"Dad!" exclaimed my daughter Brandi as she wrapped her arms around my neck and gave me a hearty hug. "You look so much different. Your hair is shorter, your gut is gone, you look taller and you feel like a block of granite. Except for that scar on your cheek, I'd have to say that it looks like the Army agreed with you!"
"I haven't lost a pound, Sweetie, but I did manage to rearrange it a little. You're absolutely beautiful!" I gushed. "I'll be so proud to walk you down the aisle. I'm almost speechless!"
"If that happens, then I'll know for sure that the Army changed you. How was Germany, Dad? Did you get to see the sights, and go to Oktoberfest? I bet you have hundreds of war stories for us, like how you got that scar."
I flinched a little at Brandi's last comment, but managed to cover it over quickly by stepping back from her and motioning toward the attractive woman standing near by and who had just been witness to my reunion with my daughter.
"Brandi, this is Marge Becker. Unless there is some serious objection, she'll be my guest at your wedding," I told Brandi. "Marge, this incredible young woman is my daughter, Brandi."
"I am so pleased to finally meet you, Brandi," greeted Marge. "Your dad has told me so much about you. I see your concern, Brandi. I am only a guest and nothing more, so don't worry about explaining me to your mother."
"Phew! I was pretty upset there for a second. I sure don't need to spring something like this on Mom, especially at my wedding! Any friend of Dad's will always be welcome in my home, Marge. Did you meet Dad in the service?"
"Actually, I did. We were stationed overseas together and became friends. He is going to be the best man at my wedding next month," revealed Marge.
"Wow! That really takes the worry out for Mom! You're getting married? And Dad's the best man? That is so cool! Were you in Germany with Dad?" asked Brandi.
"Well, I was for a short while," hesitated Marge. "My fiancé will be picking me up the evening of your wedding and driving us back to Syracuse. Jack offered me a ride this far and insisted I attend his beautiful daughter's wedding, so here I am. Otherwise, I would have just flown from Washington to Syracuse. My fiancé, Ray, was more than happy to make the drive so I could be here for your special day."
"Here's the plan, Dad," began Brandi as she led Marge and me inside her apartment. "We're having my bachelorette party tonight, the rehearsal tomorrow night, and of course the wedding on Saturday. You remember Bill, the tailor at the men's shop in town. He said you must have been measured incorrectly for the tux. The measurements you sent him didn't jibe with what he remembered of you, so we'll fall back to plan B. You can wear your uniform at the wedding. I'm sure you'll look great and I'm so proud that my Dad spent the last two years serving our country. I want everyone to know you're my father and that you're a captain in the Army!"
"Retired captain in the Army, Sweetheart. I am out and my life is my own again," I chuckled.
"Whatever, Dad. Would you mind going with us girls to the different bars tonight? We have a limo rented, so you won't have to drive and you can even have a couple drinks, too. I know us girls will have too much to drink, so I want someone I can trust to watch over us. Can you keep your eyes on six lovely young women for five or six hours and make sure no harm comes to any of us?" grinned Brandi. "It's a tough job, but someone has to do it!"
"Sure, I'd be glad to," I quickly responded. "I assume you told your mother I was going to be here for the wedding. Is she expecting me tonight?"
"Well, Dad, that's a bit complicated. I told her you would be here for the wedding, but neglected to tell her you would arrive before the rehearsal. It just seemed simpler. I'm trying to avoid any uncomfortable situations, at least until after the wedding and hopefully, the reception."
"I understand, Brandi, but I think I'll go over and speak with her tomorrow, if I get the opportunity. We'll both be sure to remain focused on the fact that it's your big day. Everything will be fine," I promised.
"I hope so. To make sure, I reserved a room for you at the same hotel our guests are using. The limo will drop us all off there since I'm spending the night with Karen and Beth. We have a lot planned for tomorrow, like sitting by the pool and sobering up," laughed Brandi. "I'm afraid I didn't get a room for Marge. She will need her own room, won't she?"
Marge smiled as she responded, "Most definitely. Your father is much too particular to spend a night with me. I tried that a few times before I met my fiancé and never got anywhere with him. Now I'm afraid it's too late."
