Peer Review by RockSugar98 (Singapore)

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Pretty Birds, War Soldiers

By: Dmoral


FREE WRITING

June 11th, 1942.
We sent letters as though the words written on them would heal our broken hearts. Our feelings for each other became nothing more than what we sealed in envelopes, where our thoughts became our own and the evitable truth resting on our shoulders.
Mama always told me don't fall for a military man, and I should've listened. I remember the first time she told me, I was eight years old, convinced the boy two houses down was going to be my husband. We planned out our future in an afternoon, me a school teacher, him a soldier fighting like his Daddy did. After we spent the afternoon under the large oak tree in his front yard, I ran back home, my yellow sundress flying.
"Penelope!" Mama scolded, hitting her hands against her apron. "You were meant home twenty minutes ago! Your Daddy would've busted your chops!"
Frowning, I kicked off my flats and went into the kitchen.
"I'm sorry mama," I say, trying to sound like I meant it. "I was talking to James. We're gonna get married ma, after he's outta the war."
Stopping mid fold, she left the dough on the counter. Quickly, she whipped around and slapped me across the face. It was just enough to feel, not enough to hurt much. But it stung.
"Ow!"
"Never date a soldier! They do you no good. Just kiss ya then leave to forget and hurt ya."
James and I divorced before we got married, the next day.

September 12th, 1942.
Penny,
These trenches are damned, no human should ever walk among here. Most men here use dope to get through it. I don't, know you and ma kill me. Write soon.
-Thomas


He lately he's been signing with his full name, not 'Tommy' as I've always called him. Seems his slipping away, just as Mama warned me. Slowly, I rub my thumb along my own nickname. He gave me that when we meet, two years ago. The only person to ever use it. At least some things never change.

January 1st, 1943.
He was supposed to come home eight days ago. He promised in his last letter. I waited for hours, lost count after eight. Figured love was timeless, didn't need to worry about it.
I left the bar around two in the morning when the bartender kicked me out. He was nice though, served me joe after he claimed I had too many drinks. Told him I'd pay him in lettuce, he simply laughed. Said I was a pretty girl, this was on the house.
I went to Mama's place because I couldn't stand the thought of going to his place without him. Or being at my place alone. She opened the door to find my mascara smudges and running, nearly dripping in sync with my tears. I knew my lips were cracked and dry, the lipsticked caked on there suddenly felt heavy. My mint green dress wrinkled at the bottom and my black shoes mudded.
"I loved him," I choked out, falling into her arms.

July 30th, 1943.
Seven months is a long time not to hear from someone. Soon the days begin to blur together, it's hard to tell them apart. And with a heart on the verge of breaking, you don't quite care anymore. 
Everyone around me whispers, only a few brave enough to ask why I've become a ghost. Mama says I need to get out there, fancy myself a man before they're all gone.
"He could still be out there," I say the words with no emotion, they're dead words.
"The men cam two months ago, sweetie. Said he's MIA."
I nearly shake my head.

July 31st, 1943.
That night I went out with one of the only friends I had left. Sandra said I needed to get out of the house. Even if I don't want to meet anyone, can't hurt to dance with somebody.
Ironic, how your past likes to visit in god awful times but can make you still miss them. That's what I thought as soon as I saw James. He may be a man now, but I'd never forget the face of the boy who stole my first kiss.
"You a swigger now, uh?" I smirk, taking the stool next to him.
Turning to me, I noticed it took James a second to register who I was. And in that second I grew still, scared I made a mistake. I let out that breath when I notice the blue spark in his eyes, some things never change.
"She's still got moxie, I see," He chuckled, setting his drink down.
We embraced, with our memories clinging onto us.
"Don't rag on me," I say, once we let go.
"I see no rock on your finger, you still breaking hearts?" He raised his eyebrow.
"More like getting my heartbroken," I sigh, snatching his drink. After I took a swig, I went on. "Met myself another soldier-" I winked "-but this time, he left me. MIA in this crummy war."
"Christ Penelope, I'm sorry."
I simply shrugged.

