Chapter 1

Dedicated to...

You all to whom know what it is like, God Bless; If you don't, so what, no real loss.

My sister, Kathy was seeing us off. She was a pretty little thing, even to a brother she was downright 'cute'. Jim must have thought so too because his eyes did not seem to want to leave her.

I just shook my head and pulled him towards the car. Mom later told me that she and Kathy cried their eyes out when we both left for Jim's house now, Kathy came with us. Not a surprise. I wondered if Kathy cried a might more for him, than me.

My name is John, most people call me JD for John David. I had known Jim, well since he threw that rock at me and hit me on the head. That was almost 14 years ago. We grew up together, and since I threw the rock back at him, we had an almost truce until the 6th grade.

Now I was not the fastest, nor the strongest and I was not the dumbest, so when the three 8th graders wanted my lunch money, I had a hint that I was in trouble. Now, I said what I was not, but I was the biggest, fattest, most obnoxious 6th grader you ever did not want to meet and I was hungry.

It was an easy decision for me. Eat or not eat. No decision at all I thought, remember I said I was hungry. Hell, I was always hungry. I think in 8th grade I was 6' 1 or 2" tall and over 210 lbs.

Anyhow, the choice of a few bruises or not still did not make up for lost food. We went at it, it was a fair fight, I sat on one, held another by the neck as the third used my head as a punching bag.

When some other 'gentlemen' started over, I heard a loud voice, "Watch your back Bro!" It was my 'truce' buddy Jim. Well the idea that there were now two of us did make a difference. I just got beat up but still had my money. Lunch was over though and Jim just shook his head.

"You should have just given them the money, Dumbass!" Jim had such a pleasant way with words. I could see then why Kathy might like him!

Did I say my sister liked Jim, not at all; she loved and adored him. Thought her last name and his were going to be the same. She fell under his spell when we were 11 and she was near 9 or was it he fell under hers?...

I never even thought that each would feel the same way about the other.

High school was hard on them both. They were in different schools. Whatever fears and imagined losses each might have had, summers saw Jim coming over every day, to see me. Right, and there is a Santa Claus. They say once a 'woman' and I would classify Kathy as a woman, gets her claws in a man only when one of them is dead, will she let go. I found out, that even then... !

I digress!

Summers sometimes did include me. I think twice or maybe three times. The rest, every summer day it was Kathy and Jim, or Jim and Kathy. Mom began to set an extra plate for him whenever we ate. A few times, when she looked at Kathy or at Jim, she had tears in her eyes. I often heard her have the 'Talk' with Kathy, not all of it mind you, but I know they went to see Doc Pritchard when she got to be 11.

How did I feel? Like Hell. Yep, I wanted to beat the crap out of Jim and wondered how long I could keep Kathy chained up. Until I looked in their eyes.

If what I saw in them could be 'packed up' there would be peace on earth. No two people were more in-love than those two. It became all too clear how they both felt when it came time for the Prom. Now we, as Juniors did not have our own Prom. It was like a test-drive; for the first few hours we shared a Prom with the Big Guys, the Seniors. At 11pm we had to leave.

I was going to take the love of my life, I forget her name but it was fair, I drew straws as to who I would take. I was not sure if she was the long straw or the short one. It did not matter, we were both 'losers'. Jim on the other hand had no such problem, he had another, two really.

My sister was like, well like a 'bull in a china shop'. Everyone knew that a Junior could not take an, 'ARGH', Freshman to the Prom. It was against the rules. Kathy even knew that and, to put it mildly, she was 'pissed off".

When the analogy of a bull became real, she was now throwing the dishes on the floor and swearing, Mom stepped in. They had another version of 'The Talk'. Like that did a Hell of a lot of good. More plates were hitting the floor.

At school it was same as usual. Old Jim just ate with Kathy and me, while she stared at him with looks that might be called 'intent to commit murder'. It was not even close to Prom night, like 2 months away it was, but Mom had enough, she was out of dishes and even the paper ones were hitting the floor now.

Now I said Jim was over everyday, during the summer. This was not Summer and Mom had called Jim over.

She sat us all down, Kathy next to me, Jim on the other side and now daggers were coming from 2 sets of eyes. Mom started. "Look! You both need to, no all three of you, need to get over this. I'm out of dishes and out of "Talks" for my daughter. Get over it, it is just a dance and I know Kathy can't go to a Junior's Prom. She knows it too."

I knew right then and there was a reason I liked Jim.

