Here is more from my latest work-in-progress. A soldier’s deployment good-bye with his wife.
Then it was my turn, you stared at me for what seemed like eternity and yet I know it was no more than three and a half heartbeats in the real world. When your lips touched mine, I knew that this our goodbye kiss. Not the last time that I would kiss you before you left but our real good-bye kiss. Knowing that allowed me to memorize it completely. Your hand on my waist and the other on the back of my neck, my hands on your chest covering your heart. I leaned in hoping the smell of you would stay with me. You pulled me close until I wondered if you weren’t trying to melt me into you and take me with you when you left. Your lips lingered on mine even after you stopped kissing me as if you wanted to give me your breath and steal mine at the same time. I remembered when you used to do that and I would tell you that I could feel your smile; that memory made the tears fall.
“Do you want to know a secret?” your lips brushed against mine with the softness of a paintbrush. I nodded softly.
“Soldiers cry too, they just don’t let anyone see.” I reached up and touched the exact spot where those tears would fall. I stood for a moment like that, memorizing the exact shape of your face. My eyes blurry with unshed tears.
“I made you a lunch,” My voice shaky. Changing the subject didn’t keep the sadness away.
“You did? You didn’t cook it, did you?” A joke at my expense but I didn’t care. It made me laugh and broke some of the tension. I slugged your arm and you laughed, too. I heard Belle giggle and saw Grant’s smile, for the briefest moment I could almost pretend that we were somewhere else on an ordinary day.
But then you reached into your pocket, pulled something out and I couldn’t pretend anymore.
“I have something I’ve been saving for you.” I help out my hand palm up, knowing well the routine that was coming. You were careful to give me the dime heads up. This was the tradition that you started for us.
The year on the dime was 197 4. Both of us acknowledged where we were that year.
“North Carolina” I whispered.
“Pennsylvania” you replied.
Then you wrapped my hand around that dime and said the words I know by heart. “A soldier’s girl needs ten times the luck that anyone else does, so this is your lucky dime, Baby.” We both knew that I would take that dime home and lay it on your nightstand where I’ll touch it every evening before I climb into bed. It’s simply another way to keep you with me.
You wrapped me up in a hug and I knew that I needed to go. I could feel it and I knew that you could as well. It was just getting too hard to keep staying. “I’ll wait for you.” It was a statement so simple that it managed to easily hide one of a soldier’s biggest fears.
You looked at me again, your blue eyes turning almost liquid and I wondered if those were the tears that I wouldn’t be allowed to see. You nodded. “I’ll come back to you, I promise.” Another simple statement that hid another monumental fear. We didn’t acknowledge either of our fears though. Those are our private demons that we struggle with alone and that’s the way it should be. You squeezed my hand twice before you let it slip out of yours. And then suddenly, there was nothing else to say. It truly was time to go.
I don’t know how my feet managed to carry me out of there. I realize now that Belle and Grant became the strength that I didn’t have alone. I needed them every bit as much as they needed me. I looked back and saw that you had become one of those lone soldiers. Your face hard and your jaw tight but your eyes were not staring ahead. Instead they were still on us, watching us walk away. I raised my hand not sure if I was waving or trying to stop you from going. Then for just a moment, you stopped being that soldier and once again became just a man.
“Can you smile for me one more time?”
I realized that would be the last memory you would have of us for a very long time. Somehow, even then, I managed to smile for you.