After a shower and breakfast I met Dr. Rich and Dr. Shelly Moore in the conference room. Dr. Rich spoke first. “I have to update you on your request for leave. Because you were hospitalized, your leave was canceled and your record will reflect you as still being on active duty. Once you are discharged your leave will start immediately. We noticed that you have not reenlisted. The core has extended your service for 30 more days. There are 3 weeks for leave and the rest for combat detoxify and travel. There is an awards ceremony tomorrow that you have to attend.”
Dr. Moore was next. “Medically speaking you are in perfect shape. The wounds that you received have all healed, although you will have small scars. Emotionally you are a different story. Your lifetime friendship with Betty Smith and the circumstances of her death are really going to be difficult for you to deal with. Most soldiers don’t have close long-term friendships. They know someone for one deployment or assignment and don’t develop a deep emotional bond or the intimate bond that you and Betty had.”
“From the interviews it seemed there was more and on a level that we don’t understand. In all my years I have only seen that connection a few times and those were between close relatives.”
An aid knocked on the door and said, “The visitors are here and are in conference room C.”
Drs. Rich and Moore walked me over to the conference room. As we went in Dr. Moore put her arm around me and said “I’m going to be with you if you need anything. I’m here for you.”
Mom, Dad and Jake were there, along with James, Karen and James Jr. (we called him Jim), Betty‘s older brother. When I saw Betty’s family I nearly lost it. Why were they here?
Jake was the first to get to me and greet me. It was more than a casual greeting. He wrapped his arms around me and hugged me so tight, I thought he was going to break my ribs. He then gave me a kiss – hard, full on the lips – I even thought he slipped me a little tongue for a second. It quickly rekindled old feelings. He released me to Mom and Dad who were both crying and hugged me at the same time.
After a few hugs and ‘I love you’ I turned and went to James, Karen and Jim. I hugged them telling them over and over again that I was sorry, that I wished I could have done more. James hugged me and gave a kiss on the cheek and said,”We know, we know and we know how much you cared for Betty and how much you loved her and how much she loved you.”
“We have seen the action report of the battle. We know everything was done that could be done. You saved the convoy when so many others were lost, and you have paid a terrible price for it. We think we can explain part of what you are going through,” he said.
After the hugs and small talk we all sat at the table. Karen and Mom were sitting together with James beside Karen and Dad beside Mom. Jake and Jim were sitting on each side with me in the middle. Jake was holding my hand under the table.
“We don’t know how to or where to begin, “Karen said while looking at my mother, “but here goes. James and I, your Mom and Dad have always been good friends and more since high school.”
“We have swapped partners,” I looked at Jake and Jim.
Jake looked at me but didn’t show any surprise so I guess they had discussed this, although I’m sure I did.
Karen continued, “We stopped for a time so we each could start our family – the result was Jake – and a short time later we went back to swapping. We again each decided we wanted another child but there was a problem. James had a serious infection after Jim was born that left him sterile. In fact James and I wanted a second child in the worst way. When your Mom told us they were planning on another child we were heartbroken that we couldn’t.”
“The light came on for us. We have been friends since high school, intimate friends, as well we were neighbors. We considered ourselves as one big family. We discussed it as friends and lovers.”
“We asked your Dad if he would father our child,” she said.
My Mom picked it at this point.
We said, “Yes” without hesitation. Betty was born a month after you. “You and Betty are half sisters.”
I was floored! I knew we had the sixth sense thing, but sisters. I was even sadder now but I was also relieved at the revelation.
The docs now did an open floor discussion, trying to help me. In the end I was relieved and I felt better. Maybe my family being with me or maybe the clearing of the air did the trick.
I was given a pass for the day; I had to return tomorrow. There was a hearing to release the outcome of the ambush and a ceremony after that. If I had no problems tonight or tomorrow night I would be released to go home. The docs did not want me to spend the night alone; they really wanted me come back to the unit. Jake would not hear of it. His suite had two beds; he insisted he would watch over me. The docs glanced at each other and agreed.
We went to a steak house. We had a wonderful time; I even danced with James Jr. and Jake. When Jake and I danced it was a slow song, he held me close, I held him closer and felt him against me. I reach between and give him a little squeeze just to let him know I remembered and still wanted him.
Edit by Alfmeister