While deciding whether to apply for admission to a military academy, Samantha had been so wrapped up in the research she hadn’t paid attention to Dwayne and Renee. Once she had made up her mind, she sought out Dwayne to tell him her decision. She found him with Renee on the front lawn, and they both acted sheepish. When she confronted Dwayne, he reluctantly told her that both he and Renee felt she was a controlling personality and that they were dating. Feeling betrayed, she started crying and ran away from Dwayne.
I ran all the way home, blubbering almost the whole way. By the time I arrived at the front door, I had slowed to a jog. On the way I had gone through all the stages of grief and my eyes were dry. Losing Dwayne was painful, but I realized it was nothing compared to losing Brian. And I had to admit it was my doing. I was still angry, but it was more for Dwayne turning Renee against me.
The run had calmed me down, but now I was hot and sweaty. Mom heard me come in. “You’re home early,” she called from the kitchen. I headed that way.
“I ran the whole way.”
She was putting a batch of cookies out to cool. As soon as she looks at me, she knew. “You’ve been crying.”
“Dwayne and I broke up.”
“Ah, teenage romances. They don’t always hold up.” She pointed at the cookies. “I just made these for Nelson’s kindergarten class tomorrow. Maybe a cookie or two would make you feel better. Have a seat.” She pulled out a chair and turned it toward me.
She sat down facing me and pushed the cooling rack over to me. “You want to talk about it?”
Picking up one of the still warm cookies, I stared at it for a moment. “I’m not sure I’m cut out for romance. Bill turned out to be a nice guy but wasn’t ready to commit to anything. Dwayne is terrific, but he’s another Type A personality. He called me a control freak. I hadn’t realized it, but he was right. Of course, he’s one too. That’s why we’ve come to this.”
Mom laughed. “You’re giving up too soon. You’re an intelligent, good looking young woman. The young men in your life will have a hard time keeping up with you. That’s probably what happened with Dwayne.”
“So what am I supposed to do, pretend I’m something I’m not?”
“Good heavens, no. But you can learn to be more subtle in getting your way. Maybe attending an academy will help with that. After all, a good officer gets his or her subordinates to want to perform their duties. You’ve never seen your father at work, have you?”
I immediately thought about how he had handled my insubordination after Brian’s death. He didn’t manipulate me. He let me work out my anger and frustration, even letting me go too far. I smiled. I doubted he’d let his subordinates go that far, but I could see him allowing them to make some pretty caustic statements – as long as they kept calm about it and said sir.
I said, “I have a pretty good idea of what you’re talking about. He handled me despite my best efforts to hurt him.”
“That was self-discipline, definitely something you’ll learn at an academy if you’re going to graduate. … By the way, you did hurt him.”
I looked at her quizzically. “He never showed it. … Well, there was that one time at the funeral. But he handled it.” I hadn’t ever apologized. “I guess I owe him an apology.”
“I think he’d appreciate that, but he probably won’t say so.”
I peered at her for heartbeat. “Mom, how are you handling Brian’s death?”
She frowned regretfully. “It still hurts, but there’s nothing I can do to change what happened.” Her eyes glistened.
“I guess I shouldn’t have brought that up. Sorry. Let’s talk about something different.”
I had no idea. I needed to take a shower, but no way was I going to leave this conversation now, not after bringing tears to her eyes. We’d been talking about boyfriends, academies, hurting dad … Back up, Mom had gone to college. “Where did you go to college?”
She looked surprised. “Now that’s different alright. University of Maryland, actually, Philip Merrill College of Journalism.”
“You were studying to be a reporter? Why didn’t you become one?”
“I met your father.” She smiled. “Of course, it wasn’t that simple. I got my degree. I even worked as a stringer for a couple of TV stations in Jacksonville while your father was stationed, if you can call it that, at Mayport. I’m not sure which carrier he was assigned to, but of course, he was at sea most of the time. Then you kids came along.” She stopped and shook her head.
I suddenly saw where this was going, another reminder of Brian. Here I was trying to unload my problems on a sympathetic audience, and in the process I was rubbing salt in Mom’s wounds. I hurriedly changed the subject. Standing, I said, “Well, after talking to you, I feel better, but I need a shower. Then I have some things to take care of, like apologize to Dad, get to work on my applications, and let Renee and Dwayne know that I still want to be friends. Since Dad’s not home, I’m going to start on the applications.”
Mom stood and kissed me on the cheek. “I’m glad I could help.”
That evening I apologized to Dad. And over the next several days I scrambled to submit my applications for nomination and complete preliminary applications for both schools.
I was disappointed to find that many of the nominations had already been filled, but Senator Warner’s qualification process and the presidential one kept me busy. Then when both schools accepted me as a candidate, there were interviews, physicals, fitness tests, essays, you name it. With all that I never managed to get back together with Dwayne and Renee.
If I had, I might still be in the Marine Corp.