Author: Teresa Mummert
"I know exactly how I want us to spend our last day together." I smiled as she pulled back to look at me quizzically. "I want to hold on to you until they pry you from my arms."
She smiled and took me by the hand, leading me into her bedroom, her blanket falling open and revealing her backside. I laughed as I shook my head and kicked the door closed behind us.
March 27 2010, Saturday
"We haven't had enough time." Shane wiped away the streams of tears that flowed endlessly down my cheeks. He placed his hand on the back of my neck and pulled my forehead against his.
"We have all the time in the world, sunshine. I'll be back before you know it." He closed his eyes and struggled to level his breathing. I knew he didn't want to cry in front of me. He was going to miss the hell out of me and was terrified that I would find it too hard to wait, like Chelsea.
I nodded, sniffling as my hands found their way to his chest. I tried to memorize the rapid thudding of his heartbeat in his chest. It was like the beat of a song that only played for me.
"Shane," my voice cracked as my fingers tangled in his ACU top, "I will wait for you."
"I know," he whispered as his other hand came up to stroke my hair. He pulled his face back from mine and gave me a weak smile as he used the pads of his thumbs to wipe the tears from my face. "You're so beautiful, you know that? Even when you cry. So beautiful. I'm going to miss your face."
I let out a sob and wrapped my arms tightly around his neck, pressing my body against his. He let his duffle bag slip from his fingers as he wrapped his arms around me and squeezed me against him.
"It's only six months. I'll be back in September. I'll come back to you, I promise. I need you to take care of Roxy for me, okay?"
"Okay. I promise."
He pulled his face back from mine and kissed me hard on my lips, lingering for an extra moment.
"I have to go." He pulled out a small piece of paper from his pocket and placed it in my palm, curling my fingers around it. "I was awake all night thinking about this moment. I couldn't come up with the right words to take away your pain. I want you to read this whenever you're sad. Whenever you read it, know that I am thinking about you. No matter where I go or what I am doing, I will be thinking about you."
I nodded and took a step back as I retrieved his bag from the ground. His eyes lingered on me for another moment before he turned and made his way to his gate.
As he stepped inside the terminal, my fingers shook as I unfolded the paper. It read: INDIA LIMA YANKEE. I glanced up at Shane, who had turned around, watching my look of confusion turn to understanding.
"I love you, too!" I mouthed. A sad smile spread across his lips before he nodded and disappeared.
The tears immediately flooded my eyes again, and I left the airport as fast as my feet could take me.
I'm not sure how I even made it home. My thoughts raced with memories of Shane. He was intimidating and harsh. He was caring and sweet. He was mine and I hated having to let him go. As I opened the door to my apartment, Roxy greeted me with her tail wagging. My place felt empty and my heart was hollow as I sank to the floor and wrapped my arms around the dog's neck and hugged her.
I have always considered myself to be strong, even when the odds were stacked against me, but I felt like I was only hanging on by a thread. I'd forgotten how to breathe without inhaling the minty smell of his soap. I forgot how to feel without looking into his blue eyes. He awoke something inside of me that I didn't even know I had locked away.
I loved him.
March 27 2010, Saturday, 11:34 a.m.
Sitting on a plane surrounded by so many people but feeling hopelessly alone. That's how I felt after having to say good-bye to Jenn. I had no intention of meeting someone and giving away my heart again. She blindsided me. I just wanted to help her, to make her smile. But she was stronger than anyone I had ever met. I was the one who needed to be saved.
I didn't want to go back to Iraq. I wanted to be with her. I finally felt like I had a place in the world and it wasn't on a battlefield. I know I didn't deserve her and I would forever be trying to be worthy of her love. It would be worth it. Every smile, every giggle that passed through her lips healed me. Our paths crossed for a reason. Everything that had happened up to this point had all happened to bring Jenn and me together. I wouldn't change it. I would gladly let Chelsea rip my heart out a million times if Jenn would be there to put the pieces back together for me.
"Where are you headed, son?" an older gentleman asked as I stared out of the tiny window, wondering if Jenn had made it home safely.
"That's a tough trip to make." He flipped through the pages of his newspaper as his eyes danced over the tiny print.
"Yeah," I sighed, as I rubbed my palms over my ACU pants.
"Even harder to leave someone behind." His eyes glanced in my direction, and I nodded as a lump formed in my throat. "Do you love her?" he asked as he went back to glancing over the news.
"Focus on that. Don't focus on where you're headed. Think about what is waiting for you when you get back. Makes the time go faster."
"You've been deployed?"
"Nah," he chuckled as he turned the page. "But I've been to prison."
I laughed and shook my head as the flight attendant made her rounds to offer us refreshments.
"What if she doesn't wait?"
"Then it wasn't meant to be. You can't force love. You can't control how someone else feels
. You just have to enjoy it while it lasts and hope the ride doesn't end."