"What! Why can't she go? If she can't go, I'm not going either?" I don't think it even crossed Jim's mind that there would be need to ask her to go, it was just assumed on his part, that she was his girl and would go.

He got those strange looks that only show on a girls face when something really big happens. Last time I saw it was when Aunt Sue showed us her engagement ring.

Now two of 'them' were glaring like lost puppy dogs at Jim.

My sister had the correct reaction. She literally threw herself at Jim. She was hugging, kissing and was almost laying down on the couch with her body all over him. Up till now they had never even kissed in front of me, let alone Mom. Both girls were crying and Jim had a look on his face like 'What just Happened?'. I gave him the official brother response. Raised eyebrows and a shrug of my shoulders, with a 'beats me' hand gesture.

The family was no longer at war and we stopped having to eat on paper plates.

My new 'best' buddy was to have another problem, two in-fact. Carrie Ann Miller was one. When she had 'sweetly' asked me if my 'best' buddy Jim had a date for the prom, I made the mistake of telling her the 'truth' and nothing but the truth. "Yes, he is taking Kathy, my sister!"

I did not know a girl could cuss like that. "She is a 'Freshman'. I'll kill that bitch!" Those were some of the nicer things she had to say.

Carrie Ann tried her best. Jim became the object first of every girl asking him 'if he was going to the Prom with another Junior or even, my God, a Senior.

That there were a couple of other; "My God", cheerleaders that needed dates, their BF's still in casts or crutches from football.

Ridicule was next, now they were coming up and asking if the rumors were true, that he could not get a date and was stuck having to take my sister, a freshman.

I was getting a kick out of all this. Jim never even blinked. He and Kathy were 'Shunned' and we were not even Amish. Things really got crappy though when Carrie Ann was going to make everyone as miserable as she was. The 'bitch on wheels' decided my date could not go. Not if my 'best' buddy was taking a 'Freshman'.

You know the expression that every good deed is punished, well Carrie Ann ended up really, really, really doing something good for me after all. What a punishment it was.

When I told my 'Best' buddy what Carrie Ann had told me, my ex date too, he just smiled and asked if I trusted him? Well if I trusted him with my most prized possession, my sister, I guess anything he asked was a no brainer. He would get me a date for the Prom!

Everything was arranged, we had a Limo, flowers, Dinner reserved for 11:20 and an understanding that we might not be home on-time. Right! My sister better be home, on-time!!!!

It was not too late, so why was I dripping on the floor. If I had another shirt or Tux, I would have changed three times already. Jim just smiled and my 'date' was not here, NADA, no call, no ring, ring, ring, carrier pigeon, nothing even close to a girl. I looked at Mom and began to wonder how long it would take her to change or if she even had a dress for a Prom.

Our phone rang and Mom got it. She told us. "Your date is ready JD, she is over at Jim's and is waiting for you and the Limo. I looked at Jim and mouthed 'Thank God, I owe you!'

He smiled, then said, " you have no idea Bro, you have no idea just how much you owe me?"

We left to hugs and kisses, even Dad was there to say Good Luck. Did I feel better now, dryer even? Yes and no, now I had to meet my date, a 'Blind' date. I hoped, no I prayed my 'Best' buddy Jim was not thinking about that rock I threw back at him.

I exited the Limo at Jim's house, remembering that quote from a book I had read, 'We who are about to die, salute you!' Yep, it seemed appropriate right now.

I stepped up and rang the bell, flowers in hand. Jim's Mom opened the door. I handed her the flowers, still holding the corsage in my left hand. I'm here for my date. I told her.

"Step inside JD, she'll be right down. Sorry were so late, her flight was delayed!"

So she was not a local girl, I thought, Great, so much for a lasting relationship.

"Becky is my niece, Jim's cousin. She is really looking forward to this, it has been a while since she was asked to a Prom."

Geez, did she say Becky was Jim's cousin or his Aunt, I just knew she was 90 years old and senile. Jim had really got me. I heard,

"Hi there! You must be JD, are you ready for some fun tonight?" as I turned to the voice and saw the vision of an angel coming towards me. She raised up a bit, gave me a kiss that I will remember the rest of my life, never to wash my lips again.

"Oh, is that for me?" the corsage seemed to go to her breast, then from the left to the right I just kept fumbling around.(Did not seem too long a time to me, a 40 D chest makes it hard, to find a spot for a pin) Jim's Mom saved me further turning red by offering to pin it on her.

My dream, for I knew I was just dreaming, got even better. Jim's Mom just put the frosting on my cake. We haven't seen Bec since she won the Miss California contest. It was all my sister keeps talking about. Poor Bec was in pageants both years her Junior and Senior proms were held. This is a real treat to see her. Hopefully, her model work will let her visit more often.

