The next several weeks were actually quiet and uneventful for the most part. Most of my time was spent hanging out at home with Bernie and Tiff, as I was now being trusted by Lori to do so. We kept Tiffany around because sometimes, I felt the need to either go to the bar and sit a few hours with Lori during down times or one of my shipmates wanted me to go out and have a few beers with them. Sometimes, I just enjoyed a quick nap and not having to worry about Bernie was refreshing. Plus, Tiff enjoyed the money. She still lived at home with her parents and couldn't (or wouldn't) find a job.
During the days, on board the ship, it was cutting hair and having lunch with Hrisko mostly. We always had interesting conversations. He was a low talker when we met but I started noticing a change in that later. He said something to me one day that has stuck in my head ever since. It happened when I was to meet him in the chow deck for lunch one day. He was waiting for me at a table, having grabbed two trays because I was running late. I went straight to the table to sit down. He was shaking his head and grinning. I saw this. "What?" I asked, now grinning too.
"I've noticed something about you, dude. When you walk, your head is always held high and with a swagger. Like you own the place, or going to be somebody someday. Everyone else seems to walk with a slight hunch or their heads down."
"It's called confidence." I told him.
He rolled it off. "Some people would call it cockiness."
"Well some people can kiss my Navy ass."
He chuckled. "I don't see how anyone couldn't have confidence if they were dating Lorraine." He said.
I looked over at him and stressed, "Lori has nothing to do with it. I had my confidence long before I ever met her." Then I went to explain, "Dude, don't be one of those guys who only gets their confidence from a girl. Those are the type of guys who marry the first girl who puts out for them."
Hrisko was the only one I could ever talk about Lori too. He had the most trusting eyes I ever saw in another human being. But our conversations were never always about me and Lori, and on that day, our conversation shifted and ended up with him cracking a joke about an incident which occurred on my first day reporting to the ship. It had to do with me and Torok. It would seem Rok (as we called him) broke our little pact from the events of that day. (To read about what happened to me, and Torok, my first night when I reported to my command, Click Here.)
I didn't peg Rok to be a blabbermouth. I pegged wrong. At least I learned to never trust him with a secret ever again. But that story of our first day in Norfolk is pretty funny.
So everything was smooth sailing up until about two weeks before our deployment. It was a Saturday night and I was at home with Tiff and Bernie while Lori was at work. Bernie was by this time, in bed and Tiffany was sitting on the far end of the couch with my legs on her lap as I was laying down on it when the phone suddenly rang. I got up to answer it. Upon my greeting, the caller went right into it. "I told you not to trust her, Carroll. Didn't I tell you?" It was Bonnie, calling from the bar.
"Slow your roll." I said. "What are you talking about?" It was about a quarter past midnight.
"Lorraine was let go early tonight, at ten o'clock, instead of going home, she sat at the bar for two hours with her ex, Van. Now they're sitting in his car in the back parking lot. You better get over here fast. Got to go back to work, thought I would warn you. Bye."
And just like that, she hung up the phone. I slowly put down the receiver. Tiffany looked over at me. "Who was that?"
I just went for my keys. "I'll be back." Was all I told her.
I pulled into the bar parking lot and slowly drove around. I spotted two shadows in one of the cars that were parked. Once I got closer, I could see Lori sitting inside with the guy. I applied the brakes and stared at her. She finally turned her head and saw me. Her eyes shot open wide. I shook my head slowly before peeling out of there, heading back to the house.
I was so pissed. When I reached the house, I slammed to a halt and got out, racing to the door and inside, up the stairs, pulled out my sports bag and started packing. Tiff was still on the couch, on the phone when I entered. "What's going on?" She had asked but I never answered.
I had everything just about packed when I heard the door open and slammed below. "Carroll!" Lori shouted, stomping up the stairs and into the bedroom. "Carroll, I can explain."
"Oh, I;m sure you can Lori, unfortunately for you, I don't give a damn."
"Carroll, will you stop and listen to me? He's just a friend."
"And a very good one at that, I'm sure." I replied.
She tried to reach out and grab my arm but I pulled it from out of her grip. "Carroll, please, listen to me. Nothing was going on. It's not what you think."
I finally had everything packed and zipped up the bag. I turned to her. "Who the hell are you to tell me what I think?"
"Will you just put the bag down and talk with me?" She pleaded. I shook my head some more. "Piss off. I'm outta here." This is when she raised her hand to strike. I caught it before it reached the side of my face. "You're not hitting me this time." I growled.
We exchanged a look of volcanic proportions. She suddenly snatched the bag from my grip. "You're not leaving me." She shouted, backing away and towards the open bedroom window.
"Give me my bag, Lori." I demanded, walking towards her.
She turned and tossed it out the open window then turned back to me. I sighed. "Fine, I'll just go downstairs and get it." I turned and headed back down the stairs.
I exited the back kitchen door and went straight for the bag on the ground. She was right on my tail. Just as I bent over to pick it up, she leaped in the air at me. Her legs hit me in the side and she toppled over hard and to the ground, knocking me off balance in the process and to the ground next to her as we collided. It was quite a thud. "Damn it, Lori!" I srcreamed.
I managed to sit up on my ass with my legs semi out when she hustled on top of me, grabbing and clutching for dear life. "Don't go, Carroll, don't leave me."
"Get off of me." I requested, to no avail.
"No. I'm not letting go." As she sat on my lap with her arms clutched tightly behind my neck. "I'm not going to let you leave me."
