tagRomanceHer First and Last

Her First and Last


"Just shut up and get in the car Jackie. I'm getting tired of dragging your ass all over town. Why can't you get a license like everyone else?"

That would be my best friend Kevin, talking to his little sister, Jackie.

I just shook my head as she climbed into the back seat and sat there quietly, looking down at the floorboard. Kevin and I were two years older than Jackie and she had been a pain in our asses since she was six and started riding the school bus with us. She was quiet and so shy that it was painful to watch her sometimes. And here we were, once again, driving her to the mall because she didn't have a license yet.

The main problem was that Jackie was a real sweetheart and try as I might I could never stay angry with her. She was tall, thin, gangly and she had just a hint of an overbite. She always had a serious look on her face; I rarely saw her smile and hardly ever heard her laugh. Her brown hair and eyes were nothing that would grab a guy's attention and she dressed so conservatively that I couldn't remember the last time I had seen her wearing anything but long skirts, long sleeve blouses and sweaters. Even today, in early September, when the heat and humidity can be stifling in upstate South Carolina, she had a sweater on.

Pulling up to the Macy's entrance Kevin rolled to a stop and let Jackie out. She leaned down and asked him if he could come back when she called to pick her up and take her home.

"Like I've got a choice? If I say no, mom will have a fit. It's not that damn difficult Jackie; you study, you practice, you take a test and get a driver's license!" Kevin said angrily as he dropped the car into gear again and pulled away so quickly that the tires chirped, and Jackie had to jump out of the way of the car.

"Jesus Christ Dude! She's your sister." I said in her defense as we pulled away.

"So, what? I'm tired of hauling her ass everywhere." Kevin said angrily.

"I know, but still." I said, letting it drop.

"I'm tired of it."

"Yeah." I said quietly, not wanting to annoy him any further.

"So, what are your plans for the weekend?" he asked as we sat at a traffic light.

"I'm going to dress up like a tree and go play in the woods."

"Drill weekend huh?"

"Yep." I replied, watching the mall disappear in the passenger side mirror.

"I swear to God I will never understand why you did that."

"There are days that I wonder about it myself." as the mall completely disappeared from the mirror I added, "Speaking of which, I have to be at the unit tomorrow afternoon for drill, can you drop me off at my house, so I can pack my stuff?"

"No problem Lance Corporal Holland sir. Kevin's taxi service at your disposal!"

"Bite me Bitch." I said laughing at him as he turned and headed for my house.

I walked inside the front door to find my mother standing in the living room with the phone to her ear. She was pacing back and forth with a highly irritated look on her face but when she saw me looking at her she smiled softly and held up a finger to let me know she wouldn't be long. A moment later she spoke to the person she was on the phone with, using my arrival as an excuse to hang up.

"That was the shop, your car is ready; do you want me to take you to pick it up?"

"Yes, please." I said, relieved that I wouldn't have to rely on anyone else for transportation.

"Hang on, let me grab my purse." Mom replied as she walked into the kitchen.

"Hey Mom, can I ask you something?"

"Sure Honey, what is it?" she answered as she reappeared.

"Have you ever done something so out of character that your friends and family thought you were crazy?"

"Well, there was Mardi Gras in 1979. I walked away with a lot of beads that year." she said, with a huge grin as she blew me a kiss.

"EWW!" I replied, feigning disgust and laughing at the same time.

"What's on your mind Sweetie?" she asked as we walked outside and headed for her mini-van.

"Well, I was thinking about asking someone out and if I do, everyone is going to flip." I said as I climbed inside.

Mom was in the process of buckling her seatbelt when she paused and looked at me. Smiling she clicked the belt in place, then placed the key in the ignition. After she started the engine and backed the van out of the driveway she looked over at me a second time then burst out laughing.

"What?" I asked, really confused by her reaction.

"Jackie is a lovely young lady Matthew. Kevin and the rest of your friends will get over it soon enough."

"How did you figure that out so fast?" I asked her, blushing furiously.

"Mommy magic." she replied as she put the van in drive and pulled away from the house.


"She is the only girl that I know of who would cause your friends to freak out if you went out with her."

"Oh." I replied, mainly because it was all I had to say.

"Lots of beads huh?" I asked, trying to change the subject as we rode in awkward silence after her statement.

