military hat 62052So she was there. Laura. I wish I’d looked harder now. If I’d known he hadn’t phoned her, had sent a letter that hadn’t reached her, I’d have found her, gone over, and said something. Invited her to ours. Only I saw Emma and little Daisy from the ship and well, I couldn’t take my eyes off them and was just… oblivious to my surroundings. Which is not what we’re trained to do but you don’t expect to be looking for anyone else at something like that, do you? The crowd was just that… a crowd. Sure, I’d spotted other women I recognised but once I’d seen Emma, that was it. Focused. Honed in. Homed in.

Guilty? Yes, very. I should have looked for her. To tell her. But I didn’t know. And I know what you’re thinking; that it’s my fault he was out there. You’re not wrong. I said I could wait. That she’d send me photos. Wouldn’t miss much, Daisy being so young and all, but Johnny insisted. He was like that. Said he wouldn’t miss much either, but I knew that wasn’t true. He’d been out there longer than me but he loved it. Loved her of course too, but work was his obsession. It’s the adrenalin. Unless you’re in a job like ours, you can’t understand.

He left before I woke up so I didn’t get to say “goodbye”. That’s the worst bit. I wanted to say “goodbye”, and “thank you”. Again. He said once was enough but I don’t think he knew how much it had meant to me. Means to me. OK, so he didn’t give his life for me, as such, but if he hadn’t of… no, I know. You can never tell. He could have had Plan A; seen her, returned out there and then… only they would have had that time, wouldn’t they? The time that Emma and I are having… well, will have. For a month anyway. Yeah, she’s scared. She always has been, will be, but doesn’t say anything. I can see it in her eyes though. The green eyes that said “could have been you,” when I told her the news. Before Laura. I’m sorry for that too. A wife should always be the first person to find out. Nearer the top than someone she briefly met at a birthday party.

It was terrible, breaking the news. She knew it though, as soon as she opened the door. Invited Mick and I to come in but not to say anything. I couldn’t anyway. Done it before but it wasn’t the same. Had to leave it to Mick. He was more professional about the whole thing. Detached. Not really known Johnny. Not like I did.

I asked her if she wanted us to phone anyone but she shook her head. I don’t know who she has now but admin will sort that out. Help her. Send a woman to sit with her, give her someone experienced to talk with. They’re better at dealing with that kind of thing. Women. Except Emma, but then she’s bound to be emotional, with Daisy and that.

And Laura? Don’t know. She comes across as strong, independent. I think she’ll be fine… in time. And that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Time. You get used to waiting in our profession. Them here, us out there in a strange country that becomes familiar. They wait for us to come home, we wait at home to go back.

It’s deathly quiet wherever you are and if you get used to that, then that’s half the battle, isn’t it?

***

This story was taken from my Story A Day May 2011 collection. Photograph above courtesy of morguefile.com.

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