A Soldiers Letters

July 6, 1967

Eighteen-year-old Alfred F. Jones sat alone on a booth in a café waiting for the Greyhound bus that would take him to California for Basic Training before being shipped to Vietnam. His army uniform lay heavily on his body reminding him of where and what he was going to do.

"Can I help you," he turned to see a waiter who looked a couple years younger than himself, his voice betrayed that of a British accent.

"I'll have a Cola," Alfred said quietly.

"Certainly," the boy said and returned seconds later with the beverage. As he set it down Alfred grabbed his wrist.

"Would you sit a while? Just to talk, please?" he asked.

The boy smiled at him, "I can't right now but I'm done in an hour, we can go somewhere then."

"Thank you."

An hour and fifteen minutes later found the two on the pier sitting before the sunset.

"What is your name?" Alfred asked.

"Arthur, Arthur Kirkland," the boy replied. "And you?"

"Alfred Jones, this may sound weird but, can I write to you when I'm gone, I haven't got anyone else."

Arthur raised an eyebrow, "Isn't that a little… odd for two guys to exchange letters while one is off at war?"

Alfred thought about it but found he didn't care, "It's fine, and you probably have a girlfriend so yeah it might be a little odd."

"No, I don't have a girlfriend and yes you can write to me if you want to," Arthur smiled again and pulled his pad and a pen out of his pocket to write down his address.

Alfred blushed and took the paper; they agreed that it wasn't normal for guys to have a connection like this and that it would have to be kept a secret.

Alfred looked at his watch and sighed, "I have to leave, and the bus will be here in five minutes."

"Okay Alfred," Arthur replied and stood up.

Alfred stood up too and stuck out his hand, Arthur took it and shook it, "Thank you Arthur Kirkland."

And with that he withdrew and started toward the bus stop. Arthur watched him go and couldn't exactly explain why he felt so empty all of sudden.

As Alfred took a seat on the bus he looked down at the paper still in his hand, was he crazy? He'd have liked to think so, what with his going to fight what should be France's war, even though he was drafted, and his sudden agreement to keep correspondence with another guy rather than girl, which is what was expected of soldiers.

He shrugged and sat back in the seat watching the countryside go by, one of the last times he would see free American land maybe for years, or if he even managed to come back at all.

July 26, 1967

Arthur stared at the envelope in his hands; the return address said Alfred F. Jones and that it was posted from San Francisco, he smiled, he didn't actually think the boy he met two weeks prior would actually write to him.

Nonetheless he tore the top of the envelope and read the letter.

Dear Arthur,

I didn't actually intend on writing to you, what I said was, I thought at the time, just loneliness talking but then I decided to write regardless. I am in San Francisco right now and they will be shipping us out on the 20th of July. I really haven't much else to write about but I will try to send you another letter before we are deployed.

Sincerely, Alfred F. Jones

Arthur sighed and went to hide the letter before his father was able to find it; Alfred was already on his way to Vietnam and had been for six days, the thought left another unexplainable feeling of emptiness in his being.

He waited for a few weeks for Alfred's second letter but it didn't come, his irrational mind foretold that he was already dead but his rational mind reasoned that he sent the letter a week or so before they were deployed and that he didn't have time to send another.

August 10th, 1967

Alfred's second letter came and it was brief but nevertheless reassuring. He said they were mostly sitting in the army camp and hadn't had to see any fighting yet. He also said something that unnerved Arthur; he said that every so often he would remember his smile that day in the pier and that it brought his peace of mind.

Arthur shook it off and composed a letter back to him, the next day he sent it off.

September 3, 1967

The letter came a few days before Arthur started his junior year of high school and what he read shocked him.

Dear Arthur,

Today we were attacked and many of our men were killed, I am fine, came out unscathed. I would like to write more often but I fear that I can't, it gets rough over here and most of the time we are either on patrol or on guard. I will try to write again next week sometime.

Sincerely, Alfred F. Jones

Arthur looked at the day it was sent off: August 20th, a second letter should be here in a few days then, he thought.

In the meantime he set to writing one back to his traveling soldier.

September 10th, 1967

Exactly as he though, the letter came to him a few days later and in it said not to worry but he wouldn't be able to write for a while. He sighed sadly and put the letter with all of his others, a shoebox in the back of his closet.

Was it possible to fall in love with someone through his or her letters? Arthur didn't know and had a hard time coming to terms with the fact that he found himself falling in love with his traveling soldier.

