04 Escaped Bethesda MD - Tuesday

Escaped: Fighting my way home

© Copyright 2009

Written by Banzai Ben and Amazing Anastasia




Chapter 04 – Tuesday 25 September 2007


Bethesda Maryland – Travel - Tuesday Day Twenty-Six



As I woke, I knew this would be one of those days that I looked back on as a turning point in my life – a new chapter, not just in my life, but in our life, A bittersweet day filled with conflicting emotions: sadness for leaving the place we had first became a couple and the excitement in knowing that greater adventures lie before us.


We were saying goodbye to Kaneohe Bay Hawaii and the base-house we shared as our first "love nest," but we wouldn’t leave empty-handed. We were taking a mental scrapbook of memories with us.


I was anxious to be back in Iraq, doing the job that God created me for, but the doctors said I needed two more weeks to let my arm and back heal before deployment. This would be two more weeks of stateside vacation with Jens, interrupted by one short desert training mission. I felt like a race horse entering the starting gate.


After going to the hospital with Dr. Linus Monday and having the fucking cast removed, we had come back and packed the part of the house we didn't trust to the movers. Packing Jens's china reminded us of the many dinners that we had shared; and the crystal glasses, the many toasts full of promises that we had made.


I gladly remembered how Jens had taken a lonely, screwed-up Marine with a death wish and given him a reason to live, how she had patiently nurtured our love until it could bloom.


I looked over at Jens, and she was already awake, looking at me, sensing my inner turmoil.


"Hey, I thought I was supposed to be the emotional one. What's going on, my big, strong Marine?"


I blushed. "I guess I just let my guard down, and the emotions flooded in."


She hugged me tight. "Yeah, it's hell learning to deal with your emotions. There's nothing wrong with being emotional at the right time. I think it makes you even more of a man." She punctuated it with an intense kiss.


"We had such good times here. I wish that they didn't have to end. But we have a job to do. To make this world a safer place for everyone. I'm looking forward to getting back to Iraq."


Jens answered, "Yeah, all the training was getting old. I think it was twice as much as we needed."


"I agree, but the last training was for the Corps, not for us. When the troops from this base hit Iraq, they're going to be ready," I answered.


We both said together, "Ours is not to question why; ours is just to do or die."


"We have a flight to catch," Jens said. "I'm so excited for you to see my parents’ house and my room. We're going to have so much fun."


"I keep hearing about this room of yours and how it's a shrine to me. But I won't believe it till I see it."


Jens gave me a wicked look, "You wouldn't want to make a little bet on this, would you?"


"What are you thinking of?"


She smiled, "I was thinking about one of your famous massages."


"And if I win, what do I get?"


"How about one of my famous pizzas? I'll even make the sauce this time." She grinned at me.


I calculated that I won either way; if she won, I got to play with her sexy body and tease the hell out of her, and if I won, I got some great food. My stomach growled.


Jens laughed. "I'll take that as your answer of yes. Come on, let's get up and shower and grab some chow."


I swatted her on the butt so hard it made my hand hurt.


"Hey! What was that for?" she asked, rubbing her butt.


'You've always wanted me to give you a spanking. I figured you deserved one after the beating you gave me yesterday."


She pouted, "That wasn't nearly as fun as I thought it would be – it even raised a welt. I think you need to kiss it and make it better."


"Okay. Bare it, and I will."


She glanced at me with anticipation in her eyes, stood up, and pulled her PJ bottoms down, showing me the welt on her beautiful butt.


I jumped up, acting like I was going to kiss it, and then ran into my bathroom. "Last one in the shower is a rotten egg."


"You're such a terrible tease," she shouted after me.


And well I should be; I learned from the master.


The shower felt great. One thing I wasn't going to miss was the humidity in Hawaii. It felt like no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get dry after a shower. Sweating did no good, either, since the moisture didn’t evaporate.


I looked in the mirror while I put on my dress blues. Damn, I looked like a raccoon; at least my face wasn't as white as Jens’s so it was harder to see. I grabbed my travel pack and walked into the living room. Wow – Jens wasn't ready yet. I was surprised.


I wandered through our bedroom and into her bathroom. She was fussing with her face in the mirror.


"You're so beautiful, you don't need any makeup. You can't improve on perfection," I chided her.


She turned and smiled at me. She no longer looked like a raccoon.


"Thanks for the compliment, my love. You always say the nicest things. I'm just trying to cover up the black eyes. We're going to have to deal with the press again today, and I wanted to look my best."


She shook her makeup brush at me and grinned. "Want me to do a little touch up work on you?"


I stepped back and held up my arms in defense. "You keep that damned shit away from me. My scars and wrinkles are my badges of glory. Besides, you'd need a trowel and body filler to fix this face."


Jens scowled at me. "I love your face, it has character."


"So which character does it look like? Elmer Fudd? Bug Bunny? Ah, I know – Quasimodo," I teased, contorting my face and walking like I had a humpback.


I said in a voice like Quasimodo’s, "I love and live to serve you."


A smile lit her face. "If you're trying to scare me off, it will take a better act than that. I'll always love you, no matter what you look and sound like. But I do think you could use a bit of makeup today." She started towards me with her brush.


I stayed in character as I took off running for the living room with Jens hot on my heels.


"No master, Quasi be good. Not the brush torture."


I let her catch me, and we tumbled to the floor for some serious laughing, cuddling and kissing.


"You know, this will be the last time we get to roll around on this floor," Jens sadly said, "And to think, we've never made love in this house. Perhaps–"


"–I know what you're going to say, and you know the answer," I interrupted.


She pouted for real. "You can't fault a girl for trying."


After a couple more hot kisses we got up. Jens brushed the dust off my uniform, taking special care on my butt, and ending it with a pinch.


"Ouch, that hurt."


