Reencounter in the Vortex
Winds of War
Two years had passed since that wonderful reunion at Pony's home. Many things had changed but still some others had remained the same. The small orphanage in the green valley, the diligent work of the two women who were the soul of the place, the always-growing fortune of the Audreys and the everlasting noise of the streets of Chicago had not varied a bit. However, the life of our friends had gone through some important changes.
William Albert had taken full possession of his fortune and was leading the Audreys' businesses with all the wisdom and success that Mrs. Aylo Audrey always desired. Archie had decided to enter University and was majoring in Law, much to the great pleasure of Annie's parents who were very happy with their future son-in-law. Annie herself had also made her own improvements. She was without a question, the lady her mother always dreamt of for her. Sweet by nature and refined in manners thanks to the careful education she had received, she had become a graceful creature with beautiful eyes and astonishing figure. More than one young man of the Chicago high society would have loved to try his chances with her, but unfortunately, Annie and Archie had been an issue for so long that nobody doubted that they would marry as soon as he finished his studies.
Patty was still living in Florida with her grandmother but every summer she would travel all the way to Chicago to spend a few weeks with the friends who had come to be the closest she had ever had. She had never been beautiful, but God had graced her with a sweet temper and a special kindness that made her attractive to everyone and men were not the exception. However, no man had taken the place that Stear had left empty, and she was not in a hurry to find a substitute for she had learnt that such things should never be forced.
Liza Loka, was now a well known and active member of the Chicago jet-set. Tall and slender with killing eyes and daring smile she spent her time in balls, soirees, teas, and all sort of useless social events. Men were always after her not only for her beauty or money but especially because she had become a bimbo of reputation. She had decided to live it up without restrictions to make up for the two boys she never had... Anthony and Terry, of course. And nobody was going to stop her from enjoying herself the way she wanted. Only one thing bothered her very deeply in her obscure soul and it was her impossibility to take revenge on the one her heart had hated with all her forces, for that person had a very powerful protector she did not dare to defy.
On the contrary, Neil had made of himself a shameless alcoholic who despite all the attempts Albert had made, kept himself lost in the bottom of a bottle of whisky. He had never got over the rejection he had suffered and perhaps never would, especially when the object of his affections was totally out of his reach.
For, my friends, now, more than ever before Candice White Audrey was the personification of freedom and independence. She accepted to keep the name of her foster family as a graceful act of sympathy towards the man she loved as the older brother she never had. Occasionally, she would go with him to social meetings or great galas in which it was chic and necessary to be seen for the wellbeing of the Audrey's business and reputation. But besides those rare occasions she was still the humble and sweet girl she had always been.
She had decided to keep her old apartment and live there on her own despite all the fuss Mrs. Audrey had made about a lady living by herself. But not happy with only that she had insisted in keeping her job as a nurse. Now, after long time of working hard to help her boss to conquer alcoholism, she had managed to rehabilitate the man and they both were working in a large hospital in which they had been accepted without Alberts help. Despite all the sincere desires the young man had to help his protegee and the good old doctor, Candy insisted in finding a way out on her own; and she had, once more, got the things she wanted by herself.
Candy was now 18 years old and the naive beauty that had captivated the three young Audreys, back in the days of the Lakewood mansion, had matured into a breathtaking woman with soft voluptuous curves, dazzling smile and eyes to die for. The freckles in her nose had almost totally disappeared leaving just a few pinky spots that graced her face with a candid look. Her manners had softened but kept the firm moves of a person who had practiced sports regularly, something that was not common in the women of her time. But then again many things were not common in the most famous and eccentric heiress of one of the richest families in the United States.
Grandmother Aylo Audrey was particularly worried about Candy's single status and without a formal fiancee. She was afraid the girl could choose someone not deserving of the family's prestige and fortune. For her it was a terrible thing that William Albert had allowed her to break her so called engagement with Neil. It would have been, after all, so convenient for both families, but Albert had made up his mind so firmly on that issue that she had lost total hope on the match.
Albert, on his own, was kind of worried for Candy's loneliness but she looked so sure of what she wanted for her life, that he could not deny her desire to live on her own. Inside his heart Albert hoped that his little one would someday find the love she had lost twice... for she, more than any of them- he thought - deserved such blessing.
