***Part Five***
Word Count: 3,094

It took over two weeks for him to get his first letter from anyone. He'd sent Claire, Sheila, and James his address the day he'd arrived. James and Sheila knew if Tony or Kevin asked for his information they could give it to them, but he didn't plan on going out of his way to write them. It was pretty clear to him during his time there that they were at different points in their lives. Tony might change some if the cheerleader he was interested in got interested back. She didn't strike John as the type to put up with drinking and drugging. Then what did he know? He never would've pegged Claire as the type to smoke up at all, and she had been the first one to join him in doing just that the day of detention.

He'd been out in the field the last week so he had no way of knowing when her letters actually got there, but he did notice the postmark was about three days after he'd mailed his letter to her. He was beyond exhausted as were most of the guys in his unit, but he wasn't the only one who tore open his mail anxious to read the contents.

Dear John,

You must have written me right away. I'm glad since you said you're only there for about two months. Then maybe two months seems like a lot longer to you than it does to me. I guess that's probably true. All I have to worry about is waking up on time for my eight o'clock class and getting homework done. I don't have drill instructors (they're instructors for you, right? I think I remember you saying that) interfering with everything I do.

Anyway, I had fun with you while you were here. I wasn't sure agreeing to a room with you was smart. I hope you know how tempting it was for me to give in and ask you for everything. Maybe you wouldn't have, you said you wouldn't have, and I believe you meant it. It was tempting, though. Sleeping beside you without Amy not more than ten feet away was nice, and very worth it. I still wish you would have let me pay for something while you were here. I felt sort of bad about that, but thank you for everything. The food isn't bad on-campus, but a couple of days break from it was nice.

By the way, I don't know if I told you I was glad you chose the Aquarium when we went out the Sunday in Chicago. It'd been a while since I'd been there. I would have gone to the zoo; I hope you know that even if it was a little cold. The Aquarium was nice, though. So, that's one place down you said you'd never been to. And then that way we didn't go to two zoos in less than a week. Besides while the one here is a nice zoo, seeing it right after going to Brookfield would have been a huge letdown. You didn't mention if you did anything else downtown before you came to see me. I have some ideas in mind for the next time we might both be in Chicago. You'll have to tell me if you went anywhere else.

Oh, and I liked your full uniform. I know you have a more formal one, but when I saw you Friday night at the football game you were wearing a sweater instead of the coat that made your uniform more of a suit. Not that the sweater wasn't nice, too. It was. Just the full uniform made you look more official.

And that sounded terrible. I'm sorry. I should probably start over, but I have a test in Biology tomorrow (have I mentioned that I HATE Biology) that I should be studying for, so I'll probably just send this and hope you know what I mean.

Anyway, I'll write again in a few days. I do remember you told me you may not be able to write often so I won't get mad or anything. I promise, but write when you can. Okay? I'll give you the dates I'll be home for Thanksgiving and Christmas, too. If you write to me around those dates, you may just want to send it to my parents' address. I'll write that at the bottom, too, and my phone number there in case you don't have it anymore. I still have my own line so you can call anytime without worrying about bothering Mom and Dad.

I hope you're doing well in school. Is that an appropriate thing to say? I mean, I want you to shoot well so you don't get killed and other soldiers around you don't either. Right? It just sounds so strange to wish someone luck learning to do that.

She didn't say a whole lot else. It was the front and most of the back of a piece of notebook paper. So, not super short. She mentioned a party at her sorority on the weekend. He imagined she probably had things like that to go to every weekend. She gave him the dates she'd be off for school, including when she'd be going home for the summer.

He refolded the letter, writing on the front of the envelope that it had her vacation dates in it. He had a little more room here than he had had at boot camp, but he still planned on keeping everything neat and orderly in his foot locker. That way when he was done in a couple of months he didn't have to worry about not having everything. The note on the envelope would make it easy for him to find the letter he was looking for when it came time for him to see about dates of leave.

There was a second letter from her. It didn't say a whole lot, hoping he'd gotten her first letter and that he was doing all right. She told him more about classes and mentioned some friends she'd gone to a party at her sorority with the weekend before. This letter must have just come in the last day or two, judging by the Sunday date she'd written on the paper.

Along with the letters from Claire was a letter from James' younger sister. That had surprised him immensely. She'd evidently seen the envelope to James and copied his address down because John couldn't for the life of him imagine James encouraging Samantha to write to him. She didn't say a whole lot and she didn't ask him to write her back. He wouldn't, of course. Even if he wasn't four years older than she was, she was his friend's sister, and hopefully someone whose parents would let him sleep on their couch again if need be. They wouldn’t do that if they had a clue Samantha had written him.

