Kevin thought the ringing sound in his ears would never go away. It was three hours since one of his men, Bellamy, had become yet another victim in this savage war; blown apart by a mine hidden in the sand.
“Sir…I mean Kevin, do you think we’re all gonna die out here?” another young soldier asked, fear in his eyes as he looked for answers from his captain. He couldn’t have been more than eighteen years of age and didn’t look old enough to be a part of this. But then who did look as if they belonged?
“I can’t make any promises I’m afraid” Kevin replied. He didn’t want to lie to his men. He’d promised Bellamy he’d get him out of there and look what had happened; he’d failed. He’d made a promise he couldn’t keep and he swore to himself that he wouldn’t do that again. He knew he’d done everything he could for the man, but it didn’t make it any better, he’d promised something he couldn’t deliver. “The best we can do is work together as a team, remain vigilant at all times and look out for one another”
With the mine field seemingly finally behind them, the men could all breathe a little easier. They were now on more solid ground with a huge wall of rock in front of them and not much chance of anything being hidden beneath their feet. The problem they now had to overcome was getting up the cliff face unscathed. Even though the lookouts had been destroyed, there could still be Germans lurking, just waiting for their opportunity to spill more American blood. Kevin had to be cautious, he was the most senior officer now and therefore the men’s lives were in his hands.
He looked around to see where the radio operator was, he’d not seen him since getting off the boat, but now needed him for further instructions from the command centre.
“Has anyone seen Eric?” Kevin asked. Eric was the radio operator and without radio they would be in serious trouble as it was their only link to the outside world.
“Who’s Eric?” Nick asked. There had been thousands of men on the beach, and he only knew a small percentage.
“Radio operator…oh, there he is over there. Eric, over here!” Kevin called out to a stocky looking man carrying the portable radio device in one hand whilst the other hand clutched the receiver as he spoke animatedly into it. Eric looked up when he heard his name and acknowledged Kevin with a nod of his head.
The special team of men who’d already scaled the cliff and destroyed the lookouts also had a communication device with them, so before sending his men into the unknown, Kevin wanted confirmation that the area was indeed relatively secure. He didn’t want for them to climb that wall and then be faced with a bullet to the head.
“Sir, we’ve got the green light to proceed as planned” Eric told his senior officer as he reached him.
And so with no other way off the beach, the men began their ascent up the jagged rocks, hoping that when they got to the top, no nasty surprises would be waiting.
With no body recovered in order to ship home and bury, Jeremy’s family held a simple but emotional memorial service for him. It was as if the whole town stopped what it was doing to pay tribute to yet another one of its young men who’d been taken too soon.
Elena stood with her family as she wiped away a few stray tears for the man who’d been a part of her life since they were children.
It was two weeks since the news had arrived of his death, and Elena was slowly coming to terms with the fact that she would never see Jeremy again. He’d been a good man; too good for her. She felt guilty for the way she’d behaved with Nick. How could she have had feelings for someone else when she was supposed to be getting married? She’d known it was wrong, but it hadn’t stopped her. Now Jeremy was dead and Nick was in France somewhere; the possibility that she may never see him again either brought on fresh tears.
Mrs Armitage put her arm around her eldest daughter, not knowing what to say to make it all better. There were no words. Nothing would take away the pain of losing a loved one; she was still hurting over the loss of William.
“I’ve got to get away from here” Elena eventually pulled away and ran. People looked her way, pity on their faces, but they understood her need to escape. Not only had she lost her brother, but now her fiancé. It was a cruel world. But her tears weren’t just for the man they were all gathered for, and that’s what had made her run.
She ran and ran, not stopping until she got to the place where she knew she could be alone with her thoughts; the hill where she’d spent so many evenings with Nick.
“Please don’t let him die too” she cried to the sky, as if that held all the answers. She knew it was wrong to be thinking of Nick today of all days, but she couldn’t help it. She couldn’t change her feelings for him anymore than she could change what had happened to Jeremy.
It had been weeks since Nick had left, and yet she’d received no letter from him. She’d sent him about a dozen, knowing that letters meant the world to a soldier when he was away from everything he knew and loved. Had he received them and replied? Were the letters from him on their way? Or had he forgotten the English girl who’d fallen in love with him? Elena hoped he was safe, wherever he was, and that he’d get the chance to send her word that he was alright.
A couple of hours later, she walked back into town, her tears had dried up and she was ready to face the world once again.
“Are you alright?” Louise asked when Elena walked into the house and found her friend and sister talking in the front room. Juliet hugged her sister close.
“I’m fine” Elena replied with a half smile for her friend. She wasn’t the first, and she wouldn’t be the last person to lose someone. She had to pull herself together and carry on like everyone else did. “How are you? Last time we spoke you were looking a little under the weather”
“Well…there is a reason for that” Louise couldn’t stop the grin which started to spread across her face. “I’m pregnant! Can you believe it, I’m going to have a baby and I want you two to be godmothers”
“Congratulations!” Elena hugged her friend, glad of some happy news in amongst all the sadness. “And I’d be honoured to be godmother”
Later that night, after Louise had gone home and Juliet had gone to sleep, Elena pulled out her writing paper and pen and began writing another letter to Nick.
My Dearest Nick, I don’t know if you will receive this letter, or whether you’ll receive any of the letters I’ve sent. But I hope you got the one which included a photo of the two of us taken at Juliet and Alex’s wedding, such a happy day. It was Jeremy’s memorial service today, and I’m ashamed to admit that I ran away before the end. I just couldn’t take it anymore. I know everyone thinks it was because I was too upset about him being killed - and I am upset, Jeremy was a good man whom I did love - but the truth is, I ran because I felt guilty because I didn’t love him as much as I love you. I love you Nick, please be safe wherever you are. All my love, Elena xx
My Dearest Nick,
I don’t know if you will receive this letter, or whether you’ll receive any of the letters I’ve sent. But I hope you got the one which included a photo of the two of us taken at Juliet and Alex’s wedding, such a happy day.
It was Jeremy’s memorial service today, and I’m ashamed to admit that I ran away before the end. I just couldn’t take it anymore. I know everyone thinks it was because I was too upset about him being killed - and I am upset, Jeremy was a good man whom I did love - but the truth is, I ran because I felt guilty because I didn’t love him as much as I love you.
I love you Nick, please be safe wherever you are.
All my love,
She folded the letter and placed it in an envelope ready for posting in the morning, then switched off the lamp and climbed into bed.