Final Deployment

Photo by Hannah Skelly on Unsplash

“Come on, baby girl, please, work with me,” I croon. I pace Gracie’s room, rocking her as gently as I can, even as my frustrations mount. Her wails pound my eardrums, increasing in volume the more I rock her. Her colic shows no signs of abating. Tears filling my eyes, I heft her to my shoulder and rub gentle circles on her back.

Hoping a change in environment will help, I make my way to the master bedroom. I stop two steps in, though. Untouched for six months, dark purple duvet covering the four-post king-size bed, way too many pillows, an off-white carpet covering the hardwood floor next to the left side. Jamie hates the wood flooring only because she argues it’s too cold when she climbs from bed in the wee hours to head to base.

Biting down on my bottom lip hard, I take a hesitant step forward. On the dresser across from the bed, an eight- by twelve-inch framed photo of Jamie at her graduation from boot camp, then from officer candidate school. There is the photo from our wedding day, both of us in teal-blue tuxedos. Finally, Jamie in the hospital room cradling our newborn Grace, tears on her cheeks frozen in time.

Fuck, I miss her. I know this is what I signed up for, I do, but still. This separation feels harder than the others. A soul-deep pain squeezes my heart, longing and need and hope pulling air from my lungs until I gasp for breath.

It is a long moment before I realize Grace has finally quieted down. Her soft snuffles are warm against my neck, one tiny fist wrapped around a chunk of my hair, the other in my paint-covered t-shirt.

“I miss her, too, baby girl,” I murmur, stepping closer to the dresser. Our wedding rings rest in a protective foam box. Whenever Jamie deploys, we keep our rings together there until she comes home. Even though my left ring finger feels empty as the void of space without it, somehow my heart feels even emptier.

Thirty-three years after meeting, on the high school girls swim team, we are still going strong. Half of her loyalty would always belong to the U.S. Marine Corps, but her faithfulness belongs to me. I only have to hold on for another seventy-two hours. Seventy-two hours to go, and she’ll be all mine for the rest of our lives.

“She’ll be home, soon, Gracie,” I say, a single tear slipping down my cheek.

A knock on the door interrupts my musing. I let out a slow breath and head down the hall. Through the open door stand two Marines in their dress uniforms. One is wearing a cross.

My knees buckle.

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