Hero of War (Part 15)

I hardly see the base when we arrive. The injured are escorted to the infirmary while the rest of us head to the canteen. I keep my eyes on the heels of the soldier ahead of me, absentmindedly following him and adamantly refusing to meet anyone’s eyes.

I inhale the bowls of lukewarm soup without tasting an ounce. The cacophonous hum of the lively conversations cannot penetrate the deafness in my ears. Bright fluorescent lights reflect off the smooth plastic surface of the table.

I stare at the blood on my uniform. The once deep crimson is slowly turning brown. It resembles the mess you’d see on the clothing of a movie soldier after they’d held the body of a dying comrade and were fulfilling a promise to carry on their legacy.

I am not accepting her death. I feel myself falling into an abyss of emptiness created by the hole Sophie had left. The room melts away from me, liquefying into a puddle of nostalgia.

Nostalgia for the life we once had– the life she left me with. The life I cannot live alone.

I stand, pushing against the table. In my peripheral vision, I see my fellow troop members turn their heads to look up at me. I can’t see their faces but I know what they would convey: sadness, pity, and a desire to help but an uncertainty regarding how.

I refuse to look at them. They are no longer important in my life.

Nothing is– not my troop, not my friends, not my family and absolutely not this stupid war that took Sophie from me. I don’t care which side wins because I’ve already lost the one thing I was desperate to protect.

I turn away from the two comrades I’d grown closest to. Their eyes bore holes into the back of my bare skull as I exit the dining hall, walking on legs that possess little strength.

Upon reaching the world outside, my head tilts back and I find myself gazing at the azure sky.

“Are you up there, Sophie?” A voice asks. It is soft and shaky. I can hardly hear it. “Are you waiting for me?”

Something warm traces a line down my face, falling with me as my knees hit the ground below. Dirt caresses the palms of my hands as the sky disappears from my vision. Tear drops fall onto the loose dirt before me, leaving nickel-sized holes.

Our service was almost over. We only had two more months before returning home. Two months before we could put this war behind us and return to the life we were supposed to lead.

Two months.

Just two short months.

“Why?” the same voice comes back to say. “Why?” It repeats over and over again until the word no longer makes sense. The syllable feels heavy and foreign in my mouth, as though my tongue is rejecting it but it kept returning anyways.

A different question hangs in my head, one I never got the chance to ask Sophie. One that would have marked the beginning of our life together.

It burrows deep into the holes my tears have dug, never to be spoken.

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