I stood hiding in the shadow of the hangar as I watched the big plane touchdown. I was just out of the sight of the crowd that had gathered and was now enthusiastically cheering the plane's succesful landing and the return of those inside it. Only 3 days ago, I'd been on a similar plane and someof those same people had been cheering for me. It was early evening already dark, and the rain wasn't helping any. I pulled my coat closer around me and tucked my head under the hood as I turned and started to leave. I really didn't know why I'd come in the first place. This wasn't the time or the place for what I needed to do. I'd been avoiding this for a little over three weeks, a day or two more wouldn't hurt.
Despite the darkness and the rain, the high-school band played their asses off. Their music, proud, and patriotic only served to remind us all why we'd come here tonight. We were here to welcome the boys and girls home. Not just any boys and girls though. They were the best and bravest among us. They were the ones who put themselves and their own conditions away for a while, to go off to foreign lands during wartime, to defend us and our values.
If the world made any fucking sense, a sacrifice like theirs would get them the kind of accolades, and financial rewards that would make the rest of their lives easy and secure. But instead we reserve that kind of payment for another group of young men, the ones who can jump up and drop a ball in a hoop, or run down a field carrying one, go figure.
A crusty old man tried and succeeded in forcing me inside the hangar, where he swore I'd be able to get a much better view of the heroes, or "hee ruz" as he pronounced it. I told him that I really didn't need to see the ceremony, since I'd been through it myself only three days before. I took off my hood so he could see my face.
"God Damn it, Rob," he snapped. "Why didn't you tell me it was you? I'll bet you can't wait to see Julie, can you?"
He stepped back and snapped his feet together, in a drunken homage to the attention position, and gave me a mock salute. "The whole God Damned town is gonna shit to see the two of you back together," he said. "This is going to be great."
He toddled off to get a better view of the proceedings. He probably wanted to get near the front where he'd be able to get a seat on the hastily erected bleachers that had been provided for all of the servicemen's families.
People rapidly funneled into the hangar, and as I watched, nearly all of the seats were taken up in under five minutes. People always wanted to see everything, whether it was an awards ceremony for their loved ones, or a car wreck on the side of a lonely highway. I guess curiosity is the nature of the human condition. In this case one of the biggest draws was seeing the return of the town's fairy tale romance. They wanted to see Rob and Julie again. I really didn't want to be the one to tell them that the war had changed us, or how.
They'd stood outside in the rain, just so they could watch the plane land. And now that it had touched down safely they all wanted to dash inside, so they could rush over and knock their loved one's down when their names were called, as they stepped off the plane.
I'd dreaded this day for weeks now, and it was finally here. Although to be honest less than a month ago, today was all I had dreamed about. It's funny how 10 seconds of vision and a few words can change the entire path of a life, or actually two lives.
In a moment of clarity, I realized that I didn't belong here, although if you'd asked most of the people assembled, they'd have said just the opposite. "Rob, out of all of us you have the most right to be there," most would have said. They'd have been wrong though because they had no fucking idea of what I'd intended.
Again I turned to go, and was pulled back by the smiling face of Jack Anderson. I'd known the man all my life; he was like a second father to me. "Hey Rob, you're going the wrong way. It must be weird to be back here so soon and seeing this from the other side." he laughed.
I think he saw something in my face because he quieted down, and started talking in a softer tone. Maybe, like all the rest of them, he got it wrong. He thought I was having a flashback or something. But he had the wrong war. He moved closer to the front fighting the crowds all the way and threw a last piece of advice at me before disappearing, "Take all the time you need son. God knows you've earned it."
Maybe he was right about the whole flashback thing because as they announced her name and she stepped off the plane I had one.
8 years ago I was 16 years old. I was going to a party in Connie Hollister's Barn. My date Jill Monroe had just introduced me to a girl. "Rob, this is my cousin Julie," Jill said. "She's not only my cousin, she's my best friend. So I wanted you to meet her."
My world as I knew it ended with that one sentence. Julie was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. I think in those first few seconds, I knew that I was going to marry her. My heart was beating so loudly I was sure that Jill could hear it as well. I'd been raised to have manners and morals above all else, so my behavior was in some ways unforgiveable.
The correct thing to do in that situation would have been to smile and say "Pleased to meet you." Maybe I should have made small talk. What I actually did was nothing, I just stood there and stared at her. Her date, Curtis French, was a friend of mine, and he finally saved me. He slapped me on the shoulder and said, "Hey Rob can you help me change the plugs on my Camaro tomorrow?"
