My Sweet Gentle Veteran
Living with the Lieutenant reminded me of the time when I helped mom in the hospital during the war. Especially working with elderly people.
My daily routine is as follows. I would wake up at dawn to do some cleaning on the house, then I would wake the Lieutenant up and prepare her breakfast, helping her eat by spoon feeding her. After that, I would help her bathe after I prepared some warm water for her. Also, this is when I realised that she is a distinguished veteran for a reason. Because of her condition, I would have to do all the dressing up for her. And when I undressed her, her bare body revealed that there's not a single part of her that has not been untouched by scars of all kind. Burn marks, bullet wounds, slashing marks, stab wounds, blunt trauma… It's hard to believe such a beautiful body had to go through so much…
After that, the daytime routine varies from day to day. Sometimes, I would help the lieutenant do some activities at home, such as helping her when she wanted to read a book. Another day, I would have to shop for some groceries on her stead. And usually on the weekend, I take the Lieutenant out for a walk.
I did some more cleaning entering the evening. After preparing dinner and helping the lieutenant with that, I went to prepare yet another warm bath for her. Then after that, it’s several hours of free time for myself, before I helped the Lieutenant to bed. Rinse and repeat. Ah… I should also mention that the Lieutenant occasionally smoked some cigarette, so I have to help her with that. I don’t know what is it with soldiers and smoking, I always thought it’s just a men thing, but it seems a delicate girl like her would also be affected by war huh…
I have more leeway with the way I do my work right now though. For example, in my work order, Mr. Hiigata mentioned that, even though the Lieutenant is mostly not picky about food, it is written that I should avoid anything that contains peanuts because of her allergies. outside of that, I was given free reign to cook whatever I saw fit for her breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And no matter what I came up with, the Lieutenant always praised me for it, she never left anything on the plate once she’s done.
It is also mentioned that I should take the Lieutenant out for a walk at least twice a week. Should I wish to take her out on a walk in the city, he left me a list of contacts that can help us be our concierge for the day. Wow, I thought, I suddenly feel like I’m some sort of an important person. Well I mean, I know that the Lieutenant is the star here, but being addressed with honorifics such as “Ma’am” or “My lady” by men that sounds much older than you got me thinking way over my head. After waiting for some 10-20 minutes, a car would arrive by our house, it was almost romantic in nature. Well, granted the driver is usually some burly man in military uniform, as opposed to the handsome concierge in perfumed fine suit, but still, can’t be picky.
And I won’t lie. I found myself taking advantage of this sometimes, with the Lieutenant’s agreement of course. One example that I couldn’t forget was this one time when the cinema was airing a brand new movie featuring some of the actors that just got back home from the war. I asked the Lieutenant whether she wanted to see it or not, and she said, in her words, ‘yeah, sure.’ So, after dressing her up in a cute shirtwaist white dress, we decided to go.
It was a romantic movie about a boy and a girl who were childhood friends but were separated and had to fight each other when they served as soldiers for opposing nations. I for one am not much for war stories, but the fact that it was starred by Le Blanc, and is a romance movie made me excited to watch this. And then, the Lieutenant just had to drop a bombshell on me.
“Ah, you said it was starred by Le Blanc? Charles Le Blanc? Master Sergeant? I know him, he served on the southern front.”
“Waah, you knew him Lieutenant?”
“Yeah, we fought together during Operation Stonebreaker against the Khaganate.”
“What was he like?”
“He was brave, A lot of people rallied behind him, oh and-” The Lieutenant proceeded to tell me bits and pieces about the actor that I had held in high regard throughout my life.
“Roger that! I shall treasure this knowledge deeply in my vault of memories!”
She laughed at my seemingly exaggerated reaction.
“Still, you said he was a Sergeant? Like my uncle huh. But that means you outrank him! That’s awesome, Lieutenant!”
“Oh yes, I did outrank him. He must obey whatever orders I give out when we meet again.”
“Can you order him to give me an autograph?”
“Consider it done.”
We laughed heartily after that. Right on time for our ride to arrive. Which, for some reason, took longer than usual. It doesn’t matter, having this luxury was more than welcome for me, and I’m sure the Lieutenant won’t mind.
However, once we arrived at the cinema, things started to get strange. After getting out of the car and helping the Lieutenant out to her wheelchair, I found that the cinema staff had seemingly expected our arrival. They greeted us kindly on a red carpet and asked what movie we would like to see today. I looked at the Lieutenant and she shrugged, giving me the look that says ‘I have no idea.’
“I would like to buy two tickets to see dandelions across the snow please.”
“There’s no need, we will immediately make some seats available for you two.”
