As he scrambled through the tangled brush and clawing brambles, sweat dripping from his beaked nose, Lieutenant Ethan Danforth mused on the irony of his situation. If they caught him, he would be hanged as a traitor, branded a coward and deserter. Yet it wasn’t fear of an enemy that propelled him away from the shadowy camp in the middle of the night and into the dangers of enemy territory. It was fear of a different kind. He knew the risks were high but those faceless, arrogant bastards at the War Office would never understand one simple fact – He wasn’t running away from them but towards something far more important.
The letter had come two days ago in the middle of rec time. A grubby, crumpled square of paper thrust into his hand by a hassled looking corporal in an ill-fitting helmet and wet fatigues. The lad had barely looked at him as he handed over the missive and disappeared back into the disorderly throng mingling around the mess tent. Not that it mattered. Danforth was used to being overlooked; it was better that way.
The only thing that truly mattered was the message. Five words, written by a shaky hand in cheap, smudged ink, now engraved on his heart.
~ It’s back. I love you. ~
No battle wound had ever cut so deep as those five simple words. No enemy had ever filled him with such terror. From the moment he read them, he was already planning his escape. While tears dripped from his pale lashes to stain the page, he calculated what he could steal and how much he could carry. His strong, calloused hands clenched into fists and his heart pounded a rhythm of grief as he watched the sentries on their rounds, gauging timings and distances.
Slipping past the outer ring of defences had been easy, a fact that might have worried him if he still cared about the stupid war. Now, hidden from friends and foe alike by the cluttered landscape, he made his way towards home and as the moon rose slowly over the horizon he sent a silent prayer to the universe to please, please let him not be too late to say goodbye.