That snapped me back into the moment, and I told him I could. Then I went and got a glass of punch for Jill and myself. I danced with Jill a couple of times, but my heart truly wasn't in it. I kept looking around for Julie, but didn't see her anywhere.
That party was my first and last date with Jill. All of my friends thought that I was an idiot. Jill was beautiful. She had long blonde hair, and a great figure already at 16. She was one of the sweetest girls I knew, and also one of the smartest. Everyone in our class told me that she really liked me. I didn't go out with anyone period anymore because in that brief moment at Connie's I'd been smitten by Julie and no one else would do.
It was nearly 2 months before I saw her again. She had only been visiting, on the night of the party. Her family moved into town permanently at the beginning of the summer. As if fate had a hand in it, they even moved onto my street.
Jill was underwhelmed when I talked to her. Those manners and morals again showing their face. When I'd run into her at the store she told me about all of the fun things she'd be doing now that her cousin lived here in town. My face went totally blank, and her eyes narrowed dangerously.
"You've got it too, don't you?" she asked. "It all makes sense now."
"I've got what?" I asked.
"Do you remember Connie's party? Which was the last time you've been seen socially in any capacity that doesn't involve cars or sports?" she asked. "Well right after meeting you, my cousin asked Curtis to take her home. I thought at first that she'd gotten sick. Then I remembered the way that you reacted. You're one of the nicest boys I know, but you didn't say a word to her. I was worried that you didn't like her or something. When I got home later she asked me a lot of questions about you. Every time I've spoken to her since then our conversations always seem to include you."
"Rob, what do you think the first thing she asked me about when she moved into her house the other day was?" asked Jill.
"How should I know?" I asked. "I have no idea what girls talk about."
"She asked me about you," snapped Jill. "I told her that you don't hang out a lot or date much, but I can see by the look in your eyes that's about to change. Come on let's get this over with."
Jill dragged me out of the store down the street, to Julie's family's new house. I'd known the previous occupants, but somehow the house just seemed better now.
"Julie are your parent's home?" screamed Jill.
"No," screamed Julie, equally loud.
"Then get your ass down here, now," screamed Jill, even louder.
Julie came down the stairs and it was like the sky opened up and an angel descended from the heavens. I guess what they say about love goggles making you see things in an altered state of reality is true. Because that's what I saw. She was the most beautiful thing I'd seen, since the first time I saw her.
In actuality she'd been unpacking, and she had smudges of dirt on her face and her dark brown hair was all over the place. She was wearing some baggy old sweat pants and a T-shirt that had seen better days but it didn't matter.
As soon as she came through the door and we saw each other time stopped moving. I'm sure that Jill was talking but neither of us heard it. I tried to memorize each and every pore and line on her face. I stared at every contour of each feature. I swear to you that I could probably see and count the rods and cones in her eyes, I stared at her so hard.
Jill finally left, and we were able to talk for the first time. It gave me the chance to aske her the questions that had been going through my mind for 2 months. "Why didn't you stay at the party?"I asked.
"You're going to think that I'm being really silly," she said smiling at me, with a smile that I later found out could get me to do anything she wanted. "But, once I saw you, I realized that everything was just wrong and I got upset. I was at the party with the wrong guy. And I love my cousin, but every time you danced with her, or even touched her, I got sick. Because in my mind, it should've been me."
From that day we were inseparable. We spent so much time together that a lot of people only counted us as one person. It was always Rob and Julie. You never saw one of us without the other. We went to all of the dances together and everything else. Our town had a few funny rules about certain things though. Like a lot of towns we had that traditional Sadie Hawkins Dance, where the girls got to ask the guys out. The difference was in our town, the guy couldn't say no unless he'd already been asked by someone else.
Bright and early the first day of October, Mona Willis asked me to the dance. I don't know if she actually liked me, or just wanted to pick on Julie, but I smiled and told her that I couldn't go to the dance with her because it would upset Julie. She told me about the rule and I told her that I just wouldn't go to the dance.
It was the most important dance of the year if you weren't a senior. So she told her mother, who was a teacher. Her mother told the principal, and he called me in to his office.
"Rob, what's wrong with Mona Willis? It's only one event," he said. "Everyone in the school will be there. Are you sure you want to miss it. I'm sure Julie will understand."
