I was his from the moment I saw him.
It was a warm June night, the 9th to be exact, more than a month from my 18th birthday. Though I wasn’t yet of age, I snuck off to join the army in December to serve as a nurse. They sent me and my division to Europe. We traveled all over. France, Britain, Norway, Sweden. Never anywhere with too much action. We went wherever they told us, whenever they told us. Sometimes we would stay for a month or two, sometimes much shorter. We stayed in Sweden for only three days. A shame. It was such a beautiful place. They would show up unannounced, tell us to pack our bags, and then we would leave without being able to say goodbye. It was exciting for me, a 17 year old, eager to see as much of the world as she can. It was harder for the other nurses, leaving behind their latest soldier, swearing it was true love, then finding new ones at the next place. That’s why they signed up for this. To meet handsome soldiers and to be romanced.
Not me. I joined the army so I could get as far away as possible from my messed up home. Any place was better than there, even a war zone. I truly didn’t care if I died. I just needed to get away.
I certainly didn’t care about the men. They were the last thing on my mind. And I was the last thing on theirs. I wasn’t pretty. I didn’t wear makeup; my eyes were plain and dull, and the red lipstick all the other nurses wore was too expensive for me. My hair wasn’t short, curled, or covered in hairspray; I never learned how to style it, so I wore it long, down to my waist, limp, brown. I didn’t own fancy dresses; I had my nursing uniform and two plain dresses that hung on me awkwardly. One brown and one blue. My skin wasn’t flawless. I wasn’t tall; only 5’6. I didn’t smoke; I personally found the habit to be disgusting and annoying. My lips were too small, my nose was too long, my shoulders were too broad, and my hips were too big.
Pretty much, I was the walking and breathing example of what men found to be undesirable. But again, I truly didn’t care. All I cared about was helping people, traveling, and most of all, escaping my past. I was finally content with my life.
The day after Pearl Harbor was attacked, I enlisted. I lied about my age, but they didn’t do much of a background check. There were too desperate. They sent me across seas almost immediately, where I met up with my division. For the next six months, we never saw any action. Some injured soldiers would come in, but never anything too major. We spent most of our time gossiping and cleaning. Needless to say, us nurses grew pretty close. We had just been transferred to the Netherlands recently. Everything was green and rolling hills and just simple. They told us that attacks were more prone here, but I wasn’t too worried.
Until it happened.
There were no sirens, no screaming, no panicking people, not like I pictured an attack would look like. Marge, Shirley, Cat, and I were talking about my birthday. They were trying to convince me to go pub-crawling with them. I reluctantly agreed. They wanted to give me a makeover for when we went out. They thought it would “perk me up” a bit. But it wouldn’t. I still wouldn’t be pretty. Not like them.
Cat was by far the most beautiful. She had midnight-black hair that sat plump on her shoulders. She had a tiny waist, porcelain skin, rosebud lips, and bright green eyes. She was almost completely perfect, except for the fact that she smoked like a chimney.
Marge was an exotic beauty, all chocolate brown hair, deep tan skin, big brown eyes, full lips, and a deep voice. Not manly, but sensual. Her hair was longer than Cat’s but not as long as mine, and had perfect pinned back waves. She loved playing hard to get and only gave herself to one man in each country we went to. Her goal was to sleep with a guy from every country in Europe.
Shirley had dirty blonde, short curly hair. She had a small mole above her lip and the most voluptuous curves I’ve ever seen on a woman, perfectly proportioned. She preferred dark burgundy lipstick to Cat’s bright red, and she had one of the most annoying laughs. Despite that, she of course attracted the most male attention, and she got around like it was her job.
They were different from me in every way, but yet they still loved me, and I loved them. They were the most real family I’d ever had. They were all in their twenties, so they treated me like a younger sister and tried to teach me everything they knew. Their intentions were always good, but I rarely took their advice.
In the middle of their pleading to make me over, about twenty Dutch soldiers barged into our makeshift hospital. Even though they were our allies, they still made us nervous with their yelling and gun-waving. We had no idea what they were saying and they had no idea what we were saying. They began rushing patients and nurses out. Confused as to what they were doing, I tried to intervene. I pulled their arms, shouting at them to leave our patients alone, but they just pushed me away and shouted back at me in Dutch. Big hands grabbed me and spun me around roughly. I was about to push him away, but then I saw his eyes.
My words left my throat and got lost in my mouth, releasing an inaudible jumble. I blinked rapidly as I tried not to stare at his big green eyes or his flawless smooth skin or his large chest (which was right in front of my face).
Or his perfect, full lips.
I had never been physically dumbstruck by a man before. Since they didn’t show any interest in me, I decided they weren’t worth my time. But in that moment I literally couldn’t speak because of him. I needed to focus, to stop this chaos, but his hands on my arms were making it impossible for me to catch my breath, let alone fight back.
