Thursday, 15 January 2015
A short preface for Arlette's War.
Nine strides from the kitchen door, a mulberry tree stands sentinel. Time has twisted its gnarled trunk, but each Eastertide its blossoms still blush pink with pleasure. A wide bough leans to one side as if weary. Upon this branch can be found two small ridges worn into the bark. These grooves lay testimony to the hours Arlette and Gilbert spent kicking their legs high on a rope swing; blinking at the jigsaw shapes of fractured blue sky between the tree’s branches. They swung high. Eyes closed. Faces upturned. Toes pointed.
Each autumn the spirit of the mulberry tree watched them toss yellow leaves high in the air amidst squeals of laughter. It shaded them from the summer sun as they ate its bulbous fruit, staining their fingers and lips a delicious fuchsia. Each winter it watched them through the glow of the kitchen window, occasionally sending a withered leaf to tap on the glass in greeting. It watched them grow. It watched them fall in love. Somewhere on its trunk has been etched a heart, inside which is scratched a name. Francine.
A secret known only to Gilbert and the spirit of the tree.
But during one bitter night in January 1944, the mulberry tree witnessed a chilling and macabre scene. What led to the ground being dug in darkness and what was placed beneath the black earth is a secret?
A secret known only to Arlette and the spirit of the tree.