"I understand," I whispered into her ear as I placed feathery kisses on her neck.
Her hand closed around me again and I moaned as she started to pump the wet length of me.
"I want you to cum for me though, my Willy boy. I want to hear it. I want to see your beautiful face as you cum for me."
I clutched her to me as her soft hand ran the length of me in a tight embrace. I lowered my head a bit and kissed at the softer skin of her breast. She lifted up and I found the nipple. I tasted her skin in my mouth then I was moaning around her as I felt the almost painful surge up me.
Maryloo's fingers tightened and loosened around me as I came in her hand. She stroked the whole of me and I felt the wet release running down from off her fingers onto my lower stomach.
As I tried to catch my breath, I felt her slowly lower herself against me. She lay herself fully down next to me and I moved my arm as she tucked in up against the side of me. Her head pillowed into the crook of my arm.
Still panting a bit, I turned just enough to bury my face into the soft sponge like hair. I placed soft kisses into it.
"I love you so much," I said in a soft whisper.
I felt her start to cry against the side of my neck.
"I love you too, my Willy boy." I heard her say through her tears.
I tried to give her comfort but I knew that no words of mine at that time would do it. The world was what it was. It would never accept us or our love.
And it was time for me to leave.
The last years of the war were not as harrowing for me as the first years had been. The slight limp didn't really go completely away. They kept me to the back for the first six months or so then I seemed to spend a lot of time in base camp. The older officers knew that someone who had been in for as long as I had was a gold mine to the morale of the new guys coming in.
And then there were no new guys coming in. It seemed like I turned around twice and people I had known for years were being rotated back home.
It was 1970 when my papers came in.
As I pulled the car into the driveway of the old house I saw faces at some of the windows. Faces that had the family look to them but that I didn't know.
1970.... that was a year I'll never forget.
I don't know if I've dried out completely even now.
As I walked down off the plane, I looked up at the blue sky with wonder. It had been weeks since I'd seen it.
I looked around and then smiled when I saw my sisters Jenny and Cora running across the tarmac towards me. I dropped my duffel and scooped both of them up and into my arms. Their arms were tight around me as we all three both laughed and cry. I felt kisses all over my neck and ears. I gave them both a shake, then set them down. I laughed when they wouldn't turn me loose.
I looked around for my brother Tommy but then remembered Momma said he was off to boot camp. I smiled when I saw her coming towards me. I finally convinced the girls to turn me loose enough so I could hug mom.
"Oh thank God you're home!" she said, crying against the side of my cheek.
The familiar scent of my mom's perfume and the loving warmth of my family filled me to the very edge of my heart. There was only a single place that was not filled.
I looked around for her, but she was not there. My father again no doubt. Mom had said in her last letter to me that dad had been getting if anything more and more racial as the growing news across the country infuriated him.
Then a man moved and I saw her!
Maryloo started forward towards me in a slow walk, that became a quick walk, then a run.
I turned my mom and sisters loose just in time to catch her in my arms. It took all the will I had to turn my head so that our mouths didn't connect in a full on kiss. I heard whispering by my ear as I kissed the side of her cheek and hugged her tight to me.
"Oh, my beautiful man. Oh, thank you for coming back to me. Oh, I love you so much..."
Her soft words heard only by me filled that last void in my heart.
As I slowly and reluctantly turned her loose, I was again engulfed by my sisters.
I chuckled as the five of us tried to move out the way of other family greetings going on around us. The ride home was a constant question-filled time that has passed from my memory with the passage of the years. All I remember was the look in those beautiful eyes when I turned and looked into the back seat. She and I shared a smile that the others didn't see.
Dad came forward to shake my hand from the front porch. I noticed he had a black leather-covered bible in his left hand. In the hours that followed, I began to wonder if he'd had some sort of accident with glue and no one wanted to talk about it. He only put it down for dinner and even then his hand went to it every few moments.
I was talking to Cora about the rain that brought a halt to all the fighting in Vietnam and helped me to leave early so that I got here in time for Thanksgiving. Looking past her I could see Momma and Maryloo both at work in the kitchen. I could smell the sourdough bread starter already at work when I entered the house.
