Passion, p.8
Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font       Night Mode Off   Night Mode

       Passion, p.8

         Part #3 of Fallen series by Lauren Kate
 
Page 8

 

  She glanced apologetically at the soldier, took a deep breath, and hopped up.

  When she was seated on the tiny stool, he handed up the jug of water and the box of gauze and bandages. He started to shut the door.

  Wait, Luce whispered. What do I do?

  The man paused. You know how long the ride to Milan is. Dress their wounds and keep them comfortable. Do the best you can.

  The door slammed with Luce on it. She had to grip the stool to keep from falling off and landing on the soldier at her feet. The ambulance was stifling hot. It smelled terrible. The only light came from a small lantern hanging from a nail in the corner. The only window was directly behind her head on the inside of the door. She didnt know what had happened to Giovanni, the boy with the bullet in his stomach. Whether shed ever see him again. Whether hed live through the night.

  The engine started up. The ambulance shifted into gear and lurched forward. The soldier on one of the top slings began to moan.

  After theyd reached a steady speed, Luce heard the pattering sound of a leak. Something was dripping. She leaned forward on the stool, squinting in the dim lantern light.

  It was the blood of the soldier on the top bunk dripping through the woven sling onto the soldier in the middle bunk. The middle soldiers eyes were open. He was watching the blood fall on his chest, but he was injured so badly that he couldnt move away. He didnt make a sound. Not until the trickle of blood turned into a stream.

  Luce whimpered along with the soldier. She started to rise from her stool, but there was no place for her to stand unless she straddled the soldier on the floor. Carefully, she wedged her feet around his chest. As the ambulance shuddered along the bumpy dirt road, she gripped the taut canvas of the top sling and held a fistful of gauze against its bottom. The blood soaked through onto her fingers within seconds.

  Help! she called to the ambulance driver. She didnt know if hed even be able to hear her.

  What is it? The driver had a thick regional accent.

  This man back here--hes hemorrhaging. I think hes dying.

  Were all dying, gorgeous, the driver said. Really, he was flirting with her now? A second later, he turned around, glancing at her through the opening behind the drivers seat. Look, Im sorry. But theres nothing to do. Ive gotta get the rest of these guys to the hospital.

  He was right. It was already too late. When Luce took her hand away from under the stretcher, the blood began to gush again. So heavily it didnt seem possible.

  Luce had no words of comfort for the boy in the middle sling, whose eyes were wide and petrified and whose lips whispered a furious Ave Maria. The stream of the other boys blood dripped down his sides, pooling in the space where his hips met the sling.

  Luce wanted to close her eyes and disappear. She wanted to sift through the shadows cast by the lantern, to find an Announcer that would take her somewhere else. Anywhere else.

  Like the beach on the rocks below Shorelines campus. Where Daniel had taken her dancing on the ocean, under the stars. Or the pristine swimming hole shed glimpsed the two of them ping into, when shed worn the yellow bathing suit. She would have taken Sword & Cross over this ambulance, even the roughest moments, like the night shed gone to meet Cam at that bar. Like when shed kissed him. She would even have taken Moscow. This was worse. Shed never faced anything like this before.

  Except--

  Of course she had. She must already have lived through something almost exactly like this. It was why shed ended up here. Somewhere in this war-torn world was the girl who died and came back to life and went on to become her. She was certain of it. She must have dressed wounds and carried water and suppressed the urge to vomit. It gave Luce strength to think about the girl whod lived through this before.

  The stream of blood began to trickle, then became a very slow drip. The boy beneath had fainted, so Luce watched silently by herself for a long time. Until the dripping stopped completely.

  Then she reached for a towel and the water and began to wash the soldier in the middle bunk. It had been a while since hed had a bath. Luce washed him gently and changed the bandage around his head. When he came to, she gave him sips of water. His breathing evened, and he stopped staring up at the sling above him in terror. He seemed to grow more comfortable.

  All of the soldiers seemed to find some comfort as she tended to them, even the one in the middle of the floor, who never opened his eyes. She cleaned the face of the boy in the top bunk who had died. She couldnt explain why. She wanted him to be more at peace, too.

  It was impossible to tell how much time had passed. All Luce knew was that it was dark and rank and her back ached and her throat was parched and she was exhausted--and she was better off than any of the men surrounding her.

  Shed left the soldier on the bottom left-hand stretcher until last. Hed been hit badly in the neck, and Luce was worried that he would lose even more blood if she tried to re-dress the wound. She did the best she could, sitting on the side of his sling and sponging down his grimy face, washing some of the blood out of his blond hair. He was handsome under all the mud. Very handsome. But she was distracted by his neck, which was still bleeding through the gauze. Every time she even got near it, he cried out in pain.

  Dont worry, she whispered. Youre going to make it.

  I know. His whisper came so quietly, and sounded so impossibly sad, that Luce wasnt sure shed heard him right. Until then, shed thought he was unconscious, but something in her voice seemed to reach him.

  His eyelids fluttered. Then, slowly, they opened.

  They were violet.

  The jug of water fell from her hands.

  Daniel.

  Her instinct was to crawl in next to him and cover his lips with kisses, to pretend he wasnt as badly wounded as he was.

