I have a goal in life to work for and a dream to achieve. My whole adult life I have been working toward that goal and that dream. This is the story of my attempts to attain my goal and achieve my dream.
Hi, my name is Andrew Lakota Callaghan. What can I say? My father is Irish and my mother is a half blood Native American, Sioux to be exact. People normally call me Drew. I am 6 feet tall and about 200 pounds. Good looking in a rugged way with black hair. My eyes are a piercing blue or so I've been told. Friends say that when I'm angry that my eyes turn steel gray in color. Don't know myself, never looked in a mirror when I was angry.
The hair comes from the Sioux and the eyes from the Irish. Because of my Sioux heritage I look like I have a tan all year round. I am built like a runner, maybe because I run marathons.
I was 22, a senior in college carrying a double major when I met Caitlyn Brady. My classes in Animal Science and Computer Science kept me pretty busy. Consequently I usually go out just on the weekends. I fell in with a group from the dorms and began to go for pizza and beers or just beers. The men's and women's dormitories were across the street from each other and we had a good mix from both.
There were sixteen to twenty of us that flowed into and out of the group. Caitlyn and I seemed to naturally pair up on these excursions. The fact that we were both from the same area in Montana was the first attraction. Caitlyn is from Big Sky, and I'm from Ennis. We weren't dating exactly; we just went along with the group. Usually we ended sitting together.
Caitlyn was of Irish extraction also. She was 5 feet 7 with a slender body. Slender I said but not skinny. Her hair is auburn, worn long and she has green eyes. Caitlyn is a fine Irish lass.
As we got to know each other, we would talk for hours. Often the rest of the group would leave while we were talking without us knowing that they were gone. We would laugh about it and walk back to the dorms together. There were several different places and things we enjoyed together. I became so comfortable with her that I gave her a nickname and began to call her Kitty about half the time. It was a safe friendship for me because I didn't have time for a romantic relationship.
My class load and my plans after school didn't leave much room for love. I was going to school on a U.S. Navy ROTC scholarship. The Navy would pay for my education as long as it could be used by the Navy. After graduation, I would owe the Navy five years active service.
The Computer Science major was for the Navy and the Animal Science major was for me after the Navy. You might ask why a boy from land locked Ennis Montana would join the Navy. The answer was because that Naval scholarship was the best offer I had and gave me a chance to go to college. My parents always took care of my three brothers, my sister, and me but there wasn't a lot left over for college.
I had been going out with the group and/or Caitlyn almost every Saturday. Near the end of the term, about three months before graduation, I began to have more than just friend type of feelings for Caitlyn. I thought I was falling in love with her. Great, just what I needed, a romantic relationship. Damn, the heart wants what the heart wants. The group had left us, as usual, and we walked back to the dorm alone. I decided to tell Caitlyn how I felt.
As Caitlyn reach out to open the door, I took her arm and pulled her against me. I leaned over and kissed her. Just a nice little tender kiss, not a open mouth, stick my tongue down your throat type of kiss. She pulled back and looked at me with surprise.
"Drew, what are you doing? She was a little shocked I guess.
"I'm sorry Kitty, I like you very much and thought you felt the same." I was really embarrassed. "I won't bother you anymore. Sorry." I turned and left her dorm. Native Americans do blush, at least this one does.
"Drew, wait. Come back, let me tell you..."
I was running by now and couldn't hear what she was saying. Damn, I'm an ass; I should have known that all Kitty had offered was friendship. I had destroyed our friendship by kissing her.
Caitlyn called almost every day and I when I saw it was her I wouldn't answer. She left several messages but I never returned her calls. She even came by my dormitory to see me, but I managed to avoid her. There were a few more nights out with the group but every time Caitlyn would join the group, I would leave. If I started to join the group and she was already there, I would go somewhere else or return to my dorm.
Shortly she quit calling and coming by my dorm. She also quit going out with the group. We would see each other on campus; we would nod and keep walking. I don't think we spoke twenty words to each other after the night that I kissed her.
