How to even begin this one? I returned from Fayetteville a few hours ago after spending the weekend at Carolina Beach with James and then seeing him off yesterday as he prepared to deploy. It's been a roller coaster couple of days.
Last Thursday (I can't believe it's nearly been a week), I left for Fayetteville after team. I was feeling surprisingly calm as I embarked on the weekend that I had been dreading for several months. After arriving, I gave James a letter I had written to him on July 15th, just talking about the things that were going through my head at the moment...a few parting words before he deployed. It wasn't much - just something else he could carry with him that I hoped would remind him of me. We turned in shortly after that as he had to be up for work at 4am. Around 1 or 2, we were awoken by a HUGE thunderstorm...definitely one of the worst I've seen in a while. And I DON'T like thunderstorms. I mean, a small one here and there is alright but I really hate ones in the middle of the night...who wants to wake up to that? Of course, it did give me a reason to cuddle even closer to James and he was sweet about my being such a scaredy cat.
The next morning, James was off to work and back before I had barely realized where he was. Unfortunately, he had to return to work after another hour of sleep, where he stayed for several hours. There wasn't much for me to do while he was away so I pretty much made a bum of myself until he got off and we headed for Carolina Beach. We hit another big thunderstorm on the way and didn't arrive until about 8:30. James's parents were already at his brother Jason's house when we got there. We were all in the mood to just sort of relax so the boys played pool a bit while James's mom, June, and I sat on the couch to watch. It was quite entertaining. James's idea of "breaking" was sending the ball off the table and across the room. I'm not sure if he did it intentionally or not but, either way, it was funny (and a little dangerous). After James's parents left for their hotel, James, Jason, and two of Jason's roommate, Kenny and Daniel, had the idea to watch Willow, mainly because I hadn't seen it and they thought it was amazing. After Hot Rod the weekend before, I wasn't sure what I was in for. Willow ended up being a bit more my speed though (fairies and whatnot) and it was fun to just hang out with the boys, seeing as how I don't get too much time with that sex. James and I ended up falling asleep on a chair. At some point overnight, James moved onto the couch - not realizing that Jason was also on the couch. When daybreak came, I found Jason shoved to the top of the couch and James shoved to the bottom. If I had been at all coherent when I saw this scene, I would have grabbed my camera. At the time though, all I wanted was a bed - not bamboo under my butt. Jason was kind enough to wake and usher us to his bed, thank goodness.
Saturday, it was time to hit the beach. James's parents, Jason, Michael (younger brother), Buford (Michael's beagle), James and I walked down the street to the beach (how nice it would be to live that close). James and his dad wanted to do some fishing on the pier but the rest of us wanted to relax so we headed for the beach below. Jason and I ended up talking quite a bit while we were out there and it was nice to get to know him a little bit better. I feel so comfortable with James's family...more so than I've felt with any other boyfriend's family. I'm completely myself with them and it's refreshing. James and his dad weren't able to catch anything that day and, after a few hours on the beach, we headed back to Jason's house. Everyone was pretty pooped. We had Chinese take-out for dinner and turned in pretty early.
On Sunday, Michael returned to Raleigh and James's parents left for home. Jason, James, and I went to Fort Fisher where we could drive onto the beach (with James's 4-wheel drive, of course) and the fishing was supposed to be good. The weather was great and so was Fort Fisher...it wasn't crowded at all - very relaxing. James waded into the ocean with his fishing pole and ended up catching 7 fish. He was quite proud and had a BLAST. It was exactly how he wanted to spend his day. He's in his element doing that sort of thing. Earlier, we had seen what we thought was a shark's fin but, nonetheless, I hung out in the water with James a bit. Shark or not, I didn't want to spend too much time away from him. It didn't escape my attention that, for a few days, we were under the impression that he would be deploying on this day. Nor did it escape my attention that he actually was deploying in two. While at Fort Fisher, James and Jason discussed the idea of watching The Graduate when we returned, which is a favorite movie of theirs and one I'd never seen (imagine that). So watch it we did. Afterward, James and I were starving but the only places open were bars. Even so, we ended up having some delicious quesadillas and pretzel bread at the Black Horn and it was more than satisfying. We then took a walk out to the beach and just sat in the sand for a while. I know our minds were probably on the same thing as we starred up at the stars and watched the lightning over the ocean. We hardly spoke a word to each other while we were out there. I was praying. It seemed like a good place to do it and, being outside, I felt a bit closer to God. I wanted to ask if he was okay but I avoided saying too much...I figured he needed some quiet time. Things got interesting when we got back to Jason's house that night. He was in bed because he had to be up at 3:30 to get ready for work. His roommates and their friends, however, were in the living room (where James and I were planning to sleep) behaving quite childishly (i.e. some guy was passed out drunk on the couch so they were putting shaving cream in his hand and tickling his nose...original). So where did we end up sleeping until Jason woke up and gave us his bed? On a couch in the garage. And James, sweetheart that he is, let me lie down while he slept sitting up. Oh, it was fun. Thank goodness Jason was leaving early. After a few hours of sleep, we started getting ready to