“You can’t go. I won’t let you!”
“I’ve told you Ela, if I had a choice I would be staying here with you.”
“Then why are you leaving?”
“Because I don’t have a choice!” Felix shouted. “I can’t let my father go to fight because he’s too old. He wouldn’t last five minutes against the Keryan army.”
“But why do you have to go? Can’t you just say you’re needed here? I need you.”
“My conscience wouldn’t allow it. How do you think I would feel if all my friends, the people I’ve played with in the street since I was a little boy, went off to fight for our country and I stayed behind? What if they died and I kept living my perfect life here with you? I wouldn’t be able to live with the guilt.”
The couple had been arguing about whether or not Felix should join the army when the officer arrived since the messenger had told them about the war. Daniela couldn’t bear the thought of the man she loved going off to fight and never coming back. He was too precious for her to not fight for him. But Felix was adamant that he would join the army and fight against Kerya, no matter what the cost.
Now the officer from the army had arrived and young men from all over the village were going to join up and fight. Daniela’s father had already lost his stableman and it seemed likely that he wouldn’t be able to replace him because all the able-bodied men were joining the army. And Felix was determined to be the next one to sign up.
“I’m not willing to lose you.” Daniela grabbed hold of Felix’s hand, trying to stop him from approaching the desk that had been set up in the square for men to sign up. “I don’t know what I would do if you didn’t come back to me when the fighting was over.”
“I’m sure the conflict won’t last long. And I don’t even know if they’ll take me.”
“Stop trying to pretend that all this is alright,” Daniela said, her voice cracking as her eyes began to well up. “People die in wars, that’s what happens and you don’t know if you’re going to be one of the people who end up dead.”
“You can’t convince me to stay Ela,” Felix said firmly, pulling his arm free of her grasp. “I have to do this, with or without your approval.”
Daniela watched, her heart in her mouth, as her fiancé approached the desk and signed his name on a roll of parchment that the man pointed to. They shook hands and Felix nodded as the officer in charge of recruitment gave him instructions. With one last nod Felix moved away from the desk, his face fixed into a neutral expression as he walked towards Daniela.
“I leave for training tomorrow.”
“So soon?” Daniela exclaimed, her chest aching as her heart began to break.
“They need more men on the frontline as soon as possible. The men they already have won’t hold off the enemy for much longer. I’m needed.”
“But you’re needed here, with me,” Daniela pleaded, tears beginning to fall down the side of her face. “What happened to the promise you made me? You swore that you would never let anything part us, and yet here you are signing up to go and fight in a distant land, leaving me behind.”
“This is much bigger than any vow we made to each other. It’s about two countries battling against each other for supremacy. Don’t you see that if we lose Kerya won’t hesitate to march onto our lands and take everything we own, everything we’ve worked for? I have to protect that.”
“This is the end of the conversation Daniela,” Felix spat. “I’m going and you will just have to accept that.”
Without another word, Felix walked away from the square and back towards the smithy where he worked. Desperation filled Daniela from head to toe. Every fibre of her being told her this was a bad idea and she couldn’t let Felix go out to fight, not on his own. Trying to think of something she could do to help the situation, Daniela marched straight up to the table, brushing past the men waiting in line and put bother her hands on the table.
“I want to sign up,” she said firmly.
“I’m sorry Miss,” the army officer said, a lopsided grin on his face, “but we’re not recruiting women.” His tone was mocking, laughing at the thought of a woman joining the army.
“You must need some women. How about nurses? Surely you need frontline nurses to help heal the wounded soldiers, I can do that.”
“Sorry we’re not looking for anyone else at the moment, just soldiers.”
“I have to go out with this regiment,” Daniela pleaded. “My fiancé is leaving with you tomorrow and I can’t let him go without me. I want to be there to protect him.” Daniela could hear sniggers from some of the men waiting in line but she ignored them, focusing her gaze on the officer standing across the desk from her.
“I’m sorry Miss, there’s nothing I can do.”
“There has to be something you can give me. Anything.”
“Ela? What are you doing?” A hand on Daniela’s arm gently led her away from the desk. “What’s going on?” Juliette asked.
“Felix has joined up to go and fight,” Daniela sobbed, clasping hold of her sister’s arms to steady herself. “He’s gone back on everything he promised me and is going to leave me here, alone, waiting for the day when I get a letter to say he’s been killed.”
Juliette pulled her sister against her, letting her sob into the shoulder of her dress.
“I know it might not seem like it at the moment but everything will be alright,” she breathed, kissing the top of her little sister’s head.
“I don’t see how anything is going to be alright,” Daniela sniffed. “I can’t survive without him, I just can’t Juliette.”
“I’m taking you home,” Juliette decided. “You need to calm down and I can’t see you doing that here. Come on, let me take you back to Mother.”
Daniela reluctantly allowed her sister to lead her away from the centre of the village and back to the farm. But in her head she was already planning a way to stay with Felix. Her parents wouldn’t approve, no one would, but it was something she knew she had to do.