Hauling his suitcase onto a trolley, Michael van Alden made his way off the platform and onto the station concourse. It was the second time in a matter of months that he had walked across these same tiles. Last time had been when he arrived back in Boston on the train from New York, still in his army uniform, fresh from the boat back from Europe. Then he had been greeted with a hero’s welcome, his family and friends waiting with banners and flags, welcoming him home with open arms.
Now, there was just him and his bag. He smiled to himself as he glanced at the few people milling about, waiting to collect their loved ones. It was funny how quickly things changed, how easily people forgot.
He knew he was one of the lucky ones. Not only had he come back unscathed, save for a small shrapnel wound in his right thigh, but he had been able to go straight back to work. His old firm in Boston had kept his job open for him while he had been away. So many men had come home to find themselves with nothing. From hero to zero in a matter of weeks. The country had gone about its business without them, celebrated their homecoming, and then gone back to its business again, forgetting what these young men had been through. It was a return to reality that none of them had expected.
It seemed so long ago now, though it was only a matter of months since V.E. Day. He still had the nightmares, though. He supposed that they would never truly go away. He had seen and done things that he never thought he would have to, things he scarcely wanted to believe, and he did not think he could ever share the memories with anyone. How could they possibly understand?
Still, at least he had his life back. There were so many men who had nothing, and nobody seemed to want to know.
As he emerged into the open air, he sighed and held out his hand to hail the nearest cab. The driver pulled up to the kerb, taking his bag and loading it into the trunk as Mike climbed into the back seat.
“Where to?” the driver asked as he climbed behind the wheel again.
“Mount Vernon Street, Beacon Hill, please.”
As the car pulled away from the kerb, Mike smiled and sat back in his seat. It was good to be home.