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I won’t bother you again. I ran into your uncle and he told me you were at a civilian hospital, so hopefully you’re safe. Take care.

A simple text back with the request to Facetime seemed to be the best way to move forward. Luke could misconstrue too much in text messages and they didn’t have a lot of time to deal with misunderstandings.

Hey, Luke. Thank you for staying in touch. I’m sorry I haven’t responded until now. I have been in my own little world here. I’d like to tell you more about it if you’ll agree to Facetime with me. We’re nine hours ahead so I’m in my room for the evening. If you’d like, you can call me when you’re able.

She hit send, then leaned against the headboard of her bed and closed her eyes. A wave of tiredness floated over her body. He might choose to ignore her and she could hardly blame him. But in a minute, her phone rang.

She accepted it and his handsome face came up on the screen, the white marble of the kitchen backsplash revealing where he was. She remembered romantic moments in that kitchen that swept her off her feet.

Why had she resisted a relationship with him?

“Luke! Thank you.”

“You’re okay,” he said, clearly moved, concern on his face, his voice a little shaky. “What a relief. It’s a surprise to hear from you.”

“I’m sorry. I won’t make excuses. It’s been intense here, but that’s not why I didn’t stay in touch. I don’t have an excuse except I’ve been staying in the here and now and that means my job.”

“Your uncle told me you’d moved to Kandahar.”

She explained the situation, what it was like there, the hundreds of injured children she had cared for in four short months, many who died. Before long, she fell into the old comfort zone with him; talking to Luke had been easy before and it was easy again.

Telling the story of the children made her emotional; she just let it come, crying and blowing her nose while she put the phone on her bed, the camera aimed at her ceiling. Letting him know what it meant for her to be in Afghanistan, to be in the position to show love and compassion to families torn apart by war was something she trusted Luke to understand.

“I can’t even imagine,” Luke said when she finished. “I’m so proud of you, Bridget.”

She was taken aback. “You’re proud?”

“Yes! You’re so unselfish. You are risking your life to be there for those children.”

And that’s when the truth of what she did struck her. She wasn’t just risking her life. The life of her unborn baby was also at risk. Sliding her hand over her belly, she noticed for the first time a small pooch where their baby was growing inside of her. The moment was monumental.

“Luke, I’m pregnant. And it’s yours.”

Mouth open, eyes wide, the shock on his face made Bridget feel even more guilt. Then perfect timing, the connection faltered for a moment and his image pixelated and shifted and finally returned to normal.

“I don’t know what to say,” he replied, his mind moving in all different directions—from the positive of the nights they spent together, him using a condom, to the negative of having his heart broken when she left and didn’t answer his messages for four months. Although he didn’t say it out loud at that moment, the thought crossed his mind that he would have a paternity test done.

“What do you need me to do?”

“Luke, I’m not sure, but I need you right now. Your child is going to need you. I’m going to have to come home earlier than I wanted, before my tour is half over, because it’s my duty to protect the baby.”

She debated telling him she planned on returning to theMiddle Eastafter the birth, if it was possible. And then she realized it was possible, because if the Navy wouldn’t send her, she’d return on her own if she could; she felt that passionately about it.

“I can tell that you’re shocked, maybe even wondering if it’s yours since I know you used protection. They aren’t foolproof though. We’ll do a paternity test when it’s born.”

“When will you be home?” he asked, ignoring the conception discussion.

“I don’t know. I have to talk to my commanding officer right away. I can’t be sure the doctor I saw won’t say anything and I want to maintain a good relationship with her so she’ll let me come back.”

“You’re going back?” A sense of hysteria rose within Luke. “Where will the baby go while you’re gone?”

“I don’t know,” she said, treading carefully. “My parents won’t be interested; I can assure you of that. Will you think about keeping it?”

The shockers kept coming to Luke, and that was probably the biggest one yet.

“Can we talk about it?” he asked. “Or do I need to make up my mind right this second?”

“Of course, we can talk. I’ll let you know when I’m headed home.”

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