I own nothing.
Bella's point of view
I did not feel well today. My head felt like someone had stuffed hot cotton wool into it.
But the show must go on, there are sick and wounded who need attending whether or not i have a sour head.
I looked around the breakfast area. There was a distinct feeling of loss. I was surrounded by death constantly, blood even stuck under my fingernails. I had seen things that a few years ago wouldn't have even been present in my nightmares. But it seems that only now has the war hit me, I am used to soldiers dying but I am not a soldier I am a nurse, now the Nurses are dying.
It's all just so sudden.
The clock said 5 o'clock; all should be up by now and here eating breakfast.
Accept those empty seats and bare plates were not to be taken as the previous occupiers were dead. The flu had taken five more through the night, Nurses Towers, Jones, Carter, Cook and Hally. All gone within the blink of an eye.
I try to keep my spirits up, it will do no one any good to mope around, I can do that when the war is over.
Through the big double doors came ward mistress hale, she was looking worse for wear than I felt. She spotted me and came to sit beside me at my empty table.
"Good morning ma'am." I said, she returned the greeting.
We ate in silence, no cheery topic to be spoken of, just the dim and depleting breakfast room chatter to tide us over.
"I want you to mind the flu ward this morning." She said, those careful blue eyes clouded with fatigue.
I felt my stomach drop to the floor; I really did not wish to be there.
"But I thought nurse-"
She cut me off "She passed away last night." Was all she said, there was clearly no room for argument.
"Yes ma'am." I said defeated. Nursing is not optional, I can't pick and choose. I have to keep telling myself that if the boys are willing to fight and die then I'm willing to care for them. It was least I can do.
We were silent for a moment. I watched the other nurses chatter between themselves, consoling each other.
Mistress Hales hands shook as she sipped her tea, the china teacup rattled against the saucer, small droplets of amber slipped down the curve of the cup and splashed into a small puddle.
"You are looking decidedly pale today Nurse Swan. Bed early and a cup of lemon and honey tea before you do." She ordered with a vague hint of sympathy and gentleness.
I wondered if she obeyed her own medical orders.
Someone rang a bell from the other side of the room. Time for the shifts to begin again.
I walked to the flu ward checking my uniform was all straight and perfect as I usually did.
I could not wait for the day to end so I could seek comfort in the blackness of sleep. I looked forward to dreaming of Edward.
Edwards point of view.
My boots were too tight; they nipped at my ankles like savage dogs or hungry rats. It hurt despite the water freezing them.
Whitlock was checking his rifle, polishing the bayonet with an old sock until it sparkled in the awakening morning sun. It was quit spectacular actually to see something bright in the bleakness ahead of us. His face was completely still, no emotion, nothing.
I wasn't nervous, I think I am scared but the hammering of my heart in my chest felt something similar to the way I felt before going to see Bella. I think its called anticipation.
I looked down the row, Biers head was bowed and his black fingers danced across a small silver cross. I never knew he was religious.
McCarthy, poor bloke, was in a little more of a state than me, he tried to look brave and menacing but the way he held that photo of his rose betrayed all of his acting efforts.
He needed distracting "McCarthy?" I asked
He looked at me "Can you do me a favour?"
"Yes." He said in a clipped tone.
"Flowers. If anything happens to me I want you to find Bella and give her flowers." I told him, my throat seemed to thicken as I said her name. Her name sounded like a prayer, so out of place and beautiful compared to the trench.
I wanted to make sure Bella knows she will always be in my thoughts even if I should die.
"And my mother, make sure she is safe and well. She hasn't been doing very well since my father died." I felt guilt creep up on me, my mother did not want me to join up and fight, not like I had much of a choice.
McCarthy was silent for a moment as if words had disappeared.
"Of course he will but you can give them to her yourself you lazy sod!" Whitlock laughed. He was trying to keep the spirits up; I had heard him say once that it was better to die laughing than crying.
McCarthy seamed to collect him self suddenly "What type of flowers Ed?" he asked and formed a note pad with his hand and pretended to take a pen from his pocked.