"Don't be such a wimp. I know this isn't the first time that cutie booty was pinched," she answered.


We strolled hand-in-hand back into our bedroom. Jens finished with her makeup and put on her uniform, making it look sexy as hell.


"I see I still excite you," Jens said with a wicked smile as she looked at the tent in my pants.


I walked over and hugged her, and she melded to my body. "Yes. You do now and always will."


Our last embrace in the house was interrupted by a knock. I checked the door, and it was the general and his wife.


I let them in, and the general said, "Good; you two are ready. I was worried that we'd have to kick you both out of bed."


Evelyn looked at me and laughed. "Seeing you with those eyes was worth this." She held up the cast on her hand.


"I'm just glad that you didn't have that on when you hit me. Otherwise it might have hurt," I joked.


We all laughed.


"That's enough of this jabbering; we need to go," announced the general.


We headed out to the limo for a ride to the airport. Jens and her mom sat close to each other and started whispering, occasionally glancing at me. Something smelled fishy to me.


The general leaned over and whispered to me, "Oh boy, you're in trouble now. When they've done this in the past with me, it's always meant trouble. They're hatching some sort of scheme, and you're going to pay the price."


I looked at them. Jens gave me a wicked smile and kept whispering to her mom. I tried my best to sense Jens's feelings, but she was blocking me. I started getting worried, wondering what sort of new deviltry Jens was cooking up.


They finished their scheming just before we reached the airport. Jens slid over by me, wrapped her arm around me, and hugged me tight.


"Don't worry my love. You won't suffer too much." She chuckled.


"Perhaps I'd better escape now," I answered.


She held me tighter. "Oh, no you don't. You're not going to get away that easily. We have plans, and they involve you."


"Don't you think I need to know what the hell these plans are?"


Jens grinned. "If I told you, I'd have to kill you."


"That might be better than what you're planning for me," I spouted.


"You worry too much. Just relax and trust me." Jens batted her eyes at me.


Uh huh, trust her. I felt like a trapped rat, and I'm sure it showed on my face.


Mom and dad started laughing. Mom said, "You two are too cute. Glen, they remind me so much of us when we were young."


"Son, I feel sorry for you. You are out-manned, out-gunned and out-maneuvered. Be brave and face it like a Marine," The general said with a chuckle. Then he leaned over and whispered to me, "Don't forget, you can always fortify your courage with some bourbon."


As we pulled up to the airport, we could see the press was in full force. They hadn't seen us since I was shot during the sniper competition.


Jens jumped right out of the limo, dragging me with. Damn. She loved the press about as much as I hated them. I was hoping that I could be my usual self and sort of stand in the background. Not this time; they were all asking how I was doing, and if I felt okay, and a million other questions. Jens wasn't helping at all today, and I was just trying to keep things under control.


Ms. Morgan asked, "Ben, how did you get those black eyes?"


Shit. I had hoped they wouldn't notice. "I slipped and fell and broke my nose." I gave her my standard lie.


Ms. Morgan wasn't satisfied. She pressed, "Mrs. Donaldson, would you tell us how you injured your hand?"


Oh crap. How did she find that out? She knew everything and was just toying with us like a cat playing with a mouse. I needed to think fast.


I walked up and held hands with Jens and Mom. "Look, Ms. Morgan. It's evident that you know exactly how my nose was broken. I would be glad to tell everyone this boring story about me. It's really not worthy news. However I could tell another story I know about things that happened in the training area." I gave her a threatening look.


I could tell she wasn't used to being on the other side of a situation and she didn't like it. She smiled and lied like the professional that she was. "I don't know what you're talking about, Ben. We know that you slipped and fell and broke your nose, and that Mrs. Donaldson accidentally hit her hand with a hammer."


It wasn't the best lie, but it was believable enough that everyone else was satisfied. There were a few more questions that were easy after the hell I had just been through. Then we excused ourselves and boarded the jet.


Jens and I walked to the back of the general's private jet, and I sagged into the seat exhausted. Jens snuggled up beside me.


"I had so much fun. Didn't you, my dear?" she chirped.


I looked at her, and somehow I could tell that this was another setup. I started to get angry at Jens.


I knew it was a setup when Ms. Morgan walked on the plane with her crew.


She walked over to me. "Don't worry, Marine; your story is safe with us."


Turning towards Jens, she continued, "Jens, we honored your request to not expose this story. Now are you going to keep your part of the agreement?"


Jens stood up and gave her a hug. "Thanks, Ms. Morgan. I was worried for a little while that you were going to change your mind."


"I'd be a fool to turn down the offer that you gave us for a two-bit story about the little fight that you guys had," Ms. Morgan answered. "And please call me Liz."


Jens answered, "Yes, I'm keeping my end of the bargain. You can be our news crew here and in Iraq as long as we get to approve any reports that you release."


Seeing the two of them shake hands, I couldn't help feeling like Jens was making a deal with the devil.


Ms. Morgan walked over in front of me and I stood up. "Well, Ben, do you agree with this deal?"


I looked over at Jens, and she nodded her head, but I was still sore at being wrangled into this. "I could still tell everyone about you passing out and pissing yourself in the training area," I said in defiance.


Ms. Morgan laughed evilly, "Shit, everyone already knows that. That's old news. But you acting like an asshole to Jens, Mrs. Donaldson breaking your nose, and then Jens beating some sense into you, that's new and fresh news that America would love to hear. Tell me, do you go along with this deal?"


"We get absolute control over all the reports you release?" I confirmed.


"Cross my heart and hope to die," she replied.


I looked at her menacingly and said, "That can be arranged, so you and your news crew had better not double-cross us. There are many ways to die in Iraq. I don't like this one bit, and I don't really trust you to keep your word. But I am forced to agree with this."


