The boy didn’t want to let go.
And she held him with a death grip he could only compare to his wrestling opponents in high school but she smelled so much better.
He would miss that smell, the smell of her skin and how it tasted.
He was missing her already.
I’m not letting these muscles go, she thought.
Her heart broke in the embrace.
For two weeks she told herself this day would come but deep down she hoped he wouldn’t have to go and now it was really happening.
Maybe if I refuse to let go they will let him stay.
The year was 2027 and the war between China and America had moved to that horrible next stage, an invasion of the Chinese on U.S. soil.
When the boy turned eighteen he received his email at 12:01am and it woke them up.
They both hoped against hope it wouldn’t happen but the soft blue glow of the wall display covering the entire wall in front of their bed showed he had an email.
“No. Don’t say anything. Look at me,” she turned his head away from the wall display and held his face close to hers. “I’m not letting you leave. We’re still on our honeymoon, basically.”
She kissed him.
He said the word and they both sat up in bed as he read out loud the email displayed on the wall in front of them, choking up in the middle of every sentence.
She wept and a pit formed in his stomach as he held her.
He knew it wasn’t his fault but he felt responsible for her pain just the same.
She kissed him between sobs and he told her everything they would do together before he left.
At the station that day she was still holding him the way she had that midnight and then she loosened up.
In their embraces, he never let go first.
This one thing she would never forget about him, if she…
She promised herself she wouldn’t even think it.
The boy thought she might not ever let go and was surprised when he felt her relax.
He had always done what his mother taught him, to never be the first to let go.
He knew this meant a lot to the girl, his wife.
“We’re celebrating when you get back, with an Oreo and milk.” she said, touching his face.
He nodded and hugged her again and kissed her and she let him go.
One week of boot camp is all the new soldiers would get.
The young men and women in his platoon were much like him.
They had already been training for four years or more, so conditioning, which had been a large part of boot camp in previous wars, was not needed.
In addition to being world-class physical specimens most of the soldiers in his company were taught entire semesters of combat training in high school in preparation for this day.
He had taken a course every semester of his high school career and had been learning about it for the four years before when his older brother had started Combat Tactics 101.
Charles had died in Polynesia within the first week of the fighting there.
His wife had trained too, trained very hard, but her birthday wasn’t for another four months and they weren’t going to enlist anyway because of her eyesight.
Nevertheless, she trained with him every day, at least two out of the three sessions he had personally committed to.
She was good at keeping them on their diet and she knew he admired her for it.
When he was gone she would still train, she told herself.
If he was going to go risk his life for their country then the least she could do was be a good wife and train while he was away.
Plus, Cora loved the way she looked when she used the wall display in their bedroom as a mirror.
Cora married Private James Lamb when she was in her senior year after dating the entire year before.
He had asked her to the prom his senior year and they never went a day without seeing each other from that moment on.
Now she wasn’t guaranteed to ever see him again, except through AT&T/FT, five minutes a night during boot camp.
After that, there was no promise of anything.
The bedroom display glowed green when an AT&T/FT was being received.
Day one through five they talked about his training and what everyone was saying at home about the war.
She ached to hold him that whole five minutes of cherished FaceTime she had with him.
On day six she woke up and felt very sick and her breasts were sore but she thought it was somehow due to her workout from the previous day.
I feel sick today. How are you doing, Jimmy?
Day seven came and when Cora woke she knew for sure it wasn’t workout soreness.
Cora had thought about this day many times before and she would have never thought for a moment doing the test without her mother present.
It was one of those special times she dreamed of sharing with her, and so it was just the way she had envisioned it, except for the fact that Jimmy was far away.
She called her mother and as soon as her mother sat down she took the test.
A simple scan over the left palm and in fifteen seconds the result was displayed including the sex of the child if it was positive.
She handed the scanner to her mother and she held her breath.
Cora grabbed the scanner and scanned again. Fifteen seconds later she handed it back to her mother.
The last night of boot camp they had FaceTime.
Oh, Jimmy. We’re having a baby!
He wasn’t sitting close enough to the camera for her to see the expression on his face and he wasn’t saying anything so she laughed.
