Max sat on my bed watching me pack. There wasn’t a whole lot I could bring in this large duffle bag. A huge list of forbidden items was held in her hands. Her only job was to make sure I packed what I was told. Most of the drawers in our room were pulled open and half empty—the other half being Max’s stuff. It looked as if someone tried to rob the place with everything lying open. Glancing to my sister, I watched her eyes skim down the list, occasionally checking off the things I was supposed to bring. This wasn’t going to be easy, leaving her here, but I couldn’t take her into the war zone either. Somehow it was a miracle that we found a classmate of both Jade and I to watch Max here on the base.
Otherwise it was back to mom and dad she went—her being here and suddenly having to go back there was not something I wanted. It was one giant leap backwards. Leaning against the dresser, I looked at Max, waiting for her to give me the final instructions.
“That’s everything, Mark,” she said, setting the list down and flopping back on the bed. She was not at all pleased to see me—us—go. Things finally seemed to be going right for all three of us and then this had to happen.
Pulling the draw string taut, I sat down next to her. My mind raced with things I could say, anything that could help ease this pain of watching me leave her behind. Max still had school to attend and the frontlines were too dangerous for a child—despite the rise in child soldiers that were being seen on the enemy’s side.
“Come on Max. I swear we won’t be gone too long. You’ll get a letter from me every other day, I promise,” I said, looking down at her. Her eyes avoided mine, mostly for the fact that she did not want to let me see her tears.
“You better be sending me mail. I have to be stuck at school and here,” she said, arms now crossed. I laughed, hearing her spirit return.
“And if I don’t send you mail, you have the right to beat me up, okay?” A smile slid onto her face. Drawing her up next to me, we hugged before finally returning to our other tasks for the day. Taking my seat at the table, I began to look over her homework and class choices for the coming semester. So far, I was rather impressed with what she had chosen, but I was positive she could be doing better. My eyes skimmed the report card, before finally landing on her working on some kind of science homework. “Remind me again why you’re signed up for so many science classes?” Her eyes glanced up at me for a brief moment before returning to the worksheet.
“You can find out once you get back. Keep checking my homework,” she said, tapping the sheet with her pencil. I shook my head, very confused as to the goings on in her head. Turning my eyes back to the paper, I submerged myself in history, math and English. A loud rap to our door brought both of us from our reverie. The knock occurred again after neither of us moved to answer. Pushing my stiff self up from the chair, I walked over and pulled open the door.
“Jade, what brings you over?” I said, knowing mentally it was a stupid question to ask. She did not ever need a reason for coming over—just merely showed up and we were fine with it.
“Ah, I see you were checking over homework. Well I wanted to see if you two wanted to go out to dinner as a going away thing? We leave early tomorrow morning, and it really would be a shame to waste the opportunity,” Jade said, sauntering to the table where she took a seat. Picking up a paper, she started to read it over. I returned to my own chair and went back to my read through. It was another hour or so until we all finished—Max with her homework and Jade and I with our corrections—and started to get ready to go out for dinner.
The city felt more alive as we wandered the streets. Many of the stores were open, despite what their normal schedules were. Word must have spread that another large group of soldiers were headed to the frontlines and in their honor the shops chose to remain open for their last night of freedom.
Some hours after dinner we finally made our way back to our dorms. I was carrying Max on my back as she had started to fall weary over the time we were walking around. Laying her down on her bed and tucking her in, I returned to where Jade stood. Leaning forwards, we kissed for a few moments before finally separating.
“We can’t get attached, Marcus. If one of us doesn’t return the other will be devastated. Let’s just vow to come back alive,” Jade whispered, resting her forehead against mine. I walked her to her dorm—where we made out a bit longer—until at last I returned to my own dorm. Collapsing on my bed I fell asleep after setting my alarm. Hours later I groaned hearing it go off. It was already three AM, at least that’s what the red numbers glaring at me said. Damn. Forcing myself to get up I showered and got my uniform on. Looking over at Max watched her peering at me from her bed. Opening my mouth to say something, I watched as she slid out of bed and also got ready.
Double checking that I had everything I possibly could need, I grabbed my uniform hat and examined it. Carefully sewn into the inside was a picture of my family—Max, myself and Jade. Just seeing it brought a smile to my face. Hearing the door to the bathroom, I glanced up to see her dressed and gathering her things to see Jade and I off. We left the dorm together—stopping at Jade’s door—and headed for the train station. Other soldiers lingered around the platform, many of them saying goodbye to their family and friends. Thomas—with his girlfriend Lucy in tow—stood with Max before Jade and I. Shaking Thomas’ hand, he pulled me into a tight embrace.
“You better come back, Mark. Or else the three of us will be after you,” he said, patting my back rather hard. I nodded, pulling away. Bidding our farewells, I stopped, looking down at Max. Picking her up, I hugged her tightly.
“I promise I’ll be back and write when I can, okay? But you have to promise to not cause trouble for Lucy and Thomas. I don’t want them to have to deal with any problems at school or at home that you might cause,” I said, our eyes meeting. Squeezing her tightly once more, I set Max down and grabbed my bag. Scaling the tall steps of the train, we managed to find an open bench. Forcing open the window after stowing our stuff, we waved to our friends. With a loud hissing, the train started to pull away. Our waves—everyone’s on the train—became more frantic as we headed for the frontlines.