I shook her hand. I swear it was the hottest hand I had ever felt. Maybe she was the devil incarnate.


"Good. Since we're all such good friends, just call me Liz."


The pilot turned on the seat belt signs, and Jens and I took our seats.


Ms. Morgan scooted up to the front of the plane to talk with the general and his wife.


Jens snuggled up to me and whispered, "Sorry, my love. She had us over a barrel, and this was the best I could do."


I kissed her hair. "You did great my dear. I'm sorry I started getting angry at you again. I was afraid that you'd set me up."


"If she wasn't here right now, I'd slap the hell out of you. Don't you think I learned my lesson?" Jens whispered.


That question was as loaded as the question, 'Does this make my butt look fat?' Knowing that there was no good answer to either question, I kissed my lovely Jens on the lips, tipped back my seat, and fell asleep.


I woke up just as the flight was touching down in Dulles.


"It's about time you woke up," Jens smiled at me.


"I do that all the time. Once I feel safe on a flight, I hit the sack."


"I knew that, my love. You keep forgetting that I know everything about you," Jens teased.


"Someday, I'm going to make you prove that to me. But not right now, and not while she is here," I replied, looking at Ms. Morgan.


When the plane taxied to a stop, Ms. Morgan and her crew jumped of the plane first. Being the brawn of the group, I grabbed our travel packs, and we moved to the door. As we walked down the stairs exiting the plane, we saw a huge crowd that had come to greet us. They started clapping and cheering when they saw us.


The only thing that spoiled my mood was Ms. Morgan and her crew filming us from the bottom of the stairs.


I leaned over to Jens. "I hope it's not this way all the time. I think we made a deal with the devil."


"Shhh," she shushed me. "That microphone can hear everything we say, even when it's a whisper. Be a good Marine and smile and wave for the crowd and camera."


"How can I wave for the crowd and camera when both my hands are full?" I grumped.


Jens spun around wrapped her arms around me and gave me a blistering kiss that quickened my pulse. The crowd erupted in cheering. After coming up for air she put her mouth right next to my ear, I could barely hear her but I could tell a scolding when I heard it.


"Don't you dare get grumpy with me today. Control yourself.  Your grumpiness got us into this situation in the first place. There are a lot of people who came here to see us today, and this is a live news feed, so show them how much you love me." She turned back to the news crew and started waving.


Now, that was an idea that I liked. I slipped our travel packs over my shoulders, leaving my hands and arms free, stepped close to Jens, slipped one arm behind her knees and one around her back, and picked her up. Unh, that made my back hurt.


"Yeep!" Jens squealed with surprise and then wrapped her arms around my neck. She looked into my eyes with such love as I carried her down the stairs.


The crowd quieted as we reached the bottom of the stairs, until I said in my Marine voice so that everyone could hear, "Thanks, my love, for letting me practice carrying you across the threshold."


The crowd went, "Awww."


She moved her face closer and gave me another kiss and shouted. "I can't wait until it's for real!"


Carrying Jens, really did make me feel like I was carrying her across the threshold. I enjoyed it so much that I carried her over to the crowd and finally put her down.


She melded her body to mine, gave me a huge kiss, and even wrapped one of her legs around mine, pulling me even closer.


Our embrace was hailed by the whistling, cheering and clapping of the crowd. Reluctantly, we untangled from each other.


The general's aide came over and slipped the travel packs off my shoulders and took them to the waiting limo.


Many times, it was a pain-in-the-ass being a hero, but meeting the everyday Joes, the salt of the Earth, wasn't one of those times. We took our time and tried to personally thank each and every person that came to see us.


I could tell from the looks of amazement on their faces that they weren't used to being thanked by "stars." Many of them left crying, thanking us for our service to our country. This got Jens's emotions all fired up and she was sniffling and had tears trickling down her cheeks.


"Jens, come her a minute." I held out my arm to her.


She walked over, and I pulled out my handkerchief and wiped her nose. Then I gently kissed her tears away, reveling in her salty taste.


I looked at my watch and whispered in Jens's ear, "I hate to tell you this, my love, but we need to go."


We slipped our arms around each other’s waists. Turning towards the waiting crowd, we both said together, "We're so thankful that all of you came to see us today. We'd love to stay and thank each of you for coming to see us, But we're running out of time, and we have to go."


The crowd sighed their disappointment.


The general walked up and addressed the crowd. "We're sorry that the All-American Couple didn't get to meet all of you. We will try to have other times and locations available so you can meet them. As a token of our gratitude for you taking the time out of your busy schedules, you can stop by the table directly to my right and pick up a free autographed picture of the loving couple."


We waved at the crowd one more time, turned and followed the general and his wife towards the waiting limo.


Ms. Morgan slinked up beside me and wrapped her arms around my free arm, pressing her breasts against my tricep. Jens shot her a dirty look, but she plowed on, oblivious.


"You two are simply amazing. I've watched people who have been trained for years on how to handle a crowd. They weren't half as effective as you two. They would have done anything that you two asked them. Have you guys thought about forgetting this whole Marine thing and becoming politicians?"


We stopped in our tracks, and I yanked my arm out of her clutches. I spat on the ground and angrily said, "The USMC has been my life and my love. We were going to grow old together. That changed when Jens came along. She is now my life and my love and we're going to grow old together and have lot of babies.


"But that doesn't absolve us of our responsibility to the Corps. We have a job to do, and we will do that job even if it kills both of us. That job isn't sitting behind a desk, being a fucking politician and ordering soldiers to die. We're snipers, and we kill people honestly for a living."


Ms. Morgan's mouth dropped open. She was speechless.


Jens told her, "I don't think you should ever mention that again. It's not healthy for people when they get Ben this pissed-off."


