Chapter Seven is now here! Enjoy *bows out*
The doctor’s tone carried a note of finality. “You’re a German.”
He glared at me. Then he reached down and grabbed my shirt front in one vicious move. He dragged me out of bed, clamping his hand over my mouth and ignoring my muffled cries of pain. Pain flooded my head as he forced me into the examining room, where he slammed the door and threw me onto the floor.
“Who are you?” he demanded. “What is your name?”
I was trembling, but through dry lips I forced out the first English words I had ever spoken.
“My name is Wolfe Verick.”
“And you’re German,” he whispered fiercely. “I heard you speaking German when you were asleep. Deny it!”
I shook my head, deciding denial would get me nowhere. “Ja, I am German.”
Dr Roberts appeared surprised by my ready confession. “I cannot decide if you are brave or stupid.” He told me. “If only you’d been sensible. You are too young to die, Wolfe Verick.”
“Doctor,” I choked out, tears forming a hard lump in my throat. “Doctor, I never meant to be here. I never wanted this war. I never wanted to kill boys like me. I’m not a spy or an assassin. I’m just a boy from Germany who wants to go home. Please, please, please, Doctor, I want to go home. Can’t you understand that?” That was what I tried to say, anyway, but between sobbing and bad English, it was a wonder Dr Roberts understood any of it.
As he watched me, Dr Roberts’ face softened, compassion replacing the anger. He hesitated, then reached down and helped me up, allowing me to sit on the table. “Yes, I do understand. I’m no Hun-hater, Wolfe, and I certainly don’t go around handing out white feathers. I’m not for this war at all. But you must understand, I’m a not traitor to my country either.” He paused, then cast his gaze toward the window. “Half the army is out there, scouring the countryside for you.” In a now familiar gesture, Dr Roberts ran one hand through his hair and took off his glasses. “And you’re right here. Right here in my hospital. What I am I to do?” He stared at his glasses, his face haggard.
My sobbing subsided, and I looked up at the doctor, but I remained silent. “You’re just a boy,” Dr Roberts said, shaking his head. “But you are also an enemy of our country. Oh, why did this fall on me?” He buried his head in his hands, raking his long, skilful fingers through his dark hair. For the first time, I saw the strong doctor defeated.
I watched his despair for several minutes, then he sat up and stared me in the eyes. “There is only one thing to do.” He said. “Pray to our Father in Heaven. We will seek guidance from Him.” He took a deep breath and knelt down in front of me. “Dear Father, Wolfe Verick and I come before you now at our wits’ ends, with nowhere else to turn, but to You. You know every deep and secret thought, You know the hairs on our head. Please give me guidance, give Wolfe courage to face what he doesn’t wish to face. Show us what to do. Give us wisdom. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.”
“Amen,” I whispered, then I looked up.
“You will not tell anyone?” I asked anxiously.
The doctor shook his head. “For now, I won’t.” he said. “Later on, we will see.”
What was I supposed to do now? In the morning light, I sat on my bed and pondered this, turning the problem over and over in my head. But the only conclusion I could come to was to allow the doctor to turn me in. Or to turn myself in. In both cases, I needed a plan to protect Simeon.
The sound of footsteps interrupted me. Immediately, I recognised the pace as the sound of a man who knows what he must do and will take on anything to do it. A moment later, Simeon strode into the ward, decked out in parade uniform, newspaper in one hand. His expression was set.
He halted at the end of my bed, then turned to Nurse Carter. “Alan and I are going for a walk.” His tone was cutting and he startled Ella with his harshness.
She hesitated for a moment. Then she gathered herself and smiled at him. “Of course. His ankle is much better, but I’ll go get his crutches.”
When she returned, she helped me out of bed, whilst Simeon stood looking on. Then he herded me into the garden.
As soon as were out of earshot, Simeon rounded on me. “It’s your gun!” he exploded as loud as he dared. He flicked the newspaper in my face, his rage barely held back. “It’s your gun! Why did you leave it there?” He unrolled the paper and showed me the same picture I’d seen yesterday—that of my Luger pistol.
“I didn’t mean to,” I protested. “You know I wouldn’t have done such a stupid thing on purpose. I didn’t know I’d left it in the woods. I assumed it went in the plane with everything else.” I clenched my hand and met his eye.
Simeon’s eyes sparked, then he backed down. “I’m sorry,” he said, taking off his khaki peaked cap and rubbing his combed hair. “I shouldn’t lose my temper. Won’t help anything.”
“You’re forgiven,” I told him. “But there’s something I need to tell you.”
Simeon stiffened. “I won’t like this.”
I shook my head, then I explained Dr Roberts’ discovery of my real name and nationality.
Simeon went pale as I spoke. “If he turns you in, the whole plot is going to become far too obvious.” He frowned at his cap. “Far too obvious.”
I watched him, feeling despair and anger mingle in my heart. Why had I dragged Simeon into all this? He had a life to live, a family that loved him, a career to chase, so many years left. What did the life of a nineteen-year-old German soldier matter anyway?
“We need to escape tonight. I’ll make sure the smuggler is ready. We need to go, before that doctor has a chance to report us.” With those words, Simeon jammed his cap back on his head and grinned.
