With a total of 188 pages, I bid the adieu.
We buried her the following afternoon.
Sink has rushed down from CP after hearing the news of the lost soldier, burst in upon Doc Roe as he tried to clean some of the blood off the body. Scandal rocked the whole battalion. Sink called all officers to a meeting and chewed our asses.
"How the fuck did this go on!" His southern accent jumped tenfold when angry.
I was glad that it was Winters who stepped up to the plate. I don't think I could have contained myself.
"I don't think anyone knew sir." For such a strait cut man, he sure could lie. "The man we knew as Frank Russo was a good soldier, nothing more than that; you never would have guessed he was a woman. Russo was a good squad mate; he did what was expected of him, and more. I suppose Russo was just skilled at deception."
Winters's voice was strong, but sorrow laced. He had thought that since the war was over, the men would no longer die. I suppose we were all proved wrong.
Sink let out a growl and poured himself a glass of whiskey. "Clean this mess up." He snarled, looking each and every one of us in the eye, "I want all records of her gone,. I want her removed from the reports, all pictures destroyed. Hell I even want her gone from the boy's minds. You bury that body here, no marker, no ceremony. Just get it done."
My lips tightened and rage welled inside me.
The colonel noticed.
"You have a problem with that Captain?"
Lipton made a noise as it to jump in but I spoke. "Russo was a good man sir. As a soldier who served since D-Day she deserves more than what you're giving her."
Sink took a sip from his drink and challenged me with his eyes. "Get it done."
We buried her under an oak tree by the lake, casket less, swaddled in her olive blanket. We held a small ceremony against Sinks orders, and most of the veterans showed up. It was easy to see who was hit the hardest. George Luz, Buck Compton, Doc Roe, Malarkey, Shifty…The boy's soul had always been gentle.
I dropped a flower into the grave and walked away. I couldn't stand to see the dirt shoved back over her body.
The soldier sat before me, a bloody mess, and my gun was pointed at his temple, the men around me silent, wondering if they would be witness to some act of Speirs, as if I were God.
The soldier started to whine, my finger tightened on the trigger, I was going to kill this sick mother fucker for what he did to Talbert. What he and others like him did to Fey, and would do to the other men of my company.
One of the men let out a shaking breath. I was scaring them. I swing my arm and cracked the butt of my pistol against his jaw. "Next time you call me sir!"
I turned away and stalked off, nobody would hurt my men again, not even me.
The war ended, and the world settled back into a peaceful state, a state I couldn't remember. I was lost along with so many other men. I was lost because I had lost too much; I had lost my men, my comrades, a loved one. I had lost myself even before D-day, when I had come to accept I was already dead.
And in spite of this chronic case, every man had one thing he could thank for bringing him back into a world without war. A good woman.
A year after the war I found myself remarried. It's not that I loved her more; it's just that she was there. I did love my new wife and I loved the kids we had. I was happy. But I never truly forgot Fey Russo.
Years past and the thought of Fey slowly went from my mind, having been replaced with family matters. 20 years after the war, Easy held a reunion; I went at my wife's prodding. On the drive back to our hotel, she expressed that she got something of an awkward feeling around some of the men, like they saw her filling in for someone else.
Through numb lips I told her she was imagining things.
It was 1997 when I saw Fey again. We met in New York City, outside a Starbucks; she was selling Girl Scout cookies.
At first, it was her hair that caught my memory, that deep dark earthy brown, the olive skin, and finally those pale green eyes. I bought a box of Tagalongs just so I could speak to her.
She was polite, her Bronx accent stronger than I remember it being as an adult. She told me about her beloved Yankees who she hoped would make it to the World Series; she was chatty in an abrupt way as a child. Fey must have been eight.
The years came and went, age seemed to do that, it's eternal speeding up of time. The giant glass ball fell for 2007 and my health seemed to fall with it.
As I lay dying, my mind returned to that grave by the lake, Sink had said no markers but Luz had made one from her rifle and helmet as was fitting for one lost in combat.
Quietly, I desired the same.