May was now kicking in and I was back on my ship. I was back in the barber shop. A new kid was assigned to us by the name of Simon. Now we had four barbers.
Back on the home front, everything was going pretty good. Lori and I was getting along just fine now. This is when her uncle Waylon and I started to get to know one another better. I was also getting to know Waylon Jr. too. I started calling him just Jr.
It was the first weekend of May when I came out from the house and saw the two Waylon's working on Tiffany's car. She had come over today for that purpose. When she saw from Waylon's kitchen table that Lori and I were up, she quickly excused herself from the conversation she was having with Waylon's wife, Gloria, to sit with Lori. I was standing there watching them fix it when she brushed by me. "Morning Carroll." She smiled.
"They getting that fixed?" I asked. She looked back quickly. "I don't think they know what they're doing." Then she disappeared inside. I walked over to join them just in time to hear Waylon yelling at Jr. "Damn it boy, hold the goddamn thing still so I can screw the bolt in."
"I am dad, shit. Get off my ass."
"I wouldn't be on your ass if you knew what the hell you were doing."
"Screw this!" Jr. shouted back. "Do it yourself then." And off he went in a bad mood.
Waylon pulled himself from the bottom and rose to his feet, wiping his hands with a rag. "Damn kid."
"Problems?" I inquired.
"That boy is getting on my last nerve." He grunted. I moved around to the front. "Here, I'll help you."
Before long, we had made the repair. When we were done, I walked back to the house to let Tiff know. I also broke the news to Lori. "Waylon invited me to the pub for a beer. I should be back in about hour."
"Waylon is going to buy you a beer?"
I stood in the doorway. "Yes."
Tiffany now got into it. "Waylon never buys anyone a beer."
Lori looked at her. "Never."
I waved them off and left to walk across the parking lot to the pub. No sooner did I enter when the darkness of the place hit me. It took a few minutes for my eyes to adjust. It was nothing fancy, just a pool table, a jukebox, a few tables and one long ass bar where I noticed Waylon sitting at the far end. As soon as I sat down, he slid a beer in front of me. "Thanks for your help."
"No problem." I said. We sat there for a few minutes quietly before I initiated a topic. "Thanks for giving Lori a job. I think it will be good for her to get out from the bar scene."
"Eh," He passed it off. "I just need an accountant. The one I got now got herself knocked up. She's going to become a house wife or something when the baby comes."
"It'll still be good for her." I finished.
Waylon kept his eyes forward. "I don't know why I'm even doing this for her. She don't appreciate a damn thing I do for her no how. She's about as ungrateful as Jr. is."
"How so?" I questioned, taking a drink of my beer.
"It's just family squabbles." He mentioned.
This is when I rolled the dice. Ever since Lori told me her story, a part of me was always meaning to ask about it. I left it alone up to now because I never really knew the guy, not that I really knew him at this point, but I knew him a little better. That and the fact that Lori and I had broken up so soon like we did. But now, she and I were back together and now, I guess I was trying to make it my business. "I wouldn't call hitting on your 14 year old niece a squabble." Then I took a quick drink.
For the most part, I was kind of expecting a punch to come my way. Instead, he just turned to me with squinting eyes. "What did you say?"
I kept my composure. I knew I was treading some soft ground here. "Lori told me what happened."
"Ain't nothing happened." He snapped back. "I was drunk that night and confused is all. Besides, what concern is it of yours?"
"Probably none." I spoke. "But I am engaged to her now so maybe it is some of my concern."
He reached for a bowl of beer nuts and began to fidget on his stool. "A man makes one error in judgement and it's held against him for the rest of his life."
"Don't you think that's been a wedge between you two for all these years?"
He stared off silently before letting me know. "I don't want to talk about it. In fact, I don't want to sit here and have a beer with you anymore."
"Suite yourself." I told him. I got to my feet. "Maybe you should try and apologize to her. You'd be amazed at what an apology can do sometimes." Then I turned around and made my exit.
Any hope for him and I to bond was probably wiped away now. I respected the fact that he got her out of that foster care system and took her in and raised her, but that doesn't excuse him from putting the moves on a 14 year old girl.
I never told Lori about that conversation. To be honest, I thought it would lead to another argument. But the next couple of weeks did go by rather quickly. Lori and I finally sat down one evening and tried to come up with a date to get married on. At that time, my ship was scheduled for an August 3rd deployment. I suggested a wedding similar to that of Karen and Sanoki, but Lori wouldn't hear of it. "That's a marriage, not a wedding." She argued. "I want a wedding. The gown, the cake, the whole nine yards. I want to walk down the aisle."
"What about a honeymoon?" I questioned.
"We can take that when you get back from your next cruise." She suggested. "Provided you don't take anymore leave while you're out." She winked.
She spent the next couple of weeks searching for a place but the earliest she could find was a church that was willing on August 1st. That was pushing it rather close to my departure. There was something bugging me though, and it had been since she mentioned it. I had to finally address it with her after securing the church. We had the conversation right before bed one night. "What if we could have the honeymoon in early December?" I asked.
She looked over at me from reading a magazine. "How would that be possible? You'll be gone for six months."
"Well," I half stuttered, "what if I don't reenlist? My time comes up in November."
"You mean, leave the Navy?"
"I didn't join with intentions of making it my career." I explained to her. "I just wanted to try it on. Besides, even if I reenlist, there's a good chance I will get new orders for a new command. They could send me to Florida, California, or even somewhere overseas like Japan."
