Marshall picked up his phone. He recognized the number; answered it anyway.
Hello, This is Marshall with…(sigh.) Hi, Maya…No, I can talk now…Yeah, I took a few weeks leave…Yeah, Paris. I know I’m not in the Airforce anymore. You spoke to Matt..? I know he is your son-in-law too, that’s not the point…He didn’t need to tell you…I know he isn’t one of my airmen…What command voice?! (deep breath.)…Do you mind if I put you on speaker..?
Marshall tapped an icon on his phone. “Okay. I’m sure you didn’t call to have this argument again, so why did you call..?”
Maya answered, “No I didn’t. Matt sounded concern when he talked to you a few days ago. He said you were planning to go to Saudi Arabia after you left France.”
“That’s right,” he said crisply.
“Our son-in-law thought you sounded like you didn’t plan on coming back.” She spoke as if he’d already confirmed the notion. It was one of the things the aggravated him when they were married.
Marshall offered an explanation in a guileless voice, “I’ve taken a few language courses online, and I figured this would be an excellent opportunity to immerse myself.” He could sense his ex’s expression tighten after his lame attempt at levity. The corner of his lip uncurled from its smirk as his voice took on a serious tone, “I’m just looking for closure.”
In disbelief, Maya returned, “Closure? We lost our daughter, Marshall. Now you’re intent on wallowing in self-pity and wandering into the desert to die.” He couldn’t dispute what her words; Maya was right. She had a habit of being right more often than was absolutely necessary.
He spoke in a somber tone, “You don’t understand. That night, I lost everything. I saw…I did something terrible and haven’t been able to move on from that night in Khafji. I grasped a few of the crumbling pieces for a while, but everything else, everyone else…” he paused, “continued on without me.”
“You’re right,” the frustration evident in her voice. “I can’t understand. You wouldn’t tell me, remember? You just put on a brave face and tortured yourself for the last twenty-five years because of a lapse in judgment that got you a medal.”
“And, I still can’t tell you.” Marshall knew she would take it the wrong way, she always had, but he preferred her anger over whatever potential reaction she’d have to the truth. “I need to confront my demons, and I need closure.”
After a long silence, Maya replied in a flat voice, “Fine. Don’t talk to me, but think about our foundation, Whatever you think you did or didn’t do, there are others that have gone through what you have.” After a brief silence she added, “Marshall, talk to someone.”
“Yeah. I will. Say hello to Bill for me,” he said sounding exhausted.
He sat thinking about the last thing his ex-wife said; he’d met people who had also survived a similar experience. Unfortunately, He helped destroy a book they were after and was sure he had burned that bridge. The image of Shandi pop into his mind; he cringed visibly at the dark thought.
Marshall tapped the red hang up button on his cell then uncocked his sidearm before placing it on the desk in his hotel room. He looked down at the gun which now lay between the phone, his passport and the one-way ticket to Saudi Arabia. He thought, “Maybe I should iron the shirt for the flight in the morning.”
Marshall was halfway through ironing his clothes when his cell started buzzing. Unknown number; answered it anyway.
Hello, this is Marshall Barsoom with the Homefront Foundation…Oh! Hi,Natalie. No, I can talk now. I’m just doing a little ironing…