***Part Seventeen***
Word Count: 1,612

December 1985

Princess,

I know it’s been a while. I’m sorry for that. While I can’t say where I am, I can say I’m okay. Just busy. Remember those callouses on top of callouses I worried you’d think were too rough back in December? That seems ages ago now, doesn’t it? Anyway, I’ve been doing so many drawings that I’ve developed new ones from the pencils I use. Who knew?

I hope sorority house living is all that you were expecting it to be. I also hope that you’re staying out of trouble while living there. While I don’t worry about you exactly I do worry about others around you causing you to get in trouble.

Thank you for your packages. I’m sorry I didn’t get a letter off after the first one. I started one, but by the time I got to get back to it days later things happened that I couldn’t write you about anyway so I just sort of decided to start over. I never got to do that. There just aren’t enough hours in the day it seems.

I love you, I hope you believe that and know that I think if we get through this we’ll be able to manage getting through most anything. I may not write you every day like you do to me (and I appreciate very much by the way) but I think about you more than I should probably admit to.

Proof I’ve thought of you more than I probably should is enclosed. I miss hearing your voice. I miss hearing you tell me about your week of classes, even if I didn’t understand half of the shit you were saying. There’s a reason I’m a Marine and not a college student. This stuff doesn’t go over my head. I hope you like it and it makes a good Christmas present. One of these years I’ll actually be with you on Christmas to be able to give you something nicer than the last couple.

Love,
John

She unfolded the enclosed sheet of paper carefully. She knew without having to see it that it was a drawing.

“Wow, that’s amazing,” her friend Ashley said.

“Thank you,” Claire said. She couldn’t agree more as she looked at it. She was standing on some rocks overlooking a body of water. She wasn’t naked, but she wasn’t wearing much either. He’d even captured her hair being swept up by the wind vividly. It wasn’t tasteless, certainly no worse than a swimsuit. She was wearing the scarf he’d bought and she noticed he’d even drawn the ring he’d given her. It was on her right hand, though, and she wondered why he’d drawn it that way.

“Why’d he go into the Marines again?” she asked.

“What do you mean?” Claire asked.

“Ability like that he could do anything he wanted,” Ashley said.

“He is doing what he wants to do,” Claire said defensively. So many people didn’t get that. They didn’t know John had been presented with two options, picking the Marines over jail. They didn’t need to know that because it wasn’t important. He seemed to have found what he was supposed to be doing. It took a push to get him there, but who could argue with someone serving their country and wanting to do that?

“Gotcha. Just usually there’s a reason it seems people go in anymore.”

“I guess I don’t know anyone else to compare or question it. I know he likes it.”

“Is that your bathing suit?”

Claire laughed. “No, I’m not nearly that bold.”

“You may want to consider being that bold if that’s how he sees you.”

“It is nice,” Claire said.

“You going to take that one home, too?”

“At least to see if Mom can get a frame for it. I might bring it back.”

“How much longer?”

“Until he’s back? Two months.”

“That’s not bad.”

“It’s better than the seven we started out with.”

“It’s a good thing you’re doing.”

“What?”

“Sticking with him. Not everyone would or could. I saw you with him at the end of year banquet in the spring. You seem happy together.”

“Of course I’m happy with him.”

“Again, not everyone could do it. Going months in between visits would be hard.”

“It’s not easy, and I won’t deny I thought real hard about switching schools this year.”

“You didn’t though.”

“No, he convinced me not to.”

She laughed. “It would’ve been a real long seven months at a new school so far from home.”

“I know, at least he’s going back to that base. He may not stay there, though, which was his original reason for telling me not to.”

“Well, I’ll let you write your response to him. I know you’re dying to.”

“Thanks,” Claire said.

“Sure, see you later.”

Claire couldn’t help but stare at the drawing. It was beautiful. The thing that struck her, though, was how beautiful he drew her being. She saw herself as pretty enough, but not like this. The woman in this picture. Well, it made her think of Helen of Troy and the story about her. She didn’t think she was Helen, but it made her wonder though, if he was in Greece and the scenery rubbed off or influenced his drawing of her.

She set the drawing aside so she could write to him. She still wrote every day, mailing them a couple of times a week. She had no idea how quickly he got them. He hadn’t written her real often and his letters weren’t real long. That disappointed her sometimes because it was the only communication she had with him. She’d been spoiled she realized with their fairly regular and sometimes lengthy telephone calls.

She’d do anything to hear his voice now. If there was some way to arrange it, she would.

There’d been no activity on his credit cards. She only noticed because the balance was always around the same amount as the payment the previous month had brought it down to. She wasn’t sure if he didn’t need the cards or what. Maybe he hadn’t taken them with, just withdrawing a cash advance and leaving them behind.

John,

You always know when I need you it seems. Your drawing was not just gorgeous but well timed. I had kind of a bad day in one of my classes. Nothing bad, I just didn’t perform on a test as well as I wanted to. It wasn’t from lack of studying or anything, I just misread a couple of questions. It’s only one grade, I know, but it was the last test before finals.

I’ll be home for a few days at Christmas. I’m not going to stay for the whole break this year, though. I just get bored there or feel like my parents try too hard to keep my mind off of you being gone. I know it doesn’t matter to you because I’d get your letter whether you wrote me here or there.

I miss you. That’s been on my mind lately, too, I suppose with Christmas coming up and knowing that it was a year ago that I flew down to see you. It was a great way to spend New Year’s. The six or seven months are almost done. I can only hope you’ll stay put for a while now even if I can’t see you for a while just to talk to you is better than nothing. I miss hearing your voice, I like it. I don’t know if I ever told you that, but it’s nice to listen to you.

Classes are fine other than the test today. I have all A’s and I think one B, maybe that one is a low A. I’m not sure, it depends on how he grades things.

You didn’t tell me when I should stop writing you, and I imagine anything I sent to you there would be forwarded to you back here. I’ll stop after next week, though, just to be safe. I wish I knew if it was going to be closer to six or seven months.

That cruise ship thing was pretty scary. Were you near that? I know, I know you can’t tell me but you’re in the Mediterranean. I think I heard there was Naval personnel involved, so that made me wonder about you. I hope you’re okay anyway.

I’ll write more tomorrow.

Love,
Claire

She had three letters in the envelope set to go to him with the one she just wrote so she sealed the envelope up and got it ready to mail out. She was looking forward to going home even if it was only for a few days. Her mom was a little miffed that she wasn’t staying the full break, but Claire just wasn’t ready to be at home more than necessary until summer. She was seriously reconsidering his suggestion of her moving down closer to him and getting a job down there for the summer. After months of not seeing him she would like seeing as much of him as she could. Her parents wouldn’t be thrilled, but she could deal with them she supposed if she decided to do that.

She set the drawing in one of her drawers so it wouldn’t get smooshed or anything. Her mom would like it, she’d commented more than once on how talented John seemed. She’d decided her parents’ were never going to love him, they knew who his parents were and everything. They liked him all right, though, and so long as he continued treating her well they would continue to like him she guessed.

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