by: Marty Chrisman
“You did what?” Jessie exclaimed looking at Luke with a stunned expression on his face. He had to make sure that he had heard Luke correctly.
“I enlisted in the Marines.” Luke told him “I leave in three weeks for basic training.”
“How could you do something like that without at least discussing it with me first?” Jesse blustered.
“You can’t stop me, Jesse. I’m eighteen. I can make my own decisions now.” Luke said grimly. His jaw was set firmly in the same stubborn resistance that Jessie’s jaw got when he was laying down the law.
“I know that.” Jessie said in a flustered voice. He wasn’t used to Luke talking back to him and he didn’t like it. But he liked it even less that Luke had gone and joined the marines without even talking to him about it first. He sighed in resignation. It was too late to do anything about it now. “Are you sure this is what you want?”
“Yes, sir.” Luke said with more confidence then he really felt “I’m sure.”
“Alright, then I reckon the rest of us will just have to make the best of it.” Jesse said “You’re a man now, Luke and you’re gonna live with whatever decisions you make for yourself, good or bad.” Jesse paused, then added “But you’re gonna have to be the one to tell Bo that you’re leaving.” A thin little smile crossed Luke’s face. He should have known that Jesse wouldn’t let him off that easy. Luke nodded and went upstairs to have a talk with his little cousin.
Bo was sitting cross legged on his bed doing his homework when Luke came into their room. “Hi, Luke.” He said with a huge grin. Luke couldn’t help grinning back. Despite the difference in their ages, the two boys had shared everything together up until the last couple years when the difference in their ages became more noticeable as Luke began dating girls and got his driver’s license. When they were younger, Luke had even refused to hang out with the other guys unless they were willing to let Bo tag along. He knew that Bo would take his leaving home the hardest. He still didn’t completely understand why Luke had been so distant in the past couple of months since Kelly had disappeared.
“Hey, little cuz.” Luke said, rumbling his hair as he walked by Bo’s bed and sat down on his own. Bo grinned happily when Luke used his old familiar pet name for him and looked at his older cousin. Bo admired and looked up to Luke, he wanted to be just like him someday “Bo, we need to talk about something.”
Bo looked puzzled, sensing the seriousness in Luke’s voice. His eyed darkened slightly “Did I do something wrong?”
“No, nothing like that.” Luke reassured him with an easy smile. “It’s just that I needed to tell you that I’m gonna be going away for awhile.”
“For how long?” Bo asked. Luke had gone away before for the weekend to visit Aunt Pauline and once he’d been gone for a whole week when Aunt Rosalie and Uncle Jim needed some help on their farm.
“Four years.” Luke told him “I joined the marines.”
“What?” Bo cried, his bottom lip starting to quiver “What’d you go and do that for?”
“You wouldn’t understand.” Luke told him “But I’ll be back to visit, it’s not like I’m gonna be gone the whole time.”
“It might as well be.” Bo said with a pout. He glared at Luke “And I’m tired of everybody telling me I wouldn’t understand something. You’re leaving because of what happened to Kelly, aren’t you?”
Luke looked at his younger cousin in surprise. “Yeah,” Luke admitted slowly, choosing his words carefully “That’s a big part of it.”
“I liked her too, ya know.” Bo said in a childish voice “And I miss her as much as you do.”
“I know you do.” Luke said patiently. Kelly had always found the time to include Bo in a lot of her activities. And she had never been too busy to help him with his homework.
“But it was different with you and her wasn’t it?” Bo asked, surprising Luke again with how much he had really noticed and understood.
“Yeah, it was.” Luke told him, the slight huskiness in his voice the only sign to what he was feeling inside.
“That’s why you’ve been so sad, huh?” Bo said “And mad at me all the time.”
“I wasn’t mad at you.” Luke said in a surprised voice.
“It sure felt like it.” Bo told him
“I’m sorry, Bo. I never meant to make you feel that way.” When Luke said that, Bo scrambled off his bed and ran over to Luke, throwing himself in his older cousin’s arms.
“I don’t want you to go.” he said, starting to cry and burying his head against Luke’s shoulder. “Who’s gonna be here if I have a bad dream?” Bo had had nightmares frequently as a child and, since they shared the same room, Luke had been the one who had always heard him and got up in the middle of the night to comfort him. He would calm him down and then let him crawl into his bed with him until morning. If Bo got scared, cold or lonely during the night, Luke could count on Bo climbing into bed with him before morning.
“Uncle Jesse and Daisy are still gonna be here.” Luke told him, gently rubbing his back in a soothing gesture.
“Won’t be the same.” Bo said in a muffled voice
“I know.” Luke said in a quiet, soothing voice. This was harder than he thought it would be. Maybe his going away would be a good idea for Bo too. He was much too attached to Luke.
Bo straightened up and looked at his older cousin, wiping his eyes with the back of his hand. “When do you have to leave?”
“In three weeks.”
“That’s not very long.”
“No, it isn’t.”
“How long before you get to come home for a visit?”
“After I finish basic training. A month, maybe a little longer.”
“That’s still a long time.”
“I know it is.”
“Can I play your guitar while you’re gone?” Bo asked in an innocent, yet hopeful voice.
Luke couldn’t help but laugh for the first time in weeks. “Sure you can. Just don’t break any strings or you’ll have to buy new ones.” Bo grinned happily. Luke had been teaching him how to play and had even let him sing with him and Kelly a couple of times in the band they had both played with on the weekends. Luke hadn’t played with the band since Kelly disappeared; he hadn’t even picked up his guitar. “Finish your homework and then get washed up for supper.” Patting Bo on the shoulder, Luke stood up and started towards the door. He stopped and looked back over his shoulder when Bo said, “Hey, Luke?” Bo grinned “I love you.”
“I love you too, cuz.” Luke told him with a warm smile.
After supper, Luke told Daisy about joining the marines. She took the news a little bit better than Bo had but not much better. Like Bo, she shed a few tears at the thought of Luke leaving the farm.