Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters are property of their respective owners. The plot is mine.
I do not own Twilight or its characters, all credit goes to SM
A/N: This was a contest entry for the 'Show me your patriotism' contest. Although it didn't win anything, I'm extremely proud of this story.
If you read this and voted for it, Thank you. And thank you to those who reviewed it on the contest.
If this is new to you - i hope you enjoy.
As always, my beautiful beta, Nachos4Children, gets alot of love from me. Thanks for supporting me xx
So, i'll leave you with the story!
My boots crunched lightly on the rubble that littered the floor all around me and I kept my eyes peeled for anything out of the ordinary.
Out of the ordinary.
The thought made me chuckle slightly – everything about this situation was anything but ordinary, and yet for the past few years, this had been the norm for us – myself and the other 'Tommys' treading the front line for King and Country.
I looked ahead at the broken buildings – houses in half, personal effects of the previous residents strewn around. Such material things didn't matter anymore. They probably left them behind, so they at least escaped with their lives. I hoped they had.
I looked behind to the other fellows that accompanied me and saw them lower their guard – we were safe here. That much was obvious from the moment we stepped foot here – someone else had been through before us, leaving mass destruction in their wake. But you couldn't be too careful – anyone could be hiding out.
The signal was given and everyone relaxed, finding water to drink, cigarettes to smoke, places to sit.
Heading into the house, I picked up a turned over chair and set it straight before sitting down. I lay my weapon across my lap and reached to my side, snagging my own water canister up and popping the cork to take a sip.
It had been a while since our last stop, and I was thirsty - not to mention hungry.
As if right on cue, I noticed some bread being passed around, pieces being torn off and handed to the next person. An arm extended toward me, bread in hand, and I took the final piece.
"Thank you, Alistair," I muttered, and he smiled.
Taking a bite, I set it on my knee and wiped the stale crumbs from my fingers. Food was scarce, and you took what you could get. We were lucky enough to even have bread – we weren't about to be picky with its condition. It was edible enough, and that was fine.
Reaching my blackened fingers into the breast pocket of my uniform, I felt for the smooth paper and pulled out an envelope.
It was crinkled and folded, and I carefully pulled it open, retrieving the pages from within.
Smoothing them out, I read words so familiar to me – words I had memorized. But I needed to see it – to hold it in my hands, to remember…
I could imagine it if I held it – tangible proof that she wasn't some dream, some angel I had conjured to keep me going.
No, she was real, and here it was, her neat scroll proving it to me.
My dearest Carlisle…
O' how I pray this letter finds you in good health.
I received four of your letters yesterday – the postal service is a mess right now. With this in mind and the lack of resources, I'm afraid my letters will be limited.
But know this, my love. No matter the distance, or what stands between us, I love you with all of my heart. I couldn't be prouder of you, my husband, and the things you do for us. You are always on my mind, and there you shall stay, forever at the front of my thoughts.
The children are well and still attending school, though it's mostly run by volunteers now. Eddie has taken up cricket with the local boys, finding what they can to play with. Mary-Alice is doing very well with her studies.
The weather here is beautiful at the moment. Not a day has gone by where the sun hasn't shone. It makes for a happier atmosphere – people are smiling.
I managed to hold onto the radio at home – often at evening I sit and listen. I like to listen to Tommy Handley – it's a comedy show. He's the minister of aggravation and mysteries at the office of twerps! It's been set up to keep up morale – "All is well at war!" - but we can't deny its entertainment. I hope you find time for some entertainment out there, darling.
The 'Seven Rules' are still in effect. In the effort not to waste food, I found us some animals to keep. Eddie has become quite the man about the house and found some wood and wire. He spent the day in the garden, building hutches for us to keep the chickens and rabbits in. He and Mary-Alice also started growing potatoes and carrots. We're keeping well, Carlisle. With this and our food rations, meals are good.
I used the clothing ration coupon to buy Mary-Alice and Eddie some new clothing – it's hard to find the material to make some things like I used to. I had to use a woollen blanket to make myself a coat!
Mary-Alice very much loved your birthday wishes. Eddie and myself saved for weeks and even sold some of the chickens' eggs to get some money to buy her something – she had a lovely day. We bought her a copy of Great Expectations – it wasn't easy to get. I had to put a 5 pound deposit down on it, but she loves the story book so much. I heard her prayer of thanks when we received your letters. She and Eddie worry for you so.
With the children back at school and the village resuming 'business as usual,' I've taken to working with the WRVS – Women's Royal Voluntary Service. We're busy trying to provide meals, clothing, and comfort for the injured as well as the rescue workers. It keeps me occupied, and it's nice to spend time with other women.
