grasp.
“Would you like for me to wrap some fabric around your head to help keep your eyes closed for now?” she asked.
I nodded and then asked, “How did I get here? What happened to me?”
As she wrapped a soft piece of cloth around my eyes she explained how she heard me hit the ground outside of her home the night before and found me about thirty meters away. She dragged me inside and took care of my wounds before dragging me down into her hidden cellar so I wouldn’t be caught by the Germans. She said she’d heard the coded messages on the radio about something happening soon and my presence confirmed that so she hid us both underneath her house.
I listened as she talked and came to the quick realization this woman saved my life. I don’t know how she was able to drag me anywhere, given my size, much less ninety feet over the ground, into her house and then down into her cellar. She must be freakishly strong.
I was roused from my thoughts by, “Monsieur Northman? Did you hear me?”
“Please, call me Eric. What were you saying?”
“I asked if you remember how you came to be injured?”
I told her everything I remembered and then realized that today was V-Day. I had no idea what happened to the rest of my regiment and I knew the sea-landing invasion would be going on right now. I could still hear the gunfire in the distance, but I’d been hearing it for months now so it was almost like background noise.
Panicked, I asked, “How far are we from Normandy? It might not be safe for you here.”
“We’re a few kilometers away. And I’ve been as safe as possible here for a while now. No one will find us down here. You can’t see and I’m not leaving. There’s nowhere else for us to go so we’ll just have to wait it out.”
Her voice was completely calm with no trace of fear whatsoever. I sat there in awe of her. Not only was she strong enough to rescue me, she’s brave and loyal as well. I’d never met any other woman like her.
“Do you mind if I ask you a question?” I asked. When she said I could I followed up with, “How old are you?” I figured she must be older, maybe old enough to have a son off fighting in the war. Maybe that was why she was alone with enough life experience to not be scared by it.
She paused before answering, “I am 19 years old. And you Monsieur Northman? I mean, Eric?”
19? Huh. “I’m 22.”
For the next two days we stayed in her cellar talking non-stop as the fire fight in the distance waged on. I lifted the blindfold and tried opening my eyes every now and then, but all I could see was the bright haze. I told her all about growing up on a dairy farm in Pennsylvania and being a paratrooper in the army. She had me describe all of the different places I’d seen like she was trying to see them herself through my words. She told me about her family and how she came to be alone here and I found I was falling in love with the sound of her voice. Whenever she laughed it was like soft wind chimes on beautiful spring day. I wondered to myself if it was possible to fall in love with someone you’ve never even seen. Then I thought it must be as there are blind people out there in the world, I just never thought about it until now.
I was surprised on the evening of the second day when she slipped a shirt over my arms. I’d had no idea but she had been sewing it together while we talked, and had even made a pair of trousers for me as well. She explained how my uniform was covered in blood and mud. I was touched by her thoughtfulness beyond words. They fit me perfectly.
I felt her sit next to me on the mattress as she checked over the fit of my new clothes but I held onto her hand before she could stand up again saying, “Thank you. You didn’t have to do this.” She didn’t have to do ANY of it, yet she did. If she was caught by the Germans hiding me she would be imprisoned at the least. I didn’t want to think about what they would do to her at the worst.
I felt her free hand glide over my face and my wound. “How do you feel? Does it still hurt?” The last thing I felt was pain as her hand stayed on my face. “No, it doesn’t hurt” I whispered. I trailed my free hand up her arm to her shoulder and up to her face. Her skin was so soft. I slowly ran my fingers across her face, trying to ‘see’ her with my touch. She held perfectly still, her hand still on my face, and when I traced over her lips she kissed my fingertip. I wove my fingers into the hair at the back of her head and slowly pulled her face to mine. When our lips finally met I felt a spark run through my body.
Her hand left my face and gripped the back of my head as she slipped her tongue into my mouth and deepened our kiss. I felt my growing arousal below and I let go of her hand and placed it on her back pulling her body closer to mine. When I felt her hardened nipples against my chest I couldn’t help moaning. It felt like my body was on fire anywhere her body touched mine. When I felt her hands unbuttoning the shirt she had just put on me I felt like I had to stop her now before I lost all self-control.
Stilling her hands with mine I asked, “Are you sure Sookie? It’s okay if we stop now, or we could just kiss for a while. I don’t want you to go any further if you don’t want to.”