I shouldn't have been hurt or embarrassed, but I was. As I said before due to my work load and my plans after school, I didn't need a romantic entanglement. Maybe so, but I still hurt, I was disappointed and I missed Caitlyn's friendship.
Caitlyn moved on and began to go on dates with Jake Houston; Jake was the quarterback of the football team. I would see them at the pizza joint and other places. Sometimes they were alone but often they were with a group of other jocks and their dates. Jake was a good size boy and very good looking. He was also a conceited asshole.
I went to an art exhibit alone and saw Jake and Caitlyn come into the gallery. The exhibit was about Western Art. You know, George Catlin, Frederick Remington and others. How she got him to attend is a mystery. Jake was a good football player and could memorize plays and formations, but at everything else he sucked. Other than football, if his I.Q. was two points higher he could be a rock.
They had only been there about twenty minutes when he started complaining and wanting to leave. He was like a rotten little kid that wasn't getting his way. Finally I heard him tell Caitlyn that he was leaving with or without her. I wasn't the only one that heard him, he was almost yelling at Caitlyn.
Caitlyn has a temper too and followed him out the door, ragging on his ass the entire distance. I drifted over to the front door to watch the fun. It looked like Jake was going to get his ass handed to him on a plate, at least verbally. I was about twenty feet from them and the unexpected happened. Jake stopped and turned to face Caitlyn and when she got close to him, he backhanded her across the face. Caitlyn fell to the ground.
I didn't know I had moved until I found myself standing beside Jake. He grabbed her hair and drew back his hand to hit her again. That blow never landed because Jake found himself flat on his back. He had his hands up to his face and blood was all over.
The punch I threw released a lot of hurt, anger, and disappointment. My hand hurt and when I looked at it I could see teeth marks on my knuckles. I remember being so angry that I was shaking. Caitlyn screamed my name when I started after Jake again. It was a good thing that she did; I was so enraged that I might have really hurt him. I didn't mind hitting him, but it scared me that I could lose control the way I did.
First the security people detained me until the police arrived. They thought I was the aggressor and had attacked Jake. Caitlyn and several witnesses came forward and explained that I was protecting the lady and after that the police treated me with respect. Things calmed down and I offered Caitlyn a ride back to the dorm.
On the ride home, she explained that Jake had asked her out when she quit running with our group. She was a little lonely and he was a good looking guy. So she said what the hell, why not? Caitlyn said it was a mistake. If the conversation wasn't about football or about the chance of turning pro or about parties, Jake was lost. He was totally one dimensional. She took him to the art exhibit to help him broaden his mind. Caitlyn said that when she told Jake he was as dumb as a stump, he lost it and hit her.
When we got back to her dorm, Caitlyn took my hand and looked me in the eye. "My knight in shining armor. Thank you Drew. Promise me you will call me tomorrow, okay?"
"I don't know if I will have the time, I've got classes..."
"Tomorrow is Sunday and you don't have classes on Sunday. Call me please," Caitlyn asked.
The next morning around 10:00, I called Caitlyn as I had promised. "Hi Drew, I want you to meet me in the courtyard of my dorm in ten minutes. I really want to talk to you and I need to do it face to face," she told me.
I was sitting on a bench in the courtyard and Caitlyn come to sit with me. "Drew, why have you been avoiding me? And don't tell me you haven't been."
"Kitty I was ashamed and angry at myself for spoiling our friendship. I thought we had become more than friends but your reaction to the kiss that night showed that you didn't feel the same way."
"Why did you run off? I tried to stop you and talk to you then, but I couldn't catch you," Caitlyn told me.
"Like I said, I was ashamed and angry at myself. I was embarrassed and didn't want to face you," I admitted to her.
"Drew I reacted the way I did because your kiss sort of came out of nowhere. You hadn't said anything or acted in a way to let me know it was coming. I was trying to tell you that I felt the same as you, but you ran off. I want to get to know you better and see what could happen. I know you are leaving after graduation but we could have fun until you leave."
