There had never been a day where Julia hadn’t seen, spoke, or communicated in some way with Dale. He was her next-door neighbor, the boy next door, as it so happened, and she could remember loving him since she was six years old. But, of course, Dale had not gotten on board with that at first; in fact, she could remember him yelling at her when she had told him that they were going to be married at the young age of eight. Then Julia made him walk down a pretend aisle with her. But all that changed when they hit tenth grade.
By the time Julia and Dale were seniors, she had already had their life planned out. Dale was going into the Marines, and after he was out of boot camp, they were going to finally get married, like she had been dreaming of since she was six. While he was away, she would finish beauty school to have a career when Dale was deployed, and when he came back from his first tour, they would start a family. There were going to be three kids, one boy named after Dale and two girls. They would buy a small yet affordable house and an Austrian Shepard named Skip for the family dog.
Many might think that I should’ve started the story from the beginning, but that’s not where Julia’s story begins. Instead, it all starts for Julia the night of Dale’s big goodbye party the day before leaving for the Marines…
Julia looked around the few remaining adults that sat around the kitchen table talking. When Dale’s dad pulled out a deck of cards, she knew she and Dale could sneak away without anyone knowing. Mr. Evens pulled out a deck of cards and knew that her folks weren’t going to be home all night. She hurried up the stairs and to Dale’s room, where she found him sitting on his bed staring off into space. “Hey, you alright?”
Dale’s eyes fell on her, and he nodded before he started glancing around his room. “Yeah, I was just sitting here and realized that this will be the last time I will be a kid again.”
“What?” Julia asked, going in and sitting next to him.
“You know, this will never be my bedroom again, and stuff like that. Everything is changing, and I thought I was ready for it, but just now, it hit me.” He shrugged.
“Are you sorry that you joined the Marines now?”
Dale grinned and shook his head. “No, but I’ve never been anywhere. The furthest I’ve ever been is two towns over, and now I’m heading to North Carolina. That’s all the way across the United States.”
“I know, and I’m a little jealous of you.”
“Yeah? I’m sure you wouldn’t feel like that if you had to get up at the butt crack of dawn and have someone yelling in your face all day.” He laughed.
“Yeah, I wouldn’t like that, But I would like to see more of the world. I can’t wait until we get married, and I move out there with you.” She sighed, taking his hand.
“I don’t know if it will be North Carolina; I might get stationed somewhere else.”
“I don’t care where it is, just as long as we’re together.”
Dale took ahold of her hand. “Sounds good.”
“Hey, I came up because our parents are playing cards. I thought we could head out to the party tree and spend some time together.”
Dale turned his head and smiled. “Yeah, sounds good.”
They got up off the bed and went downstairs to where the adults were fully engrossed in their game now. Dale chuckled and shook his head as his dad, and hers had their poker faces on. “Hey, me, and Julia are heading out to get a bite to eat. You guys want anything?”
“No, son, we’re good. Your mother made a tone of food. So just be back by one. We head out at four, and it’s going to be a long trip for you, and I don’t want you overly tired.”
“Sure thing, pop.” He answered, taking Julia’s hand.
“You two be good and stay out of trouble.” Julia’s dad warned, making Julia roll her eyes over the implication. She and Dale had pledged themselves at church to wait until they were married to have sex. It was hard, but it was something they both wanted to do. When they started their life off together, they wanted to start it off the right way.
She and Dale walked through the garage door, stopped off at his dad’s outdoor refrigerator, and grabbed two beers. “Are you sure we should do that?” Julia asked.
“One beer won’t kill us. Besides, this will be the last time we see each other for a while; I wanted something proper to toast with.”
With a sigh, she nodded her head and to Dale’s truck and got in. When he started the car, she put on the playlist she had made of all their favorite songs and turned up the volume as Dale speed off down the road.
Julia laid on the blanket gazing up at the stars when Dale came and laid down next to her. They were both quiet as they watched a satellite pass by. There was so much that she wanted to say to him. There was so much that she wanted him to tell her, but they both were quiet. Thoughts of Dale being yelled at, being in a place that was unknown and with strangers. Would they be nice to him, would he make friends? But deep down, she knew what was bothering her. Would these new guys talk? She hated to admit it, but deep down, she was scared. Scared of what these new people might say about her or about the life they wanted to share together. What if there was a girl in his unit that he thought was pretty? Would he cheat on her? As she fought to stop the onslaught of questions rushing through her mind, a warm hand took hold of hers.
“I’m not worried at all. Why would you say that?”
“Because you’re stopping the circulation in my hand, that’s why.” He chuckled, then glanced over at her. “What’s really going on in that brain of yours?”
“Julia, we’ve known each other since we were kids. You don’t think I would know when you’re freaking out.”
She placed her other hand on top of their joined one and turned her head. “I’m afraid that you’re going to find some army girl and forget all about me.”
“Army girl, don’t you mean a Marine girl? A Marine would never go for an army chick.” He said, making Julia’s eyes widened. “I’m kidding, I’m kidding!”
She reached over and swatted him. “That’s not funny, you jerk! I’m totally serious here! What if you can’t wait until we get married to have sex? What if some slut offers it up to you on a platter, and you said yes… that would kill me, Dale!”
He turned over on his side with a grin and kissed her lips softly before he spoke. “I’m going to be too busy to think about having sex with some stranger Julia. Besides, I want you to be the first person I sleep with.”
“But what if the guys make fun of you?”
“But what if they do?”
“You think I’m going to be going around the bunkhouse telling everyone I’m a virgin or something? That would be great; hey, everyone, I just wanted to let you all know that I’m waiting to get married to have sex. I thought you all should know, well, because I wanted to be teased and harassed the whole time I’m in boot camp.” He laughed.
“You’re going to lie?”
“No, I’m just not going to answer any questions about it.” He offered.
Julia reached up and touched his cheek and looked into his puppy dog brown eyes and the freckles on the bridge of his nose and smiled. “Do you really love me?”
“You know I do,”
“Then say it. I need to hear you say it before you leave,”
“You’re acting like I’m never coming back. I’m only going to be gone for thirteen weeks, and then we can start our life together.”
“I know, but when we first talked about you going into the Marines, thirteen weeks didn’t seem that long. But now that you’re leaving tomorrow, it seems like forever.”
“It’s less than three months, and that’s all.”
“Okay, maybe you’re right,”
“I know I am.”
“Do you think we should have told our parents about us getting married when you get out of boot camp? I mean, that’s a pretty big deal to just up and tell them after we’re already married.”
“They’ll be fine. We’ve been dating forever, and I’m sure they already know we’re talking about it. But if we tell them now, we’ll have to listen to all their crap on why we should wait. Who wants to listen to all that? We know what we want and what we want to do. We’re out of school and old enough to do what we want.” He winked.
“Well, if you think it’s best.”
Julia bit her lip and then sighed. “I still want you to say it anyway. If you really mean everything you’re saying about getting married and all that, then tell me you love me and mean it.”
Dale smiled, and his dimples popped out, making her heart melt. “I love you, Julia. I love you with all my heart.”
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