Peer Review by seaomelette (United Arab Emirates)

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Telegram

By: aloeg


FREE WRITING

Scene 1
(Lights up, a house. OLIVIA, nervous and fragile, stands next to TRISTAN, her brother. They are surrounded by packing cases.)
OLIVIA: Do you have everything?
TRISTAN: (carelessly) I think so.
(OLIVIA straightens his tie and brushes his shoulders.)
TRISTAN: (impatiently) Appearance won't matter . . . where I'm going.
OLIVIA: It does to me.
TRISTAN: (apologetically)  I'm sorry.
(TRISTAN takes OLIVIA by the shoulders)
TRISTAN: Look, Olivia, the small things don’t matter.
(OLIVIA looks at him)
TRISTAN: Well, not in the end - not as much as . . . as the big things: love, friendship, adventure-
OLIVIA: Is that why you’re going, then? Excitement? (She turns away) Adventure?
(TRISTAN walks round to face her)
TRISTAN: You know it’s not. I have to do my duty.
OLIVIA: (quietly) I'm sorry. (wiping her face)
TRISTAN: That's all right. (seriously) Don't worry. God will look after me.
(JOHN, the butler, enters)
JOHN: Your car is here, my lord.
TRISTAN: Ah, thank you, Spokes. (he pats Olivia on the shoulder)
JOHN: I'm sorry I'm unable to accompany you, sir.
TRISTAN: I understand, Spokes. (quieter, to JOHN) Look after her, John? (JOHN nods.)
(TRISTAN turns back)
TRISTAN: Goodbye, Olivia.
(OLIVIA smiles briefly then sits down, very upright. JOHN opens the door for TRISTAN and he exits. JOHN lingers in the doorway, looking at her, but exits after TRISTAN.)
Scene 2
(Four months later. OLIVIA is sitting very still on a chair. JOHN enters)
JOHN: A telegram for you, my lady. 
(OLIVIA gets up, frightened. He brings it to her. OLIVIA opens it slowly and reads it. She gasps and sits hurriedly on the sofa. JOHN moves quickly up to her and takes the telegram.)
JOHN: Private Tristan Spears, injured in action . . . in a hospital in France. (OLIVIA nods, still in shock.)
JOHN: (respectfully yet still shocked) Thank heavens he's alive. It could have been worse.
OLIVIA: (angrily) It could have been better. He could never have gone at all!
(Beat. Olivia moves first.)
OLIVIA: I'm sorry . . . I was selfish. (to herself) What . . . what can I do now?
JOHN: There's nothing we can do at the moment, my lady. (hesitating) He's still alive until we know worse.
(OLIVIA nods. JOHN stays looking at her from a distance then leaves.)
Scene 3
(OLIVIA is sitting frozen on a chair, looking nervous and cold. JOHN enters.)
JOHN: A telegram for you, my lady.
OLIVIA: (quickly, scared) It's . . . is he? . . . he's  . . . (she is trying to say "dead" but can't bring herself to)
JOHN: Shall I read it?
(OLIVIA nods)
(JOHN opens it slowly. He reads it and looks shocked.)
OLIVIA: (scared, quickly) What is it? (She gets up and runs over to where he is.)
JOHN: It's . . . Tristan's being transferred to London.
(OLIVIA stares at him for a long moment as the fact hits her that her brother is still alive)
OLIVIA: I can't . . . oh, thank goodness. (She hugs John. He hugs her back briefly, but she breaks away, aware of the status difference between them. An awkward silence ensues.)
OLIVIA: (changing the subject) Oh. But those poor souls who will be getting the telegram we dreaded.
(JOHN nods.)
JOHN: We have been very fortunate, my lady.
(They are beginning to bond but are interrupted by the doorbell. JOHN looks over at the door reluctantly, then looks back to OLIVIA. OLIVIA stays standing in the same spot as JOHN bows and exits.)
Scene 4
(OLIVIA and JOHN are sitting next to TRISTAN'S bed. A NURSE is there. He is asleep.)
OLIVIA: Will he wake up soon?
NURSE: There's no telling. He's had a long journey.
OLIVIA: Will he . . .will he remember me?
(Beat.)
