Wish for You

By: Marquita Valentine

He laughs. “Calm your nuts. Cole and I kept only an eye on Lacey, exactly like you asked us to do, while you were gone. That’s it.”

Despite Parker’s assurance, despite the fact that I had asked them to keep an eye on Lacey, the jealousy keeps rising, only now fury joins in, shouting at me to beat the shit out of my buddy.

“Stand down, Marine,” Nathan says in my mind. “This isn’t the way to win a battle.”

Barely maintaining control, I do an about-face and stride to my truck. In less than fifteen minutes, I’m cruising down Main Street, heading out of town toward Lacey’s neighborhood. She lives across the railroad tracks, where the yards are small, the houses are even smaller, and crime is big. Her parents moved to this side of town, so they could tend to the needy and poor. Only Lacey’s family isn’t rich, and they always need her help. Or so it seems.

The dog tags hanging from my rearview mirror catch my eye. My gut churns. It doesn’t matter that the sight of them makes me feel bad. I should feel bad. Hell, I do feel bad. I feel worthless and guilty, and not at all lucky, like every field medic and doctor told me.

Should’ve been me, Nathan.

An image of Nathan grinning big, like the aw-shucks farm boy from Kansas he was, flashes in my mind. I know what he’d say. I know what he’d think.

Cut the bull. It was war, buddy. Can’t make sense of war.

Now that Lacey doesn’t want me anymore, I can’t make sense of that either. Either way, my life is FUBAR.

I slow the truck down when I get to her street. Christmas lights still decorate most of the houses, and Lacey’s is no exception. Her borrowed car is in the drive, but by some miracle or neon-flashing Santa, I can see her sitting there. Automatically, I park my truck on the street and climb out.

Lacey doesn’t wait for me to come to her. She gets out of her car, eyes blazing and auburn hair swinging as she walks. God, I love her hair. The color, the texture… the fact that it is so soft, so sweet smelling, just like her. Her scent is the exact opposite of the smell of war and death. There were times when I wished I could have crawled inside of her and never left.

“You didn’t have to follow me home, Wyatt,” she says, her voice all accusing.

I meet her in the middle, making sure to keep my hands to myself, though they’re itching to touch her. “I’ve always made sure you’ve gotten home okay.”

“Except when you were gone,” she says, and then sighs. “You couldn’t help that though.”

Her bluntness has never bothered me, not until now. “Yeah, Uncle Sam seems to frown on Marines who go AWOL.”

“You’d never do that,” she says, shifting from side to side. Her long skirt sways with her. Under the coat, she’s wearing a vintage t-shirt with the words #HASHTAG, accompanied by an image of two boxes of hash rounds running on it. I’d bought it for her two years ago, before I left for boot camp, because she likes silly shirts like that, and I like to be the one to make her smile.

A part of me was glad to see her wearing it tonight, though another part of me wanted to demand she give it back. She’d thrown my love for her in my face, and didn’t deserve anything from me. Only… I hadn’t told her I loved her so, in the grand scheme of things, I can’t justifiably accuse her of being heartless.

Lately, I’ve come to realize how easy I had it in the ‘Stan. While I was there, I had no idea how her lips tasted, how her breaths came out in little pants when I rocked against her... No way of knowing just how damn good the curves I’d lusted after while she skated in short skirts and tight tops would feel. Ignorance was total bliss, and dreaming of her while in that shithole was Heaven.

I’m no longer ignorant, and this is a new level of Hell.

For some unfathomable reason, I reach out and tuck a lock of wayward hair behind her ear. “You really should wear a hat.”

She licks her lips, my eyes following the movement of her pink tongue. “I gave mine to Hanna.”

Of course she did. Hanna is sixteen and very fashion conscious, with limited resources. I’m surprised her sister actually accepted it, because Hanna and Lacey’s styles clash.

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