Actually, he was looking for a woman in green. A “girl” made her sound like a twelve-year-old, and Sam would be twenty-three in a week. But Jake called her “my girl” all the time, like The Temptations song.
And he sang that song to her, too, whenever they were alone together, in the dark.
In either case, finding one girl in green was a nearly impossible task. Everyone in the 312th Evac Hospital, Chu Lai was currently wearing green, except for the surgeons, who wore blue papery robes and caps. The hospital had been hit hard, and it swarmed with people. The wounded were laid out on gurneys, litters, and the floor, and the nurses were zipping from bloodied patient to bloodied patient like juiced-up bumblebees.
And all of them wore green. Green fatigues, green t-shirts, green boonie hats, green scrub tops.
So, he started looking for a girl with a strawberry blonde ponytail.
I need to talk to you, Jake. That’s how her letter had ended.
The letter was tucked away in the breast pocket of his fatigue shirt and had been since he’d received it up at the firebase a week ago. His heart had sunk when he’d read those words—talk about what? Was she going to Dear John him, in person?
Someone bumped into him, and he looked down to see a red-haired nurse carrying a metal tray overflowing with bundles of gauze and loops of white suture material.
“If you’re not wounded, get out of the way,” she barked.
“Lieutenant Landry?” he said.
She looked up at him. “Sergeant.”
“I’m looking for Lieutenant Sullivan. Have you seen her?”
“Are you injured, sergeant?”
“This isn’t the time for social calls, sergeant. If I see the lieutenant, I’ll tell her you’re looking for her. And get that weapon out of here. This is a hospital, not the boonies.”
Landry disappeared into the chaos of gurneys and hustling nurses.
She didn’t like him, he knew that. She was regular army, a stickler for regulations, and didn’t like that he spent time with Sam, fraternizing with an officer.
He shouldered his rifle and waded through the sea of gurneys toward the surgical wing. Maybe Sam was there, helping out Captain Reynolds or Captain Malloy in surgery. Lieutenant Landry probably would have mentioned that if it were so, but maybe she didn’t know. It wouldn’t hurt to look.
Things quieted down as he reached the duty desk. It was empty, and he went to the desk to look at the green clipboard that held the shift schedule. He ran his finger down the page and found her name. Lieutenant Sullivan. 0800 – 1800.
It was two o’clock in the afternoon—1400 hours. She should be here, somewhere.
He left the desk and headed for the double doors that led to the surgical wing. There were large windows in the doors and he looked through them. Three tables were set up, with surgeons and nurses in their blue papery gowns and caps. They wore blue masks over their noses and mouths, but Jake knew he would recognize Sam’s eyes.
He would know those green eyes anywhere.
He immediately eliminated two of the nurses—one with brown eyes and one with blue. A third was too tall to be Sam. There was a fourth, standing with her back to him, who was about Sam’s height. But she never turned around. Her arm was deep in some poor guy’s belly. Jake supposed it could have been Sam, but the set of the woman’s shoulders didn’t seem right.
There was movement on the far side of the room, and the brown-eyed nurse began collecting bloodied instruments onto a tray. She carried the tray away from the operating table and headed for the double doors.
Jake stepped back.
The nurse pushed through the doors.
“Lieutenant?” Jake said.
“Jesus,” the nurse clapped a hand to her chest. “Don’t do that.”
“What the hell are you doing skulking around, sergeant?”
She pulled down her mask and he recognized her as Lieutenant Hardy, the newest nurse at the hospital, and a woman whom Sam said she really liked.
“I’m sorry to have startled you, ma’am. It’s just that I’m looking for Lieutenant Sullivan. I can’t seem to find her anywhere. Have you seen her?”
Lieutenant Hardy smiled. “Is that all? Sure, last time I saw her, she said she was going to the Quartermaster’s for some supplies.” She wrinkled her brow. “But that was some time ago. I would think she’d be back by now.”
“Yes. Captain Malloy sent her.”
“Captain Malloy who’s in surgery.”
“How long has he been in surgery?”
“About ninety minutes.” Lieutenant Hardy’s eyebrows went up. “He sent Sam before he went in. She’s been gone that long. Sergeant, you don’t think something’s happened to her?”
Jake’s chest tightened. “No, ma’am. I’m sure she’s fine,” he lied. “I’ll go find her.”
“Thank you, sergeant.”
“Ma’am.” He nodded and rushed for the door of the hospital, his heart pounding.
Ninety minutes. She’d been gone for at least ninety minutes.
