Saving One Another
Copyright© 2013 by Ultranumb74
Romantic Sex Story: Chapter 1 - Love can blossom when least expected. Just ask Gary and Shiloh. Both of their lives are at low and dark points. Gary, a retired and divorced pilot, has love as the last thing on his mind when he moves into a new house. That's where he meets Shiloh, a soon-to-be 17 year old. She helps him move in and, later, deal with the darkness in his life. He helps her deal with her abusive step-father. They both, in their own ways, save each other and come to terms with their feelings for each other.
In the crazy chaotic compilation of events called Gary Ashton's life, I'd have to say that these events all started around seven years prior. At that time I was active duty Air Force, a pilot by trade and a damned good one if I do say so myself. I flew F-16 Falcons and that job – well, more like love – took me all over the world: Europe, Japan, Korea and several stateside assignments.
I loved my job but hated being gone from home so much. I'd managed to pick up a wife. We eventually had a daughter and I thought life was grand. I was pushing fifteen years in the service when I got tabbed to deploy to Afghanistan for six months. I'd already deployed to Qatar and Iraq in the last couple years, so I was familiar with what I was going to be getting into.
For the most part, things were peachy throughout the deployment. Sure, I worked some seriously long hours flying missions and whatnot, but I was used to it. At the time I was a Lieutenant Colonel and pondering if I wanted to stay in to make O-6, or full-bird Colonel. More responsibility and headaches, but the pay increase was tempting. I figured I'd sit down with the missus and my daughter and decide this as a family, because this decision affected them just as much as it did me. The other option I was seriously considering was going the Air National Guard route.
I was nine days away from redeploying back to the States when the first of several events turned my world upside-down. I was scheduled to fly a CAS (Close-Air Support) mission in southern Afghanistan where the fighting was still quite fierce.
I'd taxied my bird to the end of the runway, did a last-minute check of everything and then radioed the tower for departure clearance. Receiving the clearance, I applied the brakes, ran the engine to full military power for a second and then pushed into afterburner. The Falcon shuddered, wanting and needing release, so I obliged.
Now, takeoffs in a combat zone vary greatly from normal takeoffs. In a normal setting, such as at my home station, it'd almost be a leisurely takeoff and climb to flight level. Not here in Afghanistan, though. Here, many in the local population liked to take pot-shots at planes landing and taking off. Usually they'd be small caliber shots, but once in a while you'd hear about an RPG being used. Because of such, we had to perform "combat departures". Fancy term for balls-to-the-wall, ass-is-on-fire rollercoaster style takeoffs.
Well, this particular day, I'd released the brake and my bird screamed down the runway. At the minimum takeoff speed I nudged my bird up in the air, maybe 20-30 feet and retracted the landing gear. This style of takeoff always tickled me pink. Nothing like scraping your ass across the dirt before launching yourself skyward, you know. I was cleared for a departure southward, so as I cleared the end of the runway I cranked back on the stick and rolled to the right. This put me in a high-G climb-and-turn, me and my bird hanging sideways in the air as I turned.
It was also at this same time that some shitty little turban-wearing bastard lit me up with an old Soviet-era surface-to-air missile, or SAM. The way I was turning and burning, I was a big, fat, pretty target for this guy. He must've been close because I'd no sooner cranked into my climb-out turn when I got a threat warning. I had all of maybe four or five seconds to evasively maneuver my jet and launch flares.
Unfortunately for me, fortunately for him, I didn't have enough time. I'd no sooner launched my first flare when the world exploded around me. I had all manners of warning whistles, buzzers and audible tones telling me I was screwed, no, fucked beyond all reason. Yeah, the ol' FUBAR. I barely had steering capability and zero thrust.
A quick jog of my memory and I recalled that most of the area around the end of the runway were huts from one of the tribal villages. I also recalled that if I continued my turn might clear the village, that is if my bird didn't fall to pieces before I could finish the turn.
At this point I'd been maybe a thousand feet in the air and quickly started losing altitude. A finely-tuned, superbly aerodynamic work of wonder quickly became a plummeting, flaming brick. Unluckily for me, that left me with virtually no time to eject. But I sure as shit wasn't going to ride my bird into the dirt without trying to postpone my meeting with that sorry ol' bastard, Mr. Death.
