The following is Chapter 1 of As You Were, the sequel to our novel, A Spent Bullet.
I’d appreciate your feedback on:
- What makes you want to pull for (and care about) Elizabeth and Harry?
- What emotions do you sense as Elizabeth stands in the Hotel Bentley lobby?
Difficulty is an excuse history doesn’t accept.
– Edward R. Murrow
December 8, 1941
War. The word ricocheted through Elizabeth Reed’s soul like a bullet. She clutched the iron railing above the Hotel Bentley’s crowded lobby.
As an old bellhop limped past her, she said, “What’s this about war?”
He smelled of coffee and alcohol. “You haven’t heard? We’re at war.”
“War? With Germany?”
“Nope—the Japs. Sneak attacked our fleet at Pearl Harbor.”
“Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.” The bellhop leaned in. “How in the world haven’t you heard?”
“I’m . . . .” She smoothed her dress. “I . . . rather we’re on our honeymoon.”
“Sweetie, you don’t look old enough to— ”
“I’m plenty old to do whatever I please.”
He stepped back. “Well, what’s your name?”
“Elizabeth Reed . . . Miller. I mean Mrs. Elizabeth Miller.”
His smile revealed a wealth of missing teeth. “Your husband a soldier?”
“Well, you better go wake him. He’s at war now—and so are you.” He glanced toward the lobby. “I guess we all are.”
She descended to the lobby to where a crowd was gathered around a radio and the familiar voice of President Roosevelt. “Yesterday, December 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy, the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan. . . . .”
The silence in the crowded room was such that Elizabeth wondered if the lady next to her could hear her heartbeat. The president’s voice was strident, “Last night, Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong. Last night, Japanese forces attacked Guam . . . Philippine Islands . . . Wake Island . . . Midway . . . .”
She steadied herself. How am I going to tell Harry?
Roosevelt’s voice slowed. “I ask that Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, Dec. 7, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire.”
The President finished, and the lobby crowd quietly melted away. Elizabeth glanced at the clock. Nearly noon—the speech couldn’t have lasted more than ten minutes. Feeling much older than twenty-one, she clenched the handrail going up the stairs. Pausing at the top, she glanced down at the Bentley’s ornate lobby. I guess I’ll always remember this spot.
She paused at room 221, grasping the knob in a death grip and steadied herself against the frame.. The only way is forward.
She eased into the room, glancing in the mirror as she passed by. Harry smiled as she snuggled beside him. “I’m glad you’re back.”
She kissed his forehead, then took a deep breath. “Harry, there’s something I need to tell you.”
He sat up against the headboard.
“While we were up here, America went to war—with Japan.”
He walked to the window. “I knew it was coming—just didn’t expect Japan.” He stood there as a parade of horn-honking cars crossed the Murray Street Bridge.
Harry shook his head. “We could have had such a good life.”
Elizabeth stepped beside Harry and pulled him close. “We already have a good life, and we’ll get through this together.”
He kissed her on the top of the head. “Together.”
We appreciate your feedback!
3. What would you add to this chapter?
4. What sentences/paragraphs could be omitted to make the chapter flow better?