I did not have the courage to visit Henry and talk with him just yet. It took me a while to get out of his office, Radar coming in and out with paperwork for Henry to sign later on and sometimes sneaking stuff out (I didn’t even catch what). He didn’t bother me. I just stood by that filing cabinet to keep out of the way, using it as support, and ignored the world around me, only interested in the few colors in the white-papered world of Molly Blake.
When I did dare myself to walk out of the building to face the music, it was dark outside and Radar was fast asleep in his cot with his teddy bear in his arms. Night had fallen already and my Commanding Officer was waiting for me to talk to him still, I figured out quickly. Hell, it had taken me hours to realize that I blew Henry off and when I did, I knew that I had to run to his tent as soon as I could. I might have some time with Henry yet.
Smacking my forehead, I dodged the night creatures of the 4077th and searched for Henry’s tent, hoping that he was calmer and not still pissed about me telling him to leave and Colonel Flagg to our own devices. I doubted it in some way (sometimes, Henry is so pigheaded and will stay angry for days at a time), but it was always in his nature to forgive and forget…if he decided that getting drunk was the answer to life’s little problems.
With the time passed, I think a sober Henry would have even cooled down and been more civil to me if we talked. After the afternoon’s incident, I would have loved to think Henry was well-disposed to me and would be kind…so I hoped. I didn’t want another screaming match with him. I especially didn’t want to deal with the gossip in the morning about it.
I walked to Henry’s tent as I neared it, hearing nothing behind his door, not even the hushed voices of the Commanding Officer with Leslie Dish. I didn’t want to interrupt him in the middle of a private moment (if you wanted to call it that), so took the risk and knocked on his door.
I hear some movement behind the door: the rustling of clothes, blankets and pillows, the grumbles of a man disturbed from something important (sleep, most likely). I couldn’t comprehend what was being said, but whatever it was, I didn’t think it was a good start to the conversation.
“Who’s there?” Henry called after a minute, sounding as if I had woke him up from a nap.
“It’s just me, Jeanie,” I called back calmly, trying to keep my beating heart from going through my chest. “I’m sorry it’s late, but I had to see you.”
God, Jeanie, it’s just Henry Blake, the guy you knew as the medical student always bothering Lorraine before they married and had children, the married man who proved that he could not even make a decision in his own house. It’s not like he’s the enemy here. He can hardly make a move against you! Why be nervous? He’s not going to bite my head off…so I hope.
A sigh on the other end was heard. “Come in, Jeanie. I’ve been waiting for you.”
I opened the door gingerly and walked into the tent, seeing Henry sitting up on his cot, a pistol in his hand and his sleeping clothes all askew. Even the sleeping mask he usually wore to bed was tossed aside.
“Expecting the Chinese to come in, Sir?” I asked him, laughing somewhat merrily when seeing the scene before me.
“Jeanie, this isn’t funny. Sit your little enlarging butt down. I’ve been waiting for you for some time now. Do you know what time it is?” Henry put the pistol back under his pillow and sighed again, his eyes bloodshot and worried.
“No, Henry. I’ve been otherwise directed.” I avoided the subject, trying to get Henry off the topic of me being late (as well as the hour), not wanting to tell him the reason why. “I guess it’s late, since Radar’s asleep and the camp’s usual nightlife is beginning again.”
“Midnight, Jeanie,” Henry growled. “You left me waiting for almost twelve hours!”
“I’m sorry, Henry,” I replied sincerely. “I didn’t keep track of the time. I was otherwise occupied and wasn’t watching the time…and no, I wasn’t with Hawkeye and Trapper, trying to make Frank and Margaret’s lives miserable again. Now, do you want to hear about Colonel Flagg and his final decision or are you going to try to discharge me again without H.Q.’s approval? I sure hope you can pull it off this time. It’ll be nice to see some magic come out of that hat of yours.”
Henry shook his head, smiling when he heard some of my father in me: blunt, to the point and without small talk. He then motioned me to his cot, to sit next to me. “Amuse me, Jeanie, before I fall asleep again or a bottle of alcohol calls me to attention again.”
Ignoring Henry’s sarcastic reply and the footsteps and voices of Hawkeye and Trapper outside (apparently, it sounded like they were up to no good), I sat down next to Henry and told him what Flagg told me, saving those things I knew to be secret (as usual). I even told him about the final decision Flagg gave me, my voice growing lower and sadder when I did, especially when he threatened to kill me if I corresponded with the enemy, did something behind his back or left the country before I was told to.
