Beautiful changes

Chapter 6

Detached. Void. Helpless. Despite the vow he had made after the scan, when he realized he was really growing a new life inside of him and the joy he had felt in that moment, that was how Face felt now after BA had left them. Adele was always so considerate to him, making sure he had everything he needed, trying to involve him in her every day occupations, hoping to offer him some help in this way. The LT was always polite and never disrespectful towards the older woman but he never felt really involved in his new life, he couldn’t help it.

Face missed Hannibal, especially at night, he missed the guys and in general he missed his routine: the training, the missions, the courses. Everything. Nothing seemed to interest him at the moment and when Adele didn’t push him into something he spent his time sleeping or watching the tv. The woman was worried but she wisely left the task of deepening the psychological aspects of his problems to the therapist the institute had assigned him. Dr. Gloria Miller was a petite brunette with blue eyes and freckles, around her forties; Adele went to meet her the first time Face came to her and she declared she was really good.

Face gladly agreed to attend two sessions per week of therapy with her because he didn’t feel too comfortable talking about Hannibal and their relations with BA’s mum; plus there were many other aspects of their life he didn’t want her to know. But the therapy didn’t work miracles and soon Face started to whirl into depression. Gloria tried to help him as best as she could but there were things he never told her and those things, those thoughts weakened his will to be strong and to survive on his own without Hannibal, so many miles away from him.

Hannibal, for his part, called Face on the phone every time he could but of course there were times they didn’t talk for 3-4 days because the Colonel was on a mission, and at those times Face felt like dying. He was hurting, inside and outside, worried sick for his lover plus the nausea refused to let go of him and the toilet was now his best friend.

Three weeks after Bosco’s departure, finally, Face openly discussed his fears with his therapist at the Institute. The woman, in the early afternoon one hour session with the “mother to be” former LT Ranger, had asked him the usual questions and when, for the tenth time in a day Face was asked how he was feeling, he exploded. All the inhibited emotions came to the surface and he almost screamed at her, furious because it seemed everybody was blind to what was really affecting him. It was so clear to him and he couldn’t understand why it was so difficult for others to see.

In his rage, he mentioned that Gloria couldn’t understand him, nobody could, since she was not in the military and wasn’t prepared to help him. Had she ever been to Afghanistan? Or Iraq? What did she know about war? She was just a normal person, living in the same place for all her life; her biggest worry was where to spend the holidays. What did she know about living in a tent in the desert in a military base, far from home, with only the company of your companions? What did she know about losing a friend because of enemy fire? Did she know how it felt to hold a dying man in her arms, telling him he was going to be fine when it was clear he was not, and watch him slide away? Civilians couldn’t understand, they didn’t know how life really was, the real life, not the protected safe one they carried on day by day.

“Why are you so afraid of being just a normal person?” Gloria asked him then. No pity, no sympathy, no rage in her words. She wasn’t upset because of the way he treated her and he was surprised she was still trying to help him. The earnest question startled him; he had never thought about it but she was right, that was his major fear.

“I don’t know. I guess… I guess I don’t want to be forgotten, I don’t want to be left behind.”

The therapist nodded her head. “Do you think your team left you behind?”

“They had no other choice.” He replied sadly, the thought of being replaced by someone else in the unit, knowing a new sniper had taken his place, made him sick.

“So do you think anyone in this country who is not a Ranger or a military man who risks his own life every day on the battlefield should feel inadequate?”

“No, of course not. But…” If that wasn’t true for the rest of the world, well it was true for him.

“Then why are you so hard on yourself? You were, as you told me, a very good sniper in the Army. You had a very good reputation. There is no reason for your friends to forget you or to give up on you.”

“Gloria, you don’t understand. Once you leave, you’re out of the system in every way. I know that. I’ve heard so many times memories of very good soldiers who left and they were told to be brave and brilliant. But what really matters is not being remembered: it is to be there, to risk your life saving a fallen friend…”

It was Gloria’s turn to be upset now. “I think you’re wrong here Face! And excuse-me if I interrupted you, I know my behaviour is not exactly professional at the moment. You may not live a dangerous life now but you think raising a child is an easy thing? You think just being a “mother” is an easy reality? You think the life of a woman who is left alone by her man and has to get two jobs to allow her son to attend the best school in town, and still finds the time and the energy to go see him playing football when she is so tired that she could sleep for a decade, so easy? Don’t you think she is a hero? She is the one who smiles at you when you are mad at her because she wasn’t fast enough to give you your money back at the supermarket. She is the one who stares at people watching her in sympathy because she still wears the same old sweater year after year and she never complains; because she is devoted to her family. Do you think this is the life she wanted? Don’t you think she could get frustrated and angry? She has every reason to be, yet still she wakes up every morning at 5:30 and serves breakfast to rude people always smiling at them. Now, if you think this is Nothing, that this is not valuable, you’re very wrong!”

