|I'm Sorry Charlie
Author: festus48 PM
To see Molly, the baby, his family and keep his promise, all he has to do is one thing. Make it out of the war alive. But with guilt swallowing him & the Hun attacking from all sides it seems impossible. vanelo159 50 sentences prompt.Rated: Fiction T - English - Hurt/Comfort - Words: 3,078 - Reviews: 1 - Favs: 1 - Follows: 1 - Published: 05-07-11 - Status: Complete - id: 6972771
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N So this is for vanelo159's 50 sentences prompt/challenge/thing.
Not all of this is factual. To match all of the words of the contest meant that not all of the story could be historically correct. Enjoy.
Disclaimer: I'd need a sex change.
Nursing his third pint, Tommo gazes around the pub trying to find solace in others merriment. He soon gives up and goes back to his 'medicine', drowning his pain. He fishes around in his pocket for some money to pay for yet another beer when he feels something unusual nestled in the bottom of his pocket, grabbing a fistful he realises it's petals from the poppy he picked on that day. They are deader than dead yet he still refuses to get rid of them; now he's become bitter and grumpy from thoughts he'd rather forget and he walks out, stopping once at the door to look back down at the withered petals. He goes to drop them or throw them far, far away so he never has to think of that day again then thinks better of it and secures them back into his pocket with a pat. After all, he will never be near of forgetting that day and how he caused it. He approaches camp, happy to have some break before he has to go back on duty, the day had been bliss and through his inebriated haze he manages to notice that it's silent - music to his ears.
The sound of rifles, shells and shouting wakes Tommo up as per norm, the battle having re-started. He focuses his attention on no-man's land to find men bravely struggling, he feels no emotion towards this anymore, some time ago – a long time ago it seems- he would have felt pride at these men and heartbreak as one by one they get struck down, now nothing, just a look of indifference. A fallen man catches Tommo's eye as said man tries, in vain, to hold back the tears, stubborn to let this be his moment of weakness. Tommo sits there, guilt invading and consuming him, reminding him there's nothing he can do.
Later that night there's a celebration; apparently the allies are doing well and have advanced a great lot over the past few weeks. Tommo scoffs at how easily pleased the others are, men are dying at this very moment as they sit with smiles on their faces. As he becomes more annoyed at the celebrations going on, Charlie sits next to him - a figment of his imagination of course, he's not insane - his heart dropping upon the realisation. Charlie reminds him that they all need something to keep their spirits up, always focus on the positives never the negatives he says, with a wink at the end just for good measure. Slowly, without permission, a smile forms and for once in a long time Tommo succumbs to sleep with happy thoughts. His dreams are different though, Charlie's there, helpless on the ground, blood pouring out of his ears and nose begging him not to do it. Baffled Tommo glances around, noticing his hand and the sword it's clutching. Before he realises it he brings it down, straight into Charlie's chest.
As sword meets chest, the scene, fortunately, changes, turning into a field Tommo recognises yet can't remember despite how hard he tries. His mouth is unbearably parch, as if he'd been in the desert for days without water accompanying him and his hand goes to his throat in a useless attempt to quench his thirst. He scans the area and notices a small hole filled with water, he rushes to it noticing that three sweets wrapped in gold sit beside the wonderful water. Once he's gulped all the water, so that there aren't even droplets left, he cautiously opens one of the sweets, a humbug reveals itself and in that instant he remembers the incident with the aeroplane and how it had happened on this very field.
A laugh escapes him upon the memory, a sound he hasn't heard in a long time. Choosing to ignore the unusual sound he looks around again to find that, where he had been just moments before are now two silhouettes lazing under an umbrella. They're snuggled up to one another chatting, having to yet notice him. He starts to approach them and just as he's about to make himself known he stumbles backwards, apparently having walked into...nothing. He tries again and again to no avail, as if an invisible wall stands between him and the couple, preventing him from venturing any further. Laughter alerts him back to the two people before him and lets him know that the wall isn't sound proof. He stops trying to get closer, instead opting to stand and listen. The voices are ones that he has heard countless times before and yet hardly enough – Charlie and Molly, he hadn't dreamt of Molly in a long time.
His eyes widen in shock, yet remains silent, still listening and observing. It seems as though they're on a date, feeding each other berries and sweets with a chaste peck on the lips after something's eaten. Tommo squirms, having vowed to never imagine what the two did when alone. After a while Molly starts to dial on a phone he didn't notice, amongst the banquet of food . An insistent ringing starts and Tommo looks down at his feet to find another telephone settled beside him, he picks it up with a painful slowness, his hands trembling as though a criminal has a gun to his head. As soon as it reaches his ear Molly speaks, "You prevented this from every happening again, you stopped the only person I'll ever love from returning to me. I ha-"
Tommo wakes to Will, one of the new lads, shaking him, asking him to wake up, "They've managed to find a weak spot in our trenches Tommo and are taking full advantage, and we need everybody up and fighting their bloody arse off if we want them to retreat, the sleazy bastards."
