This was the hardest thing I'd ever had to do. I was in my bed staring at the ceiling. In three short hours I had to leave the love of my life behind to go to Iraq. Alice was her name, and she was the most beautiful girl I'd ever laid eyes on. We'd met two years ago, just before my brother's wedding. I'd been his best man, and she was his wife's maid of honour. She wasn't perfectly symmetrical or anything like the models on the covers of magazines, but she had a spark in her eyes and a glow on her face that made her even more eye-catching than any other girl I'd ever seen. I'd proposed to her after only three months of dating, because I1d known from the first date that she was the love of my life.

It was nearing dawn; the sky outside the window had gotten the greyish colour it had just before sunrise, and the birds had begun chirping happily. I looked at the alarm clock on the bedside table. The digits showed 5:30, but I knew I'd never get back to sleep. Instead I decided to check I had everything I needed. My uniform was on a hanger on the bedroom door, and my bag was on a chair in the living room. It reminded me of all the times I'd watched my father leave. He'd been in the army, and most of the memories I had of him from when I was growing up were of him leaving. I'd always wake up early, afraid that he might have left while I was sleeping. But when I peeked into my parents' bedroom he'd always be there, sleeping with my mum in his arms. His uniform was on a hanger on the bathroom door, and when I went back into the living room, his bag would always be on the same chair. That chair was always my favourite because it reminded me of him. He was actually the reason I'd joined the army in the first place. I knew it had always been his dream that his son would join the army too and follow in his footsteps, even though he had never said anything to neither my brother, Charlie nor to me. He would never want to pressure us into something we didn't want to do. But it was in my blood and I could feel that this was the right thing for me, even though it hurt leaving Alice.

Restless and nervous I went back into the bedroom. I didn't want to miss a single second of the last precious hours I had with her, so I sat in the window frame watching her sleep for a while. She looked so peaceful and suddenly it hit me: this might be the last time I see her. I felt like I might cry, something I hadn't done for quite some time. She must have felt my presence, because she stretched and opened her eyes. Quickly I pulled myself together. I had to be strong, and not make this harder for her than it already was. She smiled a little smile, and even though she was hiding it, I could see that she was doing the same for me. I could see in her beautiful, brown eyes the same pain and sadness that was flowing through me. She stood up, and without a word I walked over to the bed and held her tight. None of us said anything, but we didn't have to. I could feel her silent tears soaking my t-shirt and I let some tears fall as well even though I'd promised myself I wouldn't. My chin rested at the top of her head, and I stroked her chestnut hair gently.