She paused for a few moments and I wished I could see whatever expressions were going across her face just then because I was literally in the dark. I had to strain to hear her when she softly said, “I’ve never done this before. But, I want to now. I want to with you.”
A moment later I felt her lips tentatively touch mine and as our kiss became more heated her hands resumed taking off my shirt. I held myself back from running my hands all over her body in case she ended up changing her mind until she swung her leg over both of mine and sat in my lap never breaking our kiss. She felt tiny and I again wondered how she was able to drag me through the field, but when she rubbed her heated center over my straining erection and I lost whatever self-control I’d had. I growled into her mouth as my hands ran up the sides of her body underneath her shirt to her breasts. She wasn’t wearing a bra and I could tell she was well endowed. As soon as my hands made contact she gasped and arched forward into my hands. I felt when she removed her shirt and I leaned forward towards my hand until I finally latched on to her nipple. She whimpered as I slowly swirled my tongue over and around her areola before sucking into my mouth and flicking the tip with my tongue.
I kissed and licked my way across her chest to her other breast and gave it the same treatment. Her hands traced over my chest before raking her fingernails down my front. She then held my head in place at her breast as she moaned and whimpered with each flick of my tongue and used the other hand to stroke me through my pants. When she unbuttoned them and then wrapped her hand around the base of my cock I couldn’t help bucking up into her hand groaning in pleasure at the sensation.
I pulled her lips back to mine and devoured her mouth as she continued to stroke me. I slipped one of my hands into her waistband over her mound of curls and felt that she was dripping wet. I trailed my fingers through the moisture along her slit before slipping one inside of her. She cried out in pleasure and bucked into my hand. I added a second finger and placed my thumb over her bundle of nerves rubbing them with each thrust of my fingers. The rhythm of her hand on my cock faltered as I felt her inner walls spasm around my fingers and when I latched onto her breast with my mouth again she tumbled over the edge, her muscles gripping my fingers like a vice and screaming out, “Oh mon dieu! ERIC!”
I continued rubbing slow circles over her clit and her body jerked uncontrollably from the sensation. She said, “Je veux plus” (I want more) and then lifted off of my lap as she tugged on my pants. When I figured out what she was trying to do I laid back in the bed and lifted my hips so she could get them off, chuckling inside that Sookie didn’t remember to speak English when she was in Sexy Sookie mode. My internal chuckle turned into an external groan when she straddled my lap again and placed her entrance over my tip, pushing down slowly at first and gasping once her maidenhead tore free. I held her hips with my hands, allowing her to set her own pace once her body adjusted to mine. She rocked up and down my length, gradually increasing her pace and I felt her walls tighten around me as she was approaching her next orgasm. I slid my hand back to her center and flicked over her clit with my fingers and she screamed out again as her orgasm rocked through her body. I grabbed her hips with both hands again lifting her up and thrusting my hips up as I brought her back down over and over until I came with a roar deep inside of her.
Eventually Sookie moved to lie beside me on the mattress and tucked herself into my side. I ran my fingers through the long locks of her hair and knew she had fallen asleep as I listened to her breathing even out. I knew then that I had fallen in love with her. It made no difference to me what she looked like because I knew how beautiful she was on the inside. I fell asleep hoping she might feel the same.
I woke up a while later. Not being able to see, I had no idea if it was still night time or the next day. I felt around the mattress and found my boxers as well as the fact that I was lying there alone. I pulled them on and I was just about to call out to her when I heard a crash upstairs. Men were screaming in German and I heard Sookie cry out, “NO!” followed by the sound of flesh hitting flesh.
I jumped up and tried to find the stairs. I tripped over something and fell to my knees but I kept crawling and feeling my way along the floor desperate to get to her. I found the stairs moments later, but as I made my way up I heard gunshots and the sound of a body hitting the floor. I climbed up the stairs as fast as I could, throwing the trapdoor open yelling out “SOOKIE!”.
June 9th, 1944 0730 hours
I woke up with Eric’s body wrapped around mine. Everything had happened so fast, but even though we’d only known each other for a few days I knew I wanted to be with him forever. I blushed thinking of the night before. I hoped he had feelings for me too and didn’t think any less of me for giving myself to him so soon.