As the year of 1917 began, Albert's worries were drawn to other issues. The situation between the United States and Germany had reached a very dangerous point. Two years had passed since the sinking of the Lusitania by the German Navy, which resulted in the death of 128 American citizens. Since then things had gone even worse and just a couple of month before, on February 1917, President Wilson had broken off diplomatic relationships with Germany. Therefore, the scene was ready for an unavoidable event and the fear of eminent war was in the air As a rich banker he knew his fortune could play an important role in the conflict. However, he never dared to think how the historical events were going to affect the life of his family until it was to late.
It was a sunshiny spring morning when Katherine Johnson entered the nurses' lounge in a rush that was quite unusual in her. Her cheeks were bright red and she was nearly out of breath. Candy was sitting there chatting cheerfully with another nurse when Katherine interrupted their talk with her unexpected arrival.
The blond girl did not have to ask anything for every detail was written in her colleague's face: United States had finally declared war on Germany. Candy knew very well that solemn look in Katherine's face and also could figure out what the event meant for the country and for her...
"Candy..." Katherine said for the third time. "Are you listening to me? Aren't you going to say anything about?"
"Oh sorry," answered Candy, coming back from her own thoughts. "I was just... kind of, " she doubted for a second. "I'm afraid I have something to do girls, would you excuse me?" And immediately she abandoned the room leaving two puzzled nurses behind.
"What came over her? She did not even comment on the bad news?" said Katherine.
"Well, I think she really got upset with the news, in fact. She was quite well before you came," replied the second nurse.
"Does she have someone to fear for with this war," said Katherine with a curious look in her eyes.
"A love thing, you mean? No I don't really think so. She is a very sweet girl and everything but very hermetic when it comes to her private life. I'm afraid she is not quite interested in guys right now."
The conversation continued while a blond in a very nervous state, continued to run along the nearby park. She ran to the newspaper stand to buy a real testimony of the event she was sure was going to bring a new twist to her life... could it be?
It was clearly printed on the first page. . . The morning of April the 6, 1917 the President Woodrow Wilson had declared war and was already asking for volunteers to defend the Nation. Candy's fingers crushed the paper with a strange mixed of fear, courage, excitement and even a weird sensation she could not name at that moment. It was as if her own destiny was calling her loudly... calling her for an appointment agreed in advanced long time ago. She had been given special training for such a moment and now it might be the time when her training will have to prove worthy. The memory of Flammy, who was still working as a volunteer in the fronts along with the unforgettable remembrance of Stear came to her mind. Was she going to be able to leave her peaceful life in Chicago where she had the love and company of her closest friends, where she could always go back to Pony's Home for support and strength? Was she going to be brave enough to face the horrors of war?
A young couple with a toddler passed by in front of her. The woman was radiant with one hand clutching her husband's arm while the man used his other arm to carry the little boy. Candy saw how they walked along the park paths until they disappeared from her sight. They seemed so happy and unaware of the eminent danger the country was going through. She then thought that the young mother had two powerful reasons to stay safe and well in America while the whole Army was already preparing to defend the country. She had a family to look after... but her?. . . Who is waiting for you back home, Candice White?
"What are you saying?" screamed Albert in disbelief. "She left her apartment without saying a word to anybody... Not even me?"
that is right Sir," answered a very ashamed George Johnson.
"This morning the guard in turn realized she had not gone
out of her apartment since the day before. As it was a normal
working-day he wondered if something was going wrong, so he went
down to ask the landlord, and it was then when they both found
out this letter she left, Sir."
Long time ago, since Candy had decided that she would continue living in her apartment in downtown Chicago Albert set up guards that took care of the young woman without letting her know of this precaution. William Albert knew very well that Candy would have been annoyed, had she known she was watched in that way, but the town was becoming a violent and dangerous city and a wealthy heiress was always a temptation for kidnappers and all sort of vicious people. Therefore, as the head of the family, Albert did not want to take any risk.
However, despite of all these measures, his secretary was now informing him that the girl had somehow disappeared just right on her guard's nose.