August 14th, 1943.
We met the next day, the day after, and again for the past few weeks. We relived memories as though they happened yesterday and consumed the information about each other's lives as though it was the only thing keeping us going. Our relationship seemed to blossom, skipping over the step of growth. At last, I had connected to someone as I had once with Tommy.
"You're one fine dame," James breathed, as we sat across from each other at the cafe. Our legs brushed against each other. "Perhaps we could finish what we started?"
"Hm?" Carefully, I sipped my tea.
"Marry me, Penelope. Let's do what we dream of as kids."
Hearing the words gave me goosebumps. My heart never shattered, I never broke as I was supposed to after the news from Tommy came. No, all I felt was empty. Then, there was James. He made me forget, and until now, that was everything. And now, those words finally broke me.
"Jesus! Didn't think it'd make you cry. Sorry! Forget I said something!" Jumping from the table, the shoved some napkins toward me, unsure what to do. This was the first time I'd ever seen him like this.

February 12th, 1944.
This had been the fifth time I brushed my hair out and the third time my Mama scolded at me, saying it'd frizz. I knew better, but my nerves were getting the best of me. Never saw me much having a sappy wedding, that's all.
Suddenly, Sandra burst into the room.
"Twenty minutes ladies!"
That threw Mama into a cow.

Every minute seemed to drag out and I knew it was because of the anticipation. I'm so used to telling my kids to have patience, you'd think I'd practice what I'd preach. Perhaps third-graders rub off on you after all. Groaning, I began to pace.

Daddy kissed me before handing my hand to James. As soon as we touched I felt the spark, something I hadn't felt in a long time. We wrote vows, but I knew he sounded better. His words painted a fantasy of our life, too perfect for it to sound true. I knew if that was possible, then Heaven could be real-because nothing suppose to beat Heaven. My vows were dull in comparison, talking about cliches of meeting as a child and becoming what we are now. And even on our wedding day, I'm not quite sure where I stood.
"And for anyone who opposes this marriage between Penelope Jones and James Williams, speak now or forever hold your priest," were the last words I heard my priest say. Because immediately afterward, a man in the back stood up and said, "I thought we were going to get married."
Slowly, he grabbed his crutches and hobbled his way down the aisle. His hair was no longer long and curled at the tips, right under his ears, but buzzed. His skin no longer clear, but dark and decorated in scars and bruises. His right arm was in a cast and his left legged bandaged. His left eye had a big bruise. But god, did those green eyes sparkle.
"Tommy?" I choked out, dropping my hands from James.
"I've missed you, Penny."


Message to Readers

Finished: 2/7/2020


Peer Review

I like the way you describe things! It's very original and its very effective in bringing out the emotions in that particular situation. I had also appreciated how accurately you made use of the different slangs in the appropriate contexts to make it feel as though a person from the 1940s has time-travelled and sat in front of me to tell me this story. Another thing I appreciated was the timeline that you had used which was really reminiscent of diary entries but was actually a countdown to the actual big event in your story. It has reminded me of John Green's "Looking for Alaska" (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/99561.Looking_for_Alaska?from_search=true&qid=FzcyA0y2Wo&rank=1) and definitely gave me warm fuzzies as you let me have a glimpse of Penelope's most delicate and intimate thoughts. Definitely a heartening read.


Definitely what became of Penelope and James and Tommy in the end. As well as how did Tommy make it back home. I would imagine that it had been an arduous journey for Tommy.


Reviewer Comments

Your piece is, no doubt, a wonderful read. I like that you have done some research to make your characters to speak like they were in the 1940s, keep up the good work. However, there are some issues that you might want to take note of in the future.
1. It does appear, at least in this piece, that you're a little confused with punctuation. It is a good idea to go through how to use different punctuations in various contexts to make your article more easily understandable. However, there is no need to fret: punctuation errors are very common ones and can be resolved easily. I hope the hyperlinks below can be of some help.
For commas: https://www.grammarly.com/blog/comma/
For colons: https://grammar.yourdictionary.com/punctuation/grammar-colon-usage.html

2. At times it was a little hard to follow through with your story because of unclear references of places and contexts. It's always a good idea to state, right in the front of the paragraph, where your characters are at and what they are doing.

3. Whilst you have a flair for description, it is also a good idea to only describe what is necessary and revise your work after you're done writing it. I had the feeling that although some expressions (the description of dresses and makeup) of your expressions were elegant, they were extra. It is always good to have a clear purpose as to why you have added in those descriptions. E.g. The lipstick clung onto the dry areas of my lips, slowly releasing its grips only when moistened by my heartbroken tears. Once in a while, there are also awkward expressions here and there (that I would have highlighted for you). But that is a rather minor issue.

Overall, I hope you take heart and keep going! Your writing shows a very in-depth understanding of WWII and a huge literary potential. I am sure that you will become a very prolific writer in the near future and await to read more from you. :)