"First time I've ever heard of a war halted by a little rain," my father says dismissively. He lifted his left hand and pointed the black book at me. "You mark my word, those damn slant-eyed bastards y'all been pussyfooting around with over there didn't let a little rain stop them. Your brother will have his hands full trying to wrap up that mess y'all have made of this war."
I swallowed down the words that came rising up like bile. I had no wish to argue with my father about that damn war. The images of it were still just right behind my eyes. I had only to close them to see it as clear as day.
"Just another sign it's the end of days!" he said giving the bible in his hand a shake at me. "This sick worlds falling faster and faster into the hands of the Devil himself!"
I looked over at Cora and lifted an eyebrow while dad took a sip of his tea. She kind of rolled her eyes back.
"Look at the mess things have fallen into! All those drug smoking hippies and sign toting faggots have made a mockery of this great country. That's what! It all started with those Nigger preachers. Them getting up and talking like they had a right to speak the word of God before white people. I thought it would settle down once that one got shot up in Memphis but then this Jesse Jackson got his black ass going. Someone need to do to him what they did to that other one! You mark my word, his day's coming. Every ones day's coming." He gave the bible in his hand a good shake again. "The hand of Lucifer himself is upon them all and their moment to burn is already given."
I pushed my chair back and without a word to him took my plate into the kitchen. I shook my head at the look Maryloo gave me as I walked past her and placed the plate into the sink.
She was worried about what I would say.
She shouldn't have been. I had no wish to talk to my father at all.
Walking out the back door, I went to the old shed out back and unhooked the door. Field dust had settle in a thick gray coat over the top of the old car. My older brother Jimmy driven it till his death, then it had been mine for two years, then sat there pretty much ever since. I was kind of surprised. I had figured Tommy would have taken it out.
Opening the door, I reach down and pop the hood. I needed to see about charging up the battery. Was gonna need this old car soon.
When I opened up the hood I saw the letter. My name was written on the outside of the envelope.
What it said chilled me to the core.
"William. The last time you were home I watched you in the middle of the night sneak out the house. I followed you and saw what you did. How could you? I cannot begin to express the level of disgust I feel for you now. I've kept my knowledge to myself but I swear if I ever see even a hint that you are still doing what you did that night I will go to our father and tell him just what he has for a son. I left this here because I know you will come here to get Jimmy's car running again. I truly wish you had never driven it. I would have liked to have had it to remember my only real brother by but after you've touched it I want nothing to do with it.
My brother's bitter words come back to tear at me again. The four decades plus since I first read them...they feel like nothing. I can see those words in my brother's scribbly hand like they're still in front of me.
A single tear rolls down my face as I see the front door opening.
That front door... the one that was slammed in my face.
I awakened to the smell of pumpkin pie and a mixture of a dozen other scents that set my mouth to watering. Sitting up, I rubbed at the mass of scar tissue that sat just under my left knee. The ache hadn't left it since the rains had started in October back in the Nam. The slight chill to the November morning just added to it.
The kitchen was a bustle with women that morning! My Mom, Maryloo, Cora, and Jenny were all in a flurry of motion. I saw a monster of a turkey getting tied up.
I was given a bowl of oatmeal with raisins and butter and sent out the back door. A few moments after I sat down on the back porch swing Maryloo came out with me a glass of milk.
She gave me a smile as she handed it to me.
I wished I could return it.
"What's the matter, my Willy boy?" she asked me when I didn't smile back.
I told her quietly about the letter.
Her hand went to cover her mouth for a second then she slowly started to nod.
"I wondered what his problem had been these last few years. He wouldn't talk to me after you left for weeks... then all he would do is just tell me to do things. Like clean the floors... bring him this or that. I tried to ask him what was the mater but he just gave me a foul look and walked off." She squeezed her eyes shut. "Oh my Willy boy...what are we going to do? He's going to be here for dinner."
"I'm going to try to talk to him. See if he will listen to me. I'm sorry he's been an ass to you, my love."
