“We’ll be back in a few hours, okay Max? Thomas is going to watch you until we return,” I said, ruffling my sister’s hair. I was kneeling down tying my shoe. Her hand currently held a small stuffed penguin; a security item she had brought with her—among other toys from her room—from our house. Glancing up at her, I saw her head nod. Jade came over and knelt down with me.
“I’ll take good care of him, don’t worry,” she said, hugging Max. We both stood and made our way around the labyrinth of toys and furniture—part of a fort we had made earlier today. Thomas and Max both walked us to the door.
“Make sure she’s in bed on time. And don’t go sneaking her into the kitchen. Last time you did that she didn’t sleep for three hours,” I said, poking the base chef firmly in the chest. He laughed, probably amused by the fact that he had caused such a thing.
“Hey, I can’t help it if she’s hungry. If it were my choice, I’d give her a bit of food and then we’d watch a movie,” Thomas said.
“But the kitchen was your choice last time,” Max said, tugging on his sleeve.
“No, remember Max? You wanted to get a midnight snack,” Thomas said, winking at her. I raised an eyebrow, looking at him questioningly. “You should really be going. Reservation is for 6:30 right?” He ushered us out of the room, closing the door promptly behind us.
“I have this horrid feeling that Max will be up very late tonight,” I sighed, walking out with Jade. Our hands swayed at our sides as we walked—I was debating on whether or not I wanted to take her hand in mine or not. There seemed nothing wrong with the action. This was a date. What could possibly be wrong between two friends if we choose to held hands? Carefully noting our hand positions, I took Jaiden’s in my own, a blush rising in my cheeks. We ambled around the city towards the restaurant. It was nice to just talk about our days and get to know each other.
“Wait, so you just packed Max up and left? No address, no good-bye?” Jade asked.
“There was a good-bye. Granted it was rather cold, but what else could I do? I had rightfully gotten guardianship of Max,” I explained.
“Didn’t your parents contact you? Or track you down?”
“Nah. You would have known—being our neighbor. But I explained that my name or Max’s were to never be given out unless they could answer a secret question.” I watched Jade node as we picked at our meals in a moment of silence.
“It’s admirable of you to raise Max. You should not have to raise her alone,” she said, placing her hand on mine.
“I don’t want to bring that burden on you too, Jaiden. The dreams you have are the ones you should follow. Besides, with Max in school it won’t be long before she’s making her own choices,” I said, shaking my head. Taking her hand in mind, I kissed the back of her fingers. “Please just be her big sister. That’s what she mostly needs—a big sister to look up to.” Jade nodded as we both returned to our dinner. There were more plans to get to once we finished the meal, but until then it was a good time to catch up. “So, tell me about yourself.”
“Marcus, you know plenty about me. There’s no need to ask,” she murmured, shaking her head.
“Well, you obviously know my whole life story. I want to know about yours. It’d be fair. Come on, family friends, hobbies. Everything.” Keeping my eyes on her I took another bite of food.
“We should be getting back, Mark. I mean, really you wanted to get back to check on Max,” she said, completely avoiding the subject.
“I can call Thomas at any time, Jade. He knows I will if I want to check in,” I said, our eyes meeting. She opened her mouth as if to say something, but immediately closed it.
“Come on, let’s order dessert,” I said, grabbing the menu. Each taking turns flipping through it, I let Jade make the final decision. I don’t quite remember what she ordered, but whatever it was, was delicious.
After the meal we walked the city once more. Even though many of the shops were closed, it was still amazing to just stroll around. The lights made it all feel like a classical romantic evening. Turning the corner I froze and suddenly pinned Jade to the wall. She made some sound of surprise in me doing so.
“Let’s make out,” I whispered, a bit of panic in my voice.
“Look, our superior officer is over there and we could get in trouble for fraternization,” I said, still whispering. Nodding we started to kiss—being sure to hide our faces somehow. Hearing his footsteps disappear somewhere down the street, we pulled apart—breathless. “Sorry that was so… sudden,” I exhaled my voice quiet. Taking a step back I held out my hand to her. She took it as we started to walk in the direction of the base. Releasing our hands as we came in view of the headquarters, we wandered into the gates and in the direction of the dorm building.
“It was… nice,” Jade said as we stopped at her door—despite the fact we were neighbors. “I mean, the whole night—including the kiss,” she said, her face turning red. I felt my face get hot hearing those last three words.
“Good night, then?” I said, leaning forwards. Our lips met just as a door in our hall opened. Like a flash of lightning, we had separated. Glancing in the direction of the noise, I noticed it was my apartment. “Thomas? Something wrong?” He cleared his throat, a bit red faced for interrupting us.
“You guys might want to read these… Both of you got one,” he said, brandishing two letters in our direction. I exchanged a glance with Jade before we both followed him into my room.
The three of us sat around the table, staring at the now opened letters.
“When do you guys leave?” Thomas asked, looking between us.
“In three days,” I whispered, unable to believe how this could happen. Jade sat across from me, still glaring down at her own letter.