Hero of War (Part 5)

The first thing I notice as I approach Lloyd is the uncanny resemblance he bears to my brother. He has the same eternally messy black hair that is kept shaved down at his ears but allowed to grow wild everywhere else. His brown eyes hold the same kind yet mischievous expression Steven had grown up developing. His cheekbones protrude a bit more than Steven’s and the line of his jaw is a little more angled, but he has the same dimples when he smiles (which is rare) and his lips are the same shade of pink.

The one major thing that Lloyd is missing is a chip in his front tooth. Steven has acquired that from whacking his face on the banister when he was thirteen (though he always told people it was a battle scar from a fight with some big tough guy whose appearance changed every time he told it).

There had been several moments when, on a dark night, I had almost believed Lloyd was Steven. On those sleepless nights, I had almost let myself believe my brother was still alive.

Blood soaks through layer after layer of white gauze bandage. His face contorts into an expression of pain. His gums have turned a pale pink above his white teeth, nearly blending together.

He rests his body against mine, moaning that the world is spinning and if I could please make it stop? Each convulsive shiver that runs through him transfers to me. The sensation is one I know too well from the nights Sophie and I had spent huddled in the cold. Through those nights I had come to recognize the difference between shivers of cold and the aftermath of sobs.

His hot breath falls against my neck, growing faster and faster with each passing second. I tuck away the edge of the stretchy bandage before dropping the roll and wrapping my arms around him.

I know that I should check on the rest of the squadron but I can’t bring myself to leave him. In the state that he is in, leaving would only aggravate the panic.

So instead I let my eyes drift to the crooked horizon, tracing the pattern of mountains and searching for an answer– a reason behind Sophie’s sacrifice. It’s as though my mind  believes that, somehow, something would be written in the outline of the mountains– that the universe would offer some explanation for having taken her from me.

As though he can read my mind, Lloyd pulls his head away from me, keeping his eyes down on the blood soaked dirt. The second his body loses contact with mine, I stand and walk toward the next injured private, leaving my pseudo-brother behind once again.

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