Virginia. Late afternoon. A nice hotel near an airport.
The soldier carried his heavy bag over a shoulder. He wore his usual ACU jacket, patrol cap, and a reverse flag patch on his shoulder. He stepped off the hotel elevator onto the second floor, removed his cap to reveal a high and tight cut.
He wandered down the long hotel corridor, his tactical boots making dull thuds on the carpet.
Then he double checked the slip of paper in his hand which read: “Room 233.”
He repeated the room number to himself, noting the numbers on the passing doors.
It had been a long six months. He’d been on temporary duty assignment, away from his wife and daughters; away from everything. It gets lonely overseas.
He just arrived on U.S. soil this morning. Then he took two flights to get here. His family was supposed to be meeting him at the airport, but his plane came in a few hours early. So he thought he’d come here and surprise them.
He found the room. The number on the
door was 233.
He double- and triple-checked to make sure it was the right room. The last thing you want after being absent from your family for the better part of a year is to surprise the wrong family.
The military man took a deep breath. He was feeling his age today. He’s not old, but he’s got high mileage.
He knocked on the door.
His heart was pounding in his throat. But nothing happened. So he knocked again. But he got the same results. Bupkis.
He leaned against the wall and scratched his buzzed head. Where could they be?
That is when he heard the elevator ding behind him. Then he heard voices down the hall.
He knew those voices.
They were decidedly female voices, the same ones he often hears in his sleep. He closed his eyes and…