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Cadet - 16. Cadet First Class • I

Ritch recoiled when he stepped outside the terminal. The humidity was palpable in the blast of tepid air striking him. “Fuck! If it’s this bad in May, I’d hate to be here in August.” He chuckled, realizing he had become accustomed to Colorado’s dryer, cooler weather. “I’m turning into a wimp.”

A car horn blasting the last few notes of “Shave and a Haircut” made him glance left. Waving at him, Sebastián Abelló stood by the driver’s side door of a brand new Lexus sedan. The juxtaposition of tacky blare and fancy wheels made Ritch shake his head. Although not a blood relative, Ritch considered the man his grandfather. “Hey, Abuelo.” Ritch dropped his bags in the trunk, walked around the car, and slid into the passenger seat. Sebastián was back behind the wheel, adjusting his seat belt. “Thanks for picking me up.” He leaned over and kissed Sebastián’s cheek.

“Good to see you. Piloto. How was the trip?”

Not wanting to arrive too early, Ritch had foregone his usual red-eye and caught a flight leaving Denver at 5:00 a.m. He toyed with departing from Colorado Springs, but it would have meant landing in Fort Lauderdale. Considering how much he was packing into such a short time period, he decided not to suffer through renting a car and battling I-95 traffic between the two South Florida cities.

“It was good.” The plane had landed in Miami just before noon, but considering the time zone differential, it felt like mid-morning. “I had a nice in-flight breakfast and slept most of the time. How come the grandmothers didn’t come with you?”

“Olga and Rosario are back at our place cooking. Hope you’re hungry.” Olga SantosAba to her grandchildren and most everyone elsewas his maternal grandmother. Rosario was Sebastián’s wife. From the moment Ritch’s parents died in a boating accident, she had treated him as another grandson. “And I wanted a chance to talk to you alone.”

“What’s up, Abuelo? Is everyone okay?” Ritch worried about the man and his wife. They were older than Olga and had visibly slowed down in the past couple of years.

“Yeah, everyone’s fine. It’s you we need to talk about.”

Curious, Ritch wondered what could be the issue. “Did I do something?” They had last seen each other over Christmas, and he could not recall anything in their subsequent emails and calls that could instigate a serious conversation.

“Yes.” Sebastián took a quick glance sideways and grinned. “You’ve grown up too damn fast. And now you’re ready to graduate from college.”

A relieved Ritch laughed. “Not quite yet. A year from now.”

“Close enough.” Sebastián slammed on the brakes when an old, little Toyota cut him off. “Come mierda!” Calling someone a shit eater was a common Latin insult.

“Look at the car, Abuelo. It’s so beat up, they don’t care if they get hit. You’re the one with the shiny, new one. Nice toy you got here, by the way.”

“Thanks. And that’s what I want to talk about. We need to figure out your graduation present.”

Knowing where the conversation was headed, Ritch relaxed. “I like my Cayenne, Abuelo.” Rod, Randy, and CJ had all received vehicles as college graduation presents.

“I talked to your fathers. They plan on keeping that one in Vail for family use. You’ll need a new one.”

Although they had not discussed it recently, Ritch recalled his fathers mentioning the same thing when he had bought Heinrich. “I guess… But what I really want’s way too expensive. You don’t have to buy me one.”

“Bullshit! You’re the last of my grandchildren. The others got either a car, money to buy one, or in your brother’s case, a motorcycle. They get a car, you get a car.”

“Damn! You sound like Oprah.”

Come mierda… César and I decided we would split the cost.”

“Okay, guess that could work.” Ritch grinned. He had thought maybe he would get a motorcycle like CJ had, but this was better. He would not have to spend his own money. “I better start looking for a car.”

“I don’t think you’ll have to look too hard, Piloto. At least not based on the drooling your fathers say you do whenever you see a particular one.” Sebastián chuckled. “Remember you’ll get it in May of 2024. It’ll be that year’s model. Wait until the fall when new models come out to order yours.”

 

“Aba! Abuela!” Ritch dropped the backpack inside the front door and hugged his grandmothers. A tantalizing aroma drifted towards the entry from the kitchen at the rear of the expansive living space. “Something smells great.”

Rosario pulled away from him after kissing both his cheeks. “We knew you’d want Chinese tonight, since it’s Sunday, so we decided to make Cuban food for lunch. Picadillo, white rice, black beans, and fried plantains.”