I spat on the ground again to try to get the bile out of my throat. I grabbed Jens by the arm a bit too roughly, and we all but ran to the limo.


I didn't even wait for the driver. I opened the door, and we jumped in. “Get us the hell out of here," I yelled at the driver.


The general looked at me and raised one eyebrow. "What sort of bug got up your butt?"


I was frothing at the mouth, too angry to coherently tell him. Thankfully, Jens stepped in. "Ms. Morgan told us that we should resign from the Corps and become politicians. Ben had a little disagreement with her."


I was fuming and looked for a place to spit, but couldn't find anything in the limo, so I swallowed the bile.


"Shit. We were watching, and that was more than a little disagreement. I thought Ben was going to kill her." The general remarked.


He grabbed a highball out of the bar and filled it with cheap bourbon. “Drink this. It will make you feel better."


I took it from him, tipped it, and drained it, handed it back to him and shouted, "Semper Fi."


Jens and Evelyn jumped. The general yelled back, "Orraaahhh."


Jen scooted over next to me and started touching me and cooing in my ear to calm me."It's okay, my love. She doesn't understand. She didn't mean to insult you."


"Damned bitch, I should leave her in Iraq. The fucking terrorists would love to get hold of a piece of ass like that," I said.


"Yes, she does deserve that, my dearest. But like it or not, she is an American, and as an American, she deserves our protection. If you stopped protecting her, then who would you stop protecting next? This is a slippery slope that you're on, my dear. Don’t slide off." Jens kissed me on the neck and snuggled up to me.


Jens’s logic wormed its way past my anger and into my brain. Once again, she was right. I'm a warrior and I can't choose who to protect. I have to protect all equally, whether they deserve it or not.


I started relaxing, and as the bourbon started to work, I slouched down in the seat and fell asleep.


The next thing I remember, Jens was shaking my shoulders. "Damn. You can sleep anywhere and anytime. Don't you get enough sleep?"


Still half asleep, I mumbled, "Someone I sleep with keeps waking me up with her snoring."


"Then you must not be sleeping with me, because I don't snore." Jens said indignantly. The limo erupted in laughter and shocked me totally awake.


"Oh, I'm laughing so hard I'm crying. Damn, Glen, they're so cute and funny." Evelyn said, dabbing her eyes.


The general chuckled. "Yep – they're better than any damn TV show I've ever seen."


I looked at Jens. She was not amused. "Come on,” she changed the subject. “Let's go in the house. I can't wait to win my bet with Ben."


The driver had opened the door and was standing beside it, smirking. He was lucky that Jens was distracted and didn't notice.


Jens dragged me up to the lovely single-level rancher. It looked clean and crisp, with a brick façade, white accents, a nice tan roof, and an immaculate yard. Looking around, I noticed the neighborhood. It was definitely upscale, and not what I expected for an east-coast neighborhood. It reminded me more of the neighborhoods in the mid-west, with more space between the houses and they were set further back from the street.


"Hold it, young lady," the general barked. "The code on the security system has been changed."


"Come on, Daddy. Hurry up. I want Ben to see my room," Jens whined.


He gave Jens a funny look. "Evelyn didn't tell you?"


"Tell me what?" Jens asked, her brow crinkling a bit.


"We packed up your room right after you told us you were moving to the cabin with Ben," he replied but I noticed a twinkle in his eye.


Jens’s jaw dropped, and she stomped her foot. "Shit, shit shit. Now I can't win my bet."


"Glen! How many times have I told you not to tease her and get her all worked up?" Evelyn scolded. "He's kidding you, my girl. Your room's just the same as you left it."


"Oh, goodie. I'm gonna win a massage," Jens sang.


"I guess that means I'll never get to taste one of your famous pizzas," I asked Jens.


"Well… If you give me an extra-special good massage, I'll make you a pizza," she sang again, just like a smug little girl.


I held out my hand." Deal, my fiancée?"


"Deal, my fiancé." We shook on it.


"Well if you two are finished discussing your transactions in front of God, the nosey neighbors, and everyone else, move the hell out of the way so I can turn off the alarm and open the door," the general ordered.


He turned off the alarm and unlocked the door, and Jens ran past him, with me in tow, towards what I could only guess was her room.


"Hey. You two forgot you travel packs," Evelyn called after us.


It didn't matter to Jens. She was on a mission, and nothing could stop her. We went so fast that I didn't even have a chance to get a good look at the house and finally stopped in front of a door at the end of a hallway on the left.


Jens looked at me triumphantly. "Are you ready to lose your bet?"


"That's big talk for a little girl," I teased.


I opened the door, and the first thing that assaulted my eyes was pink. Light pink walls, sheer pink curtains, a nice canopy bed with a pink comforter and shams. Even the furniture was pink.


"I hope we're not sleeping here. I'm not sure that I could fall asleep with all this pink," I said without thinking.


"You can either sleep here with me or sleep in the basement. And you didn't even notice the pictures," Jens said, disappointed.


“Well, I was blinded by pink,” I defended. I looked around at the pictures on the wall. They were all me.


I walked around the room and looked at the pictures; fear gradually crept into my heart. These weren't just pictures that were released in the news. She had personal pictures of me from the cabin. Even ones were in mom's scrapbook. There was no way for her to get those pictures unless she'd broken into the cabin. I blocked the next thought from her. What was she? Some sort of stalker?


I turned and looked at Jens.


"Okay, you win."


She started jumping up and down.


I sat down on the bed and looked around the room at all the pictures. It was a shrine, and I felt confused, worried and humbled. She came over to the bed and jumped on me forcing me on my back, smothering me with kisses.


"I finally have you in my bed. You wouldn't believe how many nights I dreamed of this. Now, my dream has come true."  She wriggled on top of me.


We were interrupted by the general clearing his throat. "Your travel packs are still on the front porch. One of you needs to go get them.”