I regret to say that I must close this letter for now, but I will write again soon, my darling. I have enclosed a photograph of myself and the children – we went into town had one taken for you. I hope this cheers you some, and you smile my favourite of all smiles. The children send their love to their father and wish you all the best.
I wish to see you home soon, my darling.
All my love, my dearest Carlisle.
I reached around the page and pulled to the front, the photograph that I held between two fingers. My thumb lightly stroked across my wife's features. Oh, how I missed her.
She was wearing her favourite frock, a beautiful dress I had saved to buy her for our wedding anniversary, just before the war. And stood tall next to her, our two children.
Edward, my handsome son. He looked taller now than the last time I had seen him, and he stood proud. By this picture and my Isabella's words, I could see he was growing into a fine man.
And Mary-Alice, or Alice, as she so preferred - my very beautiful daughter, so like her mother. I remembered their beautiful brown hair and the warm, chocolate eyes they shared. Edward was much more like myself, except his hair wasn't as blond as mine was. Our eyes though – my son had my eyes, my sparkling green eyes.
Alistair cleared his throat next to me, and I looked up. "Beautiful," he simply said, nodding his head once at the picture I held. A smile graced my features as I proudly passed the photograph to him.
"My wife, Isabella, and our children," I told him.
"Well done, Cullen old son. She's a bonnie lass."
My heart swelled with pride and adoration for my wife, my other half – my better half. "And more," I grinned, remembering the feel of her curvy body against mine.
"You old dog, you," he smirked, as he handed the picture back and took a long drag from his cigarette. "How old are your children?"
"By my reckoning, Edward will be thirteen and Alice will be eleven."
Only her mother ever used her full name – she had hated being called Mary - a painful reminder to her of a grandmother she had lost and adored so much, so we both settled on Alice, or my more private family nickname for her – Ali Bear.
I looked back at the letter and smiled at Isabella's use of Edward's nickname – one that I was sure he now hated. She had told me some letters back, that with his growing, she feared she was losing her baby. She clung to calling him Eddie, though he wasn't fond of it. He was a man now, with his women to look after, and he wanted the respect of being called by his full name.
I suspected she only still called him Eddie in her letters to me.
Picking up the bread that still sat on my knee, I took another bite and wiped the crumbs away again.
"What was it like, Carlisle, back in London?" Jasper, one of our American friends, asked.
We had joined with the Americans when we arrived in Italy a while back on what was named 'The Italian Campaign.' Jasper was a quiet boy from somewhere in the southern part of the United States. He was a young one - admitting to us that he had lied about his age just to join the army and help fight the Nazis in Germany.
I turned in my seat slightly, and watched as he slowly extended a hand, and I passed him the photograph as I recounted days from London.
When I'd finished with my short trip down Memory Lane, I noticed I was surrounded by troops eager to hear more. Their dirty, tired faces held a look of hope and longing upon them – listening to stories from home was better than facing the reality of where we were, and the possibility that we might never step another foot back on home turf.
"So did you join the army quite late?" James, one of our British troops, asked.
"I did. I was called up not long after the Blitz in London. Before then, I'd been volunteering to help the war effort any way I could," I replied.
"You were in London during the Blitz?" Demetri, another American, asked.
I nodded solemnly.
"What… was it like?" he asked.
I took a deep breath in and released it slowly.
"It was like… nothing I'd ever seen or dared to think of in my wildest imaginations. They came just after dark, and somehow you could sense from the quick, bitter firing of guns that they meant business."
It was night time when London was stabbed with fire.
The sirens wailed in the street, alerting us to their arrival. The children ran into our bedroom, scared of course, by what they could hear.
Shortly after the end of the sirens, as we quickly gathered our coats, you could hear the Germans grinding overhead. In our room, the blacked out windows rattled with the shake from the guns. You could hear the boom of heavy bombs being dropped, tearing buildings apart. They weren't too far away.
I gathered Isabella and the children under my arms and huddled close to them. Bending down to my son, my hand caressed his tiny, frightened face. "I need you to be brave for me son, can you do that?"
He bit down on his lip, his gaze jumping between me and his mother. She nodded reassuringly, trying not to show her own fear, as was I, and he looked back to me and nodded.
"That's my boy. We're going to get your mother and sister somewhere safe, you and I, and then you're going to stay with them and make sure they stay safe, okay?"
He nodded again.
"Thank you, Edward," I whispered, standing and placing a quick kiss upon his hair.
Turning around, he stood up straight and took his sister's trembling hand in his. She clutched her doll to her body tightly, and looked up at me. I smiled down at my little girl, and she forced a smile back.
