By Abigail Symonds, aged 11

The Soldier

2013, Birmingham Hospital

I lie sprawled on my hospital bed, staring at the dying flowers in the vase beside me. The door opens and my nurse enters.

"Morning Albert. Hundred today, aren't ya?" The words bring back my childhood memories.

1918, Kew Grove

I was born on the 10th of July 1913, to a caring, loving family. My days with them were filled with contentment, but none more so than my fifth birthday. My parents would always give me the most wonderful presents and, as they asked me to tear off the scarlet paper, I knew that this gift was no exception. As my hands caressed and cradled the polished wood, my eyes lit up with joy. A carved soldier stood in my hands and grimaced up at me. Suddenly my thoughts were pierced by a knife of fear and pain.

1944, Normandy Beaches

Another shell plummeted to earth with a thump. Screams shot through the air. Another ten soldiers dead. I glanced at Captain Savage, my platoon leader. The grim determination showed clearly on his ashen face. A screech suddenly pierced the background noise of the battlefield. I just had time to register the terror of a shell before I was thrown into darkness…

1946, Devon

Searching for a ray of sunshine to lighten my thoughts, I recall better times. The sky was cloudless and the birds were rejoicing. Everything was perfect. As my hands gripped the wheel of my car, my first car, I felt Maria's emerald eyes fixed on me. Pulling over, I glance at her. Tumbling brown curls and shimmering jade eyes.

"So," her mellifluous voice is breathtakingly beautiful. "What did you so urgently need me for?" Her secret smile mocks my embarrassment.

"Maria," I suck in a deep breath, "will you marry me?"

"Yes, Albert" she cries. "Yes, yes, yes!"

2013, Birmingham Hospital

Back now, in the present, I see the flowers again. A photo hides behind the wilting petals. Maria and my great-grandson stare out at me. As I close my eyes for the last time, I see the polished wood of a toy soldier clutched in a tiny fist. My last breath slips between my lips.

100 years, that is a long time to live. However, it is inevitable that every human being must die; it's not death, but the journey of life, the memories you've shared, the love you've cherished, that's what really matters.

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