Colonel Casey leaned back in her chair and studied a photograph of her family—husband, two grown daughters, and sons-in-law.
“You’ll return to the States right away. This is no place for a pregnant Navy nurse.”
“Will I be able to come back?”
A stunning question, it was one Colonel Casey didn’t expect. Almost like it had been orchestrated, a rocket blast reverberated, shaking the building, dust trickling down from the ceiling.
“Whoa. That was close.” She looked up at the source of dust. “You have childcare lined up?”
“I do,” she lied.
“And you want to come back to Kandahar.”
“Yes, ma’am. I think I’m making a difference here. I want to finish my tour if you’ll approve it.”
“I don’t see why not. But in the meantime, pack your bags. I’ll get Don working on your orders. You can stop by and say hello to your family and then on to Camp Pendleton until you start your maternity leave.”
“Thank you, ma’am.”
“Say goodbye to Ben and Connie.”
She stood up and Bridget stood. Colonel Casey held out her hand, so Bridget took it.
“Thank you, Colonel.”
“Let us know when you deliver and when you want to return.”
She walked out into the front office. “Don, please get a guard to walk her back.”
It was just that easy. She longed to get Ben and Connie together but would call Luke first. Following the same drill, she sent him a text asking if it was convenient to talk and he called her back within the minute.
His face appeared, shimmering with the poor connection, his voice disjointed and robotic.
“That was fast.”
“Yes. She was supportive. But I have to leave right away.”
“Okay,” he answered. “Tell me what to do.”
“I’ll go to New Orleans first and tell my parents. I’m not sure how they’ll take it, to be honest. But then I have to go back to Camp Pendleton and work until I deliver.”
“I don’t understand,” Luke said. “I thought they’d relieve you of duty or whatever it’s called until the baby was born.”
“I’m only four months. Six weeks maternity leave is the max unless I have a C-section, then it’s eight, or something like that.”
“Wow, I don’t mind telling you how disappointed I am.”
“Aw, Luke, I’m sorry. I’m obligated. It’s not what I asked for. I never asked for the deployment. It’s just a miracle it worked out so well.”
“I don’t mean to sound selfish, but what am I supposed to do now? I thought we’d get the baby’s space ready. Are you going to deliver somewhere else and just dump the baby off here? Or do I get to be part of the experience? I want to see you pregnant and feel the baby move. I want to be there when it’s born.”
Overwhelmed with his requests, Bridget knew it was reasonable; he wasn’t asking for too much, but it was more than she had answers for.
“Luke, can we take it a day at a time? I need to get home first. I have to pack up my life here and be prepared to take a seventeen-hour trip tomorrow. I’m not sure they can even get me on a flight tomorrow.”
“I’m sorry,” he said. “You just need to know what I expect. And I expect to be involved from the get-go or not at all. I can’t have my heart broken again.”
“Did I break your heart?” she asked, flabbergasted. It felt a little dramatic that his heart would break after such a short time together.