“Please don’t leave me.”
“Felipa, you know the barracks is no place for a woman.”
“Well neither is this shack at nights!”
My brother was silent. I could see the struggle in his hardened face. I was terrified and making this harder for him than it had to be, but I had been left in the dark before, and I never wanted that loneliness again. I clung to his arm, tears spilling over my plump cheeks. He stiffened, then breathed out a long sigh.
“I know,” he began. “I don’t like leaving you here alone either.”
“Then take me with you!”
“I can’t, woman!”
I gasped. Surely my only brother wasn’t going to leave me alone for another night. Did he not care about me at all? How could he do this to me? Did he not know what kind of men lurked the forest at night? I let go of his arm and got up, slowly walking backwards towards the shack.
“Felipa,” he pleaded. “I can’t take you with me to the barracks. It’s all men. Most of them haven’t seen their wives or girlfriends in months. Years, for some. It isn’t safe, and I wouldn’t always be able to be nearby to protect you. You’re safer here… I…”
His voice trailed off. I swallowed hard. He had a point. I hadn’t thought about that. The air grew toxic and heavy. My eyes lingered on the gold buttons of my brother’s uniform. They stood out so beautifully against the deep blue fabric.
“Niel. Have you packed yet?”
“No. I’m waiting on new uniforms.”
“Oh. What will you do with the old ones?”
“Scrap ’em. Or give them to a new recruit.
“Give them to me.”
“So I can smell them whenever I start to miss you too much.”
He seemed puzzled at my odd request. I wasn’t usually sentimental, but Neil was the kind of person who believed there was a first time for everything.
“Sure, I guess. You can have them. I’ll give you this one when I take it off, but the rest are in my closet. Enjoy.”
He fell right into my plan. I could barely contain my excitement as I rushed off toward’s the shack.
There was no way I’d let him leave me again.