"Oouu, Florida would be nice." She smiled.
"You're missing the whole point." I tried to explain it again. "I don't think I want to reenlist."
Her eyes took on the appearance of disappointment. "Fine." She issued. "Whatever you want."
"What do you mean by that?" I was getting a little irate.
"It means do whatever the hell you want to do, that's what it means."
I grabbed her arm. "Don't do this." I said. "Don't act this way. Tell me what you think. Stop hiding your thoughts from me. Why do you have a problem with me leaving the Navy?"
She tossed the magazine down to the floor. "That's what Bernie's father did. He left the military. Then for months he went from job to job. We lived like gypsies." She then turned to me. "I'm not living like that again." She made clear. "I left him a couple months after Bernie was born and started working the Saddle. I haven't looked back since."
"What happened to Bernie's father?"
"I don't know." She coldly replied. "And quite frankly, I don't care. He went back home to Oklahoma. Haven't heard from him since."
The picture was now coming into focus. I had to take her by the shoulders. "Listen to me," I stressed, "I can make more money outside the military. Hell, I've been spending more than I'm making as it is. I've been going through my personal account at home since I arrived here. If I stay in the military, there's a pretty good chance we'll go broke in a matter of a few years."
"Then we'll start a budget now and stick to it." She reasoned.
"A what?" I declared. "A budget? I'm too young to be on a budget. If I want to buy something then I'm going to buy it. If I want to buy you and Bernie something, then I'm going to buy it."
"So what do you want to do?" She asked, as I got to my feet. "Go back to Ohio?"
"Well," I motioned, "just a moment ago you were willing to follow me wherever the Navy wanted to send me." I then crawled back onto the bed. "And we don't have to go to Ohio. We can go anywhere you want to go. We can stay here. It's not going to matter. I can make money anywhere. And I know I can make a hell of a lot more than the Navy can pay, that's for sure." I looked deeply into her eyes. "I'm not Bernie's father. So please, stop treating me like I'm him."
She looked at me tenderly. "Then what will we do?"
"How about this," I threw out for her, "we go to Chillicothe, we hang out for a while, you and Bernie can get to know my parents, then if you don't like it there, we can decide together where to go. We can come back here, or go wherever you want to go. I can set some things up and boom, we're there. Best of all, no money problems."
"What about your writing?" She now ventured.
"What about my writing?" I fired back.
"Are you still going to pursue that or what?"
"I don't know. Maybe. Maybe not. What does it matter?"
"It's just ...." She started to say, but I finished for her. "It's just what? A pie in the sky dream? Spare me. I get that from my parents." I took her into my hands again from both of her shoulders. "Trust me, we won't be living paycheck to paycheck. The rest doesn't matter."
"Okay." She finally succumbed to my way of thinking. "I'll trust you, Carroll."
So it had appeared we finally came to a decision. Not that I was ruling out one more tour of duty with the Navy, it's just I still wasn't sure what I wanted to do. No matter what I decided, I just didn't want the pressure from her in the making of that decision. The way I saw it, it shouldn't matter what I wanted to do, if she loved me, she would support me with whatever I decided. Somehow, I wasn't sure she was giving me that. Even after that talk.
That Monday, after muster, I was called into the Sales Office. When I closed the door, Mr. Booty had me take a seat in front of his desk. He placed some papers in front of me. "Sign these." He requested.
"What are they?" I asked him.
"This one here," he pointed out, "is for your E-4 pay grade."
"My E-4 pay grade?" I quipped. "I'm going to be an E-4? I thought I had to take a test for that or something?"
"You already did." He winked. "You aced it. That's the other paper you need to sign."
"I aced it?" I half cocked my head with a smile. "Cool."
I started to read the papers. Mr. Booty caught this. "Don't read them, just sign them. You have to get to work." He grinned.
I nodded my head and reached for a pen. Why do I get the feeling we just did something bad here? LOL Teresa was right, I do corrupt people.
And that, my friends, was how I went from an E-3 to an E-4. From a Seaman Apprentice to a 3rd class petty officer. Sweet deal.
No sooner did I hit the barber shop when Motown made the announcement. "Did you hear about Sanoki?"
I was getting my area ready for work. "No, what about him?" I responded.
"He went AWOL."
"What?" I gasped. "He went AWOL?"
"Took off to Georgia yesterday after his fire watch." Shorty elaborated from his chair, reading the paper.
"What the hell?" I stammered. Motown was bouncing on his feet and giggling. "I'm telling you, first Torok and now Sanoki, you white boys and pussy, that's a powerful combination right there."
And if the morning didn't start off exciting enough, Burke popped in with an announcement. "Hey, have you heard? We're going to be delayed a month in dry docks."
This interested me. "Say what? A month delay?"
"Yep. We won't be pulling out until September 1st. We'll have a three day test deployment on August 1st, 2nd and 3rd."
"Wait!" I started to freak out. "I'm getting married on the 1st."
"I don't know what to say." He countered. "You can't miss ship's movement."
This wasn't good at all. Not at all. Fortunately, Lori was able to contact the church and was able to reschedule for August 5th. My birthday. Talk about a birthday gift! Most people get presents, cards and maybe money .... I get a wife and kid. *Gulp*
But something was still tugging at me. I couldn't quite explain it. I still can't. I couldn't get that conversation with Lori out of my head. She started acting funny again too. Oh well, maybe it's just all in my head. Tiff was acting funny too. When Lori wasn't around, she was getting more .... shall we say .... playful?