“No…” I protested, though my voice sounded weak and faint. “Why don’t you turn me in? Then you’ll be a hero instead of traitor. I’m just a gunner, they’ve already replaced me. My mother will cry, but no one else. Take me in and…and…” I waved my hands, unable to express myself in words. “I can’t even walk.”
He looked at me in astonishment, as if he’d never even considered the idea. “Wolfe,” he said, addressing me by my real name, his usual gruffness gone. “No one forced me to help you. You didn’t order me to come up with this scheme. I chose to, and I knew my life would be at risk if I did. Friends don’t betray each other. We will do this together.”
I blinked, and then for the second time in twelve hours, I began to cry.
Simeon’s brisk manner returned. “We need to go now. We need to leave the hospital grounds and get to the docks. We can take a cab there, so you won’t have to walk. If we play this right, you’ll be in France by the time that doctor raises the alarm.” He clapped me on the shoulder. “We’re both wanted men now.”
I tried to smile as I rubbed my eyes. “Fantastisch.”
Simeon opened his mouth, but then froze as a voice called out, “Mr Simeon! Alan!”
He closed his eyes, exasperation flickering over his face. Then he grabbed the corner of my shirt and dragged me down with him behind a thick magnolia bush.
I ended up lying with my nose full of leaf and I wanted to sneeze. It struck me as ironic as I remembered the last time I’d felt such a desire to sneeze. That time I’d been hiding from the English soldiers in the woods. Now I was hiding from an English nurse in a garden.
Through the foliage, Ella’s figure appeared. Twisting my neck, I peered through the leaves and saw a look of puzzlement flicker across her face. “Alan!” she called out again.
In that instant, I felt something I’d never felt before. A deep, irrepressible longing to stand up and speak to her. Speak to Ella and tell her about my lies. I couldn’t name the feeling that welled up inside me, but it took total control of my body. Without thinking, I rose and half-walking, half-hopping, I approached her. “Nurse Carter! Ella!” I called out.
In the back of my mind I heard Simeon’s desperate hissing. “Wolfe! Wolfe, come back! Wolfe, you fool!”
She spun around, her face blank with surprise. Her eyes widened as she listened to me, I was speaking to her and she had no idea how to react.
“Ella!” I called out again. Her blank looked turned to a look of horror as I spoke. Before she could run or scream caught her by the arm. “Please don’t go,” I whispered in my awful English. “I need to tell you something.”
She stared at me, fear obvious in her eyes. “Where is Mr Simeon?” She was trembling.
I felt my heart breaking, but I needed to tell her. She needed to know. “I’m German. A Hun.”
“Don’t say that!” She cried. “Alan, you are no such thing.” But her face was ashen and I thought she might faint.
“I’m sorry,” I told her. “I wanted to say goodbye. And…” I paused, unsure of how to say what I wanted to say most in the world right then. “Thank you for caring for me. And…I’ve come to care very much about you too.” I added with a desperate, guilty tug at my heart. “Please forgive me.”
Ella’s face hardened. “You lied, Alan. You lied to me, to Dr Roberts, to the king, Alan! Why did you lie?”
I stared into her deep brown eyes, trying to lose myself in them as I’d done before. But her eyes were whirlpools of fear and anger, mingling together and denying me access. “I could hardly tell you the truth.”
She said nothing to that.
“Goodbye, Ella,” I whispered.
She gripped my hand and looked into my face. “Goodbye, Alan.”
I hesitated, wishing with all my heart that I could stay here forever. I wished I could love her. In that moment, I was struck with the conviction that there was no one like Ella Carter in all the world and I would never be happy again.
“If this war ever ends…”
I harsh shout interrupted me. “Verick! Wolfe Verick!”
I spun around to see Dr Roberts striding across the grass. “Verick!” he barked, “Get away from her!”
Ella stumbled away from me, snatching her hand out of mine.
I didn’t move, staring at the doctor, who’d seemed to have grown taller and more foreboding.
“Give yourself up, Verick,” He murmured, halting. “I’ve grown very fond of you over the last month and I’ve told you—nineteen is too young to die.”
“I don’t want to get shot!” I cried out, surprising myself.
Dr Roberts raked his hand through his hair. “Verick, I’ll vouch for you. They won’t shoot you. We treat our prisoners well. I’ll convince them to let you work for me. They’ll listen, I know they will. You’re an honest, hardworking lad and—”
“Nein!” I shook my head. “I can’t. I can’t!” I drew a shuddering breath, then I turned on my heel and began to limp away, leaning on my crutch.
From behind the bush, Simeon stood, strode over to me and put his arm around my shoulder. He didn’t glance back, but leant down and hissed in my ear, “Whatever possessed you to do that?”
“I don’t know.”
I was expecting Dr Roberts to raise the alarm and bring the hospital staff running. But when I took one last glance over my shoulder, I saw him standing stock-still, Elaine Carter beside him. Watching me flee.
And I saw the sun glinting on tears running down Ella’s cheeks.
How’s things going for you folks? Was this chapter too sentimental for you? (Rereading it, it’s too sentimental for me). What do you think will happen next?