tagRomanceJohnny Comes Marching Home

Johnny Comes Marching Home

byWeb_Spinner©

There is no sex in this story. The young man in this story is not Rambo. He is a brave American who like so many others have served their country proudly.

*

Johnny thought back to the last time he had seen the McKuens. It had been just over three years ago. It was right at the time he was enlisting in the Army. Johnny had just graduated high school and wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father, uncle and grandfather. They had all served their country. Johnny's mother wasn't too pleased with his decision, especially with what was happening in the middle east but his father was proud of him.

That summer the McKuens had come back to his hometown for a visit. The McKuens and his parents had been friends since the year before he was born. That was when they had moved into the house next door to the one his parents live in. Johnny's mom and Mrs. McKuen had been pregnant at the same time and Johnny was born one month before Mrs. McKuen gave birth to her daughter Amanda. Everyone calls her Mandy though.

It was only natural that Johnny and Mandy had grown up together, their mothers being best friends and all. The two kids were practically inseparable until they were fourteen when Mr. McKuen was transferred across state. Even during the fifth and sixth grades when the guys teased him about hanging out with and icky girl he didn't care. She was his best friend. Then during the seventh and eighth grades when boys started noticing girls he began to realize that his best friend was about the cutest girl in school. He was even more proud to be her best friend and hang out with her.

Then the summer between their eighth and ninth grade years Mr. McKuen announced they were moving. Johnny and Mandy were almost heartbroken that the were going to be separated. They promised each other they would write often and would always be best friends forever. They did write each other a lot in the beginning and each summer either her family would come for a two week visit or he would go with his family to visit them. During these visits Johnny and Mandy would renew their friendship. Every year Mandy grew more beautiful. But as they entered their junior year their letters became less frequent and during their senior year they only wrote a few times.

Johnny recalled the last day of the McKuen's visit at the end of his senior year. It was the end of their two week stay and Johnny had spent every day with Mandy. Two days after the McKuens returned home Johnny would be reporting for basic training. Mandy hadn't said anything up till then about Johnny joining the Army but before they left that morning she took Johnny into his bedroom and shut the door.

For several minutes she had just stood and stared at him looking him up and down. Her eyes filled with tears that began to roll down her cheek in big drops. Suddenly she threw her arms around his neck and hugged him tight and then gave him a soft kiss on the lips.

"You had better take care of yourself, Johnny. You're my best friend," she said and then ran from the room. Johnny stood there in a daze and his fingers pressed against his lips where she had kissed him. Twenty minutes later he was waving as she and her family drove away. That was the last time he had seen her for these last three years.

Johnny finished his basic training and the next year his unit was sent to Iraq where he served for twelve months. He had a few close calls but made it out okay. Then he had finished his tour of duty at Fort Hood.

His grandfather had served during World War II and his father had been in Viet Nam. Both had returned with medals for bravery under fire. Like them, Johnny had also received two medals for courage. At any time he ever had a doubt he would ask himself what his father and grandfather would have done. And now, like them, he understood why they didn't like to talk about the horrors of combat.

There had been many a time that he thought about Mandy and even dreamed about her kiss. The thought of her helped him to persevere through the rough times. She had told him to take care of himself and he didn't want to disappoint her.

He had saved almost all his pay and with the G.I. Bill was going back to school. The college he had chosen just happened to be the same one Mandy attended and was located in the city in which her parents lived.

Johnny had no desire to live in a dorm and was on his way to look for an apartment after spending the last month visiting his parents. It had been his mom's idea that he stay with McKuens until he found an apartment. Diane and Frank McKuen had been enthusiastic in wanting him to stay with them. Mandy had her own apartment near the campus and was going to be starting her senior year.

Johnny's reveries were interrupted as he pulled into the drive way. He had no more than stepped out of his car when the front door had opened and Mrs. McKuen came running out and threw her arms around Johnny. They hugged each other and she stood back and looked at him.

"Goodness gracious Johnny but you are so handsome. You sure have filled out."

