All through school and even before, Don Brown and Tammy (Tamara) Stone had been a pair. From the first day of school when their mother's had put them on the bus together they had sat with each other, played with each other and, later, learned about the opposite sex with each other. Unfortunately, Don had a dream—a dream that not even the love of Tammy or the needs of the family farms could dissuade him from following. Don had fallen in love with the sea when he began reading history in school.
Don, like his mother was a voracious reader and one day in the school library he found a book that would change his life—Carry on Mr. Bowditch—a book about a young boy that had ran away to sea and learned navigation. He rose to Officer's rank and became a fantastic mathematician and navigator. Don spent many hours sitting in his room dreaming of going to sea after he read that book.
From the first book on sailing ships he branched out. He read history of all the great naval battles and the great ships that fought in them. He read about the clipper ships sailing across the pacific to China and he dreamed.
Of course, it didn't hurt too much that his father was a little bit hard for him to live with. Young Donald was like many young men. He liked to play and screw around. He knew what his chores were on the farm but he would rush through them so he could read more history, historical novels or science fiction. Oh, yes, he fell in love with the works of the old school Sci-Fi writers too like Robert Heinlein, Poulson, Pournelle and many others. He would rush through his chores and many times do a poor job so he could get back to reading or down to the river that ran through their farm and fish or swim.
The summer he was 18 his parents were building a new house and his father always gave him a long list of work to do during the day while he was occupied with a part time job in town or with more pressing farm work. Of course to Don this work was not as pleasurable as reading or spending time on the river or with Tammy so he either didn't complete his jobs or did them in a haphazard manner. This resulted in spirited discussions with his father.
One day Don had spent much of the evening rereading about WWII submarines in the book "Down Periscope". He read about the Wahoo and her cohorts during the battles in the Pacific. The next morning his father told him he had to carry bricks up onto the scaffold so they could brick the new house. Don started the work but ... well, about 9 a.m. he quit to go to the local town for a drink. While he was there he saw a sign about the Navy Recruiters office in the next large town and began dreaming about the sea once more.
Somehow, when he left to return to the farm his car turned toward town and the rest is history. He found the recruiter in the office and bought the spiel. Before lunch he had signed on the dotted line and had even been taken to the local MEPS for his testing and physical.
At 3 p.m. Don returned home to his very angry father who was doing the work he had assigned to Don. When Don got out of his car Howard came down from the scaffolding and started for Don. He said, "Where the hell have you been son? I told you to get the bricks up on the scaffold so we could lay some this afternoon and when I got here you were gone. If you weren't so old I would warm your ass! No get your gloves and get to work. We'll have to work until dark to get the work done I had scheduled for today."
Don's mother walked up behind Howard and looked at Don. Her face seemed worried and she cringed when Don opened his mouth to speak. He said, "I joined the Navy today. I leave the middle of August."
Don's father stopped his yelling in mid thought. His face turned white and he walked off after his wife Barbara put her hand on his shoulder and said, "Howard I told you if you didn't take it easy on Don he was going to leave."
Don watched his parents for a moment then put on his gloves and returned to work. That evening he had a date with Tammy and he was excited to tell her what he had done. He knew she would be happy for him. Don rushed through work and finally at dusk his father cleaned up the masonry tools and put them away. He and Don rode back to the old house in silence, neither spoke a word. Don rushed through his shower and took off without supper to see Tammy. He didn't have far to go as her parents owned and operated the farm next to his families.
Don rushed up to the door of Tammy's house. She had seen him coming down the road and met him with a smile, a hug and a deep kiss. When they broke apart Don saw her mother standing in the kitchen door watching them and smiling. She said, "Hello Donnie. You're late tonight." She looked at him a moment longer and sighed then continued. "For once I'm not sure if we want to hear the explanation or not. I talked to your mother earlier and she was crying about something you had done today. I..." She took a deep breath and continued, "From what she said I don't think any of us will like it so why don't you just come on in and tell us before we die from worrying about your news?"
