December 2011

Dear Zach,

It was around this time two years ago now-give or take a month-that I wrote you my first letter, and you responded with such desolate resignation. You were lonely, dissatisfied with life, even when I was a stranger I could tell this, and the idea of corresponding with a barely legal teenager was not appealing.

It hurts at times when I think back to those times where you denied me, belittled me without knowing my personality or true self. I may not have realized it then, but I hated you during that time because I felt I was the moral compass of all human society, I was an adult and was ready to enter college where I knew I'd succeed, I was a national champion athlete and everyone wanted to be my friend.

I realize now that I was well and truly pathetic. If I knew then what I know now I would tell myself that I needed a good kick in the ass. Now, I would not have blamed you for not wanting to reply at first. You were the one who has made me see this. Life has made me see this. I'm sure I am not as wise as I hope to be by the time I die, but I know I'm headed on the path I have been destined.

What's path am I taking? I ask myself this sometimes. I remember the little mistakes I would make when I was younger. I almost always misplaced my lip-gloss and would trip over the small tube on early mornings where I was too disoriented to watch where my feet were headed. But that is the point of childhood, isn't it? To know what you want but sometimes forget that you want it, then when you're not paying attention you stumble across it again.

I knew from the beginning that I would want you in my life, always. But that isn't all my path entails. Sorry, I know I just deflated your ego just now. I also want success, just like any individual does. I want to graduate from college; I want to teach high school World History. I want to do the best I can for my Dartmouth Girls Basketball team. I don't want to make a stupid speech as Macey's Maid of Honor at her wedding this summer. I want a life and family with you, in a few years of course. I plan on a long engagement with you until after I get my teaching credentials. I want to know how your day is going. I want to see you in your sexy Training Sargent uniform. I love knowing that you won't be going on another deployment in your career, albeit selfishly. Finally, I love knowing you want these things too.

I wrote you this letter in remembrance of old times. Joe and I talked for the longest we've ever had since that summer a year and a half ago. He told me he was sorry. I forgave him. Yet, I know that nothing will be the same ever again. I hope that one day we will be able to rekindle our relationship but I am still apprehensive that we'll ever be back to normal. It could take awhile but I'll know you'll be beside me to get through it.

Love you,





December 2016

(Five years Later)

Hearing the doorbell ring, I get up from the couch and swing open the door.

"Hey," Grant says with a wide smile, "what's with the, uh..." he gestures towards my shoulder.

"Oh, early present from Katie," I grimace and punch him in the shoulder, "How's it going with you man?"

"Zach, you know how it's been going with me. I don't think anything's changed in the last few years," he says and walks through the front door.

Shrugging, I yell towards the kitchen, "Hey, Cam! Grant's here!"

"Hey Grant!" my wife yells over the sound of the Grinch movie playing in the background and the smells of a Christmas roast cooking in the oven.

"Yo, Cammie!" Grant replies while heading for the living room. My newborn baby, Katie, sits in a rocker over a massive blanket as she watches the animated version of The Grinch and occasionally glances over to stare at the shiny lights of the Christmas tree.

Grant slides in beside her, his massive form overshadowing her tiny body. She immediately smiles at him and reaches her hand out for him to grab, making little gurgling noises as he rubs her soft cheek.

My baby is the most beautiful fucking baby in the world, and she knows it.

I smirk at the sight of my best friend-the guy I entered the Marines with-completely falling apart at the seams for my baby girl.

"You know, I won't let you have her. You'll have to get your own baby, dude. I'm kinda fond of mine."

He looks up and glares at me, "I don't like kids. Your girl? Yeah, she's the exception."

I was going to let Cammie break the news, but I figure I shouldn't put this off for much longer. I would hate for the situation to arrive without him knowing.

"Bex is coming," I blurt, my eyes widening slightly at the realization that I just spilled the fucking huge beans.

His whole body goes rigid and slowly stands so he's facing me.

"She coming with that husband of hers? That jackass from London?" he asks bitterly.

I hold back a smug or sarcastic retort at his obvious jealousy, but choose to put him out of his misery.

"No. They divorced a few months ago. Apparently he took advantage of the fact that she was stationed in Moscow for training last year and cheated on her. It was a rough divorce and she's been through a lot," I say sternly.

Grant's fists clench as he nods, "Oh."

I walk up next to him and I pat his shoulder, "Listen, I know you might think this is your golden opportunity to rekindle what you had with her after all these years, but I need you to just leave her alone."

His brows furrow, "And why should I do that?"

"Because she's been through shit and she doesn't need more drama. Get her number, get together if she wants, do the friend thing. But, dude, take it slow. That's my advice for you."

Grant sighs and shoves his hands into his pockets, "Duly noted."

"Good," I say and crack a smile, "And I'll kick your ass for her if you hurt her again. And I better be your best man at your wedding," I smirk.

He raises and eyebrow, but grins as he says, "What happened to taking it slow? You're already marrying us off."

"Yeah, well-"

I feel arms snake around my waist and Cammie's head rests gently on my shoulder.

"Whatcha boys talking about?" she says, and crap if this girl doesn't make me feel like a damn pubescent fifteen year old with the way my heart pounds and my hands get all sweaty.

"Nothing, babe, just talking 'bout Bex."

"Ah, well she texted me and said she'd be here any minute."

Grant's eyes widen and he practically sprints to the bathroom, "I'm just gonna go clean up a bit before everyone arrives!"

Cammie giggles against my back and I grin, turning in her arms to hold her by the waist. Her very large waist that holds her gigantic belly.

"Babe, I keep telling you to stop snacking, you're getting just a tad overweight."

She practically snarls-something I discovered comes with raging pregnancy hormones-and smack my arm.

"Stop being an idiot, Captain."

I smirk and kiss her cheek, "I'm just kidding, you look beautiful. But how in the hell are we gonna handle our little girl and twin boys at the same time?"

"I blame you," she says dryly and kisses my cheek.

"I hope things work out for Bex and Grant," I sigh and pull her all the way into my arms. Ever since the day I got her back all those years ago in the hospital down in Virginia, I haven't been able to let her go since.

"Me too. I'm sure they'd make cute army brats."

"Not as cute as ours," I kiss the top of her head, "And if they do have girls, they won't be able to resist my boys."

I can practically feel Cammie roll her eyes as she says, "Zach, shut up."

"Yes ma'am."

"Merry Christmas, Captain."

"Merry Christmas, Cammie."

And with that, our daughter started bawling in her little rocker as our doorbell rang, letting us know Bex, Macey, and Riley had arrived, as Grant sprinted for the door.

Life had certainly changed for the better in the past few years. I had learned how to give and receive. I had learned how to love and care deeply for someone. I learned that you didn't have to be a Marine and live the rest of my life in solitude.

And it was all thanks to Cammie, who in her own right, was my own hero.

We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.

~Winston Churchill

Thanks again to all my readers!