Nivelle sat in the squad’s common area staring at the olive green canvas of the tent. The rest of the squad had gone to dinner. The rest of the squad minus Sheppard. She had gone straight to the base hospital. What if he had been too late? There were a few seconds where he had just stood there. What if that killed her? He had been staring at her and still had to register. If he couldn’t respond to something like this, how would he respond when he needed to run out and save someone in battle? At Third Tsiv he just remembered shooting and then running. He hadn’t been tested as those people say. He had just been there. What if when they went to the front next, he just froze? And got more people killed?
He felt a tap on his shoulder. McGilligan stood over him and said, “Hey kid. Want to visit the hospital with me? Check if Shep’s with us?”
“I don’t know. What if I was too late? What if I messed up and she’s dead because of me?”
“You see this scarf Nivelle?” McGilligan gestured to the scarf on her neck. It was a long dirty green scarf. Nivelle had noticed it. No matter where McGilligan went she wore it. It was always sitting around her neck.
“Yes Lance Corporal.”
“It didn’t use to be mine. When I first was assigned to my unit at the start of the war, my best friend was a private from the North. Smithie. She wore this scarf all the time. She thought it was cute. We did everything together,” McGilligan smiled, “We made plans to open up a book shop after the war. In Seahaven. You know, talk about books all week, then go to the beach all weekend. Repeat till we retire.” She took a deep breath, looked down, and started “At Second Tsiv, Smithie and I were in a shell hole. I tell her to take a dash to a machine gun nest to see if it still works… A shell hit… The only thing left was this scarf.”
“I’m so sorry.”
“Don’t be. It happens to everyone. And with your thing. No matter what happens to Shep, you’re a hero in my book. With me, I was scared. My best friend is dead because of me,” McGilligan started to tear up, “Now, you’ve made a woman cry. Why don’t you make her happy by going to the hospital to check on Sheppard?”