I peeled myself out of Eric’s embrace and put my clothes on. I looked down at him sleeping peacefully and thought I could happily stare at him forever. I’d been doing just that for days using his, hopefully temporary, blindness to my advantage. I had memorized every feature of his face, every line of his muscles, the curve of his mouth. I still didn’t know what color his eyes were, but it made no difference to me. He was beautiful inside and out. As my eyes trailed over his now naked form I planned on trying to memorize this view as well while I had the opportunity, but when I looked down between his legs I saw that parts of him, as well as the sheet beneath him, held traces of blood.
I blushed again knowing it happened when I gave him my virginity. I had never seen a naked man before, but even with my lack of knowledge of such things I knew he had to be on the large end of the scale in that department.
I quietly made my way upstairs to get fresh linens for the bed making sure I closed the trapdoor. I went into the kitchen to get another aloe leaf for Eric’s face when two German soldiers kicked in my front door yelling.
“Schnell! Die Amerikaner kommen! Wir warden hier zu verstecken!” (Quickly! The Americans are coming! We’ll hide in here!)
I stood frozen in shock with the aloe leaf in my hand. The one nearest the door looked down and saw Eric’s parachute still balled up where I had left it and my heart sank. He picked it up inspecting it and the realization must have dawned on him that it wasn’t one of theirs. His head whipped around and stopped when he saw me standing there.
“Wo hast du das? Versteckst du dich hier ein US-amerikanischer? Wo ist er?” (Where did you get this? Are you hiding an American here? Where is he?)
I had learned some German over the last four years and could tell they were asking about Eric. I shook my head no, but made no sound, praying that Eric would stay where he was.
The second soldier strode over to me quickly yelling, “Antwort ihm! Wo versteckst du die Amerikaner?” (Answer him! Where are you hiding the American?)
I screamed out, “NO!” They would not get to Eric. I would not betray him no matter what they did to me. I stood firm when he backhanded me across my face. He kept yelling the same phrase over and over and grabbed me by my hair shaking me. I yelled out from the pain but the sound of a gunshot halted my scream. The soldier that had been holding me let go of my hair as he fell to the floor, dead of a gunshot wound to his head. I looked over at the door and could see the other soldier lying in a heap on the floor with blood pouring out of a large gash across the front of his neck. Behind him were two American soldiers, one pointing a rifle and the other holding a bloody knife.
I heard the sound of the trapdoor being flung open and Eric yelling out, “SOOKIE!” The Americans heard it too and started defensively moving toward the bedroom. I ran behind them screaming, “NO! DON’T SHOOT HIM! HE’S AMERICAN!”
I pushed my way passed them and got to Eric first shielding him from them with my body in case they didn’t hear me. Eric wrapped himself around me yelling, “Sookie! Are you alright? What happened?”
I helped him the rest of the way up and told him everything. The Americans asked Eric questions to make sure he was who he claimed to be and I showed them his dog tags and uniform. I got the shirt and trousers I had made for him from the cellar and helped dress him as more American’s arrived. We learned that the American’s had taken control of the area away from the German’s and were making their way towards Paris. An officer amongst the group ordered Eric to leave with them so he could get medical treatment. We clung to each other until he finally had to go. Eric leaned down and whispered in my ear, “I promise Sookie, I’ll come back for you.”
The tears were streaming down my face as I watched them drive away with him. “Je t’aime Eric,” I whispered, “rester en sécurité.” (I love you Eric, stay safe.)
September 1st, 1945 1100 hours
I walked down the road carrying the basket of breads and pies I had made to sell in town. My thoughts were of Eric, like they had been for the last year. The war in Europe had been over for almost four months now and Japan had surrendered two weeks ago, but I still hadn’t heard from him. My only wish was that he was safe and healthy. I knew I wouldn’t live a truly happy life without him but I could at least live a peaceful life if I knew he was okay.
I dropped off the basket of goods at a local shop where the owner would sell my breads and pies only taking a small percentage to keep for himself and giving me the rest. Everything had slowly started to return to normal in the last year as people made their way back to their homes. I saved one loaf of bread and brought it with me to trade with a fruit and vegetable street vendor.
I looked over everything on the cart and was filling my basket with apples when I heard “Sookie?” behind me. I felt my heart thud and I held my breath as I turned around and the first thing I thought was they’re blue.
