The Girl Who Cried War
Author: coritherien

Chapter 10
Haunting

May 8th, 2008

“Hey, Bucko, you awake?” 

No, I hadn’t been awake.  I had been dreaming, like I always dreamt nowadays, of that girl whose name escaped me.  Mahogany hair masked part of her face, but I could always see piercing green eyes staring back at me, laughter etched in them deeply.  Sunlight basked over her as she twirled, carefree and happy, and a twinkling little giggle sounded in my ears’ memory. 

So, no, I hadn’t been awake.  But a shout like that was impossible to sleep through. 

I groaned, rolling over to face Billy, clapping a hand to my pounding head.  “No,” I murmured.

“’Course you are!” he exclaimed.  “It’s time for some grub, Bucko, look alive.”

That accursed nickname was going to be the death of me.  He’d given it to me when I told him I didn’t remember my name and now, it was all I heard.  I struggled to sit up—I felt no pain, but the wrappings on the burns made every move difficult to maneuver.  Doctors came by most every day and surveyed the steadily healing damage, but I could never understand any of what they said.

A nurse dropped a half-wrapped sandwich unceremoniously on my lap, and tossed one to Billy.  Bedside manner was foreign to her.   I peeled back the wax wrappings and found what appeared to be some sort of chicken salad between two buns.  I knew I should eat, but frankly, it looked appalling and my appetite just wasn’t what it used to be.

Or, what I assumed it used to be.  I couldn’t remember. 

“Bucko, you going to eat that?” Billy choked out through a mouthful of food.

I looked at him and shook my head.  I actually envied how carefree he seemed to be.  I tossed him my sandwich and rested back against my pancake-flat pillow.  Billy caught it in the crook of his arm and gobbled the remains of the first sandwich.  I looked at him now, wondering what he was in the ward for, and it struck me that I had no clue. 

“Billy,” I called.

He didn’t even look up from his lunch.  “What?” he muttered, the sound muffled. 

“What’s wrong with you?”  He turned to me, unsure of what I meant.  “How are you hurt?  Why are you in the ward?” I amended. 

He nodded, scarfed down the second sandwich, and began to speak before he even swallowed.  “Got caught in military crossfire a while back,” he murmured, wiping his hands clean of residue.  He threw the thin sheets off his legs to reveal a bandaged left leg that I hadn’t seen before.  “Shot in the knee.  Docs have put me mostly to rights.  Just hard to walk yet, that’s all.  I think I’m taking up space more than anything, but I got no where else to go.”

I nodded.  “What were you doing here originally?  Were you military?” 

He shook his head.  “Ain’t even close to being disciplined enough for that.  Nah, I was touring this part of the world and I guess I just got wrapped up in the culture.  Didn’t take the ‘danger, war zone’ stuff seriously enough.”

“So you don’t have a family, then?  No one to go home to?”

He shook his head and, for the first time, I caught something of a morose glimmer in his otherwise jolly eyes.  “Wouldn’t even know a place to actually call ‘home’.” 

For a minute, my heart ached for him.  What a sad life, I thought.  Then it occurred to me that I could very well be in the same boat. 

He laughed then, trying his best to lighten the mood.  “Enough about me.  What about you, you got a family to go back to?”

I rolled my eyes.  He did this quite often.  “You know I don’t remember, Billy.”

He marveled at me, like he still couldn’t believe my memory loss.  “And you still don’t remember why you’re in Iraq?  No memories at all?”

“Nothing,” I muttered.  “Well…you know, except the girl I’ve been seeing.”

He raised an eyebrow suggestively.  “That one from the dream?” 

I scoffed at him, but I could feel my cheeks redden.  “You know it’s nothing obscene, I’ve told you,” I said sharply.  My tone softened when I added, “Anyway, who’s to say she’s even real?  I’m probably just imagining her.  She may not be a memory at all.”

“You don’t believe that,” he argued.  “And I don’t either.  No way you’d have the exact same dream every damn time if there wasn’t some truth to it.  No goddamn way.” 

In the back of my mind, I knew that was true, and the memory of her face surfaced once more.  She was the only sliver of myself I had to go on.  A split second of utter happiness from what seemed like a lifetime ago and I hadn’t a damn clue who she was. 

 

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