Don smiled and almost bounced into the room. He grabbed Tammy's hand and pulled her along with him. He never noticed the scared look on her face as he pulled her to the couch and sat down then pulled her down beside him.
He looked over at Mrs. Stone and said excitedly, "I joined the Navy today. I leave in two weeks for recruit training then I come home for a month and go to the fleet for three years. I..."
Tammy screamed, "WHAT! Don how could you? What about our plans, what about college this fall? How could you do something like this without even talking to me about it?"
"Tam, I've talked to you about the Navy lots. I don't understand what you're talking about. You knew I was thinking about going into the Navy. I just got ... well, I don't know, I saw a poster today and went in to talk to them about it and, well before I knew it I had signed up and even have a job if I can pass the class. I'm going to be a Fire Control Technician."
"What? Don you could get on the Rural Fire Department here. Why do you want to go into the Navy to be a Fireman? Oh, I can't believe you did this!"
"No, Honey, a Fire Control Technician works with electronics. I will operate and maintain radars and computers that aim the guns and missiles for the ships. When I get out I can get college credit for the education and I can even take courses while I am in. This won't mess up college too much and I will have the GI Bill to help us when I get out in four years. We'll be set then!
"Get out! I can't believe you did this to me!" Tammy hit Don with her fist and ran down the hallway to her room. He sat there with his mouth open in total shock. He looked over at Mrs. Stone and saw her watching him with sorrow on her face.
Mrs. Stone sighed and said, "This wasn't the smartest thing you ever did Don. I think she'll get over it but you have a really pissed off young lady here now."
Mrs. Stone walked into the kitchen to return to her work and Don sat on the couch. After a few minutes he walked down the hallway to Tammy's room. She was laying on the bed crying as she talked on her phone to one of her girlfriends. He sat on the bed beside her and began rubbing her side and back as she cried. Finally she hung up the phone and turned to him. He wrapped her in his arms and held her until she quit crying. All the time he told her how he did it for them, about the GI college benefits and he reminded her of his dreams to go to sea and see the world.
Tammy hugged him to her and replied, "But Don we could go to college and get an education then we would have a good job and we could take trips and see the world together. Now I am here all alone for four years while you run around and play. Don I don't want to be without you that long. How could you do this to us?"
Finally after almost an hour Tammy agreed to go out with Don as they had planned but the evening was not as enjoyable as the rest of their dates had been. There already seemed to be a wall growing between them. The next two weeks things were touchy between the two young lovers and the adults in both families. Don was excited about leaving but also sad to leave his girlfriend and parents.
Finally the day of departure came. Seaman Recruit Donald Brown stood outside the departure gate with his parents Howard & Barbara Brown and almost fiancée Tamara (Tammy) Stone. He was struggling to remain dry eyed and to keep his voice from breaking. He could see the tears glistening in his mothers' eyes and running down her cheeks. His father's voice had been unnaturally hoarse when he had wished him goodbye and given him a self conscious 'man hug'. This would be the first time the small group of neighbors had been separated for any length of time since he and Tammy had been born. Their parents had been neighbors and friends all their lives and they all knew Don leaving would leave a hole in their lives.
Don gave Tammy a last kiss and walked through the departure security gate. He was so excited. He was off on the adventure of a lifetime. Almost before his family was out of sight he had forgotten them and dreams of adventure were running through his head.
When Don arrived at the airport in Chicago he looked for the sign he had been told to find directing all new recruits to their ride. When he found the sign he found three 'real' sailors and a large number of new recruits just like him. He gave the Petty Officer Second Class (PO2) his name and was checked off the list. The PO2 looked at him for a moment, pointed to a chair and said, "Sit over there with the others. We'll leave in a few minutes if the other assholes on my list ever get here."
