Read an excerpt from the story 'Danger' by Sacchi Green herself:
“Nope. Just got real mad. And maybe a tad destructive.” Her voice was getting steadier.
“You’re lucky to have such a thick skull.” I felt around through her hair for more damage.
“Lucky to find a cute nurse close at hand.” A cocky attitude isn’t easy to pull off with your head down and bloody water trickling over your neck and down your chin, but she managed. There was something about the tone of voice, and an old, raised scar across the nape of her neck that diverted the flow of reddened water… I knew with sudden certainty that “Haven’t we met somewhere?” wouldn’t have been just a hackneyed pick-up line, after all. That scar was just about a year and a half old, the result of a mortar attack that blasted her ambulance apart and killed an already-wounded soldier. Her collarbone had been broken, too, but she’d managed to get the other two guys out and away before flames hit the gas tank.
I let her sit up while I went to fix an ice pack. “What makes you think I’m a nurse?” Stupid question. So much for anonymity. Not that she’d be likely to give me away to the Army bureaucracy, but some fear even deeper made my gut tense, some danger I couldn’t even give a name.
“Well, you were one hell of a nurse in Long Binh, and I figure that’s something you never forget. Like riding a bike. Or a woman.” Her grin, now that I could see it, was cocky, too, but her eyes were grimly sober. She knew all about the things I couldn’t forget. She’d been there, too, right through the worst of it. Her hair had been much shorter, not quite as dark, and the only time I’d seen her up close was when I was stitching up that gash on the nape of her neck. I might not have recognized anything about her, even my own handiwork—but I did remember the cockiness under stress. And those hands.
“You were in ‘Nam, right? Ambulance driver?” I pressed the ice pack against her wound. “Hold that.” Her hand went up obediently.
“Jeep jockey, mostly, on loan to the nurse’s motor pool from the WAC base at Long Binh. When things got hot, every vehicle had to double as an ambulance.”
I drew a deep breath. “And nurses had to be doctors half the time.”
“Right.” She held out the hand that wasn’t holding the ice. “Thanks for the fine stitching job, Kim. I asked around about your name.”
“You’re more than welcome…Gale, isn’t it?” I shook her hand, then forced myself to let it go. “Once we get the swelling under control, I’ll put on a dressing, and you can hang out here tonight and get some rest.”
Whether she had a concussion or not—could be a mild Class A—she had to be badly shaken, her defenses down. Better stick to the nurse role. “How about a bite to eat?” I went to the cupboard and riffled through it. “Hungry?”
“Could work up an appetite.” Gale’s tone made me glance back over my shoulder. She was surveying my ass and back with open appreciation.
“Definitely a sign of recovery.” I put some chicken noodle soup on to heat. Not such weak defenses, after all, if her offensive game was anything to go by.
“A little something to keep your strength up,” I told her, once I’d set out soup and crackers for us both and sat down at the table to join her. Then, while she was still formulating a snappy comeback, I turned seriously apologetic. “I’m sorry I didn’t recognize you sooner. It was…hard, over there, keeping a balance between caring enough about patients and not caring too much. And afterward there was so much to block out…”
She started to shake her head, and winced. “No problem. I figure I got more mileage tonight out of being a stranger.” The grin she managed was strained. My various sensitized pulse points stirred hopefully at the reminder, but I swung back into nurse mode with an effort, gathering up disinfectant and scissors and bandages from the bathroom.
“Yeah, well…” I felt my face flush. “Back to business for now. This will sting a little. And I’m going to have to snip some hair around the wound site.”
“Hack it all off,” Gale said curtly. “If I hit the streets tomorrow looking anything like I did tonight, I’d be painting a bright red target on my ass. The cops are probably throwing darts at sketches of me right now”
I gave her a trim that, bandage aside, left her looking like the teen-aged love child of Katherine Hepburn and Marlon Brando. Elegant cheekbones, short, unruly hair, sultry eyes. “You clean up pretty well,” I told her. “The image of a target on your ass is pretty intriguing, though. You sure there isn’t one there already? Was all that…” I motioned toward the fringed jacket and the braided, dyed hair showing above the rim of the wicker wastebasket, “…some kind of disguise? You’re not just worried about the local cops, are you.”
An attempted shrug made her wince again. She yawned and rubbed her eyes, shock and exhaustion beginning to catch up to her, but she answered frankly. “I’m AWOL, and wanted by everybody from the MPs to the Oakland Police Department to the SDS. A little episode coming out of the Oakland Army Base just after I got stateside.”
I knew all too well the treatment a uniform could get you back in the land of your birth. Even nurses ran the risk of taunts and spitting when protesters got their mob mentality on. I might agree with some of what they were for, but their methods seemed like the mindless tantrums of over-privileged brats.
“That bad, huh?” I wished I hadn’t brought up the subject. She didn’t need any more stress tonight.
“It wasn’t what they yelled at me. I hadn’t slept for forty-eight hours, had waking nightmares, barely remembered my own name, and I still kept my shit together through all that. But there was this guy in a wheelchair, a Marine. When they threw things, he couldn’t get out of the way fast enough. I don’t even remember much after that, but I know I grabbed a Babykiller sign and started swinging it. Some people got hurt. I ran, and kept on running.”
Her head slumped. I caught it against my breast as my arms went around her. “Come on to bed now,” I said, my lips brushing her hair so lightly she couldn’t have felt them. So much for my longing for unscarred, unbroken women. What a delusion.
She managed to stand, moved across to the bedroom with my help, and even tried to pull me down beside her while I eased her clothes off. “Later,” I said, and turned out the lights. “Get some sleep now. Nurse’s orders.”