10/07/1915

Dear Rose,

Happy Birthday, I hope this gets to you. 20 years and you have formed into the most beautiful woman I have ever known. You’re more than the English channel from me, but you’re always close to my mind.

It’s been more than two months, yet I still see you in the dress you wore during my departure, bright red with sharp shoulders which seemed to push your hair into loose curls around your neck. I remember how the autumnal colours of your hair swept across your face and stuck to your cheeks with the wetness of tears. I told you to smile for me. I didn’t want my last image of you to be without that smile. You were so strong to do that for for me. Thank you. I love it when you smile; it influences the shape of your face. Your mouth takes a pretty form and pushes your cheeks into a plumpness which compliments the almond cut of your eyes. A smile starts in the eyes. I have always told you this and I will continue to tell you the same once I return home – if I return home. Ignore that. I will come home.

The mud is life here and I could really do with a shower. You’d really disapprove of the state of my fingernails right now; they look like they have been soaked in hena ink. I have certainly kicked the nail-biting habit whilst out here. Worms are the enemy and I can’t afford to be eating for more than myself.

I’m sure that you want to know how I’m doing. I’m feeling fine. The other men in my battalion are amicable and easy to get on with. We talk about books we have read and music. It passes the time while we wait through the thick silence. I hate it. I can sleep through a barrage of bombs, but it’s the silence that really gets to me. It’s because the silence isn’t really silence; it’s just the moments between the deafening assaults where you can hear a slight humming sound saturate the air. The sound is deep and can be heard on the edge of existence. It is ever so slight, the half-recognisable sound of flies on flesh. The buzzing and humming filling the fields between each thunderstorm of war and gently vibrates against the back of the brain. The ever-present reminder of death. I hum to myself when I am alone to drown out the sound. It does help sometimes.

I have dwelt too long on death and must rejoice in life, more specifically your life and the twenty years that you have blessed this earth and those around you. Thank you, Rose, for being alive and for being the reason to fight on and survive. I will be home to tell you Happy Birthday on your 21st, I promise.

I love you.

Toby.

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