After another loud boom echoed, I moved forward to take the lead.
We walked out into a panicked street. Most people hadn't yet found shelter, and people were rushing to gather gas masks. An officer stood in the street, directing people to shelter, and I followed his directions.
Three streets away, sat the communal concrete shelter, and families were rushing inside.
I stood next to the entrance way with my family, my arm around my wife. "Go inside, I'll be back soon."
Her eyes widened with shock, and her lip trembled with fear. "Where are you going?!" she breathed, her hands finding purchase in my shirt collar and grasping it.
"I need to help, sweetheart."
She nodded her understanding and pressed herself against me. Leaning up, she placed a beautiful, chaste kiss upon my lips before gathering the children and heading inside.
I watched them go in, Edward and Ali Bear moving reluctantly and glancing back at me. "I'll see you soon," I said, holding my head high.
If I needed a motivation for strength, they were it.
Edward nodded once and turned, taking his sister with him.
I ran down the street and turned the corner, trying to find the same officer from earlier and offer him my services. It didn't take long for me to find him.
"Harry!" I called over the sounds of the night.
"Carlisle, what are you doing?!" he asked, coming towards me.
A few streets away, a bomb exploded, taking a building out with it.
"I want to help. Set me to work."
He looked at me for a split second before nodding. "We need rescue teams. People are already reporting lost loved ones, and we know some people have been staying in their homes. Charles Swan is the next street along, gathering recruits – go find him."
My breathing stopped for a moment.
"Charles? What in the Lord's name is he doing out here?!"
"He's like me, Carlisle, you know that. Stubborn old mules."
I shook my head before thanking and wishing him to take care, and headed off down the street.
Charles was Isabella's father – my father-in-law - and had been suffering ill health for some time.
He'd fought in The Great War alongside Harry and was a proud man – I should have known he wouldn't sit idly by while people needed help.
I saw him standing down the street, giving orders to some other men, and I joined him at his side.
"Carlisle!" he gasped, obviously shocked to see me.
Another bomb exploded - closer by this time - and we covered our ringing ears.
"I want to help," I repeated, and he nodded.
"Very well, son. But… Isabella…"
"Charles, please, do you not think I would find my wife and children safe first?"
I smiled a little, as did he. "You're a good man," he said, clapping a hand on my back. "Come, let us see what we can go do," he added, and we headed towards the carnage.
Along the way, I gathered a few friends as we headed towards the flames. A vast excitement was among us all – an excitement that had neither fear nor horror in it, because it was too full of awe.
The whole horizon of the city was lined with great fires – scores of them, perhaps hundreds. We could see the greater part of London from our village that was a few miles out.
There was something inspiring just in the awful savagery of it.
The closest fires were near enough for us to hear the crackling flames and the yells of firemen. Little fires grew into big ones, and even as we watched, big ones died down under the fireman's valour, only to break out again later.
New waves of planes passed over what felt like every two minutes, and the motors seemed to grind - to have an angry pulsation like a bee buzzing in a blind fury.
The guns were intermittent – sometimes a few seconds apart, sometimes a minute or more. Their sound was sharp, near-by, and soft and muffled, far away. They were everywhere.
Myself and three men scaled a heap of rubble to reach someone who was stuck, and from there, we witnessed a batch of two dozen incendiary bombs fall. We watched as they went off in two seconds, flashing terrifically before quickly simmering down to pin points of dazzling white ferocity.
These pin points would go out one by one as the unseen heroes of the night smothered them with sand, but also as we watched, other pin points would burn on - a soon-to-be yellow flame leaping up from the white centre.
They had done their job well – another building was on fire.
Immediately above the fires, the sky was red and angry, and making a ceiling in the vast heavens, was a cloud of smoke, all in pink.
Up in that pink shrouding, antiaircraft shells were bursting, creating a small, brilliant speck of flashing light, followed by the sound.
The barrage balloons above London were pink now, instead of silver, and stuck out as clear as day. But there, through a hole in the pink shroud, I could not believe my eyes. There, twinkling incongruously, was a permanent, genuine star – the old-fashioned kind that had always been there.
I stayed stood at the top of the pile of rubble, staring upon this star.
Charles and the other men were already running off toward the next building around the corner.
I slowly came down from the mountain of brick and headed down the street to follow them.
I could hear the shouts of the men and the cries of a family.
When I rounded the corner, Charles was there, supervising the rescue. But the building wasn't stable - I could see it beginning to crumble. I put my best foot forward, my feet pounding on the pavement beneath me, calling his name as I ran.
It was no use. The building collapsed before anybody had a chance to get out. A shrill scream sounded beside me from an older women.