When I told Henry I was to stay in Korea, most likely until the end of the war, I burst into noisy tears. I didn’t know why I did, but feelings I knew were kept secret – nay, locked away from the world and even from myself – were now out in the open. Something had allowed it to spill out, to come forth when even I could not bear to have it out in the open, and I could not take any more of it. I had to fend it off by releasing it.
Soon enough, I was telling Henry how frightened I was and how I wanted a stable life for once. Then, I blubbered about my new-found feelings of protecting what was mine and doing the best I could. All of a sudden, I didn’t want to abort the baby, but to keep it with me. I wanted to become a mother.
Henry took me in his arms and let me cry on his shoulder as he used to let me do, not saying a word and letting me talk and cry away and make his shoulder all wet. He then tried shushing me, and telling me that everything will be ok, but he couldn’t quite find the right words to say after that (Henry was always eloquent like that). He knew how unusual this was, feeling helpless that he could not send me and the baby to a safer location, some place private so that I could have my peace and quiet. So, he shut up for a while so that I could cry my heart out, his fatherly feelings for me coming back.
Finally, when I was spent of my tears, I looked up. Henry’s body seemed so much taller than I was feeling, my last tear trailing down my cheek as my small, mousy voice from long ago came back into my throat.
“I don’t understand it, Henry…” I choked, my mouth thick with mucus, preventing me from speaking again.
Henry put my head on his chest, comforting me still, in the best way that he can. “I don’t quite understand anything either, Jeanie. All I know is that history repeated itself, but this time, it’ll be different for you and me. All I know is that you’re safer than you were when you were a teenager, living with your mother and stepfather. I’m here for you now and you don’t have to worry anymore. You have Pierce’s love and McIntyre’s respect. Nobody can touch you anymore. He’s all gone now.”
I noticed that Henry didn’t mention Simmons’ name, scowling when he spoke his last sentence, but his face turned back to homely comfort quickly enough.
I sniffled, trying to speak again. It was easier the second time around, thank God. “What am I going to do, Henry? Children don’t belong here. I don’t want to be a mother and a nurse at the same damned time. I want to be one or the other here. I want a home and a safe place to stay if I am not here. And here isn’t what I want and –”
“We’ll figure something out.” Henry looked adamant. “The Army is, at this moment, trying to decide what to do with your baby after birth and I don’t like it already. Since you’re staying here, as Colonel Flagg has told you the decision was, then they’re bound to see the baby as another threat and send it away. You can raise the child any way you want to and corrupt it. Anybody else can have it and raise the child the way they want to or the way the Army sees as neutral and unthreatening.”
I wanted to cry again, but didn’t dare do it, knowing that Henry was telling me the truth. I only listened to his heart beat, trying to grab the last bit of sympathy and comfort I could from him before his rigid routine turned my Commanding Officer back into a man made of stone. I knew what they taught him in Command School. I remember it well. And we could never change anything.
“Oh, Jeanie, you know we’ll all help you.” Henry continued on, regardless of my feelings, regardless of my thoughts. “Even if you’re banned from the O.R. for a while, you can come back a while after you pop. The enlisted men could help you if the baby stayed here and –”
“Henry, you have got to be dreaming this up or something!” I sat up, Henry’s arms still around me. “We’ve been swamped a lot lately and we’re bound to have all hands on deck, even the enlisted men, Father Mulcahy and everybody else not trained in medicine. We’re three miles from the Front Lines! Are you kidding me? I don’t want any child of mine to be here.”
“There are others here who can take care of the baby,” Henry pointed out.
“Yes, but how many miles away and to what cost to me?” An unwanted tear went down my cheek again. “Sister Theresa is ten miles away. A Catholic monastery is nearby, but I won’t be able to see my child!”
I pushed back a sob, trying to be strong for Henry’s sake. “No, Henry. My baby must be sent out of the country. The Army, for once, might be right. And I have to trust them and put my fate into their hands, as I’ve always done.”
My hope was false, but I had to hold onto it, for my own sake as well as everybody else’s. I had to believe in something!
Henry shook his head, incredulous he was hearing these words out of my mouth. “Then, let’s hope that everything does go in your favor, Jeanie. I don’t want to see you unhappy and regretful of your actions and not being able to change anything. I’ve seen it enough times. And you can’t afford to have anymore of that.”
“My life is full of regrets, Henry, and hardship has been my lot.” I sniffled again. “I am content right now, despite being here in Korea, and hopefully, I’ll do my best to make you proud.”
As I held onto Henry tighter and put my head back on his chest, I felt something wet hit my head. When I looked up, I saw that Henry was crying. I didn’t know why, but all I could figure out was that he was tired: tired of the war, tired of seeing lives become shattered and tired of being the strong one. He had to break down sometime.