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Love Letters-part 1
My day began like all the other days that summer, except, it didn’t end that way. It was warm and the sun was already up when I rolled out of bed. I could smell my mom making pancakes in the kitchen and the sound of my father turning on the morning news drifted upstairs to my bedroom. The humid air and my warm bed enveloped me and made it hard to get up and go work my shift at Sandy’s Café. Sandy’s was an appropriate name for the place. It was located right beside the beach and there was almost always a thin layer of sand covering the floor and bits of sea weed and shell get tracked in like leafs. I pulled myself up and stumbled to the bathroom. After splashing my face with cold water to wake up and pulling my hair back with a bow I went back to my room to find my uniform. Waitresses at Sandy’s have to wear shorts and the Sandy’s t-shirt, which if you really feel so inclined you can purchase at the counter, not that I can see why you would want to. All I can say is at least I don’t have to wear one of those tacky waitress uniforms with the little white aprons and pastel button down dresses. So I slid on my t-shirt, shorts and a pair of flip flops before heading down stairs to grab something to eat.
“Reid, Sweetie, please come home right after your shift tonight, I need you to go to the store with me.” My mother called from her place in front of the stove.
“Can’t mom. I have a date with Brian.” I replied grabbing a pancake of the table and running out the door. 8:47. Crap. I had to be there by 9. I slid into the driver’s seat of my car, while shoving half of my breakfast into my mouth. As I cranked the engine I noticed the picture in my visor. It had been faded by the sun and torn on the edges but it was still pretty good. Brain took the picture; it was pretty sweet actually. I was laughing, only half looking at the camera while he was kissing my cheek, the sun setting on the beach in the background. It sounds really cheesy, but somehow it’s wasn’t. Brain has a way of making things sweet, even if they seem cliché and corny. He is a total goof ball, but that’s what I need. I need someone to take my worst days, and make them bearable with a joke and some crazy plan to make it better. That picture has sat up there in my visor for as long as I could remember, something solid, reliable, always there. Something completely Brain. I glanced up from the picture and my musings only to realize I had been sitting there staring at the picture for about 5 minutes. Crap! 8:52! I was so dead.
Okay so I didn’t die. I was made to work through the lunch shift though. I normally get the lunch shift off, and that’s when I usually have my lunch with Brain, spending the hour and a half just talking. Our daily “lunch dates” makes my shift slightly more bearable. It’s just another thing that I can always rely on with Brain. He will always be there, rain or shine, at 12:15 on the dot, waiting for me to be ready to go and eat on the pier or at an empty booth. Not today though, I called Brain to tell him I could make the lunch as soon as I got to work and received my punishment. Sandy was pretty cool about my being late though. She just smiled and was all “have fun at lunch”. So my morning went by without much excitement and lunch was crazy but all in all the day was fairly boring. By 3 I was ready to be out of there.
Ding. The little bell above the door sounded. The only reason I noticed was because the place had been pretty much dead for the last hour. As I glanced over my shoulder to see who walked in and I was a bit taken aback by the stranger’s striking appearance. He was dressed in army greens, carrying a large duffle bag. He had dark brown hair, cut short and very neatly combed to one side. He was attractive but it was hard to really see his face from across the café. So as soon as he sat down in a booth, I grabbed a notepad and walked over.
“Hey” I said with a warm smile.
“Hi” He didn’t make eye contact as he talked, though I had seen him glance over at me as I came towards the booth.
“What can I get you?” I asked.
“Um, burger and fries basket, Ma’m.” He was polite, but it seemed as though I could almost see a blush creeping up his cheeks.
“How bout something to drink?” He was blushing! It made me feel kinda giddy. Brain was sweet and all and of course I knew he thought I was pretty, but he did really do much to make it known. The stranger glanced up as I asked this so I smiled at him again.
“Coke, please.” He returned my smile quickly before glancing back down at his menu, which he did a wonderful job of pretending to be enthralled with.
“Alright, it’ll be right out, sir” I took his menu and couldn’t help smiling at him again before walking back to the kitchen to give Sandy his order.
“Well, well, well.” Sandy said eyeing me as I gave her the soldier’s order. “Why are you grinning like the Cheshire Cat?” Sandy had funny little sayings, which I had long since stopped noticing must less questioning. “Don’t tell me its cuz I made you work the lunch shift, cuz then I’ll have to think of another punishment.” She laughed one of her famous deep belly laughs. “or maybe it’s that handsome young solider over there that has you tickled pink?”
“I have no idea what you are talking about.” I reply grabbing the young man’s food from her and walking back to his table.