The last thing I recalled, before waking up on the ground hours later, was punching out. I distinctly recall thinking, as I'm rocket-launched out of my crippled fighter, that the landing was going to hurt. Seriously hurt, and that's assuming I didn't get burned to a crisp by the flames from the crash. Lemme tell you, buddy, that between the quite probably crippling landing and the flames licking my ass as I ejected, I was sure, sure that I wasn't getting out of this pickle alive.
The next twenty-six hours were the worst of my life. Well, what portions I can recall. When I regained consciousness, I was in a hut, presumably in the village at the end of the runway. The first thing I noticed was the excruciating pain I was in. Shattered bones, probably some internal injuries, definitely a concussion. The second thing I noticed was that I had no less than three insurgents with AK47s guarding me.
Shortly after I opened my eyes, one of the guards disappeared momentarily and then reappeared with another insurgent. Apparently he was the leader, because he barked out something. Two of the guards roughly grabbed me, causing me to scream in tortured pain. They dragged me out of the hut and towards a ratty, beat-up pickup. I knew, in the deepest, darkest part of my mind, that if they managed to get me in that truck and disappear in the wilds of Afghanistan, I was a dead man.
I fought them desperately, wildly, like my life depended upon it, because it sure as shit did. Well, as injured as I was, I wasn't able to put up much of a fight before one of the rag-headed bastards bashed me with the butt of his rifle. As my world dimmed, I heard other insurgents hollering and the distant roaring of approaching vehicles. My salvation was only minutes away. Unfortunately, those were more minutes than I had.
I was thrown in the back of the truck and my three guards jumped in after me. The little Toyota lurched and took off. The insurgents managed to avoid the rescue convoy for several hours; but those hours were more than enough for me to be tortured, interrogated, whatever you want to term it. I'll spare you the gruesome details, but I will say this — I almost died a number of times. Not from the crash directly, but from the typical radical Muslim ways, although looking back I probably should have died from the crash. God knows, in those twenty-six hours after the crash, I prayed for death more than once.
Twenty-six hours after the flight lead of Torch 23, my flight designation, was shot down immediately after take-off, my salvation came in the form of a joint-op recovery team consisting of Navy SEALs, a platoon from the 10th Mountain Division, a handful of Air Force PJ's and over-flights of F-15, F-16, A-10 and a seriously disgruntled AC-130. When the ground-pounders, squids and zoomies reached me after defeating the insurgent group holding me, I was teetering on the brink of consciousness. The medics and PJs that treated me on-scene doped me up on pain medication and the last thing I remember is the look of concern on one of the medic's face.
I was told later that had they been much more than ten to twenty minutes later, I'd have probably died of my injuries. I was also told later that the rag-heads had video-taped everything they did to me and from what was generally described to me, it wasn't pretty at all. Most of what happened in the hours on that video I can't, won't, recall. I blacked out and blocked out most of the stuff. And what I do recall, I wish to God I could forget as well. It haunts me to this day and is the stuff of nightmares.
Two months later I awoke in Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, wife and daughter by my side, but in some serious pain. Yeah, I was surprised, but thanking my lucky stars that I was still breathing. I was in pain, sure, but at least I was alive.
Looking back, I should've known there was more to kick me while I was down. My wife, Lisa, was happy, but I could tell something was bothering her. I'd noticed her wedding band missing, but in my drug-induced state one-and-one didn't make two. My daughter, Kaitlyn, even at nine years old, was smart and observant. She was scared about me, but she, too, was sad. And again, I was too drugged to notice.
During my six months of recovery and therapy in which I'd been moved to Walter Reed Medical Center back in the States, I'd learned that I was permanently grounded. The ejection and hard landing had permanently compressed several of my vertebrae, torn everything in my right knee and shattered my right arm at the elbow, among other things. I took it in stride, though. I was alive, man, I was alive! If it meant that I flew desks the rest of my career, I could deal with it. Oh, don't get me wrong, I was saddened by the news that I couldn't fly fighters anymore, but in the grand scheme of things it was just a small bump in my road.
There were times that I noticed that Lisa wasn't around as often as I'd thought she would be. I always chalked it up to work and caring for a nine year-old. I'd come to the decision that I would take a Maintenance Officer position back home in the local Air National Guard unit during these six months in the hospital. If I couldn't fly, then I figured I'd do my remaining time in service in the Guards back home.