head back to Fayetteville. It was depressing but I was trying to stay upbeat so James wouldn't think about it too much. I could tell he really didn't want to leave though. On the way, we stopped by Bojangles for breakfast. While we were sitting in the drive-thru, we feel a little nudge. I didn't even realize we'd been hit but that is exactly what had happened. James pulled out of the line and the woman behind us followed. The first words out of her mouth? "Did you back up?" Yes, he backed up...in a drive-thru...with someone behind him. Fortunately, there was no damage to his truck and she seemed to be cool with the little crack in her car so we moved on. When we arrived back at his apartment, James knew he had to get busy. His deployment bags weren't totally packed, neither was the stuff he was sending home with his parents, and we were meeting Molly and Kendall for dinner that evening. By the time we left for the Olive Garden, he'd made some progress but there was still a lot to be done. Dinner was fun though. It occurred to me that we had sort of come full circle. The first weekend we were together was spent with Molly and Kendall and so was the last (for a while). On the way to the restaurant, I realized that, not only did we go to the Olive Garden together that first weekend as we were then, we were sitting in the same spots in the car. Maybe it sounds trivial but it was interesting to me (and Molly too when I explained it to her later). As enjoyable as dinner was, I didn't much like all the Army talk. It reminded me too much of what was taking place the next day.Getting back to James's apartment, there was A LOT left to do and it didn't all get finished that night. I cleaned the kitchen but then he insisted I sit down and watch Meet Joe Black, which we'd picked up that day because he knew I would like it. And I did...what I saw of it. Before the end, James and I decided enough had been done that evening and it was time for bed. This was a tough time for me. It was the last time I'd be able to sleep beside him for a long time. But we were both exhausted so I didn't have much of a chance to dwell on that fact.
The next day, Tuesday, was D-Day...or deployment day. I felt strange waking up that morning. He had gone to post (a.k.a. Fort Bragg) to tie up a few lose ends - I remembered him telling me goodbye. And when I woke up, it felt like just another day. The sun was out, I played around on Facebook...just a normal morning. Except that it was far from normal. Getting ready for the day became a bit more difficult when the electricity was cut off (they didn't play around after he told them he was moving the 28th). He soon returned from work and, shortly after, his parents arrived. The four of us ran a few errands, worked on the apartment a bit more, and then it was time to go to post. We had no idea how this day would play out because James had been given so little information. We went to a field where James was to check in and drop off his things. Then, we just stood beneath a tree, trying to stay in the shade because it was HOT. Soon, Jason's roommate, Kenny, and his dad arrived. Kenny used to be in the Army as well and they wanted to see James off. Next, James had to retrieve his weapon. Kenny and I went with him to do this. It was really difficult for me when he walked out with a gun strapped across his chest. This wasn't how I pictured James at all. Things were starting to become more real. He couldn't be in Kenny's truck with his weapon so he walked back to the field while Kenny and I rode over. I didn't break down until James had walked away and, fortunately, had gotten control over myself by the time we rejoined his parents. Then, there was nothing to do but wait. In total, we were there for 4 hours and, though it was hot and we were standing the whole time, I was grateful for a little extra time with James. But then it was THE time. It happened so quickly and our goodbyes were so rushed...not at all how I'd wanted it to go. I didn't get to say what I wanted to say. We kissed, said I love you and he was gone...he disappeared into the crowd of others dressed just as he was. We remained there, the 5 of us, while the soldiers gathered themselves. His mom and I were bawling. They were going down a roster and we heard his name called...then saw him walking toward the bus headed for the Pope Air Force Base. He waved at us as he went and I completely lost it. So did his mom. That was the hardest part. We headed for the car after that. His dad was driving James's truck and I was riding with his mom in the car. Before she could leave, she needed to have a good, hard cry. For a couple minutes, we just hugged and cried. After we had gotten ourselves together, I knew I couldn't cry in front of her again. Before, I was trying to be strong for James, now, I was trying to be strong for his mom. We were on our way back to his apartment when I felt my phone vibrate...it was him. He'd accidentally kept his cell phone which, for me, was a stroke of good luck. It meant I was able to correspond with him for a little longer. His first text said that he loved me and wished he could have given me the goodbye I deserved. That meant the absolute world to me. I received the last text at 3:30am this morning but missed it because I was sleeping. He was in Maine. And, this afternoon, his mom forwarded me an e-mail he had sent after arriving in Germany. He asked her to pass it on because he didn't have mine or his brother's e-mail addresses on him. It was sent at 11:40am today (our time). He was departing from Germany in half an hour and on to a couple other destinations. It may be a week before he's a Camp Stone, where he'll probably be for a month or so. How good it was to hear from him that early.
Thank goodness for Molly and Kendall. Kendall let me stay at his house last night so I didn't have to drive home and I was so glad not to be alone. Molly and I went to IHOP (I was in need of some french toast) and she helped to keep my mind off things until bed. I slept well (thank goodness I was exhausted) and was actually grateful when my mind wandered to school as I fell asleep instead of other things...