“And I made flan for dessert.” Olga glanced at her grandson, then at the bag at his feet. “Is that all your luggage?”

“Nope. One more bag, but I left it in the car.” Ritch planned to borrow Sebastián’s Lexus overnight and sleep on the pull-out couch at Olga’s one bedroom apartment.

Lunch was delicious and filling. Ritch regaled his grandparents with Academy stories before laying down for a nap. That night, they had dinner at Canton Chinese, and Ritch dropped off Sebastián and Rosario in front of their building, promising he would return the car in one piece the next day.

 

“Morning, Aba.” Ritch swung his legs over the bed’s side and decided to sit for a spell until his morning semi deflated, or his grandmother turned away.

“Good morning, Ritchie. Did you sleep well?” Olga was in the kitchen fiddling with the espresso percolator.

“I did. The sleeper’s actually comfy.” Ritch jumped away from the couch the moment he had the opportunity. He had to take a wicked piss. He urinated, splashed water on his face, and gargled mouthwash. By the time he returned to the living space, Olga had gathered the dirty linens, dropped them in a corner, and closed the bed. “I would have done that, Aba. You want me to throw the sheets in the washer?”

“No, thanks. I’ll do it later. But you can run to the bakery around the corner and get a loaf of bread. I put some money on the coffee table.”

Ritch wondered if his grandmother would ever realize he was a grown ass man. One with more money than he knew what to do with. He smirked. Particularly now, since he would not have to buy himself a car. “Really, Aba? You giving me money to buy bread? I think I can afford a couple of bucks.”

“You should save your money. You never know when you’ll have an emergency.” Olga’s thriftiness was legendary.

“Then I’ll call you and ask to borrow some.” Ritch found the flip-flops underneath the couch, slipped them and a plain white t-shirt on, and headed for the door. “Be right back.” He had slept in PT shorts.

Breakfast was scrambled eggs with chopped ham and cheese, Cuban bread toast slathered with butter, orange juice, and café con leche. A wave of nostalgia washed over Ritch. The meal was his morning favorite as a kid. So much had happened since the days he and CJ would spend nights with Aba and their deceased grandfather. Usually on a weekend, when their mother and Ritch’s father wanted a date night.

Ritch was the first to shower. Afterwards, while his grandmother took her turn, he dressed, repacked his bags, and checked emails and social media. Olga objected to him wearing shorts, a tank top, and flip-flops, so he changed into jeans, a polo shirt, and sneakers. “Not sure why you dressed up and made me change, Aba. It’s not like they’re going to object.”

Ay, Dios mío! It’s respect, mijo. I know you young people don’t think anything about running around half naked, but I mind. At least I’m not all in black and wearing a veil like my mother would have.”

The drive to Our Lady of Mercy Cemetery, on the western edge of Miami-Dade County, took longer than the half hour his phone’s GPS estimated. Olga insisted on stopping at a florist. She complained when Ritch vetoed her choice, selected a larger, more expensive bouquet, and insisted on paying.

“You’re just like your brother. Why do you two insist on spending so much money?”

“Because we can afford it, Aba.” The last part of the drive they spent in silence, with Ritch lost in thought.

Richard and Lourdes Peterson had been interred side-by-side with a double brass marker set in the ground joining their tombs. While Ritch brushed away grass clippings, Olga placed the flowers in the embedded, metal vase, filling it with water from a bottle bought at a convenience store. She crossed herself when done. “I’m going to the chapel to say a prayer and light a candle.” The structure was a few yards away. “You want to come with me?”

“You go ahead, Aba. I’ll stay here and wait for you.” Ritch sat on the grass in front of the markers and repeatedly read his parents’ names and dates of birth and death, occasionally tracing letters with a fingertip. He watched his grandmother walk away and sighed when he returned his eyes to the bronze plate.

“Hi, Mom. Hi, Dad. It’s been a while.” Ritch regretted not being able to have a conversation with his parents as an adult. Eight years after their death, he viewed them in a different light than when he had last seen them. He had not even been a teenager then.

“If you were alive today, I hope you’d be proud of me. I have a year left at the Academy, and then I hope to become an Air Force pilot. Like you, Dad.” Ritch tried to clear his throat of the growing lump. “It’s been tough at times. Even though I know Cap and Mr. A. treat me as if I was their son—scratch that. I am their son. But I still miss you.” Ritch brushed a hand over his eyes.

