Shaun stretched at the sound of his alarm yet refused to linger in the moment. As he reached for his phone to silence the Wedding March melody he chose to wake up to every morning, he wiped the sleepiness out of his eyes.
Two-thirty in the morning…ugh… I am so tired, but I must wake up.
Shaun slapped himself in the face and shook his head until his cheeks wobbled like a basset hound. He stood for one final stretch and then turned and dropped to his knees. With phone in hand, he smiled at the picture that greeted him. Nicole’s smile melted his heart every time he opened it.
He gently brushed his lips across the screen of the phone and held it to his heart. Almost embarrassed by the move, he glanced around as if someone might be watching. As he began to pray for his Nicole, tears welled up and slipped through his morning stubble.
“Lord, it is four-thirty in the morning for Nicole and she is preparing for another day of boot camp…like you don’t already know that. Anyway, please keep her safe today. She is everything to me. Help her to be strong and committed to who she is, the Nicole I fell in love with and have asked to be my wife.”
After praying for a few more minutes, Shaun sat on the edge of his bed. His thumbs quickly worked through the routine of opening his photo gallery until he found the picture he loved of Nicole sticking her tongue out at him. Not wanting to close the phone, he laid it on his chest and drifted back to sleep.
At that exact moment, thousands of miles away, Nicole stood toe to toe with the man committed to break her will and mold her into a Marine. She held her breath because his smelled of stale cigarettes and cheap coffee. As he barked orders, she winced at the spit that hit her face. This caused him to step even closer.
As Shaun sat alone in a busy airport, he scrolled through his text messages, reading every message Nicole sent him the last day she had her cell phone. She had made a habit of hiding in the ladies room every stop along the way so she could send off a text message.
Then the messages stopped coming. Shaun knew it was because she had to turn her cell phone in, but it seemed so final, so cold, as if she disappeared off the face of the earth. His heart ached something fierce as he read her last text message: Almost there. Have to turn phone in soon. What have I done? Can I do this? Do you still love me even after leaving you for this?
It seemed like only yesterday that his wide-eyed fiancée left his side to board a plane headed for the longest six weeks of their lives. His love for Nicole never wavered. If anything, he worked harder to prove his love for her.
After he had sorted through the text messages, Shaun then watched the videos Nicole had left for him. He had strict instructions to open one each week. Today he opened the final message. As he watched Nicole on his phone screen, he couldn’t help but wonder how different she might look when he arrived at her graduation ceremony tomorrow.
He gently rubbed his thumb over the screen as if to stroke her cheek. A familiar fear welled up and latched onto his heart. They had only been allowed a half a dozen very short phone conversations. Nicole seemed almost robotic in her voice, as if she had become numb to emotions.
Weary from travel, Shaun stretched to see if he could spot Nicole in the sea of uniformed men and women on the parade grounds. The ceremony had ended and he desperately needed to find her. Oh how he longed to see her face-to-face, to touch her, and be assured that their love had stood this horrendous test.
He spotted her through the crowd and she took off and ran towards him. As she jumped into his arms and wrapped herself into a full-bodied embrace, all of Shaun’s fears vanished. The woman that stood so stiff a few minutes ago was a Marine. The woman that he now kissed passionately was his fiancée, a distinct difference. The Marines may have broken Nicole’s civilian will, but Shaun still had her heart.
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