Ron couldn’t sleep. He’d tossed and turned all night. Staring up at the dark ceiling in their master bedroom, his thoughts weighed heavily on his mind. Shararah’s warm body was snuggled up against his, the bottom of her feet, pressed against his calf as she lay curled up on her side facing the opposite side of the bed. Ron loved her touch, so rather than moving away from her body heat, he removed the sheets to receive the blast of air from the overhead ceiling fan directly above him.
Earlier, before going to bed, Ron told Shararah about the previous day’s events, how he was asked to put his retirement plans on hold so he could lead a new team into northern Iraq. There, his team would link with the Kurds to defend the oil fields in Kirkuk against the throng of ISIS forces. Ron had seen classified horrific photos coming out of Mosul, images graphic enough to disturb him deeply for days.
The evil hoards of ISIS executed human beings in mass along their path anywhere they went, including women and children. Women were brutally raped before slaughtered like animals. Ron believed ISIS attempted to impose its brand of Islam world-wide with a devilish caliphate promoting acts of despicable violence on anybody not embracing their faith. Satan’s army, he told members of his team.
Colonel Carter had pulled Ron aside and told him about the planning mission and how Ron was specifically requested to take the team into Irbil. Ron speculated why Carter wanted him for this mission. Besides being with Carter, a Captain at the time, during operations in Afghanistan immediately following the September 11th terrorist’s attacks on US soil, he was also a key member of Carter’s team during a very successful campaign in the Anbar province of Iraq in 2006. Their team successfully diffused a volatile situation by immersing themselves amongst prominent Sunni tribal leaders and uniting them together in much the same way they did in Afghanistan against the Taliban. Ultimately, although it took time, their mission led to the establishment of peace in the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi, areas decimated by war and now recently overrun by ISIS.
Finally, around two in the morning, he lifted his feet over the edge of the bed to slip away, lumbering towards his man cave downstairs. Needing a pit stop to the adjoining bathroom along the way, Ron tripped over one of his boots causing a minor racket.
“Where are you going?” Shararah asked him in quiet voice, breaking the silence.
“I was just going to the bathroom and then maybe downstairs a bit. I can’t sleep.”
Shararah rolled over to face Ron, who sat back down at the edge of the bed. “I can’t sleep either. I’ve been thinking about what you told.”
Facing her, Ron said, “I’m sorry, princess. I didn’t mean to upset you so much. I wasn’t sure how or when I was going to tell you about Carter’s request but he wanted a decision within twenty-four hours. I know it’s quick.”
“Yes. I know. I’ve have been thinking about this too. Ron, I’m so sorry for acting a bit selfish after you told me. I think you should go.” Shararah said softly, and uncertainty in her voice that Ron detected. You need to help those people the same way you helped me.”
“Oh baby, no, no, no. I’ve decided to submit my retirement paperwork and stay here. Colonel Carter gave me a choice and told me I did not have to take this mission. I won’t leave you and the kids alone again.”
Shararah suddenly grabbed the top of his T-shirt with both hands. “Go! You must not let me stop you from helping those people. It is in your heart to help! You saved me the same way, remember? I know what it is like to be a victim of such terror.” Shararah stabbed her finger at his chest. “You know right here you must go.”
Ron tried to read the emotion behind her eyes. Shararah’s didn’t flinch as she stared right back at him. “Princess, I-I…before he could finish his sentence, Shararah tightened her grip on Ron’s shirt and whispered, “You promise to come back to me, First Sergeant Ron Hawkins. Promise me!”
“Shara, there is nothing on this planet that could keep me from coming back to the prettiest woman God created.”
Her lips spread slightly, revealing a mischievous smile. “What time do you have to go in today?” she asked, still holding Ron’s shirt in her fist.
Glancing at the glowing alarm clock by his bedside, he smiled back at her. “Not for another six hours or so. And you are off today, right?”
Shararah broke into a wide grin, and before Ron could blink, she jerked hard on his shirt, pulling him in a heap on top of her. Grabbing the back of his head with her hand, she planted her lips onto his mouth without any intention of removing them for a while.
Ron’s despondent emotional spirit quickly disappeared, replaced by an energized passion taking over his complete senses. He responded to Shararah’s spontaneous affection with full battle-rattle and renewed vigor.