I’ve been going through the entire series and pulling out some of my favorite scenes. The one I’m going to share tonight was a very hard one to write. I always love how strong Bill is. He knows right from wrong and he is a man of integrity and honor. The trouble with so many men and women like him who have fought in combat situations and who have had to leave their loved ones for extended periods of time, is that when they return and have trouble fitting back into a routine, it’s incredibly difficult. This particular scene is a moment where Bill couldn’t stop the fear and memories from settling within his chest and all of his flaws were magnified.
The best part of this chapter was the real and raw connection between Bill and Brittany. Bill had been amazing with his sister through so much and I wanted Brittany to be able to look at Bill and play the ‘big sister’ role. They both needed that.
Much of what I write for Bill is out of a deep love and respect for the men and women who give so much for our Country. I am honored to write Bill and Mike and this scene is one of my favorites.
Brittany got into her car and her phone rang. She picked it up without looking at the number. “Tommy?”
There was silence and then a surprisingly small voice came through. “Can you help me?”
Her heart dropped. “Bill? Where are you? Are you at the hospital?”
“No. I’m not sure where I am,” he looked at his hands, which were bloody.
Why are my hands bloody?
“Can you describe what’s around you?” Worry covered her face.
“Um, I should know my coordinates. I don’t remember where I was supposed to meet up,” he rubbed his forehead. “I’m not overseas. I’m so confused.”
Where is Julie? Did I hurt her?
“It’s okay. I’ll find you. Just tell me what you are looking at,” she could hear the confusion in his voice and she recognized the despair from her own experience.
“There is an Applebee’s in front of me, and a gas station on the corner,” he said.
My leg hurts and my stomach hurts. What did I do?
“Good, that’s good Bill. What are you sitting on? Is it a bench? The ground? Are there trees?”
“I’m on the ground, by a fountain,” he looked up and noticed it for the first time.
It’s pretty; there was nothing pretty in the desert. I’m not in the desert.
She knew where he was. “Don’t move. I’ll be right there.”
Something is wrong. What did I do?
“I think I did something really bad,” he said, his voice full of anguish.
She felt a wave of protectiveness wash over her as she listened to her brother. “Bill, everything is going to be okay.”
“I don’t know that I believe that,” he let the phone fall.
“Fuck,” she yelled and called him back as she drove but he didn’t answer. She was almost there.
Jack looked at Julie as she finally fell asleep. He had them give her a sedative to help her relax because her pressure was erratic. He tucked her in and checked her arm to make sure the bandage was okay. What was he supposed to do? He didn’t know where Tommy was and he didn’t know where Bill was. He was terrified that this nightmare was only beginning. He cell buzzed and he picked it up.
“Jack? It’s Brittany. Bill called me and I’m going to get him.”
“Oh thank God. What happened? Is he okay?”
“I don’t think so. He is confused and he sounds, for lack of a better word, broken. I’ll call you when I get him and I’ll try to bring him back to the hospital. If you hear from Tommy, let him know, please.”
“I think he is having a PTSD episode. He and Julie had a fight and he walked out,” he looked at his watch. “Brittany, be careful. It’s after one and I don’t like you out alone,” Jack said and Brittany smiled.
“Yes sir,” she said and he chuckled.
“You know what I mean,” he said and they hung up.
Well that was one person they found. Now to locate Tommy.
Brittany pulled up to a lot near the area Bill called from. She got out and ran across the road when she saw him sitting against the fountain. It was cold out and she hugged her sweater around her thin frame.
“Bill?” she asked as she sat down facing him. “Hey, look at me.”
He did and she felt a sense of sisterly protection come over her. She saw his bloody hands. “I’m going to fix this. You’re going to be fine,” she hugged him and he laid his head on her shoulder.
His sister was here. He had a sister and she was here. He never had family help him. He should be happy about that. What the fuck was wrong with him? He was screaming inside to snap out of this, but still, nothing.
“Can we go to the car and talk? It’s kind of chilly out here,” she said after a minute. Holding his face in her hands and looking into his eyes.
“I don’t mind the cold. It was always so hot there. I could never get cool enough,” he said.
He nodded and looked at her. “Did my wife die?” His blue eyes were almost opaque as the light from the fountain illuminated them.