He put the letter back in the envelope, glancing briefly at the three envelopes. Very different handwriting. Samantha's was neat and nice, but Claire's was more … elegant for lack of a better word. Not that he knew much about penmanship, but he knew if he wanted someone to write a letter for him Claire's handwriting would be the one he'd want someone to think was from him. Well, if he was a girl anyway. He wondered if girls like Claire had lessons in things like handwriting. He had no doubt she'd gone to classes for etiquette, manners, and all sorts of things John wouldn't begin to comprehend. Debutante stuff. Had she had one of those formal coming out parties? He had no idea as he'd never bothered to think much about her before the day of detention.

He didn't have a whole lot of time, but he wrote a quick letter to James. He had to tell him Samantha wrote to him. He didn't want to get Samantha in trouble, but he also didn't want to risk having his friend's mother's generosity and kindness end because of something beyond his control. He told James to be sure Samantha knew he appreciated the letter and that he wasn't mad she'd written to him. He had to admit if she wrote him again, he'd read the letter but he wouldn't write her back. That letter written, sealed, and addressed he focused on the next one.

His letter to Claire was going to be a little lengthier. One thing he hadn't mentioned to her was that no one actually went through mail letters were taken and read by other guys once in a while. It'd happened to him the first letter or two Sheila had written until the guys in his barracks realized Sheila wasn't a girlfriend.

So, he made sure to close the letter cautioning her not to say anything in a letter she wouldn't want a bunch of other guys in school with him to know. That included things he'd mentioned to her that those same guys had no business knowing. Hopefully she'd know what he was talking about, but he didn't need everyone here to know about his experiences (sexual or otherwise). He also told her he'd try to call her over the weekend, though the letter would arrive after the phone call because he'd try to call tomorrow morning if he could.

By the time he got that done it was about lights out time. He got that letter ready to go as well and then settled himself in for the night. Now that he'd gotten a couple of letters from her he could think about calling her over the weekend. He hadn't last weekend when he'd had the opportunity because he really hadn't known what to think about their situation. Their night together had been pretty nice. Actually, he had to admit it was probably the nicest night of his life. Pathetically, nothing had happened between them. At least nothing that hadn't happened before that night without the benefit of them being in a motel room with no chance of being disturbed. Her clothes had stayed on, his shorts had remained on. The rest had come off. It had seemed important to her for some reason that she see him.

He wasn't sure why, but being the sucker he was when it came to her he did it. He was pretty sure she had no idea that his back and legs were as bad as they were. Honestly, he wasn't even sure how bad his back was, but he'd heard the reactions from people a time or two over the past few months to know it wasn't pretty. He didn't look at himself in a mirror, though. His legs, well, he could see those. The backs of them bore the brunt of the damage. Anyone who tried to say that getting smacked by a belt didn't hurt or harm anything needed only to look at him as proof they were lying.

He wouldn't deny it was nice, but sitting here now the idea of another couple of months with little to no privacy made him wish she had asked or pushed for something more to happen between them. That was crazy thinking because the last thing either of them needed was that between them. He thought they both knew it wasn't a lack of wanting to, certainly they were both curious. The timing was just off. If he'd been able to spend all of his ten days with her.

Well, maybe.

Who knew, really? He did know that if he'd taken things too far and something happened, either on his end or her end, he'd feel guilty. He sure hated the thought of her with another guy and she obviously was bothered by him being with another girl but months was a long time with sporadic communication. He knew part of his two months here would be out in the field as the past week had been. He told her because he'd been warned in advance but being told and not hearing from someone over a weekend when you know they get weekend calls was different.

It was early the next morning when he got in line for the phones. He could have waited until tonight, but he thought he had a better chance of catching her in a dorm room on a Saturday morning than on a Saturday night. With the time difference it was almost nine o'clock there since she was in the Eastern Time Zone in Indiana. Weird to be about one hundred miles from home and in a different time zone.

'Hello.'

"Is Claire there?"

'This is.'

"Hi. It's John."

'Good morning. How are you?'

"I'm good. You? You sound sleepy. Did I wake you?"

'A little. I'm fine, though.'

"A little? Sorry. I was thinking this would be a better time than tonight."

'Umm, yeah, I was out kind of late last night. And you're fine. You can call whenever.'

"You sure do like those parties your sorority has."