He gave her a grin. "Thank you Mrs. McKuen. I have to say you haven't changed a bit. Still pretty as ever."

"And you've become quite the charmer," she said with a smile that showed she was pleased with his compliment. "But, I think your old enough now to call me Diane. Frank wanted to be here to greet you too but he had to work. He'll be here later this afternoon. Until then grab your bags and I'll show you to your room."

Johnny grabbed his bags out of the car and followed Diane's lithe figure into the house. He had been honest in his compliment of her. One only had to look at Diane to see where Mandy had gotten her good looks from.

Johnny put his bags in the spare bedroom and then went to the kitchen with Diane. They sat at the table talking over glasses of iced tea until the front door opened. Mr. McKuen announced he was home and Diane told him they were in the kitchen. Johnny rose from his seat as Frank entered and was caught in a bear hug and then an arm pumping hand shake.

"My God, Johnny, look at you. You have sure grown up."

Johnny thanked him and like Diane had done Frank told him to call him by his first name. Diane set about preparing dinner while Johnny and Frank went into the living room and talked. Frank had also served in the Army so they compared stories. Dinner was just as good as he expected it to be. Diane was a great cook and Johnny had had the pleasure of eating her cooking many times over the years.

After dinner they sat together in the living room reminiscing about the past. Just before eight the front door opened again. Johnny's heart skipped a beat when a beautiful young woman stepped inside. He barely had time to stand up to catch her as she streaked across the room and almost leveled him as she jumped up and wrapped her arms around his neck and squeezed. His arms likewise wrapped around her returning the squeeze. He set her down and they looked at each other carefully.

"It's so good to see you, Johnny," she said enthusiastically.

"Same here, Mandy. You are prettier than ever," Johnny said in awe. It was true. The last three years had been really good to Mandy and she was a very fine young woman.

Johnny heard a cough from behind Mandy and looked up to see a guy about his age standing behind her. He'd had only had eyes for Mandy and had missed his entrance. Mandy turned to look at him. "Gary, this is my oldest friend, Johnny. Johnny, I would like you to meet my boyfriend Gary," she said.

Johnny felt his heart fall but quickly thought, 'Of course she has a boyfriend.' He hadn't really thought about it but it only made sense. Any girl as pretty as she was would have guys chasing her. Johnny quickly put a smile on his face and stuck his hand out.

"It's nice to meet you Gary." Gary did shake Johnny's hand but didn't say anything. He just looked him over.

Johnny's eyes turned to Mandy when she spoke again. "I meant to be here earlier but I got tied up. Anyway, Gary and I are on our way to meet up with friends at a club. Would you like to come with us?" Johnny glanced back over at Gary and saw a none too friendly look.

"I appreciate the invite Mandy but I'm a little tired from the drive. I think I'll just stay here and turn in early." Mandy gave him a little pout but accepted his decision. She gave her mother and dad a quick kiss and was gone as almost as fast as she had arrived. Her parting words were that she wanted to get together and catch up on things with him. Johnny set back down as the door shut.

"I don't know what she see's in him," Johnny heard Diane mutter under her breath.

They talked for another hour until Johnny excused himself to turn in. After a quick shower he hit the sack and before he fell asleep he thought about Mandy. She had looked wonderful. Then he thought about her boyfriend Gary. He knew by the looks that he got that Gary didn't like him. Johnny thought that could be understandable. He wondered how he would feel to be in his place and meeting her oldest friend who was another man. Johnny also wondered about his reaction to Gary. He didn't like him. He didn't think it was just because Mandy had introduced him as her boyfriend. There was just something about him. He reflected on Diane's statement after they had left. It was obvious she wasn't crazy about him either.

Johnny woke at the crack of dawn. He still hadn't learned to sleep in after three years in the army. He got dressed and brushed his teeth and shaved and quietly made his way to the kitchen. He was surprised to see Diane already there putting on the coffee. She told him she always got up early on the mornings that Frank had to work to make his breakfast. Johnny sat at the table as she busied herself at the stove. Frank came in dressed for work just as Diane set the plates on the table. Once he had eaten Frank kissed his wife and wished Johnny luck on his hunt for an apartment and left for work. Johnny helped Diane clean the kitchen then asked her if she knew anything about apartments close to school.

