The Call - by Mac (aka Tango Mike Charlie)
Slowly, Chris turns around in her bed and reaches for the phone. She picks it up while opening her eyes and looking at the clock. It's 3.42 am. She sighs. Then she holds the phone to her ear as she answers.
At first she doesn't realize who she is talking to. The line is very bad. The voice seems familiar.
It's not DJ though, she thinks.
Then it hits her. Suddenly her eyes pop open and she nearly falls out of her bed, trying to sit up straighter, as if that would help the connection. It doesn't, but now that she has recognized the voice she can understand what is being said much clearer.
"Tom? Is that you?", she asks.
"Yes, it is."
The voice on the other end sounds weary. This is not the first time he called her since he left for Africa.
"Hey, how are you?", Chris asks.
"Fine", he says, but she doesn't believe him.
If he was feeling fine he wouldn't have called. He only called when things were bad. Very bad.
"So, why did you wake me up then?", she asks, hoping to pull him out of his misery for a while and get him to talk.
He should talk. It's good for him. He needs to get it off his chest.
Silence on the other end.
"Then talk to me."
Then a soft sob. And another one.
"That's right, Tom. Let it all out. You can talk to me. Cry if you need to. I'll be here for you."
A single tear escapes Chris' left eye. It travels down her cheek, but just before it drops of her chin, she wipes it off with her hand.
She can handle this. She has to. For him. He needs her. Now, more than ever.
Softly she keeps soothing him, encouraging him to let it all out.
After a while he stops sobbing.
She can imagine him, sitting there in the middle-of-nowhere, hugging the phone to his face as if his life depended on it. It probably does. His sanity anyway. And mine.
"I miss you so much."
"I miss you too."
"I wish you were here with me. To see the things I see. To help me be strong for these kids."
"What happened, Tom? What happened that made you need me?"
"I always need you, Chris. Always. But today... Today, I just couldn't take it anymore. She died, Chris. Right in my arms. There was nothing I could do about it. Nothing."
His voice becomes louder. He is remembering.
"It's alright, Tom. I know. Sometimes life just isn't fair."
Like now. How could someone think life was fair if kids were dying all over the place. If she couldn't be with the man she loved.
Earlier today she had met up with Geoff who had been in an accident and had his arm broken. He was on the base and somehow, his shoelaces had come undone. So he had tried to tie them back together, but with one arm tied to his chest that was turning out to be a problem. Kate had needed no words. She just went over and helped him. They seemed so tuned in to each other. They would soon realise how much they loved each other. And then, they would be happy. Because they could be together. Like Sam and Emma. Or Vic and Nance. Like everyone she knew. Except for Tom and her. Oh God, how much she missed him right then.
I must have felt him needing me. It's exactly at those moments, when I miss him the most, that he calls.
Tom is silent on the other end. She lets him.
He needs to listen to her breathing. She knows that. It almost makes him believe he can touch her. Like she wishes him to. So badly. Just to lie in his arms for a few moments would be heaven. But she knows she can't. He's not done. He needs to help. To feel like he's accomplishing something. And days like today just don't help. She doesn't need to know what happened to the girl. All that matters is that it made him feel bad. So bad that he actually drove three hours to reach the nearest phone, so he could hear her voice. Hear that he was still alive. And sane. And in a small part of her brain she is feeling guilty. Because she is glad the girl died. Because it made him call her. And she needs him as badly as he needs her.
A soft whisper.
"I love you."
"I know. I love you too."
This triggers another tear. It starts rolling down her cheeks and she wipes it off, a little furiated. She doesn't want to cry. Not while he's on the phone.
There's plenty of time for that later.
"Tell me about your day."
She knows why he does this. He's thinking of her now. He wants to show interest in her. Which means he's almost back to his old self. For as far as that is still possible. He's almost ready to put the phone down. She is not yet ready, so she starts telling him about how DJ forgot to lock up the base the other day and a chicken had somehow gotten in the base. The next morning, there were feathers all over the place and a nice egg was blocking the entrance. Of course DJ had been assigned to clean it all up. And DJ wouldn't have been DJ if he hadn't made a party out of it. He had put on music, and in real Risky-Business-style, he had danced while he cleaned the place. All the while singing along to the mostly Greek songs.
It had driven them all crazy.
Oh good, Chris thinks. He can laugh again. And bad. Because it means he won't need me for another while. He'll be gone again. I'll miss you, Tom.
As if he read her mind, Tom suddenly says: "I miss you Chris. So much. I don't know what I'd do if I wasn't able to call you when things get too much. I just wish I could hold you. Really hold you."
"I miss you too, Tom. And I wish the same. But we'll manage again until next time. We have to. Until you decide to come home. And I know you're nowhere near ready to come home. I'll wait for you. Just call me every once in a while. Ok?"
She knows he will. Eventually. When the next one dies in his arms.
They are both silent for a while. Then they gather the courage to put the phone down.
"Bye, Chris. Thanks."
"No need. Love you."
"Love you too."
Then the line goes silent. Tom has put the phone down. Chris is still sitting in her bed. Listening to the beep that's now on the line. Softly, the tears start running down her cheeks again. She lets them. Now she can cry. She puts the phone back and lies down, staring out into the dark of the night through her window that is slightly open.
He'll call again. And he'll come back one day. Really. I have to believe that.
Silently, she cries herself to sleep.