In the chaos and confusion of a heavily-hit evac hospital, no one had noticed one missing nurse.
He pushed open the hospital’s double doors and emerged out into the white-hot sunshine. On a pile of sandbags outside the door was a group of men from his platoon.
“Sanderson, what are you guys doing here?” he said.
“Jonesy’s got a cut on his thigh,” Corporal Sanderson said. “He’s inside waitin’ on some first aid. Looks like it’ll be awhile, though. He told us to go to the EM Club, but somethin’s goin’ on down there. We can’t get close enough to get in.”
“What do you mean, somethin’s goin’ on?”
“I dunno, sarge. There’s MPs all over the place. They won’t let anyone through.”
Jake’s heart turned to ice. The Enlisted Men’s Club was two buildings down from the Quartermaster’s.
“Sanderson, you got your weapon with you?” Jake said.
“Come with me.”
Jamie Sanderson stood and picked up his M-16. He was tall, with close-cropped brown hair and the build of a high school linebacker. He rode bulls in county rodeos back in Wyoming and Jake knew he was a tough kid. He also knew that Sanderson knew about him and Sam. Sanderson had caught them past midnight one night, holding hands while walking back from Fatty’s Bar.
Jake headed west, toward the Enlisted Men’s Club and the Quartermaster’s hut. Sanderson fell in step beside him.
“Where’re we goin’, sarge?” the kid said.
“We’re going to find Lieutenant Sullivan.”
“You think she’s caught up in this mess with the MPs?”
“I don’t know, corporal. But last anyone knew, she was at the Quartermaster’s, and that’s awfully close to the EM Club.”
“How’re we gonna get through?”
“You let me worry about that,” Jake said.
They had reached the motor pool, and Jake could see the silver arched Quonset hut that housed the Enlisted Men’s Club. Sanderson had been right, there were MPs everywhere. A green jeep with Military Police stenciled on the side in white was parked outside the EM Club.
“We’ll have to go around back,” Jake said.
“You’re not going to go and get us shot, are you sarge?” Sanderson had a crooked grin on his face.
“Corporal, when have I ever steered you wrong?”
“Alright, then. Let’s go.”
They slipped down the narrow alley between the motor pool and a large wooden supply shed. At the end of the alley, they turned west again, heading for the back of the EM Club. They reached the south side of the building—where the back entrance was—and crouched down among spent kegs of beer and fat black trash bags.
The only building now between the two men and the Quartermaster’s hut was Sergeant Billings’ reenlistment office. It was small; just a hastily-built plywood building perhaps twelve feet by twelve feet in size. The Quartermaster’s Quonset hut was much larger, made of steel, like the EM club.
A man’s voice shouting cut through the hot afternoon air.
“Give it up, private! You’re surrounded!”
“Fuck off!” was the response.
Jake ducked down and ran for the back of the reenlistment office. He crouched, his back pressed against the plywood wall, and leaned his head back. Corporal Sanderson joined him, kneeling in the dirt beside him.
“What the hell’s going on, sarge?” Sanderson said.
“I don’t know.”
He didn’t know, but an idea was forming in his head. Someone, a private, was inside the Quartermaster’s hut and wasn’t coming out. And the MPs wanted him out. Sam’s last known whereabouts was the Quartermaster’s, and she hadn’t come back.
A shiver ran down his spine.
“Private Dorsey!” a man shouted. “This is Lieutenant Meyers of the Military Police. Lay down your weapon and exit the building. You are violating Article–”
“Fuck off, Meyers!” the voice was louder now, closer. “Take your Code of Conduct and shove it up your ass! If I don’t get my morphine soon, I’ll start killin’ people, I swear to God!”
Jake heard other voices inside the Quartermaster’s—soft voices—but he couldn’t make out what they were saying, if they were a man or a woman, or how many people were speaking. He wasn’t close enough.
“SAM?” he yelled.
“Who the hell is that?” Meyers shouted.
“Jake?” Sam’s voice echoed from inside the Quonset hut.
“I’m here, Sam!” Jake yelled.
“Fuckin’ hell!” Meyers shouted. “Roberts, find out who that is!”
Jake looked at Sanderson. “You ready for an adventure?”
“Shit, sarge. You know I am.” Sanderson grinned.
“Alright. We’ll head for the back of the building. See those barrels? We’ll duck down behind them. Maybe the MPs won’t come around back. Sound good?”
