If history repeated itself, that meant he might not hear from her for a while.
“Bridget, don’t let four more months pass before you get in touch, please.”
“I promise. I’m sorry. We have a lot to talk about and decide.”
“Please let me know what your commanding officer tells you,” he said, slightly demanding, his voice more forceful than she’d heard in the weeks they’d been together.
“I’ll call you as soon as I speak with her.”
They said goodbye, and she felt like he held back, either from telling her how much he missed her or that she was a jackass for ignoring him for four months.
Regrouping, she needed to head to the field offices of the command base to get an appointment with her commanding officer. In the past if she needed to leave the protection of the barracks, she just left. But after talking to Luke, after that moment of clarity where she confronted the reality of new life and responsibility, she donned her full body armor, holster, and weapon, shamed that she’d secretly ridiculed other nurses in the past, seeing them on the street protected as much as possible with the vests and helmets.
The path from the barracks to the field office wound through a path of cinderblock walls and armed guards who saluted her as she passed by. One guard she’d become familiar with spotted her armor and grinned after saluting her.
“Lieutenant Benoit, I’m happy to see you’re protected today, ma’am.”
“Yep, can’t take any chances,” she said.
Arriving at the office, she showed her identification and asked to speak with the evening secretary, Chief Warrant Officer Don Krause, who was really the commanding officer’s right hand. Bridget wasn’t exactly well known on base because she worked at the civilian hospital, but the secretary remembered her from the transfer when they’d talked in depth about his family and hers, striking up a friendship. He saluted her when she walked through the door.
“Stop, Don,” she said. “You never have to salute me.”
“Yes, I do. You know she doesn’t see anyone at this hour,” Don said, concerned. “Is it an emergency?”
“No. I know I won’t sleep tonight if I don’t at least make the appointment.”
“Sounds important, Bridget. Can you tell me?”
“I’d better wait and tell her first,” Bridget said.
Don looked at her and nodded.
“She’s still here. Have a seat and I’ll see if she can talk to you now.”
“Oh God, I’m not prepared.”
“That’s the best time,” he said, getting up from his chair. He walked around and patted her on the shoulder. “My daughter is your age. Do you know what I would tell her?”
“Nothing is as bad as it seems.”
“It’s pretty bad, sir.”
“You don’t have to sir me,” he said. “Sit down. I’ll be right back.”
Less than five minutes later, Colonel Marian Casey, dressed in a corps sweatshirt and blue jeans, came out of the back offices, followed by Don. Bridget stood up and saluted her.
“At ease, Lieutenant, come on back.”
Bridget followed her through the door, catching Don’s eye before she disappeared and he winked at her. All would be well.
For being a temporary field office, the commander had filled it with nursing memorabilia from her history with the Navy and immediately Bridget felt at home. She’d wanted to be part of making history in the Nurse Corps. But she’d screwed up, and it was yet to be seen if they’d even allow her to finish out her obligation to the Navy, let alone come back to Kandahar.
“How can I help you tonight?”
“Ma’am, I found out I’m pregnant. It happened right before I deployed.”