Disclaimers: This is an original work of fiction. These characters are mine, although the Sarge was provided for me in the Bards Challenge. Please dont borrow them without permission.
Violence/Language: Hello, its a war story! However, in light of current events, I tried to use as few graphic details as possible.
Sex: This story depicts two women in a loving, romantic relationship, but theres nothing too explicit. Still, if thats illegal where you live or youre too much of a bigot to deal with it, move along.
"We need a medic! Get me a corpsman over here on the double!"
The sergeants words were bellowed into the radio, but could hardly be heard amidst the screams and gunfire that surrounded them. The unit was pinned down, and hopes for a rescue grew smaller and smaller by the moment. Now his Lt lay bleeding to death and there didnt seem to be a damned thing anyone could do about it.
"You hang in there, LT. Well get you out of here."
Flashing blue eyes opened; the grip on the sergeants arm still strong. "You take care of the men first, Sarge. Thats an order. And tell Re " The lieutenants voice faded just as the medic topped the hill.
"Take care of the LT first, Doc. Everyone else can wait."
The young man nodded and whispered, "The Cavalry is right behind me, so you hang on there, LT." It was a lie and he knew it.
Knowing his lieutenant was in capable hands, the sergeant turned toward the remaining able-bodied men and began barking orders in response to the intermittent sniper fire. "Conrad! Get over here!" Immediately a baby-faced soldier with the units com system called back "Coming Sarge!" as he cautiously moved from one cover spot to another.
The orders continued as he waited for the radio to reach him. "Brady! Tank! You two see if you can flank the sniper and kill that son-of-a-bitch. The rest of you provide cover fire. Keep him busy while they get in position, but alternate firing with the man beside you so our ammo will last until our ride can get here." Turning back to the now waiting private he added, "And you get on the horn and find out when the hell our ride is going to be here! Nelson didnt say so, but if we dont get the LT out of here soon, shes not gonna make it."
Like the finely tuned machine they had been trained to be, the men made their orders into actions. Tank and Brady split in two different directions, one trying to get above the sniper along the rocky hillside where they were pinned down and the other moving toward the river bed to their right. Their escape route to the left had been cut off by enemy soldiers. The rest of the men laid down cover fire; not their whole arsenal, but enough to keep the sniper from picking off the two men on their way to kill him.
"Roger that. One point seven clicks SE, sector 143, in twenty. Two Five out." Looking over his shoulder, the private turned to deliver his news. "Sarge, command says they cant get in here. Well have to hump for a ride, 1.7 clicks SE in twenty."
"Bullshit! You get back on that horn and tell those bastards that is a negative. The LT will never make it if we have to hump that far. Tell em well set up a secure perimeter in sector," grabbing his map, " 138. They can set down there. Its just over this ridge. Once Tank and Brady get the sniper we should be able to extract from the back side. You tell em to pick us up there."
"But Sarge "
"Goddammit Conrad! What part of that didnt you understand? Get on the horn and fix it!" His wrath was just about to work up a full head of steam when a frantic call from their medic interrupted.
"Sergeant Tanner! Sarge, you better come quick!"
With a final deadly glare toward the radio operator, the sergeant turned and quickly made his way to the place where his lieutenant lay wounded. "What is it, Nelson?"
"She keeps trying to say something and I cant make it out."
"You called me over here for that? She can tell me when we get her back to the base safely."
Nelsons dark brown eyes flicked briefly toward his sergeants stare and then looked away, trying desperately not to deliver the bad news. Two seeping wounds on her torso were covered with thick pads of gauze that were already bleeding through.
Tanner shuddered slightly, followed immediately by a determined growl. He leaned over the young officer he had come to respect and trust and spoke gently, "LT? LT, its Tanner. Did you have something you needed to tell me?"
Blue eyes, striking in spite of their unfocused condition, fluttered open. Swallowing with a painful gulp, Lieutenant Grant made an attempt to wet her lips and then whispered, "Sarge " Her breathing became even more labored and her eyes began fighting to close.
"Im here LT."
"When you get back," each word panting out painfully, "tell Rennie. Use the letter."
"Aw hell LT. Youre gonna be okay. Deliver your own message after we get you back."
"Sarge! Use the letter." With that her body went limp and the young medic began to swear profusely. Meanwhile, across an ocean, on a starry night in Texas, a young redheaded woman was startled from her sleep, sitting straight up in bed, screaming at the top of her lungs.