He said something in Dutch that I didn’t understand. Instead of a harsh tone that the other Dutch soldiers used, his deep voice echoed with concern, matching the strained look between his eyebrows. He repeated what he said, this time giving me a shake. He searched my face for an answer, but I wouldn’t have known what to say even if I could have talked. He continued to look at me as I looked at him. I felt naked under his gaze.
The next part happened so fast, I’m not even sure of the actual events. Only moments had passed since I turned around and saw him (though it felt like much longer), then there came a noise. A whistling noise that grew louder and louder. His eyes widened and he yelled out, along with some other soldiers. He dove towards me, wrapping his arms around me as if were no bigger than a child, before I could react. We tumbled to the ground, him on top of me. The floor scraped away my skin and some rubble embedded in my flesh.
This was hardly noticeable compared to the explosion at the same instant. The sound was piercing, overwhelming. Its sharp claws reached through my ears and tore apart my brain. My eyes rolled to the back of my head. Rubble flew everywhere. Small pieces flew past my face, scraping my cheeks. I felt a larger piece fall on top of the soldier covering me. He groaned.
We laid there for a while after the explosion, whether it was from the shock or just to be cautious or both. Finally, he creakily pushed himself up enough to look at me with a groan. He murmured and cupped the back of my head, tenderly cushioning it from the hard floor. I worked to open my eyes and to keep them from rolling back again. When I finally opened them, I was met by his worried green eyes. He fumbled his words until he got out “Oh-kay?” in a thick Dutch accent. I stared at him, mesmerized, for a little longer, then nodded.
“You?” I said softly.
He also nodded. Then he slowly started getting up, helping me up even slower. He examined my scraped arms. His face crinkled with concern when he saw my face. He reached his fingers up to my cheek; it stung. With his hands still steadying me, he began to speak again, urgency in his voice, and then-
A loud pop.
He fell against me.
A warm scarlet spread on his chest.
We looked at each other.
He fell to the ground.
“Nonononono. You’re going to be okay. Everything is going to be okay,” I said. More popping and shouting. His eyes were squeezed shut in pain. I put pressure over his wound and he gritted his teeth, holding back a cry. “Look at me,” I said firmly, then put my other hand on his face. “Look at me,” I repeated, even though I knew he didn’t understand me. He opened his eyes anyway. “You’re going to be fine,” my voice trembled. He just stared with pain in his eyes.
Then some soldiers tried to pull me away. I screamed and kicked. I wasn’t leaving him. He saved my life.
One of the soldiers was an American from my unit, so I understood him when he spoke to me. “Anna, we need to get the hell out of here or we’re gonna die!” he yelled over the gunfire.
“We can’t leave him!” I yelled back clinging to the Dutch soldier. “He saved my life!”
The American stared at me, exasperated, then growled in frustration and slung the wounded soldier’s arm around him. I put his right arm his wounded arm around me, and he moaned.
“Just hold on a little bit longer,” I tried to say to him as we ran out of the destroyed building. We ran to one of the medical trucks, throwing ourselves in the back just as it was pulling away. We all sat for a moment, trying to catch our breath.
“I think we’re out of the worst of it,” the American soldier Greg, I think his name was said with sweat and dirt running down his face.
“Were there any casualties?” I asked, hiding any emotion from my voice. I didn’t see if the other nurses, my friends, got away.
He shook his head. “Not that I know of.” We both sighed in relief.
The Dutch boy/man moaned. I didn’t hesitate. “You,” I said to Greg, “Grab me an IV and blood bag over there. And you,” I said to the other Dutch soldier who I just noticed sitting next to me. I knew he wouldn’t understand me if I spoke, so I pressed the wound and gestured to a wrap. “Gauze. Pressure,” I said, and he seemed to understand. As he pressed gauze over the gunshot wound on the injured soldier, I shoved the IV needle to the crook of my elbow and started filling up the blood bag. From there, I connected an IV to him and the blood bag. My blood slowly leaked into him.
“Um, that’s probably not he most sanitary way to go about that,” Greg said.
“He’s losing too much blood. If he doesn’t get any now, he’ll die. Do you see any better options?” I remark.
“Well, no, but”
“Who’s the nurse here?” I snapped. He closed his mouth and remained silent for a few moments. I started feeling the effects of the blood draining from my body. My eyesight became a little patchy and my head started aching.
“Well you don’t look like you’re in the best shape to do this either,” he continued talking. The guy never shut up. “Maybe you should let one of us do it.”
“I’m fine,” I tried to sound firm, but my voice came out in a crackly whisper. I leaned over the wounded soldier. He looked up at me with his big green eyes. He was fighting to keep them open. “You’re going to be alright now. Do you understand?” I managed to say.
He nodded and grabbed my hand. He looked... scared. “Just keep holding on,” I said in a breath, then everything went black.