The wound oozed puss. Peter lay motionless with his fingers crossed lightly over his lips. It was a habitual position that he often took while studying people.
He gazed at the young nurse as she bent over his leg. She was beautiful in an innocent sort of way and looked far too young to be a nurse, but her calmness spoke to her experience. Her movements were slow and steady as she deftly removed the putrid gauze with tweezers. Peter noticed her nametag as it caught the light—Ruth.
He’d watched the other nurses as closely. He’d noticed the slight flare of nostrils, or the clenching of a jaw that betrayed disgust—and who could blame them—but this angel showed no signs of abhorrence, though her slightly wrinkled brow and gentle eyes showed both concern and concentration.
Ruth removed her gloves in one fluid movement and tossed them into the trash. Her eyes paused at the stack of handwritten papers on the bedside table. “Are you a writer, Mr. Crane?”
“I am. Do you write my dear?”
Ruth paused, and then opened and shut her mouth before answering. “I read…often.”
“Bring me a sample of your writing tomorrow.” Peter’s smile was both kind and knowing.
Ruth blushed as she turned to go. “Good-bye Mr. Crane.”
Peter gazed at the ceiling wondering if she would return. He’d spent a life time analyzing people and transforming them into characters for his books. Ruth intrigued him.
She looked different this time. She entered as the novice writer instead of the competent nurse that he’d seen yesterday.
“I don’t know why, but I did as you asked. I don’t normally share my writing with strangers.” Ruth handed over a few loose pages. Her hand trembled slightly as she looked through her eyelashes.
Peter read as Ruth tended his leg. He found that the only thing that revealed more about a person than their mannerisms was their writing. The prose was unpolished but profoundly deep for someone so young.
He grabbed the pen on the table and began marking up the pages. If Ruth was surprised she didn’t say so as she graciously accepted her papers.
“I made some alterations and suggestions. Revise the work and bring it back tomorrow.” Peter spoke with authority as though addressing a student and not his nurse.
Peter gazed at Ruth as she bent over her writing, cupping a steaming mug of tea between her hands. Their unexpected friendship had flourished into a close bond over the past weeks. He had come to cherish the dear girl.
“There is a contest that I want you to enter. This is something that you can do on your own.” Peter almost chuckled at the expression on Ruth’s face. Her lips formed a perfect little “O.”
Ruth glowed as she strode into the room. It had been a week since she had entered the contest. Peter felt warm pleasure, sure that his protégée had finished well in the challenge, but for once he was mistaken.
“I’m afraid I did quite poorly.” Ruth handed him the entry, and jaw clenched, he scanned it with ferocious eyes.
“This is trash!” He spat out and flung the papers into the room. “You lost because you expect no more from life than to flit about tending to the old and dying.”
“And what is wrong with that?” Ruth snapped. Scarlett spheres highlighted her cheekbones.
“You think it is meekness to hide in the shadows, but really you just fear success. You have been given a gift to bless others, and if you hide it in the sand, then you must give an account to God for that waste, my child.”
Peter saw her anger evaporate as quickly as it had flared up. Her eyes were troubled as she turned away from him. Gracefully, she knelt to pick up the scattered papers and opened her hand to let them fall into the wastebasket.
With a steady gaze she met his eyes again. “I don’t fear success as much as I fear the longing for it. There is so much pride and greed in my heart.”
“There isn’t a soul out there that doesn’t struggle with these sins. Let your awareness of your sinfulness drive you to Christ.”
“I will write better.” Her face brightened with a mischievous grin. “But, I won’t stop caring for the old and dying.”
“You will do well, little one.” Peter’s words were gentle as he squeezed Ruth’s slender hand.
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