The twenty-ninth day in the month of September, year nineteen hundred and fourteen
It is becoming so terribly cold. We hardly have anything to keep us warm, except for the fires on the ground caused by the explosions of shells. There has been a shortage of food, and everyone has been incredibly hungry. I have been giving my portions to Armand, who has not yet noticed, as he seems to be in his own thoughts, reading the letters I give to him at least a dozen times before taking up his own quill to reply. It is a sort of odd frenzy that I have remarked, where he will talk to no one and do nothing but read my letter and write, until he is certain that it is perfect. Even when he is called out to fight, he hesitates for a moment, finishing whatever sentence he is working on before going out. One time, he forgot his rifle, and Alain had to remind him to take it.
The fighting is not going too incredibly terribly, if ne focuses more on land gained than lives lost. It is a terrifying mindset, to think more about material gain than the human lives that are being lost each moment, but it is how one must think if they want to win the war; I am convinced it is the only way, now. We have managed to keep Armand safe, and by ‘we’, I mean myself, Alain, and Sébastien. In all honesty, I do not know why Armand has not yet noticed that he has three people watching over him almost all day, every day, but that should be better for me, since he will never find out that I am with him. I still do think that he would announce my presence to the officers should he recognise me.
Though I do not pay much attention to the politics and the tides of battle, I can tell that we are winning by the way we are advancing across the Belgian front. At least, I think it is Belgium. All I know for certain is that we are moving steadily north, at a pace that I suppose is normal for large battles. Then again, what can be used for reference? In this modern world, we have never seen a battle to this degree. Britain is now involved as well, fighting alongside us French. I heard rumours that the Canadians and exotic men from New Zealand will join us soon as well. The Canadians can speak French, at least – or, some of them.
I think the Germans are catching on to our tactics, as each day becomes slower and slower going. Mud has filled my boots, and is smudged over my face. Sometimes, in the heat of battle, I become momentarily confused, as though wondering where I am. It must be the shells, knocking out my senses for a moment, or something to that effect. I shan’t pay too much attention to it, however, as there are much more pressing things to focus on.
Armand is giving me worried looks. Does he know? He cannot, his letters do not suggest such a thing. If anything, he is worried that I became a nurse, only because he fears that I am not safe. But oh, he suggested that I was seeing another man! Armand, he hurts me deeply sometimes. I am here, only to protect him, and I have done all that I can to stay by this side. He must know, he absolutely has to. It will only cause him more worry if he thinks that I am at home, perfectly safe and healthy while being unfaithful to him, and he is here like – this. His eyes, they do not have the same shine. It may just be my perception, but we are all tired and underfed. I do hope that this war ends soon, as I do not know how much more of this torture I can possibly take. Sébastien wants to speak to me, I shall write our conversation when I am through.
In all honesty, I do not know entirely how I should convey this. Sébastien told me about a month ago that he was here to protect someone, which intrigued me, but I never ventured so far as to ask why. Thankfully, I did not have to ask, as he answered what he must have known had been on my mind for quite some time. What he said did not come as a surprise, in all honesty. He told me that he had a lover, for whom he went to war so valiantly, otherwise he would have cowered in fear and let the officers back at home arrest him for cowardice. This man was named Pierre Gauthier.
The name sounded incredibly familiar, until Sébastien said to me, “He was shot on the first day we arrived. You were the one who went to go save him.” Suddenly, all my memories came rushing back, of that poor man with the sorrow in his eyes, and the will to live, but he did not make it. I could only look at Sébastien, wide-eyed, unable to comprehend how he could keep this from me so well. He explained that the fact I tried to save Pierre was enough to gain respect in his eyes. I continued to chew on my lip, whatever I was feeling before turned to sorrow. I asked him why, exactly, he was telling me this, and why he waited so long.
“I was scared,” Sébastien said simply. “Scared that I would start to cry when I mentioned it. But… I think – no, I know that he is happier now, wherever he is, whether Heaven or elsewhere. I do not know what Jewish men believe in…” He glanced down at his hands, and it was then that I worried that he would begin to cry, so I reached out and put a hand on his shoulder in an attempt to reassure him. “I only wanted you to know why I am here,” he continued, “And why I want to protect you.” He did not add ‘and Armand’, since I am well aware of his reasons for protecting him.
It was as though a hint of bitterness hit me at that moment, and I snapped, much to my regret, “Are you trying to pity me into letting you have my husband?” It was a fair accusation, I thought, that he should tell me this after I told him that Armand was mine, but Sébastien did not seemed too pleased with this. He continued to pick at his fingernails, shaking his head. He was so close to breaking down, and I did not want him to become embarrassed because of me, so I ran out and into the trenches, trying to empty my mind of what I had just learned by fighting. The gun shots drowned out the man’s tears, as well, making it the better solution,
Now, I am back in my bed. Sébastien is nowhere to be found, so I asked Alain, yet he did not seem to know either. I hope he will be alright, though I do wonder where he hides, as it may be useful in the future. Perhaps, he does not hide at all, and instead blends in with the rest of the soldiers, doing the same as I and fighting. If that is the case, I know that he will be quite exhausted tomorrow, as it is quite late. However, I do not think that I will sleep, either. I need to find him, in case he does anything stupid.
I do feel like I must take care of these foolish men, who throw themselves “fearlessly” into battle, fighting for our “country” and “freedom”. They are blinded by what the papers tell them, what the president wants them to believe. Can they not see that the so-called enemies they are killing are their brothers? Are we not all human, all frightened, all wanting nothing but a better world? It makes me wonder what a government has to do to convince millions of men that their neighbours are out to kill them. I am afraid that what I am writing is no longer coherent; none of the thoughts in my head seem to be lining up with what my hand wants to write. I must go.