"Sun flowers, she likes the sun and the heat." I said fondly smiling at the memory of Bella lying in that meadow near the brook in the village we live in. She was so beautiful that day; the world was so at peace back then.
McCarthy then pretended to write it down in a hurry.
I looked down at my watch. 3:40.
Not long now.
I could feel my heart beat in my fingers as they gripped my riffle; I imagined it was Bella's silk hair beneath my fingertips rather than the rough wood.
I suppose now would be the time to say one last goodbye to Bella.
I pulled out her photograph, it wasn't in a very good condition anymore, but I could still see her eyes. Those beautiful brown eyes.
Her face made me calm as I closed my eyes and savoured it, engraved it on my soul and my heart.
"We will be together again soon Bella. I promise." I whispered.
"Aye, I'd say we will be back in our nook and crannies cuddling up to rats in no time." Whitlock said a ghost of a smile on his face. I just looked at him amazed at his candour at a time like this, I wondered how he could be so calm and detached.
But of course he wasn't, he could argue from pillar to post but he was frightened, you could tell. It's always the ones with brick walls built up behind their eyes who are the most frightened.
I hadn't noticed it before, but it was quiet. Horribly quiet.
No gins, no hell fire. Nothing.
"They're saving it all for us pretty boy." Whitlock said as if reading my thoughts.
I suppose he was right.
"Brace yourselves lads. When I blow my whistle we go, one line after the other, no stopping." I heard sergeant Everson declare from down the line.
His unspoken words rang out for all to hear. No stopping until you reach the trench unless you get gunned down or blown up.
My heart really started hammering then, like a drum.
I looked down the line, men got themselves sorted, checking this and that, some had their heads bowed and hands clasped in prayer, some kissed photographs and took one last read of a letter memorizing the fond words of a loved one. And then there were the men that just stood still, like statues, staring ahead, and waiting.
A lark sang overhead, a short sharp tune greeting the still morning air. Such a brave little thing, it looked so odd and out of place in this opening of hell.
For a brief moment I wished I was that free little bird with the ability to get far far away from here.
Everything froze at the imminent moment as the sergeant brought the whistle to his lips. Boots hitting the wooden ladders along the line of the trench rang out.
It all happened in a flash then, the whistle sounded my hands and feet were on the ladder, I was climbing.
And then I was running and stumbling.
The ground exploded and belched out mud water and bodies. I shielded my eyes.
The barrier of men was falling around me, one on each side like dominoes.
I panicked, I couldn't see anything but grey dotted with green. Noise flared as the bombs dropped from the heavens.
My foot got stuck in some slush. I looked down.
"Keep your eyes straight ahead pretty boy!" I heard a voice screamed at me from behind. I did as it said just in time to duck an explosion of shrapnel.
It was Whitlock. I felt a flash of relief that he was still alive, still with me.
I hadn't heard the screams until now. They were louder than the guns.
I just stared straight ahead into the foggy chaos, my rifle pointed forward, finger on the trigger. Ready.
"Edward, tell McCarthy to keep his fucking head up!" Whitlock screamed from somewhere to my side.
I spotted McCarthy, his head was bent. "McCarthy look up and straight ahead!" his head snapped up.
"Is that you Ed?" he shouted looking around frantically.
"Yes!" I screamed back.
I saw them both move closer to me.
Suddenly my feat weren't beneath me.
I was flying.
I opened my eyes and looked around me in a slight daze. Everything was hazy.
"Ed?" someone shouted besides me, I turned.
It was McCarthy. But he wasn't alone; across his legs was the distorted figure of another soldier.
It was Whitlock.
Were in a crater, we must have been blown back by a shell as it exploded.
My legs hurt.
I crawled towards him. The mud soaked me to the bone.
I pushed Whitlock so that he was face up. His eyes were barely open and there was blood all over him, it seeped into the water and grey mud.
"Whitlock?!" I shouted, my words sounded jumbled up.
"Alice?" he mumbled.
"No it's me, pretty boy." He said but he didn't hear me. He closed his eyes and let out a single staggering breath.
