“You know, Mrs. Faust, I don’t have to accept this. It’s addressed incorrectly and I really don’t have time for inefficient clerical errors!” He wanted to take his words back as soon as he had said them.
“Fine, I’ll fix it!”
She walked out of the Post Office and looked like she had tears in her eyes.
He had done it again. Damn! She must have thought him a real jerk, and who could blame her? Sometimes his mouth engaged before his brain. If this young woman only knew how much she set his heart on fire. Every day she came to get the mail, they wished each other a good day and that was it. He would watch as she left, her flowing brown hair cascading down her back.
She disappeared across the street into the L – shaped building with the flagpole standing proudly in front of it. This was the base headquarters where the commander was located. She was the clerk to the commander’s secretary. Every morning he stopped to take care of official business. That’s when he first met Laura.
This twenty year old girl was so refreshing. Most of the workforce was simply going through the motions of coming to work each day. In contrast Laura’s eyes were wide with wonder at her new adventure. She was a breath of fresh air.
The base delicatessen, a favorite lunch time area, was so crowded one day, standing room only. Except for one seat. Laura went through the line to buy her lunch, and as she held her tray, she looked everywhere for a place to sit. She spied one lone seat. It was beside Sergeant Marsh. Just great. What the heck, she was hungry, she would put up with him. She shuffled slowly towards him, swallowed and said,
“May I sit here?”
He looked at the woman that had stolen his heart, and pointed to the seat across from him.
“Thanks Sergeant Marsh, sure is crowded today.”
He looked at her and stuttered,
“Yeah, uh, sure is.
She stared at him and saw him for the first time. She may be young, but she was receptive to others feelings.
She looked through his sad blue eyes and recognized the hurt. This dour man was deeply troubled and couldn’t express it. Should she ask him? She took a bite of her hoagie, and swallowed hard.
“What’s wrong, why do you seem so sad all the time”?
He was shocked at this question and couldn’t say anything. It looked like this young lady was not just beautiful but was very smart. How did she know?
“Uh, what do you mean? Nothing is wrong”
“Look, I know we’ve had our differences, but something or someone hurt you. Talk to me…only if you want”
He couldn’t take it anymore, he loved Laura, and the only thing to do was to be honest. No more stupid games.
He blurted out,
“I was married, I thought we were happy, I can’t guess people’s feelings as well as you. She left me for another man,
"My ‘best friend.’ “
He couldn’t stop now; he had kept the hurt inside too long.
“I really, really thought she loved me, I treated her like a queen. Do you think I was always this grouchy old man? No, I was really happy and fun loving. You must find that hard to believe. Damn, how could she do that to me?!”
He was so embarrassed at his ramblings, he looked down at the floor and muttered,
“I’m sorry, I never meant to go on like that.”
Her heart went out to him. She touched her hand lightly on his, and said,
“Hey, it’s okay”
They began talking and laughing and she realized this man had just shed the blanket he had been wearing for so long.
They left the deli together to go to their respective workplaces. Every day, they had lunch together. They talked and laughed and became the best of friends. He reminded her of her big brother. Her brother was also a soldier. She missed him so much; he had been deployed to Afghanistan. He was gone for almost six months now.
Sergeant Marsh was now on top of the world, he was in love and felt great! People noticed this once hardened sergeant now had a spring in his step and a smile for everyone. They realized how friendly he had become with Laura. Although Laura could read other people well most of the time; there were times when she was totally clueless.
He finally had decided to ask her out. Time had gone on long enough, it had been six months. He just wasn’t sure how to do it. He had been out of the “dating game” for so long. But where, of course, what a perfect place, the deli!
“Jim, I’ve never told you how much our friendship means to me. I’ve felt so alone since Terry was deployed. Our parents died and we only have each other. But I got fantastic news! He’s coming home. He’ll be stationed in Ft. Ritchie, I’m going there to stay with him until he can get things settled. Isn’t that great?”
Sergeant James Marsh just felt his heart stop beating again. He looked at her and wanted to kick himself. Why did he wait so long? He always assumed she felt the same way about him. She thought of him like a brother??? And now she was moving from Arizona to Maryland. The pain he felt now was indescribable. He just stared at her.
She tilted her head when she saw the look on his face.
“Jim, I thought you would be happy for me, instead you look like you’ve been kicked in the teeth. It’s a long way I know, but I’ll write, I promise.”
He said nothing but left to empty his tray. He looked back at her and shook his head. He could have faked happiness for her, but wasn’t going to kid himself. He was like a brother to her?? He took his shattered heart and went back to work. He never looked back.
Mary E. Lacey