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L'Enfer

By Rileigh Ellefsen All Rights Reserved ©

Drama

iv

The twenty-second day in the month of August, year nineteen hundred and fourteen, evening

I am exhausted, as I have been at Armand’s bedside all evening. He has been injured by barbed wire, and I worry that I will become infected. He has slept so much, and I can do nothing but pray, even if there is no longer any God for me to hear them. I need something to fill the time in which I am not holding a gun, firing at the ‘enemy’. I try to protect Armand, with my every breath, my every fibre of my being. It is no simple task, as he never knows where he is supposed to be. I always have to be incredibly alert, so I can knock him to the ground should his slow reflexes feel as though they wish to prevail for that day. However, it was not myself that was aware of Armand’s injury, immediately. Had it not been for Sébastien, I suppose that my foolish husband would still be out on the battlefield, pretending that he was completely fine. Now, as I write this, I am already thinking of ideas for my letter to him.

It shall be easy to deliver, as he is bedridden for the next few days. He seems to be quite exhausted, and is sleeping so much, so I can put my letter into the bag with the mail, or even more easily slip it into the hand of a nurse with an excuse along the lines of, ‘It was sent to me by mistake’. He shall be pleased, I believe, when he at last gets a letter from me, given that it is all he talks about. How I wish that my husband could talk about anything other than me, the farm, the crops… he tries to be a simple farming man, but his eccentricity makes him a proverbial black sheep. Such a lively man, Armand is.

Oh, but how frail my husband looks, at this very moment! His skin is a deathly pale complexion, and I have to continuously dab his brow with my handkerchief. He is not in critical condition, therefore is low priority for the nurses. Of course, he does not deserve treatment any less than the others, but there are simply so many men who are injured, and not enough of the poor, exhausted nurses to go around. It almost makes me wonder if I should help them, but that would appear far too suspicious. In any case, I do not have the proper training, nor the inoculations to be a nurse.

Sébastien is sitting on the other bed, talking in a low voice to Alain. The man lost his leg in a shell explosion, how brave! I cannot imagine what it must be like. He sounds so cheerful about it, as well, which is so odd. He seems to be fixated on the wooden leg that he made himself, which makes me wonder if that is why he is so cheerful. It is easy to forget one’s pain if one attempts to focus on something else, even the most mundane thing, I find. Or, it could just be that Alain is a very happy man. I like that option better, but the reality is, it could just as well be the first one. He and Sébastien seem to be keeping up a lively conversation, which makes me think that they are good friends. I trust anyone that Sébastien socialises with, so perhaps I shall get to know this man better. I will ask Sébastien if Alain knows who I really am, and why I am here. Not here in the hospital, as he simply thinks I am accompanying him, but here, in the war.

Ah, Armand has begun to stir. I gave him some water from my flask, which he seemed to appreciate. His little smile means the world to me, and I would give everything I had just to see it stay upon his face. I suppose that it cannot always work out that way, especially not in the war, but a woman can hope, can she not? My husband is hungry now, I shall have to go and find a nurse to see if she has any chicken broth left for him!

Unfortunately, all that was left for Armand was a piece of stale bread, and a meagre salad without any toppings at all. A shame, really, as I know that I could have made something much better quite quickly. However, he did not seem to complain, as fresh vegetables were something of a rarity in the trenches. He devoured the small bowl in a matter of minutes, which left me with an odd sort of satisfaction. He must have been satisfied, as well, as he is resting once again.

When Sébastien was certain that Armand was fast asleep, he introduced me to Alain, then continued to explain my situation. It was rather embarrassing, as I could only stay where I am positioned now on the floor, listening as Sébastien told Alain my story. He only nodded in my direction, seemingly lax about the entire thing, which was incredibly surprising. He then greeted me in his thick rural accent, and I had to hide a smile behind my hand. Though I live in Clermont, just as Alain does, I have never met him, nor anyone who speaks in the way he does. It is more amusing than it should be.

Alain does seem to be quite a nice man, and now that he knows I am a woman, cannot stop complimenting me and my appearance. Men can be so inconsiderate of the feelings of women! When I told him I was not interested, it appeared to me that he understood, though I could tell that he was genuinely disappointed. However, what can one do? He said himself that he has several mistresses waiting for him at home. I do not wish to become another one of these, even if I did find him attractive – which I absolutely do not. I am faithful to my husband, and I will continue to be, despite being in a world filled and run by men!

It is amazing what Armand can sleep through; I am having a casual conversation now, for if he wakes up, it will be because I have not heard his voice in so long, and I am already missing it dearly. Yet, he has not stirred, and I am worried that his body is fighting off an infection. It is a shame, really, as we have hardly fought at all. I still need to do so, however, as I am not injured. Sébastien and I have been fighting together, and then we make the long trek to the hospital outside of the trenches.

Oh, but the trenches! I have not mentioned them, as my last entry was at the beginning of the month. The Germans have these new, horrible weapons that launch little capsules containing explosions, called shells. We have to dig trenches in order to shield ourselves from them better, as this is no longer the type of war that our forefathers have fought. It calls for a new type of tactic, one which, I am afraid, we do not exactly excel. Our trenches are all quite sloppy, hastily made and incredibly dirty. My uniform became covered in mud within the first day, and we have not had a single chance to clean them.

Our trenches are quite like large, rodent-infested mazes, with little encampments dug into the sides. They face away from the battlefield, so that we are not hit by shells as we sleep. That would be quite a terrible way to die, to be blown up by a shell! Oh, I see now why women are not allowed to fight in the war. This talk of being blown up is quite unbecoming of me. Who should like a woman that has been spoiled by the violence of the real world? I do hope that my husband will not think any less of me… He cannot possibly! Why should he be upset, when I am only here because of him? In any case, what do these soldiers have against women? Joan of Arc was a wonderful fighter, and I never hear of anyone criticizing her.

Sébastien is urging me to go back to the camp to sleep. I am incredibly tired, so I must comply, which means that I must cease writing for the day. If only I could stay with Armand-!

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