I am going through my third manuscript today one more time before I send it off to another set of eyes to be edited. This scene with Luis (a wounded WWI soldier) and his nurse, who he is growing fond of, is the kind of thing I love to write.
We all ask hard questions, and I don’t mind asking them through my characters . . . .
I’ve walked up and down the ward with assistance several times and then with the help of a cane, but outside is an altogether different kind of adventure. I am glad it is Rose that plays my heroine today. I summon the mental picture I have of her: angelic in her nurse’s uniform, with roses on her cheeks, fawn brown hair swept up in a Gibson Girl bun, and her green eyes bright as spring buds.
“Lead on my lady.” I gallantly say and shuffle along. Her hand is firmly in the crook of my arm. She seems better than she’d been with me, less stiff, more back to her old, sweet self, but I can sense something still isn’t quite right. Maybe with time, things will improve. All I have is time now, if my blinding is permanent that is. If I heal, I may just find myself shipping off to war again. Surviving this long has been lucky. A second time, the odds have to be pretty slim.
“Always the charmer.”
“So I’ve been told.” Only a handful of women have ever commented in that respect, but she doesn’t need to know that.
“I’m glad to see your spirits are well. You are an inspiration to the other men.”
Her voice is soft, timid. She seems scared of something, but I don’t know what.
“It’s nothing really, we all must choose how to respond to what life brings our way. My aunt always told me, ‘We can choose to become better or bitter.’ It’s one or the other it seems. I’ve had a lot of time in hospital beds to sort things out. I found that the somewhere in-between is simply ‘no man’s land’.” I turn rather serious.
“Quite the philosopher.”
“Birthed from my mother and my aunt. They’ve become strong women. You see, they both have a life altering disease.”
“I’m sorry.” The sympathy in her voice rings true.
“Well, my Aunt Valerie says that she’s a more complete person because of her struggle. It’s like the potter smoothing the clay, shaping us with water, the turn of the wheel, and his hand.”
“Are you a man of faith, Lt. Wilson?”
“I like to think so.”
“Here, let’s sit.” Rose tells me. I grope the wooden bench, which she directs is in front of me, with my hand. I get situated and sit. Rose sits close to me. We continue our conversation.
“Why does God allow all this . . . killing . . . these terrible things?”
“Whew, that is a doozy of a question. Many have asked the same thing through the years. And I am sure much smarter men than me have tried to answer.” I pause and really think about what she’s asked.
“I don’t know that there is one answer to turn to.” I speak without knowing where the words come from. “I guess, I’ve chosen to believe that God is good, despite the terrors that haunt us here. It was by our invitation, our choice that evil has such a hold in our world, and in our hearts, not His.”
“I’ve never thought about it like that.”
We are quiet and listen. The birds are singing, water is lapping in the distance, people are talking, carriages and cars pass on the street. It all makes a kind of rhythm or beat that I’ve never truly heard before. I am learning to see with my ears.
“Life is hard Rose. It’s real and raw and painful, but . . . worth it, somehow.”
“What if you regret something you’ve done?”
What could she have done that causes her the pain of remorse? She seems so innocent.
“I know a little something of regret.” I say slowly, with a sarcastic tone. It is an understatement. There were so many times that I had wished to God I had never seen that white feather, never said yes to the secrecy and the special duties, and stayed my hand from taking what wasn’t mine to take. But war plays by different rules. That is what I’ve told myself, anyway, so I can sleep at night.