I went and received my new orders. I was assigned to a different ship. I held my breath as Billy got his orders. His eyes were wet with tears, “Colin, I have been assigned to the Atlantic fleet.”
I smiled, “So am I. Let’s see what ship we’ ll be on.” I felt better, we may not be on the same ship but we’d be in the same waters.
I was packing my duffle bags, now I had two, when the new Lieutenant Commander came into the cabin. “Which ship is your assignment Midshipman?”
“I have been assigned to the Atlantic fleet, Sir. I don’t have the ship’s name, Sir. I expect I’ll be told when I join the fleet, Sir.”
He just smiled and I had the feeling he already knew which ship would be my assignment.
Billy and I debark from the ship which had been our home for the last 6 years. The Admiralty had made arrangements for those who were assigned to the Atlantic fleet to travel overland by one of the super fast trains. Unlike the trains of the past, these trains traveled through tunnels at super speeds. We arrived on the East coast in two hours. Departing from the train, we were met by an officer and escorted to a high speed vehicle that traveled on an elevated rail. Within 4 hours, after leaving our ship on the West coast, we were ready to board our new ship.
Billy looked at me as he realized we have been assigned to the same ship. “Are you just going to look or get on board.”
I turned, it was Lieutenant Commander Benton. “You knew we’d be assigned to the same ship, Sir.”
“Of course, I wasn’t about to let you go and where you go Billy, has to go as well. Let’s get on board.”
“Yes, Sir” I laughed as Billy and I said that at the same time.
Boarding the ship was always exciting for me. Billy and I had a berth in same area. We shared the area with others of the same grade. We had just settled in when the Captain called general quarters.
Billy and I followed the others from our quarters. The Captain welcomed those of us who just joined the ship. We were given the rest of the day off to get our new uniforms. “You need to be back on ship ready for departureby 0600 hours.”
“Where do we go to get our new uniforms?”
“I don’t know, maybe one of our shipmates know.”
As it turned out we didn’t have to look far. On the dock was a clothier who took our measurements, then proceeded to give us three uniforms each. He said he was paid by the Admiralty, if we wanted more, we’d have to pay for them.
Billy and I thought three would be enough and if they weren’t, we could order them from the supply ships.
Billy was happy, I was happy. We were assigned to the same ship, I knew that this wasn’t normal and I was sure Lieutenant Commander Benton was involved. ”
Our ship sailed at 0630 hours.After supper we were given our assignments. I was assigned to the radio room whereas Billy was assigned to Engineering. We were told to report to our assigned areas by 0600 the next morning. I looked at Billy, he smiled knowing we’d be together for the next three years, at least.
We celebrated Billy’s 20th birthday and then my 22nd birthday. It didn’t seemed that long since I first enlisted. Between studying and working, time slips by, I was promoted to Junior Grade Lieutenant as well as Billy. He excelled in Engineering and they pushed for his promotion. I was glad for him but I knew we’d eventually be separated.
The Atlantic Ocean was not as large as the Pacific, for that reason there weren’t that many ships patrolling the seas. Where we would see, on occasion, another ship off the Western Coast, we hardly saw any ships off the Eastern Coast, except supply ships, once every 6 months as normal.
I continue sending letters home, I was concerned my dad wasn’t feeling well so I was anxious for the mail. I had to wait 2 more months for the supply ship. When I did receive news from home, mom told me dad had to retire and without the stress of his job, he was doing much better. I replied and told mom if they needed anything to let me know.
The next letters I received, mom said dad was feeling a lot better. “He seems to be enjoying his time off and we have been doing things we kept putting off because of his work.”
I smiled with relief, as well as knowing that they were enjoying themselves.
We were on that ship for two cycles. During that time, I was promoted to Lieutenant as was Billy. I knew that we’d be separated the next time we were in port. Lieutenant Commander Benton was promoted to Commander, I knew he’d probably be reassigned as well. No ship ever had two Commanders.
At the end of 6 years, we were headed to port for major repairs, installation of new equipment and a general over haul. We’d be in port for a minimum of 6 months. As soon as my parents found out that we would be in port, they were there to meet us.
Of course, mom had to take pictures of us in are new uniforms. As we were embracing, I realized how they have aged, I have aged as well. I had no brothers or sisters, I was it. I felt the burden of potentially having to care for my folks. But for now, I’d just enjoy the next 6 months with them.
Our orders were to return to our ship in 6 months unless we receive different orders, but for now we were on leave. We took the train back to my home. It has been several years since I was home and at first it felt strange. Billy was enjoying going through my room looking at all the pictures, my books, my tapes, “Do you think you could fit into these old clothes?”
I laughed, there was no way I could ever wear those clothes again. “We have to go shopping, we can’t continue to wear our uniforms.”
I told mom that Billy and I were going shopping for some new clothes. Ofcourse, she wanted to go along, Billy said yes before I could say anything. He didn’t know what he was in for.
Shopping with mom is a trip all in itself, first there was the issue of costing too much, then the colors weren’t right, we won’t talk about the design of the clothes. This was the wrong color for our hair or complexion, this was too tight or too short, on and on it went. We did get our shopping done by dividing up, I went with mom while Billy shopped and then Billy showed her what he bought while I went shopping.
I enjoyed the 6 month leave especially being with Billy. We broke new ground in our relationship which would make it difficult to be around each other on the ship. We’ll need to be very careful, I know it wouldn’t matter, but we must make sure it didn’t interfere with our duties.
One week before our leave was up we received information that we had to report to our boat at 0600 in three days. “i guess our leave is over so let’s make the next few days count.