“Why the fuck did you have to die so young? I’m healthy, I’m wealthy, and I’m happy most of the time. But I’m an orphan. You guys weren’t there when I got my pilot’s license or learned to drive, when I went on my first date, or when I graduated from high school. It sucks, okay?

“And Dad, I’m straight, even though I ended up surrounded by gay men when I moved to Washington. There was no need to throw CJ out the way you did. I haven’t forgiven you for that. Why did you have to be such a dick?” Ritch lifted the hem of his shirt and wiped the rivulets coursing down his cheeks.

“Goddammit!” Lowering his head, he allowed the tears to fall. “I fucking miss you. I’m about to turn twenty-one, but right now I’m that scared little boy again, wondering why you had to leave me.” He once more used the shirt to wipe his face dry and sighed.

“I know you can’t hear me, but I needed to get this off my chest. As a kid, you guys could do no wrong, but I’ve come to realize you were far from perfect. I still love you and miss you, though.

“One thing I’ve learned is the dead are gone, never to return. Only the memory of them remains with those left behind. I’ll always remember you, tarnished image and all.

“Anyway, this will probably be the last time I come here. Once I start flight training, you never know what could happen. And even if nothing bad does, I think I better concentrate on the future.” Ritch stood and shook his legs to regain circulation.

He glanced at all the markers surrounding his parents. There were so many dead, buried, and often forgotten. “Bye, Mom. Bye, Dad. You’ll always be in my thoughts.”

Later that day, Sebastián dropped him off at the airport for the flight to Washington. Ritch was happy despite the mental turmoil chasing him from the cemetery. Landing at National instead of Dulles meant a shorter—and cheaper—cab ride to Georgetown. He could not wait to see his fathers, brothers, niece, and nephews.

 

“What do you mean you’re leaving Thursday?” Brett sounded disappointed. “We only have you for a handful of days?”

“I thought you’d be glad to get me out of the house, Papa. You and Dad can go back to running around naked all the time.” Ritch, sitting at the breakfast bar, smirked at his fathers. “What about you, Dad? You upset too?”

“Nope.” César sipped from his Air Force Academy coffee mug and shook his head. “Ignore Brett. You have to do what you have to do.”

“I bet you’re gonna spend all your time at CJ’s.” Brett looked miserable. It sounded as if he was choking the words out. “I fucking miss you, okay?”

Warmth suffused Ritch. What he had said at his parents’ grave, about him really being Brett and César’s son, was once again evident. He tried hard to control his own emotions. He did not want to spend the entire day sobbing. “Come to Colorado for a football game.” The fathers had done so before, and Ritch and his friends had enjoyed spending time with them afterwards.

Although no one questioned Brett’s love and pride for both his sons, there was a special affinity between him and Ritch. Part of it could be attributed to both being orphaned when their parents perished in accidents. And some of it was probably due to their military connection.

The conversation came as a wonderful surprise to Ritch. He had felt nothing but love from the men since moving in, but he was not expecting them, particularly Brett, to miss him this much. He decided to surprise them, trying to cheer them up.

“Think about the game. If you behave and don’t wear any Marine or Navy shit, maybe I’ll come home for Thanksgiving this year.” Ritch had skipped flying home for the holiday his first three years at the Academy.

After saying goodbye to his biological parents one last time, Ritch welcomed the embrace of his family. He did not bother to tell them there was another reason for his possible visit in November.

“Lighten up, Jarhead. We get him this week, maybe for Thanksgiving, and then in December again.” Leave it to César to look for bright spots. “We should think about going to Vail in January and getting in a little skiing.”

“Ummm, that might not work, Dad. At least for me. The only three-day weekend that month is MLK’s holiday. I’ll be at Falcon’s Lair with the Ski Club. Not enough room for you.”

“Jesus Fucking Christ. Now we can’t even use our own house!”

“Shut up, Jarhead. We can’t use it when it’s rented. Same shit.”

Ritch felt bad. “Listen, when I was put in charge of my squadron, I stepped down as head of the ski club. But I still get the Vagina Master.” So christened by Mitch Simmons due to the Georgia O’Keefe flower paintings in it. When he had shared the name with the family, it was greeted with laughter and knowing nods. “If you guys want to show up that weekend, you get the room. I’ll double up with one of the other guys or use a couch.” He did not want to bump someone out of the bunk room, and every sofa in the place was comfortable anyway.