Huh? Huh? Huh? What is this? It feels like we were being treated as some sort of VIP out of a sudden. They sent some guards to escort us into the theatre, and even offered some free snacks and drinks for us. Inside the cinema, I could feel people’s eyes on us, somehow, we temporarily became the centre of attention. I mean, I’ve always dreamt of being chased by paparazzi and people asking for my autographs when I grew up to be a popular actress. But this whole ordeal just feels strange to me. I looked at the Lieutenant and I can see that she’s visibly uncomfortable with all the attention she’s getting right now. I’m starting to regret suggesting we go to the cinema now…
Inside the theatre, I found that they had reserved an entire row just for the two of us! Not only that, it’s also the middle row where you’ll get the best viewing experience too. Oh, they definitely knew we were coming, was the military behind it? I started thinking that the reason our ride took longer to arrive was because the military contacted the cinema to inform them of our arrival. While I personally don’t mind this privilege, looking at how uncomfortable Lieutenant Caulia is throughout this whole ordeal, I felt bad. Add to the fact that having to make her take a seat on the middle row would only cause more pain for her. Since the cinema entrance was located near the top row of the seat, with stairs leading down to each seat row, I was planning to just order a seat near the top aisle for the Lieutenant’s sake.
I informed the cinema staff of this, and they profusely apologised. They gave us the entire middle top row instead. I don’t know how much work they had to put into it, but after all is said and done, the guards left us alone, and people started filling the room. The movie then begins, the booming of loudspeakers, the rattling sound of the film projector, this reminds me of the time when I used to go to the cinema with my friends every weekend. A thought crossed my mind, the thought that maybe I’m friends with the Lieutenant now. I mean, we’ve done a lot of things together, and she’s pretty fun to be around with. I dismissed that idea shortly after though, as I realised right now, I’m serving as her maid, and nothing more. I mentally slapped myself for not knowing my place. I was interrupted midway by a finely dressed cinema staff, delivering our food and drinks. I gently offered it to the Lieutenant of course, and fed it to her.
Occasionally, I would steal glances at the Lieutenant. The cinema is dark but I could see her face and her reaction towards it. She was… blank. It was just that, I couldn’t describe her expression other than blank. Her eyes were empty and her lips were parted. She stared at the widescreen as if she was staring at a blank canvas, as if she was looking at something else. This caused me to not be able to focus on the movie, I was worried for her. Did she not like being in the cinema? Did she not enjoy the movie? I shouldn’t have suggested that we go here, I wonder whether she’ll be angry at me or not…
And before I knew it, the credit started rolling, and the movie ended. I didn’t pay much attention to it outside the basic plot of the story. Even though the actor that starred it is literally my idol, the Lieutenant’s well-being took precedence. I saw that some people stood up and started leaving the theatre. I did the same and started to try to help the Lieutenant up. That is, until, a cinema staff appeared in front of the theatre stage, and addressed us.
“Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for visiting us to watch the dandelions across the snow. Now, we have an announcement to make. For that, I humbly ask for you all to remain seated.” Some people heeded the announcement and sat back down, some ignored and left anyway. Nevertheless, the staff continued. “We are honoured to announce that this replaying of the movie ‘Dandelions across the snow’ is graced by the presence of two very special guests, who are currently among the audience now.”
Wait a minute…
“Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome, The actor that plays the character Michel, and the nominee of the Globus Aurora prize for best acting this year. Charles Le Blanc!”
Back then. I remember thinking that it was all a dream. I remember thinking that this is too good to be true. I remember pinching myself several times to confirm that it was, indeed, not a dream. Claps and whistling and all sorts of fanfares could be heard across the entire cinema. People outside of that theatre room could be seen crowding on the entrance to get a glimpse of the national star. I remember seeing the figure of the idol I’ve only seen in movies and interviews on the tele, now walking in person towards the stage.
If it were me prior to the war, I probably would have joined in the crowds and screamed my lungs out, desperately trying to get his attention. But somehow, I don’t really have a desire to do that right now. I felt that my sense of responsibility towards the Lieutenant had caused me to be more composed compared to the other girls in the theatre room, who had splendidly done that in my place.
Speaking of the Lieutenant…
I took a glance at her and saw that her expression still hasn’t changed for the better. No, in fact, it's gotten worse. She’s obviously looking downcast, staring down at the theatre chair.
“Lieutenant, are you alright?”
I was so focused on her that I didn’t pay attention to whatever Le Blanc was saying, untill…
“... As for the reason for my presence on this very special occasion. I would like to thank one of my fellow compatriots, a brave soldier who served alongside me in the war and fought bravely for the freedom of our people. Her struggle inspires us all to strive for the better, and to be thankful that heroes such as her exist as a bastion of justice. Ladies and gentlemen, please give applause to the hero of the Commonwealth, holder of the medal of honour, 1st Lieutenant Caulia Cornellia Cromwell.”