Did you hear me?
He burst out in laughter and laughed hard and loud and long and nearly fell out of his chair.
Boy or girl?
Boy, Jimmy. Boy.
James jumped up and down, bouncing temporarily outside of the display.
That was the last time she heard his voice or saw his face for another five weeks.
She cried every night hoping she would see a green glow on the wall display in front of her as she lay lonely in bed, agonizing, missing him.
She would eventually fall asleep to another episode of Friends.
By that time morning sickness made the pregnancy seem like an eternity.
Cora knew that if Jimmy was there he would have taken care of her, waited on her hand and foot.
One beautiful morning, the green glow blinked a couple times and she joyfully gave the word.
There he was and even though he looked different she saw his smile.
I’m okay, he said.
They talked about her pregnancy and he told her what she knew already, that they had defended the west coast and the Chinese had retreated, but then he said he was being moved overseas and that he wasn’t allowed to say where but he would FT her as soon as it was possible.
Don’t go. Don’t go. Don’t go, she said over and over and the screen went blank.
A torturous six weeks went by and then one morning the green glow flashed.
Jimmy! Our boy is kicking. I felt him today. He’s moving a lot.
What does it feel like, he asked.
Sometimes like popcorn.
What do you want to name him, James?
Popcorn, he said laughing.
She listened to him laugh.
She missed that so much.
Not popcorn, Jimmy, you silly.
Another month went by.
Then two months.
Three months and there was no green glow.
She made sure when she went out on errands or visits to the doctor she could receive his FT anywhere because her tablet would glow green too but she liked it in the bedroom because it was the largest display.
Cora waited day and night for the next FT from him.
Sometimes she stood in the bedroom looking at her pregnant shape in the wall display wondering what Jimmy would think.
Many times the wall flashed a different color than Jimmy’s green and it was a friend or her mother checking to see how she was and she would have to apologize for her disappointed look.
Then late one night while she was tossing and turning she was awakened by the soft green glow.
Oh, Jimmy. You look…
You’re belly is so big, Cora. I love you, baby. I miss you.
We’re fine Jimmy. Come home.
Another three and a half months went by and Cora hadn’t heard from him.
Two false alarms to the hospital and the next time she would probably be having the baby.
She thought for sure he’d be back by now and now it looked like he would miss the whole thing.
She wouldn’t let herself think about the worst case scenario.
After a small lunch with some friends her water broke and Cora was glad to have them there because the hospital wouldn’t take her until she had started contractions.
That night she waited for contractions and for the bedroom wall display to glow green.
Early the next morning her mother and sister were driving her to the hospital.
Cora was having the baby.
Time between contractions was rapidly becoming shorter and shorter.
In the hospital, she kept asking her sister and mother to check her tablet and asking if it was glowing green.
Check it! Check it! She screamed.
Finally the baby was born healthy and happy and that night she was home safe and sound with their baby boy.
She held him warm and tight as he enjoyed his mother’s milk.
Cora looked at the perfectly satisfied baby in her arms and he smiled at her with a green glow in his eyes.
She looked up at the bedroom wall display as it flashed green. Jimmy!
She gave the command and there he was.
As bad as her eyesight was, she could see a big smile on his face and him jumping up and down in circles, cheering.
Cora! That’s our baby! That’s my boy!
What do we call him, James?
I’m coming home, baby. They’re sending me home! I promise I tried to do it before the baby but they’re sending me home tomorrow. I’ll be home in two days.
What do you want to call him, James?
I’ll be home in two days, Cora. Let’s name him Oreo.
She shook her head.
Two days later Corporal James Lamb was holding James junior and all was right with Cora and Jimmy, at least until the one-week leave was over and he went back into the fight.
For another two years of war and waiting, a week of leave at two different times was all Cora and Jimmy would spend together.
She spent every single day waiting to see that warm green glow, excited to show Jimmy something new the baby could do.
My dad served in the U.S. Army from 2027 to 2030 and finally was home for good after that.
My name is James Alexander Lamb, Jr.
I am the proud son of a WWIII veteran, Major James Alexander Lamb, Sr.
It was Dad that gave me my nickname, Oreo.