Not only did I owe Jim, there was a God and she was standing next to me, now holding my arm. I had said I was 6' 1", 210 lbs in 8th grade, now I was nearly 6' 4'' and 195 lbs.

We walked out to the limo. Well she walked, I sort of floated with my mouth wide open. The driver opened the door and Jim and Kathy sat there with 'shit ass' grins. As Becky got in she held out her hand, moved her fingers and said, "Give guys, I think he is happy?, at least he will be later tonight!"

Oh man did I ever owe my 'Best, Best, Best' Buddy. She knew, Kathy knew and she never told me. I could see it on her face. Not only was Becky beautiful she had a smile on her that, that, God, she could do anything! Even better, she was the best date I ever knew.

What had happened to Kathy and Jim was repeated with Bec and me. Was it as quick and easy, without the green monster or the miles she travelled being in the way, then my travel, no! But something stayed with both of us those years to keep that spark alive. Or so I thought back then. She was my date for next year too. My problem then was keeping those educators from her, trying to teach her more about life. I needn't have worried, we both would face a lot more tests those next few years. More that would later tear us apart. Still the mind often makes everything out of nothing. The first party she and the 'girls' were off to; set me off. She cried, I cried and it was something we would have to endure.

Looking back it was nothing compared to what others would have to endure, Bec too, I recall.

Jim and I were going off to War. We graduated just in time to miss any cushy assignment. We, at that time, did not consider the fears and emotions that Kathy, Becky or our Parents were feeling.

Becky and I were at a point were we both just wanted to get on with our lives. She had a glamorous job, a successful career and I had little doubt her social life was a lot better than mine. I got resigned to that(Right).

I could not hold on to a hope, nor could I accept her life style. It was better that we ended the charade, now. I did not deserve her nor could accept her with someone else.

I did not know she and Kathy kept in touch. It would have been nice to see her, probably for the last time, but from the look on Jim's face I knew it was not going to happen.

Kathy was tearing up a bit as we were leaving. She and Jim's Mom looked at each other. I knew, or thought I knew what they were thinking and feeling, I had some of that with my Mom and Dad saying goodbye.

I tried very hard not to think of Becky, I stated to cry a little, saying something went in my eyes. Kathy gave me a hug as Ellen went inside. His dad was driving us. We would have a man to man talk on the way. We drove off.

Stan, Jim's dad, stopped the car. Kathy was running towards us, Ellen at the door. "You have a call!" Stan drove the short distance back. I looked at Jim, we said "Who" about the same time.

Kathy, as was now usual, said, Well if it was a girl for Jim, I sure as Hell not be running to get him!"

As I went up the steps Ellen put her hand on my shoulder and said. "She loves you, you know!" and I knew who was on the phone. Her first words on the phone were ones I would never forget, telling them now and then when I tell this story.

"You horses ass you, if I could have been there I would have. This 'model' shit is just seeing who can run faster the photographer or the model, thank God most are Gay."

"By the time you get back, I'll be there and have a new job, there. I love you; you dumb ass, there is or never has been anyone else. You better give Kathy a really big hug for explaining to me why you have been so mean to me! You are really, really dumb sometimes!"

If it was not for Jim's Mom I'm not sure anything would come out. Ellen took the phone. "Bec, I think your boy got the message and will stop feeling sorry for himself. I forgot to mention that you might be around Fort Dix about the same time his basic ends. For God knows what reason, Kathy has to go there too. Wait, he is still making a fool of himself, I'll get Kathy for a second or two or three, you got time, this must be costing a fortune all the way from Rome."

"Hell Yes I do, and you better tell my future Fiancé that I don't want a big ring, we need to get a house first." Ellen had been holding the phone up for me to hear. While she was getting Kathy I took the phone and asked. "Bec, will you marry me?"

"Hell Yes! You're mighty slow but at least 'trainable" you dope."

The next two years were hard, I saw Bec in New Jersey for 34 hours then back home for 3 days while on R & R and she was ending her contract. The plan was we would be married a few months after I got back. It also seemed we would have a double wedding, if Kathy and Jim stayed together, after all, they had only been in-love since she was 9. or 10.

I, no we had joined together with the understanding we would stay together. Because we were not related by blood, the Army, in its infinite wisdom honoured that part of the agreement. They forgot about the 'only one tour in combat' part.

