“I’ll get right to it. She lost her leg right below the knee.”
Luke nodded his head in little nods, the information slowly entering his brain, trying to make sense of what she was saying. In his mind, he pictured Bridget running to stay in shape. The little shorts she wore were obscene and he complained because they crept up the back, her butt hanging out, the t-shirt that said United States Marine Corps cropped, showing a good expanse of toned abs.
“What are you? Navy or Marine?” he’d asked Bridget. “Get it straight. You’re confusing me.”
“I’m both,” she had answered, sticking her tongue out at him. “I’m a commissioned Navy officer in the United States Marine Corps. Jealous?”
The nurse was asking him if he understood what she’d just said.
“I understand.” He looked up at her, tears cruising down his cheeks. “She lost her leg. Does she know?”
“She was aware of everything that had happened to her. She never lost consciousness. The Marines who rescued her said she never complained once, never asked for pain medication during the trip from Kunduz to Kabul. They said she kept asking if someone would contact you.”
She waited, giving him a chance to pull it together. He took a napkin from the tray with the McDonald’s and wiped his face. The leg wasn’t enough, so she continued with the laundry list of injuries.
“Bridget has second and third-degree burns over twenty percent of her body. Do you understand what that is?”
“One more thing, Mr. Esprit.”
What more could there be?
“She has a severe eye injury. We’re waiting for an ophthalmologist to see her. Her eye is covered with a bandage, so I wanted you to know why.”
Everything else the nurse said went over Luke’s head. She got up, and he got the idea that he was supposed to follow her. This was it; he was going in the room to see Bridget.
Body shaking, he was afraid he’d sink to his knees. He waited, holding on to the doorjamb. The love of his life was in the next room. While he was making a spectacle of himself, acting like a weasel, Bridget fought for her life.
The nurse stood outside of the door, letting him get ready at his own pace. What he was experiencing was common behavior. It scared him to death.
“You’re doing great, sir. Because of her burns, we ask that you wash your hands and then put this cover gown on and wear a mask.”
At the sink, he washed his hands, wondering how long was necessary, if she’d tell him to stop when they were clean enough.
“After you dry off, slip your arms into this gown. I’ll tie you up in the back.”
He rinsed off and grabbed a paper towel off the shelf. His hands were shaking so badly, he had trouble getting his arms through the gown. But the nurse blamed his muscles.
“You muscular guys need the extra-large gowns and we’re all out today.”
Ashamed that her attention worked, he relaxed. Next was the mask that he struggled to get tied, refusing her help. Once he masked up, she asked him, “Are you ready, sir? She knows you’re coming. She’s awake.”
Glad for the mask, he ugly cried, his face contorting as she waved him to go through the door.
“Bridget, Luke’s here.”
Her bandaged left eye was at the door side of the room and she turned her head to see him, wincing because of the pain of the burns.
“I’ll come around, Bridg,” he called out, sniffing, unable to control the sobbing. “Can I hug her?”
“You can but let her tell you what hurts,” the nurse said. “I’ll be right outside if you need me.”
The couple saw each other for the first time in nearly four months and both cried, heartbroken. Bridget tried to raise her arms to hold him, struggling to sit up so he could embrace her. They held each other, weeping.
“Luke. I lost my leg.” She wept.