A Very Long Engagement

“In the war’s shadows, a woman’s undying love embarks on an unforgettable journey, unravelling an epic tale of hope, mystery, and a timeless reunion.”

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In the quaint hamlet of Bailleul in northern France, where the scent of freshly baked baguettes and blooming marigolds braided the air, there resided a resolute young woman named Mathilde. A wheelchair-bound lady of enrapturing beauty and a mind as sharp as the sapphire moon, she harbored an undying belief that refused to wane under the harsh light of reality. A belief nurtured by the seed of love which grew in her heart for her fiancé, Manech. The man with cerulean eyes, who stole her heart as a mischievous lad and had promised to return from the Great War that had stolen him from their blossoming dreams.

Mathilde and Manech were betrothed under a canvas of twinkling stars and their shared dreams of a peaceful life together. But the fates had other plans. One day, Manech, along with the other young men of their village, was drafted to serve in the bloody battlegrounds of World War I, leaving behind a distraught Mathilde with nothing but a promise— a promise of return.

Chapter 1: “The Promise”

The narrative commences on a chilly winter evening within the confines of Mathilde’s cozy cottage. She sat in her wheelchair by the blazing hearth, her eyes lost in the flickering flames’ ballet, her heart reminiscing the sweet memories of the love she believed was not lost. The necklace with a single teardrop pendant, the last gift from Manech, lay warm against her heart, an amulet of hope, a beacon in her quest for truth. Each silent tick of the oaken clock echoed in the room, searing her heart with painful reminders of Manech’s absence.

A nostalgic twinge seized her as she recalled that night under the clear, boundless sky, the night Manech had promised his undying love. His smell of fresh meadows, his touch as soft as the summer breeze, and his words as comforting as the harvest moon. She held on to that memory like a mariner holds on to his compass during a storm. Her eyes drifted to their photograph on the mantelpiece, their smiling faces radiating a poignant warmth. Tears hung in the balustrades of her thick lashes, unshed but glistening with the crystallized pain of loss.

One day, she received ‘the letter’, the harbinger of despair, from the warfront. The letter that claimed Manech was ‘presumed dead,’ caught in the no man’s land. Mathilde, however, questioned the ‘presumed.’ She tested the bitter words on her tongue, and they didn’t ring true. The absence of Manech’s body, the lack of closure, the unbroken thread of their love, all drew her towards the extraordinary possibility; Manech was alive.

In her heart, she yearned for him, her soul reaching out like a beacon across the seas of time and distance, refusing to believe he was forever lost. The government, society, even some of her well-meaning friends, had written Manech off as another casualty of the merciless War. But for Mathilde, Manech was not a number or a statistic; he was the man who had gifted her dreams, stolen innocent kisses under the sycamore tree, and promised a forever.

As the winter nights grew longer, Mathilde’s resolve hardened. She cradled her love in her heart and held firmly onto the lifeline of hope. She decided to take matters into her hands, beginning her arduous search for the man of her dreams, the man who had made her a promise. The love of her life was gone, but Mathilde refused to believe he was gone forever — she needed to know for sure.

Chapter 2: “A Soldier’s Fate”

In the quiet serenity of her quaint cottage, nestled amidst the vibrant French countryside, Mathilde received the devastating news. A hauntingly crisp telegram, bearing the life-altering words, “Presumed dead – Private Manech Langonnet”, lay in her trembling hands.

Her naïve heart, once blooming with the joy and anticipation of her youthful engagement, was now strangled by an unassailable grief. She felt a profound emptiness seep into her soul, threatening to consume all hope. But in that vast chasm of despair, an improbable light flickered, refusing to be extinguished. There was no body, no tangible evidence of Manech’s demise. His name was merely a scribble on the vast ledger of soldiers lost in the horrifying labyrinth of the war.

She clutched the teardrop necklace, the last token of their love, feeling the cool metal against her warm skin, whispering a story of perseverance. Her heart ached for the reality she had lost, but the absence of his earthly remains sowed a tiny yet resilient seed of hope in the fertile ground of her sorrow.

Mathilde, driven by this underlying hope, enlisted the services of Pire, a seasoned private investigator, known for his intricate network and his uncanny ability to unearth hidden truths. Handing over the telegram and her engagement photograph of Manech, the photo where his eyes held an endless ocean of love and promises, she set in motion a quest that was more than a search; it was a battle against war and destiny.