"Tons of them. Me and the twins were busy that night!" she replied, squishing her boobs together with her upper arms.

"Eww!" I responded again, this time meaning it.

"Don't ask questions you don't want the answers to Matt. I wasn't always your mom."

"You win!" I said quickly, now desperate to find a PG-13 subject to talk about.

Mom glanced at me and winking she turned the radio up and started singing along with Travis Tritt's newest release. We pulled into the parking lot of the shop just as the song finished and walked to the counter to pay for the repair work they had done. The service advisor told Mom that he had seen a lot worse damage done to a car when it hit a deer. Then he happily handed over the keys as she signed the check from the insurance company.

As I walked toward my car Mom laughed and told me to try to keep from killing Bambi again, then kissed me on the cheek and climbed back into her van to head home. I on the other hand, climbed into my car and headed for the mall. It took me thirty minutes to find Jackie and true to her nature, when I did find her, she was curled up at a table in the back of a bookstore reading a JRR Tolkien novel.

"Hey." I said, startling her so badly that she dropped the book she was reading.

"What are you doing here?" she asked as she bent down to retrieve it.

"Nice to see you too Jackie." I said, sitting down beside her.

"I'm sorry Matt, you frightened me."

"Sorry about that. Do you still need that ride home?"

"Yeah. I was about to call mom to have someone come pick me up."

"I can take you. It will beat listening to Kevin complain." I said, smiling at her.

"Walking would beat listening to Kevin complain but Mom would have a fit if I walked." she said softly as she looked at the ground.

"Hey, I noticed that Jurassic Park Three is still playing. Wanna see it?" I asked.

"Now?" Jackie replied looking at me with confusion on her face, "Like today?"

"Why not?"

"Well, I'd love to, but I have to get back home. It's my turn to make dinner tonight."

"Okay. How about Sunday when I get back from playing in the mud?"

"Matt? Did you just ask me out on a date?" she said, pushing her glasses up on her nose.

"Yeah. As a matter of fact, I did." I said, looking her in the eyes until she blushed and turned away.


"Because I wanted to. Come on, let's get you home. You can think about it on the way." I said, picking up her book bag.

As I turned down the street her house was on Jackie looked at me and asked me why I had joined the Marine Corps Reserve right out of high school. I jokingly replied that I did it because I figured the uniform would give me a better shot at picking up chicks. She smiled at me then laughed when I added that so far all I had managed to do was get thrown out of Hooters for hitting on a waitress.

"That's not an impressive track record." she said, still laughing at me.

"Tell me about it. Hell, I can't even get my best friend's kid sister to say yes to dinner and a movie." I replied.


"Huh?" I responded.

"Yes, we can go see a movie. Just don't tell Kevin that you are the one taking me out."

"Why not?" I asked as I turned into the driveway.

"Because I want to see the look on his face Sunday. That's why." she answered with an evil looking grin spreading across her lips.

"Deal. I'll be here around six, is that okay?"

"Yes." she answered as she opened the door and ran toward her house.

On Sunday afternoon I walked into my house carrying 65 pounds of lightweight gear and in dire need of a shower. Mom met me at the door as I stumbled through it telling me that Kevin had called me three times in the past hour saying that he needed to speak to me immediately. I was smiling when I said "Ok." and headed to the bathroom for a long conversation with some soap and hot water.

An hour later, at six on the dot, I pulled into Jackie's driveway and walked to the front door. Before I could knock, it flew open and Kevin was staring at me like a man possessed by a demon. I stopped in my tracks looking at him and with the most innocent a tone I could muster; I asked him what was wrong.

"Dude! You aren't going to believe me, but Jackie has a date tonight!"

"Really?" I asked, staring at him with a blank expression.

"Really! And mom is going nuts because Jackie hasn't said anything about who the dude is. I called because I wanted you here to flex some muscle when the guy shows up. I figure a Marine can scare the piss out of the son of a bitch long before I could."

"Not a problem Kevin." I said, clapping him on the back and walking inside.

The Jackie that bounced down the stairs a few minutes later wasn't the Jackie I had grown up with. She was wearing a pair of Levi's that were painted on and a t-shirt that left me wondering why I had never paid attention to her boobs before. Between the Nike running shoes that she was wearing, and her pony tailed hair she had transformed from a frumpy geek into the typical girl next door.

