“It’s kind of weird,” Luke said.
“I know, so farm animal-like,” Bridget added. “But it’s really the sign that the community has our back. I won’t worry at all while I’m gone. You’ll have support and that was my biggest concern.”
The two months together, along with the intimacy of the birth, hadn’t changed their relationship much. It was easygoing, congenial, and only when they had sex, passionate. The rest of the time they were two people who’d had a child together.
As the time grew closer for Bridget’s departure, Luke was despairing. But putting it into words escaped him. What was there to say? Nothing had changed. They were friends. She was going to go off to war, endangering her life.
That was the other thing. A lawyer client of Luke’s for whom he’d built an addition off the man’s Saint John’s Parish house, drew up Bridget’s will, naming Luke as Emily’s father, giving him sole custody, and if she should die, making him the beneficiary of her life insurance, a move that would enrage her parents when they received a copy of the revised will.
The hours ticked by and finally it was time for Luke to take Bridget to the airport. Their new nanny Margaret, Katrina and Dave’s nanny Luanne’s sister, had spent the night because Bridget’s flight was at seven. They had to leave for New Orleans at four in the morning.
Bridget’s anguish shocked Luke. He knew she’d be upset, but she was more than that; she was heartbroken. Margaret even sobbed, holding the baby while Luke and Bridget fussed over her, Bridget saying goodbye for the last time.
“Why did I think this would be easy?” she cried, inconsolable.
“I don’t know,” Luke said. “I had a feeling you were in denial about leaving.”
“I didn’t think it would be a big deal,” she wept.
The night before, she’d nursed Emily for the last time and then took pills to dry up her milk. The doctor had advised her to do it days before but she refused. She wanted to nurse her right up to the last moment.
That time was upon them.
“Come on, sweetheart, you need to step on it. You don’t want to miss your flight.”
Margaret came down with them and watched from the doorway as the truck pulled away, Bridget sobbing again, waving goodbye to her baby.
At the airport, it was worse. Luke didn’t know what to do because Bridget was frantic about leaving the baby.
“Honey, I promise, she’ll be fine. I’ll send you pictures around the clock. We’ll do Facetime hourly if we have to.”
“I’ll be on a plane for a day,” she cried. “I’ll miss that time with her.”
“I’ll do videos and you can watch to make up for lost time,” he said. “I promise you.”
She couldn’t deny that she had to leave. The packed airport meant it would take her time to get through security even if they gave military personnel preferential treatment.
Finally, she realized she was leaving Luke, too. “I’ll miss you so much. Oh, Luke, this is so awful. I’m so sorry.”
“It’s okay, sweetheart. Everything will be okay.”
“I’m not sure it will be,” she said.
“Do you want to not go and contact your CO?” he asked.
“No, I can’t do that. I have to go.”
Forcing herself, she pulled away from him and got on the escalator, only looking back once and blowing him a kiss.
An older man came up alongside Luke. “She’s pretty upset. Must be headed to basic training.”
“Actually, she’s leaving her newborn to go to Afghanistan.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry.”
“So am I,” Luke said.
He turned away to send a text to Bridget.I’ll wait inside for a while,he said.