I worked my way out from under Jens, and she pouted.


"Just bring them in here, my dear. This is where we're sleeping," Jens ordered.


The general smiled at me as I walked by, and clapped me on the shoulder. "It looks like it's already begun."


"Don't listen to him, Hon; he's just trying to scare you," Jens shouted as I walked out the door.


I wondered what Dad knew – what was this, "it," and what did he mean by, "already begun?" My mind was filled with ominous possibilities as I grabbed the bags off the porch and walked back towards Jens’s room. When I opened the door and walked in the room, Jens was half undressed.


"Come on in, love, I was just changing," she said with a wicked gleam in her eyes.


I walked in, closed the door, and sat the bags on the floor. Trying to ignore Jens flaunting her body, I grabbed a workout suit and my Five-Fingers from my travel bag and headed into her bathroom.


I walked out a few minutes later in my home clothes. Jens was down to her bra and panties, looking in her drawer and trying to figure out what to wear. I headed towards the bedroom door to leave the room.


"Hey, where are you going?"


"I thought I would give you some privacy while you changed."


"What? You're afraid to see my body now?" she taunted.


"I love your body, my dear; it's perfect. I just don't trust myself watching you change all the time." I left the room and closed the door.


I heard voices and followed the hallway to find them. I noticed the pictures lining the hallway wall. There was the general when he was much younger, and Evelyn. Jens looked just like her. The walls were plastered with photos of Jens at all different ages. It was funny to see her when she had lost some of her front teeth. She was a gangly-looking girl who had blossomed into a very beautiful woman as she matured.


I continued towards the voices, walking into a large, tastefully decorated living room. An overstuffed sofa dominated the room in slightly darker blue leather and two matching wing chairs on either end facing inwards. A similar loveseat sat across from the couch separated by a solid looking oak coffee table.


There was a large bay window facing the street, with a window seat. I could almost see Jens sitting on the light blue cushion on a rainy day, drinking a cup of coffee and studying. 


I walked through the arched doorway at the back of the living room and walked into a large dining room. It looked perfect for entertaining and was decorated in Queen-Anne motif. Naturally, the dominating feature was a large but delicate table with seats for twelve.


I found the kitchen off the back of the dining room. Dad and Mom were sitting at the kitchen table talking.


“Welcome to your second home. You look lost,” Mom said.


“Thank you, Ma’am. Jens was changing, and I just needed to find a place to sit.”


“Please call me Mom or Evelyn. Enough with that ma’am crap.”


“Pull up a chair and join us,” Dad said.


I sat down and looked at them, my mind full of questions I wanted to ask but unable to decide where to start.


“Come on, Son, I can tell you want to ask us something. Go ahead. We won’t bite,” Mom kidded me.


“I hope I don’t offend you, but is Jens a little crazy?”


They both laughed and mom said, “Thank you, Son; I just won the bet I had with Glen. I figured that once you saw her room, you would ask that question. Don’t be silly; she’s the sanest person in the house. I can see how it must scare you a little to see her room, though.”


I nodded my head.


“I bet you think she’s a stalker?”


I nodded again.


Mom chuckled. “She’s just fine, but she is the most determined and single minded person I’ve ever known. And I’m not just saying that because she’s my daughter.”


“Saying what because I’m your daughter?” Jens asked as she walked into the kitchen.


I felt like a boy caught with his hand in the cookie jar.


“Ben was just asking us if you were an insane stalker,” Mom answered.


My gut clenched as I worried about Jens’s reaction, but she pulled my chair back, sat down in my lap, and gave me a kiss.


“Not anymore,” she teased. “Now I have the target of my stalking.”


“Jens, quit it. You’re frightening the poor boy,” Mom chided. “Ben, once Jens gets her mind set on something, there’s no changing it. She analyzes what needs to be done to accomplish what she needs to accomplish, and then she does it.”


The general finally spoke. “Son. You see?  You didn’t stand a chance. Once Jens decided that you were the only man for her, it was just a matter of time until she won you over.”


“I’ve often wondered: Why me? And what if I would have turned out to be terrible?” I asked.


Jens smiled at me and then looked at her parents, “I've never told anyone this before, not even my parents, but it's time that all of you knew.” She looked into my eyes.


 "You don’t remember the first time I saw you because you didn’t even look at me, but it’s indelibly etched in my mind. I was walking with daddy on the base and you came up to him. I stood off to the side and as I watched you I felt a link form, it was almost like I could see it, between my soul and yours. Call it love at first sight or kismet or karma or witchcraft or whatever. Your soul and my soul were imprinted with each other. After that, I knew that neither one of us could be happy with another person.”


Dad and mom looked dumbfounded by the revelation. Then an understanding look crept across their faces as if they finally and totally understood their daughter's motivation and devotion.


I blinked my eyes a couple times and thought about what Jens had just told me. I searched the recesses of my mind, trying to recall the incident that she mentioned. Finally, I remembered the conversation with the general and seeing a little girl with messy hair on the side dressed in BDUs. My heart leapt in my chest as I remembered the feeling that had come over me. I felt like a great chasm had been exposed in my soul – a dark and empty place and dwelling right in the middle was the seed of dissatisfaction. After that day, I was never satisfied with any relationships… until Jens.


Jens squealed, hugged me tightly around the neck, and gave me a kiss. “You do remember me! Wait – did I really look that ugly to you?”


I turned red.


She stood up and did a pirouette. “How about now? Do I still look ugly?”


I wanted to grab her and roll around on the floor, but not with our audience. “I guess you’ll do,” I teased.


“Ooh. I wish you were ticklish. I’d tickle the hell out of you for a comment like that.”


“Well, I’m not. But you are.” I jumped up and she ran from the kitchen with me chasing her.


