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Old 08-21-2017, 11:31 AM   #1
AntonTovaras
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reunion (closed for Dark Empress)

"That reunion's coming up," the nurse said. "You still planning on skipping it?"

Anthony stared at her hard, and after a moment, she shrugged her shoulders and walked out of the room, leaving him alone. A few minutes later the doctor came in. At least he knew better than to try to make small-talk with him. Anthony didn't really make small talk anymore. He was happy to inhale, exhale, look up, look down, while the doctor poked and prodded him.

"So?" he said, when it was done and the doctor was scribbling on his pad.

"So, physically, you're as good as new," the doctor said. "Physical therapy says you're walking like it never happened. Full use of your hand back."

"Yeah," Anthony said. He knew how he was doing physically. He knew how lucky he'd been to have all four limbs working fine, even if it had been three years since the IED had blown his APC off the road outside Kandahar. Two men had died instantly, and he'd been chewed up so badly by shrapnel they thought he'd never walk or hold his cock again. "What about the other thing?"

The doctor shrugged. "There's only so much we can do. The medication isn't supposed to be a permanent solution. It's supposed to be a crutch so you can function while you're healing. But you've sort of reached a wall, haven't you?"

Anthony nodded. He had reached a wall. He was still in the Army, but he was pushing a desk on base near where he grew up. He had joined to fight, to protect the country, to be a hero. Now he was pushing thirty with no education past high school, and the only people he considered friends were on the other side of the world.

"So, what? You keeping me here?" he said. Until the doctor signed off, he wasn't going to be posted overseas again.

"The brass needs to know that you're psychologically fit." The Army had made him good at one thing, fighting. Now they wouldn't let him do it until he could prove to them he was psychologically fit for it. He knew he was fit for it. It was just everything else that he was unfit for.

Ever since Kayla broke up with him, he hadn't felt anything for another woman beyond lust. She had been the one. She had been twenty, and he had just re-enlisted for a third tour in Afghanistan. He couldn't blame her for not wanting to wait for him. She deserved someone who would put her first, and he kept choosing the war. It wasn't that he didn't love her, but there were guys over there who had saved his life, and he couldn't let them down.

They'd stayed in touch until she told him she was getting married. That was more than he could take. Since then, there were occasional hook-ups. He was still a good-looking guy, and some girls liked to show their appreciation for service the old-fashioned way, but he never kept their numbers. "Have you even gone home yet?"

"I've been busy," Anthony said. For three years he'd been twenty miles from home, on the lightest duty imaginable, and hadn't found time to make the trip. "My folks come over here sometimes."

"Go to the fucking reunion," the doctor said. "Give me something good I can put in my report, so I can sign off on your crazy ass. That's an order, OK?"

"Fine," Anthony said, and snapped a solute.

*

He'd sat in the parking lot across the street for an hour before the reunion started. This was a mission. Like any mission, it depended on intel. He watched people pulling up, going in. A lot of them looked like they'd been partying already. When the parking lot started to fill, he moved in. This was an unofficial mission, so he wasn't wearing his uniform, just an off the rack suit that didn't quite fit his muscular physique. His hair was cut close and short as a grunt, and his eyes jumped as though he was in combat.

He got a name tag and people he barely remembered hugged him. He smiled, said things, people laughed, shook his hand. They were happy he had gone and fought. They were lawyers, doctors, accountants, plumbers, nurses, teachers, barbers, parents, cops and techs. It was terrifying, but he reminded himself he could break their necks in less time than it took to say it, and that made it easier to take.

When he saw Kayla, though, he wished it had been another IED. The feelings that were coming back were too much to deal with. She looked better than he'd remembered, and she was alone. He took a deep breath. This was the mission. He walked towards her.

"Hi," he said, his throat so tight it came out like a croak. He tried to smile, but it just felt like he was twitching his mouth. He looked around, trying to spot which of the men here had married the only woman he had ever really loved.
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Old 08-22-2017, 11:16 AM   #2
DarkEmpress
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Kayla sat on the floor of her new kitchen with her head in her hands, raw sobs tearing from her chest. Everything was a mess.

She had met Greg through a mutual acquaintance and everything just kind of happened from there. In retrospect, it felt like she was going through the motions, from their engagement party through to their wedding. It was everything she ever wanted... and nothing she ever wanted.

He whisked her off to the big city and she was determined to make the most of her new life with him, away from the memories, away from her family, her friends... Anthony. It went well for a few months and then the fights began. Nothing was right, nothing was enough and no matter how hard she tried, she just couldn’t make it work... Greg was never quite going to be Anthony.

It wasn’t pretty, and when everything went up in a massive ball of smoke, Kayla decided to go back home. The apartment she could afford was much smaller and she literally had to start over. She had invested three years of her life into something that turned out to be nothing and after all the fighting and tears she found herself at the end of a very long journey that has brought her full circle, with nothing to show except heartache and disappointment.

