Summary: Charise Raquin is posing as her brother, Micah, in the war so he didn't have to leave his family. When she gets moved to a new squad with a new mission, she thinks it's going to be routine-when in reality, it's anything but. Faced with new friendships, the death of a close friend, and her secret possibly being exposed; Charise has to decide if this is really the place for her-not to mention, she has to make sure Saving Private Ryan isn't the last thing she ever does.
Author's Note: Gah, I'm sorry it took so long for an update! Life is pretty hectic right now-with the holidays, not to mention some last minute papers and projects! Guaranteed over my break I'll have some additional chapters out-3 or 4 in the course of the 23rd to January 3rd, I'm hoping (: Well, as usual, reviews appreciated!
It felt like a dream-everything so familiar, yet so unknown all at the same time. Millions of thoughts were rushing through my head, and I couldn't clear it-was this a nightmare? Was it real life? Or was it some sort of sick hallucination my mind was trying to play on me, in return for putting it through the stresses of war? Although I previously thought I was damned from the moment I signed on the dotted line, I believed that maybe there was some slim chance in hell that I would make it out of this okay…that my brother would still be at home, safe, with his family. And now, the worst of my nightmares seemed to come true, that he was standing here in front of me.
But, wait….weren't Micah's eyes more of a greenish than blue? His hair was much darker than my own; in front of me, the boy's was blonde. It clicked, this wasn't Micah-wasn't him at all. I felt a temporary flare of relief that coursed through my veins like lava, before my eyes settled on the familiar scar on the side of the boy's face. Then, it hit me like a freight train-this wasn't my brother, but we were still blood related. Instead, I had stumbled upon my cousin.
The two were often mistaken as brothers, having an uncanny resemblance to each other. The only difference was Micah's hair was a deep brown, where as my cousin-his name was Nathaniel-had hair identical to mine. I hadn't seen him in a long time, and I could only imagine what he was missing at home. Last I heard, he was getting ready to graduate medical school, and was going steady with his high school sweetheart, Melanie. But now? He was wrenched from that life and tossed straight into this one-cruel, unforgiving, and undiscriminatory towards which lives it took. Vaguely, I was aware of the fact that while most men tried to avoid this at all costs, I had been the stupid ass that volunteered.
All in good reason, I told myself.
"Nate." Nearly breathless with my discovery, it took a moment to get the words out. He squinted his eyes as if he was trying to make me out-either that, or trying to determine if what he saw was actually real. "Charise? What in the hell are you doing here!" His voice was laced with a vicious anger-not towards me; it seemed it was towards the army in general. "Is this what it's come to, they're beginning to draft women as well?"
"No-Nate, that isn't it at all," I said quickly, ignoring the pairs of eyes I felt move over to settle on us. "I did this…myself. I snuck in."
"Why?" His voice was riddled with curiosity, and a bit of incredulity. I shook my head, not looking at him. "I wish I knew myself. But hey-I'm here, I'm alive. I should be thankful for that. How've you been?"
"Don't you know what your family is going through?"
His question made my stop cold in my tracks of attempting to start a conversation. Nate was a good guy, don't get me wrong; but he was never one to really be in tune with other people's emotions. Sad? That's your problem. Angry? Find a way to take it out, but don't include him. Even at funerals, he mostly kept to himself and didn't comfort anybody. So to hear him talk about my family like that, well, it really hit home and made me worry.
"They have no clue what happened to you," he started, giving me a reproachful look. "You could've run off with some guy. Could be dead. Could just be kidnapped or some shit, they don't know. Didn't you think about the consequences this would have before you went off on your own?"
"I couldn't tell anyone, Nate. I took Micah's letter and left so he wouldn't have to leave his wife."
"What the hell are you talking about, Charise? Micahs here!"
Just like that, it felt as if my blood turned to ice. "He's….here?"
"Well, not here. But in Europe. He was part of the 101st, but I heard a lot of their men went down. I hope Micah wasn't one of them….they still haven't found a lot of the bodies." I felt paralyzed, as if some ugly Gorgon had reared it's head and I'd had the bad luck to look it in the eye. I couldn't talk; I felt as if my lips just couldn't form the words my tongue desperately wanted to speak. My breath was shaky, because within the course of less than ten minutes, I had gone from being under the impression my brother was safe at home to thinking he might be dead.
"Yeah?" I peeked my head around the corner of the kitchen wall, eyes resting on Micah before cautiously regarding the kitchen. I could hear steady snores coming from the adjacent room, and I scurried across the floor to rest by his side, staring at the refrigerator expectantly. It was a week after my ninth birthday, and we were staying at my uncle's-he was home and unemployed, so while my parents went on a vacation, he watched us to get money.
But once again, he had forgotten to feed us. Reaching in the pantry, Micah pulled out a loaf of bread and went to get a knife, while I ambled about to gather peanut butter and jelly. Micah poured us each a drink, and I took a biet of the sandwich after it was made. The contents quieted my stomach, albeit momentarily, and I chewed it thoroughly. I had almost finished my food when I heard a noise I dreaded.
The springs of the couch squeaked as Uncle stood up, and he began to shuffle into the kitchen, grumbling annoyedly. I don't know how Nate lived with the man; maybe this was why he moved out at age eighteen. All I did know was uncle was moving forward, and he seemed angry.
