Soundtrack: from a defunct emo band from Pittsburgh... awesome band with awesome lyrics
Here's a thought, if you're willing to listen. I only tell the
truth of the feelings I'm given. Can you hear me now? Listen.
Whispers in the rain. Listen. Don't push love away, you know
you do. It's all we have.
Don't Push Love Away - The Juliana Theory
At first I was mad at Sam. However, after he dropped me off and I cried for about two hours, I realized Sam didn’t do anything wrong.
Seeing the picture for the first time in over a year and a half was like a slap in the face. My concern about it not being okay to move on from everything came back and reared it’s ugly head, causing me to second guess all the time I had spend in Sam’s arms. Is this a sign that I’m not supposed to move on and fall in love. Too late, Alex. You are already in love and there is no turning back.
The picture, it was so intimate. It was me and Danny sharing everything we were supposed to share over the next umpteen years in just a matter of a couple minutes. There was me, just moments after my life was changed forever from a shower of bullets that had rained upon me and Danny.
I picked up the trash can and puked out the remnants of bile that had been churning since I saw the picture.
After dropping Alex off at her house, I drove around for awhile before stopping at home. I ran upstairs, picked up the picture and drove straight over to Race and Denise’s house.
“Sam!” Denise said cheerfully, but realized instantly this wasn’t a happy visit. “What’s wrong, hun?”
I walked straight into the house, carried the picture with me and sat down at the kitchen table. After setting the frame on the table, I heard Denise’s sharp intake of breath behind me, which told me she knew what I wanted to know.
“A month or two ago, Eden and I went shopping for some pictures to decorate my house. I found this one in the back of a rack and I instantly caught my attention. I mean, look at the intensity between these two people, it just spoke to me. Sure, I hadn’t ever experienced anything like that, but I’d like to think there is a part in everyone that wishes to be involved in a love like that…”
Denise didn’t say anything. Race was standing beside her when I paused. He nodded in agreement and she just kept staring at the picture with her hand over her mouth.
“These last few weeks with Alex have been nothing short of incredible. I thought what you two have, was something completely unobtainable. I never would have thought I’d find it and not especially with a girl who is, at the moment, confined to a wheelchair. Alex has told me bits and pieces about her past…probably the most I’ve heard was that night we had the BBQ over here… You two talked about a guy named Danny, but I never thought he was someone that Alex shared a moment like that with,” I pointed at the picture. My throat was constricted and I could barely speak at this point. “You need to tell me about him,” I turned to Race.
“I think you need to talk to Alex about it…” Race began quietly.
“No, she isn’t talking to me at the moment. I came to talk to you about it. Personally, I can’t blame Alex if she can never talk to me about this.”
Race sighed and took a seat at the table next to me. He stared at the picture for a few moments and then pulled Denise onto his lap and held onto her like she was going to be the only thing to get him through the story.
“This is going to take some time,” Race said quietly.
“I have all the time in the world,” I answered sincerely. Immediately I felt goosebumps pop up all over my body.
“I’m fairly sure Danny fell in love with Alex the day we all met and shipped off to
. Of course all the guys were buzzing about the hot little Korean combat nurse, but Danny was the first to actually go over and introduce himself to her. Now, you need to understand Danny. He was this big dude…probably could have been an UFC fighter with the body he had, so he towered over Fletch,” Race paused and chuckled. “I’ll never forget Fletch’s face when he sauntered over to her. He says to her, ‘Don’t worry little girl, if you forgot your teddy bear, I’ll be more than willing to be a stand-in.’ She looked up at him and laughed loudly as she said, ‘Well, that’s real nice of your to offer, but with an ego like that, I’m thinking you’ll need me more than I need you.’ He looked at her with a confused look before she spoke again. She patted him on the forearm and said, ‘When someone kicks your ass, I’ll make sure I find a pooh-bear band-aid to put on it for you,’ she said simply and walked away. I remember Danny just standing there in awe and practically drooling.” Afghanistan
“Fletch had one of a smartass attitude and within a couple days she had everyone eating out of her hand and ready to go to war for her. If anyone not in our platoon made a comment about her, the boys were ready to throw punches. Danny was the class clown, so he would always try and draw attention to himself. Despite their initial encounter, Danny stayed persistent with Fletch and she soon began seeing that he wasn’t joking when he would declare his love for her, even if it was in the middle of morning PT,” Race smiled again and shook his head.
“A few days before the fateful day in that picture, Danny came to me and we talked about how Denise and I made things work. He said, ‘Race, I know it’s against policy, but I’m telling you now that I’m going to break the rules. I’m in love with Alexandra and I’m going to make her my wife as soon as we are out of this hell-hole.’ I remember just nodding my head and trying to hide my smile. I told him that if I didn’t hear or see anything, there was nothing wrong going on. I then told him that as soon as we were back in
, that I would help him fill out whatever paperwork they needed to fill out so that they could get married, not be in the same platoon but still be stationed together. Hell, Danny was even going to take a desk job if he had to, which was a huge deal for him because he loved his job as a mechanic.” Canada
“The night before the shoot-out, I walked out of the bunkhouse and saw the two of them together. He asked her to marry him that night…” Race faded off and Denise sat there sniffling.
“Did she say yes?” I asked, hoarsely.
I nodded and didn’t know what to say or think.
“She has no clue to this day that I heard the exchange. I’d like you to keep it that way,” Race said. “Sometimes I often wondered if she decided to just block it out completely…I know her parents, especially her dad, really gave her a hard time about this photograph.”
“What would they be upset about?”