Placing her chin on her knees, Kayla wrapped her arms around her legs and stared at the invitation to the reunion on her phone. What was she going to tell them? That she was a proud divorcee, who managed to achieve very little in the big city besides running back home? An overwhelming sense of failure washed over her and she clenched her blue eyes shut, raven hair spiralling down her back as tears streaked down her cheeks.

What if Anthony was there?

The last time she spoke to him, he was home on leave, and she had broken his heart... the one man in this world she loved more than life itself. Kayla couldn’t handle waiting around anymore, hoping and praying that he would be okay. It felt like she placed her life on pause every time he was whisked away to the other side of the world, constantly fearing that it might have been the last time she ever saw him. Kayla was utterly alone, with her entire reason for existing, living under a different sun.

She hoped that she would learn to love Greg, but it wasn’t even close to what she had felt for Anthony. It was a watered down version of something magnificent and if she was honest, it wasn’t fair on Greg either. He deserved someone who was willing to give him her all.

Wiping away the tears, Kayla pressed the ‘going’ icon on the invitation, making her mind up.

~~~**|**~~~

Dressed in a bright yellow cocktail dress, Kayla stood sipping a glass of wine, making small talk with a girl she could barely remember. If there was one thing that reunions made blatantly clear, it was the fact that people never change. The jocks were still on testosterone highs comparing who drove the bigger car. The drama queens were still drama queens, but with perfect kids and a perfect husband.

Kayla had so far avoided talking about herself. Most people loved to talk about themselves and if you showed enough interest and asked the right questions, they could drone on for hours without realising that you were not really saying anything. It must have been something she picked up as a journalist.

She spotted him the moment he walked through the doors and her heart skipped a nervous beat. She wasn’t ready for this.

Anthony confidently walked over. He was still as handsome as ever and Kayla was awash with sweet and tender memories.
“Hi,” he said and Kayla gave him a warm but nervous smile, croaking “Hi” back at him.

He was the one person she wouldn’t be able to dodge. He knew her too well.
“You are looking so well, Anthony,” she said, appraisingly, genuinely happy to see him in one piece.
“How have you been?” she asked, her fingers nervously playing with an absent ring.
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Last edited by DarkEmpress : 08-22-2017 at 11:20 AM.
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Old 08-22-2017, 04:50 PM   #3
AntonTovaras
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"I've been doing really good," he said, but as soon as the words escaped his lips, he knew she would see them for the lie they were. He had never been able to hide from her, even when he just wanted to protect her from the truth. He shook his head.

"At least, I was. The docs say I'm good as new," he said with a thin smile. He felt like a teenager again, his heart was racing. The adrenaline was going, and with it, the memory of that day. He laughed, a brief, bitter chuckle.

"You know, other guys get blown up, they have flashbacks to the battle, to the war. Me, I get flashbacks to...." He shook his head. He could taste the beer he had been drinking all those years ago, smell the stink of the barracks where he had logged into his email and read those words. Greg asked me to marry him. Pinky had been playing Crazy Train on an acoustic guitar behind him, and a half dozen of the guys had been singing along. Somebody smelled like too much cologne. I wanted you to hear it from me before anyone else told you. I said yes. He could taste bile again. "To the base. Combat I can handle I guess."

He forced himself to really look at her.

"You're as beautiful as the day we graduated," he said, shaking his head in amazement. He tried to keep the ache out of his voice, but he knew he sounded like someone trying to sound like he wasn't hurting. You learned to recognize that, when guys pretend nothing's wrong until they go into shock from a wound. "It's like you haven't aged a day."

He took a deep breath. "So, is he here?"
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Old 08-28-2017, 09:02 AM   #4
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Despite what he was saying, Anthony was not okay. It looked like he had the world on his shoulders and from the little that he said, it sounded like something did happen over there. Kayla’s eyes briefly searched him for markings, bruising. On the surface she couldn’t see anything, but she could see the hurt in his eyes... the scars on his soul.

Her heart ached. Her worst fear had always been that he’d get hurt... and on some level she wondered whether she contributed to that.

His compliments made her blush. “Thank you,” she simply said, feeling far from the ‘beautiful’ girl he described. Giving him a small smile, she kept eye contact as she said, “You are looking just as dashing as always,” her eyes smiling along.

There was an awkward moment, when both of them didn’t quite know what to say, before Anthony took a heavy breath and asked where he was. For a moment, Kayla stared back at him, dumbfounded, not understanding what he meant, until Greg came crashing into her reality.

“Oh... Oh, Greg,” she almost screeched, laughing uncomfortably, as her eyes dropped to the floor. Nervously clutching her hands together she finally scrounged up the courage to look at Anthony. “He’s... he’s not here,” she almost stuttered, “I mean, it didn’t quite work out as I had hoped,” she quickly added before looking down at her tangled hands, feeling hot with embarrassment.

“I thought I could make it work...” she said honestly in a tiny voice, as she looked up at him again, but she couldn’t find the words and simply just shook her head. She didn’t want to feel so hurt and vulnerable, especially not with Anthony standing right in front of her.

In a desperate attempt to sidestep the topic and to avoid the tears that were threatening, she plastered a very fake smile on her face and asked, “Which table are you sitting at?”
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