Then one day, when the matron had removed his bandages to let his face “breathe” while she prepared to remove some sutures, Banks looked up and saw a beautiful young nurse entering his room. She was still laughing about something that someone had said to her in the hall. She seemed like the most beautiful creature he had ever seen in his life. A flicker of happiness quivered deep inside, and he was remined of his pretty little sister, his beautiful mother, and Hazel, the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) plotter he’d had so much fun dancing with at the squadron’s last party.
Banks smiled at the nurse as she turned towards him, and abruptly her beautiful face froze. An expression of intense revulsion crept across it. The exquisite features twisted and became distorted. “Oh my God!” she gasped, clapping her hand to her mouth. She hunched her shoulders and doubled over.
“Get out, nurse!” the matron ordered sharply, dropping what she was doing to intervene. “Get out this minute!”
The matron blocked Banks’ view of the fleeing nurse, but she couldn’t obliterate the sound of someone retching and heavy liquid splattering on the floor. Nor could she cover up the smell of vomit.
“Pay no attention to her,” the matron ordered firmly.
“All I wanted was for her to smile at me,” Banks defended himself. “Just one smile.”
“Isn’t my smile pretty enough for you?” the matron answered, her face lighting up for him.
Banks appreciated her effort, but he felt shattered, nevertheless. “I want to see a mirror.”
“No, you don’t,” the matron countered. “It’s too soon.”
“It’s my face. I have a right to see it.”
“This isn’t about your civic rights, young man, it’s about what is best for your recovery.”
“You think seeing my own face will have a negative impact on my recovery?”
“Yes, I do.”
Banks thought about that. His face was so hideous that it made women sick just to look at him, and his hands would never be strong enough to enable him to fly again. He had no future. Why on earth was he enduring all this pointless pain? “Can’t you put me out of my misery?”
“You don’t need more morphine at the moment,” the matron responded firmly. “I will be removing the sutures myself, and you know how gentle I am.”
It was true; when she removed the sutures the pain was bearable. But she couldn’t always be here when this was necessary. The others made him feel like a victim of the Spanish Inquisition. There just wasn’t any point in subjecting himself to this indefinitely. “I don’t mean more morphine, sister. I mean an overdose of morphine.”
“I’m going to pretend I didn't hear that. This is a British hospital, and I am a registered nurse, not a murderer.”
Banks turned his head away and closed his eyes. He wanted to die.
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