Not long after my arrival at my duty station in Virginia Beach, I got word from Andy that he bought a bus ticket to move from Arkansas to live with me. I began to panic knowing that I was not a high enough rank to move off base but I was estatic for him to come out. He was slated to arrive the Saturday after Valentine’s day to start our life together.
In the few weeks since my arrival I had mostly been working and when I was off, drinking and playing cards with friends. I had distanced myself from my A-school friends after Stephanie’s rape and mostly stuck with people from my own command. I made friends realitively easily and enjoyed spending time with them off base. We discovered a Purple Cow, one of my favorite places in Arkansas to get purple shakes, hit up Rick’s cafe for dinner when we got off work early in the mornings, and other local favorites.
The day finally arrived for Andy to leave and I was met with a mixture of excitement and anxiety, I still had no idea where we would live. I asked a friend how to get the bus station and made my way to get my love. I was not used to access roads in the area and when I got off the main road to enter the access road my left front tire hit the curb and immediately went flat as I entered the parking lot of the bus station.
Humiliated, I quickly gave Andy a hug and then proceeded to start changing my tire as he had never driven or owned a car. I got the spare on and we made our way to find a room for the night. We found a cheap hotel and checked in for the evening but I knew I would not be able to afford hotels every night on my lowly E-3 salary so the next day we set out apartment hunting. We were quickly discouraged to find even the cheapest apartment we could find would not rent to us on my salary.
I knew it would be hard for Andy to find employment I could easily get him to and from with my work schedule. He attempted to look for work, but we honestly did not put tons of effort into it. After a few weeks, Andy had finally landed a job at the base McDonald’s. He lasted about a day and gave up after no training was provided. I was running out of funds to stay in hotels and had began sneaking him onto base to stay in my room when I was at work and then him letting me in when I returned.
We began to argue over his lack of employment and our unsuccessful apartment hunting. One morning I had to report to work early for a safety stand down. I left Andy in my barracks room and reported to muster at my command. Upon completion of training I returned to the command for work for the evening. That night we were supposed to stay at my friend’s home off base and my buddy went to pick Andy up before I got off work. When he arrived at my room a note was hanging on the door.
My buddy grabbed the note and then entered my room with my the aid of my roommate. Andy was not in my private half of the room. My friend returned to work to give me the note and to tell me the news. Once he gave it to me all it said was that I needed to report to the Barracks Petty Officer ASAP as my heart sank in my chest. We had been caught! I started to panic as I thought of my master chief finding out and already saw the disapproval on my superiors faces.
I left work and went down to the beach to one of the last hotels we stayed in hoping to find Andy because he didn’t have a cell phone. I drove from hotel to hotel and finally found him. I knew our time was drawing to a close and we plotted our next move. Sadly the only option was to take him to Massachusetts to live with his parents until I could move off base.
We spent our last night together and the following day, after I was released from work, we drove to Massachusetts. We drove throughout the night and arrived sometime the next afternoon at his parents apartment; a one bedroom. We were there maybe twenty minutes before his dad whisked us away in his car and towards Boston to visit some friends. I was amazed by the sights of the city and instantly fell in love with the people and sounds of their accents.
Once we arrived at Andy’s father’s friends home, I almost immediately fell asleep. I couldn’t hold my eyes open anymore and after what seemed like forever, we finally headed back to their apartment. It was good to see Lura, Andy’s mom, and to see that he at least had a roof over his head while I would be away on my upcoming deployment. We spent our last evening in each other’s arms snuggled on the tiny couch that would become his bed.
We woke the next day and spent as much time as we could with one another before I had to head back to Virginia to get back to work. I had already snuck away to Massachusetts for the weekend to take him there and would be cutting a thin line when I returned for having an unsupervised visitor in my barracks room. We ate a final meal together and said a tearful goodbye outside his parents apartment.
The drive seemed so long without Andy and I could not wait to climb into my rack and sleep. I drove for hours throughout the night as I counted down the states by the boarders I passed. I accidentally ran through a toll booth in Delaware, but was unaware at the time a ticket would be mailed to my step father. I finally made it back to base with no other incidents and crashed into my rack upon entry of the door to my room to catch a few hours sleep before had to muster for my shift on night check. I was not aware then, but Andy had given me an unexpected Valentine’s gift the night of his arrival and it had just began to make its presence known.