Tuesday morning, after Brett and César had left for work, Ritch helped himself to a motorcycle and rode to the Capitol Hill neighborhood. Thanks to their conversation the previous evening, he knew Owen would be at work, but CJ would be home with the kids. It was a day with virtual classes he could boot up at any time, since those were pre-recorded lectures.

Ritch found the garage open, pulled the motorcycle inside, and walked into the house through the back door. “Hello!”

“Uncle Ritch!” The small blonde blur struck his legs and wrapped her arms around them.

“Hey, cutie.” He picked up his niece, threw her in the air, and smothered her with kisses. “You’re getting so big.”

She giggled, trying to squirm out of his embrace. “We’re going to the gym!”

“We are?” Ritch gave his brother a questioning look.

CJ was settling one of the twins inside the double baby carriage. “What up, bro? It’s one of my workout days.” He looked his brother up and down. “I figured you’d be in jeans if you were riding a bike. Go upstairs. I left a pair of shorts and a t-shirt on my bed. You’re coming with.”

“I am?” Ritch smirked. “The way you order people around reminds me of the Academy. You could still join up, you know.”

“No thanks! You and Papa are enough military for one family. Hurry up. My trainers are waiting.”

“Trainers?”

“Go get changed. I’ll explain on the way.”

Liebe was jumping by the side door when Ritch returned. “Let’s go!”

“Pushy for a three-year-old, ain’t she?”

CJ shook his head. “You have no idea. Good thing’s she likes the gym. You’ll see.” He pushed the carriage through and locked the door once Ritch and Liebe joined him and the twins.

“So where we going?” Ritch held Liebe’s hand as she skipped down 11th Street.

“Riley’s. It’s a ten-minute walk.”

“That’s the football player, right?”

“Yeah… He and Phil were amongst the first ones to reach out last year after Ozzie and I returned. When they found out I was gonna be Mr. Mom, they invited me to work out with them during the off season. They actually enjoy having the kids around.”

Riley Knight and Phil Martinez had been selected respectively by Washington and Baltimore in the National Football League’s 2020 draft. CJ and Owen had met them at a fundraising event the following year. Riley had recently bought a house in the same Capitol Hill neighborhood as Everhope and ended up hiring Third Line Development to rehab it.

The two football players had met in Miami after a bowl game, became a couple, and came out immediately after being picked in the draft. The first openly gay National Football League players had since become media darlings and latched on to CJ and Owen as friends after meeting.

“Hey, Ritch. Your brother said you’d be joining us this morning.” Phil, the mountain of a man who opened the door, offered a fist bump. He squatted and still towered over Liebe. “How’s my favorite girl?”

Liebe let go of Ritch’s hand and wrapped her arms around the football player’s neck. “Good, Uncle Phil. Can we go to the basement?”

Phil stood and motioned them inside. “Ready to get busy, I see. Come on down, guys. Riley’s already downstairs.” He grabbed the front of the carriage. “I keep telling Riley we should have installed an elevator like you have at your place.”

The basement was unlike the one at the fathers’ place in Georgetown, with its emphasis on casual entertainment. Or like the one at Everhope with a wine room taking up half the space. Riley and Phil’s had been turned into a fancy athletic facility. Mirrored walls and exercise equipment dominated the space.

“Wow! This is amazing.” Ritch decided if he lived in Washington, he would rather use their place than a commercial gym.

“Welcome to our home.” Riley had been stretching when they stepped onto the padded floor. “Hope you’re ready to sweat.” He smiled at Ritch while shaking hands.

Two hours later, Ritch was indeed soaked and ready to wring his shirt out. He also knew his muscles would scream by the second day. Still, he agreed to return daily while he was in town. Back at Everhope, the brothers took turns showering. Ritch helped feed the kids, and he and CJ sat down to lunch after putting them down for a nap.

Ritch scrolled through the pictures on his phone, while CJ chopped chicken breast for the spinach, strawberries, and pecans salad. Ritch chuckled when he looked at the one with Riley and Phil flanking him, all three sweaty and flexing their biceps.

“What’s so funny?” CJ asked, looking up from the cutting board.