I was shoved behind Micah, hidden between him and the counter tops as uncle raised his fist. It smacked Micah in the shoulder with a thud, but I didn't hear a sound. This is how it always was-Micah protecting me, uncle smacking him around, and Micah never uttering so much as a whimper.
But this time was different. He hit Micah hard, catching him on the side of the head-that blow gave him what we later discovered was a concussion. But that was the only time he ever yelped, and even that was a quiet one. It was that noise that brought out Nate-then seventeen, usually hidden in his room-to the rescue. He grabbed his father's arm, but uncle grasped one of his many empty beer bottles scattered about the counter and hit Nate with it-thus causing the scar on his face. Nate hit him a few good times, before ushering us up to his room and locking the door.
That was the last time we ever stayed at uncles'. That was the last month Nate was ever there. Consequently, that was also the last time I ever saw my uncle alive.
I felt at a loss for words as I tried to justify what Nate had said, thinking that he was lying to me. All that time at my Uncles, Micah had fearlessly protected me. He protected me so many times when we were growing up-from kids at school, from the mean dog down the street, even from some people when we were walking home one day-and I couldn't protect him, just this once? Had everything I'd really done been in vain?
I slipped down into a sitting position, feeling my eyes water up some. I had never been one to cry, but the circumstances surrounding me made it almost impossible not to. My eyes were fixed on the ground, but in my peripheral vision I could see Nate scrutinizing me, my eyes had clearly softened from his tirade of sorts before. "Hey…c'mon, Charise.. It's alright. Don't worry, I'm sure he's fine."
"B….but what if he's not?" I questioned, my voice clearly shaking. "It's just like you said…m-my parents are worried and now t-they'll probably lose two kids instead of just one!"
"Don't say that. You'll get through this fine-we all will," he assured me, but I still couldn't find it in my heart to believe him. "We'll all meet up back at home, and everything will be fine. He'll get back to his family, I'll get back to Mel, and you'll get back and have a family of your own. You just have to hope for the best, or you'll end up with the worst."
"Nothing is impossible."
I could vaguely hear Miller talking to a few different soldiers passing by, shouting for one to be able to hear him. Wade was running around, checking on different soldiers and making sure they were in stable condition. Upham was still here, helping Miller translate. Horvath was relaxing, talking to another captain, while Mellish was nearby, smoking a cigarette. Jackson and Reiben were sitting nearby, talking lowly and looking around. It seemed fully impossible to me that we would all make it out of here okay, that the rest of us would survive-hell, we'd already lost Caparzo.
But then again, in the beginning I also thought it was impossible I would make it past even the first battle. My whole plan was to go out in a shot of glory, and the fact a family had lost their daughter would prevent them from then drafting my brother. But clearly, the fact that I was still here and kicking it-unfortunately or fortunately, however you chose to look at it-was defying the odds to begin with. But could I really believe that it was possible Micah, Nate, and myself would all make it back home safe? That was one set of odds that I didn't think could be beaten, no matter how much luck we had.
Once more, however, my hopeful, optimistic side got the best of me. I gave Nate a short nod, and raised my hands to wipe away the tears that had began to run down my cheeks. I swallowed back the lump in my throat, and after a moment raised my eyes to look at him.
"Yeah, I-I guess. Still shaky, though. I can't fully believe your words, but I can try."
A look of hesitation crossed Nate's face, before he looked around and then his eyes settled back on me. "Here. Take this-maybe it will help you believe what it said." He reached around his finger and pulled off a silver ring, shiny despite the few dirt smudges here and there. He wiped them off on his uniform before handing it over to me. It was a full circle, adorned with nothing but a tiny twist in the center. It was chunkier-clearly a man's ring, of course-but inscribed on the insides were the words he had spoke before, in loopy, beautiful handwriting. 'nothing is impossible'.
I held it up, looking at it as he spoke. "Mel made it for me before I left." I looked at him, and held it back towards him. "No, I can't take it if she made it for you-it's yours, and-"
"Charise, relax…I only really wore it to make her happy anyway," he said with a bit of a chuckle. "Rings aren't exactly something you see a lot of twenty-nine year old guys wearing. Keep it," he said, pushing my hand back towards me. I silently slipped it onto my finger-it was a little big, but the back had a piece you could squeeze to tighten it. Upon doing so, I raised my eyes back to Nate. "Thank you…really."
He nodded, giving me a weak smile. "Don't worry, it was nothing. But you should probably go now-I think your team is looking for you," he said, and I glanced over. Sure enough, the seven remaining guys were staring at me, and Miller motioned for me to come over.
"Alright…I'll see you, Nate. Back home."
He nodded, grinning some. "Stay safe."
I nodded as well, and pushed myself up. I made my way over towards my team, and luckily, there were no questions-just Miller giving me instructions on what we were doing and where we were going. I listened silently, nodding, and before we left I glanced back at the men behind us.
There were so many of them, wounded or unwounded, who merely wanted to go home. They probably all thought it wouldn't happen, and were sure that they were going to die here on some foreign soil. Moments ago, I would've believed the same thing-believed that I was doomed to die in some unknown land, by the hands of unknown people. I'd believed that ever since I signed up for this. But now, I see all it took was a few words to change my outlook on that. And as we prepared to leave, I wished Nate would tell them all what he had just convinced me of…that even if all the odds are stacked against you, you just have to hope for the best.