"FIND HELP!" I ordered her, rushing over to the remains. Out the corner of my eye, I could see her panicking as I started picking up warm bricks and throwing them aside.
In truth, I was panicking, too.
Not Charles. Not tonight.
I didn't know how long I had been pulling away bricks when help arrived. Harry was there, calling my name. "It's no use!" he screamed in my ear, desperate for me to hear him. But I was more desperate than him.
"It's Charles!" I screamed back. Harry stumbled backward a few feet. He was shaking his head, clearly disturbed by my words. But that didn't stop him.
His shaking hand lay on my shoulder as I hoisted another brick up and tossed it aside. "Carlisle, stop."
I turned to look at him, angered by his words. "NO!" I barked, running the back of my hand across my brow in an attempt to bat away the sweat that ran down my face before pulling another brick up.
This time Harry's hand clasped tightly around my wrist, and his words were firmer as he spoke. "We can't, Carlisle. Stop."
I looked to the floor, panting, my arms swaying slightly with the heaviness of the brick I held and utter exhaustion. "No," I muttered, dropping to my knees, caring not for the pain I felt when they connected to sharp remains beneath me. I was shaking my head, my hands clutching it and wrapping into my hair tightly, pulling as I screamed out in grief.
The noise above us had stopped – a small mercy, and Harry knelt beside me. "Go find Isabella. She needs you."
I nodded my head, sniffling as I wiped a tear away. I looked around and took note of where we were – I'd come back as soon as daylight hit and help retrieve his body.
"The thing I shall always remember, above most other things in my life, is the monstrous loveliness of that one single view of London as I looked out towards the general direction of the Thames.
"London, my home, stabbed with great fires, shaken by explosions, covered by a cloud of pink…
"And in yourself, the excitement and anticipation and wonder that this could even be happening at all. These things, they all go together to form the most hateful and most beautiful single scene I have ever known."
The men were silent around me. I wished they hadn't wanted me to recount such a dreadful night way back one September. But that was the truth of it.
Marcus, our Lieutenant-General, cleared his throat. "Come on, boys - mind back in Italy. We're moving out soon," he said as he stood and walked a little ways away.
As the men moved away, some smiling and nodding at me, I turned my attention back to my photograph. I knew he'd said 'mind on Italy,' but how could I concentrate on Italy with my Isabella and my children and their safety very much on my mind?
Pulling a sheet of paper from my pack and a small pencil, I scrawled my home address along the envelope. Setting that aside, I started my letter home.
To my sweetest Isabella,
Know that your letter found me extremely well and relieved to hear from you. You are always on my mind my darling Bluebell.
I thank you very much for the photograph – you and our children sit very close to my heart, where you all belong.
I enjoyed reading your letter; it brought a smile to my face. I'm glad you're finding some way to help and occupy yourself.
I know you miss me, my darling - as I miss you - and I need you to know that I did not take leaving you easily. I came to war to make you proud, my dear, to make my children proud, and above all, to be a gentleman.
I dream of the day we will be together again, and I am so proud to see you write such lovely things of our children. Tell Edward to keep his chin up. I look forward to coming home and taking my son fishing where the big fish bite and the cool breezes blow, and all that goes along with such. And to my Ali Bear – I love you so much, sweetheart. I hope she's enjoying her book.
There isn't much to tell from here. You know how it goes – 'loose lips might sink ships.'
I laughed at my little joke, born from the rules of conduct the government established and given to each soldier as he entered the battle area. Our letters could not contain any information of our whereabouts in case they were found, and therefore, so were we.
But know that no matter where I am, I am also with you.
Keep on keeping on.
With All My Heart, Yours Forever,
Your dearest Carlisle
I folded the letter and slipped it into the envelope, and then sealed it.
Popping my pencil away, I folded up the letter I had received and tucked it safely away in my breast pocket - kissing the photograph with it.
Picking up my weapon, I stood and joined the other men.
The burning sun beat down upon us, making our standard issue 'battledress' rather itchy and uncomfortable. I raised my hand to my head, scratching before I put my helmet back on.
"Right guys, our next move is into Trieste. It's being held, so our objective is to enter the city and capture it," Marcus explained.
Everyone nodded their understanding and moved out.
As we trudged through the seemingly-deserted town, I walked along near Alistair and Jasper. "Nobody back home for you fellas?" I asked.
Jasper shook his head. "No gal anyway. The only one who sends me letter is my Ma."
Alistair and I chuckled, patting him on the back. "You'll have plenty of offers when we get back home, kid. The ladies will be lining up," Alistair smiled.
Jasper just grinned.
"Alistair?" I asked, who smirked.
