I force myself to let go of her hand and stand. The rest of our squadron moans around me– injured but still alive. Her heart was the only one who ceased to beat.
To my left, Sergeant Major Peters pushes himself to his feet. The back of his uniform is torn in several places and black from a morbid mixture of blood and dirt. His arms struggle to hold him up and his entire body shakes as he retches and coughs.
The rest of our squadron follows, pushing themselves up one by one and looking around at the rest of the wreckage.
I walk over to Sergeant Major Peters. He looks up at me, one eye half-closed and coated with mud.
“Status report sir.” I say, trying to keep my voice as steady as I could. Tears still cut across my cheeks but I don’t wipe them away. I let the salty water wash me clean. He nods. I clasp my hands behind my back, look straight ahead, and said, “Private Sophie Royal is dead sir.” My voice cracks on the last word, refusing to cooperate as though it believes that would make a difference.
He stands up. Weariness falls across his face, draining his features of color. “Thank you, Private Kor.” he says, dismissing me with an informal wave of the hand. His eyes flicker over to her body.
I keep my eyes averted, choosing instead to focus on Private Lloyd Johnson. He is struggling to sit, his tanned face contorted into an expression of pain as he holds his arm. Through the gaps in his blood-soaked fingers I could see a deep gash revealing crimson flesh.
With long strides I carry my sluggish body to the nearest pack, rifling through it until I find the first-aid kit. The minor cuts and bruises that adorned my own body can wait.
They don’t hurt as much as the loss of my soulmate.