Jim died on 1 April, 1999. I kept hoping it was just a cruel joke. We were ambushed trying to help an old woman with her load. When Jim slung his weapon to pick it up, they opened fire, we returned it but it was too late. I was able to call for support and a fly by kept us 'safe' till help would come. My real best friend was dying in my arms. The old woman was dead, the pile of rocks she was pretending to lift at our feet. Jim still had a voice.

"JD, I'm sorry I hit you with that rock, but you did throw it back at me. Would you do a buddy a favour? You still owe one for Becky!"

"Yep" I said between a few sniffles. My buddy was dying in my arms and he wanted me to do something, "Gee let me think, Kathy I said?"

"Well buddy this is a big two-parter, Tell Kathy I'll see her later, and to be happy here."

"What else partner?"

"JD, you owe me. Right?"

I did not want to hear this!"

"Yep Jimmy!" I had never called him Jimmy in my life.

"It hurts so bad JD, So Much!"

I was in tears guys, don't cry, unless... !

"End it for me buddy! You owe me! Then we're square!"

The AK was nearby, the rag head would not need it anymore. Jim nodded, closed his eyes and one more .308 slug entered his brain.

I tell most of that story. I will tell more and more. I'll add all those times we hauled each other's ass out of some "KZ' or Waterless Wabi. I'll never tell that last part.

Obviously Bec and I got hitched. Was it bliss, not really it was hard to adjust. Hard but not impossible.

We found a way to kill it though, both of us screwed up.

When Kathy and Bec told me my sister was moving in I was unsure if it was a good idea or not.

Bec and I had gotten over having to lead separate lives. We were starting to lead one together.

For a while she kept getting phone calls saying there was a contract for her.

It was usually from the same guy and she told me they had met at one of the parties the 'girls' had gone out too. The guy was like a shadow over the next 2 years she said. She was nice to him, whatever that meant, because she thought it would lead to more work.

Being a typical man, I sort of well, blew up and left.

It did not seem long after that she had told me about Kathy moving in.

I expected that it was going to be the beginning of the end for us. I could not blame her. I also felt I could no longer trust her. If she neglected to tell me how 'Nice' she had been to the shadow, I began to wonder what else she 'forgot to tell me, and why was she still getting so many phone calls from him and soon others?"

When she left me a message, that she was going out of town, I called a lawyer!

It had hurt when Jimmy called in his favour! This was no where near as bad as that. I had been expecting it when the phone calls started, especially the ones from LA with the 'wrong number' then hang up. It was no longer the shadow from New York, it was a new 'friend' or an old one, I guess.

The meeting with a lawyer was quick, it was 10:00 am the next day. It was not what I expected. No kids, married 3 years or less, we were in a 'no fault' State and if she agreed and we had 3 months of counseling, it could be over in 3 more months. Yep, I always knew I was a loser and these phone calls and her, 'going out of town' trip just proved to me how bad things had become.

I did not know when she might be back, if ever, and I also did not want to be there if she came back. I called Kathy, asked to see her that day and started packing.

She came over. I unwillingly began the facts, as I knew they happened starting from Bec's 1st party scene and her confession, almost 3 years later, about being 'nice' the shadow to get more work, probably others she was not saying what she did for them to be 'Nice'. Now the recent phone calls, from more than one city, the hasty goodbye message left about her leaving and no further word from her. I could take no more!

On my lawyers advice, I needed to leave, he would prepare the divorce papers, if she would not contest things, it was a done deal.

I asked Kathy to look after things here, and to tell Mom and Dad I was sorry things worked out the way they had. I remembered Stan and Ellen and asked Kathy to at least call them. She had not been able to see them since she learned about Jim's death. I could never tell what I had done.

I kissed my sister. She hauled off and slapped me so hard I saw the proverbial stars.

"You crazy son of a bitch, excuse me Mom. You are a F'n idiot as well as a moron."

"You make up your mind about Becky, then decide that things could only be the way you imagine. I told Becky you would re-act this way. I told her to tell you everything, even about the parties, and everything else, long ago."

"You were thousands of miles away and she was young and all alone. I'll let her tell you about those years. And those phone calls. Yes, the ones from New York were from the guy she met at that 1st party. You need to talk to her about that, if you care."

"I know who the LA ones were from though, and I know why she went away."

My own sister knew, she never said anything to me about how Becky had cheated on me, now she was confirming my worst nightmare.

I had lost Becky because of my stupidity to trust her, or expected too much from her.

Jim was gone, Becky too, now I was losing even Kathy, There was no one left to trust.

I left. It did not seem as long as they say it was.

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