.................. We drove home laughing and joking.
“So what does it feel like” Ben asked as we went through the gates back on to the base.
“Like I forgot to use sun block and I have sun burn where they did it” I shrugged “You still want yours after Boot camp” I asked.
“Oh yeah I’ve always loved your Dad’s big one across his shoulders but I just want the word MARINE” he nodded pulling into the drive of my house. “Oh no your Grandpa’s here” Ben groaned, I started to laugh.
‘If you don’t want to come in then you don’t have to” I grinned.
“No its okay” he said taking a deep breath “I’ll hide behind you” we walked in the house.
“Gunny bear” grandpa smiled looking up from the paper he was reading “You left early this morning”.
“I had an appointment” I smiled sitting down carefully “Where’s Mom and Dad”.
“You’re Mom and all the other girls went out shopping he rolled his eyes making Ben laugh “Logan and Toby and Eric had a meeting I’m waiting for Will, David, Adam and Rylan and we’re all hitting the range”.
“Gun range?” Ben asked.
‘Nope just golf you can join us if you like” Grandpa smiled. “Make the numbers even”
“You should go” I smirked “I have some stuff to do” Ben looked horrified.
“We don’t bite” Grandpa laughed “well not too hard”.
“Okay sure” Ben nodded “I’ll go grab my Dad’s clubs from him and meet you back here”.
‘We’ll wait for you” Grandpa nodded. I walked Ben out.
“I’m sorry I shouldn’t have pushed you” I winked.
“Its fine I’ll have Rylan for back up” Ben smiled kissing me “and I’m sure an afternoon with your protective grandpa’s and god father will set me right up for Boot camp. Love you”
“Love you too” Ben walked to his truck, I went back inside. “Promise me one thing” I said sitting back down.
“You won’t pick on him” I moaned.
“I promise we won’t Honey” Grandpa smiled “We’ll give him hell but we won’t pick on him” I put my head on the table, Grandpa started to laugh as the Door opened and Dad walked in.
“Hey what’s the joke” He said putting his cap on the side.
“Grandpa is trying to wind me up” I said still not lifting my head from the table. Dad looked at Grandpa who shrugged.
“Ben’s coming golfing with us” Grandpa said “we need to make sure if he’s going to end up part of the family”.
“Jeez you guys have me married off already” I sighed looking from Dad to Grandpa.
“Don’t worry Tess I’ll go as well to make sure Ben survives” Dad said walking over to me and laughing I nodded “Jack call Toby and tell him to hustle and get over here”
“Sure” Grandpa pulled out his phone and dialed I got up and reached over the table to grab an apple.
“Whoa don’t move” Dad said I stopped and turned my head to look at him. “Okay I take it that patch either means you had back surgery this morning or you’ve got a tattoo”. Grandpa dropped his phone.
“Oh Gunny bear no” he sighed.
“You can’t yell at me” I said hoping it would work. “You’ve got 9 and Mom’s got 7”
“Who said I was going to yell I want to check it out the only way I’ll yell is if it’s Ben’s name that’s under there” Dad grinned “can I fetch it off” I nodded. He carefully pulled off the dressing and started to laugh “Gunny even you’ll like this one” he said looking at Grandpa, Grandpa got up and walked round to see it.
“It’s like the one in the middle of your Mom’s back” Grandpa smiled as the front door opened and the other guys spilled in.
“Okay what are you doing” Toby said walking over.
“Tess got her first Tattoo” Dad said pretending to wipe away a tear “It’s one of those milestone days like her first steps”.
“Funny” I laughed standing up “So you’re not mad” Dad shook his head.
“Like you said I can’t yell when I’ve got 10” I looked at him.
“I thought it was 9”.
“I got on one Monday” he laughed lifting his shirt to show where he’d added the MBER after the letter A on the right side of his chest, I smiled and shook my head.
“Mine was my graduation gift from Ben” I smirked as the door opened and Ben walked in al the guys turned and looked at him.
“Okay what have I done” he groaned.
“You made my daughter get a Tattoo” Dad said putting his hands on his hips.
“What… I didn’t… she wanted” he stuttered. I swatted Dad.
“They’re being dumb” I smiled walking over to Ben “don’t take any crap from any of them okay” he nodded and kissed me as Dad went upstairs to get changed laughing………………………………
………………………All too soon it was Sunday and Ben and Skye and some of the others were heading for Boot camp I walked down the stairs at Ben’s after spending the night Jess looked at me.
“You guys okay” I nodded as she handed me a cup of coffee.”Did Ben get much sleep”?
“No neither of us did” I sighed, “God if it’s this hard to let him go just for 12 weeks then how do you do it when it’s a 7 month deployment” I leaned on the countertop “Wow I thought it was hard when it was Dad but this feels so different” she put her hand on my shoulder.
“I guess it’s the way you love them that makes it feel so different”
Ben walked down the stairs with Mac carrying his bag Katie walked in from outside looking sad Ben hugged her.
