Liesbeth Zwart forges her identity with courage and aptitude while nursing in France during WW1. As Liesbeth Bos, she feels that identity melting away; the skills she needed as a nurse in Paris are of little use to her as a wife and mother in post-war Netherlands.
“Write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” Ernest Hemingway gave authors this tip and I’ve always found it useful. Here’s my true sentence: Travel changes a person. I had that assertion confirmed many years ago when I was in Nice, France. I stayed in a seedy hotel called Hotel Darcy where I met four other young people – one other girl and three guys – where we were all bunged in together in one room. After getting over that surprise we all became great friends during the week we were there. Then it ended.
It was Debbie’s last night in Nice; a night none of us would ever forget, but we didn’t know that when we were eating supper together and trying to coax her into staying another day.
I tugged on her sleeve. “Come on Deb. Just one more night.”
She shook her head and drained her glass of wine. “I have to go. I have a ticket to Paris.”
Debbie stood and looked around the table. “Are you guys walking me to the station or am I going on my own?”
We almost had to pull Dave to his feet. He sat scowling with his arms crossed.
Debbie looked at her watch. “OK guys. Now I have to run otherwise I’ll miss the train.” Her smile was gentle as she looked at Dave. “I don’t want to say good bye either, but we’ll keep in touch.”
Dave got up finally as Debbie turned and walked away. He hustled then to catch up. The rest of us followed and left them to their private conversation.
The conductor had blown his whistle already by the time we got to the platform.
“Run Debbie.” Dave jogged with her to the edge of the platform, nudging her faster.
The squealing of the train drowned out our chorus of ‘good-byes’ as Debbie put on an extra burst of speed.
Back then, in the 80’s, the doors were still open even as the train began to move. Unheard of now – for excellent reasons.
I remember hearing Liam shout over the noise “Good thing she’s got the world’s smallest backpack.” I smiled as I watched Debbie run alongside the moving train. The nylon pack looked more like something you’d send your child off to her first day of school wearing – not travelling around Europe.
Hands reached out from the train to pull her in.
I ran forward and threw myself down on the platform; my head inches away from the rushing train. I shoved my arms down in the space between the train and the platform and pressed Debbie and the world’s smallest backpack against the wall and shouted. “You’re going to be fine. Don’t move. Just don’t move.” If the pack had been any bigger, it would already have been caught in the speeding wheels and she would have been gone.
Someone must have pulled the emergency cord in the train because it stopped then, halfway out of the station, but past Debbie. A scream of metal on metal.
Whistles and shouts rang out in the silence of the stopped train and I was vaguely aware of blue uniforms and yelling officials running towards me. I could only look down. I let go and pulled back, afraid to turn her. Afraid to see the blood, or worse, where moments before there had flashed a beautiful California grin.
The guys were around me. Dave in tears. For those endless seconds, no one moved.
And then. “Can someone help me up please?”
Debbie rolled back and then an official was there beside her, lifting her. Giving her back to us.
Debbie missed her train that night. After going to the hospital to get checked out (only cuts and bruises) and being shouted at by several different uniformed people about our stupidity and recklessness, Dave and Debbie splashed out for a fancy hotel.
Yes, travel brings change. In my new novel, After Paris, the protagonist; Liesbeth, is changed forever after her experiences as a nurse in France during WW1 - both by the war, and by travel, which results in her tearing the family apart when she leaves her Dutch homeland to search for a new identity in post-war Canada.
Thanks to Tony Riches for giving me this opportunity to guest post! What is your favourite travel adventure? Share your story with us. I’d love to hear about it!
Renny de Groot
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About the author
Family Business, was shortlisted for the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize, 2015. She studied English Literature at Trent University. Her strong Dutch roots continue to influence her while the love of her Canadian homeland with its beauty and freedom, flavours all that she does. Renny lives in rural Ontario with her Great Pyrenees and Chocolate Lab. Find out more ar Renny's website http://rennydegroot.com. You can also find her on Facebook.
GiveawayTo enter the After Paris Blog Tour Giveaway please enter via the Gleam form HERE
- 3 winners will receive a copy of Family Business by Renny deGroot (2015 Kobo Emerging Writer Prize Shortlist)
- 3 winners will receive a copy of the CD Macushla by renown Irish Tenor, Jimmy Carton (features songs from the era in which After Paris takes place)
Rules – Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on September 30th. You must be 18 or older to enter. – Giveaway is open internationally. – Only one entry per household. – All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion. – Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.