To say that I was surprised wouldn't begin to explain how I felt. We talked for another hour or so and then went to lunch. Lunch led to more talking which led to dinner which led to drinks at a club, which led to dancing, which led to a very passionate good night kiss at her door. There were many evenings like this.
Graduation was in two weeks and I had what I wanted and yet what I didn't need, a romantic relationship with Caitlyn. Unfortunately I had to leave for my first duty station the day after graduation. Three nights before the big event Caitlyn and I were in my room snuggling and pretending to watch television. Then came those dreaded words.
"Drew, we have to talk," Caitlyn said.
I don't care how strong, smart, and confident a man is, that phrase will strike terror into his heart. Very seldom does anything good come after hearing those words.
"Sure Kitty what about?" I dreaded the answer.
"We have had a great time these past few weeks and I care about you very much," she said.
"But," I questioned. I knew a zinger was coming.
"But you are leaving in a few days and I'll still be here. I won't follow you from duty station to duty station. And it's almost impossible to carry on a long distance relationship for a short period of time much less for five years." Obviously Caitlyn had something on her mind. She hesitated.
"Go on, what are you saying Kitty?"
"I told you that I care about you very much and I do. If we were together I think I could fall in love with you. But I won't follow you around and I don't intend to sit in my room waiting with baited breath for you to come home." Again Caitlyn hesitated, as if she really didn't want to say what came next.
"Drew I'm not going to wait for you while you're gone. I mean that I will go on dates if I want to. When you come home on leave or a break or whatever they call it, you and I can get together. It's too much to ask for either of us to be faithful for five years of separations and only see each other once every two months if we're lucky. I care for you, but I'm not ready to become a spinster waiting for you."
"Why are you telling me this?"
"I don't want to mislead or lie to you Drew. I don't want to be a "cheating girlfriend" and all the guilt that goes with that. I care about you too much to run around behind your back. Can you understand?"
"Yeah I can, I don't like it but I can understand your thinking." I thought how fickle I was. I hadn't wanted a relationship because I was going into the Navy, then I wanted a relationship with Caitlyn and got it, and now she was being the more sensible of the two of us. Funny, I mean funny strange not funny Ha Ha.
"Okay Kitty as much as I hate to admit it, you're probably right. But can I keep you for myself for the next three days?" I said with a smile.
Caitlyn and I had never had sex. No, I don't mean we were virgins, I mean we had never had sex with each other. That changed over the last three nights that we were together before I had to leave. If I had known how close I would become to Caitlyn I would never had tried to be more than friends. I know that sounds really strange and on our last night together I realized how much it was going to hurt to leave her.
That night I attempted to get Caitlyn to change her mind about not following and being with me. I explained that my special training in computers would stop a lot of the bullshit that most new Ensigns had to go through. She wasn't convinced.
Caitlyn told me she would come to visit me a lot if she could, but she didn't want to live with me full time. She said that we could also see each other when I came home, but she wasn't going to sit and wait for me. We had discussed this before.
Graduation would be a conflict of interests for me. I was happy and proud to get the two degrees that I had worked so hard for. But I was sad and unhappy to be leaving Caitlyn. The next morning after graduation, I would be sworn in as an Ensign in the United States Navy. That was another proud moment for me, but again bitter sweet.
As I marched into the field house, I glanced at the audience. I saw Caitlyn but to my surprise my whole family was there also. Mom and Dad, my three brothers, and my sister were sitting next to Caitlyn. My parents had told me that they couldn't get away from the ranch right now and I assumed that none of my family would be at my swearing in. Somehow, I marched a little straighter and a little taller.
After the ceremony, I met my family and Caitlyn outside the field house. My father shook my hand and my mother hugged and kissed me. Caitlyn just stood there until my mother sort of pushed her toward me and I got kissed again. My brothers were trying to kill me, punching me on the arm and slapping me on the back and my sister gave me a huge hug.
My mother said, "Drew I know this must be Caitlyn but you should introduce her properly."
"Yes Huku," I replied. (Huku is Sioux for mother) It was what all of the kids called her. It was a way to honor our Sioux heritage and our mother.
