Author's Note: Warning, Character Death
The memory of her never left me; during all the years we were apart Louise was always there, in my thoughts during the day, in my dreams at night. She was the only thing that allowed me to survive, preventing me from losing my sanity in the Hell I stupidly put myself into.
I'm ashamed of the man I've become; I've killed people I didn't even know only because they were the enemy, I've hardened my heart until I barely recognized myself, I've drowned my problems and my miseries in the bottle, something that I swore I'd never do.
But deep down I never lost hope, because I knew I had a woman who loved me back home, a woman I was ready to fight my demons for. I knew that it wouldn't be easy to forget the craziness I lived in for so long but I'd have done whatever it took to return the man Lou loved and married.
The journey back home wasn't easy, I took it mostly by foot, I was the losing party and I didn't find too many people willing to help me, considering that I could be the killer of one of the dear ones whose death they were crying for. But I bore the stares and the people's disdain, the hunger, the exhaustion of my weakened body, all because I knew that at home there was a woman waiting for me and I couldn't disappoint her.
I braced myself for her anger and recriminations, because I didn't keep the promise I made to her the day I proposed, but I never expected what was waiting for me.
When I finally reach the little house Louise and I bought, I feel my heart flutter; I break into an unsteady run, calling her name. She opens the door and I drop on my knees, hiding my face in her waist and crying like a baby. I'm so happy that I don't notice she doesn't return my embrace immediately.
She is clearly shocked, and I think it is because the letters we received from each other were so scarce and she probably never got the one telling her I was coming back. But her expression isn't one of a sudden and expected joy; she stares at me as if she can't believe I'm in front of her, and as if my presence is a problem.
"Lou, love, who's at the door?"
Those words are enough to make my world fall apart. Jimmy is coming from the kitchen and stops dead in tracks when he spots me.
I release her waist and sit back on my,(haunches) staring back at my wife and my best friend.
"I didn't receive any news from you in a long time, Kid," she says as a justification.
She wrings her hands and I notice that her wedding ring is replaced by a new ring with a sparkling stone. I fix my eyes on them, gasping. Suddenly I'm unable to breathe.
"I didn't hear from you since almost a year!" she continues, "Nobody could tell me what happened to you…" she is clearly upset and Jimmy goes near her and passes his arm around her shoulders to comfort her.
"You didn't keep you promise and left me," she cries, "…and now you're back! Why did you come back?!"
Her accusing tone is worse than anything I endured during the war.
Lou doesn't want me there. She has moved on with Jimmy and my presence ruins her plans for her new life. I rise from the floor, staggering, and exit from that house, almost stumbling down the stairs of the porch in my haste to get out.
Lou doesn't want me anymore, Lou turned to Jimmy, and I lost her love. My worst nightmare came true.
I run away from that place that wasn't my home anymore. The first drops of rains start to wet my old uniform but I don't care, I continue to run until I can't take it anymore and drop on the grass, letting the storm rage upon me.
When I raise my head I realize that my feet brought me to the pond, our pond, the place where our love was reborn, where we confessed our secrets to each other, where we celebrated our engagement. Now all of that isn't worth anything.
What was the purpose of my survival? Why did I have the chance to come back home while a lot of men died? I saw friends dying on the battlefields, succumbing to their wounds and diseases in those hellish field hospitals, I wrote letters to their families and sometimes I had even met their widows and orphans. And the only thing that made me overcome the guilt of being alive in front of their desperation was the thought of Lou waiting for me.
I wouldn't make Lou one of those widows, I repeated to myself, I'd come back to her at any cost. But all my efforts were useless now. It would have been better if I died in place of one of those men, because my wife had already made up for me with my best friend.
My eyes fell on my old gun, still strapped on my side. What's left for me? Lou was the only reason I stayed alive.
I pull out from the shirt the wedding ring, I hung it on a chain when my fingers became too skinny and I risked losing it. I grab it, as I did every time I need to feel her near to me, and then I put the barrel of the gun on my temple.
Author's Note: Thank you to my beta Ellie and to everyone who read this depressing story!