Lieutenant Karen Grant had graduated at the top of her class from West Point, despite the best efforts of more than a few instructors to make sure that, as a woman, she wouldnt break their long tradition of male domination.
As a Second Lieutenant, or "Butter Bar", and in spite of her outstanding career at the Point, she had been assigned to a logistics position with a supply company. But that was not where she wanted to be. She used every political and military influence she could lever and finally, as a First Lieutenant, received assignment to a combat unit. This had been her goal since the death of her father, Master Sergeant William Grant, U.S. Army, ret., and through single-minded determination and butt-ugly stubbornness, she had finally achieved it.
To say that she was initially not well received by the men was an understatement. Of course, she had expected them to be resistant. After all, men did not join the military to be led into battle by a woman. But she was used to resistance and knew what she had to do to overcome it. She had to be better than everyone else at whatever she asked them to do. Lt. Grant trained side by side with her men. She earned the respect of her NCO. She ran farther, shot more proficiently, and more than held her own in hand to hand combat training. They were repeatedly successful when engaged in war games on their base in Killeen, TX. Her fierce drive and focus earned the young lieutenant the reputation for being relentless and rewarding to work for. And before long, the accomplishments of Grant and her men made them the acknowledged fighting force to be reckoned with within the 1st Cavalry Division on Fort Hood.
And then she Rennie
August in Texas is just about as unpleasant as it gets. The summer rains have disappeared and its hottern hell. Everything, even the birds, are lethargic. If theres a wind, its hot, like air from a hair dryer. All of that is irrelevant, however, if your Majors birthday is in August and he invites you to a cookout at Belton Lake.
The day was filled with water skiing behind his huge 20 ski boat and sitting on the beach drinking cold beer. By the time the sun began to sink into the water, everyone, including the young Lt. Grant, was sunburned, drunk, dehydrated, and/or all of the above. In an effort to regain some of her faculties, Karen had moved away from the crowd and was leaning against a shade tree, staring out across the water. This is why I stopped drinking in college, she chastised herself. You are so totally going to pay for this tomorrow Grant.
"Excuse me, but are you alright?"
Karen jumped, startled that someone had managed to sneak up on her (although truth be told, at this point you could have sneaked up on her in a tank). "Excuse me?" she asked, stalling.
"I asked if you are alright. Youve had a pretty long day and have matched the men pretty much beer for beer. Now youre sitting over here looking suspiciously like youre going to pass out under this tree. I just wondered if youre okay."
Even struggling to make her eyes focus, Karen could tell that it was a woman no, make that a beautiful woman, standing in front of her. A petite woman with deep red hair and a large chest that was accentuated nicely by the green bathing suit she was wearing had moved around to stand between her and the sunset. A towel wrapped around her waist concealed most of her legs, but her calves indicated that they were muscular and shapely.
"Well, thank you for asking, but I am " Dont even try it Grant. "I am totally in a world of shit. Ive had way too much to drink, not eaten enough to counter the drinking, and have managed to get myself dehydrated somewhere along the way. At least Im assuming thats why my head is pounding and Im too shaky to walk."
"Honesty. I love that in a woman." Laughing, Karens rescuer sat down in front of her and studied her carefully. "I think maybe you should start with this," she suggested as she held out a large bottle of Fierce Grape Gatorade. "While you start on that, Ill go get you a burger and some chips. Do you want mayonnaise or mustard?"
"Okay, anything else?"
"How about your name?"
A gentle laugh floated down to Karen as she continued to try and figure out if this was real or a hallucination. "My name is Rennie." There was a smile in her words. "And Ill be right back, so dont you dare wander off."
"No maam," Karen replied as she took a long swig of Gatorade, rested her head back against the tree, and prayed silently that the vision would be back soon. With food.
Impatience getting the better of him, Tanner called to the check on the lieutenant. "Nelson! Hows it going?"
"Ive got her back for now Sarge, but that bird needs to hurry! Shes lost way too much blood. Ive done all I can. No way shes gonna make it without a transfusion. Soon."
"Roger that. You got that Conrad?" he growled, turning to the radio operator.
"Yeah Sarge. Theyre twelve minutes out, but that wont help us if " Private Conrads thought was interrupted by a single, hollow shot that sounded above all the other gunfire. And then there was nothing. Sweaty soldiers waited to see if the sniper that had pinned then down for the past 40 minutes was indeed dead. Moments later Brady emerged from the brush carrying an extra snipers rifle.