Jake leaned forward and walked forward in a crouch to the western edge of the reenlistment building. He peeked around the corner, and then ran for the back of the Quartermaster’s Quonset hut. He reached the barrels without hearing any gunfire, and squatted down, watching as Sanderson imitated his movements, and arrived beside him.
“What kind of a circus are you runnin’ out there, Meyers?” the male voice inside the Quonset hut shouted. “Where’s my goddamn morphine?”
“Dorsey, it would be illegal for me to give you morphine. Now just come on outta there and—”
“Do you want me to start killin’ people? ‘Cause I’ve been wastin’ Charlie for eight months now and it ain’t nothing to me to waste some more people right here and now. Is that what you want?”
“No, Dorsey, that’s not what I want,” Meyers shouted. “Let’s keep talking, alright? Maybe we can work something out.”
“The only thing you gotta work out is where you’re gonna get my morphine and who’s gonna bring it to me, Meyers. It ain’t that complicated.”
A flash of white caught Jake’s eye. He turned his head, and saw a black-and-white helmeted MP standing against the wall of the reenlistment building, sidearm held vertically. The guy waved at him, beckoning him to come over. Jake shook his head.
The back door to the Quonset hut was open, with only the screen door closed against flies. Jake sidled closer to the door and tried to hear what was being said inside.
The first thing he heard was moaning. Male.
Then he heard Sam. All business.
“If I don’t get pressure on his wound, he’ll bleed to death. And then they’ll convict you of murder. I don’t think you want that,” she said. Her voice was strong, steady.
Jake felt his muscles relax a fraction.
“You don’t know what the hell I want, nurse-lady.”
“I know you probably want to go home, and not to Leavenworth,” Sam said.
“What do you know? I’m from Kansas anyway.”
“Listen, Dorsey,” Sam said. “The sergeant is bleeding to death. I need your help. If you just let me get some bandages, or a towel or something, I can try to save him. You have the power here. No one else.”
“That’s right,” Dorsey said.
Jake heard the click of metal on metal.
“I got the gun and I got the knife. Don’t you forget it, nurse-lady.”
Jake leaned back against the steel wall of the Quonset hut. A knife and a gun. Of course, every soldier at Chu Lai had a knife and a gun. Nothing special there. They just didn’t use them on American personnel. They didn’t use them on Sam.
He looked over at Sanderson, who was squatting against the wall on the other side of the screen door, his M-16 cradled in his arms. Jake could tell by the way the corporal’s brow was furrowed that Sanderson had heard the exchange, too.
They couldn’t very well go in there with guns blazing. Sam would be killed. If not by Dorsey, then by the MPs, who would probably overreact and storm the building from the front.
Jake hung his head.
A bead of sweat ran down his forehead and into his eye. He wiped at it absently.
I need to talk to you, Jake.
Why? What did she need to say to him? It occurred to him that he might never find out, and that made his heart ache.
“Sarge,” Sanderson whispered.
Jake looked up.
“Maybe I could sneak in the back, distract him. Then you could come in and disarm him,” Sanderson said softly.
Jake shook his head. “No way,” he whispered. “I’m not writing a letter to your mama sayin’ you got killed in a goddamn Quonset hut by some doper.”
“Sarge, it’s Lieutenant Sullivan.”
“I know, Jamie. I know. Just gimme a minute to think.”
The MP from behind the reenlistment building skidded to a halt and dropped down to his knees between them.
“Jesus,” Jake said. “Quiet.”
The MP crawled back behind Jake and leaned against the wall. “What are you doing here, sergeant?” he said.
“I’m trying to get my girl outta there alive.”
“Sergeant, you are aware that the military Code of Conduct says enlisted men and officers are not—”
“Oh, shut up,” Jake said. “What are you guys doing to get her out? Dorsey there has a gun and a knife, and he sounds like he’s pretty wired. Sam’s hangin’ in there, but you need to get her out.”
“Yeah, Sam. Samantha Sullivan. Your hostage. Jesus Christ, what kind of show are you puttin’ on here?”
“We didn’t know her name, sergeant.”
“Well, now you do. Do you have a plan?”
“Lieutenant Meyers is going to try to talk him down,” the MP said.
Jake looked at the guy’s nametag. “Roberts, is it?” he said. “Well, Sergeant Roberts, I don’t think Meyers could talk this guy out of a brown paper bag. There’s gotta be another way. Get him his freaking morphine. Let him dope up, pass out, and then Sam’ll just walk outta there.”
Roberts cleared his throat. “That would violate Article—”
“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” Jake said. “You’re going to let a woman die because of your goddamn Articles?”