Diane took him into the study and turned on the computer. She brought up an apartment locator service that mapped all the local apartment buildings. She showed him which complex Mandy lived in and then left him to use the computer. One nice feature is that you could query the site about what size and price range you were looking for and it would return a list of units available. Johnny already knew that most of his classes would be on the south side of the campus as that was where the engineering buildings were. Mandy's apartment was on the north side of the large campus.

Johnny quickly dismissed the idea of looking for an apartment in her complex. He was pretty sure that would only cause problems with Gary. Not so much for him but for Mandy. Instead he made a list of the ones with available units on the south side and left to check them out. As luck would have it he found what he was looking for on his third stop. It was a one bedroom corner unit on the second floor of a two story building. As the apartment manager led him up the stairs he noted a cute coed coming out of the unit below the one he was looking at. He was able to put down a deposit and have his rent start in two weeks. That would give him one week to get moved in before classes started.

Once the paper work was done Johnny noted that it was still early. He drove to the McKuen's and told Diane of his good fortune. He then said that as it was still early he was going to drive back home to spend more time with his parents before classes started. Diane was disappointed he was leaving so soon but understood. Johnny promised he would visit when he came back. Diane fixed him some sandwiches for the drive and gave him a kiss on the cheek before he left.

Johnny's parents were surprised but happy to see him home so soon as he had only been gone overnight. He spent as much time as he could with his folks and the two weeks passed quickly. When it was time to return to his new apartment it didn't take long to pack as he had only the few things he had bought since his discharge.

He spent his first two days moving in and doing some shopping for things he figured he would need. He stopped in to see the McKuen's the evening of his second day. He was in luck to arrive right on time to be invited for dinner. As they began to eat Diane looked at him.

"Mandy was a little miffed at you for taking off so quick."

He shrugged his shoulders. "I'm sure we'll have time to talk sometime now that I'm back."

Diane looked at him a little funny but let the subject drop. They visited for another couple hours before Johnny left to return to his apartment. Just as he was about to go up the stairs the door to the unit below him opened. The cute coed he had seen the day he had leased the apartment stepped out and Johnny decided to take the time to introduce himself. She said her name was Susan and she was starting her sophomore year. Johnny told her that he was a starting freshman. She looked at him in disbelief and told him he didn't look like he had just graduated high school. Johnny laughed and explained that he had spent the last three years in the Army so was getting a late start. He noticed her look him over as she reappraised him.

Johnny really hadn't had that much contact with women since high school. Even when he was stateside and had weekend leave he preferred to stay on base and save his money. He had been considered cute by the girls in high school but he wasn't the hard body more mature man that he was now. Susan said she was on her way to meet some friends but hoped they would see each other again. He returned her sentiment and went up to his apartment thinking that he had made a good choice on choosing where to live.

The following day he was just hanging out after lunch when there was an insistent knock on his door. As he swung the door open Mandy pushed him aside and stomped inside.

"Why did you just take off and leave without talking to me," she spat out. Johnny stood there confused by her attitude. Her mother had been right when she said her daughter was miffed at him. He scratched his head and shrugged his shoulders.

"Geez Mandy. I'm sorry. It's just that I found this place really quick and I kinda wanted to get back so I could spend some more time with my folks. I've only got to see them once in the last three years."

Mandy looked at her life long friend standing before her looking like a child who had just been scolded by his mother. 'Of course he would want to spend time with his parents,' she thought. Her anger instantly melted away. "I'm sorry Johnny. I guess I can be so thoughtless sometimes. It's just that I have missed you and I was so excited when mom told me you were coming."

Johnny crossed the short distance between them and hugged her. "I'm here now. Let's sit and we can talk."