Pire returned weeks later, a worn-out figure weighed down by the stark brutality of the war he had traversed. He held out an artifact – a group photograph of Manech’s regiment right before the fateful offensive. Each face showed a haunting mix of dread and determination, young lives thrust into a battle not their own. But there, almost obscured by the faded sepia tones and stuck at the back of the crowd was a face partially hidden, a pair of familiar eyes peeking out. Mathilde would recognize those eyes anywhere.

She felt an electric jolt of connection run through her as she traced the face. The overwhelming possibility of Manech being alive, hiding in plain sight filled her with an intoxicating mix of hope and apprehension. But the shadows of uncertainty cast long fingers, and the more she stared at the photograph, the more she doubted. Was the similarity a figment of her desperate imagination?

In the persistent quiet of her cottage, the photograph spoke to Mathilde in a tumult of whispers and echoes. Those eyes instilled in her a persistent belief that hovered on the edge of fantasy and reality. Manech’s possible survival had shifted from a mere possibility to an undeniable reality in her heart.

She found a new purpose, her quest not just born from the depths of love, but a defiance of the war that had taken so much from all of them. Mathilde set out on a journey, armed with the photograph and fortified by the belief that Manech was more than a name on a list of the fallen. The war may have declared him dead, but her heart relentlessly echoed a different verdict – missing, not lost.

Chapter two ended, but Mathilde’s quest had just begun. Her journey started with a hope in a cottage and a photograph of a group of soldiers, one of whom might be her lost Manech. The echoes of her adventurous love story, her audacious defiance against the claws of war, would inspire a saga that reverberated through time and beyond.

Chapter 3: “A Beacon of Hope”

In the quiet solitude of her quaint cottage, Mathilde reluctantly unrolls the weathered piece of parchment given to her by the seasoned private detective she had hired. It’s an army group photograph, sepia-toned and faded from exposure to time. But it’s not the degradation and imperfections that catch her attention, it’s the seemingly obscured face hiding in the back row. Could it be Manech?

These pictures were common during the war, a way to record the stoic bravery of young men who were about to face the unimaginable horrors of the frontlines. They stand shoulder to shoulder, some with smiles that barely mask their trepidation, others stoic, knowing the grim reality they are about to face. Their faces, some almost too young to face such turmoil, bore the weight of an entire nation.

But there, almost swallowed by the dusky shadows, stood a figure that drew her gaze. The face wasn’t entirely visible, but the eyes mirrored the intensity she had come to associate with her lost Manech. Desperate for a closer look, she fetched her antique magnifying glass and held it up to the photo. The features, though blurred, struck a chord of recognition within her.

She traced her fingers along the outline of that face, remembering the way Manech’s eyes used to sparkle with a zest for life, even when he knew he was stepping towards a calamitous abyss. The way his curls used to tumble onto his forehead and how he would brush them away with a mere flick of his hand. Tears welled up in her eyes, and she quickly wiped them away. No time for grief. Not now, not when there was hope.

Armed with this newfound beacon, she penned a letter to the private detective, encouraging further investigation into the identity of the obscured soldier. She filled her words with the desperate hope borne out of love, hoping to persuade the detective to believe as she did, that Manech was indeed alive.

Days turned into nights, and the nights into agonizing epochs of waiting. Until one day, a reply arrived. The detective had undertaken an extensive search, located the surviving soldiers in the photograph, and started the process of reaching out to them. The news shot through her like a thunderbolt. How many answers would they have? How many pieces of the puzzle could they provide to her painstaking journey?

She thought about their story – was it similar to hers? Had they too lost someone dear and had embarked upon a clandestine search fueled by stubborn hope? She imagined their faces, weathered by time and war, and their eyes, undeniably nostalgic. Would they be her allies in this quest, or barriers echoing the same desolate news she had heard all along?

But her heart clung to hope, refusing to bow down to the cynical reality. Her faith in Manech’s survival, seemingly irrational to the world, was the most logical thing to her. For, love wasn’t just an emotion; it was an unbreakable bond, a belief that belonged to the realms of the mystical, and not the worldly.

Each subsequent day brought her closer to the truth, her heart galloping alongside the wings of time. She knew not what awaited her at the end of this tumultuous journey, but her courage to confront the unknown was fueled by an enduring beacon of hope which was undeniably, Manech. Her love, her life, her soldier.

Chapter 4: “Clues from Comrades”

Our heroine, Mathilde, found herself on a journey tracing the footsteps of her once-loved fiancé Manech, making her way to the rustic villages and war-torn towns that had become Manech’s second home. The train rides seemed to sway along with her heart, gently ebbing and flowing with hope and despair. The hunt for her love was leading her across the picturesque landscapes of France, a stark contrast to the turmoil in her heart.

