Carrying a pile of folders, Alex walked into her small office. Her day had been busy, and now she only had to store the new files Doctor Young had given her. As she walked over to her desk which was placed against the back of the room she noticed another pile of papers on it.
Great, she thought as she let out an audible sigh. More work before I can get some dinner.
After sorting all the folders in a large wooden file cabinet she grabbed the top sheet of the papers which were in her desk. She skimmed through and noticed that they weren’t medical files.
As she took a closer look, she noticed they were more notes on flying an aircraft. Several checklists and flight procedures were written down in great detail.
The dark-haired woman checked the handwriting, thinking Toby had left her more notes. But as she examined them, she saw they were definitely not written by her friend, though, the handwriting seemed familiar.
From the hallway she heard a door being locked and someone walking away. As she looked up she saw Doctor Young entering her office. He gave her a courteous nod, handed her one last file, and headed out –the end of another day of medical exams had come.
“I’ll see you tomorrow, Miss Savage,” the gray-haired man said.
“Yes. Good evening, Doctor Young.”
“Don’t study too long,” the man quipped before he walked out of the room.
Alex looked stunned from the retreating back of her boss to the papers in her hands. “I…I won’t,” she uttered to an empty room. And here I thought he didn’t deem women able enough to become a pilot.
“Guess I misjudged him,” Alex said aloud.
“Misjudged who?” a familiar voice asked.
A smile came onto her face, and before she even looked up from the papers she replied, “Not you, Toby.” She held up some sheets. “Look what Doctor Young gave me.”
“Young? Really?” Toby said as he headed over to the woman. “I thought he despised you?”
“Well,” Alex started. “Apparently he finally realizes that I’m serious about my intentions of really joining the Air Force, and not just as some secretary.”
“I’m sure you’ll make it to pilot,” Toby said as he placed an arm around her shoulder. “Now, let’s get something to eat and then we can go through some of those procedures together.”
And so, the two friends headed for the mess hall, talking all the way over. After quickly dispatching their food, Toby took Alex to one of the hangars at the back of the base. There were the planes housed which were cadets used to train in.
Toby flipped over a switch and lights started to illuminate the pitch-black hangar. Alex’ eyes focused on all the Spitfires which suddenly became visible. The woman walked over to one of the planes, completely in awe.
She let one of her hands slide across the plane’s wing and as she reached the steps to climb into the cockpit she looked back over her shoulder to where her friend was standing. He nodded once, wordlessly permitting her to get into the cockpit.
With the notes in one hand Alex proceeded to climb into the Spitfire’s cockpit while Toby stood there watching from the sidelines, giving pointers here and there. With a big smile plastered on her face Alex eagerly took in all there was to learn about the altimeter, airspeed indicator, vertical speed indicator, and all the other instruments in the Spitfire’s cockpit.
Before they knew it, it was twelve o’ clock, and so both of them headed to their barracks –Toby with all the other cadets and Alex with the other staff.
Alex sat in her office, rays of sunlight entering through the small window and falling across her face.
“First rudder, then flaps and brakes, then radio,” she muttered under her breath as she was rattling off the pre-flight checklist while marking medical files. Throughout the days she had been at Winnipeg’s RCAF base, she hadn’t deviated from what she really wanted; to fly across the ocean –if only she could find a way to convince the sergeant of her abilities.
All the books, notes, and checklists she had received from both Toby and Doctor Young she had studied thoroughly and hoped one day to show how capable she was at flying an airplane.
Of course, she realized, knowing all the theory and technical details doesn’t mean I can actually fly a plane.
“Guess I’ll have to try that out soon. One way or another,” she said to herself as she sorted the papers into manila folders.
Little did she know this would happen sooner rather than later...
“Maybe Toby can help me out on that,” she mused. The dark-haired woman walked over to a small file cabinet that was placed under the window. As she pushed the drawer closed she heard a loud bang. Looking through the window she noticed something was off –way off.
From behind the hangar left of the mess hall, gray clouds of smoke arose –tips of big flames showing from over the rooftop.
“Doctor Young!” she yelled as she quickly headed over to the gray-haired man’s examine room, grabbing an emergency medical field kit along.
“Miss Savage, what’s the matter? I’m working on-” the man started but was cut short by the young woman who stopped in front of him.
“Hurry,” she said as she grabbed the man by his arm and started to pull him to the exit.
“Woah, take it easy,” he started as he nearly lost his balance. “What’s wrong?”
As they got outside, Alex pointed to the now black puffy clouds covering the clear blue sky, then sprinted to the hangar.
“Damn,” the Doctor muttered as he started to run as well.
When Alex turned the corner she was met with a horrible sight. Parts of an airplane were scattered across the ground surrounding the hangar, smoke and fire everywhere –some cadets lying motionless on the ground, others yelling, trying to get everyone away from the all-consuming flames.
The piercing sound of the Air Force base’s alarm sounded and from everywhere people came to help. The base’s fire brigade arrived quickly and stared to extinguish the flames that had quickly spread around.
“Miss Savage?” Doctor Young said as he caught up with the young woman. He tried to get her attention, but to no avail –Alex stood there, staring at all that was happening in front of her, her mind filled with the thought let Toby be okay.
“Miss Savage!” the older man tried again. “Alex!”
Finally she snapped out of her trance-like state and turned to face her boss.
“You need to help me, Alex,” he started. “Will you be able to check some of the wounded?”
Alex merely nodded, fearing what she would come across. But she shook it all off, realizing that if she were to fight in battle she would come across more –and maybe even more terrible- sights.