"Wow, Dad! That couldn't be much plainer. It sounds like you were a good boy even though temptation came your way. I'd have to say that not many men could resist the kind of temptation Marge offers," marveled Brandi. "You haven't gone gay, have you, Dad?"
I had been blushing from Marge's comment, but my face felt like it was on fire by the end of Brandi's little joke. My daughter was an adult and Marge was certainly treating her as one, seemingly to the point of forgetting she was my daughter. Marge and Brandi were both laughing at my discomfort.
Marge and I left for the hotel after agreeing to be ready for the limo at nineteen hundred hours. We had plenty of time for Marge to rent a room and get freshened up. Brandi had assured us that the limo had lot of seats for all of us. When it arrived, I saw why. It was the longest damn Hummer I had ever seen.
Brandi's friends were all lovely young women and I had no difficulty watching them as Marge and I sipped an occasional drink and chatted. We gave the girls lots of room and merely made certain they were not doing anything too foolish or dangerous.
It was after midnight and the girls insisted on visiting one more club. I didn't argue, although it appeared to me that they were all feeling no pain and should go home. How many of us have ever gone home at the right moment when we were out having a good time? Most of us try to ride that party horse till it drops. I understood that, so Marge and I simply followed along.
It was a little after one AM when the girls decided to call it a night. Marge and I exited the club and I signaled for the limo driver. Before he could pull up, the girls came laughing and stumbling out the door of the club. Suddenly, I noticed two guys with knives materialize out of the shadows. They hurried toward the girls, who were a few yards behind me.
I spun around and rushed back, managing to place myself between the two dirtbags and my charges.
"Get the fuck outta the way, Old Man!" shouted the one in front. "We want the bitches' wallets and jewelry. Maybe we'll have them show us their tits. We'll take your wallet, too, asshole!"
"Go fuck yourself, scumbag," I taunted. "I won't give a shit like you a fucking dime, you slimy cocksucker!"
That was all it took. The creep lunged at me with the knife held low and away from his body. Everything seemed to slow down as I thought back to the many times Sgt. Downs had gone over this very scenario with me.
I could almost here Sarge barking, "Step inside, block with your left, grab with your right, add your left, then take it back and up ... hard!"
I felt the knife puncture the guy's stomach and sink to the hilt. I was just about to jerk it upwards when I heard Marge screaming, almost in my ear.
"Don't kill him, Jack! He's hurt bad enough. Let him go!" she pleaded as she pulled on my arm.
I swung the guy to my right and tossed him into his partner. Both felt backward to the concrete. Before the second one could get up, my heel caught him in the temple and he fell back to the pavement. I heard Marge talking to the 911 operator before I had picked up the second knife from the gutter. I decided not to remove the blade that was lodged in the first fellow's stomach, knowing I would probably do even more damage to his organs if I pulled it out.
"Holy fucking shit!" screamed Brandi's maid of honor, Beth. "What the hell just happened?"
That seemed to open the floodgates and the girls all started crying and carrying on as a crowd began to form. A cop car appeared within minutes. An ambulance was close behind. The cops questioned me, Marge, the girls, and the limo driver, who had seen the entire altercation. All the stories were the same. It was pretty obvious that we were not the perpetrators. It was almost three AM before we were allowed to leave, and that was only after supplying ID's and promising to stop at the police station the next afternoon to give written statements.
It was a subdued ride back to the hotel. I tipped the driver an extra fifty before following Marge and the girls inside. Marge was the only one still visible as I approached my room.
"Thanks, Marge. I was this close to killing that punk. What a thing that would have been right before Brandi's wedding. What have I become, Marge?" I asked rhetorically.
"A man that can, and will, take care of his family and friends," answered Marge softly. "And that is a very good thing!"
I slept soundly for what seemed a very short time. I woke to a pounding on my door. I looked at the clock and saw it was almost eight AM. Without thinking, I walked sleepily to the door and opened it, dressed only in my boxers.
"Dad, we were wondering if you wanted ... Holy Cow! Have you been taking steroids, Dad?" gasped Brandi. "Did you get this scar the same time you got the one on your cheek? What the hell have you really been doing the last two years?"
.... There is more of this story ...