"Oh, there's a lady alright - and when I get home, I won't hesitate to marry her!"
I smiled for my new friend as we continued down the path.
We had been moving for what seemed like forever, but then, we were used to this. Despite the long walk and the heat of Italy, spirits among the troops were good.
After my little storytelling session earlier, they were recounting their own days at home - days before the war began and all hell broke loose. They were talking about their wives, their girlfriends, their mothers - of making fathers proud.
Alistair was just going over how he planned to propose to his girl, when a sound above stopped us all.
The great whooshing noise flew past us into the dirt before exploding everywhere and sending those behind us a few feet into the air. Ducking my head, I ran - ran to the side and took cover in some bushes.
The troops had scattered around, some behind a nearby wall, some in bushes like myself. The others lay in the dirt before us, bleeding and crying – begging for help, wishing for home – praying for death to claim them quickly.
Ahead of us, within the city walls, we could see four men lined along a wall, a tank behind them.
Raising my weapon before me, I looked ahead. My index finger curled gently around the trigger, and I slowly pulled…
My shoulders shook with the force of the gun I still wasn't quite used to, and I squeezed my eyes shut.
"Yeehaw," Jasper muttered beside me, and when I opened my eyes, I saw I had taken one man out. Two other men beside him fell, before another one of ours was taken, too.
With the final one of their standing men down, we slowly advanced, creeping upon the town.
Demetri and two men I hadn't learnt the names of, crept up to the city. Rushing through the arch in the wall, they quickly scaled the tank, lifted the hatch open, and fired.
Pulling grenades out, they aimed them towards a building that contained two more German soldiers who were quickly trying to load their guns and panicking. We heard their foreign pleas, but the Americans ignored them, took aim, and sent the grenades into the building before ducking for cover.
A moment later, the old stone building exploded, and shrapnel flew all over.
Just as Demetri stood, an angry German soldier hung out of another window behind him, ready to take aim. Quickly raising my gun, I took aim myself as Jasper called out his name.
Demetri would be too slow.
I squeezed the trigger.
Demetri flinched – the soldier fell from the window and hit the ground. The rest of the troops ran in then - killing anybody who put up a fight, rounding up those who surrendered.
I walked into the city limits breathing heavily.
"Carlisle, I… Thank you," Demetri muttered, reaching out to shake my hand.
"No worries," I replied, still shocked by what had happened. I had been in combat for a few years, but I hadn't had to witness many of the kills I had probably made – they were all blind shots with the fellows beside me until the fire from the other side stopped.
Today, I had seen the devastation I could cause, and I was afraid for myself - afraid that I might like it.
Walking around the entrance to the city, one building in particular took a hold of my interest.
I stood in reverence before an alter in a damaged Catholic church. The pews to the left appeared undamaged, while the bomb-shattered roof lay strewn about the sanctuary.
It was tragic, yet beautiful.
From behind, I heard the shuffle of feet before someone gasped, and I turned quickly to find a frightened old lady with two children. They were dirty, and the children had cut knees and tired faces.
"Ciao," I said softly, not wanting to frighten them further.
The lady regarded me carefully for a moment, but nodded slowly.
She didn't say anything as she made her way through the debris and past me, then shuffled down the pews to the left of me, and stopped. She and the children bowed their heads and closed their eyes, so I turned away, giving them as much privacy as I could as she recited what I presumed was a small prayer.
I realized that I had heard this one before; I remembered the words.
A traveler in Naples had said the prayer for us, and then translated it:
"O Almighty and merciful God, who has commissioned your angels to guide and protect us, may they be our companions from our setting out until our return. Clothe us with their invisible protection; keep from us all danger of collision, of fire, of explosion, of falling; and finally, having preserved us from all evil, and especially from sin, guide us to our heavenly home. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen."
The woman and children looked up and began to shuffle out again. She stopped in front of me, her eyes roaming over my face, and they held nothing but sadness.
"Essere sicuri e di buona fortuna," she whispered, nodding her head and crossing her fingers over herself.
Be safe and good luck…
Good luck? For the war? Did she really hope we could claim back their city?
"Grazie," I whispered in return, and she smiled ever so slightly, before leaving with the children.
I wasn't sure how much longer I stood there - it must have only been a few minutes, when an almost grinding sound rumbled from outside.
I froze, my body in complete shock as I heard a loud crunching followed by the all too familiar noise of an explosion. The building shook, and I grasped a hold of the wall beside me as one arm covered my head.
When the shaking stopped, the yelling began - English and American - all shouting orders, shouting for medics, running for cover, and opening fire. Turning as quick as I could, I headed out, weapon ready in hand, and was faced by three German soldiers.
