‘Haven't you seen the notice in the dining hall?' Ami his best friend asked him with a surprised smile .
They were both in the their squad's tent right after the day's training, some fifteen minutes before supper. Ben had no intention to stay for supper, he was already wearing his A uniform ready to leave; as he usually did when there were no night trainings or guard duties or worse some punishments, such as reporting before his sergeant in full field gear every couple of hours up to midnight. With a pass or without it he was ready to leave, to cross the fence and sneak out – to the bright city lights, to forget for a few hours his daily routine, the camp and its barbed wire fences, the military discipline and the non-commissioned officers from lance corporal on, who could push him around whenever they wished to – and to think that he was so eager to enlist and serve his country just a few months earlier .
‘ What notice?' He asked his friend with indifference, almost ready to take his leave.
‘ There's a dancing ball tonight, and it was said that they'll fetch a group of intern nurses from the local hospital. You know the one not far from our base .'
Ben sat down on his bed undecided. ‘You aren't pulling my leg, are you ?'
‘ Of course not, it's still posted there! Come and see it yourself, if you don't believe me .'
‘ Should I stay then, eh ?
‘ Sure it's going to be fun, those poor nurses are starved just like the female recruits of training base twelve .'
‘ Okay I'll give it a go,' Ben muttered clearing his throat. He did not like unexpected changes. In just a few seconds he would have crossed the fence and be on his way. ‘You reminded me something though, I'm hungry .'
At about seven thirty pm when Ben entered a second time the camp's dinning hall, accompanied with several friends who shared the same tent with him. The interior of the one story building that served as the camp's dinning hall was completely changed, the tables simply vanished and the walls all around were decorated with colorful paper ornaments; a low stage was erected at the far corner. The place looked like some dancing club in town .
The whole company gathered including the staff, the atmosphere was very pleasant, the platoon commanders and the non-commissioned officers were very friendly towards their inferiors. The sergeant-major was roaming all over the place – all smiles, treating each one as if he was his is own buddy. The company commander and his second in command arrived without the usual strict ceremony – no shouts of attention were heard no slutes .
The company commander stepped upon the small stage to have his say and ask each one present to behave and be friendly towards the company's guests, in a rather a rare speech so unlikely to their strict and taciturn commander .
‘ The days of the Messiah are on our threshold…' Ben whispered to his best friend Ami, sitting beside him .
‘ Really,' Ami turned to him with a sardonic smile. ‘I bet you won't have such thoughts tomorrow morning, or even right after our female guests would take their leave …'
‘ Let's hope it would last up till tomorrow morning then.' Ben replied smiling. ‘Thank god some of the staff aren't present, we might get a dance or two with the girls after all .'
A truck engine's regular noise was heard getting nearer, just as Ben was about to add a few more words. A sudden hush fell over the crowded dinning hall, but it did not last more than a friction of a second – the chattering din was resumed with much more excitement. They could hear what was going outside. The truck reached the dinning hall and was unloading the precious cargo .
When their guests started to enter, those who were close to the entrance stood up applauding their guessts with beaming faces .
About two dozens of young females entered the dining hall and stood huddled together in it's middle – waiting with somewhat embarrassed expectancy, under the scrutinizing eyes of their young and eager hosts. The company commander greeted them with a few kind words and asked them to be seated along the walls, to join his subordinates .
‘ I say this one is quite a good looker.' Someone noted aloud .
‘ What do you know, that's my ex girl friend.' Ben exclaimed excited .
‘ Your ex, you wanna tell me you've given such a pretty chick up? You must have some loose nut in your brain.' Ami said, watching all that time his friend's ex girl friend with amazement. ‘Do me a favor introduce us …'
‘ She's all mine, changed my mind!' Ben replied and stood up smiling towards his approaching ex, that has identified him. She was not exactly his girl friend, they were on friendly terms in high school – that's all. It was thanks to her for truth sake, she liked him; but he could not make up his mind, there were two more very pretty girls in their class, which he fancied and did nothing about it .
Her name was Ilana Belkind, she was belle indeed, with her dark eyes and her black glossy hair. he has not forgotten her, her red lips and her whitish skin, a lovely contrast with her raven black hair .
God almighty, was I blind, or what? He wondered as he watched her.
She did not smile as she approached him, but kept watching him curiously. She sat between the two of them and after Ben introduced her to Ami, they were silent for a minute or two – paying their attention to what was going on, the music, the few couples that started to dance, and then she turned to him ignoring poor Ami completely. She kept questioning him about the time that passed since they parted, he watched her beautiful features quite encouraged – as if he was seeing her for the first time in his life .
Thus time passed by, she did not wish to dance, and refused politely all those that came by to invite her. At about midnight the music stopped and the company commander declared formally the the ball was over. When Ben escorted her to the truck among her female colleagues, she asked him to come and visit her .
‘ When and what time?' He asked her surprised and delighted at the same time .
‘ Any evening when you'll have the time.' She said with a slight chuckle that lighted up her beautiful face .
The very next evening Ben crossed the camp's fence, under the surprised gaze of his platoon commander. But the latter was some thirty yards away, and Ben could not care less – he was on his way to her. He crossed the fields towards the asphalt strip that led to the main road, and after a short while got a lift to her hospital. A stranger in an old sedan on his way the the next town picked him up.
The hospital gate was close to the main road but Ben preferred to walk along its fence up to the apprentices' dormitory, where he climbed the fence and jumped down on the lawn between the fence and the long row of wooden huts that were in fact the dormitory .
What's a six foot fence for an airborne? He mused nonchalantly, as he crossed the lawn and hit the narrow road in front of the brand new Swedish wooden huts' entrances. He walked on along the narrow road wondering where her room might be .
Next to an open door he saw her sitting next to a mirror combing her long black hair. He went straight in with a big smile all over his face, but she watched him without uttering a single word with a stern gaze .
In any case she didn't object but still it's quite a strange welcome. He thought as he sat behind her watching her face in the mirror. They exchanged a few words now and then, and while he was wondering what could be the matter with her, an American car moved on the road outside and stopped before her door. A young dandy appeared attired in a jacket and a colorful tie. He watched Ben with the kind of look that radiated the very clear question: who the hell are you?
The young dandy that was no doubt a few years older than both of them, turned to Ilana with a short question:' Are you ready?' As if Ben was not present there or did not exist .
Ilana laid down her brush and rose to her feet. She did not even turn round but watched Ben through the mirror, and said rather dryly: We're leaving, sorry .'
Well that was some visit, some fiasco! Ben told himself quite distressed, and having been caught red handed I'll have to pay for it very dearly .
He left the hospital through its main gate this time.