“I’ll find out but I’m sure your family knows,” a corpsman reassured her, holding her hand. “You’ll be on the next flight out to Landstuhl, and then home to Dover. Are you ready?”
“I don’t even know where I am,” she said. “I know I lost my leg. My skin hurts and I remember my clothes being on fire.”
“You’re in Kabul. You have some burns but only a small area is going to need grafting. That will all take place once you’re out of here.”
She closed her eye, trying to make sense of what was being said to her, but she was numb.
The next of kin notification came via a voicemail from a chaplain, left on Luke’s phone early that morning before six, while he was in the shower. An officer called on behalf of the commanding officer of the Navy Nurse Corps, informing Mr. Esprit that Lieutenant Benoit had received injuries in a bombing, was alive and stable in Kabul, and being transferred to the United States Military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany. She left a number for Luke to call for more information.
After listening to the message twice, he called her parents while he was still calm. Thom answered, not too happy to see Luke’s number on his phone.
“What is it?” he snapped. “Tell my daughter thanks for not stopping by to say goodbye when she left. I’m not answering her emails.”
“Sir, this morning I received a message that Bridget was wounded and is being transferred to the military hospital in Germany.”
A moment passed in which Luke debated hanging up; he felt his resolve to stay calm faltering while he waited for a reply.
“Landstuhl,” Thom said, his voice in a whisper. “It’s where they send severely injured troops. Did they say what her condition is?”
“Just that she’s alive and stable,” Luke said, his voice on the cusp of being shrill.
“Are you going?”
“I don’t know! I called you before I called them back. I didn’t even know that was an option. I’ll be in touch as soon as I talk to someone.”
“You’ll be able to be at her bedside. The military will pay for your transportation there.”
“I don’t know any of this,” Luke said. “You’re the first call I’ve made.”
“Thank you, Luke,” Thom said, sensing the young man might be in trouble, but he didn’t have the people skills or relationship to dig into Luke’s well-being. He’d focus on the baby. “How’s Emily doing?”
“She’s fine. I have to hang up. The nanny’s here.”
He didn’t wait for Mr. Benoit to say goodbye. Margaret had just arrived. Everything was swirling. Bridget was wounded. What would he do with the baby if he flew to Germany to be with her? He’d never even flown on a plane.
Margaret gasped, bringing her hands to her face.
“I was just told that she’s wounded; that’s all I know. A Naval chaplain called. I’m going to Germany to be with her, but I don’t know what to do with Emily.”
“Mister, I’ll keep her. Don’t worry about her. There she is, crying.”
Margaret rushed off to get the baby. The loneliness of his life without Bridget magnified at that moment. Luke didn’t have close friends. He didn’t go out for beer with his buddies; he didn’thavedrinking buddies. Bridget’s cousins were there, offering help if needed, but what could they do for him at that moment?
Margaret, the nanny, was his contact with the community, along with his clients. That was it. Reaching out to Bridget’s father was out of courtesy, but also because he needed to hear a real human voice of someone who cared.
Calming down long enough to make the return call, he looked at the number he’d jotted down from the message and keyed it into his phone. The chaplain had been waiting for his call. He introduced himself and she gave Luke updates. Bridget was on her way to Germany. There wasn’t specific information available on her condition or the extent of her injuries. She’d make the arrangements for Luke to be there with Bridget. The doctor had filled out paperwork that stated Luke’s presence would be helpful for Bridget’s well-being, so the military would pay for everything.
“When would you like to leave?” the chaplain asked. Evidently, the window of opportunity didn’t stay open forever in a case like this.
“I have to arrange for care for my baby,” he said. “Can I phone you back?”
“Of course. I’ll be waiting for your call.”