Taylor grinned. Okay, he thought. I'm meeting Camille for R&R in Sydney. No big deal. But it was a big deal. He hadn't seen his girl since Saigon, and he
was anxious. For the dozenth time he checked to see that the ring was in his pocket.
Marcus thought back to the letter he'd gotten. It had said she'd wanted to see him again, so she'd set someone to tracking him down. The letter had started
innocently enough., but had quickly gotten into a side of Camille he'd never seen before. He could still see her handwriting as he traced every curve of it in
I didn't know how to say this just right, so a friend of mine offered to track you down. I let him.
I'd like to see you again. I'd like to go on R&R with you. Can you meet me in Sydney? If you can, have I got plans for you. First, we'd have a short
normal greeting: salutes and that stuff.
Then would be the good part. I'd find a way to your hotel room. This time, we'll lock the door! Oh, we'd start out pretty tame. A little bit of hugging and
kissing, just holding each other. I don't think I'll have any trouble getting you in bed, but...
So we're snuggled up in bed, but you are not going to be doing anything until I want you to. I mean it. I want to get to know you better, so nothing's
happening until I feel like I really know you. I know this sounds odd, but I don't know anything about you except the fact that you were raised by your
grandmother and you're good in bed.
Back to us. I think I know you well enough, but I want to know the same guy I fell in love with. So we make love. And we both enjoy it. I like the way your
hands are all over me, and you're pretty rhythmic,. Except for when we lose control. We did once, remember? I love that feeling, when it's just you
holding me and there's no war prostests, no war, no Sgt. Mjr. Boyd or Sgt. Hart to interrupt, ,just me in your arms.
I'd better not go on. I want to save some surprises for Australia, if you can meet me.
I love you,
His grin got a little wider. If that letter had given him a hint of what to expect, he was in for a helluva week. He went over to a group of guys who were
screaming, "Short! Short!" and making zeroes with their fingers as a bunch of cherries stepped onto a bus. Marcus talked with the short-timers, finding a
guy from Detroit there.
"Where you from in Detroit?" Taylor asked.
"North end," the guy replied. "Why?"
"That's my old home!" Taylor exclaimed. "Will you do me a favor?"
"If I can, what is it?" the guy responded.
"Drop in on my grandmother and tell her I'm all right?" It was common for GI's to ask favors of each other dealing with family. Taylor gave the guy his
grandma's name and address.
What would've happened if I hadn't re-upped? I wouldn't've made sarge, wouldn't've gotten to be part of a SOG team. I wouldn't've met Camille. That
last thought hit him hard. If he hadn't met Camille he wouldn't be feeling at least half-human again. All the killing in Nam got to him, but he just had to
think of his girl and he'd feel a little better. He'd have to tell her that. Maybe he'd put it in his little speech. Once more he checked the ring, a smile on his
Camille swallowed. Hard. Would Marcus think less of her when he saw the two Purple Hearts, the Bronze and Silver Stars? She prayed he wouldn't.
When she'd gotten her letter back with the words "Return to Sender" on it, she'd feared the worst. Inside was her letter, with a huge, underlined "YES!" in
block letters written on it. A small "P.S. I love you- Marcus" was in the corner. A chuckle rose up from her throat.
She didn't even see him at the airport in Saigon or on the plane. At the orientation lecture, she jumped a few inches when a voice behind her asked if she
minded if she had company. She turned her head saw Marcus' smiling, handsome face. Camille smiled and slid over with a "Not at all, sergeant."
The guy started his lecture, boring her nearly to tears. It was all she could do not to kiss Marcus then and there.
The woman behind the desk sighed and looked at Taylor.
"I'm sorry, sir. We don't have a room for you." The voice belonged to an American. He was surprised.
"Nothing at all?" he asked.
"Nothing. A few Aussies came in on emergency R and R and we had to put them up in your room." She really looked sorry, Marcus decided. He sighed.
Looked like he wouldn't get to spend much time with Camille after all. His girlfriend came to his rescue.
"The sergeant can bunk in my room. I don't have anyone staying with me."
"Are you sure?" he asked. With a hasty salute as he saw her bars, he added, "Ma'am." She nodded. That worked for the woman behind the desk, too.
"I'm glad that worked," Camille whispered. "What'd you think of it?"
"You planned that?" Taylor hissed. She shook her head.
"It was fun," Marcus smiled.
"For a minute or two, I thought we wouldn't be seeing each other too much," Camille's voice was full of relief. They reached their room. "Well, here we
are," she said softly. Marcus followed her in.
"So," he asked casually, "was your letter even a hint of what I should expect for this week?" Camille locked the door.
