A Troubled Peaceby L. M. Elliott
World War II may be ending, but for nineteen-year-old pilot Henry Forester the conflict still rages. Shot down behind enemy lines in France, Henry endured a dangerous trek to freedom, relying on the heroism of civilians and Resistance fighters to stay alive. But back home in Virginia, Henry is still reliving air battles with Hitler's Luftwaffe/p>… See more details below
World War II may be ending, but for nineteen-year-old pilot Henry Forester the conflict still rages. Shot down behind enemy lines in France, Henry endured a dangerous trek to freedom, relying on the heroism of civilians and Resistance fighters to stay alive. But back home in Virginia, Henry is still reliving air battles with Hitler's Luftwaffe and his torture by the Gestapo. Mostly, Henry can't stop worrying about the safety of those who helped him escape—especially one French boy, Pierre, who, because of Henry, may have lost everything.
When Henry returns to France to find Pierre, he is stunned by the brutal after-math of combat: starvation, cities shattered by Allied bombing, and the shocking return of concentration camp survivors. Amid the rubble of war, Henry must begin a daring search for a lost boy—plus a fight to regain his own internal peace and the trust of the girl he loves.
L. M. Elliott's sequel to Under a War-Torn Sky is an astonishing account of surviving the fallout from war.
Read an Excerpt
A Troubled Peace
"Pull her up, Henry! Pull her up!"
Henry gripped the plane's steering wheel as it crashed through sun-split clouds toward earth.
He gritted his teeth and waited. Henry had cheated death a dozen times like this during bombing missions over France and Germany. Hurling a plane into a dive to put out an engine fire was the first survival trick pilots learned. They'd earned their manhood during flight training by yanking a plane up just before it smashed into trees or barracks, bragging on how long they'd waited, how close they'd come, how boys who flinched and pulled up early were chicken. Whoever stayed cool longest won bets for three-day passes away from base through such dares. Stupid stuff.
Henry couldn't believe he was using the bullyboy tactic, and on Patsy, the person he loved most. But forcing a situation was the only battle strategy Henry knew since going to war. Never second-guess; force a shot-up plane to fly even though ditching was a better idea; charge in with guns blaring; do or die.
"Henry, please. Pull the plane up."
"Not until you say yes. Come on, Pats. Yes."
Henry glanced over at Patsy's heart-shaped face. It had that stubborn, I'll-never-admit-to-being-scared look he'd seen countless times on their school playground. He'd always loved what a spitfire she was. But it sure wasn't helping him now.
He calculated the distance to the horizon rushing toward him. He still had a good sixty seconds. He held to his bluff. "I'll pull up when you agree to marry me."
The plane started to buck.
Patsy braced herself. "No, Henry.I love you. But I can't."
"Why not, Pats?"
"I don't think you're ready, Henry."
"Not ready? I spent all my Air Force back pay for the ring. I had a heck of a fight with my dad about buying it. I'd say I'm ready." His voice rattled like the plane. "Please, Pats. Thinking about you, about coming home, is what kept me walking across France, what kept me alive when the Gestapo near drowned me during interrogation. You're my copilot, my navigator. I can't fly straight without you."
For a moment, Patsy wavered. Then she screamed: "Henry—look out!"
Out of the lowering sun swarmed Nazi fighters—Junkers, Messerschmitts.
Twelve-o'clock high—bogeys coming in, fast! Henry heard the voices of his crew shouting, calling out the flight path of the Luftwaffe killers streaking toward them.
Someone radioed American fighters for help: Little friends, little friends, we've got a hornet's nest here. They're everywhere!
Do something, Hank. I don't want to die!
A gray-green Messerschmitt roared past the cockpit, its bullets ripping into Henry's plane, the German pilot's mocking face close enough to see. Did you really think I would allow you to escape?
Engines exploded. The plane erupted in a ripple of orange flames. Billowing smoke choked the cockpit. Henry couldn't see anything, couldn't find Patsy anywhere. All he could hear was: We're cooked, Hank. We're cooked.
Henry lurched up, crab-backing into the bed's headboard and banging his skull against his high school diploma hanging above it. He counted the windows—one, two, three. He saw the whitewashed bureau by the door, looked up to see the airplane model he'd made when he was twelve hanging from the ceiling.
Check. Check. Check.
He was in his own bed, in Virginia. Just another nightmare. Another flight into the hell of his own mind.
Kicking back the tangle of covers, Henry fell out of bed and stumbled to his bureau. He picked up a small box and yanked open the starched cotton curtains. Moonlight fell onto his hands as he opened the case. There was the diamond ring Patsy hadn't wanted.
Henry rubbed his face against the ice-cold windowpane to wake himself up completely. He was so sick of his crazy, mixed-up thoughts; these nightmares; the flashbacks to air battles and his struggles on the escape lines of France; the bizarre overlap of his life in Virginia with the memories he was trying to dodge. He was ashamed of knee-jerk reactions like the time Henry's dad, Clayton, shot at a fox in one of the henhouses and the sound of the blast sent Henry bolting across half the county before he recognized he wasn't being hunted himself. It was so hard to know sometimes what was really happening and what was simply his mind playing with him, torturing him just as the Gestapo had set up a fake escape to break his spirit. He wanted the war in his soul to be over. He was home. Why couldn't he get back to normal? And why wouldn't Patsy marry him?
Henry had set up a perfect proposal, taking Patsy to a dance at Richmond's swank John Marshall Hotel. She'd piled her hair in soft curls and wore a dress she'd borrowed from a society friend she'd met through the Red Cross. It was deep blue velvet with swirls of small beads on its padded shoulders. Very fancy. Very Ginger Rogers. As she held his hand and guided Henry to the dance floor through the mob of returned servicemen and their dates, he knew marrying Patsy was the way back, back to the life he'd planned before the war, before the missions, before all the killing.
As the band played "Till Then," the heart-wrenching song asking the hometown girl to stay true until her soldier returned, Henry held Patsy close and whispered: "Marry me, Patsy." The moment felt like something out of the song, the line he'd hummed over and over to himself in France, "Till then, let's dream of what there will be."
But Patsy had said no. Not yet. "You seem so angry," she said, "so haunted. I worry that you think getting married will stop all that somehow. But what if I'm not enough? I don't think I can fix all that. It scares me, Henry." She'd paused, then murmured, "You scare me."
Remembering, Henry butted his head against the glass. Girl, you don't know scared. He hadn't told Patsy half of what he'd seen. Boys shredded and blown out of bomb bays to splatter on the glass cockpits of planes following behind in formation. French children so hungry they fought over scraps dropped on the ground by picnicking Nazis. Women dragged out of their homes by neighbors to shave their heads as payback for teenage flirtations with the enemy.A Troubled Peace. Copyright (c) by L. Elliott . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
and post it to your social network
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews >