Just a little bit from my novel, Missing Since Tuesday... enjoy!
The day they met at boot camp, a day that seemed a lifetime ago, Arthur and Stan had become instant friends when Stan found himself without a light and in desperate need of a cigarette to quell the burning pain in his chest caused by the unfamiliar exercise.
Arthur sat against the cold concrete wall of the barracks, breathing in the warm smoke, closing his eyes as the comforting cloud engulfed his lungs. The rest of the group had already set off in search of sleep or shower, but after a day spent with fifty sweating, grunting men, Arthur needed at least a minute to himself to collect his thoughts and take stock of the damage done to his own unused muscles.
After two glorious puffs, he opened his eyes and saw one of his comrades coming toward him, cigarette in mouth, desperately searching his pockets for matches.
As he got closer, Arthur recognized him from arrival the day before. The man’s shock of curly blonde hair that stood him apart from the rest had gone, as had Arthur’s own dark brown locks, taken at the mercy of the razor the day before.
Without a word, Arthur flicked the man his box of matches and after lighting his cigarette, the stranger flopped down beside him and they sat together smoking in companionable silence.
The man was a little younger than Arthur, perhaps by a couple of years, and through their cloud of smoke Arthur noted the naivety in his blue-green eyes.
“Tough day huh?” Arthur ventured.
After two grateful puffs, the man exhaled. “Yeah, you could say that”.
More silence as the gray cloud spread and floated into the dense bush that edged the camp and Arthur’s cigarette wore down to a stub.
He drew one last smoky breath and extended his hand to the man after he stubbed out the cigarette butt under his boot. “I’m Arthur by the way”.
The man took his hand with a strong grip well beyond his years and introduced himself. “Stanley,” he said. “But they call me Stan.”
He was about to ask who “they” were, but was interrupted by the bugle call for dinner, and they reluctantly rose, each man keeping outward composure while inside their muscles protested against any form of movement.
Tonight, half a world away in Wellington, Arthur lay in bed thinking of red high heels and copper hair, of the girl he had lost and the one he had found, and wondered how love and lust was possible when the world revolved around war and they were stuck in the middle of it.
By day they drew every ounce of strength from their bodies and held in their hands tools of destruction barely any of them had ever hoped to encounter, to practice for when they would hold the lives of foreign men in their hands. Yet, by night, their newly calloused fingers stroked the soft flesh of an earlobe and trailed down a bare arm. Lips used by day to shout and obey commands kissed lightly over gooseflesh from earlobe to collar bone to breast and whispered sweet nothings in the eager ears of the fairer sex.