She stroked his cheek. “No, she is fine and she loves you.”
What’s to love?
“You’re right. We should go in the car.”
He took her hand and they stood up, he wobbled a little on his leg. “Where is your cane?”
“I don’t know.”
Why do I have a cane?
“Okay, just put your arm around me and lean on me. Come on.”
“I was going to get drunk,” he said out of the blue. “But I don’t drink”
She couldn’t lift him unless he helped, so she let him talk.
“Why don’t you drink?”
“I don’t think I have a liver.”
And mom was a drunk. She drank to hide her shame of me, and then she would cry and dad took it out on me. I will never hit my kids.
She smiled sadly. “You have a liver, Bill. It’s working well and I am certainly glad we didn’t test it by drinking. Now let’s go. Come on, one foot first and then lean on me.”
I have John’s liver. John is dead. I killed a Navy Seal.
“I don’t feel well. I think I’m going to be sick.”
Her heart splintered at his agony. “It’s okay. If you need to be sick, go ahead.”
He took a deep breath. “No, I don’t puke on women.”
She laughed. “That’s noble of you, but I’ve been puked on before. What’s a little vomit amongst family?”
“I’m okay,” he said.
She gave him another minute and held him steady. “Okay, come on.”
He did as she asked and they wobbled towards the car.
She suddenly realized there was a group of menacing looking men in their 20’s close by, eyeing them. Jack’s words rang in her head. Bill was oblivious.
“Come on, let’s go.”
“Is he giving you any trouble?” One of the men walked in front of them, cutting them off.
“Nope, we’re fine, thank you,” Brittany smiled politely and they continued to walk.
“I think you need someone a little more suitable to you,” one of the men sneered and grabbed her arm.
It happened so fast. Brittany jumped and Bill had the guy pinned on the ground, his hand around his neck and his arm twisted and the guy was choking, his buddies were yelling for him to stop. Brittany sprang at him.
“Bill, stop, it’s okay, let him go,” she pulled at her brother, but he was fixated on this guy and stopping him.
Brittany thought for a split second and then she kicked Bill’s good knee, causing him to lose his balance and release the punk.
“Shit, you’re a crazy fucker,” the guy said to him as he struggled to breathe. “What an idiot.”
Idiot, that word again. I hate that word.
“Get away from us,” Brittany said.
“I won’t let anyone touch you,” he said softly.
She put her arm around his waist and he put his arm around her shoulders as they made their way to her car. She helped him in and they drove away from the lot and back towards his house. She just wanted to talk to him. He stared out the window. She pulled up and they made their way inside when Bill collapsed onto the couch. Brittany texted Jack where they were and then got some things to clean Bill’s hands before she sat with him.
“Bill, tell me what’s running through your mind.”
He looked at her and then sighed. “I’m fucked up.”
So fucked up.
She smiled. “I don’t think so. I think you need to sort out the feelings you have and the issues you’re facing. I think you have been carrying so much inside it has burdened you to the point that your mind has shut down,” Brittany put gloves on and took the washcloth before she held his hand and cleaned off the blood. “You can get past this.”
“I need to see my wife. I left her alone and she needed me. I walked out when she asked me to stay. I have a new daughter and I left them alone,” his face was stricken and the agony was in his voice.
“How about if you get some rest and then we will go back to the hospital. You are exhausted and your mind and body need to sleep. Jack is with Julie; she is not alone.”
Jack is a better man than me.
“I don’t know what happened. I don’t remember what I did after I left. I don’t know why my hands are cut.”
“Bill. You couldn’t hurt anyone.”
He looked into her eyes and she stilled. “I am a killer. You don’t know what I am capable of.”
“You’re not a killer. You are a soldier and a damn good one. You have been deployed twice during a brutal war and you lost people close to you. You are more than the sum of your experience overseas,” she spoke gently but firmly as she cleaned his hands. “You are my brother. You are Julie’s husband. You are David and Josie’s father. You are a friend and you are loved.”
“I’m tired,” he whispered.
She held her tears in and nodded, knowing he meant so much more than the physical feeling. “I know. Lie down and sleep. I’ll stay right here.”