"Not even," she replied. Turning to him, she slid her arms around his neck. "Kiss me," she murmured. He complied with her request, leaning towards her
and caressing her lips with his. They kissed for what felt like forever, then came up for air.
Camille had nearly forgotten what it felt like to be held like this. She was in strong arms, her knees had turned to liquid from the kiss, and Marcus had his
chin on her head. She leaned heavily on him, needing to feel the strength, the life, in that body.
He was holding her close, needing to feel her heartbeat as much as she needed to feel his. Camille smiled and snuggled up to him. She knew somehow that
Marcus would never leave her. They were too close. They'd broken the rules, just so they could be together. What had she said to him? Oh, yeah, she
wasn't at the Paradise to drink.
Marcus kissed her again, making the watery feeling in her knees increase.
"Let's go to bed," she sighed. Marcus picked her up and carried her to the bed.
Marcus grinned at Camille. Her suggestion made perfect sense to him. He carried her to their bed and set her down gently.
Should I ask her now? he wondered. She'd said she'd wanted to know him better, this was his chance.
"Camille," he said softly, "I've got something to say to you." With that, he started his speech.
"I love you. We both know that. I love you and I love things about you. Like the way you make me feel. All the killing in-country gets to me, but all I have
to do is think of you and I feel a little better about myself, what I'm doing. I love the way you make love. You're gentle and passionate." He reached into his
"This ring is like my entire family's history of our time in the States. My great-great-great-great grandfather bought it in 1785 for his wife. He was a slave ,
brought over from Africa in 1760. He was a cockfighter trying to buy his freedom." A cockfighter was someone who trained chickens to fight and bet on
Marcus continued. "That ring cost 10 dollars in 1785. It's almost 200 years old. Every mother has passed it to her son or son-in-law.
"It's the only the thing I have of my mother's. When my father asked her to marry him, that was the ring he gave her. What started out as a wedding ring
almost 200 years ago turned into the family engagement ring." He swallowed. "What I'm trying to say is, Camille Patterson, will you be my wife?" Marcus
held his breath as he waited for Camille's answer.
She looked at him and nodded.
"I will," she said. He slid the ancient ring onto her finger. "It fits," she whispered. "Marcus, it fits me." She tossed her arms around his neck. "I love you,
too," she added.
They shed their clothes and slid into bed, but Camille held Marcus at bay.
"Unh-uh," she said. "First we talk, then we love." He sighed loudly to tease her. They did talk.
She traced new scars on his chest and arms as they talked. They talked about family, the guys they had served with, their childhoods. She was the exact
middle child of eleven, and the only girl in the bunch.
After a long while, she snugged her body against him and kissed his mouth. He chuckled against her lips and tumbled her onto her back. Camille pulled
the blankets up and put her arms around her fiancee.
This is life, Taylor thought. A beautiful woman making love to me, agreeing to be my wife. Why was he even bothering to think? He let himself enjoy the
They did lose control. It felt wonderful, their bodies moving smoothly together, sinuously.
Taylor lay with his arms around Camille, kissing her neck, her shoulders. He felt shattered by the passion he'd felt. They'd been one for hours, making love
as slowly as he'd told her the story of the ring she now wore on her finger, as surely as she'd given her promise to be his forever. When they had lost
control, he had thought he might hurt her, but it felt too good to stop then. Then loved each other so deeply, gone so deep inside each other, it was hard not
to be unsure of how far they could go. Marcus realized he was new to this. He'd never loved anyone like he loved Camille. He found himself hoping she'd
never loved anyone like she loved him. The hotel room in Saigon came back to Taylor.
Lt. Patterson gave him a pat on his stomach.
"Something's not right, and I know what. Let me up, Marcus." He sighed, but obeyed.
"I just realized something," he said. "I don't know your first name." They both laughed.
"Camille," she said softly. Marcus repeated it.
"Beautiful name for a beautiful lady." He kissed her neck, watched her slide a gold band off a finger, set it on the nightstand.
"Now," she asked, "where were we?"
Camille felt the change in Marcus. He was still as passionate as the first time they'd been together, but he was making love to her like he'd never see her
again. She would make sure they'd meet again.
Could she tell him about Dave? Could she say just how much she loved him, how much she now loved Marcus? She could and she would. Later, she
thought, I'll tell him later.
Now, relaxing, she felt herself trembling under his comforting weight. He'd been a gentleman until they'd lost control. She was still trying to find herself
after that, and his kisses on her neck and shoulders weren't helping. She giggled when he found her earlobe and nibbled on it.
Pushing on his chest, she made him sit up. When he was sitting, she teasingly half-tackled, half-hugged him. Camille forced his shoulders onto a pillow,
"I pinned you!" It was a game she and Dave had played a lot, not caring who had won. She remembered she wasn't with Dave. She had to tell Marcus.