Her mother, Virginia, was staring at her with a look of utter disbelief on her face. I got the impression that if I had poked her with my index finger, Virginia would have fallen over where she stood. Kevin was shaking his head and staring at his sister like he had never seen her before.

"Hi Matt!" she said, sounding like this was a normal occurrence.

"Hey. I heard you have a date tonight."

"Yep. He's adorable too." she giggled.

"Adorable?" I asked, beginning to play along.

"I was really shocked when he asked me out. I didn't think I was his type."

"You're not anybody's type Nerd." Kevin said coldly.

"I am now Smartass." Jackie replied with a smile and a tone of confidence that I had never once heard in her voice.

"Well, I'm here to flex my muscles and scare the rat-bastard away forever."

"Really?" she asked, beginning to smile broadly.

"Really." I replied, giving the family my best Incredible Hulk flex.

"That's so sweet of you." she said, winking at me.

"I thought so. Are you ready to go?" I said, turning around and opening the front door.

"Yep. We'll be back by eleven; midnight at the latest Mom." she said, grinning at the utter confusion that had befallen her mother and brother.

"Hell no!" Kevin said loudly as we started to walk onto the front porch.

"Excuse me?" I said, beginning to chuckle.

"You are not taking my sister out tonight." Kevin exclaimed, pointing a finger at me and taking a step forward.

"See that bush Kevin?" I asked, nodding to one of the bushes next to the porch. "Hide behind it and watch me."

Before the conversation could really become heated between the two of us, Virginia intervened. Smiling at me, she shook her head then laughed as she walked up to me. Looking into my eyes for a moment, she stood on her tiptoes and kissed me softly on the cheek in a way that reminded me of a scene out of The Godfather; then still on her tiptoes, she whispered something into my ear that chilled me to the core.

"She may be Kevin's sister Matthew, but eighteen or not, she's still my baby girl. Do we understand one another?"

"Yes ma'am. I'll have her back by eleven at the latest; it's a school night after all." I responded as I nodded quickly and swallowed heavily.

"Good boy. You two have fun." she said quietly.

Marines? Trained killers?

My ass.

Momma Bear-1

United States Marine Corps-0

I kept my word and had Jackie standing on her front porch at eleven; actually, it was 10:53. Dinner and the movie had been fun but as we stood there talking Jackie looked at me then glanced down at the porch and shook her head.

"What?" I asked, reacting to the sudden change.

"This was nice Matt, thank you."


"And we both know it won't happen again."

"Says who?" I responded, remembering how I felt with the mall disappearing in the mirror of Kevin's car.

"Yeah, right. We had fun. I watched Kevin freak out, I watched my mom freak out." she said and then quietly added, "This was my first date ever Matt. I'm a Senior in high school and this is my first date."


"Even if I told my friends about it tomorrow, nobody would believe me. They would say I made it all up."

"Do you want a note to prove it? Jackie went out on a date with me last night. Signed, Jackie's Date. PS, we are going out again on Friday night." I said as I mimed writing on a sheet of paper.

Her eyes turned into narrow slits and she pursed her lips, at my attempt at humor. So, I reached out and took her hands, lifted them up and kissed her knuckles, then I looked at her and smiled.

"Relax Jackie. When have you ever cared about what people thought?"

"This is different." she said.


"It just is. Why did you ask me out Matt?"

"Because I wanted to." I said,

Her eyes searched my face for what seemed like an eternity. Finally, she gave up and dropped her gaze back to the porch. She waited for a moment then she glanced back up at me with a goofy little grin on her face.


"If you want to. I believe it's a home game on Friday, so I'm guessing more than one of your friends will see us together. I won't have to write you a note for next Monday if you say yes."

"Yes." she answered and letting go of my hands she grabbed the door knob then told me to call her, before she slipped inside shutting the door in my face.

I decided that I would wait until Tuesday afternoon to call her. You know, play it cool, make her wonder and wait. Instead, on Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001, my mother woke me up with tears in her eyes and a look of total disbelief on her face.

"Matthew, you need to come see this. A plane has crashed into the World Trade Center in New York and it's bad."

