– I –
“Mail to Johnson!”
The Captain held up a single, white envelope before tossing it on the table he was standing behind. He had a short crew-cut haircut, like the rest of the soldiers in the room, and was still in uniform although the day had already passed.
The room smelled of Man and sweat, but everyone had gotten used to it almost immediately when the Team had marched in four months ago. Blake Johnson and his team had had a hard day in Training and were ready to call it a night after opening their mail.
As the Captain called out names for the rest of the mail recipients, Blake jumped up from his bunk to retrieve the envelope from where it had landed on the mail table. Anticipating the best, his heart skipped a beat when he saw who it was from: Ginny.
It was hard to wait until he returned to his bunk before opening it, but he somehow managed it.
– II –
I hope you’re doing okay. I got a new job at a donut shop downtown. It doesn’t pay a lot, but I still like it. There was a kid that got a Krispie Kreme the other day and practically exploded with happiness when he tasted it. I think it was his first one ever. He was definitely young enough, and the way his parents watched… expectantly? when he tried it makes me think so. He asked for more and his dad said he’d take the boy back to see me and my donuts when he got another A. I guess he meant on a test. It was really cute.
When can you come home again? You should come visit me if you can. I miss you.
– III –
Chuck was waiting outside his house as Blake arrived. Seeing the familiar, beaten up van, Chuck immediately rose to his feet and called out to the others. Eric and David came outside right as Blake stepped out of the van’s driver-side door.
Chuck gave him a hug that lasted several seconds before they broke and he spoke: “Dude, it’s been forever!”
“Only a couple years,” Blake replied, smiling. He was happy to be home. Happy to see his friends again.
“Yeah, a couple of years too long!”
The two walked back to Chuck’s porch where Eric and David were still standing. They hugged and exchanged greetings and the two went back inside, leaving Chuck and Blake alone on the porch.
“Come,” Chuck said happily, walking over to his porch swing. “Sit down. We haven’t talked in forever.” Changing tone, he added, “Have you talked to Ginny?”
Blake sat down. Ginny and he hadn’t spoken a word to each other in months. He had found a Free morning to call her up nearly three months ago to say hello (and, of course, hear her voice) and they’d ended up talking for quite a while. They even made a date to meet up when he got back. “The Chamber Garden at six,” she had said, “I won’t forget.” He’d chosen the date as the day he would be leaving again, an hour before he shipped off. He hoped that he’d get a chance to see her before then and that this would be more of a goodbye before he returned to duty.
That was the last he’d heard from her when the Captain cut all outgoing lines in preparation to march out. He hoped she’d stand by her promise to not forget, but he knew that sometimes she wasn’t the best at remembering things. He always let it slide, and she’d always beam with a smile and a hug. He wanted to say he had other things on his mind to worry about besides petty mistakes, but the other things on his mind were all her. Every night, he wished for the day that he’d come back and see her again.
“No, I haven’t talked to her,” he said slowly to Chuck. “how’s she been?” He sat down on the porch swing and begun to sway with his best friend.
“I haven’t really heard anything. She’s been… quiet. Not very active around town, as far as I know. Just keeping to herself and doing her job. I think she’s working at the bakery down on Second now, but I’m not sure.”
Blake sighed. He’d imagined coming home for a long time now, but never imagined a home without her being there to welcome him back. After all, it was his imagination; why imagine something he didn’t want?
“I might go see her tonight, then.” Blake stood up from the swing, ready to go inside. The chilly weather wasn’t what the wartime environment had gotten his body accustomed to. “Is the bakery open late?”
“Blake,” Chuck said, slightly trailing off. “Sit back down, I’ve gotta tell you something.”
With a curious (and nervous) look, Blake obeyed.
“I know how much you like Ginny, but I’m your friend and I think you should know,” he started.
Blake just sat there, mentally preparing himself for the worse.
“Ginny’s been seeing someone else for a while now.”
So there it was. It wasn’t the worse thing Blake could think of, but it did shove a metaphorical loaf of bread down his throat. Every fantasy of coming home and resuming their relationship fell to pieces, and he stared dumbfounded back at Chuck, oblivious to the rest of what he said. He fought back a tear, knowing he had to stay strong for his friends. He didn’t even know why he was to tempted to cry; he hadn’t seen the girl in years, yet could still feel a connection to her rupture in his heart.
“Are you okay?”
Blake blinked rapidly, breaking from thoughts he’d rather not think anyway. He stuttered, “Y— Yeah. How long?”
“What?” Chuck asked.
“How long have they been dating?”
Chuck looked down at his feet and then back at Blake. “About a year. She seems happy though, if that helps.” He frowned. “There’s someone out there for all of us. You just have to find her.”
“I guess so,” was all Blake could manage.
– IV –
“Dude, when are you coming back again?” Chuck was standing outside Blake’s van as he started the engine, preparing to leave.
Over the purring of his van, he said he didn’t know. “Whenever they let me go again, I guess. You’ll be the first to know. Thanks for letting me stay this week.”
Chuck chuckled and said, “No problem, dude. Everyone misses you when you’re gone, you know? It’s not the same around here without you. It was good to have you back for a week.”
“It was good to be back,” Blake said, putting the van in gear. “I’ll be back again whenever I can.”
Chuck smiled, then gave his friend a serious look and added, “And man, don’t let the Ginny thing get to you. You’re an awesome dude, it’s her loss, you know that, right?”
Blake was silent for a moment, then solemnly nodded, only barely fighting back tears. Doing his best to hide them, he put the van in gear, squeaked, “Thanks, bye”, and drove off.
Chuck shouted “Bye!” after his friend, then walked back inside as the first raindrops of the evening began to fall.
– V –
Sitting on a stone pedestal in the Chamber Garden, Ginny checked her watch: 6:47. She’d been waiting for Blake to return since the day he left, and had been waiting for this day since the date had been made a little over two months ago.
Overhead, the dark clouds that had loomed on the horizon when the clock struck six had since moved closer, threatening the garden with fresh rain.
As the first raindrops quickly turned into a downpour, Ginny waited in silence for Blake to arrive. She’d spent almost two hours fixing her hair and makeup for today, primarily because she only barely had enough experience to know what to do, and partially because she wanted everything to be absolutely perfect the first time Blake saw her in the Gardens.
As she sat alone with her head hung low, it took only minutes for the rain to completely undo all of her work. Before long, she was completely drenched, and a thick line of eyeliner ran down each cheek.
At 7:00 she began to cry, knowing that he had already shipped off again. At first she fought the tears, but the promise of being masked under raindrops coerced her to let it all out.
He forgot about me, she thought dismally, I waited so long for this day and he forgot.
She stumbled off the pedestal and laid in the flowers, where she continued to cry for hours, wishing things had happened differently.