He jumps up, heading to all the dreadful commotion with his rifle and bayonet accompanying him. He does what he's being doing for months, fighting for his country. He doesn't need to think about how to anymore, it comes naturally.
Slowly but surely they get some distance. The firing hasn't ceased yet, it hasn't even quietened but with distance means progress - focus on the positives, never the negatives.
After a long, long time and many lives, the Hun retreat back to their trenches. They all have the urge to cheer and dance but the lack of energy prevents them from doing so, instead choosing to savour the rare silence that surrounds them. Unlike most of the others, Tommo doesn't get to go and rest instead having the unfortunate task of wire duty and hates every second of it, though never verbally complains. He hears a curse from one of the others as a piece of their skin gets nagged on the wire and Tommo hushes him, trying to prevent the battling from re-starting for just a little while longer.
Eventually he gets to retire to bed, though instead from passing out from the immense exhaustion he finds that he can't sleep. He removes a few rocks from under him, trying to make it more comfortable and still can't sleep. Instead of forcing himself asleep he lays awake, wondering about it all. About the war and how - if at all - the bad will be treated and how the good will be rewarded, hoping that there is a moral economy in the world. He knows that Charlie would have been rewarded, and that he, himself, will be severely punished, his face contorts into a horrible grimace. He's thought about Charlie for too long, times like this are when he wishes that he had some sort of privacy, even if it were merely a curtain. Anything that would prevent the others from seeing the torture and pain evident on his face.
He's woken after just minutes of sleep to be informed that there's a rare treat of lemonade later, if he comes back alive. He lets out a bitter chuckle, knowing that there's plenty of things inside the trenches that could kill him. He looks at his shoes – trench foot; he scratches his arm for the fifth time since he's woken up – typhus and just the weather alone could help lose a man's life. It was a miracle that the men left the trenches alive. While he climbs out of the only place of 'safety' and heads towards no-man's land he notices that behind him Ed, another new one, is trembling slightly. He walks alongside him and tells him not worry, it'll be over soon and all those bodies he sees, they're not dead they're just sleeping, it's one massive sleepover. Though it's a preposterous thought Ed calms a little, a smile tugging at his lips. Tommo doesn't find any comfort from his words.
A few more months, a lot more lives lost, Tommo's still one of the living, though the idea of constructing an army big enough to defeat the dirty Hun impalpable. He eventually gets another night away from the trenches, heading for the same pub as before, doubting that it's still standing but he's proven wrong and he and his mates stride onwards. Whilst ordering his beer and food he notices the bar maid sat on a stool a few seats to the left of him, drinking what appears to be tequila, with a forlorn expression. He settles himself next to her and she looks up as he does so, her expression turns to curiosity and Tommo takes the moment to introduce himself. They start to chat, even when Tommo's food arrives - fish and chips, (a reminder of home) they carry on, her doing most of the talking while he eats.
Elsie's her name, and quite an interesting character she is. Working most nights serving the soldiers both alcohol and food, always makes sure they're rightly treated, soldiers are people after all, she explains. Tommo relaxes tense shoulders he didn't even realise he had when she tells him that only the allies go into this pub, she wouldn't serve the Hun anyway she confesses through a whisper. Tommo's quite intoxicated after his fifth pint, never one to be known to guzzle drinks, always the lightweight and as a result slurs most of his words, though Elsie still carries on the conversation as normal. But as Tommo reaches for his pint, his drunken form slips and falls into her, his face rather close to her chest where her corset is doing wonders on pushing her already large breasts up to makes them even more bustier. Tommo stays there for a few seconds, mesmerised, having not seeing a woman, let alone certain qualities of a woman for quite some time and licks his lips subconsciously. A sudden flicker of logic re-enters his brain and with a few shakes of his head returns to a somewhat sober state, reminding himself of Anna and how similar this situation is. He recalls the unfortunate tragedy, how his heart sunk to his stomach upon hearing the horrific news. Besides there was another- Molly. He was never a promiscuous person and he wasn't starting now, his heart already had an owner. With this thought he starts to leave, apologising profusely to Elsie on the way out, scolding himself for such foolish behaviour, and chances one final glance behind him to see her eyes downcast and a lugubrious expression settled on her face.
