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An Iraqi Sunset
“Now let’s lift our glasses for a toast to my son, Jake. May you return safely from protecting our country in Iraq and come back home to work with me!” Bill held his glass in the air as his gaze shifted around his living room. His eyes rested upon his son, who stood on the great Persian rug like a statue. Jake stared out onto the terrace imagining he was doing anything but entertaining arrogant friends and hearing his family nag him about his decision to join the Army. The ray of sun shining through the French doors made his sapphire blue eyes come to life and his perfectly bronzed skin gleam. He shook out of his trance and caught his father’s disapproving gaze.
The next morning Jake awoke before the sun had risen and began to prepare for the 18 hour flight. He sat on the edge of the bed and cleared his mind; he thought about all of the things he would be leaving behind for the next year. He finally stood up and walked across the oak floors making his way to the closet. There hung his uniform; the single piece of clothing that everyone in his family had misunderstood completely. He buttoned up the shirt, put on his cap and stared into the mirror, “This is who I am.”
The next day the sun beat down on the tarmac when the plane touched down in Iraq. As Jake exited the plane and walked through the terminal he spotted his friend Mathew. He made his way over to the other gate and shouted,” Matt! Hey how was the flight?”
“I slept like a baby the whole way from North Carolina!”
“Good to hear!”
“How is California?” Matt asked in reply.
“Same as always. There are so many arrogant people.”
As they rode to the base, Jake stared out the window, seeing villages where goats and camels roamed and others where burning cars littered the streets. Little groups of school boys chased after their hummer and veiled girls briskly walked alongside the buildings.
They traveled further and eventually were surrounded by untouched desert. Arriving at the base, they met Sergeant Chandler. “Now, boys, it’s the first time out in the desert for most of you and you will follow every order that comes out of my mouth. Do you understand?”
“Now, this will be your home for the next 6 months, so don’t tick me off!”
Jake and Matt walked together to their bunks and unpacked their things. He tossed a football out of his bag to Matt, grinned and ran towards him like a linebacker.
Matt fought back, his face nearly turning purple, but he gave up. Just as Jake picked himself up off of the floor, someone walked by the door and giggled. He looked up quickly enough to catch the end of a long dark pony tail sway by. He jumped to his feet to peek out the door. A woman glanced back at him, flashing a smile. He ran after her yelling, “Hey! Wait up!” The woman turned back around and stopped.
“Yes?” She looked up at him with honey-colored eyes.
“Uh, hi, my name is Jake Green. I just shipped in. What’s your name?” He stood there awkwardly - mesmerized by her eyes.
“Hi Jake. I’m Amira. I’m a reporter here.”
“Isn’t that really dangerous in Iraq?”
“Isn’t what you do far more dangerous?” She spoke with an English accent, but her tanned skin and dark curly hair gave away her Iraqi nationality.
“Well, we have guns to protect us. You risk your life without any protection,” He sated, continuing to admire her beautiful figure.
“You are quite right soldier. I must be going now, but I hope to see you around soon.” She sauntered off down the hallway and disappeared.
Jake returned to his quarters to find an extremely confused best friend. “Bro what the heck what was that?”
Jake replied in a mystified tone, “I have no idea, but she was amazing.”
“She who? Wait; there is a woman soldier here with us?”
“No, she’s a reporter and she has the most beautiful eyes.”
He lay supinely on his bunk thinking about Amira, and fell asleep hoping that he would see her again soon.
Jake stumbled out of bed the next morning and grabbed his uniform. Both he and Matt quickly put on their boots and reported to their new unit.
Sergeant Chandler prepped them for the day’s duties, “Today you will be looking for suspicious activity, violence, anything of that nature.”
“Yes Sergeant Chandler Sir.”
“Be safe and don’t be stupid!”
Jake and Matt were stationed at the center of the city. They both stood on the back of the hummer and kept watch. , “Hey that’s the girl I told you about,” Jake motioned towards Amira.
Matt spotted her, “Wow she is gorgeous!”
Jake pounded on the top of the humvee. “Hey, I have to take a leak.” He jumped down and rounded the corner to where Amira was. “Amira!” He shouted her name and her head whipped around to face him.
“Jake!” She exclaimed, as she stood on the side street. She was wearing blue jeans and a white t-shirt, her long dark hair fell out of a black veil that was delicately wrapped around her face. The sun glinted off her eyes and caught Jake in a trance. “You have to get back to patrol, Jake! I’m working today.”
“I wanted to see you again. When will you be back at the base?”
“Okay!” Jake jogged back to the Hummer and hopped on; he saluted Amira as they drove back beside her and she shook her head, grinning.
“Well, well someone’s interested in her!”Matt said as he shoved Jake.
“I am just making friends here. Don’t worry about me.” His huge grin was all the evidence Matt needed.
Matt stared back at him, “Ri-ght!”
They continued their patrol of the city and returned to the base around sunset. After showers, Jake sat on his bed dreaming of Amira. Matt smirked, “Just admit it. You like the girl. You barely know her, but you like her.” His only reply was a huge smile, stretching his entire face.
Later that evening, the men started a game of soccer. They chose teams and started a pretty good match. Jake’s team dribbled and scored! Then the ball was back with Matt and he dribbled it all the way down the field, passed it and scored as well. It was nearly 45 minutes into the tie game when Amira walked in. She stood in the distance; Jake spotted her from the corner of his eye. He stood in the makeshift goal and waved. As he waved, a guy form the other team kicked the ball and landed it right into Jake’s stomach, knocking him down and scoring the game point. Clouds of dirt flew up around him as he hit the ground and coughed.
