I’m back for another Stream of Consciousness Saturday. Woohoo! I’ve had a lazy couple of days, my motivation completely disappearing. Which usually means I need to take a break. Not something I do too often. But, I did get a good bit of reading done during that time. Unfortunately, I haven’t worked on back stories for the two WiPs I’m plotting in that time either. So, I figured I could use today’s prompt of “contraction” to work through some of that.
“Don’t you have anyone waiting for you?”
I’d spent the last twelve weeks with the four men sitting around me. And thirty-five others who had been in our platoon of recruits. The five of us had bonded more than any of the other recruits, though. May be it was having our home state in common. Although there were times I still considered myself a fraud for calling it that. I hadn’t been born in Texas. I was six months old before Mom ever brought me here. But, I’d spent most of my life living either here or with my dad in Ireland. We’d been here exclusively since I was thirteen, though. So, it was home.
And it felt good to be back on home soil.
I glanced back at the two recruits…no, we weren’t that anymore. That’s what the Drill Instructor had said at our emblem ceremony. We were Marines now. Alex and Casey had hit it right off. Who would have known they had grown up only a town apart. After the first few days, you would have thought they’d grown up in the same home. But, not even close.
Casey still hadn’t answered the question Xavier, who brought up the rear of our little pack, had asked him. Alex shot him a look, and I wondered what that was all about. Obviously Alex knew even more about Casey’s situation than the rest of us.
“He’s coming home with me,” Alex said.
“No. I’m not. I’ll find a place.”
“Already told you. You got a place at the ranch.”
I let their argument roll around me. I knew a little about Casey, though he didn’t talk a lot. But, we lived in close quarters. I’d seen the scars on his back. And, I was guessing, Alex knew the story behind them.
“You sure they are not brothers?” Piers asked from my side.
“They say so. What about you? Your family waiting here?”
“Mom promised she would be. Don’t know if Dad could get away.”
That was something Piers and I had in common. My dad had been a soldier in the Irish Army. My mom met him over there. He’d finally left the Army and come here almost six years ago. Piers’ mother was from Canada and had come here after meeting his father, who was another Marine. Piers had been born here but split his time between here and his mother’s family, though not as much as I had.
I knew my dad wouldn’t be here for me. He couldn’t be. And that hit me just as hard as it did every time I thought about it. Alaina said she’d be here with Mom, though. And whoever this new guy was that Mom had found. As long as he was good to her. I told myself that was all that mattered. Even though her being with someone other than Dad just felt…wrong.
Xavier came up to us, and Piers slung an arm over the slighter man’s shoulders. There was something between the two of them, though it wasn’t the same as our bond. I shook off that thought as I recognized a familiar head of strawberry blond curls. I dropped my duffel as my little sister launched herself at me. I caught her easily even though she was a lot longer than she used to be when we played this. It wasn’t so hard to catch a seven-year-old when I was fifteen.
I finally set her back on the ground and looked over her at my mom. She was…reserved. That was the best way to think of it. And I swore I could see tears in her eyes. She hadn’t wanted me to enlist. She’d spent twelve years worrying about Dad, and now she saw the same thing ahead of her. But, she came to me now.
“You look so much like him,” she told me. “He’d be proud of you.”
I’d just gone through a grueling twelve weeks, the worst of it the last 54 hours, and I hadn’t shed a tear. Now, though, my eyes burned. A throat cleared behind her, and she jumped back a little. Her smile wavered. “Declan, this is Jacob. My fiance.”
No. Alaina had told me Mom was seeing someone. But, that hadn’t been until after I’d left. Not even three months. How could he have moved in so quick? “What about Dad?” I said, my voice coming out harsh.
A shutter came down over her gaze. “Your father’s dead, Declan. Me being lonely won’t bring him back. It’s been a year.”
Not quite. And I knew nothing would bring him back. It didn’t make this hurt any less. I forced myself to hold my hand out to him. He gripped it hard, but his smile looked forced, too, and a little hard. “It’s wonderful to meet you at last, Declan. I’ve heard a lot about you.”
I didn’t like him. I know it’s unfair, but instantly I disliked him. “Funny. I have heard very little about you.”
His mouth tightened at that. But, he asked, “Who are your friends?”
“These are my brothers,” I said and introduced each of them. Then, a woman came up to Piers, and they started speaking in French. He’d taught me a few words, but I couldn’t follow their conversation. It must be his mother, who had given him a much warmer welcome than mine had. Soon, I stood alone with my family.
“We should go,” my mom said. “Jacob hired a caterer for your welcome home dinner.”
“I’d like to make a stop first,” I said as we headed out to the car.
“Where to?” Jacob asked as he pulled out of the parking lot.
Tension was suddenly like a heavy blanket in the car.
“That’s not needed,” my mom finally said.
“I need it. Please, Mom.”
After a moment, she nodded. I saw Jacob reach over and squeeze her hand. Something inside me seethed. It didn’t matter if they got married, I told myself. I would never consider him my father.
I’d had a good father who I loved. I would never replace him. I couldn’t.