With his last received letter he began hoping everyday that he would get a letter from Alfred that said he would be coming home. None came so he let it go.

October 17th, 1967

It was a Friday night football game and while the National Anthem sounded Arthur, stood awkwardly there in his marching band uniform, he was still loyal to Great Britain so having to stand for the American National Anthem made him feel terribly out of place.

He only did it now and held his hand to his heart because of his traveling soldier, Alfred, in Vietnam; he had received only one letter since the last one in September and all it said was that they had been attacked a few more times but he was okay. There was no inkling of his returning home and that made Arthur almost want to cry.

He often questioned why he cared so much for someone he barely knew. But you do know him; you've known him all along. Through his letters and in your dreams. That little hopeful voice in his head would respond.

Wherein he would scowl and blush for thinking such thoughts.

"Our father, who art in Heaven…" came over the speakers making Arthur's head snap up. This always scared him, he never knew if they were going to read Alfred's name. He really, really didn't think he could live if Alfred died.

"Ladies and gentlemen, would you bow your heads for the list of Local Vietnam Dead?"

Everyone was silent and bowed their heads; Arthur did too, praying that none of the names that were about to be read were of his soldier.

"Alfred F. Jones." The only name read and Arthur could feel his world crashing down around him. No one else seemed to care, and Arthur found himself standing abruptly and despite his band directors demands that he sit back down he walked swiftly down the stands and stepped under them.

He couldn't stop the tears from falling any longer and he fell to his knees on the grass, he felt as though his chest had crumbled, that would have explained the hollowness set there.

His soldier was dead, never to come home alive, he was gone, dead, and Arthur, too, felt like he was going to die.

He spent the entirety of the game under the bleachers, no one came to him to make sure he was okay and afterwards he picked himself up off the floor and made to leave the field.

He deftly ignored the stares he was receiving, his display hadn't been graceful, and he would no doubt get shit for it Monday but he couldn't bring himself to care.

When Arthur finally made it home he went to his room and locked the door behind him. He went immediately to the closet to get the shoebox and he read each of the letters a hundred times or more, each time he would be overtaken by new waves of old sadness.

He supposed it was his own way of torture thinking that he could have a normal relationship with another guy, it never would have worked, not in this day and age. He didn't even know how Alfred felt about him either.

When he was done with his self-affliction he shoved the letters and shoebox back into the closet and fell into his bed.

October 18th, 1967

A single envelope sat in the mailbox in front of his house; it was from Alfred, mailed on the 10th of October.

He greedily tore it open and what was written broke his heart all over again.

Dear Arthur,

I'm coming home next month; I can't wait to catch up with you. I also keep forgetting to say this but I love your letters, I carry them in my uniform with me when we travel. My friend always asks me whom they are from and I just say someone back home, I can't say that they are actually from you, a guy. And I definitely can't say that I have fallen in love with the writer of the letters. I love you Arthur, and when I return I want know if you love me too. I'll see you next month.

Sincerely, Alfred F. Jones

Arthur read the last two sentences over and over and went back to his room, he just knew he would start crying again and he didn't want his parents to see him or take the letter and see what it contained.

Once there he dropped the letter on his bed and went to his desk and pulled his letter out from under a stack of books.

Dear Alfred,

I love you, and I hope you come home soon so I can see you.

Sincerely, Arthur Kirkland

He'd meant to send it but just couldn't bring himself to do it and now he sorely regretted it. Alfred was gone and he had written that he loved him and wanted to know if he, Arthur returned those feelings.

Now he would never know what could have been, or rather what never could have been but could have in secret.

All he could think to call this at this point was "It never should have happened" on all accounts, his meeting Alfred, and their mutual falling in love with each other. More over Alfred's death never should have happened, but it did and Alfred would never come back, alive anyway. Depending on if his body was sent back it would be in a sealed casket to be put in a military cemetery, a few words would be said and a shot would be fired to honor him but that was it.

I would be too conspicuous if he were to go to the ceremony to mourn so he decided to carry his sadness another two years until he could enlist in the military. Until then though he would nurse the memory of the evening he and Alfred sat on the pier.

"I love you Alfred," Arthur said aloud with his tear-stained face looking up. "I love you."

A/N: All right, angst everywhere. Regardless though, what do you think, please tell me, this is far different from anything I've ever written before. The song of inspiration is Traveling Soldier by the Dixie Chicks.