Missed the previous parts? Click HERE
“Hey, sweetheart, I’m sorry I missed you. I thought we’d agreed on the time for today but after pulling an all-nighter on guard duty, my brain is fried.” Kaleb twisted the cord of the phone around his finger. He was dead tired and had been looking forward all night to hearing his girl’s voice. Their weekly phone calls were the highlight of his tour in the Middle East. They made what he was obligated to do bearable. “I miss you. I should be home soon, and you promised to wear that dress for me. Don’t think I’ll let you out of it now that you have a sexy baby bump going on.” He’d been dreaming about seeing her in it since she’d told him about the empire-waist sundress she’d bought with him in mind – of course that was after she’d explained what an empire waistline was. “I’ll call when I get stateside, Paisley. I expect you to be there.”
Slowly hanging up the phone, he hesitated, torn between trying her again, and letting it go. Finally he punched in a different number. There was no reason why he couldn’t use his phone time wisely. As he listened to the phone ring, he watched as a fellow unit ran past in formation. Just when he’d nearly given up hope of hearing a friendly voice, his mother’s whiskey-rough voice filled his ear.
“Hey, Ma. It’s Kaleb.” He held his breath, wondering how she would take to him phoning after their last blow out over Paisley.
“Boy, they still haven’t shot you yet?” The familiar question had Kaleb smiling with relief. It was the same question she’d asked him each time he’d been called up for duty. It might sound crass to the casual observer, but to those who knew his gruff talking mother, they knew it was her way of showing her concern for her only son.
“Not yet, Ma. I’m good at keeping ahead of the bullets.”
He heard the familiar sound of a match being struck and could almost see his mother sitting at her battered old mahogany table – the one that had been her mother’s. The family had tried several times to replace it over the years, but she’d stubbornly refused. It didn’t matter that his father made enough money to pay for a new table - she steadfastly refused to get a new one.
“That’s good news, baby boy.” The relief in her voice was obvious, before she paused.
He stilled. It was never good when Ma paused.
“Sandy went to talk to that girl today.”
Kaleb cursed under his breath as the ramifications of his mother’s admission rolled over him. He had to clear his throat – twice – before he could force his tongue to work. “Excuse me?”
“She drove up to the University and cornered her in the cafeteria. Put on quite the spectacle too, according to your cousin, Ellen. She’d just walked in when Sandy lit into the girl.”
Kaleb’s forehead hit the wall next to the phone. What a cluster-fuck. He gritted his teeth and strove for patience he didn’t have. “Why did you tell Sandy about her, Ma? The only way she could’ve possibly found out is if you talked to her mother.” He could feel the beginning of a killer headache forming behind his eyes. A confrontation with his well-meaning best friend was more than likely the reason why he hadn’t been able to reach Paisley.
“Boy, don’t you take that tone with me. I’m your mother. I brought you into this world. I can take you out of it and make another just like you. Speaking of making – why in tarnation didn’t you tell me you got that girl in the family way before taking off to parts unknown? Didn’t your Daddy and I teach better than that…?”
She continued to ramble on but all he could think was fuck, fuck, fuck. The promised headache turned into a reality. He was gonna wring Sandy’s neck when he got home. The girl had thrown a wrench into his well-laid plans but good.
“…you’re a smart, educated young man and should know enough to at least wrap that thing between your legs.”
A flush crept up his neck. The last thing he needed was his mother lecturing him on birth control. He was twenty-eight, not eighteen. “MA! Please! We used protection like responsible adults. I don’t know what happened, but I found out two months after I shipped out. Regardless, this is something I thought I should talk to the mother of my child about before I announced to the whole world I was gonna be a Daddy.”
She harrumphed. “Well at least you were smart enough to not do that. When you get home, you best demand one of those paternity tests. It’s probably not yours. Them white girls like to sleep around with our men – ”
Anger surged through him. It was one thing for his ma to chew him out but Paisley was off limits. “That girl’s name is Paisley, Ma. And I won’t have you speaking ill of the mother of my child. You know nothing about her.”
There was another telling pause and Kaleb just knew he was going to get lam-blasted by his mother when the warning signal rung. Relief poured through him…his allotted phone time was up. “I’m sorry, Ma. I’ve got to go, there are other guys waiting to use the phone. Give my love to Daddy and the girls.” He hung up while she sputtered.
Kaleb jumped as Sgt. Santiago placed his palm on his shoulder. He’d had been pleased when he’d found out he was going to be doing this tour under the direction of his old drill instructor. The Hispanic man had shaped him into the soldier he was.
“Is everything okay, Specialist Johnson?”
He gave a brief nod. “Just some problems at home, Sir, but nothing I can’t handle.”
The older man’s eyes softened. “If you need anything – and I do mean anything, Johnson, let me know. You’re a good soldier – and like a son to me.” He gave Kaleb’s shoulder a squeeze as they moved away from the phone banks. “I heard congratulations are in order. When is your girl due?”
Kaleb smiled. “In a couple months – around Memorial Day, or so I’m told.”
The sergeant nodded. “So that means you found out after you got here. Well that’s one more reason to make sure you get home safe. Don’t forget to let me know when your little one is born, or you and I are gonna have issues."
“Of course, Sir. I’ll drop you an email as soon as the little one comes.”
“You do that… Because you don’t want to get on Lou-Ella’s bad side. The missus loves you like a son. She will be over the moon when she finds out. Don’t make me have to track you down for hurting her feelings by not calling.”
Kaleb stifled a smile. “No, Sir.”
Santiago nodded before clapping him on the back. “Now head your ass to the rack before you fall over and if I don’t see you tomorrow before you ship home, have a safe trip.”“I will, Sir.” Kaleb watched Sgt. Santiago enter the mess tent before heading to his own quarters. Too bad that my sergeant is happier than Ma about my expecting fatherhood.
TO BE CONTINUED...