The air in the small quarters seemed electrically charged as its occupants prepared themselves for their much needed vacation. In the corner of the room Reaper sat cleaning his gun and seemed deep in thought. Of all the men in the RRTS he seemed the least interested in their upcoming holiday. Portman, as usual was being a major pain the arse and seemed to have nothing better to do than bitch and whinge because the transporters were five minutes late. Duke and Destroyer had made plans to head to NY to visit old friends and God only knew where the Kid was going. As for Mac, he was headed home to spend some much needed time with a wife that was quickly losing her patience for her husbands’ profession. Goat had been fairly tight lipped about his plans for the holidays and it made John think that the older mans idea of a good holiday would be to stay exactly where he was. As tired as he was right now, the idea of having free time on his hands did not appeal in the least. As the men discussed their plans the radio Goat had playing softly in the background started playing some shitty Christmas carol rendition by one of the latest ‘I’ve got no talent’ pop stars. As crappy as the song was it still brought home the reminder that Christmas was just around the corner, and this in turn reminded him of Samantha. John knew that he’d let her down. He knew that she worried about him and that by distancing himself from her he was really just hurting her more than was necessary. ‘I can’t help it’ he thought. He didn’t know if he’d ever be able to set foot on that planet again. Not only because of the history there, but because ‘she’ was there. A picture of her face appeared in his mind and he shook his head angrily as if the action might remove her memory from his mind. He was unable to think of her without feeling intense longing and anger at the same time. ‘Dani’. Her name felt good on his lips and he remembered kissing her and how good that had felt too. ‘Fuck!’ he ground out. He needed to get laid. He needed to lose himself in someone else. Someone that didn’t remind him of Dani or the one night that they’d spent together. Maybe time off was exactly what he needed after all. He finished cleaning the gun in front of him, packed everything away and laid on his bunk while he waited for their ride. Closing his eyes thought of Dani wouldn’t leave him alone and he found himself thinking about the first time they met.
Pulling the old Ford up in front of his parents’ cottage he felt a mix of excitement and sadness mingled together. Excitement at seeing Samantha and sadness at revisiting a place that held so many happy memories of a time that could never be relived. Within minutes of turning off the engine the front door slammed open and Samantha was running down the rickety steps towards him. The look of happiness on her face made him glad he had made the last minute decision to come home for the Easter holiday. Tania had made it quite clear that she wasn’t looking forward to spending the weekend in ‘the country’ but she acquiesced knowing that in order to get John to commit she would have to put in a little effort and mingle with the ‘natives’.
Within seconds of exiting the car Samantha was in his arms. ‘I can’t believe you’re here! I didn’t think you were coming!’ She pulled back and looked at him. ‘I’m sorry I didn’t call ahead’ he said. I wanted to surprise you’. She laughed happily. ‘You certainly did. In the background the noise of the front door being pushed grabbed Sam’s attention and she squirmed in Johns arms until he put her down. Turning to follow Sam’s line of sight he saw the small figure of a young woman on the front porch. She reminded John of a little field mouse. Small, quiet and shy. And when she finally opened her mouth to say hello he had to strain to hear her. It was then that Tania made her presence known and he realised that he had yet to introduce him to Samantha. ‘Sam I’d like you to meet Tania Richart, Tania this is my sister Samantha and her friend Danielle’. He casually draped his arm around the blonde’s shoulders. He wanted his sister to like his new girlfriend and he wanted Tania to like his sister. A second passed as the two women eyed each other and then Samantha’s natural grace came to the fore and she welcomed her brothers’ new girlfriend warmly. ‘I’m just so glad that you could come. We just put the kettle on’. John moved to retrieve the luggage from the boot of his car as Samantha went into the house. She was quickly followed by Tania who seemed content to let John bring everything inside. Bending over to pull Tania’s make up case from the back of the boot, he saw a shadow move out of the corner of his eyes. Pulling back he came face to face with Danielle, who up close still reminded him even more of a little mouse. ‘I didn’t mean to scare you’ she said quickly when she saw his eyes widen. ‘No, it’s fine’ he offered, ‘I didn’t hear you walk up that’s all’. He smiled to show her that no harm was done. ‘Do you need a hand with all that?’ she queried. Straightening up, he looked at the mountain of luggage that needed to be taken in. ‘That’d be great’ he said appreciatively.
An hour later the quartet sat around the kitchen table sipping their second cup of coffee. Talk so far had been fairly relaxed as the two siblings caught up on each others lives and the two relative strangers sat politely, only participating when required. Outside the kitchen window the sun began to make its slow descent and a moment of silence descended on the four. John could not help but notice how much his sister had grown up in the six months since he’d last seen her. Sometime over the last few months she had metamorphosed from a reserved quiet young woman to one who now exuded a sense of calm and confidence. He couldn’t help but feel proud of who she had become and what she had accomplished. Moving his eyes away from her they fell upon the silent figure that sat at the end of the table. Danielle sat quietly looking outside at the setting sun. The changing light seemed to play on her light brown hair and for a minute it seemed to light it up with hues of gold and orange. He couldn’t help but notice what a change it made to her otherwise ordinary appearance. He wondered for the first time who this woman was. Beside him he felt Tania stir restlessly and pulling his eyes away from his sister’s friend he pushed his chair back and made his way to place his cup in the sink. ‘So, big sister’ he said playfully to his older twin, ‘what’s for dinner?’ Pushing her own chair back Samantha moved to the sink and playfully punched his shoulder. ‘Depends what you’re cooking’ she responded smiling. ‘Are there any nice restaurants around this place’ Tania asked from the table. ‘Not unless you count May’s Café a restaurant’ John said. A look of annoyance flittered across the pretty blondes face. ‘What about a casserole?’ Danielle offered quietly. ‘God I haven’t eaten a casserole in years’ John said eagerly. ‘Have we got all the ingredients’ he directed his question to his sibling. ‘Everything but the meat’ she replied. ‘Looks like a trip to the corner store is called for’ he said. Five minutes later Samantha and Dani were left alone in the house and John and Tania had headed off to the store.
Sitting in the drivers’ seat on the way to the store John wondered why an image of a plain and ordinary mouse of a woman should flit through his mind.