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Dear *Aaron,

You were a soldier boy.

My soldier boy.

We were taking a six-week computer course. When computers were considered foreign and mysterious. Somehow, we clicked. I’d show up early to class – and I’m late for everything. We’d joke while on breaks. Giggle through class. I’d almost miss my bus because we couldn’t stop talking.

Eventually, we exchanged numbers. Remember how? My bus was about to leave, and you jumped on. Telling the driver you needed a minute. And you handed me your number. You were a tad bold.

To you, life was entertainment. Here for a good time, not a long time. And so forth. Which explains why I didn’t believe you were a soldier. Until you showed me identification.

We sat together in class. You mimicked the instructor. Tapped my keys. Made me giggle. And I have a loud giggle. So, technically, you disrupted the class. You and your adorable childish nature.

Remember the day our instructor didn’t show up? Our entire class – all seven of us – waited in agony. For fifteen minutes. Then we all bolted out the door. You offered to drive me home. Then you stopped, and your eyes grew wide. “Let’s go to a movie!”

“Sure. Which one?”

“Whatever’s playing.”We sat in the back of the theatre, and I watched and snickered while your boisterous laugh echoed over Independence Day. You were so animated – stomping your feet and clapping your hands. People stared at you. At us. I couldn’t contain my laughter. You were a hilarity wrapped in a six-foot one-ish bundle of awesomeness.

As we left the theatre, you swung me off my feet. Twirling me in the parking lot. And I screamed as I hung onto your broad neck.

While you drove me home, you talked about life as a soldier. How you wanted to work in operations. You spoke about your early morning drills. Jogging at 5:30 a.m.

It was 10 p.m., and you were wired. Bursting with energy. Excited you said, “You busy tomorrow night?”

“No.”

“Then I’m taking you somewhere.”

“Where?” Another movie? To meet your parents? To a cabin in the woods? (Tonight, on Dateline …)

“It’s a surprise.” (Dateline pending) “Dress comfortable.”

Next thing I knew, your lips slammed onto mine. It was … nice? Sweet? I felt a mishmash of stuff. Because that kiss elevated our friendship to not just friendship.

I chalked my confused emotions to exhaustion. I’d worked eight hours, then I rushed to class. We’d known each other for four weeks. A kiss at that point wasn’t unreasonable. But, I just didn’t feel anything magical and sparkly.

The next evening, I dressed in mid-90s blue denim jeans, a beige vest with a golden rod ribbed t-shirt and Sam and Libby canvas runners. You said I looked “too cute for where we were heading.” Strike meeting his parents off the list.

We jumped in your car and headed down an urban highway. At that time, I wasn’t familiar with many areas of the city. And we were driving through the woods. Then, we drove into a parking lot. Full of evergreens and little else. (Help me, Keith Morrison!)

“Aaron” -my stomach knotted- “where are we?”

“I jog here sometimes.”

“But it’s a forest.”

“There’s trails. Come on.”

I’d known you for less than two months. Yet, you were like Yogi inviting Boo Boo into the woods. What could possibly go wrong? Sure, I forgot to tell my parents I was going out. And my two best friends were in Orlando. Minor details since I lived to tell.

You and I ran down the trails. Chasing each other like kids. Playing hide and go seek. You swung me around like a sack of potatoes – giving me a piggyback ride. Then you tossed me in your arms. And then you kissed me.

Damn. Nothing. The only butterflies were in the forest.

I didn’t understand. You were sweet. Cute. Gentle. Kind. But it wasn’t there. Usually, I’m the pursuer. I’ll go after someone like a tiger. In my hometown, the new boy was never safe. Okay, it’s not as though I stalked him. I just wrote him notes. And memorized his phone number.

With you, the tiger was a baby kitten. And whenever I called, I had to look up your number.

Then you told me you were being deployed. I was upset. You were excited. A chance to utilize your computer skills. I was happy for you, but what about us? Wait, was there an us? If there wasn’t, why was I upset.

Our last class was miserable. Okay, I was miserable. I didn’t care I received an A+. I pouted while our class – all seven of us – celebrated in a lounge. I ordered a Shirley Temple, and you threw the server off with “I’ll have a Roy Rogers.” Not in the ha-ha mood, Aaron.

And I cried when you drove me home.

“Tessa, didn’t we have fun?”

“Sure. Yeah.”

“Well, that’s what this is about.”

“What?”

“Life,” you said with the biggest goofy grin.

I couldn’t help but smile.Maybe we didn’t have sparks. Maybe we didn’t need them. We had six weeks of regressing into a time machine. While the real world crumbled around us.

When Canada fought in Afghanistan, a soldier who resembled you was killed. When I saw the photo, my heart clenched. I was certain it was you. To this day I wonder. I never knew the spelling of your last name. Was it a “G” or a “J” … or an “H.”

And I worry that blond man with the chubby cheeks and denim blue eyes is no longer here.

You were the highlight of my spring, soldier boy. I’d just split from my room-mate. I was living on my own for the first time. You helped me embrace that independence. Making the transition easier. And you taught me to laugh without a reason.

So, maybe we had something after all.

Always,
Tessa

***********
*Name changed for privacy

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