“Because I love you and if I croak, I want you and my daughter to have a place to live.”
“Oh, don’t talk that way.”
“Seriously, would that help?”
“Luke, no offense but this conversation is stressing me out.”
She took his hand and kissed it—a first. “I’m never washing my hand again,” he said.
Arriving at the store brought on the first misgivings about the outing for Bridget. “I don’t know about this.” The parking lot full of cars suddenly intimidated her.
“What is it that is bothering you?”
“Exposure, I guess. People staring at me.”
“I’ll fuck them up if they dare say a word. Come on. We’re shopping for your welcome home party if anyone wants to know.”
Cackling, his cursing amused her; she was probably able to count on one hand the number of times he did so in front of her.
“Okay, but don’t fight on my account,” she said, pushing the door open. He waited for her, holding his arms out, and she let him lift her out of the truck.
They walked in together, hand in hand, and people looked at them, but admiringly, the beautiful young woman who had obviously been in some kind of horrific accident and her handsome companion.
An older gentleman wearing a Vietnam Veteran cap passed them in the dairy aisle and Bridget couldn’t help it; she gave him a thumbs-up, needing to connect.
“Afghanistan,” she said.
He stopped, taking in the eyepatch and her leg, and saluted her. “Thank you for your service, miss.”
It was a salient moment in her recovery, one that she would repeat in the future when confronted with another obvious veteran. Luke noticed the difference immediately when she relaxed and seemed to enjoy the shopping trip.
“I wish there was a way you could identify who you are,” he said.
“You mean, like that hat?”
“Not a hat. I don’t know what it would be, but people should know that you sacrificed for them.” He looked away for a moment.
“It’s okay, Luke.” She grabbed his hand, touched by his emotion. “You know what I gave up. The people in my life know. That’s enough.”
She looked for the snack aisle, grabbing bags of every forbidden chip. After choosing enough junk, they moved on.
With a party in mind, they looked for party food: wings, cheese and meats, fruit and veggie trays, a cold shrimp platter, and sandwich platters.
“This is enough!” she cried. “How many people did you invite?”
“Just your cousins. We need dessert.” The last thing he got was a gigantic layer cake.
“I’ve had enough,” Bridget said, pulling his arm. “Let’s get in line. I can feel my gut getting bigger just looking at this stuff.”
“You probably walked another mile in here today.”
They made the trek to the checkout.
“We’ve got to stop meeting like this.”
They turned to see Katrina Blanchard standing behind them, dressed to the nines.