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War Torn Ch. 06

When Erich had finished the last of the cleaning, he draped his dishrag over a line strung across the stove. He picked up a candle from the tabletop, and extinguishing the others, crossed the room. Placing it on the windowsill above the bedstead, he sat beside me and began to remove his shoes. I had been exhausted when I first sat down, but now the proximity of his body set my heart pounding. I glanced down at his hands. He was in the midst of heaving off his right boot. I admired the girth of his calf muscle, and closed my eyes imagining how he would react if I caressed it. Just then, he gasped audibly, and I looked to see that he could not bend his other leg enough to grasp the boot.

"I'll do it," I said, as I slid from the mattress to the floor in front of his feet.

Gingerly, I took hold of the heel and toe of the boot and pulled it off. His sock slid off as well, exposing his skin. I saw for the first time that his foot was swollen. He winced at my touch. Rolling up the leg of his trousers, I found the rest of his leg to be angry red, inflamed, and hot to the touch. My hand began to tremble. This was reminiscent of my days in the hospital. I had seen too many young men perish in this war because infection, not weapons, posed a more imminent threat to their lives. I would not stand by to witness another death. He groaned, and I looked into his eyes, seeing in them a pain that had been unmasked.

"This looks like an infection. How long has it been this way?" I asked.

"Not long. Two days, maybe three," he replied. "It's nothing to worry about."

"Lie back. Let me see the wound."

"No! Anna, the scar is horrible. I can barely look at it myself."

"I doubt that it is the worst shrapnel injury I have seen. Take off your trousers and let me see." I commanded.

Erich did as he was told. I turned my back as he shed his trousers and covered himself with the coverlet. When he was ready, I studied the wound. Shrapnel had ripped through his left thigh, leaving a deeply pitted scar. The scar itself was deep, rough, burgundy, and all around it the skin was ruddy and irritated. He watched me anxiously as I gently touched the tips of my fingers to his quadriceps. He flinched as I ran my fingers down the thigh to his knee, shin, ankle, and finally the arch of his foot. His skin was hot, but his muscles were firm, and he had no abscess.

"Thank God," I breathed. "It's just a fever."

"I told you," he teased, "What a thing to panic over."

"But there is an infection. That's what caused the fever. I am worried that it will become worse if we don't treat the wound."

I rose from the bed and began to search the room for a clean piece of old linen. Next, I took the water that had been boiling on the stove for washing dishes and poured it into an earthen bowl. Draping a thick piece of flannel over the side of the bowl, I set it on the floor beside the bed. Ripping the old linen into long strips, I rolled them and set them next to the hot water.

"Have you got any whiskey?" I asked, remembering the flask he had carried with him from the train station.

"Yes, in my coat pocket."

Once I had retrieved the flask, I added it to my collection of makeshift nursing equipment. I picked up the bowl of hot water and held it in my lap as I sat beside Erich on the bed. Very softly, I began to bathe his wound in the scalding water. He pursed his lips and breathed calmly as the cloth made contact with his thigh. When the water began to turn cold, I set the bowl down and picked up the flask. Dousing the flannel in alcohol, I then pressed it against his wound. He braced himself against the burning sting of the antiseptic—gritting his teeth and holding tightly to the bedstead. After a few more moments, I removed the cloth, picked up the strips of linen, and snugly wound them around his leg.

"The bandage will need to be changed every few hours," I said, standing to clear away the additional bandages.