They sat on the couch and talked for the next two hours. Mandy started first, telling Johnny about her life for the last three years. She talked about her major and her classes and things she had done. The one thing that she didn't talk about was Gary. Johnny didn't ask as he really didn't want to know. He then told her all about going through basic and life in the Army. She noticed that the one thing he didn't talk about was the year he spent in Iraq. Their mothers were always in contact through e-mail or phone calls so she always knew where Johnny was. She remembered how relieved she had been the day that her mother had told her was back in the States.

As they talked Johnny was able to take his time and study his friend. Perhaps it was just him but he thought she was beautiful. She grown into the woman that he had imagined she would become. He loved to listen to her talk and when she laughed it sent tingles down his spine.

Finally Mandy looked at her watch and said she had to go. Johnny figured that she was going to meet Gary and wondered if he knew she was here. He really didn't care one way or the other because the last two hours had almost been like the old days. Johnny walked her to the door and as he opened it she hugged him tightly.

"I'm glad you came home safe," she whispered.

"Me too," he said remembering those who hadn't.

Johnny didn't hear from Mandy over the next few days and once classes started he spent his first week learning his way around. He learned this wasn't like high school as he had homework assigned on his first day of classes.

It was on Thursday that Johnny realized that it was already past seven when he finished studying. He didn't feel like cooking and ordered a pizza to be delivered. When he stepped out to pay the pizza delivery guy he spotted Susan returning to her apartment. He called down and asked her if she would like to share a pizza with him. She said sure and give her a second to drop her books inside.

Ten minutes later they were sitting on his couch biting into their first slice. As they ate they got to know each other. Johnny learned that she was from the Midwest and was majoring in marketing. He told her about where he grew up and some of his life in the Army. While Johnny didn't feel that either of them were infatuated with the other he did find it pleasant to spend time with the pretty brunette with those big brown eyes.

Over the next two weeks they got together twice. She invited him into her apartment for dinner one evening to repay him for sharing his pizza and once they got together to just sit and talk. It was near the end of his third week of school that Mandy called him. He hadn't heard from her since the day she had come to his apartment. He knew he could have called her but figured she was busy with Gary and school. She apologized for not calling earlier and said she was hosting a little get together on Saturday at her place and wanted to know if he would come. Johnny almost turned her down then asked if he could let her know for sure later. He waited until he thought Susan would be home and went down and asked her if she would be interested in going to a party with him. When he told her that it was being hosted by a couple of senior students she readily agreed. He later laughed when he was alone how fast she accepted his invitation when she learned that it was seniors and not a freshman party. Must be some kind of social status thing.

Johnny called Mandy back and told her he would come. She seemed pleased. That was until he arrived on Saturday night. Mandy answered the door when he knocked and her face lit up when she saw him but when she noticed the cute brunette standing next to him and her face fell. Johnny quickly introduced Mandy and Susan to each other. Mandy had been raised well by her parents and quickly put on a welcoming smile and invited them in. As they were standing in the living room and Mandy was pointing out where Johnny could put the beer and bottle of wine that he had bought Gary came up behind her.

Johnny noted the glare he received from Mandy's boyfriend until he spotted Susan. Johnny thought he looked at her like a hungry wolf on the prowl. In fact he ignored Johnny and walked right up to Susan and held out his hand and introduced himself. Johnny again had the feeling that there was just something about Gary that he didn't like. There was another knock at the door and Mandy left to answer it. Johnny led Susan into the kitchen to put the beer and wine in the refrigerator. He kept one beer for himself and poured a glass of wine for Susan and returned to the living room where there were already five other couples.

Johnny took a look around and was impressed with the size of the apartment. He knew that it was a three bedroom unit that Mandy shared with two other girls and though he hadn't seen the bedrooms, the kitchen and living room were quite spacious.

Never having been shy Johnny introduced himself and Susan to some of the other people in the room. One of the girls turned out to be Mandy's roommate and when she realized who he was she told him how nice it was to finally meet the guy that Mandy talked about so much. Johnny noticed the look of curiosity he got from Susan. He hadn't really told her much about Mandy other than they had know each other for a long time.

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