As she stepped out into the vibrant marketplace of Giverny, she was greeted with an intoxicating mix of sights and sounds; a playful symphony of bustling lives going about their day. The local baker’s enticing array of pastries, the vibrant hues of the florist’s blooms, the chatter of the townsfolk; it was all charmingly overwhelming. But beneath the surface, the town bore the scars of war, visible in the weary faces of its people and the remnants of bombed buildings.

In an obscure corner of this town, Mathilde found Sylvain, an old comrade of Manech. He was a weathered man, trappe in a body that had aged faster due to the horrors he had witnessed. A focal point of Mathilde’s investigation, Sylvain was her best shot at getting any insights into Manech’s fate. Despite his initial reluctance, her determination and sincerity lent him courage. Over a cup of lukewarm coffee, Sylvain began sharing stories of his time with Manech.

He spoke of the night skies on the war front, where the calm serenity of the stars was disrupted by the intermittent blasts, painting a gruesome picture of beauty laced with terror. Manech and Sylvain had shared that eerie tranquility, huddled together for warmth, whispering stories of their loved ones back home. Amidst the trauma, Sylvain remembered the embers of hope in Manech’s eyes, his unwavering faith in returning to his Mathilde. Sylvain’s stories introduced her to a version of Manech hardened by war, yet gentle in his love for her.

As Mathilde listened, she sank deeper into the labyrinth of Manech’s war-time life, piecing together bits of his journey. Sylvain described an incident where their regiment planned an escape through the enemy lines. It was a daring endeavor, one slated for disaster, in Sylvain’s words. Yet, they had no choice but to take the risk. The night they fled, Manech separated from the group under unknown circumstances.

The comrades’ last memory of Manech was him getting lost in the fog, a silhouette disappearing into the gloom. Sylvain choked on his words as he remembered that night, the guilt still fresh in his eyes. He couldn’t confirm whether Manech had lived or died. The ambiguity of Sylvain’s stories heightened Mathilde’s perplexity but didn’t dent her hope. If anything, they fortified her resolve to find Manech.

Fueled with new leads and the soldier’s stories, Mathilde continued her journey, hoping to decipher the mystery of Manech’s separation from his group that fateful night. Each trace, each story was a puzzle piece bringing her one step closer to finding her love. The trails of an estranged comrade were her next lead, a possible companion of Manech during the fateful escape.

From the bustling marketplace of Giverny to the deserted alleys of Rouen, she journeyed relentlessly, her love for Manech acting as her unwavering compass. The path was uncertain, the clues sometimes contradicting, but the flame of determination in Mathilde’s heart remained unquenched. Her voyage was not merely a search for her lost love, but it was also a journey of faith, resilience, and an unyielding belief in the power of love. There were more paths to tread, more lives to touch, and more clues to unravel, but it was a journey Mathilde was willing to embark on, time and again, until she found her Manech.

Chapter 5: “The Lover’s Letter”

In the dim light of a candle flickering in the wind, Mathilde squinted at the faded pages of an old letter she had discovered, hidden within the worn lining of her cherished music box. Down the page, the ink had blurred, the words ran into each other. But the passion etched in each word, the longing, the desperation, it was all Manech. This was his voice, reaching out across the yawning chasm of the years, pleading for her to find him.

As she skimmed over the intimate words of the letter, each line was like a poignant verse from the lost chapters of their story. How he spoke of the brutal, desolate trenches and the incessant, deafening gunfire. How amid the chaos, he held onto the precious image of her, a beacon in the gruesome night. She felt a lump in her throat as Manech wrote of missing her laughter, of dreaming of the touch of her hand, of their shared dreams of a peaceful cottage with blooming marigolds. Each word was an undying testament to their love, to the life they yearned to share.

The letter ended with a promise. “I will return. I must return. For you, Mathilde.” A promise that sparked the inferno in her heart anew. The promise of a soldier to his lover, a promise that cannot be silenced by the din of war, nor be forgotten in the haunting echoes of gunfire. Even though the pages were weather-beaten and the ink had faded, the promise was alive. Alive as the determined thumping of Mathilde’s heart. It made her grip the letter tighter, as though she could squeeze out the truth from the worn-out pages.

The following morning, Mathilde sat down with the investigator she had hired. The letter served as an unshakeable confirmation of her beliefs. She unfolded the crumpled pages and placed it before him. The stern-faced man read through the lines while Mathilde watched his face, searching for a sign of hope reflected in his eyes. When the investigator finally looked up from the letter, his eyes held a spark of intrigue, a renewed vigor of taking up the loose threads of Manech’s story.