We, along with the rest of the world, watched in total disbelief as the events of that day unfolded. Like so many people, my initial thought was that it was a tragic accident but by ten that morning I was seething with anger at what I was seeing. It was a little past noon when the phone rang, and my mother answered it; then she gasped and thrust the receiver out to me like she was holding a snake.

"They want to speak to Lance Corporal Holland." she said, with the realization that so many other military families had on that day slowly beginning to sink in.

The conversation was brief. It was my Squad Leader telling me that this was nothing more than a routine phone call to ensure that the phone roster was current. We were not on any kind of alert and it was far too soon to know if we would be activated or deployed. Word would be passed down when and if anything changed.

I stood up and walked into my bedroom to change into a pair of running shorts a t-shirt and running shoes. Walking back into the living room I glanced at the gray ash that was settling over lower Manhattan and shook my head wondering how something like this could happen here in America. Then I went for a run to try and clear my head. I remember thinking that with any luck, I would wake up in bed, covered in sweat from an insane nightmare.

Instead, one mile turned into six; and forty-five minutes later I slowed to a walk as I returned home. Walking over to the garden hose I turned the water on and held the hose over my head, allowing the water to cool me down a little. I took my shirt off and used it to wipe away the sweat. Then draping it over my back and walking into the house I was treated to a father with a confused look on his face, a mother with a knowing grin on hers and Jackie, sitting on the couch.

I could understand dad's confusion because it was the new and improved Jackie sitting on the couch. The frumpy sweater, long sleeved blouse and ankle length skirt had apparently been retired and she was wearing jeans, sandals, a tank top and a Clemson baseball cap. I couldn't help but smile and wonder if I was responsible for that transformation and if I was, then lucky me, because as shaken as she obviously was, she looked beautiful.

"They let us out early because of, well, because of what happened." she began and then let it drop.

"Yeah." I replied.

"When I got home mom and Kevin were both at work and I didn't want to be home alone, so I came over here. You don't mind do you?" she asked, looking up at me nervously.

"No. Not at all."

"Jackie, did you leave them a note or something to let them know where you are?" my dad asked.

"No sir. I didn't think to do that."

"Well, call your mom at work and let her know you are here while Matt goes and takes a shower." Mom said as she handed Jackie the phone.

"Yes ma'am." Jackie responded, staring at me with an expression on her face that I had never seen before.

Walking out of my bedroom after my shower I saw mom still sitting on the couch with her arm around Jackie, who was crying on mom's shoulder.

"What's wrong?" I asked, sitting down beside Jackie.

"The corporate headquarters for Mom's company is, was, in the North Tower. I'd forgotten about that. They haven't heard from anyone in New York in over three hours." Jackie sobbed.


"I know some of those people Matt."

"I'm sorry." I said, taking her hand, honestly not having any idea of what else to do or say. And sitting there with Jackie and my parents as we silently watched the carnage unfold, I had the feeling that I wasn't the only person in the country that had no idea what else to do or say.

Like most of the country we were glued to our TV that afternoon watching each breathless reporter as they tried to keep everyone informed. The only report that startled my parents was one where it was reported that all members of the military had been placed on a war footing. My mom and Jackie both gasped and my dad went pale for a moment. When he looked at me and I simply shrugged my shoulders and turned my attention back to the TV.

"What does that mean Matthew? War footing?" Jackie asked with confusion in her eyes.

"Nothing really, it means the guys on active duty are about to go do bad things to bad people. I'm a reservist; so, unless there is a declaration of war it will just be individual units being called up or guys that volunteer to go." I replied, hoping to drop the subject.

"You wouldn't volunteer would you Matt?" Mom asked, staring at me with a look of terror on her face.

"Mom, I have a set of uniforms hanging in the closet that says I already have. I'm just waiting for a phone call." I replied, feeling Jackie's hand tighten in mine as I said it.

Virginia called a little after five to let Jackie know that she was back from work and I told mom and dad that I was going to run Jackie back home. We walked out to the car as my next door neighbor pulled into his driveway. He got out of his truck and shouted, "Give those bastard Hell Matt!"

"Sure thing, Mister Simmons!" I responded with a wave, hoping that I looked and sounded a lot less scared than I felt, as I held the car door open for Jackie.

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