Finally three other young men arrived and the PO2 walked to a position in the center of the seated recruits. He said, "All right. Listen up you people. I'm PO2 Carver and I am supposed to get you to base and turned over to the in processing people. I hope you got some sleep on the planes because you sure aint agonna get any here tonight. Now when I call your name answer 'here Petty Officer' and line up over there by PO3 Lincoln."
After the names had been verified once more PO2 Carver walked to the front of the group and said, "OK, follow me and we'll get you on the bus. Now I don't want any horseplay and I expect you to move rapidly and carefully."
Don managed to get a seat by the window and spent the entire trip looking out of it. This was his first time to fly, to ride a bus or to be more than 60 miles from his home. He was so excited he didn't know what to do. When they arrived at the base he was impressed. It was still early enough some of the sailors to be were marching to and fro. The streets were clean, the buildings large and neat. He couldn't wait for training to begin.
That was one of the longest days of his short life. After getting off the bus they were ushered into another building where the in processing began. They handed in their orders and other paperwork they had been instructed to bring. It was placed in a folder and given back to them to carry. They began going through a long line answering questions, signing papers and so forth. They were marched through a building where they were measured and issued clothing, and then on to another where they were issued bedding. Finally they were outside once more and lined up together. Late in the afternoon they were all marched to the Chow Hall where they were instructed to place their bags on the ground and take one step backwards.
The new recruits were allowed to file into the mess hall for evening chow then. All throughout the process more senior men were pushing them to hurry, hurry, hurry. Don only got about ten minutes to eat after he got his tray of food. He was lucky however because most of the recruits had spent their meal time visiting instead of eating. Many had only eaten a bite or two before one of the men who had been yelling at them all afternoon forced the recruits to stand and leave the tables. They carried their trays and filed past the scullery where they left their mostly uneaten trays full of what, to many, was barely edible food.
Don was one of the lucky ones who didn't leave hungry because on the farm he was used to eating fast so he could get back to the field. Of course being extremely hungry helped him eat rapidly. He had almost cleaned his tray when they were forced to leave. Some of the men who had been visiting a lot got almost no food that night.
After leaving the chow hall they fell back in on their bags and were marched back to a large drill hall. It was full dark by now so they needed the lights inside.
An enlisted man in kaki's stood in front of the now tired group of new sailors. He said, "OK now listen up. I'm Chief Salle. These other gentlemen and I are going to be in charge of you apes for the next several weeks. We will be your Company Commanders. Now beginning on the left I want you to count off by fives."
After the count the chief once again began speaking. He said, OK all ones go with PO1 Jensen, all two's go with PO1 Harris, all threes go with PO1 Stewart; all fours go with PO1 Hodges. All you fives got unlucky. You get to stay with me."
After the new recruits had shuffled over to their respective Commanders they were formed into Companies and training to march began. They were marched around for a short time carrying everything they had been issued then they were marched out the large open doors toward their barracks. It was after midnight when they arrived and was nearly 0100 before they were allowed to go to bed.
All the young men were sleeping soundly when the lights came on and alarms started to ring. The Chief walked down the center isle of the barracks banging a wooden night stick on the bottom of an aluminum dish pan. He was yelling at the top of his voice, "OK you Monkeys. Up and at em. Drop you Cocks and Grab Your Socks. It's time to go to work in this man's Navy."
The new recruits staggered to their feet. Several of them looked at their watches and moaned. It was 4 a.m. (0400 military time) and they listened to the loud speakers outside the building belting out reveille. The second day of their Naval service had begun. The first thing they did the second day was visit the barber where they were given a buzz cut haircut. From there they went to medical where they were poked, prodded, x-rayed and interviewed about previous health problems. They also began a battery of immunizations that would be required before they could complete their training and be sent to the fleet. Those with special skills and training were identified so they could be utilized in the Navy.