“Here ya go” I said sitting the basket with a burger and fries down in front of the solider.
“Thank you.” He didn’t look up as he said this, instead looking deeply in thought down at his food.
“Alright, well if there’s anything else I can get you, just holler.” I turned to walk away, slightly disappointed that I hadn’t even caught his name.
“Wait” he called.
“Can you sit down and talk for a while?” He asked, surveying the empty café. “I’m feeling kinda lonely and really need someone to talk to.”
This shocked me beyond words. He had seemed so shy! His soft green eyes were deep, full of thought, but pleading and explicitly truthful. More than anything I wanted to know what thoughts floated through his mind behind those eyes. I knew I should say, I’m so sorry but I can’t, I’m working. Then I have a date with my boyfriend after my shift. But that was defiantly not what came out of my mouth next.
“I’m so sorry but I can’t, I’m working.” I replied. His honest eyes looked wounded and rejected.” But my shift’s over in an hour and I knew somewhere we can go.”
“Sounds great.” He said, flashing a smile that literally made my heart flutter.
“Oh, by the way, I’m Reid.”
A warm summer breeze blew a few auburn curls loose from my ponytail as I walked down the boardwalk with Noah. To someone who didn’t know better, we would have looked like a couple, enjoying a blissful summer romance, on a date at the pier.
“Birthday.” I said, as it was my turn. We had been playing this game, of going back and forth asking each other questions about the other person.
“August 8th.” Noah replied.
“Wait that means your birthday was….two days ago!”
“Correct.” He smiled down at me, as he was over six foot, and I was barely 5’2. “Nothing slips past you, does it?”
I stuck my tongue out in reply to this. “Well then, happy birthday. So how old are you?”
“Nope, my turn.”
“Uhhh come on, that’s not fair!” I countered, “That was more like… a follow up question.”
“Fine, if you must know, I’m 18.” He rolled his eyes sarcastically at me. It was hard to believe I had known him for less than an afternoon. “ My turn.”
“Shoot” I said. There was a dock a little ways up. I grabbed his hand a led him towards it. I slid of my flip flops and sat down with a plop, letting my bare feet grace the salty water below as he lowered himself with a bit more grace.
“Will you write me when I’m gone?”
“Gone?” I asked, knowing too well what he was referring too but not quite ready to face that. Instead I watched the ocean ripple around my toes.
“Reid” his voice was firm, yet soft, as if asking but more demanding a chance to explain. “You didn’t think I was just playing dress up in these army greens did you?”
I felt myself ach, I knew what was coming. I had known from the minute I saw him, he wasn’t just here to vacation. I knew. “No.” I also knew he deserved more. For me to relieve him from his duties of explaining to me why he was dressed the way he was. He deserved more, but he did not expect it. No, was all I could manage.
“I’m a soldier. Just enlisted two days ago.” I guess he could see the realization in my eyes at this because he confirmed it by saying, “Yes, I enlisted in the army on my 18th birthday. Now I’m being sent to Iraq, in less than a month. I have to go to a training camp, and then I’m off. That’s where I was headed when I came into the diner today. I am spending the night here, and then first thing tomorrow I’m gone.”
“Oh.” Again it was all I could manage.
“Yeah, and I know you have a boyfriend Reid.”
I opened my mouth to retort but he cut me off.
“I saw the picture in your visor on the ride over.”
Something solid, reliable, always there. My thoughts from this morning echoed in my mind.
“But Reid,” he was using that firm, soft voice again, “I. don’t. care. Honestly I don’t. I just want to hear from you. I want to get to know you, every part of you. That’s all I ask, I don’t care if some other guy already gets to claim you as his girlfriend. I just want to be your friend.”
My eyes started welling up; I wanted to get to know him too. Every part of him; I wanted to know what was behind his deep eyes. I wanted to know where he was from, why he had joined to army; did he love someone else too? I wanted to know it all. I was selfish and greedy. I wanted him, all of him.
“Absolutely, I will write to you all the time. Yes. I’m dating Brian, but there is no reason why we can’t be friends.”
“Great.” His eyes lit up like a little boy. “I really don’t have anyone else to write to, so I was hoping you would say that.” He grabbed my hand and squeezed.
I smiled back. All I wanted was to stay in this moment forever. I didn’t care that I had blown Brain off to hang out with Noah. I didn’t care that I had only known Noah for an afternoon. I didn’t care that he was leaving tomorrow to go off to war. I didn’t care about any of those things. All I cared about was that he was here now, with me, holding my hand. And then I kissed him.