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Monday Puzzler > Monday Puzzler January 23, 2017: Some Romances Are More

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message 1: by Janga (last edited Jan 23, 2017 06:39AM) (new)

Janga | 1070 comments Mod
Some romances are light-hearted fun, and some are dark and angst-filled. Some are tender and romantic, and some are sexy and sizzling. But some romances are more. They matter in significant ways. They carry an emotional punch that is too powerful to describe. Today’s puzzler is from one of those books.

All she wanted to do was help.

Standing there at Long Binh in her dress uniform, Vietnam nothing more than truck transports and dusty airstrips so far, noise and heavy heat and incredible smells. Anxious, certain. Saluting the assignments officer. Ready for whatever he gave her. The rest of the United States was swinging onto the antiwar bandwagon, but Heroine had enlisted right out of training to take part in a war.

“They were dying,” she said aloud before she realized it. Her memory still caught in that moment when she’d smiled at the news she was getting an evac hospital. She was going to the real war. “No matter what else was going on, there were too many boys dying, and I knew I could help.”

She felt Hero’s hand in her hair his breath against her, his steady, certain strength. In the darkness, it helped.

Even so, the old tears crowded her throat, the truth no one had wanted from her caught too long in darkness. “All I wanted to do was help.”

For a moment, Hero simply held her. Simply stroked her hair, as if he were the mother and she the child who had been frightened. Injured. Betrayed.

“Do you know what they called posttraumatic stress in the Civil War?” Hero asked, his voice impossibly gentle.

“What does that have to do with it?” she retorted in desperation, not wanting to hear more. Not able to give more.

“Just hear me out,” he said. “Then I’ll be finished. In Vietnam, we called it PTSD. In Korea, it was battle psychosis. In World War II, battle fatigue, and in World War I, shell shock. Do you know what they called it in the Civil War, Heroine?”

“No,” she snapped. “Tell me.”

He didn’t just tell her. He faced her with it. Lifted her in his arms until they were eye to eye in the dimness and she was forced to wash in that mystical water. “In the Civil War, Heroine,” he said so gently she wanted to cry, “they called it soldier’s heart.”

Heroine couldn’t answer. She couldn’t breathe past the sudden agony in her chest.

“I just wanted you to know,” he said gently, brushing a finger along her cheek. “I think it’s a much better name for it, don’t you?”

Tears stung her eyes and spilled over onto his chest. “Yes,” she admitted on a breath. “Yes.”

Because here in the dark, in the arms of a man she barely knew, Heroine could feel her heart tearing apart all over again where it had never really been healed. She saw again the mug she’d held in her hand that day, and how when she’d looked back down at it, a thick droplet of blood had hit the rim and trailed an obscene path down the white side and across the caduceus printed there. Over her thumb, her wrist. One drop of blood, and she could never quite clean it from her memory, like Lady Macbeth.

She’s scrubbed for years and she still saw it.

“I’m here” Hero whispered, his arms tight around her in the darkness his mouth against her hair, his heart beating so close she could almost hear it. “I’m here, Heroine.”

And for the first time in years, when Heroine sobbed someone held her.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

“A rocket hit our ward,” she said. “H_____ threw himself on me to protect me. He was killed. I held him in my arms, but he was already dead.”

“What about J____?”

She shrugged. “He died, too. He was going to die anyway. I should have known better, just like everybody said.”

Hero wrapped his arms around her so she didn’t have to feel the wind, so the gulls didn’t sound so lost. She still wept. “Just like H_____ said.”

“How old was J____, Heroine?”

“Eighteen. J_____ was eighteen. He died on his birthday.”

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Hero held her, but he couldn’t help her. He murmured to her, but she stood deaf, her body shaking with the memory of the one boy who had been too much. An eighteen-year-old who had died on his birthday, and Heroine left behind to hold her friend in her arms…Hero … just held Heroine in his arms and let his heart break. He’d seen what she’d brought with her from that old steamer trunk. …Her medals. Her service ribbons.

Hero understood. The day he’d come home from Vietnam, he’d closed up his ribbons and medals in a box and left them in the bottom drawer of his mother’s breakfront. He hadn’t worn them on his service uniform for the rest of his tour or brought them out on Veterans Day. He hadn’t even had the courage to look at them for another fifteen years.

“Now you know,” she said, her voice flat and empty.

message 2: by Manda (new)

Manda Collins (manda_collins) | 1886 comments Mod
Powerful. I'm not sure what book it is, but I have some ideas as to author.

message 3: by Dls (new)

Dls | 2066 comments Mod
Pretty sure I know both .

message 4: by Leigh-Ayn (last edited Jan 22, 2017 10:26PM) (new)

Leigh-Ayn | 1138 comments Nope. no idea.
It makes you really think what our armed forces go through. what humans are put through :(

PS there is a name in the third last paragraph...although that does not help me in the slightest

message 5: by Janga (new)

Janga | 1070 comments Mod
Leigh-Ayn wrote: "Nope. no idea.
It makes you really think what our armed forces go through. what humans are put through :(

PS there is a name in the third last paragraph...although that does not help me in the sli..."

Thanks, Leigh-Ayn, I corrected it. I checked three times and still missed that one. I hope it is my aging eyes and not my aging brain at fault.

message 6: by Irisheyes (new)

Irisheyes | 892 comments No clue. I would definitely have remembered this passage! Can't wait to find out, though.

message 7: by Cheri (new)

Cheri (cvenable16) | 136 comments Pretty sure I know this, she writes a lot about this subject, and without giving it away I believe the title is within the excerpt, but of course I won't say where :)

message 8: by Nicole (new)

Nicole (nikanne) | 222 comments Wow, this one seems very full of emotion. I know I haven't read it.

message 9: by Janga (new)

Janga | 1070 comments Mod
The puzzler is from A Soldier's Heart by Kathleen Korbel by Eileen Dreyer writing as Kathleen Korbel. She was one of the first to write about a woman with PTSD. Originally published in 1994 as Silhouette Intimate Moments #602, it was recently reissued (November 2016) by the author.

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