“heeeh?!” So, when they say they have two very special people in attendance, does that mean that one of them is… The Lieutenant?
I glanced my head back and forth between the Lieutenant and Le Blanc. He was raising one hand towards her, directing all attention our way. A spotlight shone down on her, putting her slender figure in full display. A loud applause follows, I could hear some people whispering amongst themselves. Something along the lines of ‘that girl is a vet?’ ‘She’s so young’ ‘She look younger than my daughter’ etc, etc.
I would’ve screamed in joy had it been me before the war that stood beside her right now. I would’ve joined in the wild fanfare the crowds were giving her. I would have been happy, had it not for her desolate and empty eyes, staring at her supposed junior down there. I heard Le Blanc mentioning some more of her achievements to the crowds as he approached us. And I found myself at a loss of what to do.
Then I realised that this is what probably happened behind the scenes after I called in our concierge. They knew Le Blanc served in the military, and would probably respond to their summons. They knew He served alongside the Lieutenant. But why… Why is the Lieutenant not responding to any of this? Why does she look so empty and hollow?
“Lieutenant Caulia, ma’am, it’s good to see you.”
Without me noticing it. Le Blanc seemingly appeared all of a sudden besides us. He stood upright with a fine salute towards the Lieutenant. I jolted back, and slightly bowed to him.
“Hello Charlie. How have you been?” She replied.
“Oh, I’ve been fine.”
I saw him fell down on her knees, like how those princes from storybooks would do when they were about to meet their princess. I heard some people in the audience gasping, some squealed, some screamed in high pitch. No doubt wishing that it was them instead. Then, I saw Le Blanc raise one of his hands, grabbed the Lieutenant’s hand, and kissed it. The audience burst into cheers, and cameras started flashing all over the theatre…
Yeah right, at least that’s what I think would’ve happened had things were quite different. Sorry. Let me rephrase it.
Then, I saw Le Blanc raise one of his hands, grabbing the air in the area around what was supposed to be the Lieutenant’s right hand, if she had any. And kissed his own hands as a result. An awkward silence followed between the two. He had this confused look at first, until he gets the full picture of reality. For a split second, I could’ve sworn I saw his expression change into that of shock as he stood up and took a few steps back. Well, being the professional that he is, he immediately reverted back to the movie star persona in no time.
It appears he did not know the full extent of what the Lieutenant had gone through. What was that all about? Did he not notice that the Lieutenant without arms? Was he not paying attention to her at all? I can’t believe I’m writing this critique towards my own idol, but right now, Lieutenant Caulia far outweighs Le Blanc in the scale of people I actually cared about. And what he did to her was… quite disrespectful. Does he think that because he’s a world-famous actor, he could do whatever he wants? The Lieutenant is a hero, and she’s your superior at that, and this is how you treat her?
“Charlie… Hiigata sets you up for this, doesn't he?”
This time, I could see the famous world actor visibly nervous as she said that.
“Caulia, listen, I’m-”
“It’s okay Charlie. It’s not your fault.”
When I glanced at the Lieutenant again, I could see her eyes were almost like a dead fish. Empty like the void. I do not know what happened between these people in the war, what I do know is that the Lieutenant is hurting right now. World famous actor or not, I don’t care if he’s hurting her. So I took it upon myself to do something.
I gently tapped Le Blanc’s shoulder. Something I never imagined I would get to do. He turned to look at me with a confused expression.
“I’m sorry to interrupt. I am Theresa Lonnete, Lieutenant Caulia’s personal maid. It is my duty to look out for her wellbeing. And it seems that the Lieutenant is not feeling well at the moment. So, in the best interest of her health, I will be taking her out of here. Thank you for your hospitality” I said, giving out my best stiff and straight-to-the-point impression of a military man that I’ve been practising in my mind. I’d say that it came out well, as both Le Blanc and the Lieutenant did not object to my suggestion.
“Come here, Lieutenant, let me help you up.”
“Thank you. Lonnete.”
After gently putting her back in the wheelchair. I excused myself from Le Blanc, and walked out of the theater room. The crowds instinctively make way for the two of us. I could hear more clapping and cheers as we left the room.
“Wait! Ms. Theresa, was it?” I could hear Le Blanc calling out from behind me.
“Please, please take care of the Lieutenant for me!” He said, bowing in the same fashion as Mr.Hiigata did. I could hear some people gasping at this.
“Yes, gladly. And thank you for your service. Mr. Le Blanc. I have always been a fan of your work.” I said, bowing slightly before moving to our car.
