It had been almost three weeks since Nick had received his last letter from Emily. He wondered whether her letters had somehow got lost in the postal system, or been delivered elsewhere by mistake. Whatever the reason, he sighed every time mail was delivered to his friends and colleagues, but not to him (with the exception of the monthly letter from his parents). With each day that passed with no word from her, Nick’s spirits dropped, he felt abandoned and incredibly lonely without word from her. So when he did eventually get a letter from her, he rushed back to his bed to read it in private, away from his friends and colleagues. He lay down on the bed and tore it open, a smile spreading across his face as he pictured Emily’s pretty smiling face.
But as he began to read the letter his expression soon changed.
Dear Nick, I do hope you are keeping well over there in England, all is well here. I’m not really sure how to say this, so I’ll just come out with it… I’ve met someone else. It all happened so fast, like a whirlwind, and this war has made me realise that you have to grab at opportunities for love and happiness while you can and not hold on to what might or might not be. Life is too short for waiting around. I’m so sorry to have to write it in a letter but I couldn’t go on letting you think we had a future together when we don‘t. Joseph is a good man and has asked me to marry him. I’ve accepted and we are to be married very soon. Please don’t be too mad at me, but I couldn’t put my life on hold any longer. Stay safe. Emily
I do hope you are keeping well over there in England, all is well here.
I’m not really sure how to say this, so I’ll just come out with it…
I’ve met someone else.
It all happened so fast, like a whirlwind, and this war has made me realise that you have to grab at opportunities for love and happiness while you can and not hold on to what might or might not be. Life is too short for waiting around.
I’m so sorry to have to write it in a letter but I couldn’t go on letting you think we had a future together when we don‘t. Joseph is a good man and has asked me to marry him. I’ve accepted and we are to be married very soon. Please don’t be too mad at me, but I couldn’t put my life on hold any longer.
Nick read the letter again; wanting to make sure his eyes weren’t deceiving him and then screwed the offending piece of paper up into a ball and threw his head back against his pillow, closing his eyes to prevent the well of tears from spilling down his face.
Emily had met someone else? She was getting married? While he was over here doing his part for his country, facing god knows what, she was getting on with her life without him as if he‘d meant nothing to her. Damn this war. Damn her for forgetting him so quickly and conveniently. What did this Joseph guy have that Nick didn’t?
Nick laid there for a few minutes, he didn’t know whether to cry or lash out at someone or something. If that Joseph guy had been within reach he knew he’d definitely get a fist in the face, and would deserve it too.
He eventually pulled himself together and decided that what he really needed was a drink, or rather lots of drink. Everyone else had gone into town already, but he didn‘t want their company, he didn‘t want to be around happy people who were enjoying themselves. He just wanted to drink himself into oblivion. Nick tore up the letter, ripping it up into tiny little pieces and then watching as they fell into the bin like pieces of wedding confetti. He then got out Emily’s picture, looked at it for a few moments before ripping that to shreds also.
“Who needs love?” he muttered to himself and then pulled on his jacket and left the building, heading for the bus to take him into town.
Nick walked into the pub and ordered a beer and a whiskey. He thanked the barman as he lifted the whiskey glass to his lips and drank it in one gulp, then he slammed the glass down on the counter “I’ll have another, make it a double” he said, drinking his beer whilst he waited for the double whiskey.
“Everything alright lad?” asked the barman. He’d seen Nick in the pub quite regularly with his group of friends and knew he didn’t usually drink like this. Being in the job he was in, the barman (or pub landlord as was his proper title) saw all sorts. Not a lot happened in his pub which escaped his attention.
“Yeah, everything’s just fucking great!” Nick said sarcastically and downed the whiskey, closing his eyes as he felt it burning his throat “I’ll have another”
The barman knew better than to say anything else, he’d seen it a million times and knew a woman must be involved. He felt sorry for these soldiers; it was hard on them being away from their country and the ones they loved. He poured another whiskey and handed it over, watching as Nick drained the glass in one go again.
“Hey, Nick, you finally made it” called Howie as he spotted Nick tucked away from the crowd and walked over to him “jeez…how many have you had already?”
“Not enough” replied Nick as he picked up his sixth double whiskey.
“What’s wrong man?” asked Howie. He hadn’t known Nick for long, but he knew that he didn’t usually drink whiskey…especially not alone. He wondered whether he was prying, but figured a problem shared was better than bottling it up.
“It’s Emily. She’s met someone else. The bitch. She’s even marrying the guy” Nick said into his glass, hoping the whiskey and beer would make him forget it all.