"Give me the note," said Albert huskily and was visibly angry.
What his eyes read then was beyond any of his most dreadful dreams:
Dear Albert, Annie and Archie,
I'm really sorry to leave you all without saying a word but I know you will forgive me sooner or later. I have my reasons to do such a thing. There's a part of me that wants to stay with you and all the ones I love but the other part is pulling me to accomplish a duty I cannot neglect. I want you to know that I've meditated on this decision for a long time and it is by no means just a result of a vane impulse. Some years ago when I was in the Nurse School I received a special training to prepare myself as a military nurse. In those years the war had just started and it only seemed a far away ghost; back then we were not very sure if it could ever reach us. But it did indeed, and it already took away one of our dearest, to whom our family will always remember with the deepest love. It is for his undying memory that I must not mishear the calling of my duty. Our country needs my services and I' m not going to dishonor Stear's example. I know that my departure will leave you in sorrow and worry. You have alway been very kind and caring. However, I have to go, but I trust that the Lord will be with me all the way to Europe and he will also protect me during the trials that are waiting for me over there. Please Albert, do not be mad at me. I know you disapprove all this war affair for you have always been a pacifist, but think that I'm not going as a soldier to kill but as a nurse to save lives. Archie do not be afraid because I'm going to return well and safe and if you do not take care good care of Annie you will hear of me dandy boy. Annie, promise me you';ll be a strong girl. Miss Pony and Sister Lyn will need you more than ever. Pray for me and explain these things to those two dear women.
Love you all,
Candice W. Audrey
P.S. Albert I'm really sorry to tell you that you just waste your money on those guards of yours. They normally fall asleep after midnight.
Two thick tears ran down Albert's cheeks when he finished the letter. If he were to judge when Candy when had actually been seen last by the guards, it would already have bee too late for any attempts to stop her. By then she would already have been in a boat on her way to France with the first platoon sent by the USA government. Albert felt that part of his life was again broken into pieces. It seemed he had lost his beloved sister, the one destiny had given him in a way to make for the other sister he had lost when he was just a child. Will he be able to recover her? If only she weren't so stubborn and at least for once in her life, she would think of herself instead of thinking of others.
"Miss Flammy Hamilton is the head nurse in charge, you will have to follow her orders faithfully," said the director of the Hospital Saint Jaques with a slight French accent to the newcomers . He then turned to address Flammy, "Hamilton, these are the new girls that just arrived from the USA. I hope you can help them to adapt and start work as soon as possible."
Then man left the room leaving the nurses with the tall brunette. Flammy's cold eyes inspected the new nurses and her heart stopped when she managed to see a familiar face with deep green eyes that smiled at her with a kindness she just couldn't understand.
"It's nice to see you again Flammy," said Candy with low voice when Flammy came near her.
"I'm afraid I cannot say the same," replied the brunette with dry voice and without any further comment continued inspecting the group. "I really hope you are all sure about the decision you made when you set your minds on coming here. You will soon find out that all the negative things you've heard about the experiences of military nurses are not quite true. In fact, the reality goes beyond anything you could have imagined there, in your safe and dull jobs in the States. The reality is, ladies, a lot worse."
And Flammy went on and on with a long list of duties, rules and recommendations. All the new girls looked at each other amazed with the coldness of such a reception. Flammy's words were clear, distant and freezing, not a hint of sympathy or care, just a quite articulated talk that left no doubts on who was in charge and how she expected the job to be done. The expression in her face did not change, nor the tone of her voice. If any nurse in the crew was hoping that this whole war thing was not going to be so hard after all, then Flammy's welcoming talk killed the last remains of that weak hope. However, one only heart among the group was not impressed or really affected by Flammy's attitude. Candy knew very well all that was merely a performance. Behind that apparent cold-hearted woman there was a shy and lonely child and this time she was not going to fall in the trap of her faked toughness.
"This time my dear colleague," said Candy to herself, "I will find the way to go through those walls you have taken so long to build up around your soul. I will not take for granted this new opportunity that life gives me now." A light of determination crossed her green eyes at the same time Flammy ended her speech.
