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Come and Gone
"Okay, Mr. Dubani, let's take a look at that leg of yours," Amira observed as her mother slowly unwrapped the bandages from the man's upper calf. She hovered nearby and looked at the burn with her mother. It was healing nicely, thanks to the rare herb that they had happened to have in stock. But she also still like to think that part of it was due to her good work at handling it. "Nice work, Amira," her mother complimented quietly, and she smiled.
"That Amira's a keeper, Mrs. Caple," Mr. Dubani beamed as he looked at his leg, almost as good as new. Amira blushed and looked away, secretly drinking in the praise. She had come so far in all her years of learning the secrets of medicine, and she was glad that other people had noticed.
"There's just a few more things to handle, sir, and then we'll send you on your way-" her mother was interrupted by a knock on the door.
"I'll get it," Amira volunteered immediately, walking quickly to the door, leaving her mother to finish up with Mr. Dubani. When she swung it open, a boy was gazing up at her, about her age, with dirty blonde hair hanging shaggily over the brightest gray eyes she had ever seen. He was favoring his left arm, holding a hand over his outer forearm. Blood oozed through his fingers.
Amira eyed the wound, already assessing the amount of stitches it would need. "Come right in," she murmured, standing inside so the boy could get through. All pride was forgotten and she was all business. The calmness settled upon her shoulders as she gently took his injured arm in her hands and exposed the wound. She made no reaction whatsoever to the deep gash that had been slashed down his entire forearm, but instead looked up quizzically at the boy's face when she noticed traces of some sort of black liquid at the edges of the cut. "How did you..." she asked, but the sharp look in his eyes warned her from questioning any further. She closed her mouth and silently led him down the hall into the room for emergencies. A simple wood table stood in the middle of the room, the walls lined with shelves of different surgical tools. Amira motioned for the boy to sit down on the table and went to a shelf in the corner, grabbing a sewing kit. Coming back to the boy, she set the kit down, opened it, and pulled out a needle and thread.
This was the hard part. Taking a quick breath, she tried to still her fingers enough to thread the needle. She could feel the strange boy's eyes on her, watching as she missed several times before succeeding. Amira met his eyes briefly before diving into her work, making crisp stitches across the still oozing gash. She could feel the boy wince with each tug of the thread, but he was surprisingly quiet even so.
She began speaking casually, as she was taught, to distract the patient from their pain. "Are you from around here?" She asked, not looking up from her work, racking her mind for more simple questions. No reply; tough crowd. She tried again.
"Do you have any family nearby?" She was almost done, just a fourth of the way to go...
"They all died a long time ago," came an unexpected reply. Amira started and looked up, searching his face. He was serious, she could tell. The bluntness of his speech was unnerving, bland. He stared right at her with a numbness reflecting from his soul, hiding pain so deep that she didn't dare venture further. "I'm... I'm sorry," she breathed, looking down, away from him. No more questions, she told herself.
In a few more minutes the wound was closed. Amira dabbed a cloth of disinfectant over the stitches, then began to wrap a roll of gauze around the arm. She internally complimented herself on another job well done, pleased with her abilities.
Suddenly another knock sounded at the door, this one much firmer and brisk. A knock of an authority. Amira straightened and looked back at the boy, who had suddenly slid off the table, standing rigid. He swayed slightly and she rushed to help him, but he shoved her away, getting his balance. "Show me the back entrance," he ordered, not looking at her, almost running to the doorway.
Amira jogged after him, bewildered. "Wait!" She called. "I'm not finished!" The boy looked both ways down the hallway, and started in the opposite direction from the knock, sounding more impatiently now. He stopped for a moment, just a moment, and looked her right in the eye. "Thank you," he finally said. The knocking increased to a pounding and his mysterious gray eyes took on a hurried look.
"I was never here," he whispered. And then he flew down the hallway out of sight.
Amira stood there dumbfounded, staring after him. Who was that boy?
"Amira, are you finished with that patient?...." Her mother came outside the other room, trailing off as she saw Amira just standing in the middle of the hallway, her back turned away. "Amira, honey?" She asked, growing concerned.
Amira turned suddenly, not meeting her mother's eyes. "Yes, I'll get the door," she muttered, walking briskly past her mother. She saw her mother standing watching her out of the corner of her eye as she once more opened the door, steeling herself and putting on a mask of calm.
Three soldiers dressed in crisp blue and white uniforms stood there, muskets in hand. Their face clearly displayed their annoyance at Amira's delayed answering. "Sorry, we were finishing up with a patient," she said hastily, looking back at her mother, who came up to the door, nodding in agreement. The soldiers still looked miffed but dismissed the excuse and continued with their business. Amira's heartbeat pounded in her ears and she tried with all her might to look unsuspicious.
"Miss, have you seen this boy anywhere in your village?" One in front asked, holding up a poster that showed off shaggy hair and sharp, piercing eyes.
Her mother had never seen him before. She looked briefly at the poster and shook her head, confused. Everyone turned to Amira.
She looked from the poster at the soldiers' faces, and back again. The decision was made in a split second.
"No, I'm sorry," she said, mimicking her mother's look of innocence.
The soldiers looked disappointed but determined. They thanked the mother and daughter for their time and departed the dwelling, the crunching of their leather boots on the gravel getting fainter as they moved to the next house for questioning.
Amira only looked for a moment more before closing the door after them.