"Sir, there's nothing wrong with Mona, she's a pretty girl. But I'm a one woman man. If I can't be there with Julie, I won't be there at all."
"Rob, I hope my daughter appreciates, the way you feel about her," he said.
As they called her name, "Corporal Julie Davis," she stepped off the plane's exit ramp and looked around. Her Mom and Dad ran forward and grabbed her up in a big bear hug. My Mom and Dad were right behind them. Mona was there, and I did notice how much older she was. A few cousins and friends and neighbors were there as well. Everyone seemed to want to touch Julie, and hug her and welcome her home. She seemed to be looking around in every direction, but her eyes never settled on the thing or person she was looking for because I wasn't there.
I could hear snatches of conversation over the distance. Just random words, not complete sentences, but enough to let me know what was being said. "Where," was heard several times, My name, "Rob," was mentioned more than once as well. There was much speculation as to where I was, and many assurances that I was probably either on the way, or would be at the dinner. With everyone huddled around her there'd be no time for us to be alone and talk. Tomorrow would be just as goood as tonight, anyway.
I slipped out the back door and walked home. When I got there I checked on my car for the hundredth time that day, and then left again. Once I'd gotten to the house I realized that I just didn't want to be there tonight. I also didn't want to drive the car because it was so fucking pretty and I didn't want to get rain on the paint.
Julie and I spent 18 months in and around Iraq. After we'd both graduated from college, we realized that we were both undereducated in our chosen fields. Our local college was really only a junior college and if we wanted to make it somewhere other than our small town, we both needed more education. An easy way to get the money for that was to enlist. At first I was going to be the only one doing it. But Julie signed up the same day I did. She said she loved me too much to be away from me for 24 months, and we both ended up stationed together in Florida. We were never in the same platoon, but we were lucky and ended up doing basic training in the same base.
It was the worst six months of my life. I called or texted Julie almost hourly. It was so hard seeing her everyday and being within a few feet of her but unable to touch her. We had gotten married halfway through college, and after two years of regular sex with the woman I loved, six months of only sleeping with her while we were on a weekend pass, or an evening pass, was hell. A lot of military couples have to deal with being stationed apart, but let me tell you being stationed together was worse.
I had to listen to guys talk about her, or leer at her and pretend there was nothing going on with us, except for similar last names. What was even worse was when she'd call me or text me because some woman in her unit, mentioned something she'd like to do to me. More than once Julie called me, all pissed off, to warn me of the consequences to my nuts if she even caught me looking at some woman.
When we got shipped out, I was going to confess, that we were married, until I looked at our orders. I was of course going to a patrol unit that would move all over a selected area. Julie was in a base doing support type work. I could easily live with that. It meant I wouldn't have to worry very much about my wife being in danger.
Julie of course, cried her eyes out. She was afraid that I'd be killed by snipers, or a roadside bomb, or an IED. I promised her I'd be extra careful and in only 18 more months we'd be out and have enough money and benefits to finish school. We'd be able to move anywhere in the country we wanted to go, and then we could settle down and raise our family.
Before I started patrols with my unit, I got a chance to make sure that Julie was settled in and okay. Once we got to Iraq, since we were based in different but nearly adjoining cities, the fact that we were married wasn't a problem. Julie's unit handled supplies for a lot of the bases in the area. There were several women, including the nurses in the hospital there. The majority of the men on the base, were older than us and many of them were married. With the bad economy back home, a lot of guys were enlisting to make ends meet.
I drove away from the base confident that no matter what happened to me, Julie would be okay. Her safety mattered more than anything, to me.
One of the things I wondered about, as I walked around my hometown that night was where the hell all of these bars came from? Had they always been here? Had I just never noticed them since Julie and I always opted for quieter times? Our custom since we'd been teenagers was to hang out down by the lake, or near the woods. Except for during the misunderstanding, that was the only dark time in our relationship.
Julie and I had sworn, never to talk about that time, and I'd nearly forgotten it. I guess forgot is kind of strong. Agreed not to think or talk about it, was probably more correct. I had a strong feeling that I knew why now. The dark time was a period, after high school but before we got married that Julie and I weren't together. It was only about four months long, barely sixteen weeks. But it was not a time I liked to think about.