Without waiting for the Sarges order, Conrad turned back to his radio. "This is Two Five. Sniper confirmed neutralized. We are moving into position, sector 138. Will secure LZ and lay down smoke. One casualty critical. Accelerate extraction if possible. Over."
"Copy that Two Five. Extraction in under nine, sector 138. Lay down smoke to confirm secure LZ."
"Roger that. Two Five out."
Sergeant Tanner began barking orders again as the squad gathered their equipment and their wounded and began moving over the ridge to secure the landing zone for their ride back to the base.
Karen started to move, only to discover that literally everything hurt. She moaned pitifully and tried to piece together what exactly had happened.
"She lives " There was humor and just a hint of sarcasm in the sweet voice that tempted her enough to open her eyes. Well, one eye.
"Oh, I dont think youre going to get off that easy. Dying would be entirely too convenient at this point. I think youre going to have to stick around and suffer."
"Well, Ive definitely got that suffering part down." Managing to open both eyes this time, she squinted at the figure standing beside the bed. "Did you happen to catch that monkey?"
"What monkey?" Rennie asked, slightly confused.
"The one that shit in my mouth." With that, Karen worked her mouth as if something unpleasant had indeed taken up residence there.
"Thats disgusting!" although she couldnt help but laugh at the descriptive.
"Youre telling me "
"Maybe this will help," she offered, holding up a mug. "Do you drink coffee Lieutenant?"
"Um, no, actually I dont. But Ill worship at your feet if you happen to have a Pepsi and a toothbrush."
Gods, that is too cute. "The toothbrush is already laid out on the bathroom counter. Ill have your Pepsi on ice when you finish.
"Over there. Doors open."
Karen rolled over to the other side of the bed, emitting something that sounded like a cross between a wounded animal and a fussy child. Swinging her legs over the edge of the bed, she paused to gain her bearings. Suddenly an unforgiving wave of nausea overwhelmed her and she lunged toward the bathroom door, racing against time to the commode.
Hearing the unpleasant activity from the next room, Rennie grimaced. She had watched the fabled young lieutenant from a distance all day at the lake. Her coworker, the wife of a captain, had invited her to come to the party. Rennie had suspected she was being invited to meet some eligible young officer; her friend was notorious for her matchmaking efforts. Well, it had certainly worked. Her co-worker just didnt know it.
Sounds of retching from the other room punctuated the fact that this was a somewhat dubious beginning. Nonetheless, there was something about this Lt. Grant. She seemed bigger than life in many ways. Of course, all the whispers among the wives and girlfriends had been about her command of combat troops and how they werent really sure that was appropriate. Rennie, however, was completely captivated. The lieutenant she had been brought there to meet didnt impress her at all, but this woman that drank and skied and swore at pace with the men all day was another story. One she knew she wanted to know more of.
Sheepishly, Karen peered around the bedroom door. "Well, that was impressive."
"I agree. What do you do for your second act?"
"If thats a Pepsi in your hand, I believe I promised groveling."
Rennie laughed as she crossed the room and handed Karen the Pepsi. "It was worshipping. And if its all the same, I think Ill pass on than for the time being. At least until Im sure youre not going to throw up on my shoes."
Karen chose to forgo a tart response, instead concentrating on the liquid of life she was draining from the glass. Upon reaching the bottom, she looked up gratefully and moaned, "God I needed that. Thank you."
"Would you like some more?"
"Would you like some lunch?"
"Ugh, no." Then suddenly it hit her. "Lunch?"
"Thats right Lt. Grant. Its after one in the afternoon."
"ONE?! Jeez, I am so sorry. I feel like an idiot."
"Please, dont feel that way. At least not until I tell you that you threw up in my car on the way back to my apartment last night."
Karen buried her face in her hands. "Oh. My. God."
"Actually, technically, you threw up on my car. That was quite a feat, I might add, hanging out the window of a car going 67 miles an hour, throwing up the entire contents of your stomach, and all without falling out or hitting my steering wheel once."
"I am so sorry. Let me get dressed and Ill go wash your car for you."
Rennie smiled a beautiful, forgiving smile. "Dont worry about it. I did it when I got up this morning."
"Well, while you seem to be in the mood to let me off the hook for my profound stupidity, could you also forgive me for not remembering your name?"
"Rennie. And Id have been shocked if you remembered." Hesitating, she added, "Ill be shocked if you remember anything about yesterday at all."
"Your bathing suit was dark green." It was one of two facts she could recall from the last 24 hours. "And you looked great in it."