Inspired by the undying love and hope Mathilde possessed, he decided to dig deeper into the case. Friends turned into resources, old war records were inspected, conversations picked up in lonely taverns were given importance. Every day was filled with anticipation and speculation, as each piece of evidence took them one step closer to Manech, like a breadcrumb trail leading back to him. Mathilde’s belief became their guiding light, unwavering and untiring.

The letter was more than just a piece of paper. It was a window into Manech’s heart, a glowing testament to their love that refused to fade. It was the undeniable proof that Mathilde was not chasing shadows. It fed her hope, fueling her relentless pursuit.

As each night fell, she would read the letter over and over again, tracing the curves and loops of Manech’s handwriting, as if she could feel the warmth of his hand in the strokes. She would imagine him writing the letter in some desolate corner of the battlefield, surrounded by despair and devastation, but thinking only of her.

Whether the day had brought hope or disappointment, the letter was her constant. It reminded her of what she was fighting for – a love that was worth crossing the battle lines, a promise that was worth the chase. And every morning, she woke up rejuvenated, ready to follow the trail once again, chasing the sunrise of their reunion. “The Lover’s Letter” was not just a chapter in her quest. It was the clarion call that rallied her spirits, a love note that sang the ballad of her unfaltering journey. For Mathilde, it was more than a love letter; it was a pledge of hope and survival against the odds.

Chapter 6: “The Unbroken Thread”

Such is the game of destiny that Mathilde, this frail yet spirited Frenchwoman, finds herself on a train journey. She felt she had exhausted all paths tracing Manech’s footprints, yet something pushed her to hold on — a phantom force, or maybe love in its purest form.

The train rumbled along the French countryside, accented with arable farms and fields drenched in the golden afternoon sunlight. The rustling leaves outside the window seemed to whisper Manech’s name, echoing within the confines of the compartment. Mathilde fiddled with her teardrop necklace, her thoughts consumed by the man she yearned to find.

A stop in a nondescript village. Met with the gaze of curious onlookers, she felt uncomfortably foreign. Yet she was fueled by an inner mission that dwarfed her apprehensions. She had heard rumors of a group of war refugees residing nearby, possibly carrying information about her lost lover. She had to try.

The local inn was filled with an assorted bunch. Some talking over cups of warm brew, others with heads buried in newspapers. She felt their curious gaze as she walked in, a woman’s figure unmistakably out of place. Yet, she marched on, her courage burning brighter than the fear in her eyes.

With a translator by her side, Mathilde confronted a group of refugees who had escaped the horrors of war. Deep lines of fatigue etched on their faces, eyes that mirrored the empty landscape ravaged by the Great War. And yet, amidst the melancholic tales of their survival, sprouted a sliver of hope.

A stranger had been among them in their perilous journey, a mysterious man who helped them cross multiple enemy lines. They couldn’t ascertain his name, but they vividly recalled his distinct features, his love for the lark’s song, his sketchbook in which he would scribble French landscapes — all too familiar to Mathilde.

Could it be him? Could it be her Manech, the man lost in the battlefield, yet alive in her hopeful heart? As she listened to the refugees’ recollections, Mathilde’s heart pounded in sync with the rhythmic tick-tock of the wall clock.

An old woman, hunched and scarred by age and hardships, handed Mathilde a charcoal portrait. Her gnarled fingers trembled as she pointed to the sketched man’s eyes. “He saved us,” she croaked, her voice heavy with unshed memories and gratitude. He’d drawn this picture on a cold evening while they huddled for warmth.

Mathilde’s eyes welled up as she recognized Manech’s unflawed rendition of herself. It was her! Her side-swept hair, her teardrop necklace, her inseparable sketchbook–it was all there.

A rush of emotions washed over her, leaving her breathless. The sketches, the tales, the eyes that resonated with her beloved—she knew it was Manech. The spark of optimism now blazed like wildfire, an unbroken thread sewing her to Manech. Strengthened with renewed hope, she thanked the refugees and left, heading toward the next station of her journey. The quest was far from over, but it was no longer a search in the dark.

Each chapter of her journey was like a breadcrumb leading to Manech. She was traversing an invisible labyrinth with no real guarantee of finding him at the end. Yet, it was the fight of hope against odds. It was the affirmation of love in its rawest form.

Mathilde, the seeker, the believer, journeyed forward, clutching the sketch closer. Her heart echoed with an unspoken pledge, a fervor that screamed in the silence of her solitude – “I will find you, Manech,” she vowed, “For our love didn’t perish in the war; it only got stronger.”

