"We're talking about this now?" Carly was having trouble comprehending what he was saying. They were on their way to drop him off, for Christ sakes! Alex was deploying to Iraq tonight. He had been called up a few months ago, and she couldn't quite believe how quickly the time had gone. She had approximately 20 minutes left with him and this is what he wanted to talk about?
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"Just listen. The life insurance should be about $250,000. I want you to buy the house with that. I want to make sure you're taken care of." He was referring to the house he had grown up in. They were planning to buy it in a couple of years after his parents finished building their retirement house. "There will be additional money from the death benefit, the police fund and some others, but that will be the biggest chunk of change."
"What do I get if you're merely maimed?"
"Ha. Nothing, so you'll have to hope for the worst."
All too soon they arrived at the dropoff point. The rest of the drive had been silent. Carly didn't understand how so many families did this. It was too hard! She had spent the previous three months hoping and praying for something to happen that wouldn't make this day appear. Maybe all of this war and conflict could resolve itself before he has to go. Maybe he'd be seriously, but not too seriously, injured in his regular job as a policeman and they won't let him go. Maybe they could move to Canada...she had run that by him and he wasn't too keen. She thought it was a better option than the serious injury but whatever.
She waited in the passenger seat as he unloaded the Explorer. Watching his pile of military things grow on the curb, she wondered how he could be taking all of this stuff and still there was no closet space in their house. Then, she felt bad for thinking such trivial things and concentrated on not crying instead.
"Alright darling, that's all of it. I'll call you when I get there." There was a base camp in California where his unit would gather before heading to the Middle East. He would be there almost a month, and Carly was relieved that she wouldn't have to worry about him right away.
"Ok...Have a safe trip."
"You too! I can't wait to hear how it's going."
"I'd much rather be going with you." Tears started to well in her eyes. He pulled her close to him and whispered, "I know, me too. But you're really going to like Hungary."
She didn't think she could say anything coherently, so she leaned her head into his shoulder and tried to commit his fragrance to her memory. She loved his scent, a combination of Eternity, sweat and fresh laundry. The morning after their first night together, she had secretly placed the hotel pillowcase in her bag because she wanted to take the scent home with her. The thought of what they had been through since that night brought the tears forth full strength.
"Honey, please don't cry. I love you so much and I promise I will be as safe as I can." She looked around at the seedy motel where the buses would pick them up. Couldn't they pick a nicer place to drop off our loved ones, she thought? This is the last time I'll see him for 18 months. I wonder why we can't just take them to the airport and say goodbye there? Lots of people say goodbye in airports and its not at all unusual to see people crying there. But she didn't feel right when across the street was another flophouse motel with several obvious drug deals in progress.
"Ok, I have to go." The finality of that statment jolted her back to the present.
"Ok. I'll send you my contact info when I have it. I love you."
"I love you the most" he replied. They hugged for a few more minutes that felt like microseconds and then he was gone.