Jack walked solemnly back to his office. What was to become of him now? Surely his secret would be spilled and he'd be forced back to the lines, or worse, to jail. He knew very well that his secret would not be safe with Maggie Lawton. For though it was apparent that his mother had been swayed by the vain little beauty, he still knew better. Perhaps if she were always the humble, concerned, quiet patient, maybe he'd feel more comfortable.
Once in his office, he closed the door and collapsed in his chair, unsure of what to do with himself. He was far too distracted for rounds, and his most needy patient was no longer needy. She would be completely recovered in a few weeks, and he couldn't see her even if she remained unwell. The more often he visited, the more chances there were of her calling him by the wrong name.
"Did you do it?" A voice pierced the silence, Jack spun around, thankful to see Teddy making himself comfortable in his other chair.
"And how did she take it?" Teddy joked, taking a bite out of an apple as he put his feet up on Jack's desk.
"Not well. Though she managed to stay quiet, I could tell she was angry. She wanted to write to my mother and tell her I'm alive."
"Well she can't! Did you tell her she can't?"
"Of course I did!" Jack shouted. "But that does not mean she won't. We both know how ridiculous and selfish she is, and I seem to remember her being quite a gossip."
"You know I never thought she was that bad. And, I can't believe she would risk your safety, and the health of all these men." Teddy commented without hesitation. Jack should have known, Teddy always took Maggie's side whenever a letter came.
"I doubt that. She doesn't care about anyone but herself." Jack sighed. He should have insisted upon a transfer the moment he found her! He knew she couldn't be trusted.
"Did she mention what she was doing in that hospital? Seems rather odd for her to be working in a field hospital so close to battle lines. Especially if she's the spoiled girl you've painted such a clear picture of."
"Apparently, she joined the nurse corpse…"
"Well of course she did, we found her in a uniform. But why did she join?"
"I'm certain it had something to do with her quest for a good time and constant entertainment."
"There is nothing about war that's entertaining." Teddy said, looking unhappy. "There's no talking to you! You've always had a horrible opinion of her, and apparently not even surviving a bombing will change your opinion. It will do you well to be kind to her. I'm sure if you're cruel she'll be a great deal more tempted to tell your secret. And don't forget how concerned she is over her friend Petia. A selfish and cruel London princess would never care so much."
Jack couldn't help but be affected by his friend's words. Why did she care so much about her friends if she was still the same selfish brat he had left in London? Jack had watched her humiliate and ignore those she considered friends in London at least a hundred times. Why were these girls different? And why had she joined the Corpse? Nothing seemed to make sense, but he wouldn't waste his time thinking about it. The only thing about Maggie Lawton that he was interested in was her silence.
"There will be no need for me to be cruel or kind. I told her that we should not see much of each other, that it would be easier to stay quiet that way."
"I have a lot of respect for you Jack, you know I always will. But you're being too harsh on her. I also know that despite your shameless opinion of her, that you enjoyed taking care of her. I've come to believe that people can change, and I think having Maggie Lawton in this hospital might teach you just that."
"I hope you're right about her, because if you're not, I will find myself in a world of trouble."
The next few days passed and Jack felt as though he was walking on eggshells. Turning corners made him anxious, and he avoided Maggie's wing at all cost. He was even avoiding the wing where Petia slept for fear that Maggie might be visiting. It was almost as if he was back in the trenches, keeping his head beneath the line, walking cautiously to avoid something landing near him that could end his life.
"This is ridiculous," he said to himself as he walked the long way around the hospital to avoid Maggie's wing for the fourth time that day. He changed his direction immediately and walked directly toward the woman that had him acting like a child.
He opened the doors to the wing and took a deep breath. On his way to Maggie, he was stopped by a few patients with questions or requests and dealt with them quickly. Maggie was reading one of her letters as he approached; she seemed engrossed by the words on the page. He lifted a chair and settled it beside her bed, finally gaining her attention. She welcomed him with a smile.
"Good afternoon, Jack," she said pleasantly.
His eyes narrowed, searching her features, unable to figure out what she was thinking behind those eyes. "What are you reading?"
"A letter from my dearest mentor and friend at home. You know, she's almost like a mother to me. The woman you wrote to me for. Thankfully you won't have to write to her for me again, now that I have my sight."
"Is it a new letter?"
"Yes, it just arrived yesterday, I confess I've read it at least twenty times already. Would you like to hear it?" she asked, her blue eyes filled with understanding of what her question would stir in him.
"I would love to hear it. Letters from London always help me feel closer to home."
Maggie cleared her throat and brought the paper closer to her face, no doubt because her eyes were still recovering.
"Dearest Maggie, I am so happy to hear from you. You were right, I found myself worried sick about you. You are such a faithful correspondent; I couldn't imagine what would cause you not to write. I do hope you feel better, and that you allow yourself the time you need to fully recover. Searching for Grey can wait, we both know that whatever has happened to him has already happened. And if he is like one of the men you've described, he is tucked safely into a hospital bed being tended by a woman who, I pray, is like you. Kind, caring, and determined for him to make it home safely. Since Grey seems out of my grasp for now, it is you I will spend my time thinking on.
"Your parents are worried about you, truly. This war has changed them as well. It seems they are less concerned with propriety and more aware of people. Each time I receive a letter for you, your mother and I share lunch so I can read it to her. Can you imagine, me, eating lunch with your mother? I know what you've been through with them, but talking with your mom reminds me of talking with you. Perhaps you should write her a letter, and let her know how proud she should be of you.
"Oh, I forgot to mention, your Sara is doing so well. Your mother agreed to hire her mother as a maid in the big house, and they've been able to get a flat in a better part of town. Sara and her sister come to stay with me on my day off while their mother works. She is the sweetest thing, and always asks after you. Even her coughing seems to have subsided, the doctors are nothing but hopeful. I know Grey would be thrilled to know how well she is doing, I only hope we're able to tell him someday soon.
"Everyone here sends their regards. Love, Mrs. Mansfield."
"Thank you for sharing that with me," Jack said, fighting tears from his eyes. If he wasn't careful, unveiling his secret would be his own fault. "What did she mean, finding Grey can wait?"
Maggie looked directly at him, the color of his eyes bright and fierce. "I joined the Nurse Corpse with the sole mission of finding a man I knew from home, Grey Mansfield. He was a soldier, and after an attack, we received notice that he was missing in action. His mother was simply distraught, and so was I. I decided I would find him, for her. After tending to a young patient in a hospital in London the corpse was eager to use my little experience for their vast need, and so, I began my search.
"I met Grace and Petia in my first assignment, we became fast friends. They helped me comb through the beds and determine that Grey was not amongst the men we were caring for. So, I put in for a transfer, and so did they. We inched closer and closer to the trenches, searching amongst the wounded for a glimpse of Grey Mansfield. Then, we were attacked. Finding Grey has been my mission, but along the way I have learned a great deal about caring for others. And though I still haven't found the soldier my poor Mrs. Mansfield misses so dearly, I have found men who sorely need my help. I feel as though I almost have a new mission, though I would love to reunite mother and son when this awful war is over."
Jack couldn't manage to keep his mouth closed. That Maggie Lawton would be here, in the midst of danger, infection, wounded men, and death because of a search for him was simply inconceivable to him. Had she really changed so much? Could her whole excursion be for the sake of his beloved mother? No, surely there was another reason, another motive for her journey and her folly. He could not believe anything this little socialite said. What he did believe, however, was that his secret was safe for now.
Sorry for the terribly long wait on this one! Hope you enjoy and I'm working to get the next one out MUCH faster :)