Steerage (War Bride)
– Fiction by Jean Buie –
As seen in issue 14 of Dreamers Magazine and Honorable Mention in the 2023 Sense of Place & Home Contest.
Purchase issue 14 in digital or print here.
I stare hard at the card in my hand:
This card is to be used for ‘Steerage’ passengers only.
Line 15: Suzanne Roberts…25…France…French…Wife…Roman Catholic
Line 16: Gabrielle Roberts…1 9/12…France…French…Child…Roman Catholic
My daughter’s line will be struck out, as that on so many others’ cards have been. Hasty burials at sea.
How many have I witnessed so far? Too many. Just last evening, a baby, three months perhaps, wrapped in a shawl and thrown overboard. The blind soldier holding back his wife who tried to follow.
“Maman,” I hear, and instinctively reach to wipe the sweat from my daughter’s brow. My hand feels the cold first and I fight the urge to recoil; my body catching up with what I already know – the cry was not Gabrielle’s.
Somewhere, high above, housed with the other soldiers, is Frank. Close to fresh air and immune to the stink of those around me. Shielded from the cries of our daughter in her last long hours. He does not know the shudder her tiny body gave.
I try to recall Normandy and the café where we met; reaching for sweetness. But it seems so far away. I feel an ocean has
grown between us tonight. One that will never narrow, even with the birth of other children.
I square my shoulders, pick up Gabrielle and begin the long journey forward.
About the Author – Jean Buie
Jean Buie is a lawyer who, not so secretly, loves to write. She can also be found uncovering family secrets and piecing together her family history; which she often mines for her creative writing. Her essay, “Why I went back to school as a single mother” was published in Chatelaine’s online magazine in 2017. Her work can also be found in eSpeck Books 2016 In A Flash, Fiery Scribe Review, Five Minutes, and Friday Flash Fiction. She lives in Toronto, Ontario, with her family and her dog, Grimm.
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