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L'Enfer

By Rileigh Ellefsen All Rights Reserved ©

Drama

v

The fifteenth day in the month of September, year nineteen hundred and fourteen, after-noon

It has become so hard to write consistently in this diary. I see Armand writing every day, on his silly memoirs that he told me he would get published one day. I often wonder how he manages to do it, as I am usually so completely drained after fighting that there is nothing I would rather do than sleep. It has really taken a toll on me, this month and a half, I believe, of fighting. When I close my eyes, I can hear the rapid fire of the rifles, still feel the ground below me tremble with explosions, even if I know they are not really occurring at that point in time. It should not bother me as much as it does, of course, but I do not wish to wake anyone up with my cries. They may suspect something, after all, especially Armand; who still has no idea that I am here. Of course, I should not have been so worried, as he is often quite oblivious.

In any event, my husband is doing much better after his injury. He walks with a bit of a limp, but it truly is not bad, if one takes into account his slight, existing limp. At least he did not lose his leg altogether, unlike Alain, who was not so lucky. However, they are both back out in the trenches, with as much energy as every to go and fight. Armand is much happier now, I can tell, as he got the letter from me. Oh, his eyes lit up, and it made me feel wonderful to know that he was happy in this filthy bloodbath that they have the audacity to call a war.

I think I am learning the songs that the men sing quite quickly. Before, I only knew the anthem, as every good French citizen should, but I knew not of the drinking songs, filled with women and patriotism and glory – but mostly women. These soldiers, they absolutely adored their female counterparts, and I can tell that any who had wives, missed them dearly. However, it pleased me in an unfamiliar way to know that the women back at home were not forgotten; quite the contrary, in fact. We are loved, undoubtedly, and never once have I questioned that, but when many men go off on their escapades for weeks, months, even years; well, what is a woman to think? A kiss is a kiss, whether from a man or a woman.

Armand, however, is quite shy around Sébastien. I can tell that he knows Sébastien’s intentions, and is trying to be polite about refusing him. He is persistent, however, and I can hear him still talking about Armand at nighttime while he rests beside me. In fact, we are alone now; perhaps I should finally tell him that Armand is my husband.

--

The discussion, in reality, could have gone much better, I believe. I regret to admit that Sébastien is no-where to be found, and I can only hope that I did not hurt him too badly. It all happened something like this; the two of us were assigned a sort of sentry duty, without the luxury of being up high in a castle, safe from the enemy. We were instead huddled in a covered crevice in the trenches, the tops of our rifles poking out over the top of the mud. It was then that I asked Sébastien, “Do you know – exactly why I am here?”

“Of course,” he told me. “You are here for your husband. I respect that, because it shows you are very brave.” Oh, how I wanted to tell him that I was not brave in the slightest! “You are pulling your weight well in the trenches, so I doubt that anyone will suspect you are a woman. It really is a shame, how men are considered the only ones who are hard-working.” I knew he was trying to change the subject, so I pressed on, trying to ignore the pity in his voice.

I cleared my throat, and replied in a voice that was soft to keep from attracting attention; “My husband… his name is Armand Lacroix.” I still remember now the way his face paled, and I worried that he would be sick. He tried to stammer out an apology, but I immediately felt guilty, and hurried to reassure him that it was not his fault. “I – must admit, it is strange that a man has fallen in love with my husband; in fact, it is never a situation I had thought myself capable of falling into,” I admitted. My lips still hurt from when I was chewing the skin off of them during that time. It was at that point that I reached out and put my hand on his shoulder, since I wanted to make him feel as though he was safe with me. I still do not know why I am not angry. After all, Armand is my husband, and Sébastien is already in the war for a lover of his!

Suddenly, Sébastien began to sob. He murmured something to the effect of, “This always happens to me, God has condemned me to Hell…” and he ran off. It is a shame, really, as I did not expect him to become so upset. Perhaps, there is a way in which I can make it up to him, but I have searched around the trenches for quite some time after our pathetic excuse for a ‘talk’, yet I still do not know where he has gone. It could be that he is taking a walk, or going to the hospital to visit the wounded, as soldiers are often found to be doing now, escaping from the war in any way that they possibly can.

However, he could just as easily be looking for Armand, perhaps to apologise for – oh! But what if Sébastien gives away my secret in the midst of his sorrow? No, he couldn’t. He would not do so mean a thing! I worry too much, and I know that Sébastien has nothing to gain from telling him. I am just being foolish, like Armand always tells me I am. Perhaps I shall try to get some sleep to ease off this mounting stress. I am not resting enough, but it is hardly my fault, as they give us no time at all to take a break from fighting!

--

It is evening now, meaning I slept much longer than I intended. I woke to a warm sensation beside me, and I could tell that Sébastien was there. I could only reach out and gingerly touch his shoulder, murmuring an apology. He seemed to stay quiet. Finally, I told him that it was alright if he wished to admire my husband, however reluctantly. I know it seems to be a strange decision, as what sane woman would allow another person, let alone a man, to go after her husband? In truth, I cannot stand to see Sébastien upset, and I owe him a lot already. If he had not saved me from taking baths with everyone else in public where I would be discovered, I would not even be here in the camp still. It seems harmless, in any case, as one of us will surely die. If it is me, they two can be happy. If it is Sébastien, myself and Armand can go on living as we did before this damned war began.

If Armand dies, however, I do not know what I would do. I cannot imagine living without him, and I can imagine that if would devastate Sébastien as well. Armand is incredibly charming in a way that is hard to describe, so much so that his presence would be a terrible loss not just to me, but to everyone. He adds more to conversations than he knows, giving them a sort of life that I always seem to lack the words for. Forgive me if it seems I do not have any words at all, but Armand is a man who cannot be easily explained. He is wealthy but incredibly modest, intelligent but shy, except when one gets a few drinks into him, and still manages to captivate me with hardly more than his smile.

I gush far too much! He is no better than any man, I should know, but perhaps I am biased when I compliment him. Still, it is rare that one marries out of love, yet I believe I did, and, this is the result. Oh, there shall be no content to this diary except descriptions of Armand! I wish there was more to write about, truly, but it gets boring, writing about all the explosions and bullets and cries of pain. By boring, I suppose that I mean I would rather not think about it.

Too many people are dying, and the president is too stupid and power-hungry to realise it. He wants to win, because he cannot bear the thought of France losing to Germany twice in a row. He needs to get off his high horse and help us, in the very least. I heard Armand the other day talk about how Napoleon would fight with his own army. Is that true? I have never read up on my history, foolish of me, I know, but I enjoy hearing it from him. If leaders back then fought, why can they not do it now? It was only one hundred years ago. Perhaps, and I am being foolish again here, it only happens every two hundred years. Meaning, one hundred years from now, should there ever be a war, the leaders will pick up their guns instead of sitting in their houses sipping tea.

How ridiculous that I talk of their being another war! This one is so devastating already, and it does not seem to be slowing down any time soon, that people are persistent that it is the war to end all wars. No one wants to fight, yet we are forced to do so. As long as this remains in the memories of our people, why would they ever succumb to such mindless slaughter again? Coming from a French citizen, I suppose that does not mean much. France has almost always been at war, from what Armand has told me. We are too proud, I think; we need to accept defeat, sometimes, as we can not always be as strategic and successful as Napoleon. Sébastien just gave me a rather rude nudge; I suppose he is still upset, but also wants me to sleep.

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