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past the snipers. There’s something about the heat and chaos of

battle that forges bonds.

We fought as dusk and bodies fell, and won as night came over

the city.

I told my girlfriend of Hakim’s arrival the next day. She didn’t say

anything for a long moment, head still inclined. Framed by ash-

blonde hair, with skin silvered in the moonlight and lips still gently

parted, she looked beautiful.

She rocked back on her heels, hair falling over her face, and

looked at me, her hair like platinum and her skin like wax paper.

Terrifying beautiful.

“I thought he was dead,” her voice was as cold as midnight frost.

Hakim doesn’t know about us, I’d explained before, but that had

nothing nothing to lessen the tension.

“So did I, but now he’s back.”

She hunched forward, hugging her knees to her chest, and

shuddered. The look on her face was strange, shut down. She knew

I’d been a soldier, she knew exactly what Hakim and I had done, out

there in the starless, godless desert.

I’d mentioned the war to her several times – she knew the nature

of what Hakim and I had been through, what we’d seen, what we’d

done as murderers, soldiers, harbingers of retribution out in the

desert lands.

She stared at me, her face desolate, particulate. Then, she

resolutely reached across to the bedside table and pulled on her

sunglasses. Hiding was a habit of hers.

“Just don’t introduce him to me,” she said. Her voice was still cold.

It was two hours after the raid, and Hakim and I were stationed

outside the ruined, crumbling shell of a building, a white van idling

on the corner with its headlamps on, while unspeakable things went

on inside. The screaming from inside sounded unnaturally loud in

the cold night air.

“I’ve been thinking about Tennessee Williams,” Hakim said

conversationally, as a hoarse scream sounded from behind us.

His tone was so at odds with the violence, it made me laugh.

Trust Hakim to uphold his university studies, even out here. “Oh,

really? And what does he have to say for himself?”

Courage To Live