They had a good life up until now. Dating for a year, they hung out on the weekends and thought about possibly planning a future together.
They talked about what their future may hold, if they are meant to be together, and what tomorrow may bring. Neither wanted to really talk about reality, if they could commit. I mean really commit.
Who wants to get married nowadays anyways when living together is comfortable? They had both been married, had kids, and divorced. And who wants that again. He never really knew his ex-wife deep down. He thought he did, of course. He liked this girl, a lot. She was funny, smart, great in bed, and just fun to be around. But just because she is around today doesn’t mean she will be around tomorrow. They were just living in the moment. Because all anyone really has is now.
He opened the mail just like on any other day. Once in a while he would receive a piece of mail with her first name but his last name. They had received a free barbecue for going to a time share seminar, but they had to act like they were married. They ended up on every mailing list from Baltimore to Bangladesh. He still thought it was cute, and let out a tiny smirk.
Some of this junk mail can really fool you. “Hey look, it’s a check for $50,000! We are a winner!” he jokingly shouted. She did not come running nor even reply to him, she was used to his fantasy outbursts at the fake checks from Publisher’s Clearing House. Sometimes she wished he would just grow up a little more, but deep down she was glad to have a man who could still be a kid at heart. He could be a kid and just live in the moment.
“Sweetheart, I won a round-the-world trip“, but this time his voice was not laughing and cheery. It wasn’t anything. She came into the living room to see what was the matter. His jokes had better punch lines and faster deliveries. What does he mean a round-the-world trip?
She pulled the letter out of his hand, her long blonde hair falling over it. “Hey bozo it’s junk mail” she said as she shook her hair off the letter. Look at this, it says it’s a Telegram. It came in the U.S. Mail! She started to crumple up the letter to throw it on the floor. She looked at his eyes and froze. His eyes were showing a side of him she had not seen before. She opened the letter and started to read.
That night in bed, they both lay awake. He kept trying to explain what may have gone wrong. He got out of the Army three and a half years ago and never heard from them since. He served his twenty and was out.
Well, almost out.
Technically he was still in the Standby Reserves, and now he was needed. She kept telling him there was no need to explain. “Look, you’re a soldier. You have a job. It is part of who you are and I like who you are. I understand. I guess that makes me a soldier’s girl. You don’t have to apologize for defending the country, and I have never been so proud of you in my life“.
The day came when she took him to the airport. She wore a yellow ribbon and swore it would not come off until he was home safe. She would write to him every day and be there for him when he got back. He said goodbye. From this point on it would be letter writing and postcards. No more jokes about junk mail, no more zingers and one liners. One less dimension encompassed their life.
“I’ve been on active duty for a month now. Sorry I could not write sooner, we have had to do so much. Believe me when I say you are on my mind all the time. Please go out and buy yourself some nice shoes or a dress or something. I want you to stay happy and enjoy things until I get back.”
“Thank you for your letter! I am very happy because you wrote me to and thought of me probably as much as I thought of you. I won’t be buying a new dress, there is no one here to show it off for. I will buy a new dress when you get back. I am perfectly happy being a Soldier’s Girl.”
“I could have called you the other day but I gave my phone time to a guy in the unit whose wife is having a baby. They gave us all five minute phone cards and I felt he needed it more than I did. I am sorry we did not talk, you must think so little of me for not calling. But I am writing this letter because I am thinking of you. How are you spending the weekends since I am not there? I am sure you have plenty of things you can do and places that you can go. Enjoy. I will be back soon.”
“I would have been angry had you NOT give your phone minutes to the new father! Congratulate him for me. Kids today need all the help they can get and I am glad you are taking care of your fellow soldiers there. You always have been one to really care, deep down, I knew it was in there. As for my weekends I spend them cleaning and working around the house. Going out to enjoy the nightlife holds no interest in me without you here, and because of where you are and what you are doing, I feel completely at peace with my choice to stay home. I guess it’s because I’m a Soldier’s Girl.”
“Here you go, I managed to get a picture of me. Can you find me in the picture with all this camouflage? That’s me with the big ears, you never could camouflage those. I don’t know how you girls manage to wear make-up all the time, I am breaking out in a skin rash from this paint. Never again will I ask you to buy cheaper make up. You buy what makes your skin feel good!”