“Sergeant, the Code of Conduct was written for a very good reason.”
Jake held up his hand. “This coming from a man who breaks up bar fights for a living. Shove it, Roberts.” He looked at Sanderson. “Any more ideas?”
Sanderson shook his head. “No. But listen.”
Jake leaned his head against the doorframe and listened.
The moaning had stopped. Which meant either the wounded man had died or had passed out. Dorsey seemed to be talking to himself, muttering incoherently under his breath. And Sam was singing.
My Girl, by The Temptations.
Sergeant Roberts began to speak, and Jake held up his hand.
“Shut up,” he whispered.
Sam’s voice was clear and sweet, as usual, but something was off.
Jake looked over at Sanderson. Sanderson grinned.
“The lyrics,” Sanderson whispered.
“What?” Roberts said.
“Shut up and listen,” Jake said. “She’s singing the lyrics wrong.”
“Maybe she doesn’t know the song.”
Jake glared at him. “She knows the song.”
He pressed his ear as close to the screen door as he dared and listened.
“He’s got so much dope in him the MPs can take him out He’s got a sweeter high than the guys in the wards Well I guess you’d say What can make him feel this way? Morphine, morphine, morphine He already has, morphine Hey hey hey…”
Sanderson grinned at Jake and stifled a laugh.
Jake looked at Roberts. “Go tell Meyers that Dorsey is already doped up. Sam says your guys can take him.”
“What? Based on a song?”
“She’s telling us to take him out,” Jake hissed. “Christ, didn’t you hear her?”
“I heard a woman singing. She’s probably hysterical.”
“Sam doesn’t get hysterical,” Jake said. “She’s fine. She’s giving us permission to come in. If you don’t do it, I will.”
“That would be violat—”
“If you say the word ‘Article’ I’m going to crack your head open, do you understand?” Jake said.
Roberts nodded and clammed up. He leaned back against the Quonset hut and eyed Jake.
Jake looked at Corporal Sanderson. “Well, we do it our way,” he said. “Slow and quiet.”
Jake stood, and slowly opened the screen door. Luckily, Sergeant Briggs was a neat freak and apparently oiled his hinges regularly. The door opened without a squeak. Jake slipped inside, crouching down.
He was surrounded on both sides by tall shelves that held boxes, tins, buckets, and sacks. The floor was rough plywood. It was blessedly dark in the back of the Quonset hut, but he scooted in between two high shelves just to be sure. He flicked off the safety on his rifle and nodded at Sanderson.
Sanderson crept in the doorway and pulled the screen door gently shut. He then backed into a crevice between two shelving units opposite Jake.
Dorsey was still mumbling. Nothing he was saying made any sense—it just sounded like vowels and consonants strung aimlessly together. If Sam was right, the boy was high as a kite.
Sam was still singing, her clear voice lovely in the echo chamber of the Quonset hut.
She had changed up her lyrics.
“He don’t need no gunfire, tear gas, or chains Hey hey hey He’s got all he can handle just stayin’ awake Oh yes he does I guess you’d say What can make him feel this way? Morphine, morphine, morphine Talkin’ ‘bout morphine, morphine…”
Jake poked his head out from between the shelves and looked down the long aisle to the front of the Quonset hut. There was a green counter with a collection of small boxes stacked on top of it, and then an open area. Jake could just make out the strawberry blonde of Sam’s ponytail. But where was Dorsey?
He looked across the aisle at Sanderson, who nodded to him. Jake then crouched down and sidled down the aisle past three, then four shelves. He slid in, about ten feet from the counter, and looked back at Sanderson. He nodded.
Sanderson hustled silently up the aisle and crept into a space between two shelves opposite Jake.
They could hear Dorsey clearly now. He seemed to be reciting the alphabet, but doper-style, drawing out the names of the letters in long, muttering breaths. He was currently wrangling with the letter “K.”
Jake peered around the corner of the shelf and caught a glimpse of Sam in profile. Her strawberry blonde ponytail was limp, hanging down her shoulders, and strands of hair were plastered to the sides of her face with sweat. She was in her green scrub top, and there was blood on it, a lot of blood—on the sleeve, the v-neck collar, and the chest. Jake couldn’t see the rest of her—the lower part of her body was blocked by the counter—but he guessed she’d have blood on her fatigue trousers, too.
He didn’t see Dorsey anywhere, so he waved his hand, hoping to catch Sam’s eye.