That said the redhead blushed profusely, quickly looking for a way to change the topic. "Do you remember anything else?"
"Not much. Water, beer, skiing, purple Gatorade, and lots of bitchy officers wives."
"Gee, you do remember the whole day!" Rennie laughed.
Joining her in laughter, Karen corrected her. "Not quite the whole day. For example, how did you know who I was?"
"The bitchy officers wives What was funny though, was when the men would come back up to the tables and brag about you. It only fanned the flames for the bitching."
"Well, I wont be going into combat with them, so let em bitch. I take it we rode back here in your car and that this is your apartment. Wheres my Jeep?"
"Lieutenant Sanders drove it back to your apartment complex for you. And before you ask, he was sober. He left me your apartment keys; your car keys will be in the mail slot. "
"Aw, hell, Ill pay for that one this week. One more thing "
Karen looked down to study the oversized t-shirt and boxer shorts she was wearing. "Where are my clothes?"
"Theyre in the wash. When you were leaning out the car window Well, they needed washing."
"And I got into these how, exactly?"
"I undressed you, washed off what was too gross to leave until morning, put lotion on your sunburn, and put you in those. By the way, you have a beautiful body."
This time it was Lt. Grants turn to blush.
As soon as the helicopter sat down corpsmen charged toward it with a stretcher. Carefully they unloaded the wounded lieutenant and hurried her off to triage to assess her wounds. Tanner and the rest of the squad followed in hot pursuit. One of the nurses met them at the tent entrance. "Stop right there! Gentlemen, I know youre worried about your lieutenant, but well take good care of her. Right now I need you to get some chow, go shower, and then go get some rest. Well send word as soon as we know something."
They wanted to argue, but Sgt. Tanner had learned a long time ago that there were just some people you didnt argue with and army nurses definitely fell into that category. Looking past her into the tent they could see a team of nurses and doctors working furiously over their Lt. Grant. They were hanging several units of blood and hooking her up to monitors and machines. Immediately one of the machines began screaming a high, shrill warning and one of the doctors could be heard using a stream of profanity. "Go on now! You did your job; you got her here. Now let us do ours." With that she turned and hurried toward the chaos.
Dejectedly, the other men turned away to get some grub, wash off the battle dust, and catch some ZZZs as ordered. Tanner headed back to their tent where he had letters from all the squad members to their loved ones, just in case they werent going to make it home. He also held a letter from Lt. Grant with special instructions. He dreaded having to read it.
Meanwhile, Rennie sat outside under a clear, starry Texas night. It was extremely cold out, but that wasnt why she was shivering. "Oh, God Grant. What have you done?"
The rest of the day had passed comfortably for the two women. In spite of the fact that they had known each other for less than 24 hours, their conversation was easy and there was a familiarity between them that both felt, but neither could explain. They talked about everything from their childhoods and parents to schooling and careers. Rennie taught math at one of the local middle schools; Karen was impressed, convinced that teaching junior high students was much more difficult than leading men into battle. They talked about hopes and dreams and growing old. Both silently wondered separately what it would be like to grow old with the woman sitting across from her on the couch.
Reluctantly, Karen finally gave in to her good military training, knowing that she had an early morning at the beginning of a long, hot day. As they stood inside the door, stalling before heading out to the car, Karen dug her toe at the carpet and hesitantly asked, "Did you mean what you said earlier?"
Rennie seemed to search her memory databanks for a long moment, reviewing the days conversations. Then she smiled and took a step toward Karen, purposely invading her personal space. "Absolutely. You have a beautiful body."
At that, Karen straightened her posture slightly, looking down into amazingly green eyes. Taking the opportunity, Rennie stepped even closer. So close, in fact, that her breasts were lightly brushing against the lower half of Karens rib cage. She casually wrapped her arms around Karens waist and gazed up expectantly. "Rennie, you are absolutely beautiful and in spite of the fact that I recently made a complete ass of myself in front of you, I dont think I can wait one more moment to kiss you."
"Its a good thing. I was beginning to wonder if I was going to have to attack you on the way to the car!" They both chuckled briefly and then finally, Karen leaned down and captured Rennies lips. It was a gentle meeting, governed by soft, curious lips. Several minutes later both women pulled away breathlessly.
"Worth the wait?"
"I was wondering, we have the inspection from hell this week, but we get off work early on Thursdays. Would you be interested in dinner and maybe a movie?"
"That depends " Karen arched her left eyebrow in anticipation of Rennies condition. "Will there be more kissing?"
