Although Nick and Alex worked in the kitchen at the Army base, they still had to undertake the tough training regime in preparation for when they’d be shipped off to fight.
“Aw man, this sucks” said Alex as he slumped against a large rock. Their group were out on a ten mile run with backpacks and it was hard going. The route was hilly and sometimes slippery underfoot, but this was supposed to help prepare them for whatever was to come. They had to be in excellent physical condition and Alex was not as fit as he‘d thought, at least not yet, but he’d get there.
“Come on McLean, do you think you’ll have time to stop when you’re facing the enemy? Now get a move on” shouted the drill instructor. Alex pulled a face behind his back.
“He has a point y’know” said Brian who was used to physical farm work and therefore finding the activity easy.
“Yeah, yeah, I know” said Alex finally getting his act together and carrying on.
“Only another mile and a half to go” said Nick as Alex groaned.
When they got back to the base they were all covered in mud and sweat. It was a great sense of relief to take their backpacks off and strip off out of their filthy clothes.
“Have we got passes to go off base tonight?” asked Brian as they stood in the communal showers washing the mud and sweat off themselves.
“Too damn right we have…I’m meeting Juliet again” Alex smiled to himself. He’d seen her a total of five times since the dance and thought she was lovely and totally different to the other girls he‘d dated. Usually girls came and went and he didn’t give them a second thought, but this one had him hooked and he hadn’t even got her into bed yet!
“Must be love” teased Nick. Alex threw a bar of soap at him.
“Well, I think it’s great Alex. Why shouldn’t you have a bit of fun? You’re single after all!” said Brian
“Would you ever…” Alex began but didn’t get the chance to finish.
“No way, I’m a happily married man” replied Brian, knowing exactly what Alex was going to ask.
“You not even tempted?” Alex asked curiously.
“Not at all” said Brian “I love my wife”
“I couldn’t do that to Emily either” said Nick. He didn’t mind the occasional dance with a girl, but knew where his heart belonged.
Alex didn’t say another word about it, but he knew there was no way he could go without like his friends were doing. He loved women. Although with Juliet things were different, she wasn’t the kind of girl to just love and leave; he actually felt something more for her.
After they’d finished for the day, the three of them caught the bus into town. Alex was meeting Juliet at the local movie theatre, so once they’d got off the bus they went their separate ways.
Nick and Brian walked into a pub called The Coach & Horses and ordered a beer at the bar, they stood talking when across the room a fight broke out. From what Nick could make out, it was three locals against an American solider, and so he started to make his way over to see what was going on. Three against one wasn’t good odds.
“Fuck off back where you belong” one of the men shouted as he punched the soldier in the face.
“Smash his fucking face in” came a shout from one of the other men. The American solider tried to fight back, but was out numbered.
“Hey, leave him alone” growled Nick, pulling the man off the solider. Brian was soon on the scene, as were a couple of other men.
“Why don’t you all just fuck off back to your own country” shouted the man with his fists up ready to punch again, but Nick was too quick for him and gave him a jab in the stomach which left him bent over. The landlord of the pub came over and told the English trouble makers to leave and thanked Nick and Brian for helping out.
“You alright?” Nick asked the American soldier who was bleeding from the mouth.
“Yeah, I’ll be fine. Thanks for stepping in, I really appreciate it” he said as he wiped at his mouth with the sleeve of his jacket.
“You’re welcome. I’m Nick by the way, this is Brian” he said looking towards Brian
“Nice to meet you, I’m Howard but everyone calls me Howie”
“What was all that about?” Brian asked, wondering what the fight had been about.
“I have no idea…I guess I was in the wrong place at the wrong time” Howie mused.
“His wife left him for an American solider” he pub landlord replied having overheard the conversation “he’s not got over it yet”
“Right…well that would explain it then” Howie said, still not knowing why that made it his fault. It wasn’t as if he’d been the guy.
They had a few more drinks and chatted about home and how much they all missed it, before making their way to the bus station to catch the last bus back to base.
Before going to sleep, Nick opened up his notebook and began to scribble some notes, just a few words really, but it was how he was feeling at that moment in time. He got Emily’s picture out of his wallet and looked at her smiling face, then closed his notebook and went to sleep.