“Just think you’ll get to use the shower longer now I’m not her” he smirked “and I’ll be back in 12 weeks” she nodded.
“We need to get going we have to be there at 2” Mac sighed we walked out to find Dad Toby and Eric all standing there in full dress uniforms. “And it looks like you get your own honor guard to see you off: Mac smiled giving Dad a nod and a smile. Ben stopped in front of Dad who saluted him before offering him his gloved hand Ben shook it.
“We thought we’d come and see you off and tell you good luck” Dad smiled “You’re going to make a good marine I’ll fight beside you any day” I saw the pride in Ben’s face
“Thanks” Ben sighed “Do one thing for me”
“Sure” Dad nodded.
“Look after my girl while I’m away” Ben said reaching for my hand.
“I think we’ve got that covered” Toby said shaking Bens hand.
“I think he was just checking” Eric laughed. “Good luck and like Lo said we won’t mind having you in our platoon”. Ben opened the door on his truck.
“Thanks for this” Ben said as Dad kissed my head.
“Call me when you’re on your way home” I nodded as Ben walked round and got in Mac and Jess went to thank Dad and the others as we pulled away.
“I didn’t expect that” Ben said reaching for my hand as he drove “Did you know about it”
“No but then again Dad can be full of surprise” I sighed as I linked my fingers with his.
“You going to write me” Ben asked.
“You know I am I want to know if Adam’s being really mean to you” I laughed.
“Gee thank, you think you might get to visit him while I’m there” Ben said glancing at me.
‘Even if I do we probably won’t get to see each other” I shrugged “but I know that’s where we’re staying when you graduate”.
‘You’re mom and Dad coming down for the graduation” Ben smiled.
“Oh yeah I think they’re using it to visit where they first met” I said turning on the I-pod to our Nickel back song………………..
…………………………I’ve done this trip easily 20 times between Lejeune and Parris island but this one seemed to go so fast we pulled into the parking lot he handed me the keys as we got out and he grabbed his bag he reached for my hand as we waited for his parents to arrive.
“There’s Justin” I said nodding in the direction of Justin walking with his parents. Ben put his fingers in his mouth and whistled.
“Hey Skye” he yelled. She came over with her Dad and now step Mom.
“Oh she’s filling up” Skye said her eyes brimming with tears she hugged me, Nick was holding her bag.
“Yeah well half my senior class seem to be here my best friend and my boyfriend aren’t going to be with me on the beach this summer” I sniffed.
“I know have an ice cream for me” she laughed I nodded “Nick you want to ride home with me”
“Sure Sis” he sighed he was feeling as sad as I was Mac and Jess came over with Katie come on this way we went to where they had to be Adam was standing to one side in his uniform his arms folded across his chest.
“Wow half the guys here are taller than that instructor” a guy behind me laughed. “So much for Marine tough” I looked at Mac then at Ben. They both shrugged as Adam made his way through the crowd. “He’ll be a push over”.
“You have a problem son” Adam said standing in front of him.
“No just saying you don’t look that tough” the guy said trying to sound good in front of some of the other recruits and families.
“Okay let’s see how tough you are after hell week” Adam said his face set like stone. “And by the end of the day tomorrow let’s see which one of us is still giving the attitude, I’m here to make you a Marine there’s no room or tolerance for disrespect, Do I make myself clear”, the guy backed away slightly.
“Yes Sir” he stammered.
“Good” Adam turned to look at me.
“You okay” I nodded “Stop over if you want you and Nick” he put his hand on Nicks shoulder.
“We might” I nodded.
“Okay” he winked at me and walked away, I turned round to the guy behind us.
“After 5 tours in Iraq and 18 years as a Marine he’s tougher than he looks” I shrugged.
“You know him”.
“Oh yeah and really don’t piss him off”………………………..
………………..It got to the point where we had to say good bye Ben’s Mom and Dad went first followed by Katie I stood to the side he turned to look at me.
“Hey you” he sighed pulling me into his arms “I love you so much” I looked at him “Just think the next time you’re here I’ll be a day away from graduating”.
“I know” I nodded tears slowly starting to run down my cheeks, he wiped them with his thumbs “You’ll be my Marine then”
“Always” he smiled his eyes glazing over with tears. “At least I know you’re in good hands back home”
“And I know you’re in good hands here” I nodded in Adams direction, making Ben smile.
He hugged me to him and kissed my neck.
“We need to go get My tattoo done when I get home”.
“I’ll make the appointment” I sniffed.
“I’m going to miss you Tess, Love you” he started to walk away with everyone else.
“Love you” I felt an arm over my shoulder and looked at Nick he was crying as well.
‘Jeez and this is only boot camp” he said trying ot smile.
‘I know” Adam walked over to us and handed me the key for his house.
“Stay at the house tonight I’ll be back round 10” he kissed my head and hugged Nick. “You’re not in a fit state to drive home”.
‘Okay thank you” he nodded and followed the recruits…………………………………………………………