As the days rolled by getting up at 0430, normal reveille became easier for all. Some never got used to it and to some, like Don, it was no big deal. Training went on and was by no means too difficult physically but the hours were long. From 0430 to 0500 the men dressed, made their rack (bed), and prepared for the day. First formation was at 0500 then they were marched to breakfast. At 0600 they marched back to the barracks and cleaned it from top to bottom then had to do their past days laundry by hand using a scrub brush. They hung it on a line in the quadrangle then had formation at 0800 for the beginning of classes.
Classes went from 0800 to 1200, then lunch, then classes until 1600. From 1600 to 1700 was free time if they had no demerits to work off. 1700-1800 was supper then they were to study until 2200 only taking time out to shower in rotation. Lights out was at 2200 then they were allowed to sleep until 0430 when the next day started. Sundays were special. Reveille was delayed until 0530 and after morning chow the new recruits could either go to religious services or, if they refused to a 'moral enlightenment' class. After lunch was free time unless there were demerits to work off or a special training need to be addressed. Many times the whole company had to do extra training because of some real or imagined failure during the previous week.
Of course the actual sleep they obtained never did total to the number of hours they were 'allowed' on paper because of having to stand duty. Every member of the unit had duty of some type during at least two nights of the week. They were all sleep deprived and in a bad temper.
Don almost got beat up several times because of his mouth. Don was an even tempered polite young man but he was used to hard work and getting up early on the farm. When there was a job to do he thought it should be done rapidly and correctly and THEN you should relax. He was wont to say to any who would listen that, "I don't know why you all are crying about the work or hours. Hell, I grew up on a farm and this is the easiest money I've ever made in my life. During the summer when we planted and harvested we worked hard physically as long or longer than they make us here." The young men who lived in and grew up in the city seemed to think the opposite to Don and became angry with his attitude and contempt.
Finally graduation day arrived and Seaman Apprentice Donald Brown marched in review in front of his family. After they had graduated he rushed to the reception area to see his family and Tammy. His parents hugged him and told him how happy they were for him. Tammy on the other hand gave him a luke warm kiss and just stood beside him during the reception. He had a whole weekend of liberty then his family and Tammy would go home and he would go across the street for another four months of training in electronics on the main post as opposed to the Recruit Training Depot. After that he got a long leave before he was assigned to a ship for the remainder of his enlistment.
At the hotel Don had his own room with a connecting door to the one his parents and Tammy had. Unfortunately he was not allowed to sleep in the same room with Tammy. He could and did get some free time with her but he felt like something just wasn't right. Finally he asked Tammy what was wrong and she said, "Nothing Don. It's just ... well, I've been all alone and we just don't ... well I don't know what to do or say to you any longer. I'm sorry."
By the time he had to return to base he and Tammy were more relaxed with each other but Don was uneasy about how she had reacted to him and some of the comments she had made. Tammy had always been a friendly girl but always before if she had male friends they were also Don's friends. Now Tammy was in college and she had mentioned several male friends she hung with. She seemed extremely taken with her new friends and her newfound freedom. Now he was not looking forward to the next four months. He worried about Tam. There was nothing he could do about it however so he went on and his family returned home.
Phone calls and letters to Tammy kept them in touch and up to date with each other but there was a distance growing between them. Don was afraid. Don felt like Tammy was slipping away, growing more remote from him. She seemed more interested in her life than the life they had planned on building together. He kept talking about their future together and how he wanted her to be with him after recruit training but she never gave him any positive hope that would happen.
The schooling was tough but at least he no longer had to rise at 0430 or go to bed at 2200. Reveille was still at an ungodly hour but as long as he was in class at 0800 and passed all his tests with a 70% score or better he was left alone. He only had to stand duty one day in ten and could go to town in the evenings or weekends if he so chose. Usually he stayed on base during the week and went out Friday and Saturday nights with his buds.