Cue event number two. A year after being shot down I moved my family back home to Idaho and took up a job with the Air National Guard. My daughter loved it up in Idaho. The wife? Not so much. Obviously, I loved it. Being close to the rest of my family was cathartic for me. My dad, step-mom and brothers and sisters, most of them step-siblings, loved the fact that the adventure-seeking son had returned.
Time rolled on. The next three years were enjoyable, though I was oblivious to the struggles my marriage was enduring. I was happy; Lisa missed her family in Oklahoma. I chalked it up to a struggle to adapt, assuming she'd eventually get over whatever was bothering her. I guess it shouldn't have surprised me when she left me, but it did. This was the third in the series of events that turned my life topsy-turvy.
First the separation devastated me. Married or not married, that was the question, to paraphrase ol' Will Shakespeare. We were separated for a good two years before Lisa decided, or maybe had the money for, the divorce to happen. I withdrew from the social scene. Family gatherings? I practically had to be dragged to them against my will. At the time I resented being forced into situations where I had to be around people. I didn't want folks to see just how unsuccessful I was—recently retired from the military, single, couldn't hold a marriage together. Probably wasn't a good father in other people's eyes. At least that was my line of thought at the time. In a word or two, I was antisocial and depressed.
The divorce devastated me almost as much as the separation. The only difference was, I knew it was coming, whereas I was blindsided with the separation. Even more devastating was the court awarding custody rights to the ex. The divorce, honestly, was as amicable as a divorce could be not because the ex and I both wanted to make this easy on each other, but because of Kaitlyn. We sold the house we owned, and most of our belongings, and divided it down the middle.
It wasn't until we fought over the custody of Kaitlyn that I found out just how unhappy Lisa was and how much she hated me. Many a night found me trying to explain to Kaitlyn why mom and dad were splitting. It tore my guts out. It tore hers out as well; she was daddy's girl. At one point she told me that she hated her mom, and while I couldn't fault her for her feelings, I knew she shouldn't feel that way and told her so.
I had to take the moral high road even though I wanted nothing more than hide Kaitlyn away and keep her for myself. So, I kept a stiff upper lip and put up the appearance that I was, would be, ok. I wasn't, obviously, but I didn't want Kaitlyn to see her daddy cry. I told her that even though she'd be living in Oklahoma, I'd still always be there for her and she'd always be my little girl. She finally relented and accepted the inevitable, even if unhappily so.
The day they left for Oklahoma, I kissed Kaitlyn on the top of her blonde head and told her that I'd miss her and that she better keep in touch. If she didn't, I threatened to kidnap her. She sighed and told me that she'd rather that than go live with, in her words, "the bitch". I chuckled and told her to be nice and that I'd see her later in the summer.
While in all appearances on the outside I was happy, on the inside I wasn't. I was empty, lonely. It became a very dark time for me. The stress and anxiety of the divorce and subsequent custodial battle triggered bad flash-backs of Afghanistan. I told no one, however, because I was afraid of losing what little visitation I had with Kaitlyn. Friends and family kept me going, kept me involved, but honestly I stopped caring. My sisters tried, unsuccessfully mind you, several times to set me up with some of their single friends.
I went on those dates only because I wanted to show that I appreciated what my siblings were trying to do for me. For me, these dates simply rubbed salt in my emotional wounds. The women were friendly enough, but I never went on any second dates with them. I didn't want to share my heart with another just to have it stomped on as Lisa had done to me. It also didn't help that each and every one of the women I was set up with had some sort of "issues". I told my sisters that their friends were psychotic. They just laughed and told me to be nice; I told them I was just being honest.
Once the divorce was finalized I ended up moving in with my dad and step-mom. They damned near held me at gunpoint and forced me. I was family, they had an entire fully finished basement and that was that. In the end I couldn't argue with their logic, especially the rent-free part, and moved in.
After a few months of living with my dad and step-mom, using a VA loan, I bought a house at the edge of town. Event number four, and one of the biggest events, I think. Actually the biggest, I think. The house I bought was fairly nice, but it was located in a neighborhood that wasn't quite as nice. A dozen houses or so. It wasn't dangerous, really, but more like trailer-trashy. I didn't really mind though because it meant that I got a good deal on my house.