I swallowed hard, my throat thick and constricted. I felt like seconds were slowly ticking by, but I knew what I must do.
For my family.
Quickly raising my arm, I shot the soldier immediately in front of me. Before I had even had chance to think out what my plan would be – surely the other two would just shoot me on the spot before I could even blink – they arched forward, dropped their arms, and crumpled to the floor.
My eyes trailed from their bleeding bodies upwards, where I saw Jasper and Alistair standing, their weapons still raised.
We didn't say anything – we didn't have time – more German soldiers were advancing on us, and we quickly tried to find shelter.
Ducking behind the wall of a broken home, we quickly reloaded our guns. I watched, as in the distance, two of our troops made their way towards the only tank I could see - risking it all to throw a sticky bomb against it. They were barefoot, having used their own socks to make them, and tried to escape - but weren't so successful. They were shot a second before the tank exploded.
Out the corner of my eye, I saw Felix, one of our British troops, crawl towards us and peek over the wall. A bullet narrowly missed him and bounced off the stones, causing him to duck down and cover his head.
He lay there, panting heavily.
That was close. And I wasn't so sure we'd come out of this.
I came to war to be, above all else, a gentleman. I would make my family proud of my efforts, proud of the way I defended other troops, for King and Country. Kneeling, I raised my weapon again, aimed clearly at the chest of a soldier, and pulled the trigger, watching as he was hit and fell.
Taking a deep breath, I looked around carefully as I tried to compose myself. The street was broken and littered with bodies from both sides - the men who had fallen for their country.
Just then, I saw a soldier rise from the rubble, his face contorted with anger, yelling out. "KEIN!" he yelled, running towards us and taking aim.
Jasper though, hadn't seen him and was busy reloading his weapon.
The German took aim and squeezed the trigger.
I didn't have time to think - through this decision or what it meant. I only knew he had saved my life, and I owed him.
My hand fisted around the bottom of his battledress jacket, and I pulled him down, pushing him flat against the hard, dusty floor, my back raised and exposed.
I felt it, but I didn't quite react to it.
I fell on top of Jasper, gasping at the searing pain in my back. I heard Alistair grunt and the sound of close gunfire as I rolled off of the young American and onto the ground beside him.
"Carlisle!" he shouted, scrambling onto his knees and hovering over me.
I shut my eyes tightly and gritted my teeth as I groaned in pain.
"Carlisle… talk to me… Oh God, please talk to me," he was muttering, and Alistair shouted for a medic. I could hear boots on the floor and voices around me, and I faintly heard my name repeated a few times.
"Cullen! Listen to me, I'm going to roll you over. I need to see the wound," a voice said, and I felt my jacket and shirt rip open. The air was warm on my exposed skin.
"One, Two, THREE!" they chanted, rolling me over.
Sharp, stabbing pains ripped through my chest, and I choked on my screams. Light fingers probed around my back, and I yelled some more. I felt like my entire chest was on fire, and it was quickly consuming me.
"Let's get him out of here," they said softly… quietly… before they stopped talking completely, and I let the blackness engulf me.
I looked towards the blue sky, smiling as the sun beat down on my face, warming me.
"Carlisle! You're up next, son!" Billy said, clapping me on the back. "Do us proud, old boy."
I looked towards him and aimed my smile to him, which he returned.
Bending, I picked up the battered wooden cricket bat and stepped forward, taking my place on the beautiful green turf.
I hit the bat gently against the back of my shoes and then the ground, causing the earth below me to turn some until a small mound poked up. I lowered myself, bending down half way and tightened my grip on the bat before looking ahead.
The man before me ran and swung his arm in a wild circle, releasing the heavy red ball that catapulted towards me.
I pushed the bat forward, making contact with the ball, and swung slightly, watching as a red blur flew through the air. Two people ran towards it, trying to catch it, but failed, and cheers from our audience erupted. My team ran to me, jumping all over me and clapping, cheering and whooping.
I grinned, cheering with them as the game finished. We had won.
The crowd dispersed and headed to their adoring fans.
It wasn't long before I found my own number one fan – my Isabella.
She skipped toward me, wearing the most beautiful of all the smiles I had ever seen, and fell into my open arms. I wrapped my arms around her waist and lifted her, swinging us around as she giggled, my name falling from her lips as I did so.
My name had never been so beautiful. It were as if she sang it to me when she called me.
My wife. How could one man be so lucky?
Her skirt twirled around her long legs before I set her down and kissed her. Taking her hand, we followed the others into the local public house and sat down.
"A drink for my lady?" I asked, bowing a little, and making her giggle some more.
"Thank you very much," she smiled, and I made my way to the bar.