“Thank you for the picture, you are as handsome as ever. Especially those big ears. I have not worn make-up or really colored my hair regularly. When I get all dolled up I worry that I am making myself pretty for a man and the only man I care to be pretty for is you. Don’t get me wrong, I am still presentable, but I will not dress up to get the attention of other men. That would not be right. I’m a Soldier’s Girl.”
“Today I had my first hot meal in nine months. I have been eating MRE’s in the field and since today is Christmas we get a break. I sure do miss the local restaurants back home and I especially miss your delicious cooking.”
“Don’t be silly, you know my cooking is only good for killing gophers! Heavens, I think I am the only woman in my family who cannot cook! I thought about learning how to cook but it is no fun to cook for one. If I was cooking for you that would be different, so you may see my cooking skills get a little worse. You better bring some MREs home with you and we can live on those. If you can eat them for that long, so can this Soldier’s Girl.”
“Thank you for writing to me again! I have so many letters here from you. Other guys are jealous and some of them even broke up with their wives. I am getting more letters than anyone. I did see that your last letter was tough to read, were you writing it in traffic? Haha, I will be home in two months.”
“My writing is getting worse, I know and I am sorry. I am getting arthritis from the work around the house and all that I do. The doctor tells me to stop writing letters but you know I cannot do that. I have saved enough money by buying only a little make up and clothing to maybe buy a computer when you get back, but when you get back I won’t need to write letters. So hurry home to your Soldier’s Girl.”
“I got shot at today. It was not fun, but I am safe. Amazingly enough, everyone in my convoy is safe. The bullets hit all around us. Remember those jokes about everything in the Army being made by the lowest bidder? Well if they bid low it is because they starve to bring us what we need here. We are well taken care of. Our armor works and our rifles work. I am glad to be alive. I cannot bear that you may one day hear that I died over here. I will be careful and I understand if you don’t want to write to me again.”
“Sorry this letter is so late. I cry once a week for missing you, and I cry anytime I hear of a soldier dying. The stress is making my hair fall out so I am keeping it short. I think this life is hard, but then I think of what you must be going through and I have no right to cry at all. I am going to be fine, I am tough, I am a Soldier’s Girl.”
The time came when his service was completed and he was on the way home.
All his buddies wanted to meet the woman who sent him so many letters that they joked the Army needed to give him his own zip code. He had told them all about her.
In telling the stories over and over again he started to realize who she really was. She did not move out when he reported for duty. She did not see other men, and they were not even married! She did not go spending his money even though she has access to the bank account. And she did not get upset at him for his work, what he does, and who he is. His plane ride home did not bring him memories of their life before his deployment, but of her life since his deployment. She waited for him. She was committed to him. What man could not want that in his life? So she can’t cook, but she didn’t sleep around either, and she wrote letters until her fingers pained her. She never gave up and she never gave in.
He knew what he wanted.
He had been content to joke and laugh about maybe getting married again one day. Maybe this was it. Maybe it was time to stop laughing at her first name and his last name on a piece of junk mail. Maybe it was time that all the mail arrived with that name on it. Mr. & Mrs. Maybe making a new commitment was a possibility. But he knew he could only marry a special girl. She had done so much for him all the time. Maybe that’s what he needed. A Soldier’s Girl.
When he got off the plane his buddies went with him to meet this incredible diva they had heard so much about. Anytime they saw a tall blonde in a short skirt they asked, “Is that her over there?” He looked around quickly too but could not see her. He was sure she would show up, she just had to. After all that, she just had to.
His buddies kept looking to and fro for the tall blonde with long hair and the endless legs he had so richly described. They could not find her, but he had stopped looking around too. He was standing still, looking straight ahead.
Her hair was short, and thinning, the roots were not blonde, they were not even black. They were gray. She wore very little make up and looked much older than a 25 year old preppie. She looked more like her real age of 45. She had worry lines on her face, and the dress she wore was out of style by a solid year. Her fingers were trembling and she wore a wrist brace. There was a band-aid on her shin, and a small bruise. But at the top shoulder of her dress he spotted the yellow ribbon pin. The one worn by a Soldier’s Girl. His Girl.
With tears streaming down his face, he knew he had never seen anything more beautiful in his entire life.
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