That night Candy sat down by the window of the room that she was going to share with an older nurse named Julienne. There was nothing around that could be considered a luxury. Actually, the room was rather dull and its inhabitants could have been depressed easily just by its looks. Had Candy not gone through even more difficult days before, she would have been blue and home sick by this time. But she had made up her mind on keeping a high spirit and she was full of hopes in this new undertaken she had started. Neither the rudeness of Flammy's words nor the poverty of the room could take away the excitement she felt in her heart and the beauty of the full moon that appeared in the evening sky. As long as should could appreciate the beauty of God's creation, despite the size of her problems, Sister Lyn had once told her, there was hope to keep on.
A truck full of soldiers with the USA flag passed by the street just under her window. Inside the truck a pair of dark blue eyes were lost in the mist of the night. The man with the blue eyes felt a sudden pain in his heart when the truck went past the hospital. The pain vanished in a couple of seconds, but left him with a weird sensation of loss he could not understand.
Candy then close the window wondering what that sudden pain in her own heart could had been.
Days went by very fast in Saint Jaques, but as Flammy promised, none of them was easy or quiet. Wounded people flooded the pavilions, surgery rooms and even the corridors. Pain and despair were in the air for each human to breathe, whereas very little comfort could be found within the confusion.
Candy sometimes had to believe that she had used her last drop of strength giving stitches, cleaning beds or working long endless hours in surgery. Nevertheless, when she felt almost faint, the strong and determined figured of Flammy appeared around as an incredible reminder of the spirit both women had been taught back in the old days of their training with Mary Jane. Then, Candy would recover her usual cheerful mood and keep with her work enlightening those surroundings with a warm smile. There, where Flammy's efficiency was only able to help bodies to recover from illness, Candy's charms could bring back hope to those whose hearts were even sicker than their own bodies.
"Together, they could make the perfect nurse," Mary Jane had once said to herself. And if she had seen her old pupils in action she would have congratulated herself for the good results. For indeed the work of the two young women complimented so well that, despite the limitations the hospital was suffering. Everything managed to work satisfactorily even in the confusion that very often reigned around.
Candy realized it and so she tried to work with Flammy as much as possible, doing her best to ignore the infamous temper of her old classmate. Unfortunately, Flammy did not see the fact and that made things much harder for Candy who had to endure Flammy's rudeness.
"Are you new in this business?" said Flammy with an angry voice. "This bandage is too tight that way. You'd better loosen it right now or you will cause this poor man more troubles than he already has."
"Yes Flammy, I'll do it right now," replied Candy with soft tone.
"Don't talk that much and work faster! You still have tons of things to finish before the end of your turn," Flammy managed to add while she was leaving to continue with her daily checking.
"How can you stand her?" asked the man to whom Candy was fixing the bandages when Flammy left.
Candy shrunk her shoulders and gave him one of those sweet smiles a million dollars worth. "Well, the secret is never to take her personally and accept her the way she is."
"Yeah, a bitter pain in . . . the neck," finished the man holding his bad language... for how could a reasonable man swear so badly in the presence of the blond angel in front of him?
"Oh sergeant O'Connor, my pal is not a bad person. You'd appreciate her value if you got to know her better. Deep in her heart she's got a noble soul. Maybe it is too deep for people to see it, I think," she insisted with a giggle.
"I only tell you something... if that friend of yours does not manage to soften her ways she'll end up as a lonely spinster."
"You're an impossible man, Mr. O'Connor," answered Candy with a laugh.
"I agree with him," said the voice of a younger man.
Candy was now next to this third man cleaning an awful wound he had in the arm.
"On the contrary," continued the young one. "I don't think you'll lack of guys going after a sweet cute girl as you," he added with a smirk in his lips.
"Oh, you're a flirt Francois," replied Candy. "I won't allow you guys to be so hard on Flammy. You both should be worrying about yourselves. If you don't sweeten your temper no girl would want to go out with you... and that includes nurses," concluded Candy with a giggle as she left the room.
At that moment a young doctor came into the room. He had been witnessing the whole scene. His gray eyes had followed every movement of the blond while his ears had registered every single word that her lips had uttered.
"Bad luck this time," joked O'Connor addressing Francois Girard.
