I hated having to wince, which made everything around me seem a bit warped. Determined not to limp, I could now advance almost without aching. But the burden I carried kept pressing me down, and the first steps up the stairs were the most difficult. Cold drops of sweat formed on my forehead. Some of them started running down my face and into my eyes, stinging them.
I dragged myself up, somehow, with Ed laden on my back, his arms slung limply over my shoulders, his blood oozing around my neck.
“Quick,” said the nurse. “Get in!”
Wrapped in a starched, white cotton apron over a blue-and-white pinstriped dress, her waist was rather plump—but even so, a sense of urgency kept her surprisingly light on her feet. She rushed in to set the bundle down and hold the entrance door open for us.
Gritting my teeth, I carried him inside, into the hall.
“Easy now,” said the nurse, as we lowered the unconscious man onto a gurney. The woolen red cross on her armband became smeared, at once, by a fresh spurt of blood.
I laid him down and just stood there over him, panting.
“German snipers?” she asked, while examining the bullet hole in his shoulder.
“Yes,” I said. “On our way to the bridge, we went through the wooded park, hoping not to be noticed, and then... Then he got hit.”
“Oui! This place, it is supposed to be safe,” she said. “We hope to be protected from the bombing by the large red cross, which is painted up there, on the roof, but still... Still, they shoot today on us.”
I removed his helmet, as gently as I could, and was relieved to hear him utter a groan. Any sound was better than silence.
At once, the nurse started to wheel him away. “You stay here,” she said, over her shoulder. “I take him now.”
“Where else? The maternity ward.”
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