Don learned to drink. He went to his first strip bar and saw much more of the seedier side of Chicago and Kenosha Wisconsin than many people knew even existed. His friends saw to it he got laid. He and Tammy had only had sex twice and he had to admit it had never been anywhere near as good as it was with the three young women he picked up in the bars and fucked in Chi Town or Kenosha. After the third time he got laid though Don quit picking up women. He felt so bad about cheating on Tammy he just couldn't live with himself after so he quit.
Don still went out with the guys but he drank and had fun then went back to the base and choked his chicken.
His thirty day leave after his training was better than the weekend he graduated boot camp. He and Tammy reconnected. After the first week back they were almost back to the way they had been before he left. She was almost finished with her first year of college and Tammy excitedly told him about all the new things she learned and all the fun she was having.
The third week Don was home was Tammy's birthday. She turned 19 and Don, his family and all their friends still in the area were invited to a party with Tammy and her family. After the meal of burgers and chips Don took Tammy's hand and pulled her away from the table where her presents were. "Honey come here a moment please. I want to talk to you a minute before you open your presents."
Don led Tammy to a spot at the edge of her yard where the light just barely reached. He stood and gave her a gentle kiss then reached into his pocket and pulled a ring from it. He looked at Tammy's glistening eyes and said, "Tammy I know the last few months have been rough on you, on us but I still love you with all my heart. Will you marry me?
Don took Tammy's left hand and held the ring toward her ring finger. He looked into her eyes and watched as she blinked, then licked her lips. He was beginning to become afraid when she finally whispered, "Yes. I do love you Don—but when? I mean you are going away for three years and I have my college and ... well what about all my friends and ... I just can't drop it all and go away with you now!"
"Tammy, why not? They have colleges where I'll be and it's nearly the summer so you can marry me now and we will move you to the coast when this year of school is over. It'll be great honey. We can see lots of new places and be with each other when I'm not at sea..."
Tammy placed her fingers over Don's lips and said, "Shhhhh. Not now honey. Yes, I'll marry you but I just can't do it right now. This is enough for now and you know that."
Tammy grinned when she heard some of her college friends yelling. One male voice rose above the others. Don looked over and saw a tall well built man that appeared to be of Mediterranean descent. He said, "Hey, come on back over here Babe. We all want to see ya open yore presents, not whisper in the dark with that sailor."
Tammy gave Don a quick gentle, almost sisterly kiss on the lips then smiled once more, grabbed his hand and pulled him toward the light and her well wishers. She never mentioned her acceptance of marriage to the assembled group and as far as he knew no one was told. It was almost as if her acceptance had been a non-event. Don left the party well before it wound down feeling lost and sad. He kept wondering what was wrong.
The rest of his leave was spent with his family and Tammy but other than a small comment about the beautiful ring from Mrs. Stone no one mentioned the engagement. All she said was, "Well son it's about time you got a ring for my girl. We could be having the wedding this summer if you hadn't gone off to play sailor." She saw the hurt in Don's eyes and smiled a sad little smile then said, "I just hope your decision to do that doesn't jump up and bite you in the ass. Congratulations anyway."
Don asked what she meant but Mrs. Stone only said, "Nothing Don. I just worry about things like most mothers." Of course that did nothing to allay his fears.
Over the course of the next year the only contact Don had with anyone back home was by phone, e-mail and mail. Tammy was especially hard to keep in touch with because of her college and hectic schedule. Sometimes he would go as long as two weeks without a message from her and it hurt. It hurt a lot.
Finally another leave came and Don was able to return home for two weeks. He wanted to surprise everyone so didn't tell them he was returning. It was the middle of the summer so he knew his parents would be home. After all they farmed and had to do most of their work in the summers. Don wanted to surprise everyone at home so badly he decided to rent a car and drive home from the airport. He reasoned he could return it the next day and have Tammy come pick him up in his old truck.