As I walked along the dark rainy streets I thought about it now. I could devote my mind to it because I no longer had to worry about getting any wetter. I was soaked to the skin. After some of the things I had to go through during the war, this really wasn't bad at all. I still didn't understand why taking a walk in the rain was supposed to be so God Damned romantic; I guess it depends on your mood and your company. I didn't feel romantic, I just felt wet. And empty, can't forget the emptiness. I'd been feeling it for so long, that it was a part of me now. There's a funny thing about emptiness, nature abhors a vacuum, so when you're empty, something will always rush in to fill it.
During the dark time, I'd done some things that I wasn't proud of. Julie had probably heard about them. But when we got back together somehow none of the things we'd done seemed nearly as important as the two of being together again. We'd promised not to ever ask about what each other had done. We vowed to just leave our actions while we were apart in the past. Finding out some of those things would have only served to weaken our relationship going forward. Julie was the one who'd decided that, so I never thought that maybe she'd been the one with something to hide.
I guess at the time I was so ashamed of what I'd done, and so confused about my feelings, that it seemed too good to be true. And we both realized that it was something that had been though unpleasant, good for us too in the long run.
We'd been together at only twenty years old for a large chunk of our lives. Neither of us had ever been with anyone else. We had given each other our virginity on Julie's 19th birthday, and had what I thought was a good sex life. But Julie had really started to wonder what it would be like to try someone else.
I was so besotted with her that it had never crossed my mind. I mean I'm a guy, I'm going to look at women. I saw lots of them, some with bigger tits or slightly prettier faces, but Julie was mine, and she was all I wanted. Being in college hadn't helped us. There were so many new things to experiment with. New interesting people to meet and hang out with, that she'd just started to find our relationship stultifying.
There ended up being a few incidents of jealousy, capped off with Julie telling me that we weren't married so she could do what she pleased. She later told me that she hadn't meant it, and had only said it because she was angry. But my reply to her had been equally brutal. I'd told her that we for damned sure weren't married and probably wouldn't ever be.
That was followed by four months of me dating other women, and her doing the same. During that period, I tried going out with a few of the women around campus, since she wasted no time dating other guys. When ever we ran into each other she wouldn't make eye contact with me or speak. It hurt me badly since I couldn't figure out what I'd done wrong. After a while, it just got so painful that I started going home on the weekends to avoid running into her. I dated Mona finally. But I also went out with Connie a couple of times. The thing that to this day I remember the most though was Jill. After my male slut phase had ended and I realized that I truly was a one woman kind of guy. I settled into a really easy relationship with Jill. I don't think to this day, that Julie realizes how close we came to not getting back together.
I wasn't trying to get back at Julie, or even trying to start something new. We just sat down on the porch talking one weekend, and a month later I realized that I wasn't dating around anymore. People around town went from Rob and Julie, to Rob and Jill, in the blink of an eye. It just seemed right. Where I'd begun to feel that Julie took me for granted, Jill seemed to cherish every second we spent together. I started to realize that Julie had been the one to break us up, so I had the right to find happiness elsewhere. After a while I stopped thinking about Julie.
I think Julie came home one weekend while I was there also. My Dad told me she'd been by to see me but I'd missed her. I didn't bother trying to call her, or go see her because I didn't see a reason to. I did think I'd seen her while Jill and I were having a picnic in the woods and lying on a blanket, watching the stars. A group of kids had come by, probably on their way to the lake for a midnight swim. After the kids went by, I thought I saw someone watching us, and something in my mind told me it was Julie, but I didn't dwell on it. After all things seemed to going well for both of us. I'd seen her with several different guys, so she got to do what she wanted, and I had Jill so I was happy as well.
When I got back to school on Monday Julie had called me several times. I again didn't return any of her phone calls, because I didn't see the need to speak to her.
When I got back to my apartment that night Julie was there. I hadn't got my key back from her when she'd moved into the dorms. Seeing her there, sitting on my couch filled me with anger, and I didn't understand why at the time.
"We aren't married and we aren't together anymore, so I'd like my key back, please," I said to her. Maybe as politely as I tried to be about it, some of that anger still bubbled to the surface.
"No," she said. "We need to talk, Rob." Maybe it was being told "No," to what I thought was a reasonable request in my own apartment. Maybe it was the fact that I still loved her so much, and I was just angry at her for breaking us up. It could have been the fact that I knew she'd dated and probably screwed other guys during the four months that we were apart. There was also the fact that I'd thought that I was over her, but realized then that I wasn't.