"Yeah, but one always tries, you know, especially with a girl so lovely, huh?"
"But this one is special, Mr. Girard. She's not a fish that's easy to catch," said the doctor joining the conversation. "... and a very rare one to find."
"Yes indeed Dr. Bonnot," accepted Francois and the conversation died at this point leaving the three men alone with their own thoughts.
Yves Bonnot had met Candy since the very first day she arrived in the hospital. He was having a brief brake in the doctors lounge and was going out of the restroom when the director of the hospital came in with the group of new nurses. Hidden behind the restroom door he heard Flammy's speech---something he had already heard a few times before---and with careful eyes he examined the reaction of the newcomers as the dry brunette spoke. One face out of the group caught his attention immediately. At first it was the exquisite beauty of a creamy face with a snub little nose and incredibly big eyes that captivated him, but just a few minutes after the first impression he could see something else beyond the fair looks. As Flammy continued talking Yves had fun looking at the consternation that took place in the new nurses' faces. Yet, in the blond girl's face not a trace of fear or hesitation could be seen. Instead, Yves was able to read an unusual determination in those deep green windows of her eyes.
"Ça, c'est du courage," (that's courage in French) he said to himself pleased to find in one single woman two things that rarely go together, beauty and character.
Since that moment he had followed the girl's movements with interest. He was, of course, willing to know her better, but he soon found that the way to her heart, despite her usual kindness, was a very difficult one.
Yves had had a couple of not too pleasant experiences with women along his life, so despite his first undeniable attraction to the girl he kept himself anonymous, without knowing how to approach the young woman. In that time he observed her carefully. Always hiding from somewhere he could see a thousand little details. He learned by heart every single feature of her face, the line of her fine nose, the soft pink in her cheeks sparkled with almost invisible freckles, every little twist of her curly mane and the million sparks that seemed to cover her hair when the sun shone on it, all her amazing repertoire of dazzling smiles and the different inflections of her voice. He also learned that she was without a question a human being graced with the kindest heart and a very daring spirit that rarely gave up. He found himself so fascinated in this almost sick tendency to stare in awe behind anything that could hide him from her sight, that spent entire weeks trying to find out how to actually meet the girl. But the occasion came almost by accident and a lot sooner than Yves could have planned.
It was not what can be called a beautiful day. In fact, it had rained the whole morning leaving ponds all over the sidewalks. The city had a melancholic look under the gray summer sky that matched well with its inhabitants' mood. More than three years had passed since the war had started and the country was already tired of enduring pain and constant loss. Nevertheless, despite the gloomy sight, Yves was enjoying his free day and had gone out to walk his dog, a young large German Shepherd that walked restlessly by its master's side.
Yves sat down on one of the park benches thinking about the changes the city had gone through since the beginning of the war. Paris was still the queen of the big metropolises but even when its buildings were safe and well the atmosphere had changed dramatically. Soldiers could be seen everywhere, people walked along the streets with a silent and worried expression in their faces and even in the Quartier Latin, the neighborhood of students and artists, the usual air of effervescent agitation seemed to had lost its energy. In other words, the possibility of the German Army invading the beautiful and cherished city, pride of the whole nation, was a ghost that haunted everybody' s mind.
The dog stood up with a sudden move that brought the young man back from his reveries. Before he could react the big animal was out of his reach running after a yellow cat that was already rushing with all the strength of its four legs to flee from a fight that the poor cat would surely lose.
Yves had loosened the leash so he had not other choice but to run after his dog, which did not pay attention to its master's angry calls. In a few seconds, the three of them were running out of the park towards the nearby street in front of the amused pedestrians. On the other side of the same street a young woman had stopped her walk to buy an ice cream to a street vendor. The cat in its despair saw a good shelter under the vendor's stand, and before the girl could notice what was happening, the dog and the cat were running in circles around her legs making her fall down all tangled with the big dog and the leash. Meanwhile the cat, seeing a good chance to save its life, ran away.
Yves saw the scene from a distance and sped up to help the poor victim of his own carelessness. When he arrived the girl was still on the floor trying to untangle herself from the dog's leash, the ice cream was already melting on the pavement and the dog was waving its tail with an innocent expression in its face.