Don's flight arrived just before lunch. By the time he collected his luggage, rented the car and drove the sixty miles to his home it was nearing 3 p.m. He was so anxious to see Tammy he drove straight to her parents' farm, not stopping in town or at his own home before hand. When he drove down their private lane a billowing cloud of dust stretched out behind him. He knew he was driving too fast for the lane but he just couldn't wait to see Tammy. His cock had been hard and straining against his trousers the entire day and by now it ached it had been hard so long. He fully intended to get Tam into his car and down to their parking place by the river as soon as he could. He intended to take her to their place even before he went to see his parents.
When Don's rental car slid to a stop in front of the Stone home Mrs. Stone opened the kitchen door and stood just outside on the patio. He could tell she was angry with him from her stance. She stood with her hands on her hips and a scowl on her face. He knew she would forgive him though when she saw him. Don rapidly got out of the car and started around the front of it toward her.
Mrs. Stone face showed shock and she pulled her hands to her face covering her mouth. Her eyes took on a haunted, almost frightened look and she said, "Don! What are you doing here? I didn't know you were coming home!"
Don grinned at her and said, "Yeah, I didn't tell anyone. I was only granted the leave a couple weeks ago and I wanted to surprise everyone." He was looking around as if he was searching for something then he finally said, "Where's Tammy? I have really been dreaming about seeing her!"
Delores Stone looked around wildly then she sighed and said, "Don Tammy's not here Son. I"
"Oh. Well when will she get back? I see her old truck over there. Is she in the field somewhere or"
"Don, she's gone for the summer. She and unh ... some of her friends and she are in Europe for the summer doing some kind of course and seeing the country ... I ... I can't believe you forgot that. I mean"
Don stood in shock. He looked at Mrs. Stone and felt his stomach lurch. Finally he found his voice and said, "No, she never mentioned any trip to me. All she said was she wasn't taking any summer classes this year and wanted to take it easy, to have a relaxing summer. She said she wanted to just have fun this summer. I guess she didn't think I would care about my fiancée running around Europe with a bunch of ... Oh, FORGET IT."
Don turned and walked back to his rental car. He started it and returned to the highway in another cloud of dust. He never looked back to see the tears in Mrs. Stone eyes and he certainly didn't hear her whispered comment. "Oh, Honey I hope this doesn't come back to haunt you. I'm afraid you're going to lose that boy."
Don's family, on the other hand, was overjoyed when he drove into their yard in a billow of dust. His father started for the slowing car with a questioning look on his face. He knew the vehicles of all the neighbors and wondered if he was being blessed with a sales call or a bunch of religious fanatics. When the door opened and Don stepped out his face broke into a smile and his pace picked up. He yelled for Don's mother. When she came from the back yard she saw the two men of the family locked in an embrace. She hurried to add her welcoming hug to the group.
Don enjoyed touching base with the few friends he had that still lived in the area. Of course it was wonderful to see his family also. His family was shocked when they found out Tammy was gone and doubly shocked when they found out she had not told Don she was going. One time when they were talking about her his mother looked at him in sadness and said, "Don, Honey. I don't know about that girl. We love her like a daughter but, well, I just worry she's enjoying her college too much. I'll pray for you both but sometimes the lord moves in mysterious ways you know."
His leave ended way too fast even without the company of Tammy. His parents took Don back to the airport on the last day of leave. When he returned to duty he would be boarding a different ship, one that was to deploy to the Gulf. He was excited. He was now a Petty Officer Third Class and expected to have some men working under him in the new job. It would be his first time in a supervisory capacity. His ship, the USS COLE (DDG 67) was almost new and she was beautiful.
Don reported aboard and quickly settled into his new job. He enjoyed working on the equipment and guiding the lower ranking men he supervised. He quickly became a favorite of his superiors and was treated as such. Their deployment was nearing its midpoint when the ship went to Aden, Yemen to refuel.