"I'll have two cider shandys, please," I ordered, and paid the man as he readied our drinks. I looked over the bar, and there sat my girl, talking with her friends and laughing, showing off the wedding ring I had slipped on her a finger just one month ago. It had belonged to my mother, and suited my girl so perfectly.
Picking up our drinks, I walked back over, placing them on the table and pushing one toward her. "Why thank you, Mr. Cullen," she breathed, looking at me through thick lashes that framed her captivating brown eyes.
"You are more than welcome, Mrs. Cullen," I replied, and her friends giggled again, making Isabella blush.
Gosh, I did love when her face coloured so.
I turned to talk to my friends, but once my drink was finished, small hands held mine.
"How about we go home now?" she asked, looking at me so sweetly. I couldn't resist anything she asked of me. I stood, holding an arm out for her, which she took, hooking hers within mine. Putting my hat back on my head, I tipped it toward the women and said good day to the men before we left.
The walk home was lovely as we chatted about the cricket match and greeted anybody who passed by.
It was a close community - one where everyone knew everyone. Front doors were rarely locked – there was enough trust between us all. Soon, we approached the end of the street and our house.
Our three bedroom end terrace house had been the home I had grown up in and had been passed onto me when my parents died in a tragic accident.
Pushing the little red front door open, I stepped aside so Isabella could enter first. She nodded politely as she passed and hung her little summer cardigan from the coat stand.
I stepped inside, closing the door behind myself and hung my hat at the very top before grabbing my girl and pulling her against me. Here in the privacy of our own home we could do as we pleased….
Our kisses were deep and passionate, and I opened my mouth just a little to let my tongue glide along her bottom lip.
My foot twitched.
"Carlisle…" she breathed, making me smile.
"Carlisle… Carlisle..." I heard repeatedly, and my foot twitched again.
I grumbled, shaking my head as I tried to open my eyes. My vision was blurry, and I felt nauseous.
"He has movement in his legs which is a good sign – there shouldn't be any lasting damage to them, though he will need a few months of therapy," someone said from beside me.
"Mr. Cullen, can you hear me?" the same voice asked, and I tried to nod.
I heard a sigh of relief from beside me, and I tried to open my eyes again and focus my vision. Small, lace-gloved hands sat folded in someone's lap and clutched a small handkerchief. I looked at the dress… the one from the picture….
"I'm here… I'm here," she muttered, sniffing a little.
"Where – why are you here? Where am i?" I asked, trying to sit up.
Was this another dream?
"You're back home, darling. You're in the hospital." I tried to move, but I cried out at the pain in my back. "No, lie back, darling. Don't try to move."
"I'll leave you to it," the deeper voice beside me said, and I heard the footsteps get lighter.
Lifting my arm slowly, I rubbed my eyes and looked up to the concerned face of my wife. "Isabella," I sighed with relief, my hand jolting out to touch hers.
She held mine tightly and sniffed some more into the handkerchief.
"What happened?" I whispered, looking around me. I was lying on a white metal bed, and more surrounded me. The walls were white, and women in blue uniforms with white aprons and caps walked around to the other men in their beds.
"You were shot - in the back. They brought you back home. You're safe now, Carlisle, you're safe."
I vaguely remembered jumping on Jasper, the pain I felt, and the voices I heard.
I mostly remembered the black.
Just then, a nurse stepped to my side and pressed two fingers to the inside of my wrist, quietly counting. "Are you okay?" she asked Isabella, who nodded.
"Yes, thank you, Nurse Stanley."
She smiled as she left.
"But, what about the others… the war…?"
"Is over. I don't know what happened to the others, but the war is over," she told me, wearing a small smile.
The war was really over?
"I don't know much, but I know there's to be a celebration, in London, tomorrow," she continued.
I took deep steadying breaths as I took this all in.
"You've been unconscious for a number of days. They sent me a telegram, letting me know where you would be. I've been so worried…" she whispered the last part, and when I looked to her, I could see the fear in her eyes.
"I'm here now, darling. I'm here now," I muttered, grasping her hand in mine as I lay back. My eyelids felt heavy, and I soon fell to sleep to the soothing circles Isabella's thumb traced on my hand.
London had been crowded.
King George VI, Queen Elizabeth, and Prime Minister Winston Churchill all gathered on the balcony of Buckingham Palace before cheering crowds to celebrate the end of the war.
"VICTORY IN EUROPE!"
We had won the war. Hitler had committed suicide during the Battle of Berlin, and the German President after him had surrendered.
When I arrived home from my weeks in a hospital that specialized in physiotherapy for soldiers, it didn't much feel like a victory.
