Again I’m struck stupid by her beauty. Long, red hair cascades down her back in loose waves and the sight makes my fingers twitch, craving to know if it feels as soft as it looks. Instead of the usual sundresses I have been seeing her in, she’s wearing a white sleeveless top that hangs loosely off her small body and a pair of jean shorts. My eyes travel down her long, lean, bare legs and collide with a pair of cowgirl boots.
The way the sun has started to set – it casts a glow on her that doesn’t make her look real. It makes her look like something that people try to fill your head with, but I know is bullshit, a fucking angel. But if I did believe in angels, I’d swear this chick was one. Her entire persona screams innocence.
Three nights ago I left camp and went for a walk, needing to be alone. What was supposed to be a quick twenty-four hour mission has already turned into five days, and it seems it could be another week. I don’t mind being gone on missions, the longer the better. It’s not like I have anyone waiting for me back home. But since I’m always with a team, being around people constantly can make me agitated, and I need time to myself. Even if some of those guys are like brothers to me.
On that walk, only a few short minutes from base, a sweet, soft laugh had caught my attention. Following the sound, I came up to this clearing and found her with a bunch of Iraqi kids. She was chasing after them while playing some game. The moment my gaze landed on her something happened inside my chest, something that I haven’t felt in years and I have no idea why. Sure she’s beautiful, but I’ve seen lots of beautiful women. Hell, I’ve fucked most of them too. Yet something about this chick had me staying in the trees, out of sight, and watching her until she left. She was all I thought about that entire night and the next day. Which really pissed me off.
So the next night I came back, hoping to catch another glimpse of her, wanting to reassure myself that I was being a fucking idiot and that she was not what I made her out to be. Instead of getting the reassurance I had wanted, that same feeling came back, except this time it was even more powerful, because she had a guitar and was singing. Her voice had rooted me to my spot, and had my breath stalling in my lungs. If it were possible it would have knocked me on my ass. I swear I have never heard anything like it before.
That night I sat for two hours and listened to her sing shit that I would never normally listen to. I felt like a fucking pervert, staying out of sight and spying on her, but there was no way I was getting any closer to her. I’m still trying to figure out how, after ten years of being completely numb, some beautiful, redheaded country girl evokes something in my chest that no one ever has. It’s far from warmth because I’m incapable of feeling that, but it’s still something.
I’ve been wondering what the hell a white American girl is doing in a place like this. Even though most of the soldiers have been evacuated and the war declared over, it still is dangerous, and the insurgency is still ongoing. Actually it’s been getting a lot worse lately, which is why I’m here. So why the hell would she be here, out of all places?
My attention suddenly shifts across the field, to an Iraqi boy who is walking toward her with a smile. He looks about eight years old and I recognize him from the first night, when she was playing with a bunch of them. The girl is clearly expecting him and is even happy to see him, if her smile is anything to go by.
And why the fuck does her smile even have shit shifting in my chest?
The boy walks up to her and hands her a single, white flower shyly. Her smile brightens as she accepts it, and she even gives the kid a kiss on the cheek. Lucky little fucker.
She sits back down and opens her arms to him. Turning, he sits on her lap and she places the guitar in his hands. Her arms go around him and she helps him strum the guitar. The kid is wearing the biggest smile on his face and they both begin to sing a song that they clearly have been working on.
Finding myself not being able to walk away again, I take a seat by the tree that I have been sitting at for the past three nights and soak in everything about her. I am seriously fucked in the head when it comes to this chick.
I’ve heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?
It goes like this
The fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah
As I sing with Aadil, the sweet little Iraqi boy I met a week ago, my heart warms at the joyous smile on his face. I’m pretty sure he loves music as much as me. We have been practicing this song ever since the night he found me in this field, singing it. His English is not the best but he’s getting much better at following along with me.
I remember the day I spotted him in the trees listening to me; he had a look of wonderment across his face. He was timid when I first approached him but he warmed to me quickly. That night I had completely lost my heart to him, and every evening since he has come to this spot to be with me. The other day he even brought a bunch of friends with him and we had a wonderful time. They taught me games that they like to play and I taught them some of my favorites.
It bothers Beth that I leave camp, so I tried to have Aadil come to us. But for some reason he is scared of being spotted, so I promised him I would come here every night to be with him until the day I leave. He has come to mean an awful lot to me, in the short time we have gotten to know each other, and I will miss him dearly when the time comes for me to leave.
After we finish the song, Aadil turns to me with a big smile. “I did better.”
I smile back, “Yes, you did. Have you been practicing the words?”
He nods and his smile slips a bit. “Only here though,” he replies, tapping his head.
“Well I can tell, you did wonderful, Aadil. I’m very proud of you.”
He beams at my praise. I’m just about to ask him if he wants to play again when I am interrupted by an angry shout. Looking across the field, I see a furious man storming toward us, screaming in Arabic.
“Oh no. My father,” Aadil gasps. Pure fear washes over his face and he quickly stands. I promptly follow suit and place my hands on his thin, trembling shoulders. My heart begins to pound when I see just how angry the man is. Aadil begins apologizing profusely in Arabic, one of the very few words I know.
I quickly realize his father is upset that he’s with me. Hoping he understands English, I raise my hands and calmly try to explain I mean no harm.
“Shut up, bitch!”
Well I guess that means he understands English. Taking a deep, nervous breath I try again. He completely ignores me. As soon as he gets within an arm’s reach of us, he raises his hand to Aadil.
“NO!” Locking my arms tightly around Aadil’s tiny body, I turn us around and brace myself for the powerful blow that’s about to hit my back. But it never comes.
After a few seconds, I anxiously glance behind me to see a very tall, very scary American man. He has a strong grip around Aadil’s father’s wrist in the air, preventing it from landing on me. The American says nothing but the cold, hard disdain in his eyes say enough.
Instead of Aadil’s father looking fearful, like any sane person would at this hulking man, he becomes more furious. “You mind your own business, Soldier. You don’t know who you are fucking with.”
I study the American a little more closely and realize it’s a probability. I also notice how incredibly beautiful he is, probably the most beautiful man I have ever seen, and also the scariest.
Nothing changes in the soldier’s hard expression. He pushes Aadil’s father hard enough that he lands on his back. “I don’t give a fuck who you are. Get out of here now or you will be nothing but a fucking memory by the time I’m done with you.”
By the lethal look of this soldier I imagine he could do some very serious harm. Aadil’s father glares back at him for a few seconds before standing to his feet. He shouts something at Aadil in Arabic that has the little boy flinching. I hold him tighter and try to offer as much comfort as I can.
“This isn’t over. You have made a very grave mistake,” he threatens the soldier, who doesn’t seem the least bit worried, before turning and storming off.
I stare at his retreating back and let out a relieved breath. I’m about to thank the American when Aadil’s quiet sniffles draw my attention to him. Dropping down on my knee in front of him, I cup his small, scared face and realize my own hands are shaking. “Are you all right, Aadil?”
He shakes his head. “I have to go.”
Panic threatens to choke me, not wanting him to go anywhere near that man. “I don’t think that’s a good idea. He is very angry right now. Why don’t you stay with me for a little longer and give him some time to calm down?” Unfortunately, I have a feeling no amount of time is going to calm his father.
Aadil shakes his head again, disregarding my suggestion right away. “No, the longer I wait the worse it will be.”
My stomach clenches in fear. “Aadil, I’m scared for you. Come back to camp with me and we will figure out a way to help you.”
“No. I will be okay. I promise. I will go to Ommah.” Ommah was another Arabic word I have learned. It means mother.