Shortly after mooring the crew began to congregate on the mess decks for lunch. There was a roar, the ship lurched and the mess decks were filled with fast moving shards of metal and dark smoke. The lights went out. Don's head was ringing and his right side hurt. He could hardly breathe. The General Quarters alarm was bonging away but Don was having trouble moving. He knew he had to hurry to his station but something was wrong. He felt so weak. In the dim light of the battle lanterns he could see a gaping hole in the side of the ship and many of his comrades were lying on the deck unmoving. He pulled himself to the nearest and began trying to remove the debris from them. He uncovered three of his friends when the world went dark once more.
Don woke up once more in a white compartment on a hard, cold bed. He had no idea where he was. His moan when he tried to move brought a strangely dressed man from another compartment. "Ere Now Yank. Just you lie still before yew tear out all them stitches me and the Doc put inter yer."
"What, unh, where am I?"
"Oi Mate. Yer on Her Majesties Ship Marlborough. Yer'll soon be moved onto one of yer Yank Hospitals I suppose but ye jus rest now for a while."
True to his new friend's word Don was soon moved on to a US base at Landstuhl Germany at the Army's Regional Medical Center.
The evening of the attack both the Brown and Stone families were made aware of the attack. Since they had no one on the ship as far as the military knew the Stones first heard of the attack on the news while at supper. As soon as they listened to the news Delores called her friend Barbara.
When she answered the phone Mrs. Stone could hear Barbara crying and she felt her own stomach lurch. "Barb, it's me. Oh, please ... is Don..."
Barbara cried louder and through her tears she managed to get out, "He's not dead but the Navy says he was one of the ones that got hurt. He's stable and not in danger but the officer didn't know more..." she began crying louder and hung up the phone.
Mrs. Stone looked up at her husband and said, "I'm going over there. Don got hurt. You call Tammy and if you can't get her send an e-mail. I don't know when I'll be back."
The next couple days were extremely painful for both families and Don. Of course Don's pain was physical but the emotional pain was terrible for the two families back in the States also. Even worse there had still been no return e-mail from Tammy and she had not phoned home either. Her father had left a message on her cell phone to call, that it was important but he had decided not to tell her Don had been injured. They had no idea if she even knew the ship had been damaged or for that matter if she cared. When she had returned from Europe she seemed like a different girl. She had spent two weeks at home then left for college opting to live in a rented four bedroom house with some friends. The few times she had contacted her family she seemed to be withdrawn and somehow sad, unwilling to open to them any longer.
Finally on the sixteenth of October 2000 Tammy returned home for a visit. It had been four days since the damage to the ship and Don's injury. She came into the house late in the afternoon having driven home after her last class.
Tammy came into the house and walked up to her mother. She gave her a kiss on the cheek and said, "Whew. I'm glad I'm through for the week. My classes are a bore and now we have to listen to all that drivel about the Cole bombing. Who cares if a bunch of idiots tried to bomb a darn old ship?"
Mrs. Stone looked at her only daughter in shock and replied, "Tammy! I can't believe you just said that! Don't you care at all for Don or our men in uniform? How could you!"
"Oh Mom! Of course I care about Don but he's the one who left me you know. So his precious ship got bombed. So what?" Before she could think or stop her reaction Delores' hand shot out and she slapped her daughter. Tammy looked at her with a shocked expression as the tears welled up in her eyes.
"Oh, Honey." Mrs. Stone reached out and pulled Tammy to her in a gentle hug. "I'm sorry I did that but sometimes lately I don't understand you at all. You have changed so much since you started college and especially since you went to Europe. Sometimes I don't think I know you any longer."
After she had hugged Tammy a while longer Mrs. Stone held her at arm's length and began talking once more. She said, "Honey Don was one of the ones that got injured. We don't know much about his injuries but that he is stable and is either in Germany or will go to Germany to a hospital."
Tammy stared at her mother in shock. She covered her mouth with her hand and began to shake with silent tears. She pushed from her and ran to her bedroom where she threw herself onto the bed.
