Chrisanthe wondered again how she’d survive. The heat, already so oppressive, was lasting well into the night, outdone only by the infernal drone of the cicadas. The bush was closing in. This was hardly the promised hut, rather canvas over saplings, but he’d done his best. He had to get the farm cleared.
She let her mind wander. She missed the village gatherings, the lunches in the olive groves during harvest, her mother’s thyme honey.. and her baklava, the best in the village. She and Theo had such a time, worked hard all day, danced all night.
No dancing tonight, surely he’d be back soon. She turned the lamp down as low as she dared, they’d need the light later. The cicadas pierced the darkness. She hummed, then sang loudly to drown them out. She was getting used to the smell of the eucalypts, but missed the sweet thyme. She concentrated on her memories till the longing for her mother overwhelmed her.
There was nothing to keep her occupied, she’d done all she could. Nowhere to pace. She pulled aside the canvas, but other than bush and the shimmer of a few stars, there was nothing to be seen. It was still so hot, despite the dampened cloth on her neck. She thought constantly of her mother and her sisters. She tried singing, then yelped as the canvas parted.
Theo had brought their neighbour. She’d have help with this baby after all.
Will I ever get used to it? The stench, mud squelching through boots, ever wet socks and rare, rank clumps of grass trying to survive -and the noise.
That infernal noise – what I’d give to hear my mother’s lilting voice, rather than whistling bullets and deafening explosions.
Even the warmth of squashed fresh cowpats would be better than the bone aching cold, oozing mud in the trenches. For a moment, I can almost taste a hot cuppa and feel a steaming shower. I hear a whistling noise close by. My knee is very warm. It’s then I realise I’ve been hit. Buggar!
I try to scramble and aim, but fall backwards to the cry of ‘medic’.
Blood’s gushing, but I feel no pain – just numb and weak. I can’t stand, try as I might. The medic straps my leg and helps me. Screams fill the air, biting into the clouds of tear gas in a ghostly fashion. I beg the wind not to change.
I’m only twenty. Some adventure. It’s Paris I dream of, not some sodden field. Now it’s raining, not the soft summer rain of home, rather heavy pounding rain of a French winter. I swear it’s frozen before it cuts at my face.
Just a few more yards till we reach the tent. A young Private rushes out and grabs me. My guardian angel returns to the trenches. It’s then tears well up – of frustration, exhaustion and sheer relief.
- Photo courtesy of Wikimedia… in Public Domain