“Come on, she’s not worth it, forget her” Howie said, unsure whether this was the right thing to say or not, he just knew his friend wasn’t going to feel any better by drinking in this way.
“How the fuck would you know?” Nick scowled, turning towards Howie.
“I don’t know…I…” Howie didn’t know what to say to make it better. Maybe he should’ve stayed out of it after all.
“Look, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t be taking this out on you. I’m just so fucking mad…sad…I don’t know what I’m feeling anymore. I love her Howie”
“Come on, come and join the others” Howie suggested trying to guide him away from the bar to the table where everyone else was sitting.
“I’m not very good company at the moment, I’m just gonna have a couple more drinks here and then go back to base. I’ll see you later” said Nick.
“You sure?” asked Howie, concerned for his friend.
“Yeah, you go and enjoy your evening” Nick replied and turned back to the barman and ordered another double whiskey, this time sipping it more slowly and savouring the burn as it trickled down his throat.
He was beginning to feel very drunk, his head felt fuzzy and everywhere he turned, people were laughing, dancing and having fun. He was going to have some of it. He staggered onto the dance floor and grabbed the nearest girl he could focus on.
“Wanna dance?” he slurred at the well groomed brunette.
“I’m already with someone” she said politely, looking to the man she was dancing with.
“And?” he asked, knowing that he was being obnoxious but not giving a shit.
“I don’t want to dance with you” she said
“Not good enough for you eh? But I’m good enough to come to this fucking country and fight!” Nick was beginning to draw attention to himself.
“Listen pal, the lady said she doesn’t want to dance, now fuck off” said the guy who was dancing with her. He looked to be a higher ranking serviceman than Nick was, but as Nick was drunk, he didn’t care.
“Make me!” said Nick provokingly, running his eyes up and down the woman then turning to the guy.
“Right, you asked for it” said the guy, raising his fist and bringing it crashing into Nick’s cheek. Nick staggered back a little and then regained his composure and swung at the guy, landing a punch to his jaw.
A crowd began to form around them as they battered each other. Howie, Alex and Brian heard the commotion and were soon on the scene to see what was going on; they were horrified to see that their friend was in the centre of it.
“Nick, come on, leave it” shouted Alex to his friend as the two men fought.
“Stay out of this pal, it’s got nothing to do with you” said the guy as he punched Nick in the eye. Nick fell to the floor in a heap and the guy walked off muttering to himself something about staying away from his girlfriend.
“Come on Nick, let’s get you up off the floor” Alex muttered as he and Howie lifted him to his feet and walked him back to where they’d been sitting.
“Oh my god, what’s happened to him?” asked Elena getting to her feet to help.
“He’s been in a fight and by the look of him, he’s also had far too much to drink” said Brian.
“He’s bleeding and he can hardly stand” said Elena as she eyed his injuries with horror.
“I’m alright, it‘s nothing” Nick slurred, one eye closed and swollen looking, blood trickling down his face. He managed to stand without assistance to prove himself.
“No you are not; you can’t go back to the base like that. What would they think?” said Elena shaking her head “come on, I don’t live far, you can get cleaned up and have a cup of coffee to try and sober up”
Elena told everyone to stay where they were. She could manage Nick by herself and it was pointless ruining anyone else’s evening. She felt sorry for him, something had obviously happened to make him drink like that and get into a fight, and although he wasn’t her responsibility, she wanted to help.
Nick leaned on Elena as she helped him walk towards her house, her arm going around him to steady him.
“You’re lovely” he said.
“And you’re drunk. Come on, let’s go and get you sobered up” she retorted, taking no nonsense.
Within a few minutes they were at Elena’s door, her parents would be fast asleep in bed by now so she told Nick to try and keep his voice down as they entered the house. She took him into the living room and sat him down, then went into the kitchen to put the kettle on.
“Ouch, that stings” he said a few minutes later as she dabbed gently at his face with a wet rag.
“Shush” she said “if you would just keep still and let me carry on, then it’ll be so much quicker”
“Alright boss” said Nick and pretended to salute, then began to giggle. Realising he was supposed to be keeping quiet, he put his fingers to his lips and said “shhh”
“All done” Elena looked at him to make sure she’d wiped all the blood from his face. He was going to have some bruising there tomorrow and probably a black eye too.
“Thanks” said Nick, his eyes meeting hers and lingering there.
“Coffee?” Elena got up and rushed into the kitchen.
She made a strong cup of coffee for Nick and a tea for herself and carried them back into the living room, but stopped when she saw Nick. He was fast asleep and snoring softly. He looked so peaceful it would be a shame to wake him, so she got a blanket from the back of the sofa and covered him then sat at the other end of the sofa and sipped her tea.