Today a melancholy feeling fell down around me like fog. I have ten more days with Keith. His presence here is so brief and yet so spectacular that he sometimes seems like a ghost; except that he is entirely tangible.
I was washing a few dishes before dinner tonight when he came up behind me, put his hands on my hips and bent down to kiss my cheek. He didn't say anything, just kissed me and then went on preparing the cheese sauce for the broccoli.
His father arrived; that officially marks the end of our time together alone and therefore, the beginning of the end of leave. From here on we will be with family. I am looking forward to seeing them, a great deal. But it means also that the day for his departure is coming up.
He barbecued steaks outside in the freezing cold; the sun sets so early that it was pitch black outside.
"Go on out and smell that," he urged me, "Tell me you've never smelled anything so good."
It did smell delicious, the smell of steak seared and crisping, the tang of the barbecue sauce; it was a rich and heavy smell redolant of summer and strangely out of place in the pitch black of a winter evening.
"Abby, you're such a pretty girl," Keith told his dog affectionately.
We were all standing about in the kitchen, waiting on the steaks and mashed potatoes. The broccoli simmered away on the stove and the table was set. He cradled his drink against this chest as he always does; he wore a blue woven shirt and straight legged jeans.
Abby lifted her silky black ears and looked adoringly at her dad when he spoke to her.
"And you're pretty too, Lynn," Keith added, turning to my dog, sitting quietly near my feet. He looked at me and suddenly grinned. "And you too, honey, you're real pretty too."
"Gotta cover all the bases, huh?" asked his dad, laughing.
"Yeah, gotta watch my step; could get myself in a world of trouble," Keith drawled, his eyes twinkling.
I changed into PJs and came back downstairs to find Keith alone, watching TV in his usual seat. I curled up against him; he smelled warmly of whiskey and soap and very faintly, of barbecue sauce.
"I miss you already," I whispered, barely able to speak it at all.
"Awww, my poor little kitten," he said quietly, his arms holding me tightly.
Everything has by now returned to usual; he washed the dishes for me, didn't get all the food off because he's too impatient and so he became the dish drier and I the dish washer (and oh the triumph when he returned the saucea pan to me because I'd left a smear of cheese. "You got me," I admitted. "I gotcha," he replied, with satisfaction.) His shoes and boots are everywhere, his magazines and spit cans show up at odd locations, he's always losing his phone somewhere and his uniform hangs from the foot of our queen sized sleigh bed.
Last night I woke up to find myself wedged between Keith on one side and a dog on another, the covers all twisted up. I was actually too hot and flung my arm out of the covers, wiggled carefully up higher. Looking over the bed in the silvery moonlight, I could see every inch of space was taken up by someone or something that I loved, one large, peacefully sleeping, deeping breathing pile of warm bodies.
I couldn't help but remember how it is when I sleep alone; how only one side of the covers is disturbed and making the bed consists of simply flipping it back in place and propping up the pillow. When Keith is here, no matter how tightly I tuck down the sheet, everything is topsy turvy in the morning, a great jumble of bedding and pillows.
I thought of my quiet mornings, the smell of oatmeal and coffee, the cold winter air as I let the dogs out, the silence and the stillness every where. How any one thing will stay in one spot indefinitely, everything around me static, like a movie set after hours, when everyone has gone home and the objects are dimly lit by the emergency exit signs.
I will return to that life, it is inevitable. But I have thought of something which makes it easier to endure. Instead of thinking that he is returning to finish out his 12 month tour, I will pretend he is beginning an eight month tour.
How marvelous that sounds! How lucky I am, that my man will be gone only eight months! Why, some people are sent out on 12 month tours, hell, some are still finishing 15 month tours. But not me. I need send my man out for only eight months.
These are the silly little mind games that I find myself playing lately, but whatever gets one through the night, so to speak, and I have a lot of night ahead of me yet.
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