There is a wonderful party after the ceremony. After a special dance, Deacon takes Fiddlestix back to bed. The following morning, Jasper wakes them again, because it’s time for her to go home.
“I don’t want to go, Deacon. I wish I could stay with you forever.”
“You could, Hannah-Belle.”
“I’ve got commitments, Deacon. I can’t walk out on them.”
“I know, baby, I just don’t want you to go.”
“I’ll come back.”
“Cross my heart,” she whispered, her voice catching in her throat.
“I’m gonna hold you to that promise, Hannah. You stole my heart right out of my chest. You can’t stay gone, a man can’t live with long without his heart.”
“I’ll give you mine then,” she placed her hand on his chest.
She could feel his heart beating strong and fast. Suddenly terrified by the idea of commitment, she kissed him one last time and dashed from the room. Deacon followed her to the door, stopping just outside the compound as she and her people prepared to march down the mountain. Their air transport, sent by Captain Bark, would pick them up near their drop point and take them back to their base.
Deacon raised his hand, whistling to catch her attention. The sharp, shrill sound rent the air. Fiddlestix turned and grinned, raising a hand to wave goodbye. Deacon blew her a kiss which she returned. One last, fond look and she ran to the head of the formation, bellowing at her troops.
“Move it out! Double time. Don’t make me wait!”
“Yes, Master Sergeant!” they yelled in unison, speeding up.
The last Deacon saw of her was her spiky, blonde hair bobbing at the head of the column. That faded into the mist that hung over the mountain top. With a heavy sigh, he turned and walked disconsolately back into the compound. Jasper ran up behind him, nearly tackling him.
“Yo, big brother! You’ve got a meeting at 1100.”
“Yeah? So what? Maybe I’ll cancel all my meetings today.”
“No can do, bro. Life’s got to go on, Deacon. Even if she’s gone, you can’t stop doing your duty.”
“I know. It’s duty got me into this, it’s duty that will keep me going until she comes back.”
Punching his brother in the arm, he walked to his office. He sat behind the desk that had been his father’s and grandfather’s before him, wondering what else life had in store.
Fiddlestix had to force herself not to keep looking back. She knew Deacon would stand at the door until she was out of sight. If she looked back at him, she didn’t know if she’d be able to stand it.
Kaz jogged up next to her, puffing hard. “Master Sergeant, can we slow it down a little? Some of us, me included, can’t keep up. I’m hurtin’ bad. If you don’t slow down, I’m gonna drop dead. Hell of a note to live through the battle, and die of exhaustion.”
Fiddlestix laughed and slowed down. “Sorry. I had to make a clean break. If I hadn’t, I don’t know if I’d have left.”
“You could have stayed.”
“And make you face McLain alone?”
Kaz looked wistfully back at the mountain peak. “I wouldn’t have minded staying myself, Master Sergeant.” He sucked air in sharply. “Damn, that girl was fine! I could have stayed my whole life and never been sorry a day. When I get out of the Army, I’m going back. I’m going home.”
“I’m not the settling down kind, Kaz. It was fun while it lasted, but it’s not the life for me.”
“You might surprise yourself, Master Sergeant. I seen the way you looked at Deacon. You ain’t gonna admit it to yourself, but you’re hooked on that big, blond hillbilly.”
“And I suppose you aren’t hooked on Betsy?”
“I’m gonna marry that girl and have a passel of pretty, redheaded babies.”
“I truly hope you can, Kaz.”
© 2018 Dellani Oakes