She turned her head, and their eyes met.
He saw the fear in her eyes disappear as she recognized him. She looked away briefly, at something near the door, and then looked back at him.
Dorsey was now working on the letter “L.”
Sam turned her body completely, facing Jake, and placed her palms on the counter. She tapped the counter twice, silently, and then nodded her head.
Jake nodded back.
Sam wanted him to come to the counter. There was plenty of space underneath to hide—he and Sanderson would both fit. Sam would, too.
Jake crouched down and scuttled for the counter, kneeling down just on the other side of it from Sam. She stood in profile to him again, humming. He could see her green eye watching him from its corner, her lashes long and curling. He wanted more than anything to jump over that counter and grab her—pull her into his arms, hold her tight. But he waited, his eyes just slightly higher than the counter, as Sanderson scooted up next to him.
“Emmmmmm,” Dorsey droned.
The voice came from somewhere near the floor. Dorsey must be sitting down, or even lying down. But Sam hadn’t made a move on her own. That meant he still had his gun.
Jake waved at Sam to come to him behind the counter. She turned away from him, looking at something, and then turned her gaze back to him.
I can’t, she mouthed.
Jake lifted his hands. Why?
She put her hand on the counter and arranged her fingers like a gun, thumb up, forefinger out.
Jake pointed at her. On you? he mouthed.
Then, she turned away from him.
“Dorsey?” she said.
What the hell was she doing?
“Can I get a blanket for Sergeant Briggs?” Sam said. “It’s not decent to have a dead man just lying there like that.”
“Is that a yes?”
“Ennnnnnnnn,” Dorsey murmured.
Jake watched Sam as she moved toward the side of the counter.
“I’ll be right back, Dorsey,” she said.
She gripped the counter and swung around to the side. Jake grabbed her hand and pulled her down to the floor.
“Is any of this blood yours?” he whispered.
“No,” she breathed. “It’s Briggs’s.”
“Get behind me.”
Sam squeezed into the space under the counter behind Jake and Jamie. Jake could feel the warmth of her body behind him, could hear her breathing—even, but rapid. She was brave, but she was still scared. He stretched out his arm behind him, reaching for her, and she grasped his hand. He squeezed her fingers and stroked the side of her forefinger with his thumb.
Jake turned to Sam. “Briggs is dead?” he whispered.
“Jamie, get her out of here.”
Sam put her hand on his shoulder. “Jake…”
Jake looked at her, at those clear green eyes. “Sammy, you gotta go. I’ll watch your back. Go with Jamie.”
Sanderson crawled out from his position beneath the counter and crouched, waiting for Sam to come out. She scuttled out and Jake nodded. Sam half-stood, half-crouched, and headed down the aisle toward the back door, Sanderson at her heels.
Jake lifted his rifle to counter-level and waited.
“Peeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.” Dorsey broke off from his chanting to laugh at that one. He snorted and then continued. “Cuuuuuuuuuue.”
Jake glanced quickly over his shoulder. Sam was at the screen door now. Jamie was opening it slowly for her. Jake watched her step out and disappear into the brilliant sunshine.
The tightness in his chest released and he exhaled a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding in.
He looked back over the counter.
Dorsey was silent.
He also wasn’t visible. Jake had no qualms about dropping the man if Dorsey were to stand up and aim a weapon at him. But not knowing where he was at was disconcerting. And not hearing him—well, that was worse.
“Hey, nurse-lady?” Dorsey said.
Jake heard a shuffling, an oof, and then, “Shit.”
Then silence again.
Sam would be with the MPs by now. She would be telling them that Briggs was dead, and that Dorsey was doped off his head. They’d be coming in soon, probably shooting, and the counter Jake was behind was made of plywood. But he couldn’t stand up and head down the aisle to the back door—Dorsey seemed aware now. He wasn’t just a doped-out idiot reciting the alphabet anymore. He was a strung-out guy with a gun. And he was looking for Sam.
“Nurse-lady? Where you at?” Dorsey called.
“She’s gone, Dorsey,” Jake said.
“Whatthefuck?” Dorsey shot off a round and it whistled into the steel ceiling. Sunlight streamed through the hole, dust motes dancing.
“WHERE IS SHE?” Dorsey screamed.
“She’s gone. It’s just you and me.”
“And who the fuck are you?”
“Just a guy.”
“Well, guy, you’re gonna get your head blown off.”
The front door to the Quonset hut flew open and two MPs stormed in.