September 1st , 1945 1000 hours
I walked into the center of town on a mission. This was the tenth one in the last two weeks I’ve come to looking for Sookie. Everything had happened so fast when I was taken away from her that it didn’t occur to me until I was already gone that I didn’t know her last name or the town or village she lived in. I only knew she was within a few kilometers of Normandy. It turns out there are a lot of towns within a few kilometers of Normandy and so far, no one I talked to knew of a girl named Sookie.
My sight returned within a few days of leaving her house and later that same week I was sent to fight with the rest of my regiment in Carentan. We were returned to England 33 days later and were then sent out again during a daytime drop into Holland for Operation Market Garden where we helped capture and secure four of the five bridges intact including the key bridge across the Rhine River at Arnhem.
It seemed like that was barely done when we were ordered by General Eisenhower on December 16th into the Belgium town of Bastogne. Our mission was to keep the Germans from gaining access to its important crossroads, but with only two days notice, we were short on ammunition, food, weapons, men, and winter clothing. We were encircled immediately and our regiment was sent forward into the towns of Noville and Foy to stall the Germans while the other regiments set up defenses. A third of our battalion was lost but we took out 30 enemy tanks and inflicted 500-1000 casualties. A supply drop on December 22nd helped, but the 506th stayed on the line and spearheaded the entire offensive that led to the eventual liberation of Foy and Noville in January.
We were pulled off the line at the end of February and then sent back out in early April to assist in the encirclement of Ruhr Pocket and the capture of Berchtesgaden and then went on to Zell am See, Austria where we took up occupational duties. We began training again to be redeployed into the Pacific Theater but the war ended before that could happen.
A lot of good men were lost. A lot of them I considered my brothers. Our victory made me believe they didn’t die in vain. I’d been through a lot over the last few years, but if I didn’t find Sookie I don’t think I’d ever be able to recover. She’d saved me that night and I knew I needed her to save me once more. She was in my every thought, my every dream. The image of her was always hazy since I had never actually seen her, but her voice and her touch were seared into my memory. I couldn’t help but think of her every time I looked at my reflection and saw the scar underneath my right eye that she had stitched up for me. I carried the shirt and trousers she’d made for me in my rucksack all over Europe. They were the only things I had from her.
I’d just walked into a shop and noticed the owner putting out fresh loaves of breads and pies into the display case. I’d remembered Sookie telling me she made the same things and sold them in town. Could I be that lucky?
Crossing my fingers I asked, “Escusez-moi monsieur, Connaissez-vous une fille nommée Sookie?” (Excuse me sir, do you know a girl named Sookie?) I’d practiced that particular phrase a lot over the last two weeks. I only hoped I would be able to decipher any answer I’d get besides, ‘No’.
He looked at me warily taking in my dusty uniform. He nodded his head responding, “Oui”. (yes)
I wanted to pick him up and spin him around screaming for joy. Please dear God let him know where she is. “Parlez-vous anglais?” (Do you speak English?) When he nodded I continued, “Do you know where I can find her?”
He looked me over again and I hoped I would pass whatever checklist he was ticking off in his head that would get him to answer my question. After what felt like forever he moved from behind the display case and motioned for me to follow him outside. He looked up and down the street before pointing to a blond woman standing at a fruit and vegetable cart down the street. He said something else but I took off running at her without hearing him. She was wearing a floral sundress and her long blond hair fell in waves down her back.
I slowed my run to a walk and came to a stop directly behind her. “Sookie?”
When she turned around I saw the most beautiful woman I had ever laid eyes on standing before me. Her hair was the same color blond as mine and her eyes were the same color blue as the summer sky. She gasped and tears started running down her face asking, “Eric?”
I wrapped my arms around her and kissed her with everything I had. When she pulled away to breathe I held her close to my body begging, “Please forgive me for being gone so long. I came back as soon as I could. I love you Sookie. ” I pulled her chin up to look into her eyes. “I love you.”
June 6th, 1994 1000 hours
As I walk towards the lawn of the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial I notice the pink granite slab covering a time capsule with sealed news reports of the June 6th, 1944 Normandy landings. It is engraved with: To be opened June 6, 2044. Sookie squeezes my hand again to let me know she sees it too. I know that we’ll be long gone before that day comes but I look over at my sons walking behind us holding their sons’ hands in theirs and hope that at least one of them might be present to witness it. I know the toll that was taken during this war was high and a part of me wished it never occurred, but when I look over at Sookie I can’t help but being thankful for that jump on that fateful night that brought me to her door.