Face fell silent after her tirade, not knowing what to say, but the therapist’s words were true and the young man reconsidered his position. Eventually he found his voice in order to reply and apologize. “I understand what you wanted to say. I… I know this is not the end of my life, I just don’t know where to start. I’ve been in the Army since I was 18, it was my world. I… I think I am afraid of starting again from the beginning as a civilian, maybe if I wasn’t expecting it would be easier but… how am I supposed to find a job? I am already starting to show, I can’t afford to get regular work right now…”

Gloria went to sit beside him and forced him to look at her. “You’re not alone, Face. Hannibal is helping you and your friends and your lover still want you. You have to learn to lean on them. They are willing to help if you let them.” She sighed and took both his hands in her smaller ones. “There is a time for pride and Courage, and you had plenty of that: you earned the respect of your companions and of your superiors far from home, alone in the desert with your unit, you risked your life for your friends and for all American people. We all are proud of you. Let them take care of you now, as you did for them when they were injured on the battlefield, don’t fight them. Don’t be afraid of being “normal”, just try to live these months happily. You don’t see it now but you’re surrounded by caring people who love you, who just want you to be happy. When you have your baby, you’ll see you can still be your child’s everyday Hero, trust me!”

Face felt bad for having being such an asshole. Gloria hugged him tenderly and he cried on her shoulder in relief. “Thanks, Gloria!” he whispered finally.

When he returned home that evening, Adele noticed he seemed more relaxed but didn’t dare to ask him about the therapy session; however, when he asked her if he could help her in some way she smiled brightly at him, knowing he was finally starting to accept his new role. Slowly, he came out of his shell and showed more interest in things. He even asked her if she would like to go to the cinema; that evening she felt so good, every girl in the street was watching him with adoration but he had eyes for her only.

Hannibal was due to come in three weeks, now, and Face asked Adele if she could teach him to cook. The woman greeted his idea warmly and soon the younger man was able to make apple pies and biscuits, but not only those, he learnt to cook some very good Italian dishes too. He continued to see Gloria twice a week and was checked regularly at the Institute. Everything went as planned, a piece of cake, to say it with Hannibal’s words. Of course, he still had bad days but with Adele’s help he managed to survive them. Hannibal continued to call him whenever he could and Face started to write him long letters. In one of those he included the photo of the scan dr. Lipinzski performed on him when he was around 4 months along: the baby was now visible but Face insisted on not knowing the sex because he wanted Hannibal to be present at that moment.

On the other side of the ocean, Hannibal and his team were busy with the usual activities; they were still training their new member, a good sniper but far from Face’s level. Hannibal missed his LT very much, not only officially but in every way; BA and Murdock did their best to support him but the Colonel wasn’t much of a talker when it came to feelings, so they didn’t have much success in their goal. One night Murdock couldn’t sleep and slid out of the tent to breathe some fresh air, and noticed Hannibal smoking alone with a strange expression on his face. He asked if he was ok, the older man didn’t answer but showed him the letter with the scan picture; the pilot was completely happy and didn’t understand why the Colonel was upset. He didn’t dare to ask him anyway.

“I’ve been thinking, Captain,” Hannibal finally said “and I must ask you to make a choice. Since I received that letter I understood this is not my place, I shouldn’t be here but with Face right now. I guess I was afraid to leave and it took me many nights of smoking and thinking to understand it but …” he sighed and mustered his courage to explain his final plan “I am going to resign. I want to go back home and settle down with Face. So, here comes the biggest part: I thought we could run our own business, we could run courses of self defense for women, BA could have his space to box in a proper gym or something and you… I’m sure you’ll find something to do, Murdock. The question is: what do you want do? If.. when I leave, you’ll be assigned to another CO and… I don’t have any rights to tell you what to do with your life, so I’m asking you…”

Murdock was shocked by the declaration, too shocked to speak, but a booming voice behind him resounded in the silence of the base. “Me and the fool were just thinking the same idea. I don’t like the idea of having another CO and I think I should spend some more time with my mum anyway, she is getting older and I want to be present for her, I am all she has left of her family.”

“That means, Hannibal,” Murdock added “We agree with you and we are honored to be part of your life, again!”

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