Chapter 7: “Tales of Heroism”

As the pale daylight slowly gave birth to a canvas of twilight, Mathilde arrived in a village nestled in the heart of France. A sense of prolonged melancholy hung over the hamlet, still evident from the lashes of the war. As she walked down the cobbled streets, her eyes fell upon an old cathedral, its stone structure scarred by the destructive fingers of battle.

Half in curiosity, half in hope, she stepped through the archway into the church. The faint melody of a hymn played in the background, its notes gentle and soothing, echoing soft whispers of prayers. A cluster of women, their faces etched with years of shared stories, sat huddled around a tattered photograph, recounting tales of the war days.

Intrigued, Mathilde moved closer, her heart throbbing in anticipation. She introduced herself and her quest, her eyes seeking a flicker of recognition among them. As she unveiled Manech’s picture, a gasp ran through the crowd, the women exchanging glances of surprise and excitement.

An elderly woman named Mademoiselle Dubois, her skin folded with years, her eyes dimmed yet sparkling with memories, spoke to Mathilde. She whispered a tale of a heroic stranger, an unidentified soldier who appeared in their village during the cruel reign of the war. The stranger whose description alarmingly aligned with Manech’s was a ghost, a silhouette against the devastation, an unsung hero.

The story began on a day when the war had clawed its way to their village. A local school was ablaze, a result of a brutal air raid. Panic-stricken villagers had given up hope on the trapped children when an unknown soldier emerged from the smoky shadows.

Against the flaming backdrop, the soldier ran into the inferno, unafraid of the devilish tongues of fire licking the air. Time stood still as the villagers watched in silent dread, their worst fears reflected in each other’s widened eyes. The soldier returned, carrying three children under his smoke-stained cloak. He disappeared as swiftly as he had appeared, with only a quicksilver glance at the grateful, tearful villagers.

His description, as told by Mademoiselle Dubois, seemed a mirror image of Mathilde’s beloved Manech. A stranger with soft, expressive eyes, just like Manech’s and a similar scar marking his left cheek, undoubtedly a souvenir from the war. Even a limp on his left foot, which eerily resonated with the injury Manech had sustained just before he was drafted.

The mystery man’s selfless act was spoken with reverence and ingratitude by the villagers, an inspiring tale amidst horrific battles. A tale of a man who they hadn’t seen before and never saw again. But Mathilde was sure, her heart resonated with the echo of the story; it had to be Manech. The soldier of their tales had to be him. He had to be alive.

Burning with fresh hope, fueled by Mademoiselle Dubois’s tale, Mathilde thanked the women. Leaving the village, her resolve hardened. If her Manech could brave the flames of hell for strangers, he could surely fight his way back to her. And she, she would move heaven and earth to find him. This was her war now. The war of love, persistence, and unyielding hope.

Chapter Eight: “The Enigma of Identity”

Mathilde found herself wandering through the quiet corridors of a war hospital in Bayonne, blending into the familial blend of heartache and hope. Her visit had purpose, a subtler one, hidden beyond the lamentable wails of the wounded. She was searching for an amnesiac solider, a piece to her magnificent puzzle of finding her lost love.

The tale of this soldier had been whispered into her ears by a war-widow whose husband had once fought alongside Manech. The details painted an uncanny resemblance to her lost fiancé. His height, his build, even the way he held his spoon when eating soup, an unusual quirk peculiar to Manech. Mathilde’s heart fluttered with anticipation and fear. She had hoped, prayed and dreamt of this moment but now that she was on the brink of it, the enormity of the situation seemed overwhelming.

She approached the soldier’s ward, her heart drumming a dramatic rhapsody in her chest. She felt like a character in one of the thrillers she used to read during her solitary evenings in the cottage, where the plot was thick with suspense and hope. On reaching the ward, she spotted him, a figure frail and haunted by the perils of war. The blanched hospital sheets enveloped his fragile frame, a stark contrast to the healthy, vibrant soldier she knew Manech to be.

As she approached him, her steps were careful, not wanting to startle the sleeping figure. His face, hardened by fatigue, softened in slumber, an innocent expression etched over his features. Mathilde allowed herself a moment to experience the torrent of emotions that washed over her. Love, fear, sadness – a heartrending amalgamation of feeling that was both painful and cathartic.

She gently whispered his name, “Manech.” His steady breathing faltered, the haze of sleep gradually receding at the sound of a familiar voice. His eyes fluttered open, a reflection of confusion mirrored within their depths. He looked at her, his gaze focused yet lacking recognition. It felt like a pierce through Mathilde’s hopeful heart, but she held onto her conviction.

