‘…We had a deal! We had a freaking deal, Adi you dimwit, and you dying on me is not a part of that deal! So, you better wake up before I smack the life out of you…’. Bernice was clearly distraught; this was the love of her life lying in front of her on life support on a hospital bed and there was nothing she could do to fix it.
She was angry, exhausted, confused, perplexed, sad, tired. She was feeling so many different emotions all at once and it was too much to for her take. She wished she hadn’t ended things the way she did on the day of his departure. She wished she had told him how much she loved him, and wished she had called him to tell him she had missed her period and took the test which confirmed she was pregnant. She had so many things she needed to say to him, but first he needed to wake up.
So caught up in her thoughts, she hit him hard shouting, ‘BIGHEAD WAKE-UP!!!!!!!’, to the confusion of the by-passing hospital staff . As a result and at that point a nurse ran in and had to escort her to a room reserved for family members so she could relax. After taking her vitals and ensuring she and her baby were OK, the on-call gave her a sedative and soon enough she drifted into sleep.
How did we get here?
It was two months ago Adrian left on deployment and Bernice ended things with him at the naval base tarmac. After dropping him at the airport, she drove home, cleared out her things from his place and returned back to hers and moved on with her life and her job at the office of the Attorney General. She had a hard time getting back to her routines before him but she forced herself to cope, knowing it was the only way to survive; at least that’s what she told herself. Life moved on, she got by and eventually managed to return to her daily routine before the ‘ill-fated meeting’ of that night. That was until she missed her period and she was worried. She wasn’t pregnant, she couldn’t be pregnant! But then, how else could she explain the way she had been feeling lately-the nausea in the mornings, the extra cravings and her abnormal eating levels. This was a disaster, what would she do? Who could she tell? Well it was too early to conclude, she had to confirm. She stopped by the clinic on her way to work and had her test done. It was the most grueling day, with time seeming to have no end, waiting for the end of work to go pick up her test result. Getting to the hospital and rushing in to see her consultant, the look on his face said it all. SHE WAS PREGNANT.
Reality was about to hit. She was pregnant for the man she loved and just broke up with. A man who had gone on military deployment for God knows how long. This was not how she planned for things to go. In that moment, different thoughts began to bombard her mind: was she too hasty in ending things with him? Should she call him tell him about the pregnancy? Hell no, of course not, she thought, not after ending things with him like that and ignoring his calls for weeks. She had so much on her mind that by the time she got home, she was too weary to eat or do anything, so she just had a bath and slept off. Hours went by before she woke up about midnight and sat up on her bed, legs neatly tucked underneath her. This was her thinking position when she had an important decision to make. She brooded about this present situation for a while and decided keeping the baby was the best option. SHE WAS GOING TO RAISE A CHILD ALONE. What would she tell her friends and her family? That would be a problem for that time but for now, she was going to be a single mom; those thoughts ran through her mind as she lay back down to sleep.
Life as she knew it had changed.
Thousands of miles away, another individual was going through problems of his own. Everyday for the last two months, Adrian had suffered the same torture of a routine; in his sleep all he kept hearing repeatedly was `I can live with being afraid for you but I’d really appreciate it if you took my fear seriously’ and he would jerk out of his sleep. Every night it the same dream. He always ended waking up just as the alarm sounded for roll call. He spent extra hours at the shooting range and at the gym trying to refocus his mind because as team leader he had to be focused always. He couldn’t let slip that he was going through a personal crisis; he’d tried calling her phone multiple times over the last few months but she never picked up so all he could afford were texts to which replies never came. He had a lot of problems at the base, mourning the loss of the other team members, the search for the person responsible, maintaining discipline within his team, fostering peace with the locals; it was a lot to deal with when he was at his prime best much more now that he has personal travails to battle as well. They had spent the first weeks doing recon work, reassuring the villagers of their efforts at bringing peace and shutting down the base for good. Back at the base the main focus was on AMIR KAZRI ALMIRI. The only suspect behind the IED that took out the members of platoon 6. They had been at his tail for about 7 years now and had been completely unsuccessful in their pursuit of him. He always happened to be a step ahead of them someway somehow. Various mole hunts had been undertaken, but still turned up as a wild goose chase. It was a quiet day on the base, and after his team had returned from a routine patrol, they were called in for an impromptu briefing. On getting in, they realized the General and their Commanding Officer were present. This had to be something big they all thought. Two hours later, briefing done and the information received was that they had gathered Intel on where Amir was going to be in three days’ time and the plan was to get there just in time to capture him.
It was a capture or kill mission. Amir was either coming back with them to the base for extradition to the US for prosecution or he was going to die. This was THE big one, this was everything they had worked for years. It was time to get revenge for Platoon 6 and every team member who had lost their lives and limbs in this fight. So, the next three days were spent making preparations and perfecting ex-fill and evacuation plans, in-mission actions and plans for contingencies. There was no room for lapses; this had to be perfect, executed to the letter and they would all be heroes. In all of the events, so went 48 hours and then came the night before the big one. They had a 2 hour trip to the target location, a trip that had to be done in the wee hours of the day so as not to arouse suspicion and be in position before the arrival of Amir. Call time was 02:00 hours. It was about 23:00 hours when he called for his team meeting as was his tradition before every mission, he gave his pep talk, advised the boys to reach out to their partners and families before bed and then ended the meeting with the immaculate words of Lucky Dube-an African reggae artist he happened to be fond of- “as I go to bed to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep; if I should die before I wake, I pray the lord my soul to take”. The meeting was over and as he walked to his cabin some of the boys teased him about Bernice and he managed a wry smile and a chuckle underneath his breath.