"Caitlyn, this is my family. This is my father and mother, Sean and Chayton; my sister, Chante (Sioux for heart) and my brothers, Jamie, Brian, and Donovan. Everyone this is my friend, Caitlyn Brady. We met here at Montana State, but she's from Big Sky."
My father and brothers all took Caitlyn's hand and sort of bowed over it. Mom and my sister gave her a hug. My mother said, "Big Sky is close to Ennis, we're practically neighbors, aren't we."
The whole "tribe" including Caitlyn and me went to a late lunch to celebrate. My family left around 4:00, they had a two hour drive to get home. The last ten miles was over a mountain pass, down into the Madison River Valley, and you don't want to drive those mountain roads after dark. They could have stayed a little later, but my mom knew I wanted to spend my last night with Caitlyn.
Caitlyn and I did have an extra night together; I didn't have to leave until the day after I assumed my rank. I was glad for the extra night with her, but it made leaving even harder. She planned to stay in Bozeman and hoped to get a job using her brand new Business Administration degree.
My first three months in the Navy were spent going to classes. Oh no, I had just got out of school and I'm right back in again. I was at the Officer Command School. The Navy thought I needed the extra education as my only experience was the one week end a month and two weeks every summer while I was in college.
I was given an eighteen day leave after completing the Officer Command School and went home to Ennis. Our ranch is called Wakhan Maka, roughly spirit world in English. My parents own the ranch of 411 acres outside of Ennis in the Madison River Valley. They raised beef cattle and horses, see that was why I carried the Animal Science major. My parents wanted to spend all my leave with me, but they knew I wanted to spend some time with Caitlyn.
Bozeman was about 85 miles from my home, and I was able to spend a few days with Caitlyn. She was working at a bank in Bozeman and was already an assistant V.P. We picked up where we had left off and spent several evenings together. I stayed with her at her apartment and we visited a lot of our old hangouts. A couple of other class mates had stayed in Bozeman and we took the time to visit with them. You can only spend so much time rolling around together.
One evening I tried to persuade Caitlyn to come with me. I explained that there wasn't much jumping around from base to base. She might have changed her mind but then she asked about the TDY assignments. I had told her about them in my emails.
"Your TDY periods would be no different than deployment to sea, Drew. I would either be waiting for three or four months until you came back or I would have to pick up and follow you. Nothing has really changed has it Honey?"
"I guess not Kitty, but after seeing you again I don't want to leave you here. Hey I've got an idea," I said. I was about to reach for the stars and I hesitated for a minute.
"What's your idea Drew?" Caitlyn asked with a little smile.
"You could come stay with me until I got a TDY and then come back home to be with your parents and friends. When I finish the TDY, you could come back. It's perfect, we get to be together and you aren't sitting around waiting for me. What do you think?"
"That wouldn't be a very stable life for me, now would it?" She was almost laughing at me.
"It would be stable if we were married. I love you Caitlyn, marry me." That shocked her.
"Oh my God, you're serious aren't you? There are two reasons it wouldn't work Honey," she said. Caitlyn held my hands and continued. "Married or not, I would still be waiting for months for you to come back. Even if I was here I would still be waiting. But the most important reason is that I don't love you, at least not in that way."
That one put a hole through my heart. Again, I had assumed she felt the same as I did. I felt like I had blown it again. It was ironic, I was the one that didn't want more than friendship and I was the one fighting to have more than that.
Caitlyn leaned over and gently kissed me. "I do care for you and very much Drew. I didn't realize how much until you came home. But I don't love you, not the way married people should, at least not yet. Please don't be hurt, this isn't a rejection. It may just be a postponement."
That was our last night together; I had to leave the next day. She wanted to show me off so when we went out I wore my dress whites. We went to a steak house, had a nice dinner, and checked out the lounge. The lounge had a band and a small dance floor so we danced. Actually, it was more like holding and hugging each other to music.
As we left the lounge, who should we run into but Jake Houston and a couple of his cronies. They were all under the influence of alcohol, drunk on their asses actually. I heard that Jake had blown out his knee and couldn't play football anymore.
Jake didn't recognize me. I could understand that, the Navy had added ten to fifteen pounds of muscle. Besides the only time I met Jake, I knocked him on his ass. But he did know Caitlyn.
"Well there's the little teasing bitch, herself. Hey buddy, you're not getting any of that. She won't give it up to any guy. I think she's a lesbo and you sell ice cream." He was referring to my dress whites. Jake was laughing at his wit. He was half right anyway.
Neither Caitlyn nor I responded to the drunken ass and walked passed him. As we got close he reached out and grabbed Caitlyn's arm. It was almost a repeat of the scene outside the art gallery. Down went Jake. He was on his back bleeding again and out of it. His two cronies started toward me.
I motioned for them to come on. There must have been something in my face or my eyes that warned them off. They backed away. I stepped over to Jake and said, "Jake that's the second time I have kicked your ass for abusing Caitlyn. Don't ever touch her again. Don't even look in her direction. This is your last warning; I promise you won't enjoy the consequences if you don't pay attention."
We were walking away Caitlyn was holding on to my arm and giggling, "Jesus Christ Drew, I never even saw you move. Now he has my arm and now he is on his ass. You're my knight in shining armor, again." She pulled my head down and kissed me, hard.
The rest of the night was very special to me. We said good bye in the best possible way. The next morning I was off to Norfolk to work on an aircraft carrier. Caitlyn and I exchanged emails about every two weeks over the next six months.
Arriving in Norfolk I made my first deployment with the fleet. We were on a Mediterranean cruise for three months. Surprisingly I never had a problem with being sea sick. As it turned out, that cruise was my first and last deployment with the fleet. The old line "join the Navy and see the world" was true for me, but I did it by plane instead of by ship.
I was basically stationed at either the Norfolk Va. Naval ship yards or Mare Island NSY Ca. There were also periods of TDY (temporary duty) usually for three to six months to Pearl Harbor, Puget Sound, San Diego NSY, and others.
My job was to revamp, renovate, and update the computer systems on the ships of the fleet. I worked on everything from aircraft carriers down to frigates. You could have called me an I.T. guy, a computer nerd, or a techno geek in civilian life. That was the reason for the computer science major.
Caitlyn and I would chat or write each other by email. You really didn't expect a techno geek to actually hand write a letter and use snail mail did you? For the first four or five months we "wrote" at least once a week. That gradually slowed down to every ten days to two weeks. There was only so many times that you could say you missed someone and day to day details of life were a little boring. After my deployment, I got leave and came home for 14 days. After spending a week with my family I went to Bozeman and spent the last week with Caitlyn.
Not having a wife or girlfriend and not being interested in the bar scene, I had a lot of free time. Some of the off time was used to take correspondence courses, mostly in computer science. These were courses administered by the Navy and were intense. I started running again and even went to the gym three or four times a week. It wasn't long before I regained the shape I had been in while at college running marathons.
Two promotions, first to Lieutenant JG and then to Lieutenant made it easier to take leave. I was able to get a long leave about every six to seven months, duty permitting. I would usually spend half of my leave with Mom and Dad and the other half with Caitlyn. Two or three times Caitlyn came to visit me. It was harder for her to get away; she had her own career to worry about. My life went on this way for almost two and a half years. Then things began to change.
Shortly after my last visit, Caitlyn's emails began to slow down. Sometimes it was a month before she answered my emails. She didn't write about it, but I thought she had found someone else. Her last email told me she wanted to talk to me and would call me at 8:00 PM my time on Friday evening. I was back in Norfolk and there was a time difference. At 7:59, my cell phone announced that I had a call.
"Hello Kitty, how are you," I said when I picked up my phone.
"Hi Drew. Let's get past the chit chat, can we? This is going to be tough enough without trying to be adult about things." Caitlyn sounded like she was or had been crying.
"Stop crying Kitty. We'll handle it whatever the problem is."
"Drew I have met someone and think I'm in love with him. I know you were coming home next month and I wanted you to know before you got here. I won't be able to see you this time."
Because of the longer times between emails, I had thought that she had a male friend. I just didn't know that things had gotten this serious. My heart started to beat faster and I had a little trouble breathing. It must have been two minutes or so of silence.
"Are you still there Drew? Say something, please."
"Yeah, I'm here. I don't know what to say, Kitty." I was hurting.
Caitlyn waited just a second or two then she said, "I had to tell you and didn't think it would be right to wait until you got home. That would have been cruel. I do care for you Drew, but I just fell in love with James. I'm sorry Drew."
"It's okay, I'll be fine. You always said that you would date; I guess I thought we would see each other when I was on leave until I got out and then we would be together. Thanks for telling me, it would have sucked to come home and find out then. Good luck Kitty, I hope you guys will be happy. Good bye."
"Drew, don't hang u..."
I hung up quickly; I couldn't talk to her anymore. Caitlyn had been honest with me from the start. I wasn't upset with her; I was just upset at the situation. If I had known that I would fall in love with her, I wouldn't have become her friend in college. Who am I kidding? Of course I would have, I couldn't have helped myself.
I hadn't spent many nights out at a bar drinking. But this was one of those times. I didn't want to go to the Officer's Club where the Brass could see me, so I went off base to one of the many bars outside the gates. Our curfew without a pass was midnight. I didn't have to be in my room by that time but I did have to be on base.
I was still at the bar at 11:00 and had no intention of leaving. Let 'em throw me in the brig I told the bartender; at that point I didn't care. There was an E7 (Chief Petty Officer) sitting at a table with two junior Chiefs and he was watching me as I downed several large bourbons. I thought he looked familiar but in my drunken state I was lucky to know my own name much less anyone else.
The Chief left his table and joined me at the bar. "Hello. Lieutenant, how they hangin?"
"Hey Chief. Your Casey right?" I finally recognized the Chief. He was very active in one of the churches on base. Chief Casey sort of sponsored and ran a youth group at the church. The church and the youth group had some computer problems, but there was no extra money to fix the equipment. That was how I met him.
I heard him talking about the problems to my assistant and offered my help. After checking out the computers, I thought the best solution was new or at least newer equipment. If there was no money to fix the existing computers, then there was certainly no money to buy new equipment. I told the Chief to give me a few days to find a solution.
The Navy had recently upgraded a few of their office PCs in the Quartermaster command and the old ones were in storage waiting to be sent to recycling. I talked to my captain and explained the situation and my idea.
I wanted to sign out the old computers to recycle them. Instead I would wipe the hard drives, reinstall the operating system, add a few bells and whistles for the kids, and give the equipment to the church.
Captain Hodges is my boss basically and is a salty old dog. He is also one of the kindest men I had ever met. After listening to me for twenty minutes, he held up his hand to stop me.
"Sounds like this operation could get furbared real quick. If this comes back to bite me in the ass, I'll have your hide Lieutenant." Then he gave me written authorization to recycle the old equipment.
I answered, "We could always say the operation was an example of redistribution of assets and inventory control, Sir. He laughed at me and waved me out of his office.
It took me about four days, working after hours to finish revamping the computers. Two of those nights, Captain Hodges helped me with the work. See, I told you he was really a teddy bear. We finished the work and gave the equipment to the Chief. The Captain and I now have prayers being said for us, every Sunday.
So that explains why a Chief Petty Office would help a lowly drunken Lieutenant. Chief Casey suggested that it was time for me to return to base and helped me back to the BOQ. (Bachelor Officers Quarters) Normally CPO's have nothing but contempt for young officers.
The next morning I was jolted awake by a pounding on my door. It was Chief Casey, all bright eyed and bushy tailed, bringing me coffee. I looked at him through bloodshot eyes and groaned.
"You are disgustingly cheerful this morning, Chief. Go away and let me suffer in peace," I responded to his good morning.