"Yes, maam! There will definitely be more kissing."
"Pick me up around 5:00?"
"Ill be here. And Rennie, thanks for everything. I can promise you that youll never have to endure something like that with me again."
"Im gonna hold you to that, Soldier." With that they kissed briefly one more time and headed out the door.
The following day two dozen red roses were delivered to Fairview Middle School for Ms. Rennie Walters. The card that the secretaries read before they called her on the intercom simply said, "Looking forward to more kisses. Your Lieutenant."
In all his years in the military, Sgt. James Tanner had never had to use one of these letters from his soldiers. He certainly had never been asked to hold a letter for one of his officers. When he had questioned Lt. Grant on why she was entrusting him instead of another officer, her reasoning had been simple. "Because Sarge, if something happens to me, I have no doubt that youll be right there at my side. I want this handled by someone that was there at the end. I trust you with my life Sarge, why wouldnt I trust you to take care of my personal affairs?" No other officer had ever paid him a higher compliment, so with a deep sigh, he opened the manila envelope. Inside there was a letter addressed to him, a letter addressed to someone in Killeen, TX, and the picture of a beautiful woman, with long, auburn hair and green eyes. After studying the picture, he opened the letter addressed to him.
Well, I was hoping you wouldnt ever have to read this letter. Now that you are, Im hoping that your regard for me will not be changed by its contents.
Simply, I am in a relationship with a wonderful woman named Rennie Walters. I never imagined myself married to anyone but the Army, but in my heart, I am completely married to her. She believes in me and supports my goals as an officer and a soldier, but more importantly she has made me a better human being. Funny, I didnt even know something was missing in my life until she showed up and finally made me whole.
I need to ask you to contact her personally, as you know that the Army will not. If I have been killed, please mail the enclosed letter after notifying her of my death. I have no other family except for the men in our squad, so she is all I have in the world. Please do your best to comfort and take care of her. This will be extremely hard on her, as it would any soldiers wife. I love her, Sarge. Please take care of my girl
She is leaving her computer on at all times during the war. Her email address is RedRennie@aol.com; I would appreciate it if you would answer any additional questions she may have regarding my injuries or the disposition of my remains.
Its been an honor to serve with you, Sgt. Tanner. Ive learned a great deal from you about handling the men and being a good leader. You supported me and gave me a chance to succeed when few others would and that is something Ill never forget. I dont think I ever said it, but thank you.
Lt. Karen Grant
Thursday evening finally arrived and Karen changed clothes three times before deciding to wear the original pair of shorts and shirt that she had on. For Christs sake Grant, youd think youd never been on a date! Its just dinner and a movie. Correction, its dinner and a movie with a beautiful woman thats already seen me naked.
Finally, at 4:58, she was standing in front of Rennies apartment door. She rang the doorbell and heard an immediate scurrying inside.
"Just a minute!" was the call from the other side of the door. True to her word, less than a minute later the door opened to reveal Rennie standing in a very short silk robe and wet hair that had already been combed through.
"Sorry Im running late. Come on in. It was one of those days at school and I had to meet with some parents, but of course, the dad is military so I had to wait for him and his wife to show up for the conference. The meeting went well, so it was worth it, but now Im afraid Im going to have to ask you to wait while I finish getting dressed." The explanation had been a blur and Karen had only caught about half of it as she was busy staring at Rennie.
"Karen, Im sorry. Are you angry with me because Im late?"
"Hmm, what? No! Im not angry. I was just thinking about something."
"What were you thinking about?"
Karens blush gave her away and Rennie wasted no time in pressing her obvious advantage. "Whatever it is, it must be good." She raised her eyebrows slightly and casually walked back across the room toward the embarrassed brunette.
Seeing that she was about to be maneuvered into a corner, Karen decided to go on the offensive. "Actually, I was wondering what would look like without that robe. After all, youve already seen me naked "
"Yes. I. Have " Rennie purred teasingly. "And I suppose turnabout is fair play."
Then, much to Karens shock and delight, Rennie provocatively began to pull on the sash of her robe. Of course, she didnt believe Rennie would actually have the guts to do it. After all, they were just flirting. That is, she didnt believe it until Rennie opened the front of the peach colored robe and oh-so-slowly pulled the garment off her shoulders until it slid freely all the way to the floor.
