As soon as the shelling seemed to have past Orlando made for the stairs.

‘Where are you going?’ Silla cried.

‘I have to see,’ he said, kissing her forehead before continuing.

There was a gasp when he pushed the door open and saw what was left. ‘Stay here,’ he said, his voice insistent.

The door shut. Silla heard scrambling, running, volleys of shots, silence again.

Orlando did not return. She let an hour go by. The occasional firing became more distant. When she could wait no longer she climbed out of the cellar and saw for herself the destruction.

She knew where he would go. With head low she ran through deserted streets to the house of her old school-friend. As she came through what had been the gate she heard Orlando, as she feared she would, calling Maria’s name over and over, exactly as he had during his dreams. When Silla came level with the house she could see him, Maria in his arms, curled up pale. Pooled in his lap was the blood that had drained from her as he held her. Silla went to him and put her arms around his shoulders. She thanked her God he was alive. ‘Come home, Darling,’ she whispered. ‘Come home.’


2011—Richard Holt / small stories about love (