“Do you remember me, Manech?” she asked, her voice barely a whisper, not daring to break the melancholy silence of the ward.

The soldier’s eyes bore into hers, a long, searching gaze that seemed to echo with a sense of familiarity but also uncertainty. He was floundering in the mire of his shattered memory that mercilessly played hide and seek with fragments of his past.

“Your eyes,” he spoke, his voice a mere murmur, “They seem familiar.” His words hang in the air, heavy with unspoken questions and unexpected possibilities.

As Mathilde pondered on these words, she reached into her pocket, pulling out the teardrop necklace. It glistened against the pale sunlight filtering through the window, a symbol of their undying love. She pressed it into his hand, the cold metal a stark contrast against their shared warmth.

She watched his face for any flicker of recognition as he held the necklace, desperately clutching onto the straw of hope. His expression remained unchanging, a mask of disoriented curiosity. Mathilde’s hopes wavered but did not crumble. For the soldier in front of her, though wreathed in uncertainty, held something akin to Manech in his gaze.

The following days saw Mathilde visiting the amnesic soldier, telling him stories of their shared past, bringing him delicacies cooked with their favourite recipes, playing him the melodies he used to hum. Each day she’d look for signs of the Manech she knew in his eyes, his smile, his silences.

The enigma of identity, the mystery of the soldier’s past, the uncertainty of it all, became Mathilde’s constant companions. But amidst the whirlpool of emotions, her resolve didn’t falter. She recognized that this journey, whether galvanized by hope or ended in sorrow, was a path she had chosen to follow. It was her very own engagement, a chronicle of love that transcended the barriers of memory, distance, and time.

Chapter 9: “The Final Stretch”

The sun was setting as Mathilde entered the lively marketplace of a war-torn village in the heart of France. The air hummed with an exotic blend of smells; fresh bread, roasting meat, and the ever-present scent of humanity. Mathilde’s heart pounded in her chest as she navigated the bustling crowd, her eyes scanning for anyone who might have seen her beloved Manech.

Suddenly, her gaze fell upon an old peddler’s stall, filled with odds and ends from the war. Amidst the rusted helmets and faded letters, she noticed a tiny object gleaming in the dim light. It was a locket, identical to the one Manech had gifted her before he left for war.

Picking it up, Mathilde felt a shiver of recognition. It was not just similar to hers; it was an exact match, down to the smallest detail of the engraved love knot on its surface. This couldn’t be a coincidence; it had to be a sign. Her heart filled with renewed hope and determination. Manech was alive, and he was searching for her, just as she was for him.

Motivated by her discovery, Mathilde threw herself deeper into her quest. She scoured every remote hamlet and bustling town, believing that every step she took was bringing her closer to Manech. She followed whispered rumors of a mysterious soldier who had disappeared into the wilderness. She traversed treacherous terrain, fueled by a fierce determination that refused to be quelled.

There were moments of despair, of course. Days when she felt like she was chasing a ghost, her pursuit as elusive as the French fogs. But during those times, she would finger the twin lockets – hers and the one she found, draw strength from their shared connection, and continue her pursuit.

Weeks turned into months, but Mathilde’s hope never waned. She persevered, driven by a force stronger than war and more potent than fear – unyielding love. Her journey took her through abandoned battlefields, eerily quiet and yet resonating with echoes of intense firefights. She walked through empty villages, their inhabitants long fled or perished, their lives interrupted by the relentless tide of war.

Bit by bit, Mathilde pieced together the fragmented clues about Manech’s fate. She met with people who spoke of a stranger who had come from nowhere, helped them, and disappeared without a trace – a man they described as a wandering hero, a ghost from war who was caught between two worlds.

They spoke of his sadness, a profound melancholy that suggested he was haunted by memories he could not fully grasp. However, even amidst his confusion, the stranger possessed a kind heart and went out of his way to help others, traits that so reminded her of Manech.

In the end, Mathilde realized the truth. The stranger they spoke of was her Manech. Amnesia had robbed him of his past, but it couldn’t strip away his essence. Despite the trauma he endured, Manech’s innate goodness, his compassion, and love for life still shone through.

Armed with this undeniable truth, Mathilde intensified her search, following every clue, every whisper of Manech’s presence, until they led her to an unlikely place – a bustling railway station where a familiar figure was about to board a train to an unknown destination.

Mathilde’s journey, filled with trials and tribulations, was nearing its climax. In her heart, she knew the next chapter of their story was about to begin, and it started with a final race against time to reach the man who, despite amnesia and years of separation, she knew to be her one true love — her Manech.

