I’m sure I nearly squashed the 2 carat diamond ring when she burst through the arrivals door with that sunburst smile. She sidestepped boldly right to me like a show-horse Palamino confident that the blue ribbon was already decided. At my home base of CFB Petawawa no amount of special ops training had prepared me for this happening.
You see, we’d never met before this moment. Face to face that is.
Over two years during my posting in Afghanistan and her posting in Iraq our free times had never over lapped. And she isn’t who I thought she was.
This all started after a joint anti-terrorism training exercise of Nato and US forces in Kuwait. A late night chapel service found me sitting behind one of the most outrageous brunettes my young eyes had ever envisioned.
Perhaps it was the fact that hair wasn’t abundant in the circles I travelled. The chestnut cascades streaming over her shoulders kept me fixated through much of the service and I hardly closed my eye lids in that closing prayer.
As we rose to leave, the power flickered out and sirens sounded. Somehow, in the quick movements that followed, she was pushed back into my arms and I kept her from falling. She quickly regained her footing, straightened herself and pulled away from me. It was pitch black and although others moved quickly out of the chapel we stood for a minute in silence.
I felt a hand on my arm and she leaned closer. The voice was distinct. Or so I thought. “Thanks. E mail me. True beauty47.” And then she was gone.
I started e mailing her the next day. “Just have to say I loved your hair. Would love to meet.” I wanted to add “You’re always safe in my arms” but resisted since I didn’t even know her yet.
An e mail came back. “Do I know you? I’m on my way to Iraq.”
I didn’t want to state the obvious but knew she’d catch on. “Saw you in chapel. I’m off to Afghanistan.”
It took me a month before I dared to ask her what her real name was. “Karyn.” It was slow and sporadic with our different assignments but we progressed.
For two years we corresponded and learned everything about each others families, friendships, assignments, loves, likes and dislikes. We had even explored issues of faith together and shared prayers. We never sent pictures of anything, but the images developed clearly in my head as if they’d just appeared on a digital screen.
The first time we talked on the phone her voice was different than I remembered. More silky and smooth. More vulnerable. But then again, the circumstances in that chapel and now after she had just survived a traumatic firefight – the distortion over the phone – anything could cause that. In time I just knew Karyn’s voice and attached it to the chestnut hair. But it seemed that’s the only connection we would have.
And now, neither one of us should have been in this airport. I was only here because my team had fallen prey to an IED. Two of my buddies were shredded and I took a hit in the shoulder. I was almost healed up and ready to get back to base. But then her e mail had arrived. “Unexpected rotation. I have a month. Can we meet?”
And so here we were, only she wasn’t who I thought she was. Truebeauty47, Karyn, was as blond as starlight. Her eyes were sapphires that captured and held me. Confidence and curiosity searched my face and still she moved closer. “Wayne!” She purred. My uniform and sling must have given me away.
“Karyn, I presume. Truebeauty is a good handle.”
“You’re taller than I thought,” she cooed.
“You’ve changed your hair,” I said.
“I got tired of having it short. I haven’t had it this long since I was ten. But how would you know?”
“It seemed longer in Kuwait,” I replied.
“Yes. Kuwait. Chapel. Power outage. You fell into my arms.”
I could tell from the confusion on her face that I had just stepped on an emotional land mine.
“I’ve never been to Kuwait,” she said. “Who are you and what are you trying to do with my life?”
My death grip on that ring increased and I knew that it was time to fall in love with reality or lose everything to a dream gone wrong.
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