Maryloo gave a slight shrug and looked down at her hands. I reached over to take them but she pulled away just before mine would have touched hers.
"Not here," she said in a whisper.
"Where then?" I asked just as softly. "Where will we ever be able to?"
Her beautiful eyes came up and looked deep into mine. I saw a dozen emotions cross her face.
"Maybe nowhere around here... but I would like to find that place," she told me after a moment.
"I would like that too," I told her back. My eyes went to her left hand and the idea of me slipping a gold ring over her dark skin came to me then. By the word of the law, I could do that now... here. I knew what would happen if I tried to though.
"Well, enjoy your family dinner, my Willy boy. I's got to be getting. All the family is on the way to my place for our dinner. Was up half the night cooking for them then been here since just after dawn cooking for yours."
My eyes went up from her hands to her face. I could see that she was tired.
"You deserve better than what you're getting." I told her softly as I stood up. I looked down at her dark eyes. "I want to..."
"I know what you want to do," she told me with a quaver to her voice. Then I saw her eyes twinkle. "I surely know what you want."
I smiled back at her, and nodded.
"I won't be having it!"
My heart thundered as my father's voice came spilling out the open back door.
Cora came out the back door at a run. I could make out Dad yelling at nearly the top of his lungs from somewhere around the living room.
"Willy, there is a black man on the front porch asking for you!"
My eyebrows knitted together as I thought about the few possibilities. I handed her the empty bowl and walked around the side of the house towards the front porch.
A grin split my face as I saw it was Curtis. It slowly started to fade as I saw his expression. As I stepped onto the side of the porch, he heard me and turned to look. I could see the Marine I fought beside. Always checking his tail. He nodded, seeing me, and limped heavily towards me.
I could still hear father storming inside. One word seemed to be dominating his every sentence. It was a word I try to never use now.
"Willy...." I saw tears start to fall. He wiped them away angrily. He went to try and tell me again. Then unable to do it, he reached into his pocket and handed me a letter.
I recognized the return address.
Slowly my world fell to pieces around me as I read.
Calvin... oh god, Calvin.
He was my Top Sargent from the first day I landed in Vietnam. The image of his shit-eating grin came to me. That constant cigar stub held in his teeth. For some reason that stupid dog that followed him around for half a year came to mind.
My left hand clutched my right elbow as I covered my eyes with my hand. I couldn't stop the tears or the racking pain that tore at me. I felt Curtis' hand come to rest on my shoulder.
"I'm there bro, I'm right there with ya." I heard him whisper.
Then a smaller hand was on my arm. Under my hand, I saw the slim dark fingers that rested lightly on my arm. The comforting presence that I'd had for most of my life to chase away my tears.
A piece of pie was not going to do it this time... but her arms might. I turned and brought her into my arms and held her against my chest as I cried.
"I'll get my shotgun and blow that nigger the hell off my porch!"
The tears stopped.
My eyes were cold and my breathing steadied as I turned the love of my life slowly loose.
"Willy?" I heard her words only barely.
It was three long strides to the front door. Seven more after that to where Dad was trying to unlock his gun case. I saw mom and Jenny standing in his way.
My sister's eyes going wide were his only warning as I crossed the living room. He was only half turned towards me when I reached him.
The whole end of the house shook as I grabbed my father and slammed him into the side of the wall next to the gun case. My hands were clutching his shirt as I held him hard into the wood paneling. My nose was just inches from his.
"Your son is alive because of that nigger! That man on your porch saved my life more times than I can count, you son of a bitch! He will limp for the rest of his life because he pushed me off the trip wipe I had just snagged!"
My hands under his throat, I lifted the racist son of a bitch up! I know my mouth was a snarl. "I carried him miles through that damn hell to a chopper thinking I was carrying a dead man. Now that man... a man I love like my brothers comes here to tell me my C.E.O. back in the war got killed last week and you want to get a gun after him!"
I noticed then that hands were pulling at my arms. Female and of all colors. I tried to stand against them but then a stronger male hand came to rest on my shoulder.
"Willy... it's okay. I'm used to it."
