“Rachel, Rachel, Rachel. How many times have I told you that you have to actually touch the fish before you can clean them?” Richard shook his head in despair. Why in the world is she scared of the fish? They’re dead!
“I can’t do it, Richard! This was your idea not mine!” Rachel wailed.
“Fine, fine. I’ll do it.” he took the fish and sliced it open.
“I’m sorry, Richard. I did want to make your favorite supper tonight. I mean, your first night home and all.”
Richard smiled, “It’s alright, Rachel. You can still make the meal only I’ll clean the fish for you. I mean, I wouldn't want to ruin the supper you had planned,” he winked at her.
“Oh, Richard. I’m so glad your home. I missed you so much!” she laid her head on his shoulder as he continued gutting the fish.
He bent down and kissed the top of her head, “I missed you too. But I’m home now and we can have a full three weeks of fun!”
“Richard, you won’t be called back or anything, will you?”
Richard shook his head, “I don’t think so.”
“There’s been a lot of talk about what’s going on in Vietnam. Do you think the U.S will join in the war?”
Richard set down the last of the fish skinned and cleaned, “Well, I’m not sure. I know there has been talk of U.S. troops being sent to Vietnam. But I don’t think it’ll be anytime soon.” He gave her a reassuring smile.
“Good, I don’t want you off at war somewhere where I’ll never know where you are or if you’re safe or not.”
He laughed, “Don’t worry. Even if I did get sent over there I wouldn’t dare die without your permission.”
“Richard! It’s not funny! Do you know how many people have been killed when they’re sent overseas?”
“Settle down, sis. I was only teasing.”
Rachel’s eyes filled with tears, “I worry about you, Richard.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, Rachel,” he wrapped his arms around her, “I didn’t mean to upset you.”
Rachel shook her head,”It’s okay. I knew you were only teasing, it’s just I worry about you so much.”
“Hey, it’s alright. By the way, Is that a new dress you’re wearing? When you picked me up at the airport I noticed it wasn’t one I had seen before.”
Rachel smiled, “Yes, it is. But I have to say I almost didn’t recognize you in your uniform.” she reached up and brushed his brown hair out of his eyes, “You’re so handsome.”
“Awww, no more of that, Rachel. There’s only so many compliments a brother can take. Oh, where are mom and dad?”
“They asked me to pick you up because they wanted to go to the store and pick up your favorite dessert.”
“You guessed it! Mom wanted you’re homecoming to be perfect.”
Before Richard could answer, the doorbell rang.
“I’ll get it.” Rachel squirmed out of her brother’s arms and hurried toward the front door.
“I’ve got a telegram here for Richard Smith.” the carried handed her the small envelope.
“Thank you. I’m his sister and I’ll be sure and give it to him.” she reached into her pocket and gave him the required sum. He thanked her and left, Rachel closed the door behind him.
“Richard. Telegram for you.”
Richard sauntered into the living room, “Well, let’s see who’d think me important enough to send me a telegram.” he grinned as he took the envelope from her and opened it. As his eyes scanned the few sentences written on the paper, his face became grim.
“Richard? What is it?”
Richard looked up and his eyes met hers. How can I tell her? She was so excited about my coming back. . . he shook his head to clear his thoughts and silently handed her the paper.
Her eyes scanned the two, scant sentences and she let the paper slowly fall to the ground as she covered her mouth with her hand.
The telegram read You’ve been ordered to report back to base stop Troops being sent to Vietnam at the order of the president stop.“I’ll need to leave in the morning,” he announced before abruptly turning and walking to his room. He couldn't bear the look on Rachel’s face. Why, God? Why did it have to be me?