"Mon Dieu, oh mon Dieu,"(Oh my God) he said as he approached the girl. "Je suis desolé Mademoiselle. Je...(I' m so sorry Miss)...." But then, he froze unable to utter another word, in any language, when he realized that the pair of greenest eyes he had ever seen were looking at him with sympathy, not a shade of annoyance in their watery depths.
"Ça va, Monsieur, (that' s O.K. Sir)," she answered in a hesitant French.
"Are you fine Miss?" he finally managed to say while offering his hand to the young woman.
"Oh, you speak English," she remarked with a gasp.
"Yes madam, but please, are you fine? I would never forgive myself. I mean this was all my fault, the dog, you see... it's mine I' m afraid."
"I guessed it by the way it looks at you, but do not worry I am quite well, sir. However I cannot say the same about my poor ice cream," she giggled.
"If you allow it, I would be very pleased to get you another one. I think it is the least thing I can do for all the annoyance you went through because of this stupid dog," he added with a severe look at the German Shepherd.
"Well, but only if you promise me not to be mad at the poor boy," she said smiling widely and he returned the smile trying to remain collected.
Oh my God, he thought. It is she, it can't be, it can't be... I had imagined that it would be different... something more... romantic?...What am I saying?... I must be crazy... Anyway, I have to think clearly. What's my next move...Come on silly, think fast...
Yves paid the vendor for the ice cream and the man smiled to the young man when he realized how nervous Yves was by the shake of his hands.
"Tenez Monsieur (Here you are, Sir)," said the vendor and then added in a whisper, "Vous avez de la chance aujourd' hui (you are lucky today)."
"Merci," Ives said not knowing how to answer the man's comment. "Here you are Mademoiselle," he finally said, turning to the girl besides him, who, the reader surely already knows, was Candy herself.
"Thank you, Mr..."
"Bonnot, Yves Bonnot, Mademoiselle," he added.
"I'm Candice White Audrey, but everyone calls me Candy," she said, giving her free hand to the man and thinking that he had a cute smile.
Soon the couple and the infamous dog were walking together along the narrow street. Yves mentioned he was a doctor in Saint Jacques hospital and pretended to be surprised when Candy told him she was a nurse in the same place. Once they reached that point the conversation became more fluent and Yves learned that she was from a place in the North of the United States, that she had graduated as a nurse the year the war started and was, thank God, single. On his own he told her that he had always lived in Paris. He had studied Medicine in the Sorbone and finished Medical School just the year before. Candy also learned that he lived with his parents, being the youngest of a family of four children. By then all of them were married, his only brother being a lieutenant in the French Navy.
"I would like to make it up to you for today's incident," he said after a while of thinking in a way to ask her out. "Why don't you let me show you the city? I'm sure you hadn't had any time to see it yet, and it is a pity because we have the most beautiful one in the whole world."
"I'd really love to but..." she looked then at her watch, "Good Heavens! I'm already late you know. But... well, the truth is that one of my fellow nurses invited me to meet her family today. I was on my way to her place when your dog... " she laughed, "Well, you already know."
"I see, then maybe another time," he said disappointed.
"Sure, thanks anyway for the nice conversation. I guess I will see you at the hospital one of these days,"s he said at the same time she offered him her hand.
course," he replied, and then to himself--Make
no mistake on that, girl.
The girl walked away in a hurry leaving the man on cloud nine, with a big dog by his side.
Dear Candy lovers you have just read the first chapter of a fanfiction piece that has been in my head for 15 years since I first saw the last episode of the T.V. series. Finally, thanks to Nila and Elaine, I'm able to actually write it. Even when I had tried to do it before I left the project aside. After all, who cares to write something that nobody is going to read? Now, thanks to INTERNET I finally found a public for it.
The story will include the major characters and some new ones. So far you had already met Yves Bonnot, who will play an important role in the story. By this time you must be wondering: What about Terri? Do not worry, it will take long to actually reencounter our beloved actor in this story, but you will find hints of his presence all along the first five chapters... Have you detected anyone in this one?... And, of course the so longed reencounter will soon of later take place... when we get to the real vortex.
© (1999) Mercurio