Frank wakes with the same thought he had when he went to bed — making love to Marka. Despite her reticence to get involved so soon, Marka can’t help being greatly attracted to Frank. While she’s trying to serve dinner, he makes his intentions quite clear.
She giggled, wiggling her derriere at him as she lifted the tray. Frank groaned and put on his shirt. He tried to distract himself. He was willing to forgo food forever for one night with her.
“Quit staring at my ass and help me lift this out of the oven,” she commanded.
Doing as she asked, he took the proffered oven mitts and pulled the pan of lasagna out of the oven. It bubbled invitingly. The aroma overwhelmed him and he almost dropped it. Setting it carefully on the stove top, he stepped back as she cut huge slabs of it and shoveled them onto plates.
Frank cut the garlic bread and found silverware. They balanced their plates on their knees as they sat together on the loveseat.
“This is delicious,” he said with his mouth full. “It tastes almost as good as you too.”
She smirked. “Thanks. I’m glad you like it. It’s made with ground turkey.”
“No kidding? Can’t tell the difference.”
They ate in silence for a few minutes, savoring the food.
“So tell me, Frank, how is it you seem to know everyone, but you’ve only been here about three years?”
He laughed, wiping his mouth with his hand. “I grew up here. When I left the Army, I was at loose ends. Jen’s husband was dead, my dad was sick, so my mom suggested I come home. I started working here part time in the accounting office. From there, I moved to purchasing. Got this job a few months ago.”
“How’s your dad?”
“He’s doing well, thanks. Heart cath and a pacemaker, he’s got another thirty years in him.”
“And your sister?”
“She’s alive. . . .” He got very quiet.
“You said he served with you?”
“Yeah. I was his commanding officer. That’s how they met—through me. He didn’t have any family, so I brought him home every break we got. Clay met Jen and pow, instant connection. They e-mailed each other, talked on the phone. . . . He took her on cyber dates. They’d go someplace and get a cup of coffee and talk over Skype. He married her six months later. They were together three years.”
“Before he died?”
“Before I got him killed.”
“You can’t blame yourself, Frank. It’s war.”
“I was his commander. I put him on that detail. The convoy got attacked. I mean, you expect that, okay? Nothing’s a milk run in a war zone. I had my best men on it and they all died. It was my fault.”
“Were you there?”
He scoffed, taking a sip of his iced tea. “I was ordered to stay on base. I knew something was wrong when we lost radio contact. I sent a chopper to check on them and rode in it myself. We found them. The road had been mined. We’d checked for that, but we missed it. I still, to this day, don’t know how we did. I’ve had a knot of self-loathing in my chest since it happened. It never stops, never goes away.” He stopped eating, hanging his head. “The C.O. said I wasn’t to blame. They wanted to give me a medal for my actions. I told them to give it to the men who died that day.”
Marka set their food aside. “You can’t keep beating yourself up about that.”
“It was my fault, Marka. I got my own brother-in-law killed. He didn’t even see his youngest son born. My sister’s twenty-five and a widow.”
“She’s young. She can marry again.”
He nodded. “And her boys will grow up never knowing their father.”
“Then you’ll have to tell them about him when they get older. That’s your job as their uncle, and his friend.”
“Thanks.” He looked up at her with a half smile. “That knot in my chest loosened up a little.”
“Eat your dinner.” She handed him his plate. “So, you’re one of the fighting Trojans, huh?”
He chuckled, nodding. “Yeah. I did the whole jock bit. Basketball, baseball, football, golf.”
“Golf? You play golf?” Her tone was disbelieving.
“Yeah, I even have the funny pants to prove it.”
“How about the shoes with fringe?”
“Got them too.”
“You do not look like a golfer.”
“And you don’t look like a shrink.”
“Valid point. What do I look like?”
“The woman I could fall in love with.” This time, he took their plates, putting them in the kitchen.
When he came back, she was sitting nervously on the couch. He sat next to her, so close, she could feel the heat of his body.
“I know you don’t want to do anything yet and I get that. It’s killing me. . . . So, if I can’t make love to you, let’s talk. I’m sure you’ve got all kinds of questions.”
“You do too.”
“Yeah. So, who goes first?”
“You’ve just made a huge revelation. I guess it’s my turn.”
© Dellani Oakes