A motorcar waited for me just outside of the hospital, and I was glad – my back wasn't as strong as it once was – I was still recovering. As we drove through the streets, all I could see was the devastation that had been left behind. Most of London was just ruins still to be cleared from the Blitz, and the devastation of war.
To see this, you felt little victory.
But the smiles people wore, the way they walked without fear - we didn't have to hide, we didn't have to fear a midnight attack.
As the motorcar pulled up outside our house – which I was rather relieved to find was still standing – our neighbours cheered and applauded. I nodded shyly, not quite sure why I was receiving such attention.
"You're a hero, Mr. Cullen - a hero," Mrs. Newton, our neighbour said, smiling at me.
I thanked her and everyone else, before heading inside.
Joy filled me, and my smile grew wide when I saw our children stood waiting for me in our living room. Edward wore some very nice dress pants and a lovely white shirt. His hair was combed to the side, and he stood tall and proud. "Father," he greeted me, holding his hand out for me to shake.
He had grown up fine. Taking his hand, I shook it once before pulling him towards me in a hug. It was rare to share this with one's grown up son, but I had missed him so and needed to hold him.
When I released him and he stood back, he wore a smile and a single tear on his cheek.
Mary-Alice, however, was not as good at concealing her emotions as her brother. She stood next to him looking pretty – and terribly grown up – in a beautiful yellow summer frock. Her hair had been combed and tied back with a matching bow. Tears ran freely down my daughter's face, and I pulled her towards me for the tightest of cuddles. Her thin arms wrapped around my waist as she sobbed into my dress jacket.
"Mary-Alice," I breathed, pressing a kiss to her hair. "My little Ali Bear," I added in her ear, and she giggled.
Turning, I smiled to my wife before taking a seat in my old armchair in the corner. At least things at home hadn't changed so much.
Picking up the newspaper, I began to read of the celebrations taking place in America, and my mind wandered to troops, nay, friends, I had left behind.
I sat at the breakfast table, watching how Edward worked on his schooling as he ate his breakfast.
Mary-Alice was eating happily as Isabella cooked up some breakfast bacon.
Certain foods were still hard to get a hold of, but Isabella had made a treat for us, and also managed to get a hold of some tea. She placed the fresh teapot in front of me, and I inhaled deeply, my eyes rolling into the back of my head. Oh my! How wonderful it smelt!
Just then, the letter box rattled, and Edward stood, carefully pushing his chair backwards, before heading into the hall.
When he returned, he held two envelopes which he passed to me. Both were addressed to me, and I frowned as I turned the heavier of the two over, and picked up a knife to undo it. Slipping the paper out from within, I put it aside to examine the heavy contents.
A medal - the Italy Star - awarded for operational service on land in Italy. The ribbon was stripes of red, white, green, white, and red to represent the flag of Italy, and at the end of it hung a six - pointed star of a yellow colour. There was a central design of the Royal Cypher of King George VI surmounted by a crown. The cypher was surrounded by a circlet containing the words 'The Italy Star.'
There was a second medal within the envelope with the arms of the 56th London Infantry Division engraved on it, attached to a blue ribbon. I clutched them tight in my hand for a moment, my eyes closed before handing them to Edward who inspected them both carefully.
Next, I opened the remaining letter. Unfolding it, my eyes scanned along the words as I quickly read.
I hope this letter finds you well.
We weren't told much of what happened to you after you left, and the few of us that felt we knew you have been wondering.
I'm back home in Texas now, sitting on the warm porch, my Ma by my side on her rocking chair, thanking the Lord every day that her son is home.
But mostly she thanks you.
I have recounted the story many times of how you saved my life. I have told people what you would have sacrificed to save me. You are a hero, Carlisle, and a fine man, one that I proudly look up to. I thank you from deep within my heart for all that you did for me.
My thoughts and prayers shall be with you and your family, and I feel blessed and privileged to call you a friend. If this letter finds you, I would love to hear how you are.
I smiled warmly at his words, happy he had found his way home.
Maybe - if I tried hard enough - I would be able to find those that I served with. I had a similar letter that I should write to Alistair.
Taking the letter from me, Isabella smiled as she read it and leaned to press a sweet, sweet kiss to my cheek. "I am so proud of you," she whispered, stroking my shoulder.
I couldn't help the smile that spread across my face as I looked around at my family.
I was thankful for them, thankful for my life, and I, too, couldn't be prouder to have served with great men, for King, Queen, and country.
The prayer is attributed to Bishop Dupanloup of Orleans (1802-1878)
The account of the Blitz in London, England has been edited from Ernie Pyle, an American journalist.
I added some story line to it.
Let me know what you thought :-)