Once the field was finally cleared, Salem started the disparaging act of “cleaning up the mess.” This was always worse than the battlefield. Madeline wasn’t exactly a surprise. Everybody knew she was slipping, and, well, people talk. He wondered how she’d gotten hold of the gun. No one on the battlefield had that, and Madeline wasn’t near any of the usual field ready crew. The armory had been locked up… Right?
He picked up Madeline’s body and wretched as what was left of her brain slide out and hit the ground with a sickening plop. He shuddered. Her kid… That poor girl saw Madeline’s body. She saw her mom, mangled, and could do nothing about it. Blackwell had dragged her away as quickly as she could, but it wasn’t fast enough. Couldn’t have been fast enough. She never got to say goodbye. She never got to hug her one last time. She never would get to let her know that she loved her again.
I wonder if she heard those words before Madeline left? Salem wondered to himself.
Salem shook his head. Snap out of it soldier, he thought. The poor lady was another casualty of this demented war. This god damn game of cat and mouse. These fuckers had to be toying with them. They destroyed two states and killed, blinded and maimed thousands of people in no time flat, and now the just do quick strikes, murdering them little by little, until what? He did not know. Salem was suddenly overwhelmed with thoughts of that horrendous day. He found his thoughts drifting inevitably to his wife…
They hadn’t been stationed at Fort Bragg for very long. His wife had asked if there was anything they could do to stay at Fort Carson. She liked living in Colorado Springs. Her family was all in Denver, and it made it easy to see them.
“There’s nothing I can do.” Salem had said every time she protested. “I’m told what to do, and where to go, then I do it. The end. I’m sorry babe.”
So Private Salem and his wife packed up, gave their tearful goodbyes, and moved to North Carolina. The first couple of weeks were tough on them both, and they had been fighting a lot. Salem was constantly gone, and Jenny had holed herself up in the house. She had no interest in meeting people. She was driving herself stir crazy, and continued to protest the move.
Jenny finally convinced Salem that she needed to visit her family in Denver. “Just for a week.” she said. When he agreed, she flashed her goofy, beautiful grin, and buried her face into his neck, stuffing his mouth full of her gorgeous, but definitely not tasty, brown hair. “Jenny I can’t breath.” He said muffled. She laughed and kissed him.
When they got to the airport, he stared at her, taking in his last look for a week. Her brown hair was getting long, it was down past her shoulders now. Those lovely, piercing honey eyes. Her short frame and tall presence. Her favorite yellow shirt complimenting her stunning olive/brown skin.
“What?” She said, blushing.
“I will miss you Mrs. Salem.”
She laughed. “I’ll see you in a week goof.” She said.
“I know. I love you.” He pulled her into a bear hug and lifted her off the ground. As always, he was rewarded with her chiming laughter.
After setting her down, and giving her a kiss, he watched her board the plane. She stopped for a moment and turned around. “I love you Private Salem!” She yelled, more than loud enough for all to hear.
“I love you too Mrs. Jennifer Salem!” they both smiled, then she turned around and was gone.
The first Bellow came a day later, and she was right in the White Zone.
Finally having taken care of the now resting Madeline’s remains, Salem tried to push Jenny out of his mind.
He had too much to do. Cruz was doing weapons inventory and needed help. The local mad scientist, Monty, said she had found something and needed to talk, so he was going to send Blackwell over there. He needed to set up the burning area, in lieu of the ability to actually bury the dead.
A mentor needs to seem unbreakable he thought and took several deep breaths, each shuddering less than the last. Finally, he cleared his throat, held his head high, and walked to Blackwell’s quarters.
He knocked on Blackwell’s door, and while there was no immediate answer, he heard something going on inside. “Let go! Let me see her! Let me go!” He heard Hope yell.
[Ivy’s note: Hey sunshines, I really want constructive criticism and feedback. I hope to make this into a full sized, printed book one day, so please let me know what you think, and thank you ahead of time for those who do.]