“Hey, you two, no running in the house,” Evelyn shouted after us, but we didn’t listen.


Jens ran back to what she thought was the safety of her bedroom, but she couldn’t close the door in time. I tackled her onto the bed and the wrestling match was on. It wasn’t much of a contest; she was too ticklish to fight back, and I was straddling her.


“Uncle, Uncle! I give up. You win. Please stop. Stop, or I’ll pee,” she squealed.


I stopped and looked down at her. “After what you told me in the kitchen, I understand why things have been the way they have in my life.”


She tried to escape, so I tickled her back into submission.


“You were the smart one and didn’t get your heart broken a hundred times by people you could never be happy with.”


I saw a tears form in the corner of her eyes. She squirmed again, so I tickled some more.


“Stay still, or I will tickle you till you pee. Now I really wonder if you are a witch, and if you didn’t cast some sort of spell on me.”


Jens gave me an evil look and started singing in a throaty voice:


“I put a spell on you
Because you’re mine.
You better stop
The things that you’re doin.
I said watch out!
I ain’t lyin’, yeah!
I ain’t gonna take none of your
Foolin’ around;
I ain’t gonna take none of your
Puttin’ me down;
I put a spell on you
Because you’re mine.”


I looked at her and thought. Damn. “Got me a black magic woman.”


I heard the guitar of Carlos Santana start to sing in my head. My left fingers automatically moved, playing the notes that he played. Jens squirmed again, and kicked the song out of my head.


“Okay, I’ve warned you to stay still, and you won’t. Now suffer the consequences.”


I tickled her and didn’t stop.


“No-o-o!” She yelled, and with superhuman strength, threw me off her and ran to the bathroom.


I laughed. Damn. I guess she really can be tickled until she pees.


She came out of the bathroom very pissed off.


I took one look at her and ran out of her room, passing Mom and Dad in the living room and headed towards the front door.


“Hey, I said no running in the house,” Evelyn ordered.


I hit the front door and just made it outside when I heard Jens right behind me.


“You’d better run. If I catch you I’m going to make you pay,” She shouted behind me.


“Run! Run! As fast as you can. You’ll never catch me I’m the gingerbread Marine,” I yelled over my shoulder and took off running. Jens was hot on my heels, but I was staying three steps ahead of her.


I was tired from sitting all day and wanted some exercise. This was the perfect opportunity for a run. I wasn’t carrying because I didn’t have a CCW for Maryland, but I’d noticed our escorts as we walked into the house. I figured that they could follow us and earn their pay.


I glanced back and saw the car take off and follow us. Jens’s hair was flying, her face was red, and she’d never looked prettier.


“Ooh, I’m so upset at you,” she yelled.


“I would say you were pissed,” I teased her.


“I’ll show you pissed.” She lunged and I sprinted ahead.


“Missed me, missed me. Now you’ve got to kiss me.” I kept up the teasing.


“I’m going to give you a fat lip when I catch you, Mister.”


“Fat lip! Fat chance! There’s no way in hell that you can catch me,” I taunted.


I took off at full speed, and she fell about twenty steps behind. I slowed up and let her get close.


“What’s wrong? Can’t you catch me?” I asked.


“Why should I? I’ll just wait until tonight and then get even.”


“I was thinking that if you caught me we’d double the bet. How would you like two massages?” I wagered with her.


“It’s a deal,” She said, and sprinted.


Damn. She’d been holding back. I put on a quick burst of speed just in time to escape her grasp.


“Shit! I almost had you. I wish I’d caught you.”


“If wishes were fishes, we’d all have a skillet full,” I yelled over my shoulder.


“You didn’t ask what I win if you don’t catch me.”


“That’s right, what do you win?” she queried.


“Slave for a day. You have to fulfill all my wishes for a whole day,” I laughed.


“That sounds fun.  Maybe I’ll let you win,” she kidded, and slowed down.


I slowed, too, and kept the distance the same. Next thing I knew, she was sprinting again, and almost caught me.


“Ha! I knew you were just being sneaky. I could feel it this time,” I taunted her.


“Dammit, now I know how you feel.”


We’d gone about five miles at a fast pace, had worked up a good sweat, and slowed up to a more sane rate. I was watching in front of us when I saw a police car coming our way pull across the street in front of us. I dodged onto someone’s yard and slowed up. Jens ran up and tackled me.


We were rolling around on the grass wrestling when we heard, “Freeze right where you are.”


We stopped looked over and there was a policeman with his gun drawn and aimed at us. We sat as still as possible.


The escort vehicle roared up and stopped, two suits jumped out.


They had their IDs out and were already flashing them to the cop.


They were too far away and we couldn’t hear what was said, but the cop holstered his gun, got back in his car and left. The suits walked over to us and flashed their badges. They were Secret Service. They helped us up.


One agent said, “Next time you two want to go for a run, you should let us know and we’ll take you to a track. The only time people run around here is when they’ve done something wrong.”


The other agent continued, “I guess you two scared the hell out of the whole area. They said some crazy woman was chasing a man and was trying to kill him.”


I snickered, and Jens elbowed me in the side.


“Don’t even think of saying what I know you want to say,” she told me.


We followed the agents to the car and hopped in the back. They drove us back to the house. As we were leaving, one said, “Make sure the general tells us if you are planning on going anywhere. It makes our job easier.”


Dad, Mom, and all the neighbors were in their front yards watching as we walked up to the house. From the look on Jens’s parents face we thought we were in trouble. I walked up to the house feeling like a dog with its tail between its legs.


Dad opened the door for us and we walked in.


He clapped me on the back, startling me, and laughed. “Damn. That was so funny. Just what this boring old neighborhood needed – a little excitement.


“Evelyn, did you see the looks on the faces of our stuck-up neighbors across the street?”