"No sir, drop your cock and grab your socks. I'm going to get you back in tiptop shape and we're burning daylight," the Chief told me. All I could do was groan again. He spent the next week, whipping me back into shape. I thought he was a sadistic and heartless man.
I spent the next 14 months bouncing around to different U. S. Naval yards and bases, doing what I do. During that time I had fixed the computers at the church several times. I had just returned to Norfolk after a one month TDY to the west coast and crashed in my room, mini jet lag I think. The next morning the Chief pounded on my door.
"Didn't anyone teach you how to knock on a door without breaking it Chief? What do you want at this ungodly hour?" It was 06:30 and too early for me after the travel day I had yesterday.
"The people at the church are throwing their annual picnic and you're invited. It's sort of a thank you for helping with computers. I wanted make sure that you were informed about the picnic Lieutenant," he told me.
"Thanks aren't necessary Chief. I was happy to help out. So give them my regards," I said thinking about going back to bed.
"It's too late, the picnic is today at 1100 hours. We need to get you some breakfast and then work the jet lag out of you. By the time you get cleaned up it will time to go to the picnic."
"I could give you a direct order to leave me alone Chief. Don't make me do that." I was trying out the skills I learned at the Officer Command School.
"Please don't give that order sir. I would hate to disobey a direct order, but in this case I will. C'mon Lieutenant, it's no big deal, the kids just want to say thank you. Give em a break, will ya?"
"Okay, you are much too persuasive for my own good Chief. I'll be out in a few minutes. Why don't you wait in the jeep?"
"Don't need a jeep sir. We will jog over to the mess hall and get breakfast; then jog to the gym, work the kinks out and jog back here to get cleaned up for the picnic." Chief Casey was smiling the whole time that he was advising me of the torture he had planned for me.
"I was wrong Casey, you're not persuasive; you're the devil incarnate. What did I ever do to deserve you, Chief?"
Chief Casey was smiling and chuckling and said, "You're just lucky I guess Sir." So began my morning of torture.
Chief Casey and I arrived at the church picnic at 11:30. We were met with cheers from the kids and were thanked by their parents several times. The church members had all brought some type of food and in large amounts. If anyone went home hungry, it was their own fault and they didn't deserve to eat.
We had BBQ pork, BBQ beef brisket, BBQ chicken, shell fish, and crab legs plus all the side dishes. I was going back for seconds on the BBQ, or maybe it was thirds, and met Maddie. We both reach for a chicken leg at the same time.
"Oh, excuse me," I said.
"No go ahead," she replied.
This exchanged was repeated and I thought it was going to be repeated a third time. Instead I said, "If we keep up this "after you Gaston" play, all the chicken will be eaten by someone else." As I said this, I used a napkin and put the piece of chicken on her plate. "There you go, problem solved," I said.
She started to giggle and then she laughed out loud. She got to laughing so hard that she was snorting a little. That made me laugh too. We must have sounded like two laughing hyenas before we could get control. As we wound down, I introduced myself.
"Hi, I'm Drew Callaghan," I said.
"I'm Madelyn Richards, my friends call me Maddie," she answered and shook my hand. She had a strong grip for a woman.
We filled our plates with food and sat down at one of the tables together. While eating we talked. It was obvious that we were attracted to each other. Maddie was a teacher and some of the kids at the picnic were her students. Several times kids would come over and say hello to her. Many of them said thank you to me, some even gave me a hug.
"Oh, I just realized who you are," Maddie said with surprise. "You're the hero, the one that got the computers for our church." She seemed impressed.
"I don't know about the hero part, but yeah I was involved in getting them." I told her.
Maddie and I spent most of the afternoon together, talking and walking around the church grounds. We finally realized that other than a few people cleaning up, everyone had gone. The picnic was over.
I looked for Chief Casey, but he was long gone. I offered to escort Maddie home, but she said she would stay and help with the clean up and catch a ride with the pastor and his wife.
I must have shown my disappointment, because she handed me a card and said, "Here is both my home and cell phone numbers. Give me a call Drew and we can continue this conversation, if you want to."