Instead of Elsie's moans of pleasure being the lyrics to the night - which Tommo was sure could have happened, after seeing her so melancholy even before he'd gone - the familiar sounds of battle are his replacement. The slight quake of the earth after yet another explosion his bass; the shrill of shells whizzing through the air his guitar, gunshots his drum; cries and moans the tale of which the song tells.
Tommo merely winces as a bullet scrapes the top his right ear off, instead thankful that was as close at it got. He delves deeper into No Man's Land, trying to ignore the stinging of his ear. Instead focusing on the faces of his family flashing through his mind, whilst shooting a few of the Hun down simultaneously, his usual mantra of make it out alive, another day closer to Molly changing to it's your fault, it's your fault and everyone knows it replaying in his head like a broken record. He clenches his eyes shut, a vain attempt to make it go away. The fact that Ed's hurt his foot and Tommo's now helping him back to the trenches doesn't help, too much unwanted déjà vu. He returns back to No Man's Land nonetheless to end up twisting his ankle falling down a shell hole, a kaleidoscope of emotions hit him – pain, guilt, sorrow, helplessness and fear.
A few men on either side notice Tommo's downfall, a couple of allies rushing towards him to help, five of the Hun rushing over to kill. Tommo notices the few mates come over and attempts to get back up, only to be met with the ground once again. One of them, Will, puts Tommo's arm around his shoulder and lets Tommo use him to get up. The other ally is occupied shooting at the approaching Hun, he knocks down two of them but they're outnumbered. Fear courses through Tommo, he thinks of the baby boy he's got to go back to, how he has to tell him all about his Dad - the brave Charlie - how he saved Tommo's life. He'll tell the little boy the truth, not constructing some elaborate ruse to preserve his pride, the boy deserves the truth and to know how incredible his real father was.
Tommo imagines teaching him to catch fish, to love all creatures, even the smallest ones and playing all sorts of sports with him while Molly watches them laughing at their antics, occasionally joining in – almost like a portrait family. By the age of nine he'll be the perfect gentleman, be amazing at football yet know the names of every flower surrounding him (thanks to his mother and grandmother of course) and most importantly - never have to live with someone as vile as the Wolfwoman.
Together Molly and Tommo would take him on picnics, to museums, aquariums, the beach and anywhere they could think of. His life would be an adventure, he'd be loved by all his family and adored by everyone else, being a heartbreaker to all the ladies until he found his special one, then his Mother and Tommo would rejoice, thrilled that he was happy. Tommo and Molly would live in a house not too far away from his Mother and Big Joe, so they could visit each other whenever they wanted. They would have a garden, it didn't matter what size, as long as they could play games and have a patch of poppies too, poppies to remember what happened, that they should forever be thankful of each day that they're blessed with. Charlie would never be forgotten either, Tommo wouldn't allow it, he would tell stories of his brother and him, the trouble they got into and the fun they had, it would be as if Charlie were famous, and he deserved all the fame and glory and more in Tommo's eyes. Charlie was his hero. (36) Tommo and his family would do something spectacular each year on Charlie's birthday too, like a party or bonfire or fireworks – yes fireworks. Then the sky and Big Joe's Heaven would be ignited, letting anyone up there know that they hadn't forgotten, they still remembered and loved Charlie, every day until all their days were up, and they'd sing Oranges and Lemons too once the night was over, knowing Charlie would understand.
But that was just Tommo's dreams - what could happen. Right then he had a rifle aimed at his head slowly inching closer. He locks eyes with the Hun on the other end of the rifle and the Hun notices that Tommo's eyes are filled with such gloom and anguish that he hesitates, remembering that they're human too, though the thought is quickly replaced with the reminder that the more he kills of them the sooner this heinous war is over with, and with this final conclusion shots him.
Will leaps out of the way of the oncoming bullet whilst pushing Tommo onto the ground at the same time. Tommo's pushed in the wrong direction however and the bullet goes straight into his arm with a moan of agony emitting from him. Writhing in pain in the mud and blood, he doesn't have the energy to do anything but clutch his arm. Although it's only an arm wound he doesn't have the energy or strength to recover from it. He can feel the blood ooze from the wound and knows that if he doesn't move he could die, either from the lack of will power to heal or from being shot again. He thinks of Charlie the entire time - you shouldn't of saved me Charlie, I'm worthless.
His mind is torn, one part telling him to surrender to sweet, blissful sleep and the other fighting to hold on - trying to get back to Molly and his nephew, his Mother and Big Joe. He's too busy clutching to life and welcoming death to notice that the three Hun have been shot dead by the two allies with him, his mind is yelling at him to enter eternal unconsciousness yet screaming that if nothing else matters, then keep his promise to Charlie. He can't find a resolve though, instead choosing to think: I love you Molly, I'm sorry Charlie.