“The picture you took of me with the guys. Joel’s gonna be sooo jealous. He’ll drool over those two mountains.”

“You like having him as a roommate?”

“Yeah… He’s a good guy. And he’s gonna make a great officer.”

CJ tossed the chunks of meat onto the bowls. “Have I told you how proud Ozzie and I are of you?”

Ritch had no idea where that was coming from. “What about? I ain’t done shit but go to school. Wait ’til I’m flying jets to be proud of me.”

“You’re such a shithead. It isn’t even about you doing well at the Academy and the promotions. It’s about how you treat others. Particularly Joel.” CJ reached into a drawer for cutlery and dropped a fork in a bowl before pushing it towards his brother. “Some people wouldn’t feel comfortable speaking up for or living with an openly gay man.”

“Bro, really? How the hell else would I act after growing up with you, Ozzie, our dads, and all our friends?” Ritch often counted himself lucky; coming to live in Washington after his parents died had worked out for the best. “This is good. What’s the dressing?”

“Extra virgin olive oil, white-wine vinegar, strawberries, fresh tarragon, salt and pepper. I made a batch over the weekend, and this is the last of it.” CJ stared at his brother, not yet bothering to eat. “I’m still proud of you, shithead.”

Ritch shrugged and returned his attention to the food. They ate in silence for a couple of minutes.

“You ready for Boston?” CJ was aware of the reason for his brother’s trip.

“Ready as I’ll ever be.” Ritch grabbed the potato chips bag and dumped a couple of handfuls on his placemat. “I’m nervous, CJ. I just hope it works out.”

“It will. I have faith you won’t screw it up. I mean, she did invite you, right?”

By the time he boarded the shuttle on Thursday evening, the nerves were at their peak, and his body ached in places he had no idea had muscles. Working out with two NFL players was very different than doing it under the supervision of a boxing coach or on his own. He looked forward to repeating the experience next time he was in Washington.

Although he and Lucy were not supposed to meet until lunchtime on Friday, Ritch had flown in ahead of schedule. He did not want to risk anything preventing him from being at the hotel at the appointed time.

Overlooking the meandering Charles River, the Hyatt Regency Cambridge was steps away from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a short Uber ride from Fenway Park. Their destination for the afternoon.

“How did you get such great tickets?” Ritch, laden with food and drinks, allowed Lucy to enter their row first.

“My boss. Even though I don’t start work until Monday, when I mentioned a friend was coming into town who’d be interested in catching a Sox game, he offered me two of the company’s season tickets.” Somewhere between home plate and first base, the seats provided a great view of the Green Monster in left field.

“They must really like you!” Ritch had heard about the company, part of the high-tech businesses scattered around Route 128, during their spring break conversation.

Lucy chuckled. “You could say that. I haven’t told my family yet, but they just offered me a fulltime job when I graduate.”

“Congratulations! Are you accepting it?” Ritch would be stationed wherever the Air Force wanted, so if he and Lucy decided to try and reconcile, it did not matter where she ended up working.

“Nah. I told them I want to get a masters first, and then we could talk.” She took a bite of her hot dog and chased it with a sip of soft drink. Since neither would turn twenty-one until July, Ritch had declined the concession attendant’s offer of a beer. Lucy had also ordered a Coke. “And anyway, they have a satellite facility in the Dulles corridor, so I could move back to D.C.”

“Don’t a lot of the tech companies allow you to work remotely?”

“Yep. Telecommuting’s more popular every day. I could probably live wherever I wanted.”

Ritch stored that nugget in the back of his mind. They worked their way through the dogs, fries, and sodas even before the first pitch. Lucy was not the bottomless pit her brother, Harley, was, but she could put the food away. When she excused herself to go to the bathroom at the end of the third inning, Ritch was surprised to see her return with a funnel cake.

“Feel like walking a bit?” Lucy asked him as they exited the stadium after the game ended.

“Sure. Where are we going?” After three hours sitting, Ritch was ready to really stretch.

“Boston Common. It’ll take about an hour, but I think you’ll enjoy it. And I want to take you to dinner near there.”

Ritch knew better than to decline the invitation. Lucy Wilkinson was a bright, independent woman, and if she wanted to buy him dinner, he was not going to argue with her.

The stroll along the Charles River esplanade was beautiful, the ride on the Boston Common carousel was childish and fun, and the lobster roll at Luke’s Lobster Downtown was delicious.

