“You tell me,” she snickered. “In here fellas!” Lily felt her mouth drop wide open in shock as three more delivery men arrived carrying bouquets of roses. The perfume filled the air and she couldn’t help the smile that split her face. They set all four down on her desk, effectively covering it completely.
“Boys and girls- please, no talking during test time,” she said suddenly as a small uproar of conversation started. “Mrs. Beckett – will you take my photo?” she asked firmly, handing her the near-empty Polaroid.
“Oh, you betcha. You! Eyes on your own paper, don’t think we don’t see you,” Maria blurted out, pointing at the boy in the first row. Lily stood as close to the roses as possible and smiled happily. She’d mail the photo immediately to John. She heard another click and whir, glancing at Maria.
“This one’s for you, girlie.” Maria’s warm eyes looked at her knowingly. Lily just smiled and nodded. She held up her phone, so she could see the photo of him, and was startled when suddenly she was hugged. “Good for you! I’m happy for you!” The older woman composed herself and straightened her outfit with a wide smile.
“You go ahead and get back at it, but I’d move this one if I were you,” she said, pointing at the boy in the front whose neck was stretched as far as possible towards the next desk. He was obviously peeking. Lily rolled her eyes as she spotted the boy Maria was talking about, and while she was disappointed in the fact he was cheating, nothing could take from her day at this point. It was Friday and she would have to wait a few more days before John called again.
She spent the weekend running a few errands and simply looking for the right shade of orange. She loved orange roses and as she perused the baskets, she came across a tea rose that seemed simply perfect: Over the Moon. It was a pale orange rose with an incredible scent. The petals were a deep gold that faded to orange. She opted for the larger potted variety because she wanted to be able to nurse at least a few blooms before it went dormant for the winter. It was still beautiful outdoors, but the air was taking a cooler turn in the evenings.
Lily had taken several of the roses John had sent her and selected the best ones, putting them in potatoes in order to force them to root. She loved roses and wanted a reminder of his gift for years to come. At this rate, she’d have bouquets everywhere from the plethora of growth she was trying to achieve for next year. Halloween would be here before she knew it , and she had mailed John & Radar a trick-or-treat box. She’d slipped the Polaroid inside, so he could see the gift. Part of her was curious of his release from the military and wondered if he’d miss this life. She knew he claimed to be ready, but who is ever really ready for their world to be turned upside down.
Tuesday rolled around, and she eagerly awaited his call. She’d watched that video several times over the last few weeks, just to see him move or talk. It was a yearning and silent prayer she acknowledged over and over again.Please let this be right, let this be true.
Looking at his eyes as he glanced at the camera in the video, she found herself imagining what it might be like to actually see him, see his smile, or hear his laugh. She wondered about the little things, such as if he had any bad habits? Did he smoke?
In the video she’d ogled how fit he looked and wondered if he was a gym-rat and would frown at her own lackadaisical fitness routine…as in non-existent. And deep down inside? She wondered if he would be disappointed in her or regret the things he’d said or done to kindle a friendship. She knew she had no confidence in herself, but the idea of this beautiful man finding fault in her made her ache with a pain like nothing else.
Lily was sitting there at her laptop watching him when her phone rang almost on clockwork. It was 10pm and their usual time.
“Hey John,” she chimed happily into the phone.
“Hey sweetheart, I can’t talk long; we are heading on patrol in just a few minutes. I just had to hear your voice.”
“Is everything okay?”
“Oh yes, I’m just wrapping up here and my discharge is November 1st. I wanted to tell you as soon as I got a date because I didn’t want you to mail anything else and it arrive after I leave. I can’t wait to get back to the States.”
“I’m so happy for you.”
“My parents are picking me up at the airport in Lexington and then I will call you as soon as I get a cell phone there. Don’t forget about me or find some other guy, okay?” she heard the nervous tremor in his voice and her heart nearly broke.
“Like there could ever be anyone else? I mean, who else adores the orange food coloring they put in circus peanuts like we do? You and I are besties,” she teased softly.
“We are more than that, I hope.”
“John,” she began and heard him interrupt quickly.
“I gotta go- but don’t back out on me! Be my brave girl. I’ll call back as soon as I can. Sweet dreams, Lily.”
“Be safe,” she whispered and heard the telltale click. She sighed heavily and stared at her phone. His warm eyes looked up at her and she felt her heart clench painfully. Staring up at the ceiling, she clasped her hands together tightly and clenched her eyes shut.
“Please God, I don’t think I could settle for less than his heart because I already know he has mine. Keep him safe for me and bring him home,” she prayed desperately.
Lily felt completely drained and distraught. She’d not heard from John since that call and was worried out of her mind. She’d gotten a few letters here and there from him but they were all dated weeks ago. Beautiful pencil sketches from the pad of paper she’d sent him. He’d captured a graceful rose from his memory perfectly. Radar had apparently sat as a model and she could see the scar where her eye had been, as well as her jovial tongue hanging out to the side. He had a talent for capturing the moment.
Part of her listened to that little voice in her head screaming that John had been using her until he’d gotten out and now that he was back in the states – that beautiful man had found someone else. She could practically picture her in her mind too. She bet the woman was a supermodel with long blond hair and a Barbie-esque waist. She picked up a pencil, gave her hair a twist and stabbed it through the chignon viciously, wincing as the lead contacted her scalp.
Wasn’t this wretched silence over with yet?