'They're fun.'

"If you say so. I got your letters yesterday."

'Both of them on the same day?'

"Yeah, I was in the field all week so the first one came after we left and I'm guessing the second one came yesterday. Thank you."

'You don't have to thank me.'

"Well, I liked reading them and I want to be sure to tell you that so you send more."

'They were pretty boring.'

"There's nothing wrong with boring. That's probably pretty good anyway until I get my permanent orders. You know? Less nosey people there to mess with my stuff."

'Oh,' she said.

She was quiet then.

"You didn't say anything wrong in them, no one read them. Believe me, I heard a couple of letters while in boot camp read out loud that would make a porn star blush. I think we're safe from that for now anyway."

'So I shouldn't write you about the things I want to do to you?'

He groaned softly. "You can write about whatever you want, Princess. I'm just warning you that my eyes may not be the only ones who see it."

'I'll never meet any of them.'

"No. Unless you came for my graduation."

Silence again.

'Really?'

"It'll be during your Christmas break, but I've heard it's no big deal. I was just saying they'd see you if you came for that."

'I'm not sure I could, but I could ask my parents. When is it?'

"December twenty-eighth."

'I can see if my parents would be willing to let me go.'

"Let you go see a guy graduating from the Marines? I doubt that'll go over at all. You don't have to, Claire. I was just saying that's the only way they'd see you to put a face with the name. I'd at least have the night off, though, maybe one or two before I had to leave for my base. But you write whatever ideas come to mind you want to write down. Just know they may be read by others. And I'd prefer things I told you in confidence stay out of those letters."

'Yeah. I get it,' she said.

"Thank you."

'Porn star blush? Really? That bad?'

"God, yes. The poor guy was pretty embarrassed. I don't think she realized what she'd written might be seen by others."

"See and I would just assume."

"Right? I mean, this isn't prison, we don't have wardens going through our mail, but it's a bunch of guys who sometimes lack for better things to do then picking on someone who gets letters from his girlfriend. Especially when some of those guys get no mail."

"They weren't even married?"

He chuckled. "No."

"How many did she write like that?"

"I'm not sure how many came before the last few, and with no access to phones he couldn't very well call her and tell her not to write that stuff."

"Did you see her?"

He chuckled. "Yes. More than a few of us made a point of scoping her out at graduation."

"You were checking out his girlfriend?"

"Well, Princess, we had to see if she was worth the embarrassment."

"Was she?"

"Not to me she wouldn't have been."

"Why not?"

"Because she wasn't you."

'I'm not sure I'd even know how to write a letter like that.'

"You have the next four years to find out."

'I guess I do. How was the field?'

"Princess," he said softly.

'Don't want to talk about it. Gotcha. Um.'

"No, you can ask me whatever you want. It's just I get ten minutes with you I don't want to talk about the past week I spent sleeping in the dirt. You know?"

'You slept in dirt?'

He chuckled softly. "It's the Marines, sweetheart."

'I guess it is.'

"You still have my shirt?"

'Yes,' she said softly.

"Wearing it?"

'I am actually.'

"I like that idea a lot."

'It's a little big.'

"It's supposed to be, it's my shirt."

'I know. Both it and my blanket smell like your cologne.'

"Is that bad?"

'No, I like it. It'll fade I suppose.'

"I left the bottle at James' house. I could have him send it to you."

'Not the same.'

"I know," he said.

'Why'd you leave it there?'

"Not much need for it here," he shrugged, not that she could see it.

'Good to know.'

He chuckled. "On that note, I should probably go."

'So soon?'

"Yeah, we only get a few minutes and there's still quite a line behind me."

'Oh, I suppose, everyone's calling home especially if you were gone all week.'

"Yeah. Are you going to go back to sleep?"

'Maybe.'

"I hope you sleep well then."

'Talk to you next weekend?'

"Unless I get some time during the week."

'Okay. I'm not sure what to say. Be careful?'

"That works. Thanks. I'll talk to you later, Claire."

'You always sound so serious when you say my name.'

He chuckled again. "I'll work on that."

'Why?'

"You want me to go through life calling you Princess?"

'It's not so bad, though sweetheart was kind of nice.'

"Hmm. You noticed that?"

'I did.'

"Me, too. You didn't say anything so I wasn't sure. I'll call again soon."

'Okay,' she said.

He hung up first, hated doing it. He was never much of a talking on the phone person. He wasn't much of a letter writer either for that matter. He'd also never had anyone he wanted to talk or write to before.

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