Together They Overcame
rolled down Rosalind’s cheek. One of the girls glanced at her, and she hurried
to wipe it with the back of her palm. She pretended to look at the shrubbery
that did their best to hide away the ugly, gray buildings. She drew an
apprehensive breath, taking in the delightful scent of their flowers. It was no
use. This was a place of grief and annihilation. As hard
as she tried, she could not stop from thinking of the broken bodies and lost
limb inside the nondescript buildings. She and the other student nurse had to
help the wounded soldiers from the Sinai Campaign, most of them her age, or slightly
older. The girl who had noticed her tears broke away
for the rest of the students and slowed down until they walked side by side.
“Are you all right?” she whispered.
Rosalind bit her lip. In the space of a few weeks, she had left her home in South Africa for Israel, with her boyfriend Foxy, to volunteer in a country she knew little about. Now, she had decided to break off with Foxy because of another one of his violent brawls. How could she explain all this to a stranger? Instead of an answer, more tears welled up in her eyes. “I’m fine,” she mumbled and hurried toward one of the wards without looking back.
The smell of disinfectant hit her nostrils as soon as she stepped through the heavy door. The small lobby that greeted her was cool compared to the blistering heat outside. She hastened through it, and stepped into a long corridor, where there were rows of beds. Bandaged men – no, boys – occupied most of them. Some were sleeping, others eyed her with curiosity. Several grinned at the sight of the tall, blond student nurse, wearing mischievous smiles.
One caught her eye; a handsome, young man. A cast covered his entire body, but what caught her attention was his sparkling brown eyes, and thick beard that matched his pitch-black hair. He grinned at her with exuberance.
Why is he gawking at me like that? Then, it hit her. Everyone was staring at her. Someone whistled and said something in Hebrew. She bit her lip and wiped her nose on her uniform sleeve, cursing herself for not thinking of carrying a handkerchief.
“Shut up!” One of the older soldiers must have pitied her. A deadly silence followed his bark. “Children, all of them,” the man murmured to the patient next to him. The other man did not have the strength to answer him, so he turned his attention to Rosalind. “I’m sorry, Miss. War can do that to you.”
She forced a smile as she nodded in gratitude, then continued down the corridor until she stumbled on the head nurse. “Good morning.” She patted down her uniform with long, nervous moves.
The woman stopped reading a chart and stared at her, waiting for her to continue. She had a stern face, with hard features.
“I’m Rosalind. I’m a trainee.” She cupped her hands in front of her body, wondering what else to say.
The older woman’s face almost softened. “I’m Gertrude. Welcome to Ward 21.” She gazed up and down at Rosalind. “This is your first day, isn’t it?”
“Well then, why don’t you tidy the beds and clean the nightstands?”
Rosalind almost let out a relieved sigh. This was easy work. “Yes, Miss.”
She spun around and checked out the nightstands. Most were sparse and neglected, but one was spick and span with a few books on the upper shelf. Surprised, she realized it belonged to the young man in the cast. Without thinking, she walked toward him. His dazzling eyes followed her every movement.
She started tidying his bed. “Who cleaned your nightstand?”
“My mother did, yesterday. I’m Eyal. What’s your name?”
“You’ll have to change it to a Hebrew name. Let’s call you Galya.”
Had he not heard her? “My name is Rosalind.”
He ignored her glare. “Galya.”
Just what I need. A rude imbecile on my first day. Her already low spirits sank further. She fought a sigh and pulled his sheet, tucking it under the mattress. “What happened to you?”
“A paratrooper playing with his gun shot me.”
She almost chuckled. There she was, thinking he was a brave soldier who had been injured in God knows what awful circumstances, and he was the victim of a stupid game. “I see.”
“I’m a student, really,” he said as if that explained something. “I was on my way to enroll for my fourth year of academic studies at the Technion.” He said that with pride and waited for her reaction. When she said nothing, fluffing his pillow instead, he continued with a hint of impatience, “It’s Israel’s best engineering university.”
He pursed his lips. “This here is Chanoch.” He pointed his chin towards the older man, who had helped her, and she smiled at him. He nodded back. “He’s a pilot. The Egyptians brought down his plane. He busted his back, but he’s going to be all right, the doctor say.”
Rosalind’s smile widened. Chanoch was a gentleman, unlike Eyal.
“Then, there’s Arik,” Eyal continued and his eyes glanced at a solemn-looking man with a beautiful woman fretting over him. “That’s his wife.”
“He’s very lucky to have such a charming wife,” Rosalind said absent-mindedly.
“He’s leaving tomorrow.”
“No, it’s not. He’s not ready, the doctors say.”
Rosalind’s brow furrowed. “He must be, if he’s leaving.”
Eyal shook his head from side to side. “He’s an officer. He wants to be back with his men, but he’s not ready.”
“I see,” Rosalind as she finished organizing Eyal’s bed. “There, all ready.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow, right?”
I’m afraid so. “Sure.”
She moved to the boy next to Eyal, who let out a soft whistle and grinned as she approached. This was going to be a long first day.
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