I set the bowl of water, flask, and linens on the kitchen table, and then washed my hands. Behind me, he drew up his trousers, fastened them, and then propped himself against the headboard. Crossing the room once again, I blew out the candle and perched on the edge of the bed to remove my own shoes. As I did so, I felt his hand lingering at my back. When I finally turned toward him again, he reached out to me with both arms. I nestled into his embrace and laid my head on his shoulder. We fell asleep there, quietly listening to each other breathe in the darkness.When Erich had finished the last of the cleaning, he draped his dishrag over a line strung across the stove. He picked up a candle from the tabletop, and extinguishing the others, crossed the room. Placing it on the windowsill above the bedstead, he sat beside me and began to remove his shoes. I had been exhausted when I first sat down, but now the proximity of his body set my heart pounding. I glanced down at his hands. He was in the midst of heaving off his right boot. I admired the girth of his calf muscle, and closed my eyes imagining how he would react if I caressed it. Just then, he gasped audibly, and I looked to see that he could not bend his other leg enough to grasp the boot.

"I'll do it," I said, as I slid from the mattress to the floor in front of his feet.

Gingerly, I took hold of the heel and toe of the boot and pulled it off. His sock slid off as well, exposing his skin. I saw for the first time that his foot was swollen. He winced at my touch. Rolling up the leg of his trousers, I found the rest of his leg to be angry red, inflamed, and hot to the touch. My hand began to tremble. This was reminiscent of my days in the hospital. I had seen too many young men perish in this war because infection, not weapons, posed a more imminent threat to their lives. I would not stand by to witness another death. He groaned, and I looked into his eyes, seeing in them a pain that had been unmasked.

"This looks like an infection. How long has it been this way?" I asked.

"Not long. Two days, maybe three," he replied. "It's nothing to worry about."

"Lie back. Let me see the wound."

"No! Anna, the scar is horrible. I can barely look at it myself."

"I doubt that it is the worst shrapnel injury I have seen. Take off your trousers and let me see." I commanded.

Erich did as he was told. I turned my back as he shed his trousers and covered himself with the coverlet. When he was ready, I studied the wound. Shrapnel had ripped through his left thigh, leaving a deeply pitted scar. The scar itself was deep, rough, burgundy, and all around it the skin was ruddy and irritated. He watched me anxiously as I gently touched the tips of my fingers to his quadriceps. He flinched as I ran my fingers down the thigh to his knee, shin, ankle, and finally the arch of his foot. His skin was hot, but his muscles were firm, and he had no abscess.

"Thank God," I breathed. "It's just a fever."

"I told you," he teased, "What a thing to panic over."

"But there is an infection. That's what caused the fever. I am worried that it will become worse if we don't treat the wound."

I rose from the bed and began to search the room for a clean piece of old linen. Next, I took the water that had been boiling on the stove for washing dishes and poured it into an earthen bowl. Draping a thick piece of flannel over the side of the bowl, I set it on the floor beside the bed. Ripping the old linen into long strips, I rolled them and set them next to the hot water.

"Have you got any whiskey?" I asked, remembering the flask he had carried with him from the train station.

"Yes, in my coat pocket."

Once I had retrieved the flask, I added it to my collection of makeshift nursing equipment. I picked up the bowl of hot water and held it in my lap as I sat beside Erich on the bed. Very softly, I began to bathe his wound in the scalding water. He pursed his lips and breathed calmly as the cloth made contact with his thigh. When the water began to turn cold, I set the bowl down and picked up the flask. Dousing the flannel in alcohol, I then pressed it against his wound. He braced himself against the burning sting of the antiseptic—gritting his teeth and holding tightly to the bedstead. After a few more moments, I removed the cloth, picked up the strips of linen, and snugly wound them around his leg.

"The bandage will need to be changed every few hours," I said, standing to clear away the additional bandages.

I set the bowl of water, flask, and linens on the kitchen table, and then washed my hands. Behind me, he drew up his trousers, fastened them, and then propped himself against the headboard. Crossing the room once again, I blew out the candle and perched on the edge of the bed to remove my own shoes. As I did so, I felt his hand lingering at my back. When I finally turned toward him again, he reached out to me with both arms. I nestled into his embrace and laid my head on his shoulder. We fell asleep there, quietly listening to each other breathe in the darkness.

torn   war  

Jun 13, 2018 in romance

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