Stuffed once again, they decided to walk back to MIT. In the darkness of the new moon, the Charles sparkled with reflected bright pinpoints from street lights and buildings. When they stopped at the halfway point, the skyline view was magnificent.

“I’m sorry for what happened at the end of high school.” Ritch blamed the unwanted pregnancy and its termination for their breakup.

“Don’t. It happened, and we were both equally responsible.” She turned and leaned her back against the railing. “You did everything right at the time, Ritch. It wasn’t something I would have chosen to confront, but it was good you stood by me.”

“I had to. I couldn’t just walk away…”

“And that made me appreciate you that much more. Look, it’s been three years. I’ve dealt with it, and it shouldn’t be something that keeps us apart.” She looked down at the sidewalk and sighed. “Guess I’ve missed you.”

Was that a shooting star streaking across the sky? Ritch decided whatever it was, he would follow silly customs and make a wish. His visit was an attempt to reconnect with Lucy, and it sounded as if she was just as interested.

On the edge of campus, Ritch watched her climb in a cab. He kept a hand on the cheek she had kissed, while telling him to be ready early the next day. He smiled the rest of the way to the hotel.

The following morning, Ritch met Lucy, a classmate of hers, and the woman’s boyfriend for a doubles tennis game. He had barely played since entering the Academy, and it showed. His serve sucked. In the afternoon, they went for a motorcycle ride with Ritch riding bitch. Lucy, like her father and brother, loved her Harley. That night, they had dinner at Meadhall, a gastropub on MIT’s campus.

They lingered outside while waiting for her Uber. “I’m glad you came for a visit.”

“So am I, Lucy. Are you going home for Thanksgiving?”

“Of course! Mom wouldn’t forgive me otherwise. Why do you ask?”

“I, ahhh… I haven’t flown back for it the past three years, but I will if I get to spend a little time with you.”

“Why, Mr. Peterson. Are you asking me out?” Her coquettish smile made him chuckle.

“I am, ma’am. I’ll check flights tonight. I could fly in Wednesday and leave on Sunday morning. How about dinner Saturday night?” Ritch crossed his fingers behind his back.

“It’s a date. But I’ll probably see you before then. My brother’s gonna want to hang out with yours and their crew. I’ll tag along.”

The goodbye kiss was anything but chaste. Ritch nearly skipped on his way back to the hotel.

 

“That one’s mine.” Ritch nodded at the big, blond bruiser, stepping off the bus. “Just the way Joel likes them: big and blond.”

“You forgot dumb and full of cum.” Joel Boxworth, Ritch’s fellow firstie and roommate, slightly lowered his sunglasses and softly whistled. “That booty was made to be fucked. By me.”

“Ewww! Boxworth! That’s disgusting.” Mitch Simmons, in the same class and squadron as his companions, shook his head. “That’s no way to refer to the fresh meat. Ummm, I mean basics. Yeah, basics.”

“Not to mention sexist to the point it borders on sexual misconduct.” Ritch vividly remembered Miranda Kerr’s tongue lashing a couple of years before and the lesson learned at the time.

The three men stood together, watching a new class arrive at the Academy on the last Thursday in June. Ritch, in charge of the Dirty Dozen, had chosen the two to stand by him. Each squadron was assigned a group of incoming enrollees, and this was the Dirty Dozen’s. Although not required to participate in this segment of Basic Cadet Training, there was no way Ritch would pass up the opportunity to mess with the basics.

Yelling, intimidating, putting the fear of god into innocent kids was acceptable and encouraged on this day. State sanctioned bullying with a purpose. Breaking basics down would allow the Air Force to rebuild them into officers. Ritch was not a hundred percent sure he bought into it: it smelled of bullshit. But better he and people he trusted do it than some sadistic jerk who could get carried away. The military was not immune to incompetent individuals in the ranks. And if he was being honest, he had to admit it was fun. In a twisted kind of way.

Ritch nudged Simmons. “Remember meeting this day three years ago?”

“You two hooked up on I-day?” Boxworth had not interacted with either until winter two years later.

“Yeah… Before we even walked in. We were climbing the steps. I was behind Peterson and made a comment about the hoodie he was wearing.” Simmons smirked. “We traded intros and a few words, and I was in awe. Here I was, a hick from Texas whose claim to fame was a decent high school football career, and I meet a hot shot who lives in the nation’s capital and was already a pilot. Mind blown.”