Karen just stared. What else could she do? She started at the top and worked her way down Rennie had a slender neck and two delicate collar bones that arched their way out toward her shoulders. Below them were two large, perfectly round breasts. They sagged ever so slightly under their own weight and were crowned with light pink nipples that were currently erect from the sudden exposure to air and, perhaps, the excitement of her scrutiny. Her stomach was a flat expanse of creamy, flawless skin. Her hips were slender and framed the meticulously manicured patch of curly, red hair at the apex of her legs. Obviously a runner, her thighs were muscled and firm.
"May I assume by the look on your face that you approve?"
The question startled Karen from her trance. She nodded numbly and then added, shaking her head slightly, "Why do I suddenly feel like I have a tiger the tale here?"
"You havent had a hold of my tail yet. Now if you dont mind, I need to finish getting ready for our date." And with that, she spun toward the bedroom door, leaving her date standing in the middle of the living room with her mouth hanging agape. Once out of sight she called back, "By the way, Lieutenant, get yourself a drink. You look like you could use one." Karen could hear her laughing as she headed to the kitchen to look for a beer.
A nurse walked out of the surgical tent, blood stains covering the front of her scrubs. She pulled against the tension in her neck with both hands and rolled her head from side to side, trying to regain some of the mobility that stress had stolen from her. Inhaling deeply, she finally reopened her eyes to see a soldier standing directly in front of her. Momentarily startled, she stepped backward.
"How is she?"
"Excuse me?" When the man looked frustrated she recognized his face. "Sergeant Tanner?"
"Yes maam," he said respectfully. "Hows the LT?"
"Shes out of surgery. Its just the first of several shes going to need, Im afraid. Shes lost a great deal of blood. Weve managed to stop the internal bleeding and repaired the most severe damage. The doctor wanted to give the transfusions time to get her blood pressure back up before we have to operate for any extended period of time."
"Can I see her?"
The request seemed to take the usually unflappable army nurse by surprise. "Briefly."
"Thank you, maam." As he quickly headed toward the door, the nurse matched his stride to escort him to the surgical tent.
"You and your men seem very fond of your lieutenant. Almost like shes your sister or daughter." She was obviously baiting him about his famous lieutenant.
Stopping dead in his tracks he looked the nurse straight in the eyes and replied, "No, maam. Shes our lieutenant and a damned good one. Shes earned the respect of every man in this squad. We dont treat her like a girl; hell, shed kick our ass if we tried! But shes a fine officer. And if I had the choice of following her or someone else into battle, even a male officer, Id rather follow her."
"Why is that, sergeant?"
"Today was really ugly. A sniper had us pinned down and they had cut off our only line of retreat. But it could have been a lot worse. It could have been a goddamned disaster. As it ended up, the only one of us carried out on a stretcher was her. She saved our lives today through excellent leadership." Tired of explaining himself to the still skeptical nurse, he cut the conversation off. "Now, if its all the same to you, Id like to see my LT."
Without another word she turned and led him into the recovery area of the surgical tent. She stopped at the doorway and motioned Tanner inside. On a gurney across the room, Lt. Grant looked like a horrible science experiment. The closer he got, the worse it looked. Tubes and machines connected to her at all angles. She was extremely pale. Her lips were dry and cracked as they circled the pipe reaching down her throat to help her breath. The circles around her eyes were so dark it looked as if someone had blacked them. Cautiously, he leaned over to whisper in her ear.
"LT, I have your letter. Im gonna go email Rennie now and let her know youve been wounded. But its like this Youre one of the strongest, most driven people I have ever known and if shes brave enough to take you on then frankly, that makes her plenty scary too. You obviously care for her. I mean, I know you love her. So you get in there and fight to get home to her. Cause LT, there is no way in hell Im going back and have to explain to that little redhead why I didnt get you home in one piece. Were all pulling for you. And the boys said to tell you "Hooyah!"
The date had gone wonderfully to this point. The two had enjoyed a long dinner at OPhelans, a local restaurant and pub, and then caught an early movie. At the movies end they found that neither one wanted to say goodnight. Grinning slyly, Rennie glanced at Karen and announced, "I have an idea. Trust me?" With her question she held out her hand to ask for the keys to the Jeep.
"You know, I dont let just anyone drive my Jeep."
Leaning in close enough to whisper in her ear, Rennie replied, "Id say after the show you got this afternoon Im definitely not just anyone."
Realizing there was no argument for that, Karen handed her the keys. Minutes later they were headed south out of town. Suddenly, Rennie turned on an obscure road that was barely more than one lane and had no lighting on it at all.
"Where on earth are you taking me?" A mischievous grin was her only reply.