At any rate, all or some of those issues colored the things I said and did next. "First off, Julie there is no "We," I said coldly. "That means that "We," don't need to do shit. We don't need to talk. I don't have to listen to you. But "You" need to leave my apartment now. I'm not going to hit you or physically throw you out, but I will call security and the police. You can keep the fucking key, Julie. I'll have the locks changed tomorrow."
She looked at me as if she was on the verge of tears. Like her life depended on it. She bit her lip and just told me, "Do what you have to do Rob. This is important."
"Maybe it's important to you, or some of your boyfriends. But I don't care about anything you have to say," I snapped. I was getting louder and angrier. She had a lot of nerve coming into my apartment and telling me what I needed to do. I grabbed my jacket and got ready to leave.
"I'll be here when you get back," she said."Then we can talk, once you've calmed down." But I fooled her. I didn't go back. I went to the building's manager and had him call the police. When the police came I had gone to get something to eat. I let the manager handle the whole situation. The police asked Julie to open the door and she didn't, so the manager used his key and let them in. They charged Julie with trespassing, and unlawful entry. She told them that neither was true, because she had a key. They asked her to see it, and took it from her.
She explained to them that she used to live there, but had left for a while. They asked her if she had been asked to leave. She told them in "Girl logic," that I had asked her to leave, but hadn't really meant it. Like most men they were confused as hell about that.
They told her that I had been serious enough about it to go to the building manager and call the police, so whether I meant it or not, they had to act.
Changing the lock on the apartment door, would have cost me fifty bucks. I ended up paying a hundred and fifty, and didn't get the lock changed.
The hundred and fifty was what it cost me to bail her out of jail. As soon as she got her phone call, she called me to come and get her. I agreed to bail her out in exchange for leaving me, the hell alone.
The next day after my classes were over she was waiting for me in front of my apartment. "I couldn't get in, they took my key," she said.
I walked right past her without saying anything. The next night, our exchange was just as short. "Rob Damn it, this is important," she said.
When she was still there Wednesday I gave her a warning. "Julie, if you keep doing this I'm going to file harassment charges against you," I said.
Thursday night she was desperate. "Rob, give me ten minutes, and I promise you'll never have to worry about me again," she said.
"Five," I counter offered.
"I'll take it," she said. We sat down on the porch in front of my building. I held up my watch. When the second hand got to 12, I said, "Go."
"Rob, we need to get past this and get back together," she began. "I miss you. I love you. This was stupid. It should never have happened. I don't even know why it happened. No, that isn't true. It was my fault. I guess I haven't been very honest with you. Rob, we've been together since we were kids. When we got to school here, I guess I listened to some of the girls talking about some of the things they'd done, and things they do. I started feeling like an old married lady. I wanted to talk to you about us maybe dating some other people, just to see what it would be like. Not permanently, just for a while. And when we argued it just got out of hand. I know that I said the first bad thing, but when you said what you said back, I got even angrier. I expected for you to call me later on so we could make up, but you didn't so in my mind that meant that we were broken up, so I was free to date others and you were too. Every time I saw you with some slut on campus, I was jealous, and got even angrier. That anger, resulted in some actions that were not good for me. Yes Rob, I dated and experienced some othe guys for comparison. And none of them were any better than you, in fact most weren't as good. But after a while I realized that not one of them made me feel as loved as you do, there was no one close. I got tired of feeling like a piece of meat and started trying to find you, but you would disappear every weekend."
"I know I messed up, but this has gone on far too long. I know I hurt you, and made you feel that I didn't love you enough, but Rob I was confused, and I made a mistake. But on the bright side we found out that we aren't just together because we can't get anyone else. We're together because we love each other, and we're the best for each other. So now we know that we're perfect together. There won't be any doubts or needs to try someone else. We've seen what that's like, so we can move forward. It won't ever happen again. Can you forgive me?" she looked at me sadly. I had never been able to resist Julie's sad puppy look.
"Julie, was that, what you wanted to say?" I asked. She smiled at me and nodded her head. "Okay, thanks for stopping by," I said and went into my building. As I closed the door behind me I could see her standing there with her mouth open.
Friday after my last class I got into my truck and drove home for the weekend. That weekend was different though. To begin with I couldn't find Jill, anywhere. I really needed to talk to her, but no matter where I went, I didn't have any luck. Finally Sunday morning she showed up. She wanted to talk to me too.