Chapter 10: “The Homecoming”

The morning sun shone down on a bustling railway station, teeming with the energy of soldiers returning from war. Mothers, wives, children, all anxiously awaiting the ones lost in the labyrinth of warfare. Among them was an anxious, but hopeful Mathilde, waiting for the train from the east, her heart pounding within her chest, eyes scanning the crowd, yearning for a familiar face.

Mathilde, clutching the duplicate locket around her neck, felt a rush of energy surging within her. An impatient crowd jostled around her, but she was singularly focused. As the iron beast rolled into the station, steam billowing and hearts pounding, her eyes were fixated on the creaking doors, ready to burst open with an array of faces.

The doors finally opened and soldiers emerged, some briskly, others walking with a limp, aided by their comrades, but all with a tiredness of war reflecting in their eyes. She watched as the crowd cheered, cried, embraced their returned loved ones. But Mathilde’s gaze was stuck on the platform, awaiting her soldier’s appearance.

Meanwhile, a feeble figure disembarked, unassisted, unnoticed by the crowd leaving the train. His gait was slow, bearing the weight of horrid war memories. He looked around at the happy reunions, a distant longing flashing in his eyes. Absentmindedly, he clutched something around his neck, a teardrop-shaped locket, identical to Mathilde’s.

Suddenly, as if guided by an invisible force, Mathilde’s eyes were drawn to the solitary man. Despite his matted hair, gaunt features and tattered uniform, something was strikingly familiar. As he turned, she caught a glimpse of the locket – her heart stopped in her chest.

With newfound vigor, she pushed through the crowd, her eyes locked on the figure growing distant. He, too, seemed to sense an uncanny pull and found himself looking into a pair of eyes that held an ocean of memories, momentarily frozen in the chaos.

“Manech!” Mathilde cried out, reaching towards him. His eyes widened, a stream of memories flooding him as he heard his name. He stood there, lost in a sea of faces, his eyes fixed on Mathilde, the unspoken words of recognition passing between them.

Her hands reached out to cradle his face, the touch was electrifying, stirring emotions within Manech. Suddenly, it was as if the dam within him broke. His past surged forth, his love for Mathilde, their shared dreams, and his promise of return.

Tears welled up in their eyes. Mathilde, with a trembling voice, whispered, “Mon amour… It’s you. It’s always been you.” Manech, his voice barely a whisper, affirmed softly, “Je suis revenu, Mathilde.” I have come back, Mathilde.

Their reunion was not filled with grand gestures; instead, it was a silent acknowledgment of a shared past, a profound love, and a victorious return. Their tear-streaked faces gleamed with joy and relief, their bodies swaying in an emotional embrace, their hearts drumming the rhythm of love given a second life.

With the war’s brutality behind, and a future uncertain but promising, Mathilde and Manech stood in the station, lost yet found within their embrace. Their journey had been long, challenging, but at that moment, it was worth the wait. For they had found each other, a love lost and rediscovered, proving that even in the throes of war, love could endure and triumph. Like a beacon in the darkness, their reunion illuminated the somber station, a testament to enduring hope, love, and the promise of a homecoming.

The crowd around them blurred into the background, their whispers and cheers fading away. All that remained was Mathilde and Manech, standing amidst the chaos, sharing a moment of profound serenity. They had found their way back to each other, a testament to their unbroken bond, a promise honored, and a love story rekindled in the heart of war. Their very long engagement had finally found its culmination – a homecoming of hearts, love immortalized, and a future awaiting them.

Some scenes from the movie A Very Long Engagement written by A.I.

Scene 1

**FADE IN:**


A quaint, rustic French cottage sits in the middle of a serene field bursting with wildflowers. Candlelight flickers from within.


MATHILDE, mid 20s, a young, beautiful woman with a thousand-yard stare, sits by the window, gazing at the starlit sky.



YOUNG MATHILDE and YOUNG MANECH, both 17, lie under the stars, hands entwined.


(Mathilde, our love will outlast the stars.)

Mathilde laughs lightly and squeezes his hand.


Mathilde, lost in thoughts, a tear escaping down her cheek as she clutches a teardrop necklace.


(He can’t be gone…)

Suddenly, there’s a knock at the door. She walks over and opens it. A POSTMAN hands her a letter.


(News from the front.)

Mathilde takes the letter, thank you in her eyes. She opens it to reveal the notice of Manech’s presumed death. She slumps to the floor, holding the letter tightly.