After our car had moved a good distance away from the theatre. I took it upon myself to face the lieutenant, and prepared to apologize.
“Lieutenant, s-sorry about that…”
“Hmm? About what?”
“About what just happened in the theatre… You don’t seem to enjoy it at all.”
“What are you talking about? I did enjoy that movie.”
“How Michel fought tooth and nail to see his childhood lover, only to find out that Misha was, indeed, the phantom witch that had been killing all his comrades. And the conclusion of the movie was beautiful. Instead of finishing her off after putting her down, he carried her back, and faked both his and her death so that he could finally live with her.”
“W-wha?! So you were paying attention after all?!”
“Hmm? Of course I do. That’s what you’re supposed to do in a theatre right?”
“Ah, ahahah, ahahaha… yes, of course…” And here I was, failing to pay any attention because I was worried about you…
“Um, um…” I tried to come up with something from the movie to talk about to the Lieutenant, and what I ended up coming up with was… “What about you, Lieutenant? Do you ever have crushes or lovers like that?”
“Eh… uh” WWWhat the hell was I thinking, prying into her personal life like that?!
I did all kinds of violent things towards my head mentally, punishing myself for being so stupid and insensitive. Until…
“Hmm, yeah, I do.”
“Wah! You do?! Can you tell me more about that?” I jumped towards her excitedly. Abandoning the self-discipline that I have strictly drilled into myself for months now.
“Ahah, ahahahaha… So you’re into this kind of thing huh, Lonnete.”
“Well, romance is just the best after all. Everything's better with a little bit of love!”
“Umm, my ‘romance’ story is probably not that exciting.”
“Aww, are you shy now, Lieutenant? Come on, you have to tell me!”
“Mmm, okay. His name was Ferdinand Miguel. A friend from high school.”
“Waah, high school friend turned lover in war! How did your love blossom? Did he jump out to save you from hordes of enemies? Protected you from harm?”
“Ah, uhh… It’s actually quite the opposite…”
“His squad was a bit overextended towards the frontline… There was an enemy sniper somewhere in the front. The sniper picked off members of his squad one by one.”
“I just happened to be scouting nearby and witnessed what happened, so I, uhm, shot the enemy sniper… Just in time to see him running towards me, scared.”
“W-wah… He’s…” A total loser…
“Back in the base, he confessed his love for me, I think. But honestly, I think he was just scared and grateful, and I understand that. So I accepted it without thinking much about it.”
Waah, even the Lieutenant accepted his confession out of pity… yeap, a total loser… But wait. That got me thinking…
“I see… But, what happened to him? Did he finally see the disparity between you and him, and finally relinquished his love of you to someone more worthy?”
“What? No, its nothing like that.”
“Uh huh, he’s quite brave to think that he’s worthy of you, so what happened then?”
“Um, he was transferred to army group centre as part of Operation thunder cross. I still received some letters from him from time to time… Until one day, the letters just stopped.”
“I think he died when thunder cross fell apart when the Empire counter attacked, and army group centre almost got annihilated in the months that followed.”
“O- oh… I see…”
Silence dawned between the two of us. That’s it? That’s the whole story? Oh wow. Military bureaucracy and real war don’t care at all about plot structures and romantic tension huh. Wait until book critiques reviewed this plot… Well but then again, what happened was a very real war. I shouldn’t compare them to cheesy cinema love stories.
“Ah, yeah. Now that I tried to remember it again. I do recall seeing his body. Well, what was left of it, he was being loaded into a body bag.”
“It was… near unrecognizable. When the corpses of the casualties from thunder cross were brought back. I remember seeing rows of rows of bodies being prepared, and loaded into a body bag…”
“I didn’t know it was him at first, there were soo many bodies and they all looked the same, some missing limbs, some disfigured faces, all of them had black charred skin and rotting flesh… That is until I saw the emerald ring on his blackened, rotting pinky finger that he always carried, I remember him saying that it was an heirloom from his mom, I think. “
At this point, I can see that the Lieutenant is starting to visibly shake. I grabbed her shoulder to calm her down.
“Or was it from his father…?”
“L-Lieutenant, it’s okay, you can stop.”
“Ah… I’m sorry.
Critiques be damned. I felt stupid for having the previous line of thought. What was I thinking, this is real war. People died, and I compared it to some stupid Galcian pop movies? I felt guilty towards the Lieutenant for thinking that way.
“No no no, I’m sorry… I’m sorry for forcing you to recall such a horrible experience.”
“It’s alright. What happened, happened.”
And on that poignant note, our conversation ended abruptly
Please log in to leave a comment.