“Why do you have to leave?”
“The Marines aren’t willing to risk my baby’s life,” she said. “I have to go now. But I can come back.”
“Why the hell would you come back to this hellhole?”
She shook her head, unable to explain fully. “I feel like I’m accomplishing something here, Ben. I can’t really find the words.”
He took her hand and nodded. “You don’t need to. I understand. I was with a critically wounded young girl last night and all she cared about was her father’s well-being. I tried to comfort her and try to help her get beyond that while I bandaged her wounds. Her father was dead, of course. She didn’t want me to leave, and I stayed there until she fell asleep, compliments of narcotics.”
They’d reached the hospital entrance and went through the process of identification and going through security. Connie waited at the lounge area that they’d converted into another patient space and when she saw her friends, she ran toward them.
“What’s going on? I know it’s got to be bad, Bridget.”
“I’m pregnant, like I feared. I talked to the CO and I have to leave tomorrow.”
“Yeah. I thought they’d give me some time to say goodbye, but she wants me gone asap. I’m waiting for Don to email my orders.”
“What’s the plan?”
“Let’s find coffee,” she said. They walked down the hall littered with stretchers and moaning patients, the smell of death in the air. “Did you have any casualties from that bombing?”
“I didn’t get anyone but there must have been. I shouldn’t leave but I figured it must be bad if you’re willing to walk over here at night.”
“Marian made a guard walk me back to the barracks.”
“They said whenever there is a bombing, personal assaults increase.”
“It’s because of the chaos,” Ben said. “Opportunists take advantage of it.”
They stood in line at the cafeteria that was packed with family members and waited their turn at the coffee kiosk.
“There’s no table,” Ben said. “Let’s try the courtyard.”
There was a free bench and they quickly sat there, drinking coffee, waiting for Bridget to talk.
“I’ll let you know when I’m leaving, but this might be it for goodbye.”
“That sucks,” Connie said, near tears.
“She said I can come back after I deliver. I talked to the father and he’ll take the baby. I planted the seed, anyway. You’ll both still be here. For a little while, at least.”
“What are you going to do until the birth?”
“I have to go back to Pendleton,” Bridget said.
“No way!” they chorused.
“Yep, but it’s okay. I’d go stir-crazy if I wasn’t working. I’ll work until maternity leave starts. I guess that’s whenever my doctor says I have to quit. And I’ll go back to New Orleans then, either that or live with the father.”
“Is there anything there?” Ben asked, pointing to his heart.
“Not really, not of the heart. He’s a great guy; he’s fun and sexy, but we don’t really click. Confidentially, I think I’m a snob.”
“Ah, no one would ever call you a snob to your face,” Connie said, snickering.
“Yeah, an elitist, but not a snob,” Ben added.