(He promised he would return…)

Her eyes fall on the necklace in her hand, a reminder of their promise under the stars. A spark of intense resolve flickers in her eyes as the scene fades.


Scene 2


Mathilde, a young woman with fierce determination in her eyes, sits by the window, a solemn look on her face. An OFFICIAL looking man, in an army uniform, stands before her.



The body was not found, Miss, but he was declared dead…

Mathilde’s hands grip tighter on the teardrop necklace she’s holding.



No body, you say…

She glances out the window, the cold, harsh reality of the world outside seems to reflect her internal turmoil.


A young, vibrant Manech and Mathilde lay under the starlight. He places a necklace around her neck.



This is our promise. I’ll always be with you, Mathilde.


Mathilde looks at the necklace, her grip strengthening. Her eyes shift to the man.



Then he’s still with me. And I will find him.

The perplexed official nods, leaving Mathilde alone with her resolve. As the door shuts, she clutches the necklace, her resolve echoing in the silence. Her journey has just begun. The end of this scene sets up for the fierce pursuit Mathilde is about to embark on, creating suspense and anticipation for the viewers.


Scene 3



The room is filled with remnants of a life once lived – a photo of MANECH, letters, and his necklace. Mathilde is at her desk, her features hopeful yet tense. She holds the group photograph with her fingers tracing the obscured face in the back row.

Suddenly, a KNOCK on the door.



Mathilde opens the door to PRIVATE DETECTIVE GERARD, a middle-aged man with a pencil mustache. He holds an envelope.


(Hands over the envelope)

I found something critical.


(Takes the envelope, intrigued)

What is it?

Gerard simply gestures for her to open it. Mathilde pulls out an aged, folded photograph. Her eyes widen as she unwraps it.



On the table, the photograph lies. It’s the same group photo but a little clearer. The obscured face looks remarkably like Manech. Mathilde gasps, clutching the necklace at her heart.


(This is him!)

Gerard, this is him!

Gerard looks at Mathilde, admiration in his eyes.


Not so fast, miss. We need definitive proof. And I think I know the next step.


Scene 4


Mathilde, a young woman with determination in her eyes, sits down at a distressed wooden table. Across her, BRUNO, an old soldier, grizzled and haunted by the war.



Tell me about Manech.


(swallowing hard)

We all thought we were done for. That no man’s land…it was hell. Then he got this idea.

Mathilde leans forward, gripping the edge of the table.


What idea?

Bruno looks down, lost in the memory.


He suggested we all go over the top. Told us it was our only chance at survival.


(with hope)

And did he go with you?

Bruno shakes his head.


No, he separated from us at the last second. Said he had a love waiting for him back home.

Mathilde’s eyes fill with tears, but she doesn’t let them fall.



So, you think he could still be alive?

Bruno meets her eyes.



For your sake, Mademoiselle, I hope he is.


Scene 5



Mathilde is seen sprawled against her bed, a forgotten LETTER clutched tightly in her hands. She turns around to look at it, her face softening at the sight.



MANECH (voiceover)

I miss you, my love. You are the sole reason for my survival here.



Mathilde brushes her fingers over the words, her eyes brimming with unshed tears.

MATHILDE (whispering)


She continues reading the letter, her lips moving slightly with Manech’s words.

MANECH (voiceover)

I promise to return to you, Mathilde. Our love is stronger than the horrors of this war.

She clutches the letter close to her chest, closing her eyes momentarily as if soaking in the words.


Mathilde is seen hunched over a map of the war front, the LETTER by her side. She traces the routes, determined.


I will find you, Manech.

She pushes back from the table, glancing at a framed picture of Manech and her. Her face is a mix of pain and resolution.



Scene 6


Mathilde, sitting at a wooden table, studies a rumpled map marked with annotations. She runs her fingers over the route masked by her determination.



Mathilde now stands at the heart of the camp, hope budding in her eyes as she meets a group of REFUGEES huddled around a fire.

CAMP LEADER, a hardened woman with a soft gaze, approaches Mathilde.


You seem to be looking for someone…

Mathilde pulls out a weathered photograph of Manech and hands it to the Camp Leader.


Yes, this man, he was… he is a soldier. His name’s Manech. Do you recognize him?

The Camp Leader scrutinizes the photograph and her eyes soften.


There was a stranger once… He didn’t give a name. But this… this face does carry some resemblance.

Mathilde’s eyes brim with hope.


Which way did he go?

The Camp Leader points towards the north.



Mathilde, with renewed determination, strides in the direction indicated. Her faith in Manech’s survival rekindles.


Author: AI