Desiree stood with Wade for a few minutes, head pressed against his chest listening to his heartbeat. She found it strangely calming or maybe it was the fact that he felt the same towards her.
"Wade!" Someone called, quickly approaching.
They hastily let go and stepped away from each other, both knowing that no one could find out.
"Wade, is Parker okay?" Reiben asked appearing from the trees.
She noticed his newly acquired black eye.
"I'm okay." She said forcing herself to smile at the man who had just hit her.
"Parker…Desi I'm so sorry. Honestly, I thought you were Upham. Are you hurt?" He asked worriedly. She was surprised he cared. So far, he had treated her like she was nothing more than a nuisance.
"Don't worry about it. I've felt worse remember?" she said pointing to her arm.
"Yeah but that doesn't make it okay. Seriously, how can I make it up to you?" he asked.
"Just don't hit me again and maybe ease up on Upham. I don't know if he could've taken that hit as well as I did." She laughed.
"Well, I promise not to hit you again," he said with an apologetic smile, "but Upham is a different story."
Reiben brought his hand to his face and lightly touched beneath his eye.
"Hey Doc, you got anything for a black eye?" he asked jokingly.
"Damn," Reiben said, leaning against a tree.
"How much trouble you guys in?" Wade asked him.
"None this time, but when Sarge found out Desi'd been hit I thought he was gunna shoot me right there." He explained. "As he very well should've might I add."
"I'm fine. I should've stayed out of it anyways." She said.
They all paused for a moment and listened to the faint gunshots coming from the west, picturing the bloody warfare that was taking place.
"Well, Captain just wanted me to let you know we're leaving pretty soon." Reiben got off the tree and lit another cigarette.
"I'll leave you two lovebirds be then." He said, turning and walking away.
"Wait, what?" Desi asked, shocked.
"I've seen the way you two gaze at each other when you think no one's looking. Don't let the captain find out." He said, almost singing it as he continued walking.
They looked at each other, realizing they would have to keep whatever was happening between them a secret; and a better kept one than her previous attempt.
They started back towards the rest of the guys.
"How's the arm?" he asked, trying to clear the awkward feeling in the air.
"Good, I guess." She said, stretching her arm out and pulling it back, feeling extreme pain as she did so.
"Good as in 'it fucking hurts' or were you making that face for another reason?" He laughed.
"It fucking hurts." She said, laughing too.
"You'll be fine in a week or two. Just try not to re-open it again."
"Trust me, I'm trying."
Rejoining the rest of the group, she noticed how Reiben looked worse off than Jackson and wondered how her fate would've turned out if Jackson had thrown the punch instead. Horvath was lighting a small fire with his zippo they had all seen at one point or another. It was engraved with the words, "Fuck 'em All!".
She remembered that quote from a song she had heard sung in basic and around other companies when they were back at the beach. D-Day seemed like it had been years ago. The smell of smoke filled her nose and made her sneeze.
"God bless -"
"-the family of Richard Reiben, his friends, and co-workers. And give them the strength and time to mourn the loss of this great friend, father, and husband. Let not his name be forgotten in vain, but carried on through joyous memories. Upon Richard's request, there will now be a reading of names of some of those men who fought on his side during World War Two, followed each by a twenty-one gun salute."
Desiree wondered what the reaction of the audience would be at the reading of her name, if it was read of course.
"Captain John H. Miller." The priest began.
His voice was followed by an army general shouting commands and then gunfire. She jumped at the sound and memories of Miller flew through her mind like picture in an album.
"Technical Sergeant Michael Horvath."
"Private Adrian Caparzo."
"Private Daniel Jackson."
"Private Stanley Mellish."
"Private James Francis Ryan."
Gunfire. She looked at Ryan and noticed a small tear escaping his left eye. He really did appreciate what they had done for him.
"Private Desiree Parker."
Gunfire. She watched as several people turned and looked at each other with confused looks on their faces. Upham nudged her with his elbow and they both quietly laughed. Their eyes were wet with tears as the names of their friends long-gone were named off.
"Corporal T-5 Timothy Upham."
"Private T-4 Medic Irwin Wade."
She closed her eyes as his name was read. She saw it in her head on his dog tags and slowly moved up to his smiling face.
She almost fell backward as sadness hit her like a ton of bricks. She opened her eyes before the picture she dreaded seeing could form. Thankfully, Upham and Ryan both had their arms behind her to stop her fall.
"We've got you, Parker." Upham whispered.
The funeral was coming to a close and as she walked over to where Reiben lay, she felt less sorrowful and more blessed to have known him, even though they had gone through hell together.
She placed the rose given to her at the beginning of the service with many others on top of the casket.
"Hey, Brooklyn." She whispered. "Your family is just as beautiful as you described in your letters. I am so incredibly and deeply sorry I never replied to them. I just couldn't stand being reminded of anything that happened. I know now that I can't run away from it. We were part of something that will never be forgotten. I can't escape it no matter how hard I try and I wish with all of my heart that I had realized that sooner. Thank you for having us mentioned today. It means more than anything that you still wanted me here. I'll miss you, Brooklyn. I love you."
She wiped her eyes and walked back to Upham and Ryan. She had chosen to go last. The service ended and they all took one last look at the black casket containing their friend before heading into the rest of the cemetery.