NURSE: We don't know.
(OLIVIA puts a hand to her mouth.)
JOHN: Let's go outside. (to the NURSE) Excuse us.
(They walk out into a small waiting area.)
JOHN: (awkwardly patting her back) There.
OLIVIA: Oh John, no, I mean Spokes - 
JOHN: John is fine.
OLIVIA: I never thought he might not remember me . . . us. I  thought because he was coming back . . . he would be . . . better. (She sobs again, leaning against him. JOHN puts an arm around her.)
JOHN: We can only hope, my lady.
OLIVIA: You've always been . . . so kind to me, John. I don't deserve you.
JOHN: That's not true, my lady.
OLIVIA: Oh, call me Olivia.
JOHN: Olivia.
(She looks up at him. He brushes her hair back from her face with his hand. They freeze, lights turn grey/blue)
(TRISTAN enters and moves downstage right; he is in OLIVIA'S imagination.)
OLIVIA: (to herself) No, now is not the time! You're here for Tristan. It's not about you.
TRISTAN: If not now, when?
OLIVIA: Tristan! (She jumps up and runs to hug him) Do you remember me?
TRISTAN: Of course I do.
OLIVIA: Really? Have you recovered?
TRISTAN: Yes, yes . . . but Olivia, what the war has taught me . . . sitting up at 4am with the shells and gunfire . . . it's taught me that people are important. Especially the ones you love.
OLIVIA: Did you have friends . . . there?
TRISTAN: I had many. Some of them survived. I don't know what became of the rest.
OLIVIA: Oh, Tristan.
TRISTAN: It's the worst place on earth. But I'd go back . . . for them. Because it's people that are important.
OLIVIA: My experience is so trivial next to yours.
TRISTAN: You need to tell John you love him.
OLIVIA: Do I love him?
TRISTAN: Olivia, you've loved him for years! What are you afraid of?
OLIVIA: That he'll leave me like you did. (her voice breaks) And he won't come back. I know it wasn't your fault, but-
TRISTAN: John is loyal. Trust him.
(TRISTAN hugs OLIVIA and exits. OLIVIA walks slowly over to the bench and resumes her previous position. Lights return to normal and she kisses him. He kisses her back.)
OLIVIA: He'll be all right, John. And so will we. (She slips her hand into his and he looks at her, astonished but happy. Lights down.)

Characters:
    Olivia (born 1901, age 16-17) becomes anxious and disconnected after her brother goes to war. She used to be more lively and friendly, though never exactly extroverted.
    John Spokes (born 1898, age 19-20) is the butler of the family; he has been with them since Olivia was young as a hall boy. He is only 2 years older than Olivia, so they were friends when they were younger. John has a health condition that exempts him from the army.
    Tristan (born 1899, age 18-19) is Olivia's brother; an energetic, brave and feisty young man.  Tristan is very protective of his sister and wants to help her. He is a viscount; both of his and Olivia's parents died just before the outbreak of war.

Message to Readers

please review and critique! :)


Peer Review

I really liked how you managed to convey the emotions, feelings, and personalities of the characters through their actions and dialogue. I felt like I was able to look through a magnifying glass into their souls.


I think the part where Olivia sees her brother Tristan in her imagination was a bit confusing. Not to be overly critical, but I feel that the transition between Olivia's conversation with John to Olivia's imaginary conversation with Tristan was somewhat abrupt. I think you could further explore Olivia's indecision about whether she should commit to John through her conversation with Tristan. These are just a few suggestions I had in mind. :)


Reviewer Comments

Overall, this was an awesome play, and I really enjoyed reading it. Keep up the great writing!