The Bus pulled up to the Greyhound station at one twenty two in the morning. Betty his wife was standing in the corner of the station huddled in the red and white bomber jacket he gave her two years before. He’d been waiting for this moment for so long, it seemed unreal that it was actually here.
Stepping down the stairs of the bus, he inhaled deeply. The familiar smells of home filled him with comfort, safety. The small town he’d grown up in was still the same. Everyone and everything around him was still the same. He put the smile he felt, on his face and walked to his beloved Betty.
When Betty saw Robert, she couldn’t contain herself. On the way to the greyhound station, she told herself she wouldn’t cause a scene. She would wait until they got home before she jumped all over him. She would wait until they were behind closed doors to show him how much she missed him. Those things should be done in private after all. All of her planning went out the window when she saw Robert.
His day old beard cast a shadow on his slim face. His dark brown eyes, as bright as she’d always remembered them. The dimples that marked only his left cheek greeted her and that did it. She hauled her five foot five frame at her husband. Dodging the few patrons that lingered around the station, not caring if anyone saw or felt her excitement.
She reached Robert and threw herself into his arms and held on for dear life. Her eyes closed instinctively and she started placing endless tiny kisses all over his face, his ears, eyes, lips, neck. Anywhere her lips touched, she kissed. Butterflies made a home in her stomach and she reveled in how wonderful it felt to be finally holding, touching and kissing her husband.
They separated long enough to look at each other before embracing again. Robert went to the side of the bus and retrieved his bags. A green army bag where his entire life traveled with him for the last year. He kept everything there. Nothing that couldn’t fit in that bag made it. He learned how to be austere with his personal belongings. Only the most important necessities and artifacts made it into his bag.
Robert hoisted the bag over his shoulders, held his wife’s hand and proceeded home. He’d asked Betty not to drive. He wanted to walk home. It was only a few blocks from the bus station and figured he needed to stretch his legs after such a long bus ride from the base.
“So, what’s doing Private?” Betty and Robert swung their hands together as they walked.
“You Suga’.” He said without looking at her. Robert instead looked around at the town he would now call home for the next two weeks. No one ventured out at this time of night.
The small shop windows were littered with all the things the towns people needed to live. The pharmacy that Mr. Bissman owned for the last thirty years brought back memories of buying snickers bars and skittles with his friends after school. The diner situated at the end of the block had the worst food, but the best entertainment. On Friday nights all the towns people would come in and sing karaoke until the early morning hours. The clothing store that Mrs. Williams ran which was located under her apartment was the place to go for all the happenings in town. There along with the barber shop and hair salon next door.
Robert smiled as he remembered getting in trouble for pelting Mrs. Martin after she’d gotten her hair done with water balloons. It was funny until he got home and his father wore his behind raw with punishment. A warm feeling washed over him.
Reaching their small house, right off main street, Robert stopped and took it all in.
For the last year, he’d been up to his neck in sand fighting for his and the life of his comrades. The heat and sand made a permanent home in his lungs and skin. Every second of every day was filled with battle. He was battling to stay alive to make it to this moment. Every second he was on high alert. For the last year, his heart never slowed, his anxiousness never waned. Constant life or death pressure filled his time.
And he fought. Fought for the wife that was standing beside him. Fought for their future children and the wives and children of his neighbors. Fought for the country he loved above all else. This was his. His land, his home, his country and it felt good. The lives he’d taken, the lives that were lost were for this. Home.
Because Robert believed, he had to fight them there, so he wouldn’t have to fight them here.