Welcome to Sunday Stories, hosted by The Annoyed Army Wife. If you haven’t seen her fabulous blog yet, please go check it out! While you’re there, link up and share a story of your own.
Read Our Story from the beginning.
After two weeks of complete separation, T borrowed a cell phone from one of the other guys and called me. One of the first things he told me was that he was getting cell phones for us as soon as he got back from training.
“Not being able to talk to you for two weeks really sucked.”
We talked about the Family Readiness event, which was the following day. This was a day of briefings, for both family members and soldiers, concerning finances, TriCare, deployment issues and other military matters. I was petrified at the very thought.
I must have been pretty transparent about it because T told me he’d pick me up the next morning so that we could ride up together. I tried to talk him out of it since he was already at the armory, about a ten-minute drive to the building where the event would take place. To come get me meant an almost three-hour drive south only to turn around and immediately spend almost three hours going north again. It also meant that since Family Readiness started at nine, he had to leave at three in the morning in order to pick me up at six a.m. sharp.
“I’ll see you in the morning,” he said with finality. I almost saluted into the phone.
The next morning T was on my doorstep. It was the first time I’d seen him in his ACUs and I thrilled with nervous excitement. He looked so military that I was a little awed. And in that split second, the uniform made everything real. It drove the deployment stake a little deeper into my already tender heart.
He kissed me and we got in the car for the long drive north.
That day was a blur of uniforms and scared-looking civilians. When I first walked into the building, I was overwhelmed by a sea of camouflage. T led me down the hall by the hand and we passed soldier after soldier.
“Hi, sir.” “Hello, sir.” “How’re you doing, sir?”
I suppressed a giggle. They called my goofy boyfriend “sir”. Tee hee!
Because T and I weren’t married, many of the briefings – such as finance and TriCare – didn’t apply to me. I didn’t need to get a military ID card. Mostly I just stood around feeling awkward.
Towards the end of the day, there was a large briefing in a drill room – a large, cement room with makeshift tables and chairs, and horrible acoustics. I could only hear about half of what was being said and most folks were talking rather than listening. There was a PowerPoint detailing some common deployment emotions. I don’t remember any of them. I just remember gripping T’s hand tightly.
Finally, we filed out into the parking lot. It had started to snow and the ground was already covered. We all shivered into our vehicles and waited for them to warm up. T got out to clean off the car while I huddled in the passenger seat.
That was a long, miserable ride home. I tried to sleep, but my feet were cold. The road conditions kept getting worse and T struggled to stay in his lane as tractor trailers motored by, throwing slush on his little Chevy Cavalier. Often he reached out of his window to snap the wipers against the windshield, removing the ice. I pressed my feet to the floorboards in an effort to stop the car from sliding around in the snowy ruts made by the other vehicles.
A three-hour ride turned into four and a half. T was exhausted from his two weeks of training and ten hours on the road. I was exhausted from my first encounter with the military. We were both half-frozen from the window being down so often.
When we finally, finally got back to my apartment, we staggered in and cranked up the heat. Then we each took a turn in the shower. Hot water had never felt so good and my hot water tank had never seemed so small. Afterwards, we snuggled in, drawing warmth and comfort from each other. I held him closer than I ever had before. I buried my head in his chest and tried not to think about him leaving.
Then, as we lay there together, T told me he loved me.
My breath caught in my throat. I couldn’t say it back.
I could only reach up and touch his face as my tears fell silently.