"I've got something to say to you, too," Camille said softly. She told him about her first. Dave Patterson was most things Marcus wasn't. He could be wild
if he chose; he was a respectable man, whereas Marcus was a bit of a hustler.
Camille had told Dave she wouldn't be in bed with him unless they were married. She could tell he didn't like it, but he loved her, so he asked her to marry
him. She loved him, so she said yes.
On their wedding day, they'd said their vows and were about to kiss when a commotion at the back got everyone's attention. A guy in green fatigues waited
patiently for them to kiss.
"'Lance Corporal Patterson, you better pack your trash. Your orders just came through; you're going to Nam.' Then he was gone." Camille swallowed.
"Dave died five days later." She said it like it didn't mean anything, but there were tears in her eyes. Marcus drew her down, held her against him. She cried
into his shoulder, ashamed to be weeping, but letting it all out felt good.
"There's more?" Marcus asked. She nodded.
"My brother Dave had a friend named Jeff. Dave didn't come home one night, so I went over to Jeff and Diane's to see if he was there. He wasn't. Jeff said
Diane was visiting a friend. We talked for a while, Jeff and I. I finally got up to leave, heading for the door in the kitchen.
"A stranger would never have gotten behind me, Marcus. Jeff grabbed me around my waist, put one hand over my mouth, and hit my head against the
counter. I lost consciousness."
"Yeah." She could hear Marcus hiss air between clenched teeth.
"How old were you?"
"Six. When I came to, he was still on me. He said that Diane had left him, that she was seeing someone else. He lay like that for hours, his arms around me,
just talking. Then he tied me in a corner, got a gun, and blew his brains out. Jake, one of my brothers, found me. Said he'd heard the shot. I don't know
how, because Jeff's place was a long way from ours, and he'd had a silencer on the pistol. They just knew. All of my brothers, my grandmother, even my
"I went to the hospital. It was the only time I ever saw my father. I can't even remember what he looked like. I can remember Jake asking if he was going to
stick around this time, but that's all." She was trembling. Camille looked into those big brown eyes of his and searched them. He was hurt that she hadn't
told him before, but he was glad that he was the one she'd talked to.
"I never told anyone that before," she said. "All my family wanted me to see a shrink when I was a bit older, but I refused. They helped me get back on my
feet. I thought Dave- my husband, not my brother- brought me back to who I was, but he didn't. Marcus, I love you. I needed you to help me back to who I
was, and to make me who I am. I love the way you make me feel."
Taylor smiled at her. He kissed her cheeks.
"How do I make you feel?" he asked innocently.
"Special. Like I'm a treasure others should envy you for having. Warm and precious and cared for and protected. I know you'll never leave me. I don't ever
want to leave you, and I never will." Camille looked at him again. Then a devilish smile came on her face and she gave him a shove with her shoulder. He
took her with him as he toppled into the pillows.
Marcus watched the sunlight as it slid across Camille's face. Her eyelids fluttered; she turned over.
"Morning, sleepyhead," he said softly. She kneed him lightly in the stomach.
"Quiet," she replied. "I came back to bed." They both laughed.
She reached the bathroom ahead of him. He waited as she dressed. When she came out, he realized it was well worth the wait. Camille was wearing a short
yellow sundress that showed a lot of cleavage. Her hair was flowing loosely around her shoulders. Against her brown skin, the yellow seemed almost
"Hello, Sunflower," Marcus said quietly. He was wearing a blue silk shirt and gray pants. He could tell Camille had taken a lot of time for him. He felt
underdressed next to her.
"Don't call me Sunflower," she replied. She was grinning. "You are a sight for sore eyes, Marcus Taylor."
He felt a little better.
They passed their seven day R&R in much the same pattern. They spent their days getting to know each other, passing the nights wrapped in each others
Camille sighed. She had a lifetime to get to know Marcus, but Nam was a place where you didn't think a lot about tomorrow, you just went on living from
mission to mission. If something happened, you shoved it aside until there was time to deal with it.
Nam loomed closer every morning. Camille knew they had to say their goodbyes soon, but she didn't want to give him one last kiss until the airport in
Saigon. Bad girl, she thought. Can't do that. Shouldn't even be here, in bed with a common grunt. She didn't care. She wouldn't be there if Marcus
wasn't a special person. She loved him heart and soul.
"What are you thinking about?" Taylor questioned.
"I woke up and you were sitting. What's on your mind, darling?" he asked.
"I was thinking about Nam, about having to say 'see you later' and leaving, that sort of stuff." She was nearly crying. He drew her close.
"Camille, we only have one day of R&R left. Let's not worry about long goodbyes. Let's have one." She smiled, cuddled close, and kissed him.
"Sergeant, I couldn't agree more."