Ritch stared ahead and refused to laugh. “I’m still a hot shot, and you’re still a hick. But you show promise.”

“Fuck you, sir.”

Other cadre members led the disembarking basics to the painted footsteps; it was show time. As if rehearsed in advance, Ritch, Simmons, and Boxworth adjusted their berets, pushed their sunglasses up the bridge of their noses, and tugged the edges of their white gloves.

Ritch stood a bit straighter as he gave his first order of the day. “Gentlemen, let’s go meet us some basics.”

The response was simultaneous. “Yes, sir!”

Copyright © 2021 Carlos Hazday; All Rights Reserved.
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My thanks to Mann Ramblings, Parker Owens, and WolfM for their assistance. The story is better that it would have been without their assistance.

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Welcome to the discussion thread for CJ’s series. All things CJ are fair game, I simply ask you be respectful of others. I will actively participate in the discussion. Ask questions, speculate about what’s coming, or bitch about what happened. We’re now open for business!    

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3 minutes ago, Carlos Hazday said:

Glad the graveside moment worked. I don't particularly enjoy writing that type of scene.

I just read an article this morning reporting an increase in STI infections within the military. The rate's higher than in the civilian population. At least Ritch's been careful and worn condoms!

Well if he hadn't, with the number of women he's slept with there would be an awful lot baby Ritch's.

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59 minutes ago, Carlos Hazday said:

Thank you!

This was a little difficult to write, except for the last scene which was just plain fun. I wanted Ritch to confront his past and take stock of his life before the start of his last year at the Academy. It's hard to move forward and excel while dragging heavy baggage. Reaching a sense of peace about his parents' death, realizing how good he has it and how much love he gets from his family, and starting on the road to reconciliation with Lucy, should serve him well.

Your intent was very well served.

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3 hours ago, Carlos Hazday said:

Glad the graveside moment worked. I don't particularly enjoy writing that type of scene.

Well, I, for one, think it was tremendously well done, sir.  

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2 hours ago, Clancy59 said:

Well, I, for one, think it was tremendously well done, sir.  

Thank you! I've often said even though I write feel-good stories, a little rain must fall on my characters now and then to help them grow.

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2 hours ago, FrankGC said:

Powerful chapter, especially the graveside! I am still working on my impatience, waiting for the next chapter! Damn, your a good writer!

Thank you, Frank. My goal's to improve with each book. I've been cleaning typos and punctuation in the original story, and I can see the difference. I'm not changing much since I like readers to see the characters and the author evolving together.

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2 hours ago, Wesley8890 said:

Get your girl Richie!!!!

Let's just hope there won't be any kids for a while this time around. :P
 

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2 hours ago, Carlos Hazday said:

Thanks, Theo. This was meant to be a turning point, peace with the past, acknowledgement of the present, and hope for the future. Because his birthday falls on a Wednesday, The Wing will FORCE him to celebrate that day and again over the weekend. Coming up next week.

Shirley Temples all around ...

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WolfM

Posted (edited)

Great chapter. The scene at the cemetery wonderful. A final goodbye he never really got to say before. It's also nice seeing him send time with Lucy. Ritch is growing up so fast.

Edited by WolfM
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12 minutes ago, WolfM said:

Great chapter. The scene at the cemetery wonderful. A final goodbye he never really got to day before. It's also nice seeing him send time with Lucy. Ritch is growing up so fast.

Kids... they grow up so fast these days.

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This is a beautiful chapter. Like Ritch, I sometimes speak to my parents who have passed on. Reconnecting with Lucy made me smile, but so did the circle back to I-day when Ritch wears the beret. 

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Great chapter, Carlos. You nailed the cemetery scene, the need to mourn our past so we're able to move fully forward.

You also nailed the lunch with CJ. We often discount our best qualities, and how much those contribute to others, because we only value what we had to put a lot of effort into achieving.

It was a very happy surprise to see Riley & Phil again. I hope they keep popping up in future stories, maybe even a spinoff?? BTW, you forgot to include the link to that photo of Ritch, Riley & Phil -- please rectify that oversight ASAP.

 

 

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Ritch the super stud Lothario is nervous and almost shy around Lucy!!! 

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