I was sitting here thinking that I might not actually be posting tonight, when I realized that what I really needed to make my story rhythm work was a hard stop between what you see here and the final Natalie scenes. So I am posting, but there will still be one more installment of Chapter 17 to go up in the next day or two.
This makes finishing by the end of the month a little harder, but it's not yet impossible. It's going to be a low sleep and high caffeine couple weeks to see how this goes.
Kiev, Russian Ukraine. December 16th, 1914. “You have received the Red Cross certification?”
Natalie took the certificate from her bag and laid it on the desk. “Yes. I passed the certification exam at the Prince Mikhailov Hospital last week. I’m to formally receive the Red Cross medal on Sunday at the cathedral.”
The greying man in the uniform of the army medical service gave the certificate a cursory glance, but it was Natalie that he was primarily looking at through the round lenses of his wire rimmed spectacles.
“You’re very young, Sister Nowakówna. We are looking primarily for experienced nurses.” In his tone the word ‘experienced’ became an accusation.
“Even before beginning certification, I was working full time as a voluntary aide. I’ve been serving in the hospital since August.”
“And that is admirable, young woman, but it is only four months.”
There was no reply to this. It was indeed four months, but they were months during which all that came before seemed to have receded into a distant past. Could she really have gone through all this and still be inexperienced?
The medical officer shifted in his chair and began another tack. “I wonder if you understand how primitive the conditions at a field hospital can be? This is not a city hospital. Staff are housed in whatever accommodation is available. Sometimes tents.”
“I’m not accustomed to luxury, sir. I am an orphan, brought up in a convent school. And I am prepared to face adversity in order to serve Russia and help care for our wounded soldiers.”
The medical officer gave a sniff and pushed the certificate back towards her.
It was clear that he was dismissing her, but she had to find a way to change his mind. In these last two days the notice that the field hospital units required nurses had changed from an idea, a daunting, distant idea, into a need.
“Doctor Luterek at the Prince Mikhailov Hospital will vouch for me, sir. So will Sister Levchenko. She is the matron in charge of my ward and of the training program.”
He blew out his cheeks and pulled the certificate back towards him again, giving it a second look. “Are you prepared to leave immediately?”
“Yes. Tomorrow if need be.” If she did not have to spend even another week trapped between the protective concern of Borys and the angry accusations of his mother, she would the happier for it.
53 minutes ago