Several miles later, Rennie slowed the Jeep and turned into a dirt parking lot filled with cars and pot holes. Avoiding the pot holes as much as possible, she drove into the parking lot, such as it was, that spread between two buildings. They were little more than shacks, but both had loud music playing and were decorated with streamers of rainbow colored lights. As she exited the Jeep, Karen noticed two men leaning up against the side of the building on the left. They were Never mind what they were doing. She and Rennie started to walk toward the other building.
"Where the hell are we?"
"Officially, we are nowhere, because officially, these two bars dont exist. Unofficially, we are at a bar where we can have a drink while Im holding your hand. If youre lucky, I may even hold more than that!" The last statement was punctuated by waggling eyebrows.
As they stepped inside the dark room, Karen hesitated, unsure of which way to head until her eyes adjusted to the deeper darkness of the indoors. Rennie, who obviously already knew her way, grabbed Karens hand and headed toward a bar on the opposite side of the room from the pool table. "Two please." And promptly two Buds appeared on the counter.
"How did you find this place?" Karen asked, still in wonderment.
"The same way you did tonight. One of my friends threw my ass in a car and drove me out here."
"Was this a friend friend, or a girl friend?"
Laughing, Rennie turned to face her date. "Shoulder your firearm there, Soldier. She was just a friend." Then she added, as she stepped close enough to be touching down the length of their bodies, "You know, youre pretty cute when youre jealous. Just dont get that way too often. Im a one woman girl and I will never cheat on you. And for the record, if you ever cheat on me, there are no second chances. Are we clear about that?"
Karen was completely taken back by Rennies forwardness, but at the same time, admired her for knowing exactly what she wanted and for being able to say it. "Crystal."
"Good," she replied with a smile. "Now dance with me. Ive had to keep my hands off of you all evening because we were in public and Im tired of being good."
That was an offer too good to refuse, so Karen took both beers and sat them on a table against the wall and then turned to take Rennie by the hand and lead her to the small dance floor. The music covered a wide offering, from country to rock-n-roll. They danced until after 1:00, when reluctantly they headed for the Jeep.
Back at the apartment, Karen walked Rennie to her door and thanked her for a great time. She was about to ask her out again when Rennie beat her to it. "So, Lt. Grant, do you have plans tomorrow night?"
"What about for Saturday morning?"
It took Karen a second to realize the implication. "No, as a matter of fact, Im free all weekend."
"Good. Ill see you tomorrow night then. Here. Around 7:00. Ill cook."
"Can I bring something?"
"Sure." Rennie moved seductively into Karens personal space and whispered up to her lips, "How about a nice red wine and a change of clothes?"
Gulp. "I can do that."
Sgt. Tanner sat down in front of the computer and signed on to his email account. He carefully typed in Rennies email address and then filled in the RE: line with "Lt. Grant". He stared at the screen for a long time. Out of frustration he rubbed his face roughly and sighed. "Shit!" After another long moment he began to type.
Dear Ms. Walters,
He started and deleted several different times. Somehow, nothing he wrote sounded right, but he kept trying until he wrote this.
My name is Sgt. James Tanner and I serve in Lt. Karen Grants unit. During a recon mission today we were ambushed. The entire unit was pinned down by sniper fire. Lt. Grant acted bravely and decisively when faced with this threat to her men and as a result all of us made it out without serious injury. I regret to inform you, however, that the LT was not as fortunate. She was seriously injured when she was hit by two sniper bullets. We got her back to our base as quickly as possible and she is receiving our finest medical care. What I can tell you now is that she is safe and her condition is critical. She has already undergone one surgery and as I understand it, will need several more.
She was adamant that I contact you concerning her condition, which I do gladly. At the risk of being out of line, it is obvious to me that she is very much in love with you and is certain that you return those feelings. I respect the lieutenant very much and will do my best to keep you updated as to her condition. If you have any questions, I will answer what I can, although, as Im sure you know, most of what we do is classified.
Sgt. James Tanner
"Youve got mail!" called to Rennie from inside the house. She jumped out of the hammock and ran to the computer screen. Moments later she woke every dog on the block as she screamed.
"I hate the fact that we have to say goodbye out here instead of at the base."
"I know, and I love you for that, but you know we still have to play by the militarys rules."
"We wouldnt if I got out."
That statement earned Lt. Grant a smack in the arm. "Dont you ever say that again!"
"Why not? Its true."
