A World Away: Chapter 4
Fortunately, within probably ten minutes of running, I found a farm. I banged on the door of the house, but no one answered. I ran to the barn and found a wheelbarrow and started back out when I was stopped by the sight of a small dark-haired woman blocking the door, pointing a rifle at me. I set the wheelbarrow down and raised my arms. I started to tell her what I was doing, knowing that she most likely didn’t understand any English. I told her that Eric was dying in the woods and that I needed her to help me, that he was an American pilot who had saved me from German captors and he was wounded and if I could only get him back here to the house that maybe I could save him. Then I said that I had to save him because I loved him and I broke down in tears. I hit my knees and buried my face into my hands, sobbing loudly.
My hysterics were interrupted by the touch of hands on my shoulders. The woman knelt before me and took me into her arms and held me as my body was racked with sobs. She spoke to me gently in French. Her words were soothing and the feel of her soft hands stroking my hair and comforting me felt so good. As I felt myself getting control of my emotions again, I pulled back and looked into her eyes. I weakly said, “Will you help me?” She nodded yes even though I didn’t know if she understood me. I stood and grabbed the handles of the wheelbarrow again. The woman picked up the rifle and waited at the door. I grabbed a horse blanket on my way out and threw it into the wheelbarrow, and then we were off. I ran as fast as I could while pushing the awkward wheelbarrow and my companion was right behind me.
I found Eric exactly where I’d left him and knelt to feel for a pulse. He was still alive. I pulled on his good arm until he was sitting up and the woman set the rifle down and placed the wheelbarrow under Eric’s back, tipping it forward. We each took a shoulder (I took the bloody one.) and pulled him until he was in the wheelbarrow. I was grateful that he was unconscious because I’m sure the pain would have been unbearable for him as I pulled on his injured shoulder. I covered him with the blanket and set the first aid kit beside him. His legs were hanging over the front, feet touching the ground, and so we needed to pull, rather than push him. He was too heavy for me to pull by myself, and so the woman put her gun into the wheelbarrow beside Eric and grabbed a handle. Together we began to slowly make our way through the woods, and I wondered how on earth I would have ever been able to do this alone.
As we neared the farm, Eric began to groan as we would hit bumps in our path. As I had hoped, the woman steered the wheelbarrow towards the house rather than the barn. We stopped at the front door and I pulled the blanket off of Eric. He was covered with sweat again and in and out of consciousness. I yelled his name into his ear, hoping to rouse him, and realized that it was the first word I had spoken to him. He opened his eyes and looked at me and then up to the woman standing beside us. I said, “Help us get you inside.” He kind of nodded and raised his good arm. The woman pulled on it to help him stand and I tried to help him, holding onto his torso. As I braced myself under his injured arm, he groaned loudly in pain. The three of us moved awkwardly through the house into a bedroom behind the kitchen. We sat Eric onto the bed and the woman chattered away in French as she ran from the room. She returned with the horse blanket and placed it over the clean white coverlet behind Eric before we lay him back onto the bed. I removed his boots and pulled his feet onto the bed as she returned again with the first aid kit. I carefully began to open Eric’s jacket and shirt so that I could examine the wound. As I leaned over it I heard Eric whisper, “Sookie,” and then he was out again. It was just as well, because treating the wound was going to be painful.
Sookie and I made it back to the plane. I was in a great deal of pain, but felt strong enough to fly. While I was in the air, however, I began to feel weaker as my adrenaline rush began to recede. I recognized the feelings as I had just experienced them earlier before I lost consciousness. Sookie was in my lap, clinging closely to my body so I could maneuver without her getting in the way. I wanted nothing more than to get her to safety and knew that our best bet was for me to put the plane down again. If I lost consciousness in the air, we would both be killed. If I could only get the plane safely on the ground, then at least she would have a chance to survive and my last act on this planet would have been a worthy one.
I found a grassy field not unlike the one we had just left and made my descent. Once on the ground, we climbed out of the plane. Sookie went back for the first aid kit. She supported me under my good arm and helped me walk towards some trees. We made it into the woods before everything went black.
I woke to an excruciating pain in my shoulder. I seemed to be moving and every time I felt a jarring, pain shot through me like a flame. When the motion stopped, the pain was a little better. I heard a woman call my name loudly in my ear and opened my eyes. I saw Sookie Stackhouse and for an instant wondered if I was dead. Then I remembered what had happened and I looked up and saw another woman standing beside me. Sookie asked if I could help them get me inside and so I gathered all my strength and tried to stand. The two women helped me into a house and as I sat on an actual bed, I thought well, this is a fine place to die. On a real bed with Sookie Stackhouse. I felt her lay me back onto the bed and pull my feet up. She began to unbutton my shirt and I had one last euphoric thought that Sookie was undressing me to make love and then I was out.