She slid herself closer and tighter on my lap, wrapping her legs around my lower back. She had her face buried in my chest. I whispered into her ear. "This isn't working out, Lori. This isn't working out at all."
"I'm not letting you go." She whispered back, then covering my face with kisses. "You're not going to leave me."
I was trying to resist the kisses. I managed to push her slightly away to look her in the eyes. This is when I noticed her lip bleeding. In our little struggle, her lips found their way back to my face. "You're lip is bleeding." I told her.
"I don't care." She said in return, in between planting kisses on my cheeks.
"It's bleeding really bad." I said. "You're getting blood all over my face."
She disregarded my words and kept on kissing me until her mouth finally locked onto mine. I have to admit, I wanted to just get the hell out of there and yet, I could no longer resist my urges for her. I began kissing back. Our tongues met. I couldn't stop myself to save my own life. The more we kissed, the longer we kissed, the more of her blood I could taste in my mouth, the more excited I became. "Damn you Lori. Damn you all to hell."
I woke up the next morning and looked over at the sleeping Lori. Bernie was still asleep. I smelled coffee brewing from the kitchen so I got up and went to get a cup. When I emerged into the kitchen, Tiffany was sitting at the table with a cup and reading the paper. She looked up at me. I had my boxers on and nothing else. "Jesus Carroll, you have dried blood all over your face."
She jumped up and went to the sink, grabbing a dish towel and wetting it. I poured a cup of coffee and sat down at the table. She walked over and straddled my lap, facing me as she began to wipe it off. "My God, it's on your chest and your stomach and ..." Then she paused to look at me.
I stared back. Our eyes connected. "I'm fine."
She wiped a few more times before getting back to her feet. "I should be going now. Unless you still need me to stay?"
"No." I said. "I think we'll be fine. You can go if you like." She put the towel down to go gather her purse and everything. "Has Lori paid you yet?" I asked her.
"No." She answered. I reached across the table for my wallet and took out some money. I got to my feet and handed it to her. "Here."
"This is too much." She said. I waved it off. "You deserve it. Take it." She placed the money into her purse and started walking out. "Here, I'll walk you to your car."
Once outside, I opened the door for her. She looked at me before settling into the seat. "You two are crazy, you know that, right?"
I smiled. "Yeah, I'm crazy, she's crazy, we're all crazy."
"No." She said, then explaining. "I didn't mean it like that. I have never seen her act that way before. You two are crazy together."
I should have listened more carefully those words of hers back then. Of course, now it's easy to look back and see what she meant. So many warning signs, so little acknowledgement. Then again, what are signs to the blind?
By the time I got back inside the house, I could hear Lori's voice coming from the bedroom. As I entered, she was on the bed with Bernie. She looked up at me and smiled. 'There's daddy." She softly whispered to him. he looked at me too and smiled. I walked to the bed and sat down with them.
The next two weeks went flying by. No more fights. The morning finally arrived when we were standing on the end of the dock, my carrier in the back ground and couples all over the place spending their final moments together before the pull out, which was hours away. Lori drove us there. Bernie was with us and so was Tiffany. I carried my boy from the car to the dock with my duffle bag draped over my shoulder. When we got close enough to the ship, we stopped and I handed Bernie over to Lori, placing my duffel bag to the ground. I kissed Bernie before kissing Lori. I gave them a group hug. The knots in my stomach was only matched by the emptiness I was feeling inside. This was to be my first deployment. I hated it already.
"Guess I'll see you when I get back." I whispered. Lori turned and handed Bernie to Tiff then turned back to me, raising her arms and undoing the necklace I had bought her. She placed into my hand. "This is my heart. Bring it back to me."
We stared for a few minutes and I gave her a nod. I slipped it into my pocket and reclaimed my bag. "See you later, Tiffany."
"Bye Carroll." She wished.
I began to make my way to the stairs that led up to the hanger bay of the ship when suddenly, I heard Lori cry out. "Carroll!"
I turned. She kicked into high gear and raced towards me, leaping into my arms. Tears had filled our eyes as she buried her face into my shoulder. "I'm going to miss you."
"I'm going to miss you too." I responded, when our lips met again and this kiss, lasting for at least a few minutes. Finally, she hopped off and placed her hands on my chest. She took a deep breath. "We'll be right here waiting for you when you return."
I lifted her head up with my fingers and cupped the side of her face. Our eyes once again said everything our mouths didn't. I reached back down and picked up my bag as she turned and headed back towards Bernie and Tiffany. I stared at Lori's tiny little ass as they barely poked out from her white shorts. She wore shorts a lot. I let out a loud whistle. She spun around and smiled, then mouthed the words, 'I love you.'.
I raised my arm and pointed to my eye. Then to my heart. Then at her. Then lifted two fingers. (I love you too)
I can't even begin to tell you how I was feeling at that moment. It's hard to put into words. What I didn't know at the time was, when we returned from our deployment, we were going into dry docks for six months for repairs and upgrades. That time would start a month after we returned. Then we would spend a month loading supplies before our next deployment. The point is, that is eight months of not going out to sea. Eight months of shore time. Looking back, maybe if I had that much time when she and I first met, instead of the three months we had, perhaps our relationship would have stood a chance. An extra five months would have gone a long way. As it were, we only had those three months before our relationship was going to be tested. The only question I had at that time was, could it stand the test? Could she? Could I?
Thoughts of her in that car with Van would haunt me almost every minute of those six months. And that would soon prove not to be a good thing.