  At the sight of her, Daniels eyes widened and he started to sit up. But then the blood began to flow from his neck again and his face drained of all its color. Luce had no choice but to restrain him.

  "Shhh. " She pressed his shoulders back against the stretcher, trying to get him to relax.

  He squirmed under her grip. Every time he did, bright new blood bloomed through the bandage. Daniel, you have to stop fighting, she begged. Please stop fighting. For me.

  They locked eyes for a long, intense moment--and then the ambulance came to an abrupt stop. The back door swung open. A shocking breath of fresh air flowed in. The streets outside were quiet, but the place had the feel of a big city, even in the middle of the night.

  Milan. That was where the soldier had said they were going when he assigned her to this ambulance. They must be at a hospital in Milan.

  Two men in army uniforms appeared at the doors and began sliding the stretchers out with quick precision. Within minutes, the wounded were placed on rolling carts and wheeled off. The men pushed Luce out of the way so they could ease out Daniels stretcher. His eyelids were fluttering again, and she thought he reached out his hand for her. She watched from the back of the ambulance until he disappeared from sight. Then she began to tremble.

  Are you all right? A girl popped her head inside. She was fresh and pretty, with a small red mouth and long dark hair pulled into a low twist. Her nurses dress was more fitted than the one Luce was wearing and so white and clean it made Luce aware of how bloody and muddy she was.

  Luce hopped to her feet. She felt like shed been caught doing something embarrassing.

  Im fine, she said quickly. I just--

  You dont have to explain, the girl said. Her face fell as she looked around the inside of the ambulance. I can tell, it was a bad one.

  Luce stared as the girl heaved a bucket of water into the ambulance, then hoisted herself inside. She got to work immediately, scrubbing down the bloodied slings, mopping the floor, sending waves of red-tinged water out the back door. She replaced the soiled linens in the cabinet with clean ones and added more gas to the lantern. She couldnt have been older than thirteen.
r />
  Luce stood up to help, but the girl waved her off. Sit down. Rest. You just got transferred here, didnt you?

  Hesitantly, Luce nodded.

  Were you all alone coming from the front? The girl stopped cleaning for a moment, and when she looked at Luce, her hazel eyes brimmed with compassion.

  Luce started to reply, but her mouth was so dry she couldnt speak. How had it taken her this long to recognize that she was looking at herself?

  I was, she managed to whisper. I was all alone.

  The girl smiled. Well, youre not anymore. Theres a bunch of us here at the hospital. Weve got all the nicest nurses. And the handsomest patients. You wont mind it, I dont think. She started to extend her hand but then looked down and realized how dirty it was. She giggled and picked up her mop again. Im Lucia.

  I know, Luce stopped herself from saying. Im--

  Her mind went blank. She tried to think of one name, any name that would work. Im Doree-- Doria, she finally said. Almost her mothers name. Do you know--where do they take the soldiers who were in here?

  Uh-oh. Youre not already in love with one of them, are you? Lucia teased. New patients get taken to the east ward for vitals.

  The east ward, Luce repeated to herself.

  But you should go see Miss Fiero at the nurses station. She does the registration and the scheduling--Lucia giggled again and lowered her voice, leaning toward Luce--and the doctor, on Tuesday afternoons!

  All Luce could do was stare at Lucia. Up close, her past self was so real, so alive, so very much the kind of girl Luce would have befriended instantly if the circumstances had been any shade of normal. She wanted to reach out and hug Lucia, but she was overcome by an indescribable fear. Shed cleaned the wounds of seven half-dead soldiers--including the love of her life--but she was unsure what to do when it came to Lucia. The girl seemed too young to know any of the secrets Luce was searching for-- about the curse, about the Outcasts. Luce feared shed only frighten Lucia if she started talking about reincarnation and Heaven. There was something about Lucias eyes, something about her innocence-- Luce realized that Lucia knew even less than she did.

  She stepped down from the ambulance and backed away.

  It was nice to meet you, Doria, Lucia called.

  But Luce was already gone.

  It took six wrong rooms, three startled soldiers, and one toppled-over medicine cabinet before Luce found him.

  Daniel was sharing a room in the east ward with two other soldiers. One was a silent man whose entire face had been bandaged. The other was snoring loudly, a bottle of whiskey not very well hidden under his pillow, two broken legs raised in a sling.

  The room itself was bare and sterile, but it had a window that looked out onto a broad city avenue lined with orange trees.

  Standing over his bed, watching him sleep, Luce could see it. The way their love would have bloomed here. She could see Lucia coming in to bring Daniel his meals, him opening up to her slowly. The pair being inseparable by the time Daniel recovered. And it made her feel jealous and guilty and confused because she couldnt tell right now whether their love was a beautiful thing, or whether this was yet another instance of how very wrong it was.

  If she was so young when they met, they must have had a long relationship in this life. She would have gotten to spend years with him before it happened. Before she died and was reincarnated into another life completely. She must have thought theyd spend forever together--and must not even have known how long forever meant.

  But Daniel knew. He always knew.

 

Turn Navi Off
Turn Navi On
Scroll Up
Scroll