Turning him loose slowly, I let Curtis pull me back from my father.
I could see in my father's face he was furious at me but at the same time I could see something I never saw on my old man's face before. Fear. I watched Mom and Jenny take him towards the TV room as Maryloo, Cora and Curtis pulled me towards the front porch.
Once outside, I turned to look at Curtis. "I'm sorry..."
He shook his head. That grin of his appeared slowly. "I'm a Tennessee black man in Alabama. An angry white dude isn't nothin' new to me bro."
I just looked at him and my own face split into a grin. I reached over and took his hand.
After a second he looked over at Maryloo and smiled at her. Then looked back at me. "So this is the lovely lady you were telling me about so many times. You were right, she is beautiful." He looked back to her. "I would try to steal you but this man I think got his heart set on you."
Maryloo smiled at him.
"I'm not easy to steal." She looked down then back up. "You a long way from home? You got a meal waiting on you?"
Curtis turned my hand loose and shook his head. I handed him back his letter when I saw his eyes go to it.
"I told Mama to keep it warm that I would be late getting home."
I sighed. "I would invite you in Curt but..."
He chuckled and nodded.
Maryloo spoke up. "You come with me. I got a whole house full of folks and a ton of food done made up. One more won't make no-one go hungry there. Willy, tell your Momma I'll see her tomorrow to just leave what she can. I'll get it taken care of when I get here."
"Curt... when will I see you again?" I asked after he nodded. "I mean, I can drive up to Tennessee but..."
"Yea." He gave me a nod that carried a lot of meaning. I knew from long talks with him back in the Nam that his father felt about white people like mine did about black people. "We'll work something out."
Maryloo's hand tightened on my arm. I realized then she hadn't turned me loose for the whole time we had been standing there.
"Willy boy, when you get done eating with your family, you come round the house. I'll find one of my cousins to keep him from getting bored till you get there." Maryloo smiled at me, then him. "Come on. Food's getting cold why we standing here."
I watched as Curtis limped along with her down the front sidewalk. They headed down towards the bus stop.
When I turned, Cora was just looking at me. She slowly glanced towards Maryloo, then looked back at me. Her eyebrows rose.
I gave a slow nod.
After a second, she just silently whistled.
She was about to turn and go inside when a cab pulled up behind us out on the street. I felt a grin edging my mouth as I saw Tommy get out, his hair high and tight. Twenty feet away and he smelled like boot camp.
The smile faded away at two memories. The letter he wrote and just how many times I saw fresh from the island guys looking just like Tommy dead a week after they hit the Nam. They come at me from two directions.
Cora gave a squeal and dashed off the porch and out to meet him. I grinned as I saw him stagger under her weight as she all but tackled him. They talked for a bit as they made their way up the side walk.
Over their shoulder, I saw the buss pull away from the bus stop. I could just make out Maryloo as it went past. Her looking out the window at me.
Cora rushed past me as they reached the steps to go tell everyone.
I smiled at my brother as he stepped up onto the porch. I looked at the sharp BDU's he was wearing, and pulled myself up, I snapped my hand to my brow.
Tommy looked at me with a slowly growing look of...
Then he turned his back and walked towards the door.
The word was out my mouth with a snap my Top would have been proud of.
Tommy's training stops him in his tracks. I walked around till I was standing nose to nose with him.
"Soldier... the next time a Gunnery Sergeant does your PFC ass the honor of a salute, you better snap it back like God just told you to! Do you understand me, Johnson?"
"Sir! Aye, aye, Sir."
I looked him up and down. The look of disgust that he had begun to give to me, I gave back to him in full.
"When you get back to the Island, tell your Drill about this. You tell him an honorably discharged Gunnery Sergeant with the Second Battalion, Third Marines did you the honor of a salute and you failed to return it because of your personal feeling about that person. Do you hear me... soldier?"
I saw him swallow before he answered.
"Sir. Aye, aye, Sir."
I gave my brother one last look up and down that conveyed my full disgust at him for the dishonor he just did to the uniform he was wearing.
I heard my sisters coming through the house at a run.
"As you were," I told him in a whisper.