Jake stood, holding his rifle over his head, and watched as the MPs disarmed Dorsey. The kid was lanky, with hollowed-out cheeks and pale blond hair, buzzed down nearly to his scalp.
Dorsey turned, and fixed his pale blue eyes on Jake. “Just a guy,” he said.
“Yeah, man,” Jake said. “Just a guy.”
One of the MPs yanked Dorsey’s arms behind his back and cuffed him, while the other MP unloaded Dorsey’s weapon—a Colt .45, an officer’s weapon.
“Where’d you steal this from, private?” the taller MP said.
“Things go a lot easier when you cooperate.”
“I ain’t sayin’ nothin’.”
“Can I come out now?” Jake said. His hands were still raised above his head, holding his M-16.
The taller MP looked at him. “Yeah, yeah, sergeant. C’mon outta there.”
Jake dropped his hands and shouldered his rifle. “Can I go?”
“Lieutenant Meyers will be wanting a statement, but yeah, you can go outside.”
Jake walked around to the front of the counter, passing Dorsey, feeling the kid’s eyes on him as he walked by. He pushed open the door to the Quonset hut and brilliant white sunshine hit his eyes like flashbulbs.
He raised his hand to shield his eyes and looked for Sam.
She found him.
He was still dazzled by the sunshine and looking for her when she popped up in front of him and wrapped her arms around his neck.
“Hey, baby,” he said, smiling.
“I’d kiss you, but I don’t want the MPs getting the wrong idea,” she said.
“I think it’s too late for that,” Jake said. “I told one of them that you were my girl and that he could take his Code of Conduct and shove it.”
“I told them you were my cousin.”
“Did they buy it?”
“I don’t know.” Sam grinned. “But I need you to take me someplace where you can kiss me.”
“I know lots of places to kiss you,” Jake said, winking.
“I mean a geographical place, you dirty dog.” She laughed.
“Okay. Lemme just talk to these guys for a second. I have to give them a statement or something. And then we’ll head to Fatty’s. We’ll sit at one of the tables out back. There’s no one there during the day. How’s that sound?”
“Come with me. It will only take a minute.”
Sam let her arms slip from his neck and walked beside him over to the knot of MPs. Jake was introduced to Lieutenant Meyers, who gave him a stern look.
“Not textbook, sergeant,” Meyers said.
He was a tall, broad-shouldered man with pock-marked skin.
“But Lieutenant Sullivan here says you did the right thing, catching on to her message.”
Meyers put one hand on his hip. “I don’t like mavericks, sergeant. There’s no place in the army for ‘em. Next time you find yourself in a situation like this, you leave it to the professionals.”
“Yes, sir,” Jake said.
Sam squeaked beside him.
“Yes, lieutenant?” Sam said, stifling a smile.
“Are you going to be okay?” Meyers said. “Would you like an escort back to your quarters?”
“I’ll be fine, lieutenant. That’s not necessary, thank you.”
Meyers eyed them both.
“Cousins,” he said.
“Yes, lieutenant. On my mother’s side,” Sam said. “My mother’s brother Henry is the sergeant’s uncle by marriage.”
Jake felt the obscene urge to laugh and bit his tongue. He felt like they were in eighth grade, lying to the school principal. But in this case, the consequences were much more dire. But the relief of having Sam safe made him want to laugh, nevertheless.
Finally free of the MPs, Jake and Sam walked away, towards Fatty’s Bar. Jake walked as close to Sam as he dared—close enough to brush her shoulder every now and then, but not so close as to arouse suspicion. They didn’t speak, it seemed to Jake like they had agreed not to somehow. Not until they were alone, anyway.
When they reached Fatty’s, Jake took hold of Sam’s hand and led her down the narrow alleyway to the back. There were three tables behind the building, all empty. Jake led Sam to the closest table, and they sat down, Jake still holding Sam’s hand.
He leaned forward and kissed her.
“Marry me,” he whispered.
She smiled. The smile reached all the way to her green eyes, lighting them up in the sunshine.
“Good timing,” she said softly.
He kissed her again. “Is that a yes?” he said against her lips.
“Only if you want to be a daddy,” she whispered.
Jake leaned back. “If I want to be a—”
“I’m pregnant,” Sam said. “That’s what I needed to tell you. The letter—”
He kissed her.
She pulled away. “So, is that a yes?” she said.
Jake smiled. “Of course it is. You’re my girl.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was selected from entries submitted to our Creative Challenge Series #34: First Sentences, which required that the first sentence in the text must be used as given.