By Osi Elame
I can live with being afraid for you but I’d really appreciate it if you took my fear seriously...' she'd said, and in that moment he knew she was cut from a different stone from the rest. She was definitely here to stay and he had to get his head straight and be the guy she saw him to be.
His mind flashed back to the last few months and the events that had led them to this point. He was going to get deployed soon, she was being antsy because he was leaving and she couldn’t deal with the thought. They had met at a bar on the first night of his return from his first deployment with his new team. It was about 11:23 pm when he walked in with his boys- who had been on his case seeing as he was the only single guy on the team and they never let him breathe without a reminder. Grabbing a table and ordering a bottle of Martell, a night out was exactly what they needed, having been away for 6 months in some wasteland living in harsh conditions. After settling in, they had gone three rounds of shots and the six of them felt tipsy enough to drift into the night and get their grooves on. Five minutes and a discussion later, he was the only one left at the bar as everyone else had decided to go to another club or the other. So he'd decided rushing back home wasn’t the best idea, and sat by the counter, requesting another glass of red wine- something to help me kill time, he thought.
‘It’s bad manners to ignore a lady you know’. Those words took him out of his train of thought, forcing his attention to the lady with a cute voice on the left.
I’m sorry, you said?’
he asked and she repeated, ‘it’s bad manners to ignore a lady’. He smiled ruefully at her gusto-something he hadn’t really done in a while.
He turned to face her and so began a two-hour long conversation and at about 2:00 am they realized how far time had gone. There was no getting back into town that night, so the best option was getting a room at the nearby motel. After agreeing to it, they both walked down and on getting there he made a request for two rooms when she interjected, explaining instead that they needed just one.
Leaning towards him, she teasingly whispered, `afraid I’ll bite soldier?’.
That alone sent shivers down his spine for a reason he couldn’t explain. This girl was trouble and he could tell, but the allure of her danger was one too good for Adrian to resist and so began the first of many nights spent sharing the same bed for Adrian and Bernice.
Over the next three months they spent a whole lot of time together- everyone at the station knew they were an item. What they didn’t know was that they only started dating after a month and only indulged in coitus after two months. There was something to taking it slow that just appealed to them both. They were a couple in perfect sync, but things began to change when on a fine Thursday afternoon he and his team members got called in for an emergency briefing. He knew there was trouble the moment the notification came in. They had just returned from a 6- month stint and weren’t due for a check-in yet.
On getting to the base, he was among the last set of guys to come into the briefing room. The commander walked in, an unusually somber mood clouding his expressions, to deliver the news that the replacement team that had deployed to take over from them had all been killed in a crossfire with enemy combatants. They were taken out by an IED placed in a house where an alleged target was passing the night. The news rang a cold in the hearts of everyone in the room. An exchange of glances was all the members of platoon 43 could manage in consolation of each other. Orders were dished- they were redeploying in two weeks.
Within that time things began to go sideways between him and Bernice. She had grown twitchy ever since the news broke, having been really depressed at the funeral. Bernice was becoming a shadow of the girl he met on that glorious night at the bar and he’d tried severally to talk to her but she refused to let him in- she ever did was work. A week to deployment and her nervousness rapidly grew with each passing day. In the middle of the night one day, she woke him up to talk – a part of him was happy about her finally wanting to talk while another part of him was pissed about her waking him up from one of the last couple of peaceful, full nights rest he was going to enjoy in a while. The last part of him was genuinely concerned and afraid regarding her well-being and what she desperately wanted to talk about that it couldn’t wait till morning. As she began speaking, the brunt of her words were that she was scared for his safety because of the recent deaths and she didn’t want him to go.
All he could mutter was, ‘babe don’t worry about it I’ll be fine and safe and I will return home to you safe‘. With as much finality in his voice, he turned around to try to get some more sleep when she screamed `I can live with being afraid for you but I’d really appreciate it if you took my fear seriously’ and she backed him to sleep off. He was afraid too but this was the job, he’d chosen this part of service and there was no turning back now because he had worked too hard and sacrificed too much to give it all up now for fear.
What she didn’t know was that he had recently taken out a prescription for sleep pills to help him cope with the angst he had been feeling since the incident. He knew she was having a hard time dealing, so he didn’t want to compound her worries with his mental health. So drifted the next couple of days and it was clear there was a Chinese wall between them and try as he did, he couldn’t shake it.
On the morning of his deployment, she seemed in a much better mood in comparison to the previous weeks. The previous night was the first happy night they’d had since the incident- they talked, laughed, danced, sang- hell even the sex was mind-blowing. It was like their love had caught a new fire. This time, he knew this deployment would be shorter; 3-months tops and he had made up his mind to marry her upon his return. Bernice was a keeper and Adrian intended to keep her forever.
She drove him down to the airstrip at the base and watched him unload his things, then she asked him back into the car and with tears in her eyes she said softly, ‘I love you so much its literally breaking my heart watching you leave’. All this, while showing him test results stating that her heart had undergone increased stress lately and she was nearing the threshold of complications. He froze- ironic because he was part of an elite military force that had been trained for anything, but in that moment he froze. She finally continued, ‘I love you but I won’t be here when you return‘.
He was about to respond when the siren rang; it was time to go. In that moment all the fun, joy, love and happiness of the last few months was gone and he was back to just being on his own.
And as he took his seat on the military plane, Adrian said the one prayer he and Bernice usually said together, ‘Lord grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference’.