The sound of a diesel engine still made me catch my breath. Even though it had been two years since I had heard that truck pull into my drive, every time I heard that particular sound of an idling engine, my heart gave a painful thump. I knew I’d never see that truck, or it’s driver, again. But it still effected me.
We’d been together for six months. Secretly, but that was okay. Given his career, he couldn’t be out. DADT hadn’t been repealed yet then. So we maintained the friend facade in public and hid behind closed doors. I accepted it. It was worth it to be with him.
When he’d gotten his deployment orders, his stoic face had fallen into place. We talked for a long while about what that would mean for us. In the end, it was better for us both to walk away. I hated every minute of it, but I respected the untenable position he was in. I’d worried constantly over the last two years, knowing he was in combat in a war zone. And hoped I didn’t hear the worst news possible. Trying to put him out of my heart and mind was impossible. But he’d made it clear before he left; we were over even though he cared for me a great deal. I had to accept that. And I was getting better at letting go everyday.
That didn’t mean the sound of that engine didn’t still twist my gut as I remembered the last time I’d heard it pull away from the house. Hearing it this close again was almost unbearable. I wouldn’t let myself look out the front window, just to see some other truck on the street, waiting for some other person.
The sound of the engine abruptly ceased. I heard the door snap shut. I forced myself to breathe evenly, and relax. But then there was familiar sound of boots on the wooden porch. A moment later, a distinctive rap on the door. I sprang up and ran, not caring I’d knocked my glass to the floor and spilled water everywhere. I yanked open the door.
There he stood, looking skinny and haggard, but smiling. He was wearing his utility uniform, and I gasped as he pulled off his cover and aviator sunglasses. There were lines around his eyes and mouth that hadn’t been there before. But the familiar close cropped hair and mischievous tilt of his head still made my blood race. He was as handsome as ever. And I was just so damn happy to see him, alive and whole and smiling. Tears filled my eyes.
The lance corporal was home.