My companion and our savior was named Sophie-Anne LeClerq. Eric was apparently in her father’s bed and her father was away, although I wasn’t clear on exactly where he was. She seemed to be alone in the house. She immediately put water on to boil and brought me clean rags and the first aid kit. She sterilized an assortment of knives and other utensils as well as needle and thread and handed them to me one at a time with a pair of sterilized tongs. She had obviously had some experience in first aid and stood beside me while I worked. Fortunately, Eric’s wound seemed to be the result of a single piece of shrapnel, and it was not so heavily embedded that I could not remove it fairly easily. My main concern was shock from the blood loss and of course, infection. Once Eric’s wound was cleaned, stitched up and dressed, I wanted to get him under the covers, but was also aware of Sophie-Anne’s concern for her clean linens. I explained to her that I would bathe him before putting him under the covers and she seemed to get it. She brought me more clean towels and a second pot of water, gathered the knives and utensils and left the room, closing the door behind her.
I removed the rest of Eric’s clothing and began to bathe him. I had to remind myself more than once that I was a nurse and that he was my patient and nothing more, but a part of me couldn’t help but admire his obvious beauty. I had bathed many men many times, but I had never bathed one that I had kissed and wanted to make love to. I’d be lying if I said that it was no different.
Once he was clean, I maneuvered him to one side of the bed before removing the horse blanket and pulling the covers down. Then I scooted him back to the side with the cool exposed sheet and pulled the covers over him, tucking him in carefully. I gathered his dirty clothes and opened the door. Sophie-Anne took the clothes from me and helped me clean out and put away the pots of water and towels and rags. Soon his room was neat as a pin again and he slept soundly under the crisp white coverlet. Sophie-Anne took me by the hand to where she had a bath drawn for me and some clean clothes laid out. I could have kissed her, but instead stripped happily. She took my dirty uniform and closed the door behind her as I eased into the heavenly, if not a bit tepid, bath. I bathed and cleaned my teeth and quickly dressed in Sophie-Anne’s skirt and blouse (the shoes and bra were a little small, but I got them on) and met her in the kitchen as she set a bowl of soup and glass of water down for me. I checked on Eric again before diving into the most delicious food I had ever tasted.
I took a glass of water and suitable pan and bottle back into Eric’s room and sat in the chair by the bed, watching him sleep. He still looked pale, but was no longer perspiring, which was a good sign. I studied his beautiful face and let my mind wander back to the night we met and how handsome he was as he moved me across the dance floor. Then I thought of how his lips felt on mine that night and then later in the passionate encounter in the dark classroom. That seemed like a lifetime ago. I had never experienced such passion before or since. I wondered at the chance that he was the one who found me in the creek and saved me from the Germans. How could that be a coincidence? Was it my fate to be saved by this man? To have him re-enter my life at this point? I must have drifted off to sleep in the chair because the next thing I knew, I opened my eyes to see Eric’s beautiful blue eyes open and looking at me. He had a tiny smile on his face and looked so peaceful and happy. I just stared, mesmerized by his beauty for a moment until he licked his dry lips and my nurse brain clicked into place. I jumped up and lifted his head, holding the water glass to his lips and told him to drink. He took several swallows before I lowered his head back to the pillow. He sighed a heavy breath and smiled back at me again.
“I removed a piece of shrapnel from your shoulder. It wasn’t very deep. You should be fine, but you’ll need to rest of course. I’m sure you need to use the bathroom. Would you like the pan or the bottle?” His smile faded. “There’s no need to be embarrassed, Eric. I’m a nurse. I do this all the time.”
He studied my face for a moment, seeming to think of his answer. “Bottle.”
“Okay. Would you like some help?”
“Can I try by myself first?”
“Of course.” I handed him the bottle as he began to sit up a little, grimacing in pain. Then I left the room for what seemed like an appropriate amount of time.
When I returned, he was back under the covers and I wordlessly took the half-full bottle from the nightstand and left the room. I returned with the clean bottle and Sophie-Anne followed me into the room with a bowl of soup and introduced herself. He spoke a little bit of French apparently and they had an exchange that ended in smiles on both faces. She left the room and I helped Eric sit up a little so he could eat. I held the bowl because he wanted to feed himself with his good hand, which was a good sign. Then he drank the rest of the glass of water and settled back into the bed again. He painfully scooted over a bit and patted the bed beside him. I sat where he indicated and he took my hand in his and looked me in the eye and simply said, “Thank you.”