"I missed you," I told her. She let out a big sigh as I took her hand and rubbed her back. Her whole body seemed to be trying to mold itself to mine. I made up my mind then that Jill was the one I wanted. "I have to drive back up to school in a couple of hours. We didn't have any time together."
"Rob, I don't want you to come home on the weekends anymore," she said sadly. "I don't know what happened or how, but I know what's been going on now. Your coming home on the weekends, as nice as it's been only started because you were hiding here. You can't hide from things Rob. They always seem to come back. I've never stolen anything, or taken anything that wasn't mine. And I have the feeling that, that's what I've been doing, just borrowing someone else's things. Everyone borrows from time to time. But when it's time to give those things back to their owner, you have to."
"Jill, what the hell are you talking about?" I asked.
"Rob, you'll figure it out, and when you do, if I'm wrong and I hope that I am, I'll be waiting for you." Then she kissed me and ran into the house. I had the worst feeling ever then. I felt even worse than when I'd broken up with Julie.
As soon as I got back to school, Julie was there on my porch. She didn't smile or anything, I think she knew that I'd felt badly. "Rob can we talk?" she asked.
"You had your five minutes and we're done," I snapped. "I'm feeling bad enough right now as it is. You were right. We did need to get out and try out some other people. I think I met the person I need to be with, and lost her this weekend. The stupid thing is I don't even know why I lost her. I was sure she felt the same way about me. I have to get myself together and figure it out so I can get her back. It's just so out of the blue that I'm still reeling from it. Just like it was with you. I never even had a chance to tell her how I feel about her. Women sure do have a knack for reaching into a guy's heart and ripping his nuts out. I hope you found what you were looking for, but you and I are done. I'm really sure that she feels the same way about me, I just don't know what happened. I do know one thing though, she never would have treated me the way you did. So we're done, the Rob and Julie show is over."
"Rob we haven't even gotten started," she said. "I was stupid. I made a mistake and I've suffered for it. I did a lot of things that I'm not proud of. I'm really ashamed of some of them. But I did learn one thing from all of this. You and I were meant to be together. I know that now and I'm not going to give up on us again. This was something we needed to go through in order to appreciate each other, and what we have. I did some bad things, and so did you Rob. We don't need to talk about them. The important thing that we need to realize is that I love you, and you love me."
"Rob, I realized about three weeks ago that we need each other. I hadn't gone out with anyone for a while because I missed you. I guess I compared everyone I dated to you and like I said, they came up short. I made a horrible mistake and almost messed up my life, but I'm going to make it right; no matter what it takes."
"Julie, just leave me alone," I said. "I don't care about the guys you fucked, because I don't care about you. I really thought that you were something special, and we had something great. But I guess I didn't know you until now, and I don't like what I see."
It took weeks for us to get back together, but we did. I pieced together the fact that Julie had dated a bunch of guys. Tried some drugs and drank a lot while we were apart. She'd been hanging out with a group of girls who were really slutty and acting like one of them. It had finally come through to her though that she wasn't experiencing anything great or special, she was just becoming a slut. She was turning into one of those girls that no one cared about, but everybody fucked. So then after all of that, she started to miss me.
I'd done the same thing, with the exception that I hadn't tried any drugs or drank too much. I'd had sex with a few girls including some of the ones from back home. The only difference was that my dalliances had led me back to Jill and I'd kind of fallen in love with her. For the last month Julie had been back in her right mind and expecting me to come looking for her. But she hadn't been able to find me. She'd come home one weekend and heard about Jill and me. The next weekend she'd seen us together and realized that she might have been too late. She put down her stubbornness and decided to come after me, only to find that I didn't really want her back.
Julie had actually gone crying to her cousin, and begged her to break things off with me.
After an hour of just wandering and thinking, I finally went into one of the bars. This place just flabbergasted me because I couldn't believe we had a titty bar in town. It was just so out of place. It was like finding a vending machine that sold condoms in a church.
I sat down at the back and took a look around the place. There were far too many waitresses for the size of the crowd. The few patrons there that night, were seedy disheveled types and I fit right in with them. In my last three weeks in Iraq, I'd changed. I was harder, and less optimistic. The morals and ethics that had framed my experiences no longer seemed to matter. I guess it showed in my formerly boyish face.
A waitress headed briskly towards me as soon as I sat down. I guess tips were important around here, because I noticed that there were two of them coming from different directions right at me. As soon as they got close, though the blonde immediately backed off. When I took off my hood, she high tailed it in another direction.