Back at his cabin he was tempted to call her or text her that he was going on the most important mission of his life but she didn’t care for his messages all these months, so why would she bother about this one now. He texted his folks and brother, said his prayers and that was it-oblivion till the chaos of the next day. Once again, another night same dream for Adrian, he awoken at exactly 01:40 hrs.; muttered his two favorite prayers in quick succession “…as I go to bed to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep; if I should die before I wake, I pray the lord my soul to take” “Lord grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things that I can change; and the wisdom to know the difference”. He was out now; his team members were all out, they got their dispatch orders from the general and off they went to the helicopter for departure. His was an 8-man team with an army dog assigned, a sniper and a team member who is a trained bomb expert for good measure. They were split into two helicopters of four team members each and just before they left he spoke his own dispatch words to the team as was his tradition “…in the immortal words of Jayz; whatever deity may guide my life, Lord do not let me die tonight nor allow the devil snuff out my light, but if I shall before I wake, my fate I doth accept and take”.
And so began the long 2 hour flight into the dark of the night, moving stealthily through the darkness. The events of the last couple months flashed through his mind and he was yanked back into reality when the pilot called out that they were 10 minutes away from the infill point. From the infill point came a 15 minutes hike to the target location, then the wait for the crack of dawn. It was about 36 minutes past 5am when an ISR image confirmed the arrival of Amir. What followed in the next 10 minutes was a textbook execution of a target ex-fill. They successfully neutralized the guards on target and got to Amir before anyone could raise an alarm. He was first into the room and found him seated at his table about to eat. As they got to him he had his hands underneath the table and then in the air and as they slipped on the cuffs contact was made for the ex-fill helicopter and just as they exited the room he was the last man doing a final sweep. As Amir and everyone else headed through the door, he heard the subtle sound of a pin drop, his eyes unconsciously scanned the room for the origin of the sound; that was when he saw it; the pin of a hand grenade. Split seconds had him scanning the room and he caught it by the corner of his eye, it was strapped to the bottom of the chair, the long robe Amir had on concealed it all this while; by reflex he shouted GRENADE!!!. And he managed to dive for the door just as he heard the VERY LOUD BANG!!!. That was the last he heard or saw before everything became oblivion.
Back to the present, Bernie just woke up feeling all shades of fuzzy and as she made her way to Adi’s room. She remembered the events of the afternoon and felt guilty; she owed him an apology, she needed to apologize to him for losing her cool like that. As she got in, she sat by head bed, held his hand saying she was sorry for flipping like she did. As she did this, tears flowed down her cheeks in the heat of this she felt his hands move and as she jumped in fright. Cries of Doctor! Doctor! followed. He was moving, after weeks of being in a coma he was here moving at least. The doctor proceeded to do several checks, no memory loss, no permanent brain damage, no signs of a Traumatic Brain Injury either. He was going to need weeks if not months of physical therapy to get back to being in peak physical condition again. There was a chance he might never operate in the field again, but only time would tell. After all the tests, they were finally left alone in the room together and all he could mutter was… ‘How?’ She put her hands over his lips as she kissed and she managed to slip his hand unto her tummy and said “forget about the how; we are having a baby”. The shock, the elation and all of the other thousand and one emotions he felt in that moment were nothing he could put into words. In a flash he saw Bernie on one knee with tears in her eyes and a cracked voice she said “I know things haven’t been good between us lately and I know I am to blame but living without you these past months have been hell for me. I’ve realized something important, I don’t know how else to put this but I guess all I’m trying to say is; consider this my way of saying I WOULD LIKE TO SPEND THE REST OF MY LIFE WITH YOU AS A REMINDER OF THE FACT THAT I CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT YOU”. With a subtle nod of the head and a muffled “I’d like that”, he said yes.
Minutes ran by, and they both slept off squeezed together on the tiny bed. They were both asleep when the noise of voices laughing woke them both up. It was the boys and their spouses, they managed to convince the doctors to let them in early before official visiting hours. Banter and jokes followed up until Raymond his second in command managed to recount how he ended up back at the service hospital in the U.S. Apparently, his dive managed to get him far enough from the epicenter of the blast for him not to be blown to pieces. He ended up with a busted hip, a concussion, three broken ribs and a fractured skull. They ex-filled in time, got him medical attention on the base and plans for the extradition of Amir were expedited and they were flown back home as soon as he was stable enough. Having listed Bennie as his emergency contact before deployment, she was called as soon as they arrived. After the surgeries he fell into a coma and that was how he had been for about a week now.
‘Good thing I’m back now’, he said; interjecting the somber mood that had crept in. ‘It’s good to have you back man, you need to rest and allow your body time to recover’. Adi with a smile on his face said… I hear you man; I have a lot of time on my hands to do that considering we have a baby on the way and a wedding to plan. Loads of laughter and cheers followed. This was a new chapter and it sure seemed like it was going to be a good one.