He hadn’t been back here since his wife died. He didn’t like the memories that returned when he entered the cool room lined with glass cases--showing the part of his life he’d like to forget. But his children and grandchildren begged to hear his stories.
A new display caught his eye. Every piece of history was identifiable to him and yet held no interest: mess kit, German helmet, footlocker, tattered photo album.
He wiped the sweat that beaded on his forehead despite the air conditioner’s constant blast. He almost turned around and left when he saw the showcase with a blood-splattered uniform; his uniform, her blood.
If only he’d found her sooner. There was so much blood. He’d panicked when he picked up her limp body. Finding a medic, he was persuaded to let go of his precious bundle. He was sent to the front before he knew if she had survived.
“Hello, Mr. Wilson,” the curator said as she stepped into the room. She drew near to him and shook his hand. “You out to see our newest exhibit? It arrived yesterday.”
He nodded and smiled, hoping she would leave. He wanted a few moments alone with the past. He shuffled his feet toward the case until his nose almost touched the glass.
She pointed to something inside. “My grandmother donated most of it. She had my brother clean out the attic and he found the old footlocker with all sorts of treasures, like her pictures from the war. She kept an old shoe box full of letters but asked that I bring the rest in.”
A tremor rolled up Mr. Wilson’s legs. He placed an unsteady hand on the glass. “May I peek inside the photo album?”
She gave him a long look before producing a ring of keys and opening the lock. “Would you like to sit at my desk?” she asked.
The woman carefully placed the book in front of him once he sat down. “You’re welcome to take as long as you need.”
He relaxed into the chair when she left. Finally, he was alone. He opened the book and sucked in a lungful of air. There she was. With a shaky finger he touched the face he’d seen so many times in his dreams. For the next hour he hunted for every picture of her, a chronicle of the life of a nurse in the war.
Slowly he shut the album, pain in his chest. She was gone. While lost in memories he didn’t hear the door open until a woman asked about the open case.
“Hi Grandma. Mr. Wilson asked to see the pictures.”
“Mr. Wilson?” The soft voice faltered.
He tried to stand but his legs betrayed him.
“Are you okay?” the curator asked as she rushed to him, followed by the beautiful angel from his dreams.