The other one a chunky girl with darker hair, introduce herself as Lacey and asked me what I wanted to drink.
"Just beer," I said and she went off to get it.
"Why the hell is it so empty in here?" I asked when she returned.
"Oh, everyone wanted to go to town to go to the ceremonies for the soldiers that came home this week. Three groups of them came back; Monday, Wednesday and tonight. Some of them don't even live here but they're staying for the ceremony and the parties, then they'll all go home," she said. "I answered your question, so I've got one for you."
"Wouldn't you rather just have a big tip?" I asked.
"Honey this place will be full again in a couple of nights," she said. "Tips are always appreciated, but I do just fine, if you know what I mean. But I'm really curious about something here. Some of us waitresses and most of the dancers are not overly fastidious if you know what I mean. Our sidelines bring us more than our wages or tips, but there are a couple of girls here, who are only waitresses. I mean, they only serve drinks. Usually those bitches will slit your throat over a customer, because they need all the tips they can get their hands on. Do you get me?"
I nodded and she continued.
"I'd just like to know why Jill, the "Virgin Mary," as much as she needs every fucking quarter, to help her take care of her immaculately conceived child, backed off as soon as you took your fucking hood off?"
Before I could answer, the speakers in the back of the bar started pumping out Motley Crue's "Girls Girls Girls," and another dancer took the small stage.
The music and the lights saved me from having to answer Lacey, and her from having to see me search the entire bar with my eyes until I found Jill.
I moved my chair and got a better view of her. It was definitely Jill. The same blonde hair, it had just grown longer and fuller. It was down to the small of her back now. Jill had always had the best body of any of the girls in school, and it still showed. Her breasts now mature could probably stop traffic. And her thin waist and round butt certainly weren't going to chase anybody away from her. A lot of my friends had always wondered why I'd picked Julie over Jill, and for the life of me I could never explain it.
"Keep your eyes, on the whores onstage and off of my girl, if you know what's good for you, dude," said a voice right beside me. I looked to see who belonged to the voice, and then looked right back at Jill. He was a big guy but the gage in the back of my mind was firmly locked in the "no threat" zone.
"Won't ask you again friend," he said.
"Does she ever get up on stage and shake that ass?" I asked snidely.
"Never," he spat. "Maybe you need to leave, now."
"I'm good," I said motioning for him to leave.
He leaped at me throwing all of his considerable weight into knocking me off of my chair so he could pound me into the ground. The problem with that was that when you get used to fighting and sometimes killing people to survive, it changes you.
As soon as he leaped I jumped to the side and he landed on the floor in front of my chair. He was off balance and already down on one knee, so I helped him, by kicking the other leg out from under him as he tried to regain his feet. Then I quickly put my chair down on his thick neck, and sat down on it. I leaned forward just a bit and the bottom of the chair started to cut off his air supply.
"Look Beevis, I can't think of one reason I shouldn't just keep leaning forward until you're dead," I sneered.
He was already turning red and flailing his arms and legs impotently.
"One reason, is because he's a really nice guy and this is all probably some kind of misunderstanding. Another reason is because you're a wonderful guy and you really wouldn't want this on your conscience, no matter what they did to you over there. And three, because I'm asking you not to do it," she said.
I turned and saw Jill standing behind me. Except for the years that had passed leaving their marks on both of us, she was still Jill. "Welcome home Rob," she said. I got off of the chair and she came over and hugged me. She turned and told another guy. "Jim, I'm going home for the night." He just nodded at her.
The big guy got off the floor and started taking deep breaths. As Jill and I got to the door, he started calling me. "Rob, did she say Rob. Jill is this the Rob that you..."
"Let it go Steve," she snapped.
He stepped over to me, and threw out his hand. "It's an honor to meet you," he said. "No hard feelings."
I shook his hand immediately. "No hard feelings," I said. And I meant it, he was a really likeable guy and he was probably just looking out for Jill. But if he was her boyfriend, why the fuck was he just letting her walk off with me? And what did she tell him to let go?"
There were differences between Iraq and Florida. If I wasn't busy I could easily catch a ride into the base and be with Julie. We fucked like bunnies, every time I got there. It was like we were both afraid that what ever time we had together might be our last. We constantly emailed each other. Never forgetting to tell each other how we felt. And how in only a few months we'd have everything we needed to move forward into our future and start our family.