The tenth day was weary and worn. It was the type of afternoon that gave birth to the old adage April Showers Bring May Flowers. I combated this by wearing the best sun dress I had in my wardrobe. It was all yellows and soft orange. But the rain didn't seem to get the hint and it stuck to my glasses in big fat drops when it was spit out of the sky in smatterings. They were joined by a damp chill in the air.

The day had an optimism about it and a promise of future beauty and growth, but nevertheless the reality was dismal and it was hard to imagine future glory. I thought it was an interesting parallel to my situation as I left campus toward the camp that had been established for the garrison of soldiers.

They were located just out of sight behind a lovely wooded ridge, full of wild blueberry bushes and birch. Some dirty and stubborn fragments of snow still clung in those wet, forested shadows and I avoided them as if I feared their disturbance might summon winter once more.

The soldiers largely kept to themselves. Occasionally you'd see them in loud, rowdy groups through the town center or standing like statues outside the library and admission offices. They were a presence, but little more than that. Usually they kept a respectful distance from the student body and as I entered the camp that much remained true.

I caught glimpses of secured machines of war, some draped in camouflage tents and some out in the open as oil slicked engineers tended to their delicate machine parts. They were scary, disturbing things and why they found it necessary to deploy them to our sleepy little corner of the empire was beyond me. I caught a couple curious looks before a feisty little woman in military fatigues confronted me. She was polite, but firm and her posture quickly became ramrod and all business. She in not so many words made it clear she wanted to know why I was strolling through their garrison.

I asked for Aeolus Aeneas and I was met with a slight scowl. She looked as though to say You should know better, dear. Army men are all alike. She led me away from the center of camp to a stocky, modular building on the outskirts. It's industrial exterior was stenciled with the words "Mechanized Armor Unit 567 / The Fighting Barbarians" in a neat and crisp font. She cracked the door open for a second and poked her head in.

"Aeneas! Visitor. Don't take all day, you lazy dog. I want you back here in thirty. You hear me? Not a second more. That's enough time for you to get your jollies these days, right princess?" She barked in a voice too loud and throaty for a woman of her unassuming size.

Laughter erupted from the unseen interior. The tiny woman's head emerged and she examined me quickly. It took her a second to grade and dismiss me before disappearing from the direction we came.

It didn't take too long for Aeolus to stick his head out. A look of surprise and happiness spread over his face as the rest of his body followed. He was dressed in clean fatigues. His armor was missing, but he was probably off duty.

"Hi. I hope I didn't get you in trouble?" I said, nervous that the little army woman was his commanding officer or something equally as ridiculous.

He hugged me quickly and started to lead me away from the camp.

"Of course not, no." He croaked.

It was clear my visit to the barracks made him uncomfortable. I tried to imagine why, it wasn't difficult to assume it was the pubescent culture that they seeped in. He'd probably earn his fair share of razzing once it was made public that Aeolus was courting a real woman.

"I'm sorry I haven't seen you since last week. It's been really busy around here and I figured you'd like the opportunity to think." He started, fidgeting a little. It was cute, if a bit annoying. "About if you wanted to go out again. That is. About that. Do you? Oh! I'm sorry. That was stupid."

I smiled and put my arm through his, leaning on his shoulder. It seemed to give him some confidence.

"Of course I do. You're not the only one who has responsibilities. I'm sorry it took me so long to see you." I offered, referring to academic and personal studies cryptically. He took it at face value.

We chatted, he complimented my dress and we made plans to get together that weekend. He suggested dinner and dancing again, but I offered that we see a nickelodean. That seemed to give him immeasurable pleasure. There was a moment a second later where he looked a little down trodden.

"I might have to cancel. We're investigating something and I might have to help out." He said quietly.

"Investigating something? What?" I asked and stopped walking. I was a little concerned. I was fully aware of why they had been deployed in the first place. Moreover, when I tore the conversation from Gerald and Hanz from the mind ether I had gained suspicions of what might have been the cause.

He pulled away and kept walking for a couple more steps before coming to a stop. He turned and offered a little smile. It was fake and sad.

"I'm sorry. I can't talk about it. But if I have to cancel I'll let you know that morning and I'll make it up to you. I promise."

"Is it about the school?"

He held up a hand as if to say just stop already. He lowered his voice and looked at me dead in the eyes. I caught a little bit of regret in there. I knew he was kicking himself for letting himself slip up and spill the beans. He wasn't just putting his relationship with me in jeopardy, but his livelihood.

"Wendy. I'm sorry. But no."

Growing a little annoyed I cocked my head and let one of my hands come to rest on my hip.

"I have a right to know. It's my school." I softened my expression and sighed a little "Plus, you know me. I can keep a secret."

His eyes softened a little and I could see him think. The process was transparent. I saw the fact dawn on him that indeed, no, he didn't know me. We had shared a breakfast, a dinner and a kiss. Nothing more. He wasn't going to risk his career for a woman whom he had just met the previous week.

"No." He said as his face hardened a fraction. "Just drop it."

It was clear that the art of manipulation was lost on me. He didn't budge. It took a couple of moments of tense staring for him to sigh and crumple a little.

"I'm really sorry. I need to get back. I'm on duty in a couple of minutes." He walked up to me and moved in for a kiss. I let him brush his lips against my cheek. Closing my eyes, I wish I had the humility to admit defeat and give him more. But I was prideful and angry he hadn't told me what was going on. That seemed oddly secondary to my commitment to my boys.

I savored the feeling of his wet lips on my cheek and I breathed in deep. His gun oil stink was becoming strangely appealing.

"See you soon?" He asked, putting his hand on my elbow softly.


"Okay, good. I'll meet you there."

He released me and walked back to his camp. I didn't turn and watch him go. Instead I returned to my own world and abandoned his. I walked through the woods toward university and by proxy the library. I needed something.


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