Then birds were singing. Slowly, blue eyes opened to be met with a blindingly cheerful sun. As if the sun was congratulating him on the fact his heart still happened to be beating.
At that moment, the man didn't feel lucky at all. He couldn't remember anything, couldn't think, because he was in so much pain, and a heavy weight lay over him like a blanket.
When he looked down to see what this weight was, he was surprised to find himself trapped beneath bodies of soldiers with faces that struck a chord inside him. He had known these men.
What the befuddled soldier didn't realize was that these men had saved his life. As the Germans combed the field for the injured they passed right over him, kicked the body of the soldier on top of the pile, and continued on.
It was coming back to him now.
He'd been shot. But in his current state everything was hurting equally and he couldn't focus.
Carefully he began maneuvering out from beneath his fellow soldiers and tried to stand. This was a mistake, as he suddenly was overwhelmed with dizziness and brought right back down to the ground.
As he sat in the middle of a field of corpses, the soldier decided to start with what he knew to be true in hopes it would get the wheels turning in his brain again.
James Robert Nicholls.
26 years of age.
Enlisted as a Captain in the Royal Army.
His heart pounded a little faster as her memory sliced through his foggy thoughts like a knife.
"You were wrong" he breathed, his eyes wide as he spoke, as if he couldn't possibly believe it. The man was in utter shock. He should be dead. She had been absolutely correct, and he should have been dead. What miracle was this that he was still alive?
It didn't matter. All he knew was that he had to get to her as soon as possible. This was his second chance and he was never leaving her again.
Forgetting where he was, he tried to get to his feet again, only to stumble back to his hands and knees. He felt faint and sore, and his shoulder was killing him. James inspected it further to find an open wound, and blood everywhere.
Emma might not be wrong after all. There was still the possibility that he would die before he ever got to her. That seemed like such a shame, to come so far, survive the attack that should have killed him, only to die of the aftermath.
"No" he choked, his voice coming out as an angry sob. "No."
He would crawl all the way to her doorstep if had to, and die on her porch if only he could see her face again and tell her he was sorry. So sorry.
James slumped to the ground again, his face against the earth. He shut his eyes and tried to calm his breathing as he thought of Emma. He knew she was religious, and even though he claimed to be, James often preferred to try and fix his problems himself. But this was a problem he could not fix, and he knew he would have to ask for help.
"Please God," he sobbed his fists clenching and pulling up grass. He was the picture of ultimate desperation. "Let me live to see her again. Please." the soldier begged, tears trickling down his face leaving clean trails amongst the dirt on his skin.
James wasn't sure how long he was lying there before he heard the familiar sound of a horse running nearby.
He lifted his head to see a figure in the distance and in one last desperate effort he yelled with all his might. James yelled incomprehensible things, or anything that came to mind such as "please! Help me!" to Emma's name. Anything to get that riders attention.
He managed to struggle to his knees and wave his good arm around in the air, terrified of being left here alone to die again.
He'd never heard a sweeter sound than the horse's hooves slowing and coming closer. The last thing the soldier saw before he blacked out again was the concerned face of an older gentleman.
When James came to for the second glorious time, he found himself in a tiny room, lying on a bed, dressed in only another man's pajama bottoms. His shoulder ached even more and upon a second inspection, he found it neatly wrapped up.
James sent a quick "thank you" heavenward then turned his attention to the door at the far corner of the room as it began to open.
A young woman – about Emma's age – peeked her head in the room to check on him. She had blonde hair and the biggest bluest eyes he'd ever seen. "How do you feel Captain?" the woman asked him amiably, letting herself in.
"Absolutely dreadful, but alive"
"Wonderful. I suppose you're wondering whats happened" the stranger went on, and with a nod from James, continued to explain.
"My father was breaking a horse and it took off with him... he came across the battlefield and was trying to get the horse to turn around when they heard your cry for help. He said that horse had the best manners after that and they were able to get you here... My brother is a physician. He cleaned and dressed your wounds. He says you're extremely lucky to even be alive right now..."
"I am," James breathed in disbelief. "Thank you, so much. Is the rest of your family here that I may thank them as well?"
The girl shook her head "No, my brother Gregory was called to another appointment and my father is in town. He'll return later this evening though. My name is Hannah." she offered him a warm smile.
"Captain James Nicholls, its very wonderful to meet you" he couldn't help but smile back at her, overwhelmed with joy at his turn of luck. Someone was watching out for him or something...
"Not to be rude, but did your brother happen to say when I could travel again?" he asked suddenly, noting the quickly hidden look of disappointment on Hannah's face.
"As soon as you feel strong enough" she chimed, her smile slightly forced this time.
"I'm sorry, forgive me. Its completely rude of me to act as if I can't wait to get away, its just... I have a woman waiting for me who thinks me dead." James finished quietly, giving Hannah a smile smile. This girl was innocent and naïve and maybe she had fancied the idea of him – the injured soldier nursed to health by her own hands. But nothing was going to keep him away from Emma. "This is my second chance. And I must go to her" he added softly.
Hannah's forced politeness faded back into a soft demeanor and she nodded knowingly. "Do not apologize Captain. You have every right to wish to leave. What a lucky woman she is. I will gather your things. Your uniform took quite a beating but you can borrow some of my father's clothes if you wish. And you must eat before you leave of course," Hannah insisted, busying herself about the room before promising she'd soon return and leaving him alone again.
While he waited, James tested his strength slowly and carefully. When he was finally able to walk around the room without getting dizzy he considered it a great accomplishment.
Hannah brought him a simple but hearty meal and he hungrily ate every crumb she handed to him.
As much as James wanted to leave at that exact moment, he was not yet strong enough. He'd rather arrive at Emma's door standing straight than unconscious once again.
Over the next few days he ate like a boy again and thanked Hannah's father every chance he got. With his determination, his will power to get better in order to see Emma's face, and the good care Hannah took of him, he soon regained his strength. It was the longest week of his life, and he was nowhere near being fully recovered yet but he could wait no longer.
Promising to return, he borrowed a horse from Hannah's father and began the long ride back home.
The sun was just beginning its descent when Emma's cottage came into view. James's heart leaped in his chest and he felt tears welling up behind his eyes. At last he would see her again. Against all odds, he had finally made it back to her. He urged his horse into a gallop and they raced on towards the house. He practically flew off the back of the beast and floated up the stairs to knock politely on the door. His heart was racing, he couldn't wipe the boyish grin off his face, and he was suddenly extremely nervous. But no one ever answered his knocking.
There was no one home.
A/N: Sorry these are a little short as far as fanfic chapters seem to go haha. I'm just getting into this and having fun with it. I would really appreciate it if you could review or leave feedback etc. It helps knowing people are actually reading this haha ;] So let me know what you think. I promise I don't bite!