Pull You Through(3)

By: Kaylee Ryan

“Ever been to Kentucky?” he asks.

“No. This is my first time out of Michigan,” I confess.

“No time like the present. Come home with me. We have the space.”

His offer sparks more excitement in me than it should. “Nah, man, I’m good. Go home, see your family, spend some time with your girl. I’ll see you when we appear for SOI.” I know he’s just trying to be nice, I don’t want to impose on his time with his family. We only get a small number of days.

“School of Infantry.” He holds his fist out for me to bump. “For real, come back to Kentucky. Let me show you around.”

The thought of spending the next ten days alone, after being surrounded by my unit, does not sound appealing. Over the past thirteen weeks, Combs and I have created a bond, only those in our shoes can have. “You sure your folks won’t care?”

“Nope. Like I said, we have plenty of room, and Mom and Dad have always been open to us bringing friends home.”

Ten long, lonely days in a hotel room, or the chance to see where he’s from, meet his family, and his girl that he never stops talking about? “All right, man, but maybe just for a few days.” I don’t want to wear out my welcome or intrude on his time with his family before we leave again. I know if it were me, I’d want the time with Gran. The familiar pain in my chest when I think of her makes itself known. I ignore it, push it aside and keep moving. That’s all I can do.

“Grab your stuff. My dad will be here any minute to get us. Mom and Savannah left last night to go back home. Mom had to get back to work, and Savvy has class.” I didn’t get to meet them, I disappeared after graduation, knowing he would insist that I come with them to dinner.

“You’re positive?” I ask as I finish packing up my bag. Not that I have much. I came here with the clothes on my back. There were a handful of pictures of me as a baby, as well as a few of Gran and Gramps before he passed. Those along with any important documents are in a safe deposit box at the bank. Yesterday was graduation and was difficult for me. Not having family here… yeah, it sucked. I missed Gran something fierce. Combs wanted me to meet his family and his girl, but it was too much. I just needed time to myself, so instead of sticking around, I slipped away back to the barracks.

Bags over our shoulders, we walk out into the sunlight. It’s a beautiful day in South Carolina. It’s early fall, and temperatures are reaching to the low eighties. The sun is shining brightly and not a single cloud blemishes the sky. It feels like freedom. But while it’s good to get a break, at the same time, I’m anxious for SOI. I’m ready to start the next phase of my career as a marine.

“There he is,” Brandon says, heading toward a blue four-door pick-up truck. “Damn good to see you,” he says, hopping in the passenger seat. “Dad, this is Slade. Slade, this is my dad, Eric Combs,” he introduces us.

Reaching over the seat, I offer him my hand. “It’s nice to meet you, sir. I hope it’s not an imposition me being here.”

“Slade, great to meet you. Our home is always open to you,” he says kindly.

Feeling the worry slip away, I sit back, laying my head against the seat. I listen to them get caught up. Brandon is also an only child; the major difference being he seems really close to his parents. They talk about his mom and how his girlfriend, Savannah, has been hanging out at their place quite often while he’s been gone. Brandon has talked about Savannah nonstop during boot camp. He showed me pictures, and she’s a looker. Then again, so are her friends. The one picture he had was of her and her best friend, a gorgeous blonde with the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen. I remember thinking that I’d love to see them up close in person. Maybe I’ll get the chance now.

I’m quiet most of the ride. I answer questions from Mr. Combs and fall into the conversation when Brandon prompts me. Although, I’ve always been quiet to a fault, my silence is mainly because I’m observing the two of them. If I’m honest with myself, I’m envious. I’ve never had this… bond they seem to have. I can’t ever remember a time with either of my parents asked me about my day, or hell, even showed me an ounce of affection, unless you count their hands in anger.

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