Amira let out a laugh and clapped her hands. She stood near Matt’s team as they celebrated the victory; she looked down at Jake and couldn’t help but laugh more. Matt wiped his sweaty hands onto his shirt and shook her hand, “I’m Matt, Jake’s friend.”
Amira smiled and replied, “Nice to meet you. I’m Amira.” She walked over to where Jake lay writhing in pain. “Well, that’s a nice game of football you have going on isn’t it!”
“Hello, Amira, and it’s called soccer, not football,” he coughed up dirt and managed a smile.
She giggled again and helped him up. “Come on Jake get up.”
He stood up and leaned on her until he caught his breath again.
The two walked back into the mess hall and sat down at a table together. “So what has made you join the Army?” she questioned.
Jake replied, “Is this my interview, or are you really asking me this?” he smiled at her and cocked his head sideways like a puppy.
“Depends on how you answer,” she grinned staring down at her hands. She sat directly across from him, picked her head back up and met his eyes.
He answered, “I was tired of the people in California, none of them had a sense of the real world, and I felt I could really help the country if I was out here.”
Amira stared back into his deep blue eyes and sat silent for a few minutes, just looking at him.
“What about you? How did you come to be a reporter here?”
“I was originally born in Iraq, but my parents moved us to England and I went to school there to become a journalist. I wanted to tell people about Iraq and the war.” They continued their conversation until it was nearly time for lights out at the base. Jake walked Amira to the exit and stared into her eyes. She looked back into his, and he stole a kiss. She kissed him back and then twirled off the base. He stood in the doorway and watched until her car was just a speck of dust in the distance, barely illuminated by the moon.
Back in his bunk, Jake lay awake thinking about her. He couldn’t get her image out of his head - her honey eyes, thick dark hair unfolding down her back and her red lips. “She’s the one. She is so interesting and beautiful, and everything you could imagine Matt. She is perfect.” Matt stood frozen with his mouth agape. “Well she is beautiful! I’m very happy for you man! You better invite me to the wedding,” he chuckled.
The next afternoon, their unit was set out to patrol the city again. They made their way to the city center – Jake and Matt on the roof of the hummer, watching motorcycles pass by and beat up cars clunk down the streets as the sun set deeper in to the sandy horizon. The air was filled with the scent of lamb and spices, and dirt clouds arose. Vendors shouted competing prices and jewelry and clothing tents filled the sidewalks with color. They twisted and turned their heads at every screech or skirmish. A fight broke out about 50 yards from their unit. One man pulled out an AK47; the other a Desert Eagle. They took aim at each other then started pointing their weapons at the citizens around them.
Matt signaled the driver towards the fight and he and Jake took aim. The other man grabbed a woman from the crown and pointed his gun at her, but the shadows form the setting sun covered her face. He held his arm around her neck and dragged her with him as he fled. The hummer advanced towards the two men and Jake jumped down and followed on foot. As he approached the men they started rapid firing towards him and the other members of the unit. Jake dodged the bullets and fired at the man without the woman. As he got closer he realized the girl was Amira.
Matt followed Jake. The two ran and dodged gunfire. They slid around a jewelry booth; beads went flying in the air and spewed back down over the ground. Matt lost his balance and skated over the jewelry. He slipped and landed hard on the concrete, a bullet catching him on the upper thigh, and he cried out in pain. He fired his gun and shot again at the men fleeing, hitting one in the foot slowing his run. Jake continued to trail the men and was nearly on their tails. He was close enough to take the shot, but he hesitated. Another bullet came from the now wounded man and made contact with Jake’s calf, then another bullet and another. He fell to the pavement, but fired and shot the wounded man in the head. He fired another and shot and took out the other one as well.
Amira ran to Jake, ripped her veil off and tied it around his bloody calf. She was hysterically crying as she collapsed onto his chest. She kissed every part of his face as tears streamed down hers. “I love you,” she proclaimed, “I love you so much.”
“I love you too, Amira!” he paused and grabbed his gory calf in excruciating pain. The other men in the unit caught up to Matt and helped him into the hummer. He limped into it with some help, but there was no chance of Jake being able to walk. His calf was in pieces. Amira still clung to his side as they loaded him into the hummer. She rode with them to the base hospital, on the ride Jake fell in and out of consciousness as he muttered to Amira, “I love you. We will be together. I will keep you safe.”
He finally fell unconscious when they arrived at the base. Matt’s bullet was easily removed and bandaged, but Jake’s wound was near the point of requiring amputation. They bandaged it as best they could and prepared a plane to take him to a German military hospital. Amira waited impatiently outside of the operating room and was then finally given the news about his condition. She composed herself and asked to be taken with him.
“Wait! Amira!” Matt called after Amira from his hospital bed and beckoned her closer. He motioned for her to sit. “Please take care of my boy, I wish you two the best of luck.”
“Thank you so much. I will call you as soon as we land.” She rushed onto the jet and they were off. Jake remained unconscious, but stable through the entire flight. They landed near the hospital and took an ambulance there. The doctors operated quickly, but were not able to save his leg below the knee.
“I’m so sorry. It was all we could do. He should recover quickly, and with rehabilitation and a prosthetic, he will walk again.”
“Thank you so much, doctor,” Amira was relieved to know he was going to survive. She sat in the waiting room and called Matt to tell him.
The doctors finally let Amira into Jake’s room. He was barely awake and in quite a bit of pain, but he lit up when she walked in. Wrapping her arms around him, she whispered into his ear, “I was so worried about you!”
“I’ll be okay. You don’t have to worry about me,” he spoke softly and slowly, but seemed to be completely content. “I am happy as long as you are with me, Amira.”
She squeezed his hand tighter, and leaned in his chest, “I love you. I am so gl