"Because you love the Army as much as you love me AND," she interrupted Karens next statement before she could make it, "I love you for that. I love what I do. All Ive ever wanted to do is teach. All youve ever wanted to be is a soldier. And now look at you; youre the first female officer of a combat unit. I couldnt be more proud of you!"
"But teaching doesnt keep us apart."
"Doesnt it? Dont you remember last week at the mall when two of my students and a parent came up to say hi and you had to blend into the background so they wouldnt see us together?"
Karen nodded mutely. "I would rather have to say goodbye to you out here at the lake where we met, under our tree, and know that youre leaving to do something youve wanted to do your whole life, than to live life with you with both of us out and know that for you it was only a half life because youre not doing what you were born to do."
"You know when I come home well have to do the same thing."
"And as long as you come home to me, Ill be here under this tree, rain or shine."
"Ill come back. I promise."
With that, tears began to stream down Rennies cheeks. She buried her face in Karens neck and began to weep openly. "Dont make promises you cant keep, Soldier."
"Hey, hey Look at me." Karen searched for eye contact until Rennie was composed enough to find it. "How could I not come home knowing youre here waiting for me?"
The rest of their goodbye was sad and bittersweet, as all goodbyes before war are. When they could no longer avoid it, Karen stiffly walked to her Jeep and drove away without looking back at Rennie, who was still looking out over the water.
Hearing his name called over the commotion of the mess hall, the sergeant turned to the door, immediately recognizing the nurse that had attended Lt. Grant. "Yes, maam!" He stood, leaving his tray, and walked to meet her.
"I wanted to find you. Your lieutenant is awake. Shes asking for you." Tanner called out his thanks over his shoulder as he sprinted out the door.
The hospital ward was more crowded than he expected. Frustrated, he stopped a nurse and asked where Lt. Grant was. He was directed to the critical care area. When he finally located her, he was disappointed to see that she was still attached to an array of machinery and tubing. Gently, he knelt beside her and whispered, "LT?"
Slowly, blue eyes pried themselves open. Although heavily sedated, this time there was a smile in them. "Re Re " she tried to speak.
"I told her LT. I read your letter and have been emailing back and forth with her. Shes upset and understandably worried, but Im sure knowing that youve regain consciousness will do a lot for her spirits."
"Tell her "
"I cant hear you, LT."
"Closer " the lieutenant commanded. She wouldnt be conscious for long.
Her sergeant bent over so his ear was almost touching her lips. Finally, he pulled back and asked, "Will she understand that?"
Already exhausted, she could barely nod before slipping away again.
I talked to the doctors today. They say theyve done all they can here and that shell be flown to Germany soon; maybe even tomorrow. Ive made sure that theyll contact me from Germany if anything bad happens, but that doesnt mean theyll keep me updated with the good stuff. For you, that means that no news is good news until shes able to contact you herself. I know its terrible to have to wait like that, but its the best I can do and still keep your name away from her records.
I also got to speak to her today. She was awake briefly and asked me to give you a message. She said to take "care of the tree. Youll be needing it." I have no idea what she meant, but she seemed convinced that you would.
I hope its alright, but I gave my wife your name and email addy. She will probably be contacting you soon. She is still in Killeen too. I hate the idea of you being there alone and not having anyone to share this with. Of course, you can still write me, but it might help to have someone there in person as well.
Take care of yourself Rennie, and keep the faith, or as LTs men would say, HOOYAH!
The February wind pushing across the lake raised tall waves with rolling white caps. Rennie stood with her hands plunged in her coat pockets, hearing nothing but the wind. From behind her, two long arms snaked around her waist. Releasing a tension she hadnt realized she was carrying, she melted back into the body behind her. Softly, lips whispered into her ear. They were sweet and tender words and she didnt hear any of them. She just continued to relish the feeling of having those two arms around her and stared out across the water. Finally, she found her voice. "I felt you go. I dont know how, but I just knew. And when you went, you took part of me with you."
"I know, Sweetheart. I felt you too. Why do you think I fought so hard to come back?"
At last it was safe to allow herself to be overwhelmed by the myriad of emotions and stresses that had been her burden the past several weeks. Turning to face her lover, Rennie buried her face in Karens neck and wept. She wept from fear, from helplessness, from joy, and finally, for all the other loved ones across the nation whose soldier didnt return home. Karen held her until all her tears were cried. Gently she felt her lover pull away to aim relieved green eyes up at her to give her the order shed been waiting for. "Take me home, Lieutenant Grant. Lets go home."