“Her dad was dead set against her going into the military in the first place. He was not thrilled to have a picture of his daughter plastered on the front page of the newspaper, making out with another soldier…especially since he was running for public office.”
“Fletch’s dad is the Mayor of Edmonton.”
My mouth dropped. I was learning something every minute, and the worst part about it was the fact that this was stuff about my girlfriend, the girl I thought I knew enough to fall in love with. “Is that why she doesn’t get along with her parents?”
“Some of it,” Denise finally spoke up. “Mr. Fletcher is very old school; probably from his time in the military as an officer. Since he was so against Fletch going into the military, his tolerance, I guess you could say, ran out when she got shot and then made the paper in a photo that had essentially brought a shit-storm along with it.”
“I don’t understand why the photo is considered controversial…”
“You weren’t the only one moved by the photo, Sam. This war is not a popular one and the old-timers were not particularly fond of the photograph showing the battle as some sort of romantic drama.”
I nodded my head and sat in thought for a few minutes. I looked at both Race and Denise whose faces were covered in worry and I nodded. “Thank you,” I said quietly. I picked up the photograph, stood up and walked out of the house and into my Jeep.
There was a lot I needed to digest and the only thing I knew to do, was to go for a run.
That photo had brought back so many things I thought I had gotten over. To find that nightmare in my boyfriend’s bedroom, was like living out the most dreaded horror film one could ever imagine. How is a person supposed to handle something like that?!
I spent the next couple days sitting, sulking on the couch in my living room, allowing memories of the past to overtake me and pull me under. It was like holding that old childhood teddy bear that gave you comfort in bad times. However, this teddy bear would always take me back to the depression I had tried so hard to leave behind.
A few days went by. I didn’t go to my training sessions. I called Dean and told him I needed a few days for a break. He wasn’t overly thrilled, but stated he understood.
Sam called me several times a day, but I would just hit the ignore button. Of course I should have known that I could only hideout from him for so long…
“Alex?! Let me in!” Sam yelled on the other side of the door.
“Go away Sam.”
He began wiggling the door handle and next thing I knew, he was falling through my door.
“Sam, I told you to go home and now you break into my fucking house?!” I scowled, pulling my legs up against my chest and hugged them.
“Well, desperate measures need to be taken when yoooouuu don’t answer my fucking phone calls!” Sam grumbled back. In just 3 steps he was standing in front of me with his hands on his hips. He sounded angrier than he looked; worry was written all over his face and green eyes.
I looked up at him and just shrugged my shoulders. He suddenly kneeled down in front of me, but kept some distance between us.
“Alex, I’d say sorry, but honestly, it’s not like I bought the picture to make you made or uncomfortable. Plus, if I would have known, I would have taken it down and told you about it…”
Again I shrugged.
He sighed and sat down on his heals, looking defeated. “So?”
“I’m fairly sure this is the part where you speak.”
I opened my mouth, closed it and before I could open it again, tears began falling. “He asked me to marry him the night before that photo was taken.”
Sam’s eyes grew a little larger, but he didn’t say or do anything.
“He was setting up to give me cover fire so that I could get more supplies…he died, saving me. The worst part is, we had our first kiss right before he proposed. I pushed off for so long and when I finally admit everything to myself, he dies, underneath me. His last breath was wasted on kissing me.”
I jumped when Sam’s large hand came up and covered one of mine, squeezing it gently.
“I tried to commit suicide several times during the last year and a half,” I continued, feeling as if it was necessary to make sure he knew I wasn’t as strong as he probably thought I was.
“Why?” he asked, pained.
“Because I should have died in that Afghan street; there was no reason for me to be on this earth.”
“But you are sooo wrong, Alexandra,” he said, smoothly, using my full name for the first time. I got goosebumps. “You are meant to do so much more on this earth…to make peoples lives better…like mine.”
“I’m still obviously a headcase…” I mumbled, attempting to break the gaze between us because it was beginning to make me slightly nervous.
“I love you, Alex.”
Now he had my full-attention. “Don’t say things like that just to get me to forgive you.”
He crawled within inches of me and put his nose against mine. “I don’t give a shit if you don’t forgive me. Don’t you see, Alex?! I’m telling you that I love you because I want you to know now incase I don’t get to tell you that. That is exactly what the picture spoke to me when I first saw it. What you and Danny shared, proves the fact that if you don’t do something now, then when is it right? I’ll admit I’m a little bummed that you didn’t tell me everything, but I believe you it would have eventually come out along down the line.”
I nodded. “Yes, I just didn’t think it was real romantic to tell your new boyfriend, ‘Hey! By the way, I was engaged for a day, but he was killed and I’ve basically been a wreck since it happened…’ add on the wheelchair business, well it just doesn’t make for the best of things.”
Sam smiled and chuckled a little. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. But since we are being all honest and up front right now, I’d like to file a grievance with you.”
He now took both of my hands into his large ones and completely held my attention. “You need to stop hiding away from me when things don’t go the way you want them to. I’m here for you Alex. I believe that is one of the reasons we found each other. You need me to keep from going into your hermit/depression modes.”
“But what do you need me for?” I asked quietly.
A big smile grew on his face. “To make me happy.”
“That doesn’t seem like a fair trade.”
He shrugged his shoulders and leaned in, lightly pressing his lips to mine. “Having you in my arms makes it all worth while,” he mused before kissing me once again. “I love you, Alex.”
I pulled back and smiled back at him, cupping his cheeks with my hands so that I could look into his sparkling green eyes. “I love you too, Sam,” I said, meaning every word.