Crossfire

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A lingering touch, a kiss on the lips, and then it was gone, all gone. I became hypersensitive to my surroundings, to the dust that had settled upon the cabinet that I leaned on, each hair on his face; he hadn't shaved for two days, justified it with stress. I reached out, fingers running along the fabric of the thick uniform, and I felt my heart wrench, my throat drying immediately as my mouth opened just slightly, each word receding deep into my throat, refusing to be evoked by speech.

He felt my touch and turned, jaw set, emotions pooling in his blue gaze. I looked down at his hands that grasped his bags, and I wondered why it had to be this way. But I knew why, knew that he could never give this up. Not for me, not for his own life. Death was the only force powerful enough to steal this from him.

I lost myself in his eyes, the sun coating his tall, broad figure in a shimmering curtain. He set his bags down, the thud of them colliding with the floor sounding as though a lead weight had fallen upon a sickly branch. His arms found their way around me, pulling my smaller figure toward him, into him.

The sound of the fabrics of our clothing rustling against one another, the hiss of our breathing, low and controlled, was all that broke the silence, and yet it felt like shattering glass. I clung to him without thinking, feeling the rough hair on his cheek rubbing uncomfortably and yet satisfyingly against my face as I buried my head in his shoulder.

His fingers made their way through my hair, massaging against my scalp before traveling to my neck and finding their place there. My hands remained tangled in his jacket, my own logic reasoning that if I held on long enough, held on tight enough, that he wouldn't be ripped from me, thrown in the crossfire that I feared I would lose him in.

Words were beyond either of us. He turned his head so that he could kiss my cheek, my temple, and then my forehead, easing his way back from me. I held on, not willing to let go, denial creeping upon my heart, filling my head.

I shook my head against his shoulder, but he managed to grip my shoulders and pry me from him, putting us at a distance at which our eyes could focus upon one another. I didn't want that; I didn't want to look at him as though this may be the last time. Yet I knew that was how he would be looking at me, the moment when I would raise my head and moved my eyes from hardwood to flesh.

His fingers grasped my chin, tilting it upward. I could feel the calluses against my skin, as though they were impressed into me. I couldn't look away any longer, my hands reaching up and grasping his left arm, the one that had guided his fingers to my chin. I tugged the limb forcefully and he stumbled forward, caught off guard.

I kissed his lips passionately, more so then I had ever done before. This was the last day I would feel his lips against mine for twelve months, and each day would feel like a broken promise, I knew. So I wound my fingers in his hair this time, pulling him even closer as his hands pulled my waist against his, our entire figures feeling conjoined in that moment.

Even behind my closed eyes, and even in that moment of ecstasy, I could see the words in his eyes before I had caught before I had pulled him toward me. I love you. I can't be without you, so don't expect to be without me. I don't want to do this. I'll be coming home this time. I'll always come home.

He retracted once more, his right hand resting against my neck as our eyes fastened to one another's. I wasn't scared this time, the denial having retreated once more. He leaned down and I knew this would be the final time, his lips finding mine and kissing me only briefly, enough for every emotion neither of us could say to be expressed in that moment of contact.

Then, holding my hand his momentarily, he pulled back. Our hands left one another's, and he turned, lifting his bags from their temporary home on the floor. He walked to the door, preparing to set a bag down to grip the knob, but I hurried forward and did so for him, pulling the door open wide.

He walked out, turning as I stood there in the doorway, an exit today, an entrance soon. I bit my lip hard, knowing he didn't want me to cry, didn't want me to morph into the sobbing housewife that each of his fellow soldiers had. But the tears slipped past my defenses anyway, down my cheeks and dribbling along my chin, my arms fastened around my torso too securely for me to wipe the wetness away.

His eyes were watering now as he looked at me, and then he turned and walked toward the cab that awaited him. Only once he had packed his bags away and gotten in did I angrily wipe the tears away. The cab drove away, and I saw in it everything I resented about this life that we led.

If we were in a different situation, I would be at location of the plane, able to see him off alongside the other soldiers' wives. I would be able to have a last remnant of closure, knowing that I could be comforted by those around me who were experiencing the same parting that I was. But this arrangement wasn't normal, at least not with the military. Maybe if he wasn't a solider. Maybe if I was a woman. But he was in the Army, and I was a man, and I knew that I was helpless against either of these things. And yet I would never leave him, couldn't now even if I wanted to.

Don't ask, don't tell; the words resonated in my mind as I closed the door behind me, falling against the frame. I felt broken, broken by everything I was forced to suppress simply due to this, due to who we were in the eyes the Army and the government; less, less then a man and a woman, and not worthy of notoriety. But if I was less, why was I left feeling more then any of those women were?