“Everybody out!” yelled Sergeant Lake, the sense of urgency in his voice gave the indication that this was not just another practice drill. As I began to make my way out of the trench I suddenly stopped. Timmy! I had promised his mother I would take care of him. There was no way I could leave him in the middle of a gas attack, I would never forgive myself.
Suddenly I started to run, the gas was polluting my lungs more and more but I was determined to get to Timmy, I couldn’t leave him now. “Are you trying to get yourself killed Barker” Lake roared from somewhere in the distance. For once I didn’t care what he had to say, I knew what I had to do and nothing was going to stop me, especially not some cranky old Sergeant.
Finally I had reached the dugout and there was Timmy, completely unaware of the chaos and danger around him. There was no time to be gentle, as I grabbed Timmy I heard a loud whistling sound coming from above. My legs were moving, but I didn’t feel like I was going anywhere.
I opened my eyes to find myself in a white room with figures rushing around, I could have sworn I was in heaven. As I tried to sit up it felt like something was pulling me back, every time I would get a little further and then fall back. Finally a pretty woman in a white uniform came over to me, “Private Barker, are you ok?” she said in a soft, poetic voice, I was in such a trance that I forgot to answer, “Private Barker?, you were caught in an explosion. Private Timothy is fine, but unfortunately we have some bad news.”
Suddenly I was awoken from my trance, I looked down to see only stumps after my knees, and for the first time in my life, I cried. I felt like I had let my country down, I would no longer be able to protect them. Nurse Elizabeth sat by my side, for hours, she was the only thing keeping me reasonably calm. Her beauty stunned me, her dark brunette hair complemented her flawless, fair skin. For a moment I forgot all about my legs and that I would never be able to walk again, because in this moment I felt like I was running through fields of wildflowers alongside the most beautiful women I had ever set sight on, Nurse Elizabeth.
As the days progressed, the absence of my legs had become a little less daunting. That moment when you wake up and everything seems perfect was soon shattered into a million pieces as I remembered that I would never walk again. Although I knew it would take a long time to get used to the fact that I now had two limbs less than most, I knew that not only my physical health, but my mental health was being healed by Nurse Elizabeth.
On our daily consultations we discussed everything from the moon and back, in that moment I would forget my wounds because I knew that in that instant, I felt safe.
As my time in the great white tent came to a close my heart was gradually becoming heavier, how could I leave Elizabeth? She was the only person who I could turn to for comfort, she was the only one that didn’t judge me and she was the only one who knew how to turn the light back on in the darkest of moments.
The date was set in stone. I knew that tomorrow, at 8:00am I would make my voyage home, but not the home I had departed from almost six months ago. Invictus rehabilitation centre was to be my new home for the next while. Although I was very grateful for the opportunity to use the facility, I couldn’t help but feel sad. Not many men have to leave the girl they love on the front line
Invictus was proving to be a challenge, each day the world glared at me and laughed, but I knew I could not be defeated. I was having to build my upper body strength up in order to be more dependant, I did not want to sit helplessly in a wheel chair whilst someone else pushed me around, I was going to be the same person I was before I left for war, the only difference was I had legs then.
That night as I sat in the shoebox that was my room I listened to the wild winds roar and watched the candle flicker. I couldn’t help but think of Elizabeth, she was my light in the darkness. I needed her.
Months had passed since leaving the great white tent, but my memory of Elizabeth was still fresh in my mind. I was now able to push myself in a wheel chair and learning to carry my own bodyweight on a pair of crutches. Although the pain was extreme, it was nothing compared to the pain I was feeling in my heart. There was a hole in my heart. An Elizabeth shaped heart.
That night I cried myself to sleep, I didn’t know it was possible to miss a person so much. My hero was not a man with a gun, but a woman with a huge heart and a white uniform.
Morning dawned and I braced myself for another long, painful day. I drearily opened my thin curtains and there standing in the courtyard was the most beautiful brunette hair flowing down the side of the stunningly pale face of Elizabeth.
I couldn’t believe my eyes there she was, right in front of me, I wanted nothing more than to run to her, but I couldn’t. As she disappeared through the grey walls of my building I heard her delicate feet dance up the stairs and before I knew it she was in my arms.
Finally, the last jigsaw piece to my heart was complete. I was the luckiest man in the world and I had just fallen in love with my heroine in a white uniform all over again.