“It was priceless, Glen,” she chortled. “These two really need to have a TV show.”


We were both speechless, but glad that we weren’t in trouble.


“Come on you two, let’s get some food,” Evelyn said.


Mom and Jens brought some sandwiches to the table, and they all sat at the table and bowed their heads. I looked around confused and bowed my head. Then I heard some movement, looked up, and everyone was looking at me. I could feel my face turn red.


“Don’t worry, Mom and Dad; he hasn’t learned how to pray yet, so he pretends,” Jens told them.


“I do it as a form of respect,” I added.


With that issue settled for the time being, we all started eating.


It was different eating with the Donaldson’s. Dinner at my house had been much more formal. Here, it was a lively exchange of opinions and ideas. I found it very disorienting. My head was moving back and forth between the three of them as if I was watching a tennis match.


It was exhausting to me. I finished my sandwich and said, “Please excuse me. The sandwich was wonderful, but I’m feeling tired and I want to shower before I go to sleep.”


They gave me a shocked look.


Jens said, “Oh, my poor boy, you need to rest. Go shower and I’ll be in soon.”


I took my plate to the kitchen, put it in the dishwasher, and headed to Jens's bedroom.  I closed the door and sat on the bed. I’d been on an emotional rollercoaster all day. I wasn’t so much physically tired as mentally exhausted.


I slipped off my Five-Fingers and grabbed my sleep shorts and t-shirt from my travel pack. Went into the bathroom, and took a good long shower. It didn’t wake me up, but it did help me relax. When I came out of the shower, Jens still wasn’t there. I crawled into her bed, turned out the lights, and fell asleep.



Somewhere Northeast of Khudabah, Pakistan – Day Four


I wake up as dawn is chasing away the night. At first I'm a little disoriented, not quite sure where I am. Shit. Now I remember, and now I understand why I have two bodies practically lying on top of me.


This situation is FUBAR. Six months ago I didn't even have one woman in my life. Now I have a quasi-fricken-harem. My fiancée Jens, and two little sisters. It wouldn't be bad other than they all want to be my wife or wives. Damn. This is confusing.


A no-woman man turning into a one-woman-man becoming a two-woman-man and forcibly becoming a three-woman-man; From no cares in the world other than which bastard I'm going to rightly kill next, to what feels like the weight of Atlas on my shoulders.


Shit.  A loner old bachelor saddled with a family full of estrogen. I hope that my manhood survives. I hope that Jens knows something about raising sisters and girls because I don't have any fucking idea what to do.


Enough of this thinking crap. I have business to take care of and we need to get this estrogen caravan moving.


"Rise and shine!" I yell in Russian.


The girls jump up afraid that something is happening. It's comical so I start laughing. Zarika gives me a dirty look and says something to Yasmeen in Arabic.


Yasmeen says, "Why do we need to get big like bread?"


Zarika says, "And why do we need to shine like the sun."


I look at them and think about explaining it and decide that it would be a waste of time. "Forget it. I need to take care of some personal business and then we need to get going."


Zarika leans over and starts talking to Yasmeen in Arabic. I turn and look at both of them, "We're going to get one thing straight. When we're all together we will either speak Russian or English."


They both hang their heads thinking I'm scolding them. Damn. Why does it always have to be so hard with women – girls – uh female biological units?


I walk back to them and give them both a hug at the same time. "Come on you two, I wasn't scolding you. I just like to be part of the conversation. Besides, how will I know if you're planning on leaving me for some young goat herder if you talk in Arabic?"


They both got a shocked look on their faces, then Zarika figures out that I'm joking and tells Yasmeen. They both hug me back and swear that they will never leave me and that I am the best man in the world.


"Girls. I really need to take care of some business." I mention as I extricate myself from the hugs.


They both start telling me that they're women, not girls. I shake my head and walk away. Even in the middle of this hellhole some things remain the same, girls can't wait to be women, and I bet that women want to go back to being girls.


I wander out the front door carrying my AK and some paper and head to the ramshackle outhouse. I hope this piece-of-shit outhouse doesn’t collapse with me in it. I open the door and look inside. I've seen some nasty shitters in the world, but this is probably the worst. The smell is putrid and makes my already upset stomach turn flip-flops. I close the door and walk out into the field and squat behind a bush.


This hurts. It feels like something is ripping up my guts every time I shit. Hussein and the mother-fuckers are going to pay for what they did to me. I finish and take a look, it looks like tar again: wait – oh shit, no wonder I feel like hell, I've got roundworms.


I stand and walk, shaking and sweating towards the house. Zarika sees me from the door and runs to me, "Ben, you're sick again. What is wrong with you?"


"Damn mother-fucker Hussein gave me a case of roundworms." I gasped.


She looks at me, "Ben, I don't understand what you're saying."


I tell her again and she still doesn't understand. Finally I decide that as gross as it is I have to show her. "Zarika, my Russian is not good enough to explain this to you. I know this will be sick but I will need to show you."


She helps me back out to the field and I show her the shit on the ground, you could still see the worms.


She starts cussing and swearing in a combination of Arabic and Russian using words that I've never even heard. "Poor Ben, you are very sick and should have told me earlier. No wonder why you are always hungry and weak. Do not worry; I know how to fix you."


She helps me back to the house. Yasmeen sees us and comes running out to help. "Ben are you sick?" She asks


Zarika explains to her and I turn red. "Girls – uh ladies, this is embarrassing for me so let's not tell anyone about this."


Zarika and Yasmeen continue to talk about my problem and my embarrassment grows. "Women, please this is embarrassing."


Zarika scolds me, "Ben do not be silly. This happens all the time here and we are used to it. We will tell Aamir and Dhuha that the men you bought the weapons from were dishonorable and gave you bad food. They will curse them to allah and say many other bad things about them. Then your wives will give you a tea that will kill the worms. But we will need to stay here today. When the tea kills the worms it will make you sick too."


