Twice on the Pipes
"Enjoy yourself, Sergeant Yuy," Hilde called after the patient being wheeled away. As impossible as it should have been for him in the cast and brace he wore, the sergeant craned his head about to glare at her. She hid her smile and gave him a short wave of her fingers in return.
Watching him disappear around the corner, Hilde gave into the grin and reached for his pillow. Only two weeks in the stateside hospital, and he was already well-known as 'the grumpy one'. Sheets and pillowcase were balled with practiced ease, and Hilde dropped them into the dirty hamper on her cart and picked up a clean set.
Two beds down, the GI turned on his transistor, and music flowed into the ward. Hilde looked across the beds. "Private Booker, you know you're not supposed to play your music that loud." But she gave him a wink, brushed off his protests and began to make up the bed. Of the ten beds in the room, four were currently occupied, and only one patient present; the music wouldn't matter for a few minutes.
Hilde smoothed the sheet, tucked and folded corners, laid out the chuck and tried not to think of how many other boys had lain in this very bed, how more would pass through the ward. Two years since she'd become an aide, two years since her brother's death. She beat the pillow into some sort of shape, pulled and folded the top sheet and thermal down to the end of the bed.
The radio station went from a commercial to music and the volume spiked in the little transistor. Hilde looked up with a smile, her head nodding to the beat.
"Knock three times on the ceiling if you want me," she sang along, the GI whistling from his bed. "Twice on the pipes..." she paused to rap her knuckles on the bed rail; a sheet of paper fell to the floor at her feet.
Giving the sheets a last tug, Hilde retrieved the paper, her eyes reading even as she picked it up.
It's been awhile, but I guess you've been busy, huh? Wouldn't mind hearing from you though. My discharge papers were signed Tuesday, and I'm here at last. It's like you said, Heero. Just like you said.
I got a job at one of the shops in town. The pay's shit, but at least it's something, right? I'll be saving, just like we...
Hilde jerked her eyes from the letter, face flushing. And here Sergeant Yuy had told her he had no friends, had no family. No one ever visited him. And other than this letter, she didn't think he'd gotten anything personal. She peeked at the signature, and rolled the name on her tongue.
The door to Sergeant Yuy's bedside cabinet was partly opened, and she knelt down next to it, letter in hand. Meaning only to put the letter in a safe place, she hesitated with her hand on the cigar box. Its corners worn, the print faded and scarred, it had seen some abuse. With a quick glance to the other patient in the room, Hilde pulled the box out and opened the lid. A black and white photo lay on top, catching her attention. She stared at it recognizing her patient immediately and wondered who the GI was with his arm thrown around the sergeant's shoulders in typical buddy fashion.
Under the photo was a small collection of envelopes. Looking at the letter again, she saw they'd been written by the same person. And from the latest date stamp on the envelope, his return address was just south of the hospital. This Duo was a friend, and Sergeant Yuy needed a friend. She wiped at her eyes with an impatient hand. Sergeant Yuy was not her brother.
Sergeant Yuy was going to have a friend. No more thought required, she wrote the return address down on her note pad, folded the letter, slipped it into the empty envelope, and put the cigar box away. Standing quickly, she gave a mental nod and returned to her cart. One bed down, three to go.