“Yes,” she answered firmly as she grabbed the medical supplies the doctor held out. “But what can I do? I’m not trained for any of this…”
“We need to get the wounded over to the military hospital as soon as possible. You check out those with just the bumps and scratches, I’ll take the others,” the gray-haired man said, not elaborating on who those others might be.
“Alright,” Alex said as she headed for three young men sitting in front of the mess hall.
While tending their wound –minor cuts to their faces and hands- Alex scanned the scene, hoping to catch a glimpse of her friend.
Suddenly he spotted Doctor Young along with two other in green jumpsuit clad men carrying a stretcher, heading for a military ambulance.
“Here, hold this,” she said to the young cadet who she was patching up at that moment, pressing gauze against his forehead and placing his hand on top of it.
The young woman sped to the car, just catching it before it drove off, and looked in the back of the open car.
God, no! “Toby!”
Inside the truck lay her childhood friend, his right arm lying across his stomach in a strange position. Above his left eye there was a deep cut, blood gushing out.
“Toby?” she tried again, but the young man didn’t respond.
“We’ve got to move!” Doctor Young yelled. “Come on, get in!”
Alex grabbed the man’s hand and climbed in the back –it was only when she was seated next to her friend that she noticed the piece of metal that was stuck in his left side, piercing through his ribs.
Frightened dark eyes shot up and searched for the doctor’s. He wordlessly understood the questioning look the young woman sent him. Sitting down next to her he started to explain. “He’s sleeping now. The piece of metal pierced his left lung and it collapsed. Missed his heart though,” he said. “His right arm is broken and he has a concussion.”
“Can I see him?” Alex asked in a whisper.
“A few seconds. He needs his rest, his condition is still critical,” the doctor answered with a stern look on his face.
“I understand,” Alex nodded.
She was led into a room filled with beds. The only other occupants in the room were another wounded cadet and a nurse, the rest of the beds were empty. The smell that filled her nose made her stomach roil. But strangely enough, seeing Toby had a calming effect on her.
Alex sat down on a stool next to her friend’s seemingly sleeping form –the only indication he wasn’t dead was his shallow, unsteady breathing. Gauzes covered his face and mid-section, a cast was fixed around his arm.
Suddenly Toby started to moan and tried to move.
“Stay still, LaFleche,” the doctor ordered, but the cadet didn’t listen as he started to violently trash his good arm around.
“Toby, please. Lie still,” Alex said, fear noticeable in her voice.
“Al..” Toby tried, gasping for air.
“I’m here,” the dark-haired woman said as she took his hand. Doctor Young, convinced the cadet was calm again, left the room, giving the two friends some privacy.
“You’ll be alright, Toby,” Alex said as she saw the scared look in her friend’s watery eyes.
He tried to say something, but a fit of heavy coughs prevented him from uttering a single syllable. Alex noticed from the corner of her eye that the nurse who had been changing an intravenous drip was now headed their way.
“Ma’am,” the nurse started. “It’s better if you let him rest now.”
Alex looked up from Toby’s pain-stricken face, and was surprised by a pair of familiar-looking blue eyes.
The nurse’s eyes shot open to the size of saucers as recognition also dawned upon her. “Alex?”
“Diana,” the dark-haired woman nodded.
“I’m sorry, I hadn’t realized it was you.” She checked Toby’s pulse and then scribbled something on his chart.
“You can sit with your husband as long as you like. Just, please, keep him calmed down,” the blonde woman spoke hushed.
“Alright, but he isn’t.”
“Calm? Well, look at him,” the nurse pointed to the man who’d fallen back into sleep.
“Husband, I meant,” Alex clarified as she released her friend’s hand. “He isn’t my husband.”
“Ah, I see,” the nurse nodded. “So you’ve made it to pilot then?” Diana asked as she guided the lanky woman out of the hospital room. She pointed to the green jumpsuit the dark-haired woman was wearing.
Alex looked down, and realized how she must have looked. “No, not exactly. I’m Doctor Young’s secretary,” Alex started. “The whole ‘women can only do administrative jobs’-policy. I only borrowed this from someone ‘cause my clothes were drenched…with blood.”
The nurse nodded. “Well, at least this way you’re still doing something useful.”
“Yeah,” the dark-haired woman huffed halfheartedly.
“So, how do you know Mr. LaFleche?” Diana asked as she guided them towards some chairs. “I heard he is one of the top cadets of his class?”
“He is. He’s an old friend of mine. We’ve known each other since…well, practically since the day we were born.” Alex smiled a rueful smile before continuing. “Apparently he was on the same bus as we were that day, because when we were welcomed by Sergeant Greenaway he was standing next to me.”
Suddenly there came a loud cry from the recovery room, and the two women shot up, rushing in quickly.
Even before Alex’ eyes fell on Toby’s bed she knew something was completely wrong. Blood was seeping through the bandages at his side, and a small red stream trickled from the corner of his mouth across his chin.
“Toby?” Alex tried to get his attention. But he wasn’t lucid. His breathing sounded more like gurgling.
“Toby. Wake up!” Alex started to nudge the shoulder of his right arm. “Please.”
She was pushed aside by someone in a white coat. The doctor immediately started to order the blonde nurse around.
“Alex,” Diana started as she pulled the dark-haired woman farther away. “Step out, please. Let the doctor do his job.”
The last thing Alex saw as she left the room was Toby’s heavily bleeding body.
Continued in Part 5
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