"He's dead isn't he?" McCarthy asked eyes wide.
I just nodded.
With as much strength as I could muster in my aching arms I dragged him off of McCarthy's legs. I crossed his arms over his chest and placed his helmet over his face. A mark of respect he deserved.
His body will be found after the battle and buried properly.
I looked to McCarthy, "We have to carry on."
I crawled back to the brim of the creator, positioned my rifle in front of me. Men were still stumbling around us moving forward.
Kicking my backwards I stumbled out of the hole. It was now or never.
McCarthy was in front of me, he turned back.
I could see him screaming, eyes wide and horror struck beneath the layers of mud and blood.
A sharp pain in my chest took me by surprise. I fell and felt dust all around me as the sun rose.
Bella's point of view
"Bella, do you want me to save you a place at dinner later?" Nurse Webber asked me, her kind face sweaty and tired. She had been in the amputation room all day.
I wiped my hands and savoured the cold water for a moment.
"No it is ok. I'm going to bed after I finish here." I said.
Throughout the day I had felt worse. I think I am just tired; it had been a long few days after all as the casualties coming in multiplied in numbers.
Nurse Webber looked at me with worried eyes. I waved her off "I'm fine, just tired." But it sounded too weak to be a believable excuse.
Suddenly my heart started to hammer and my head went all foggy.
I gripped the wash basin to stop from falling.
"Whoa, steady there. You better get to bed; I will send Doctor Cullen to come take a look at you." She said gently and wrapped her arm around my waist to steady me as I walked.
The hallways seamed to just fade away as we made our way to the dormitory.
I think there were other nurses sleeping in bed.
"Bella, I'm going to tuck you in now." I heard Nurse Webber say. I felt the soft cool sheet of my bed beneath me.
"Thank you, you had better get back down stairs, Mistress Hale will eat you." I said to her closing my eyes.
I felt her hand on my forehead stroking it gently. I heard her healed feet walk out of the room leaving just the faint sound of larks singing outside.
My chest felt heavy but my body felt light as if there were no strings holding me to the ground anymore. A sort of peaceful anticipation washed over me as I started floating.
November 11th 1928
It was an oddly bright morning with just a trace of frost still remaining on the grass. A woman walked soberly among the white pristine rows of headstones, a bouquet of flowers clutched in her hand.
Her heart was heavy in her chest, it had been a while since she had been back to Calais, but she had an important reason. Where once the burial places of her comrades were simple and lacked the praise the glorious dead deserved, were now fitting to their sacrifice.
The woman searched among the stones until she came across the one she was looking for. The head stone was nestled between the headstones belonging to her fellow nurses.
She smiled at seeing the name.
Bella Swan, Great Britain, Nurse of the Great War. 1917, age 21.
She was a victim of the Spanish influenza, one of the estimated 50 million. She had died before it was an epidemic, before the rest of the world got to experience it. The woman had lost many comrades due to it.
She bent down, removed her glove and traced her friend's name. A small tear trickled down her cheek.
It was then that she noticed something.
There at the bottom of the stone was a bunch of big bright sun flowers. The woman just smiled and placed her flowers next to them with a small message written on a card.
To Nurse Swan, flowers to tell you I have not forgotten you and I never will. Your friend, Nurse Webber.
Nurse Webber wiped away her tears, kissed her fingers and placed them on her friend's headstone.
She stood and took a step back and bowed her head in respect. From the corner of her eye she saw the figure of a man, he was tall and heavily built, and he walked slowly with the aid of a walking stick, a short crop of dark brown almost hair crowned his head, in his hand was his hat. He walked with his head bowed.
Nurse Webber turned and left the cemetery leaving her old comrade and the hundreds of others to their eternal rest with a smile on her face knowing that, despite the years Nurse Swan was not nor ever will be forgotten.
In Flanders Fields
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
John McCrae, 1917
This story is in remembrance to all those who fought both on the frontline and those who gave their time and lives behind the lines of fire. This is also in recognition to the brave people in the armed forces today. Thank you.