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.It’s a time-consuming procedure, but the failure rate is exceedingly low.Unfortunately, the reason we’re so good at these surgeries is because we get a lot of soldiers coming back with these same sort of wounds, but it doesn’t change the fact that we’re damn good at it by now,” said Dr.Williams confidently, but with a certain solemnity in his voice.Relief washed over me.This was the first time all day that anyone had said anything that really reassured me things would be ok.I felt like hugging Dr.Williams right there in the elevator.Instead I turned my face up to him with a huge smile and simply said “Thank you.” But inside I could barely contain my joy.Darren was one of the lucky ones, quite lucky indeed to be under the care of a doctor as confident and competent as Dr.Williams.The elevator doors opened.Dr.Williams waited for me to exit then led me to Darren’s room, walking briskly down the hall to room 1095.When we got there I hesitated outside the door.Dr.Williams stopped to look at me.“I know this can be emotional time, but really, he’s fine.Come on in.”If only the doctor had known what was really on my mind.He had no idea how long I’d been waiting for this moment, how many letters had passed between Darren and I over the months spent anticipating his return.Then the letter from Paul and the sudden shock of Darren being wounded in combat.The days worrying as he was transported back to the States.And those final hours spent sitting in the waiting area, desperate for news of a successful surgery.I had to brace myself for what was about to happen next.I had built this reunion up in my head for so long and now it was happening, albeit it in a hospital room and not in a terminal at the airport.But I kept these thoughts to myself, taking a few deep breaths before following Dr.Williams through the doorway into the small hospital room.CHAPTER 15———When I entered, I found Darren lying back in his bed with his eyes closed.His arms were tan after those long months under the hot Middle Eastern sun, but his face was pale.A grimace was on his face, clearly he was in a great deal of pain despite all the medication.His arm itself was heavily bandaged, primarily around his bicep and his elbow.“The location of shrapnel around the elbow made this a particularly time-consuming surgery to perform, but by all indications we should expect a full recovery,” said Dr.Williams quietly to me.I nodded.“Sgt.Henderson, how are we doing?” asked Dr.Williams, announcing our presence to Darren.His eyes slowly opened, and I held my breath for that instant, searching for the reaction in his big blue eyes.“Good Doc,” he said weakly.Then his eyes lit up.“Lauren!? What are you doing here?”Suddenly energy had returned to his voice and a big smile made its way across his face.“Your friend Paul sent me a letter after you were wounded.I finally tracked you down to this hospital.”“Well, I’ll be damned,” said Darren contemplatively, still smiling and seemingly in awe at the situation.“I’ve got some things to go over with the patient, but that can wait.I’ll let you two re-acquaint yourselves and come back a bit later if that’s alright.”I nodded and mouthed “thank you” to Dr.Williams, watching as he exited the room.He closed the door behind him, leaving Darren and I alone for the first time in—well, I couldn’t remember exactly how long it had been since we’d been alone together like this.Darren waved me over to his bed with his good arm.I dropped my purse on the spare chair in the room and walked cautiously over to him, feeling awkward and, now that I was finally in front of him, having no idea what to say.What was there to say?So I went with something generic.“How are you feeling?”“Amazing.I feel great.”“But aren’t you in a lot of pain?”“It’s not that bad.The pills help a lot, but they make me tired more than anything.I feel weak, the doctor says I’ll have to do months of physical therapy before I’m back to full strength.”By now I was standing by the side of the bed, hands clutching my elbows.Here was Darren, just out of surgery and weakened with pain lying in a hospital bed, and yet I was the one feeling vulnerable.“That’s good,” I said.“Damn, Lauren, you’re much quieter than usual today.I’d have thought you’d be happier to see me.”“I am happy to see you, it’s just…” I trailed off.How could I give voice to the multifarious emotions running through me, my mind was going a million miles per minute.The self-doubt was back, and something about seeing Darren face to face was surreal.I knew what I wanted to say to him: I wanted to tell him I loved him, and not just as a friend.I wanted to tell him that I wanted to be with him and that I was dying to know if he felt the same.But was this the right time? Was I just being selfish? He was recovering from surgery after being wounded in battle, what right did I have to drop an emotional bombshell on him when he was in this condition? No, I wasn’t that bold.I would have to wait until the time was right, until I was sure he would return my affection.“Come here,” said Darren, reaching up for me with his good arm and pulling me down toward his bed.He held my head against his chest and slowly I wrapped my arms around him, giving him the best hug I could all things considered.I could feel his breath on my neck, warm as it blew against my soft skin.Chills went down my spine.Being held by him, this simple embrace, was everything to me right now.This was the moment I realized that everything would turn out alright.Then I heard him wince in pain.I shot back up, looking him in the eyes.“Are you ok?”“Yeah, I’m fine.You bumped my arm slightly but it’s ok.”“Oh, no, I’m so sorry.”“No, really, it’s fine.Just a bit sore still,” he said, giving me a brave smile.Darren could be in pure agony and he wouldn’t tell a soul.He was self-sufficient, he didn’t want to trouble people or have them waste their worry on him.How could I let him know that he didn’t always have to play the tough guy around me? How could I let him know I would be there with him through everything, both good and bad?“I just can’t believe you’re finally home,” I said softly.“I’m happy to be back in America, but damn I need to get the hell out of this bed.I’m going crazy, Lauren.”“Do you know how long they’re going to keep you here?”“No idea, they won’t really say.I know I look like I’m in awful shape, but I really don’t feel that bad, my arm hurts, that’s it.I can still walk and do every other normal thing.I just hate the idea of sitting in this bed getting all this attention when there’s another soldier who needs it more than me.”I reached out and squeezed the bicep of Darren’s good arm.He was always thinking of others, after all the sacrifices he’d made, he just wanted better things for those around him.There was no doubt in my mind that he considered every man in uniform his brother.He was willing to die for them, and for us civilians, too.“We’ll ask the doctor when he gets back how long they need to keep you here.I’m sure there are more tests they need to run, especially after the operation.They probably want to check your progress, make sure you’re recovering properly.”“I know.I’m just sick of laying down all the time.In Afghanistan, I used to run eight miles a day, workout, go through drills, work on intelligence projects, plan missions.In here I’m staring at the walls all the damn day, it’s enough to make a man go crazy [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]