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Genre: Non Fiction
Drew settled into the warm sand, salt water dripping from his body to join the millions of particles below him. He balanced his board against one knee and closed his eyes, listening to the rhythmic charge of the waves up the beach, only to withdraw with a hiss as the tideline defeated them. If he focused enough, he could tune out the faint chatter of the early beach-goers. Maybe if he focused, he could suppress the sounds in his head. The ones that haunted him no matter what he did.
“Hey!” The word jerked his eyes open. “How’s the water?”
He looked up to see his brother leaning on his board.
“Yesterday was better,” he replied.
Cam settled down next to him, wedging his board into the sand.
“You ok?” he asked.
Drew brushed at the sand grains adhering to his knees. “Yeah.”
“I’m not going to lie, man, I kinda freaked when I woke up and you weren’t there.”
Drew blew a sigh. He’d tried. Cam had taken a week off to do this with him. He was fine until last night.
“I’m sorry, I…” His tags clinked together as he shifted.
“Hey, man, I’m not going to pretend to understand what happens over there. I mean I sit behind an office computer all week and surf on the weekends,” Cam said. “But you know I’m here for you, right? Whatever you need.”
They sat in silence for a few minutes before Drew worked up the courage.
“Doc says talking about it is supposed to help. I guess I’m just not sure how to.”
“Whatever you need, man,” Cam repeated his offer.
“Yeah, I’m just not sure I want you to hear it.”
“Nothing’s going to change the way I see you.”
Drew didn’t have the heart to tell him that it just might.
It took a few minutes before he started talking. His first two tours had been a cake walk compared to this one. Once he started, it was hard to stop. Months of combat were compressed into a few hours. Cam didn’t say anything, just listened, as they both stared out over the vast expanse of blue stretching before them.
The day would have been too warm but for the light breeze that swept in off the ocean. The chattering of vacationers grew louder as Drew waited for Cam to speak.
“How do you keep going out?” he finally asked.
“Same reason you show up to the office every morning, I guess. It’s my job.”
Cam shook his head. “You going back after this?”
Drew shrugged. He still had a few weeks of medical leave left, the pale scars that mottled his skin a visual reminder that he hadn’t escaped unscathed.
“I could stick around. Maybe finish my degree. I don’t know, man.” Part of him wasn’t ready to leave it behind. “Hey, thanks for listening to my crap.”
“I know you’d do it for me.”
Drew brushed sand off his board. He had a long road ahead of him, but the last few hours had helped him get his feet under him.
“Yeah, well.” He shrugged it off. Cam grinned and punched his arm. “You want to catch a few and then find something to eat?”
“Sounds good.” Cam shoved to his feet and retrieved his board. They waded into the ocean together. “I’d say we should race out, but we both know I’d win.”
“Feeling pretty confident are we?”
“Can’t argue with the truth, can you?”
Drew rolled his eyes with a grin. “Fine, loser buys lunch.”