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France, Summer 1918
I thought of you and where you'd gone879Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡAgwD3jWDno
And let the world spin madly on
“Yellow like mustard. Orange like marmalade. Red like poppies.”
“And what’s the sky like?”
“Sounds like a painting.”
The Australian lifts a broad shoulder in a half shrug. His narrowed eyes to the sunset, he caresses the clean skin on his dimpled chin. He glances through the open flaps of the tent, "And your home, Yank? What do you remember?”
A cascade of the remaining suds disturbs the dry dirt beside the Anzac’s stool. She emerges, wiping the razor clean with her apron. Peering across the sparse field to the French horizon, she sees somewhere else.
“Water,” she breathes, “In all forms, really. Ocean, rain, fog and snow for months.”
The girl’s concentration breaks with a faint smile, “Sometimes we see the first flurries in October and the last of the banks don’t melt until April.”
She drags over an empty crate and sits a few feet from him. Mindlessly, she runs a thumb down the clean edge of the blade.
“Careful. You’ll slit your finger open.” The pilot holds out a palm.
She returns the straight blade. He snaps it closed and tucks it into his khaki shirt pocket. His knuckles trail down his jawline thoughtfully, “Thank you. For finishing it up for me. I don’t know what came over me earlier-“
“Don’t trouble yourself, Lieutenant. You’re just tired.”
Rising to his feet, he takes a few steps into the brown summer grass, his arms hanging at his sides. She studies him, her hands folded in her lap.
“I wanted to apologize for how I acted when we first met, Nurse Halloway.”
“You can call me Annie, Lieutenant.”
He rubs the back of his sunburned neck, “I suppose you should call me Charlie then.”
“There is no need for you to apologize,” she waves a hand dismissively, “Tell me more about your home.”
“I can barely remember now. It’s been years.”
“Surely there is more to say.”
The pilot threads his fingers through his hair, grey eyes like hawk’s feathers. He is all restless motion and activity. The energy hums under his thick hide like electricity. It isn’t a wonder he is such a good pilot.
“The dust storms. After many months without rain, they rise up like bloody monsters and overwhelm the horizon. There is no breathing, no seeing, just the sand. Like diving into the ocean at your home.”
“I’m sorry about your friend.”
The statement is unexpected and yet was begging to be said long before Charlie ventured into the territory. A sharp exhale of breath leaves the girl’s thin lips as though she’s been stabbed between the shoulder blades.
“I remember it.”
The pilot peers over at the nurse. Still like the waters of an oasis, her folded hands are pale against her periwinkle skirts. Her posture tenses as she meets his eyes without hesitation.
“I thought you hit your head-“
“That’s what I wanted them to think so I wouldn’t have to-“ her mouth hangs open and her gaze grows distant, “A self-induced case of amnesia.”
His eyes cut away to the ground, “You don’t have to talk about it, Annie. I understand.”
Annie shoots up from her seat, her chin raised and face placid, “Do you know the myth of the Halcyon days?”
He shakes his head.
“A man went to sea and there was a terrible storm. The ship was lost and before he drowned, he prayed that the gods would return his body to his wife. The gods came in a dream to the sleeping woman and she woke knowing that she would never see her man again.” Annie smooths out the wrinkles in her apron, “She goes to the cliffs and casts herself off. Before she hits the water, the gods take pity on the both of them. They are turned into Kingfishers. It’s a type of bird. The Halcyon days are a time in winter when the seas are calm.”
“Why didn’t the gods just save the both of them in their human forms?” Charlie can’t help asking.
They avoid each other’s eyes. They watch the sun till it is merely a ghost in the west.
“I can’t even remember what peace feels like anymore,” Annie comments, an owl calling out the twilight, “More amnesia.”
“I don’t want to remember. Things will never be as they were before so what’s the point in wishing them into being,” Charlie spits into the dust.
Her head is throbbing. With the calm fingers of a war weary nurse, Annie unpins her cap. Folds of hair fall and tremble around her shoulders. The pressure in her temples fades slightly but the fatigue remains in her eyes. She feels ancient, her movements geriatric as she approaches the pilot.
“He was your friend too.” Annie hooks arms with him, “I’m sorry.”
“He survives months of hell at Gallipoli and manages to get himself shot down on a blue sky day in June.” Charlie scoffs, “Damn.”
“Damn,” she repeats.
“You were in love with him, weren’t you?”
“The Halcyon days are in January. Do you know how cold the water is then?”
She rests her chin on his shoulder, “So cold it feels like you’re being burned alive. So cold you never forget it.”
“I’m sending his things home to him. A few last letters to his family that he never got out.”
“I have two of his books still. Tell me before you package everything up.”
“Don’t you want to keep them? To remember him by?”
“His wife would probably like them back.”
He trades his weight from one foot to the other. He wets his dry lips and chastely presses them to the crown of her naked head.
“The war will be over soon, Annie,” he pats her hand, “I’m sure of it. The Halcyon days will come again soon.”
“Yes, they will,” she repeats.
The whole world is moving879Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡVfAgPiSerW
and I'm standing still
879Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡvLI3uU1xMyns 188.8.131.52da2