"Wise words." I took a bottle of water from the flight attendant and thanked her.
"I had some time to think. I imagine you will have a lot as well. Don't use it dwelling on the 'what ifs' in life."
"Thank you for your service," he replied before we went back to our silence.
March 28, 2010
"Hello?" I wiped my hand over my eyes as I yawned into the phone.
"Time to wake up!"
"May?" I sat up on my bed and pushed my hair from my face. "What's wrong? Have you heard from Shane?"
"No, sweetheart. He's probably still in transit. He made me promise not to let you mope around missing him."
I sighed and squeezed my eyes closed, struggling to keep my composure.
"Your sister's wedding is today, Jenn. You can't miss something like that."
"The hell I can't. She's marrying my ex."
"He's your past, Jenn. Shane is your future."
"Fine. On one condition. You come with me."
There was a long pause as May sighed into the phone.
"Come on. You can't send me in their alone. I need a battle buddy too."
"Get dressed. I'll be right over. This should be entertaining. It's not every day your brother-in-law's sort of girlfriend's sister marries her ex-boyfriend."
"Right. We should get drunk first."
"Oh, no. I am not going to explain to Shane why I need bail money. We can stop for drinks afterward."
"See ya in twenty?"
"I'll be there. Jenn? Shane gave me a message for you. He said to open the bottom drawer of your nightstand."
I hung up my cell and tossed it next to me on the bed. I tossed the covers to the side and pushed out of bed. I pulled open the bottom drawer of my nightstand slowly. Inside was a CD. I flipped it over in my hand as I read over the cover: OWL CITY: OCEAN EYES. I flipped it over and read over the songs. "Fireflies" was the song playing in the arcade the first time Shane and I kissed. I smiled as I remembered how his lips felt against mine. I could do this. A wedding paled in comparison to having to wait for Shane.
I grabbed the hideous hunter-green dress from my closet and threw myself together in record time. I didn't care about looking my best. I knew inside I would be dying.
It didn't take long for May to be at the door knocking. I hurried down the hall and pulled it open.
"You look amazing." May smiled, leaning in to kiss me on the cheek.
"I look like Astroturf." I rolled my eyes and May burst out in a fit of giggles.
"Well, as long as you're not playing the field." May winked. "Now come on, tell me I'm a hot mama." She spun around showing off her pale blue gown that hung just below her knees.
"You look phenomenal."
"Thanks, hon. Let's get out of here before we change our minds." May grabbed my hand and pulled me through the doorway.
"Let's take Shane's car." May grinned and clasped her hands together.
"What if we wreck it?"
"Oh, please. I know he has been teaching you to drive. He wouldn't have left it with you if he didn't trust you."
"All right," I replied, slipping my fingers around the handle as the door automatically unlocked.
"How did you do that?"
"I have the keys in my purse." I shrugged. "Like magic." I shot May a wink before we both slipped into our seats.
"This is going to be a disaster," I sighed, as I put my foot on the brake pedal and pushed the start button.
"Just be thankful it isn't you up there marrying that douchebag."
"Yeah, I guess I should thank them."
"Work that into your toast." May laughed as she fumbled with the touch screen.
We drove toward the kissing bridge singing along to every upbeat pop song from the nineties that we could find. May was careful to change the station whenever a sad song came on. She didn't want to bring me down and make me think of Shane more than I already was.
As we pulled up to the parking lot of Henry's Service Station, which had been roped off for parking, my stomach began to do flips. May reached over and grabbed my hand, giving it a squeeze.
"You are stronger than you give yourself credit for. You can do this."
I nodded and unbuckled my seat belt.
"I wish Shane was here."
"I don't think Shane punching the groom would go over well." She laughed as I opened my door.
"Yeah, but it would make me feel better."
We made our way to Daisy's Floral Boutique, which was doubling as a place for the bride to hide out so the groom wouldn't see her before the wedding. It smelled amazing as we stepped through the front doors.
"You have a lot of nerve," Gail said angrily as her eyes landed on me.
"Can I talk to you?" I asked as I rung my hands together. I didn't want to have a fight in front of the entire bridal party. I knew if I spoke to her alone, she would understand. Or at the very least, she could curse me out and get it out of her system before the wedding.
"You have five minutes and if your boyfriend is out there, I will be calling the police."
I nodded as I followed behind her.
"Shane is gone. He left for Iraq yesterday." She spun around in the door with a puzzled expression.
"He went back to war?" she asked as I followed her outside, struggling to keep the tears at bay.
"I don't want to talk about it. I'm sorry for what he did to Thomas. I know you hate him and probably hate me, but Shane was only protecting me."
"Yes, from Thomas, Gail. He had been egging Shane on the entire dinner."
Gail sighed as she folded her arms over her chest and looked down at her pearl-white high heels.
"He had a lot to drink that night."