She turns, and I hear her get their attention. “Abe! We roll out in fifteen. You can play with Scribe, or you can talk to the pretty blonde you got over there. I’d prefer you pick the blonde because, sadly, I need Scribe. If he wasn’t my ears on the ground, I’d love to watch you kick his ass.”

Abe finally lets him go, and I see the men stagger apart.

“Jesus, man,” Scribe grunts. “Guess nobody can hook up with a girl named Julie, or Abe might kill us. We are clearly not allowed to use the name.”

“Jesus!” Mac exclaims. “Can we go check my headset please? Leave them be before you get yourself killed.”

Abe glares at Scribe until he finally retreats, but not before Mac smacks him on the back of the head.

Mac bounces in front of the screen just before she takes off. “It was nice to meet you, Julie. Put a smile on his face for us, will you? He’s been a bear since we got here.”

“It was nice to meet you too. I’ll try my best.”

She gives me a small wave before disappearing.

“Come back over here, I wanna see your face.”

Abe drops down in his chair. “He was wrong, you know.”

“Who?”

“Scribe. It was more like five times I’ve been in the bathroom with those pictures you gave me.”

“Only five?” I say, pretending I’m hurt.

“That’s all I’m willing to admit.”

I smile at him, fighting the lump in my throat. I only have him for a few minutes, and I don’t want to spend it crying. Think happy thoughts, Jules.

“I love you,” I say, reaching out and touching the screen.

“I love you too, baby.” His fingers mirror mine on the screen, and it looks as if our hands are touching. “I’m going dark for a while, so you may not hear from me for a little bit, but don’t stop writing. Your letters will get to me eventually, and I’ll keep in touch as much as I can. Even if you don’t hear from me, I’m always thinking about you.”

“Be safe.”

“Always, shortcake.”

Chapter Five

JULIE

August 2011

My dear fiancé,

I don’t think I’ve ever called you that before. It sounds so fancy! I started classes today, so I’m officially a college student! *dances around* I was even lucky enough to snag a part-time gig at the local coffee shop. I have no idea what I’m doing, but I’ll fake it until I make it. Wish you could see my dorm room. It’s the first time being small works in my favor because I need all the extra space I can get in that room. I’m even one of the lucky ones who ended up without a roommate. I’m not sure how they put two people in those rooms!

It should be okay, though. Next year I won’t need a dorm room, I’ll be happily married to my hunky Marine with our own little place. I’m thinking purple for our bedroom. It’ll have to be girly to offset all the manliness you got going on.

I miss you. God, do I miss you. I dropped my phone last week and almost had a mini panic attack when it shattered. All my pictures of us were on it. Thank God, I was able to save them. I printed them all off and saved them to a million different places, so if you randomly see a billboard with our pic on it, I’m sorry.

I love you!

Always,

Your shortcake

Xoxoxo

Chapter Six

ABE

September 2011

Mine,

You better be calling me your fiancé to every person you see. In fact, it better be on that billboard. Unless it’s one of the pictures of us at the lake. Then I’m going to tan your ass for showing the world what’s meant for my eyes.

Don’t get too comfy, shortcake. I’m coming for you, and you can paint our bedroom whatever color you want. As long as your sweet ass is naked in our bed, I couldn’t give two shits what color you put on the wall.

Keep writing me, baby. You have no idea what your letters mean to me. I don’t care what they say, even if you’re just telling me what you did all day, I’ll love the fuck out of them. Makes me feel like I’m with you when I know what you’re doing every day.

I love you.

Yours.

Chapter Seven

JULIE

November 2011

My dear fiancé,

People sometimes tell me I’m too young to get married when they find out I’m engaged. That we haven’t known each other long enough. I always just smile at them. I think I would have been one of them too if someone told me our story. It’s hard to explain love to people who’ve never really known it before.

My mom and dad got married when they were both eighteen, and they had me a few years later. Today we celebrated their twenty-year anniversary. They looked so happy, always have been. Did I tell you when I told them I was going to marry you, all my mom said was, “When you know, you know.”

It’s our first holiday season together. If you think the last care package I sent was good, wait until you see the next. I, of course, included a little something for Lucias and Scribe. Tell everyone I said hi, and I hope Mac is keeping you boys in line.

With all my heart, I LOVE YOU!

Yours.

Chapter Eight

JULIE

January 2012

“Julie.”

“Who’s this?” I say into the phone. Glancing over at the clock, I see it’s four o’clock in the morning.

“Julie, honey, it’s Lucias.”

I feel the burn in my nose, the onset of tears is instant. The tone of Lucias’s voice, the fact that it’s four o’clock in the morning, and that he’s calling me, lets me know more than I want to.

“Please don’t,” is all I can get out.

“Calm down, honey, he’s going to make it. It was touch and go for a week, but he’s stable.”

“A week?” A fucking week and this is my first call?

“I know, but we just finally got stateside, I promise this is the first time I got a chance to call you. We just touched down at Walter Reed hospital in Washington, D.C.”

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