I started arguing with her that we needed to leave today. She looked at me and said, "Ben, sniff the air and tell me what you smell."


I take in a deep breath and recognize the flinty smell in the air of a coming sandstorm. "Shit! There's a sandstorm coming."


Yasmeen says, "You need the toilet again?"


Zarika laughs and explains what I said to Yasmeen.


Yasmeen blushes.


"I need to take care of some of the gear in the truck before the sandstorm comes." I tell both of them.


I straighten up and walk towards the barn. Zairka and Yasmeen head to the house, I overhear Zarika coaching Yasmeen on what to tell Dhuha about our wedding night.


Aamir meets me at the door and says, "Assalamu alaikum."


I fight back the desire to break his terrorist back as I hug him and reply, "Wa alaykum assalam."


He tries to talk to me. I wave my hands trying to make him understand about the storm and he nods his head.


We climb into the back of the truck and he watches as I open up condom packages and put them over the barrels of the exposed guns and use the wrapper as a twist tie to close off the end furthest from the crown. He nods his head and starts helping.


I look at all the other boxes and make sure they're closed tight. I check the food and make sure that it's all closed. I look at the cookware and a scorpion jumps out. I move to the side just in time and it misses me. I stomp the hell out of it killing it many more times than needed. Aamir laughs and spouts some dribble.


I make sure that the cab of the truck is closed up tight. I open the hood and check the engine; the dipstick is in tight, the oil cap is on tight and I stuff a rag in the entrance for the air cleaner. I sniff the air and the flinty smell is even stronger. I motion to Aamir and we head back to the house. I'm not looking forward to riding out the storm in a house with as many holes in it as this one, but I don't have a choice.


We walk in the door and I'm greeted by my pretend wives. They take my shoes off and start treating me like I'm an invalid. Dhuha comes out and talks to Aamir, he starts yelling and waving his hands.


Yasmeen leans over, "Mama told him about the worms and papa is very upset." Both girls giggle, "He is using very bad words."


They help me over to the chair cushions and help me down. I was going to tell them that I didn't need any help, but I knew that I'd never win that argument. Dhuha brings me some tea, I take it from her and nod. I put it up to my lips and the minute I smell it I take it away, it smells nasty, worse than ass. Dhuha starts yammering and then Yasmeen and Zarika start all yelling at the same time. I jump up and yell in Russian, "That's enough!"


Everyone stops the noise and looks at me. Zarika and Yasmeen start sniffling and crying. Aamir and Dhuha are looking at me to see what I will do. Shit. I don't know what to culturally do in this situation. I decide that I will do what seems right and hope I don't fuck up. I hold out my arms and call to my pretend wives, they run to my side and I give them big hugs. They both start crying and apologizing to me.


"Shush my little doves. I'm not mad at you; I just can't stand all the noise." I comfort them.


They stop crying and hug me. Zarika gets brave and says, "Ben you must drink the tea."


Yasmeen adds, "Yes Ben, otherwise you will stay sick."


"The tea is nasty, it smells worse than the outhouse." I whine.


The girls giggle and Zarika the brave tells me, "Stop acting like a little boy. Take your medicine like a man."


Yasmeen is shocked by the way Zarika talks to me and sharply draws in her breath; fearing that I will beat Zarika for her impertinence.


Zarika tells Yasmeen, "Don't worry, he acts mean but he's not. He's like a big playful puppy dog."


"Now are you going to drink that tea or are we going to have to get upset." Zarika threatens.


They help me sit back down and Yasmeen smiles and hands me the tea. I bring it up to my mouth and grimace, Zarika and Yasmeen give me a dirty look. I plug my nose with my left hand and pour the vile liquid down my throat. I finish and cough a couple of times and my eyes start to water.


"Damn. That was nasty. What's in it?" I complain.


Yasmeen smiles, "Wormwood. It will kill all the worms in you. And then you will be my strong hus-uh-brother."


"Shit. Wormwood, isn't that used in absinth and isn't it a poison?"


"Lie down on the bed and rest. We will take good care of you." Zarika replies.


I remember our audience and look over at Aamir and Dhuha. They're both smiling and nodding their heads so I guess I did the right thing.


I start feeling sick and lie back on the bed. My head rests on both the girls' laps and they're rubbing my head. Damn. I hope they know what they're doing and didn't poison me.


I lost track of the time, but I start to get severe cramps in my guts and double up in pain and moan.


I feel a cold cloth on my forehead, "Ben, that is good the tea is already killing the worms. Let us know when you need the toilet."


Thirty minutes later I croak, "I need the toilet now."


I feel the girls help me up and we run outside to the outhouse. The wind is blowing and there's dust everywhere. Not minding the smell this time I pull down my pants and squat over the hole. Oh God, it hurts so bad and I almost fall over. Zarika and Yasmeen are right there helping to hold me up. I finish and they pull me back to my feet and help me with my pants. I'm so weak that they almost drag me back to the house.


I collapse on the cushions and Dhuha is over with another cup of tea. "No, I weakly complain. No more."


They force another vile cup down my throat, I gag and cough. Yasmeen whacks me on the back and then lays me back down.


I begin shaking with a fever and become delusional. Tossing and turning on the bed and waking up just long enough to run, with help, to the toilet.


There's a big storm raging outside but it's nothing like the storm I feel in my body. Finally as night approaches both storms subside. The wind and the dust leave having cleansed the desert and the tea and cramps are gone having cleansed my body.


I lie back on the bed a sweaty stinky mess and it doesn't even bother me when the girls undress me and give me a sponge bath and dress me in clean clothes. As night falls they each take up their place at my side and I drift off to sleep.