Maisie gasped for air and wondered why the young woman was in the mask. ‘Is it the doodlebug,’ she wondered but she was so tired and breathing hurt. She should ask. Maybe it was gas. Papa said they’d use gas. Panic made her struggle. The young woman leant in close.
Maisie thought about Papa. He’d say to keep calm. She’d do this for Papa.
‘Yes, Maisie?’ asked the young woman, briefly easing the covering from Maisie’s face.
‘Gas?’ Maisie managed. She needed to know; she’d have to tell Papa.
‘Yes, love. Oxygen. It’s a CPAP. Now, try and relax. We’ll be moving you soon.’
Maisie shut her eyes. Yes, she’d need her strength. Mama had gone to find Papa, when the doodlebug cut out. She’d need to be ready to help when Mama came home. Mama looked so tired and worried.
Senior nurse Yvonne Middleton blinked the sweat away. The young doctor looked as exhausted as Maisie. ‘You need some air, Fred?’
He managed a nod. ‘She’ll need ventilating. Another one.’
Yvonne felt for the youngster. Just out of med school; so much cannon fodder, she thought. ‘I’ll sort out, Maisie. You grab a drink.’
He shook his head and managed a wan smile. ‘Can’t leave the front line now.’
Maisie drifted back to consciousness. ‘Papa will be on the front line, Mama says. After this leave.’ The words formed in her head, though Maisie knew the young woman understood.
‘We’ll make you comfortable,’ Yvonne assured her.
That’s what Mr Benson had said. They’d made Papa comfortable. Mr Benson smelt of tobacco and soap. Poor man couldn’t fight, because of his leg. He never looked comfortable.
Fred Naylor watched Yvonne disappear through the secure doors and stretched his back. ‘It’s like a bloody war zone,’ he muttered. He glanced at Maisie who stared at him. ‘Don’t worry. It’ll soon be over.’
Maisie hadn’t understood when they’d said, ‘Papa’s gone.’ She’d asked Mama, ‘To the front?’ which made Mama cry.
‘What?’ Fred leant in close.
‘Front?’ Maisie managed.
‘Yes, the front line.’ Fred forced out a smile. Poor old thing, he thought. He checked her vitals. Her blood saturation was dropping and she’d be lucky to survive.
Maisie smiled. Papa was at the front. The young man had said. He hadn’t died, like they’d said. She’d see him soon.
As the alarms sounded, Fred swallowed the tears and called for help