“I love you” she said to him. It was so simple and yet it meant everything to him. The air was still heavy from the musk of sex. Both of them were still drenched in sweat. He looked at her. Her naked form was so beautiful, and to have one so beautiful so loving, turn her attention to him was something that still made his jaw drop.
He sat on the edge of the bed. Just staring at her. Even though what had just happened might best be sent to penthouse forum, the way she lay there so relaxed and content, it was like something right out of the Louvre. Some might have called her plain but to him, angels did not look nearly as radiant or beautiful. She sat up and came to sit next to him. Her blond hair falling freely.
“what’s wrong?” she asked
He managed a shrug “nothing, it’s just. . . This. Its always what I wanted.”
She smiled and he leaned over and kissed her. Her lips still seemed so soft. Even though they should be chapped. With out a hint of makeup she somehow seemed more beautiful than the models he’d always seen in magazines.
“I don’t want to lose you.” he said to her in a quiet voice
“you won’t. you’ll never lose me.” somehow she’d managed to say just the things he’d wanted to hear. He kissed her again.
“I don’t know if I’ll make it back this time.” he said even quieter. Almost a whisper.
“you will. You have to come back to me.”
He closed his eyes.
He opened his eyes, and the sound came back to him. It was like popcorn from hell. Each one a potentially lethal round cooking off. The Bradley sat burning just thirty meters away and still he could feel the heat. There was a screaming The man below him, a friend was missing the better portion of his right leg. Blood was streaming down his face from a gash above his right eye, and his left arm was charred the unmistakable, and nauseating smell of burnt flesh and hair wafting up to his nostrils.
He tried to drag the man to the house that had been cleared, but it wasn’t easy. He was heavy and mostly dead weight. Inside the courtyard, more men were screaming. One was holding the nearly headless body of a friend rocking back and forth begging pleading praying that through some miracle his friend would live.
Another had his hands on his stomach and scream. His intestines were hanging out and they looked like pink sausage links. In the corner a boy on his side moaned, ragged holes in his side. All around the sick crimson of blood was filling the courtyard. Already some of it had started to coagulate into globs.
Outside someone screamed and the unmistakable sound of an RPG headed towards here he now stood.
“You have to come back to me.”
He closes his eyes.
He opens them
“dearly beloved we are gathered here today, in sight of God, to witness the joining of these two people in the bonds of holy matrimony. . .”
The priest in his flowing cream robes looked absolutely shabby compared to her. She was so radiant that the entire place seemed to light up just from her presence. Her blond hair pulled back into a bun, and her face partially hidden by a veil, it was nonetheless clear that she was smiling, and happy. He thought back to that day so long ago. He could almost see here like some vision of Eve, in naked wonder.
He couldn’t help but smile. He had never really pictured her here, but it was clear that in this moment she had never been happier. On both sides people watched. Some were stoic in their silence, many women dabbed their handkerchiefs with tears, and many of the older men sat there with a knowing smile. It was in short the moment he had always imagined.
“You have to come back to me”
He closes his eyes
He opens his eyes.
In front of him is a scene from hell. There is fire everywhere. One of the oil tankers had been destroyed. Everywhere cars burned. Women and children went running in complete panic. The crowds surging and people are thrown without regard into the open sewage trenches.
Little figures come running out of the shop. Figures that could only be children. Their bodies consumed in flames. They don’t get far. They fall and roast on the spot. Dead. People with their clothes on fire don’t even seem to notice such is their panic, and need to flee.
A woman her shroud almost engulfed on the backside runs into a crowd. And sets a man on fire. The screams over take him, and for a second he is not sure what to do. Can he even try to help these people. He turns to his team leader, who sadly shakes his head.
“secure that corner” he points to a corner and then points towards the chaos. It’s clear what he means. Keep anyone from getting too close. Even if they need help. A hard lesson learned, and now these people are going to pay the price. They can’t be helped. To help them will put these soldiers at risk of being slaughtered themselves. It’s not right his heart screams. But his mind knows that he has to protect himself first.
He goes to the corner and kneels. Transfixed by what he sees. The panic lessens. The people that can flee have. Now all that is left is the moans and screams of the dead and dying. Fire is still everywhere. An old hajji in a man dress starts running towards him, jabbering in Arabic
“KIFF!” he screams. He raises his weapon. “KIFF!” the hajji still comes running, his beard singed. He raises his fist and screams, and starts to speed up. Without a second though he takes aim. He aims high intentionally and fires two rounds, but the old hajji keeps coming Please don’t. he lowers his aim. Center mass.
“you have to come back to me.”
He pulls the trigger, and closes his eyes.
He opens his eyes.
“If any person can show good cause why these two should not be married, let him speak now or forever hold his peace.” the priests says.
He is snapped back to the now. The man across from her is not him. And he stares at her from one of the last pews. From his seat on the isle he had followed her with his eyes, but he wasn’t sure she had seen him. For a long moment the church was quiet. The priest took in a deep breath ready to speak again.
He stood up. His medals tinkling. His uniform immaculate. For a moment no one but those around noticed that he had stood up. But when the priest stopped what he was about to say and looked him in they eye waiting for him to speak, the audience started to take note. The silence was broken by the sound of rustling and even murmurs. One by one all eyes in the church turned to him. Even the groom. And when the groom’s jaw flexed it was clear that he had an audience. But he waited. Finally she turned.
For one long moment their eyes met and they were not in a church but in a little hole in the wall hotel room, naked and in love. He saw her draw in a breath and wait. He drew breath to speak. But words would not come. He hung his head, and his shoulders hunched in defeat. He stepped out into the isle and walked away from the scene. He walked all the way to the exit not daring to turn back.
He heard his name echo throughout the hall, and he stopped. His spine went ramrod strait, and he waited. He turned his head just the barest fraction and waited for more. But when nothing came, he faced the doors in front of him and walked out into the sunlight.
He closed his eyes
“You have to come back to me.”
“I did.” he whispers to no one in particular.