Mrs. Stone followed and sat on the side of the bed. She just sat and gently rubbed the back of her daughters head, smoothing her hair as she cried. Finally Tammy wailed to her mother, "Oh, mother I've ruined it all. I've been acting like a spoiled little Bitch. I don't deserve Don any longer." Tammy wrapped her arms around her mother and buried her head in her ample bosom then she continued talking. "Momma I really screwed up this time. Momma, I'm pregnant and, and it's for sure not Don's baby. It happened when I was in Europe and I don't know who the father is. Oh, Momma, I'm so sorry!"
Delores gasped and felt her stomach lurch as her daughter's confession sank in. "Oh no, please lord not that Tammy! How could you?"
When her father came into the house the two women brought him in on the news and then they sat around trying to come up with a solution. Tammy was adamant she wanted to keep the child. Her parents had wanted her to abort and try to keep her infidelity from Don. Finally Tammy said, "NO! it's my body and my baby. I screwed up but I can't kill my child. I already love it and I just know Don will too."
"Honey I'm not too sure about that," said her mother. "You didn't see Don this summer when he came home to surprise you and found out you had gone off to Europe with a bunch of boys. I think his love for you began to die that day and from what his e-mails to us and his parents say it is not very strong now. You have been ignoring him in favor of your new friends and he is hurt. Honey this may be the final straw. Even without your past problems very few men will put up with a wife or fiancée that spreads it around like you have."
Over the course of the next several weeks Tammy began to send more e-mail to Don and to try and call him more. For the most part she was unsuccessful because he had limited access to computers and his phone. They did talk twice but the conversations were very short and not very loving. It was almost as if they were just two friends conversing now. Tammy had not told Don about the baby. She and her parents had decided to wait until he came home hoping they could do some damage control if they saw him face to face.
Finally in late October the Navy transferred Don to a hospital closer to home and his parents went to see him. They offered to take Tammy with them and were hurt when she refused. By then of course his injuries were known. He had shrapnel wounds a broken left arm and a badly broken left leg. He was to remain in hospital until just before Thanksgiving then he would be home for the holidays on convalescent leave. He would return to duty after the first of the New Year.
Finally the day arrived for Don to return home. His whole family and many of their friends and neighbors met him at the airport. He came from the plane in a wheelchair pushed by a pretty stewardess. His face broke into a big smile when he saw everyone waiting on him. His head kept turning from side to side, looking for someone. He was looking for Tammy. Finally he saw her behind and to the side of his and her parents and his grin got larger. He directed the stewardess to push him toward them.
When he got close enough his mother, then Delores, Tammy's mother leaned down and gave him a hug and tearful kisses. Both fathers smiled and shook his hand. Tammy held back almost as if she was afraid of seeing him. Finally Mr. Brown reached for her and pushed her toward Don.
Don reached his arms out for Tammy then gave her a surprised look. A slight frown came over his face and she blushed. She gave him a quick peck on the lips and said, "Welcome home Honey." Before Don could answer she faded back into the crowd. Now the rest of the town folk and friends greeted Don. He kept looking at Tammy with a frown on his face. Finally he turned to Mrs. Stone and said, "Tammy sure seems to have gained some weight. She looks pale too. Is she OK?"
Tears welled up in Mrs. Stone's eyes and she wiped them with her fingers then said, "Yes Don. Tammy's fine. Let's just get you home then tomorrow we'll all come over and see you. I'm sure she has a lot to tell you."
That night was one to remember. It seemed the Brown house had never been so full. Don's older brother and sister and their families were there and all evening friends dropped by to see Don. He kept looking for the Stones though and they didn't show up. Finally he asked his mother about them and he saw her grimace. She said, "Honey I've invited them over tomorrow so we will have some time to visit without all the uproar from the rest of our friends. You and Tammy need some alone time right now and you couldn't get it with her tonight."
It was after midnight when Don got to bed and much later than that before he got to sleep. He was so exhausted he slept in and his mother had to wake him up at ten the next morning when the Stones arrived.