On the way back to my room, I stopped at the NCO club, its better known as the "Slop Chute". Officers don't go to the NCO club, there is no rule against it, but it just isn't done. I stuck my head in the door, spotted Chief Casey and sent the seaman at the door to bring the Chief to me. Casey joined me outside with a puzzled look on his face.
"Okay Chief, who set this up?"
"I don't know what the Lieutenant is talking about," he answered.
"Bilge water Chief. When you use that third person "the Lieutenant" crap, I know you're involved someway. Give it up Casey."
The Chief looked at me and smiled. "I just thought it was time for you to get back at sea again sir. Ever since that night that I brought you back from the bar, you have almost been a hermit. I thought it was time to break out your main sail again. And Maddie is a fine young lady."
I couldn't help but smile at his naval references. "Enough of the old salt talk, Chief. What the hell are you talking about?"
"Sir I know that your girl back home broke up with you and you haven't been doing anything but working and sleeping and that's no way to live. Maddie is a fine lass and she is a little sad too because her father was killed in a car wreck last year. For a Lieutenant you ain't a bad sort. I just thought you two could help each other."
"Okay Chief, I'll call her, thanks." On the way back to my room, I smiled thinking about the look of accomplishment on Chief Casey's face.
I called Mattie on Sunday afternoon. We met at a coffee house and spent the evening getting to know each other better. We made a date for the next Friday evening. Friday after dinner we did something really exciting, we took a walk in the park. Most of our dates were this intense, we would go to a movie and take a walk, or go to dinner and sit with coffee on a park bench.
Chaste little good night pecks turned into burning passionate kisses and we progressed from there. The romantic side of our relationship was a little difficult. I lived at the BOQ and Maddie had moved in with her mother after her father was killed. My quality of life had improved greatly when I met Maddie. The "L" word was beginning to be tossed around and thoughts of our future soon surfaced.
In two months my tour would be completed and I had a decision to make. Stay or leave. If I re-enlisted for another five year hitch, the Navy would count the four years of college as active duty time. I would be 27 with nine years of active duty; I could retire with half pay after twenty years.
If I did stay and retire with my twenty in, I would be 38. I would have a nice pension, Naval Exchange privileges, and medical coverage all at a fairly young age. The Navy was also offering a large amount of money as a signing bonus. In addition I was told that it was a cinch that I would make at least Commander and possibly Captain during my new enlistment. Not a bad deal at all.
The fly in the ointment was that I would still be in the Navy, not at home in Montana. The dream was to work the ranch with my dad and mom. I joined the Navy ROTC program because it was the only way to go to college. My goal had been to get an education that would be help make the family ranch more productive. My classes in animal science, natural resources range land ecology, and equine science would make my dream possible.
I decided to talk to Maddie and ask her advice. She and I had become very close. I had spent time with her mother and we got along pretty well too. Although Maddie and I had never actually talked about marriage, the thought was in our minds.
After dinner and a little dancing at a club, Maddie and I were sitting on her front porch sneaking a few kisses and touchy feelys. When we had come up for air after a kiss, I asked Maddie for her advice.
I explained my two options and asked, "What do you think I should do Honey?"
"You believe those are your only options?" Maddie looked at me as I nodded my head. "I don't like either of them. There is a third option, you know?"
"What would that be?" I had no idea what she was talking about.
"Get out of the Navy and stay here with me, Drew," Maddie suggested.
"I hadn't planned on staying in Norfolk. If I stay in the Navy, I could be sent to another duty station. If I get out, I want to go home to Montana," I explained.
"Do you love me Drew? Do you see a life for us together?" Maddie surprised me with these questions.
"Well let me see," I paused for a few seconds, "Yeah I'm pretty sure that I do." I said with a smile. I was trying to be funny and ease the tension that had come up. "And yes, I had thought about us being together, Maddie."
"Well, I love you and want us to be together too. But if we do get married or even just live together, it has to be here. I won't move to Montana nor will I follow you to your duty stations. I can't and I won't leave my mother alone. Besides this is my home and I don't want to leave here. So where does that leave us?"