The Love Letter
by Brynn MacNab
We deployed on February 14, Saint Valentine's Day, named for the saint who performed forbidden marriages. I stood in line next to a guy named Wallace Ault. Around us was much wailing and gnashing of teeth, a lot of people sobbing on each other's necks.
Wallace and I weren't falling apart. He had a girl, a nice lean thing with good legs in a swirling brown knee-length skirt. She kissed him goodbye real quick and ran. I figured maybe they were secretly married themselves.
Overactive imagination, maybe. But a secret marriage would explain the stoic way he stood there beside me. Maybe he didn't want to draw attention, draw questions. Not a necessary strategy, as there were plenty of guys weeping all over their girlfriends, women weeping over their boyfriends, and sundry enlistees of every gender weeping over their small children/lawfully acquired spouses/aged parents.
Me, I hadn't told anybody I was going. It's a federal offense to get into somebody else's mail, so nobody is going to freak out over your misfortune unless you open your mouth.
"So," I said. "I wonder what boot camp's like in space."
He shrugged. "I wonder what boot camp's like at all."
"Like prep school, I hear. I wonder what prep school's like."
"Lots of Latin homework and sexual exploration, I hear," he replied. "I wonder what prep school's like in space."
So we were friends.
Wallace had this letter.
He used to pull it out and read it, whenever there was light enough and a little downtime. At supper once I noticed a bloodstain on it. It was July 4 at home, so we got a long meal and an evening of entertainment.
"Hey," I said. "You kill somebody for that piece of paper?"
He looked up from his reconstituted potatoes. "I could kill somebody for knowing too much."