Chapter Fourteen

Home Sweet Home

We’re on our way home.  Nine and one-half months gone.  I can’t wait to get back to the States.

Bob knew he had channel fever. He felt the excitement of being on the ship as they approached their destination. He pictured the pier lined with people waving American flags, a band playing, and all our loved ones looking over each sailor to find their friend or relative.  It always was exciting to “go home”.

 I can taste my mama’s country ham with her biscuits and red-eye gravy.   I can smell it right now,  Bubba thought. Bubba knew that he was still too far from home and couldn’t afford to fly back to see his folks. Still, the vision of mama’s cooking remained in his thoughts.

But he had one other thing on his mind – seeing Jenna again.  Just the thought of her smell made his body tingle.  Yes, she was married – for now.

“The first thing I want is a nice cold pitcher of beer and a pizza,” said Bob. Just the thought of being back home was overpowering. Bob wanted his feet to touch land – his country, the United States.

H-O-M-E.  What a wonderful word.  The feelings were overwhelming.

When the ship docked at the pier, Bubba looked at all the faces greeting their loved ones. He searched for Jenna but could not find her in the crowd.

“Hi Bubba”, came a voice from the crowd.  It was Jenna.

It’s great to see you again.”

“Have you seen Brad?  I can’t seem to find him.”

Bubba knew Brad was still down in sonar.  He couldn’t understand why he wasn’t rushing up to greet Jenna, take her in his arms and kiss her.  What the heck was the matter with Brad?

If I were Brad, I’d be down on the pier with Jenna and the two children in my arms.  I’d be telling her how much I loved her and thanking her for doing so much in my absence. How could he just throw her aside and put his job first?

I know If Jenna was my wife, there would be no way I’d leave her alone for nine and one-half months, no way at all. Was Brad that dumb that he didn’t recognize what a wonderful woman Jenna was?

Bubba remembered the day Jenna was talking to him about her marriage.  He recalled the conversation Jenna had with him and he just shrugged his shoulders.

“Bubba, Brad told me I’d never been first in his life. I thought he was joking, but after ten years of marriage, I realize he wasn’t joking at all.  I asked him, who was first?  He told me the ship would always be first in his life.  To this day, he’s been true to his word.”

Jenna moved on looking for Brad.

Bubba put Jenna out of his mind and joined Bob walking to downtown San Diego.  As they approached the entrance from the Naval Base to thirty-second street, they were shocked by what they saw.

What the hell is this?  What is going on?  Have they all gone crazy?”

Protestors lined the entrance to the base screaming, “Warmongers, child killers and murderers.”

The homecoming reception would be marred by protestors who felt the war was unjustified.  Instead of a hero’s welcome, the Mathers came home to a country divided.  Outside of the base, awaited a different world.  The protestors stepped on American flags, started fires in the middle of the street and most of all rejected anyone in uniform.

This was not the way we left this country.  What happened?

The crew of the USS Mathers was protected from the mob scenes taking place all over the country. They didn’t experience the diverse opinions and the hatred for the war being exhibited now off the Naval Base.

Bob and Bubba decided it was safer to hail a cab to go downtown.  It wasn’t safe to walk the streets wearing your uniform anymore and they didn’t want any trouble.

The cab driver dropped them off at one of their favorite downtown bars. It hadn’t changed. It was full of sailors, smoke, beer and of course, girls.  After about three beers, Bubba started to feel the effects of alcohol.  He decided to go outside to get some fresh air.  As he exited the bar, he saw Jenna driving by.

“Jenna, what the heck are you doing downtown at this hour?  Are you okay?”

She pulled over and just put her head in her hands and started to cry.

“Jenna, please don’t cry.  Talk to me.”

“Brad didn’t come home with me.  He said he had the duty tonight.  What I found out was that he volunteered to stand watch tonight for another sailor. He did not want to come home to me and the kids.”

Bubba jumped into Jenna’s car and tried to console her.  He knew what she was saying was the truth, but he didn’t want to tell her he knew.

Bubba had an overpowering urge to kiss her.  He questioned if he had the nerve to do it.  After three beers and the wonderful smell of Jenna, his question was answered.  He reached over to kiss Jenna.

“What are you doing?  Bubba don’t.”

“Jenna, I can’t help it.  I’ve thought about you for the past nine and one-half months. You are just the girl I’ve been looking for all my life.”

“But I’m married, Bubba.”

He could see her hands trembling and he knew she was attracted to him.  He decided right then and there to get closer to her.  He took her in his arms, and he began to kiss her on the neck.

She stiffened thinking of her marriage vows, but she was overcome by his touch.  She thought about Brad and how he didn’t appreciate her. She was caught up in the gentle touch of Bubba and how he looked at her lovingly. Brad wouldn’t even come home to her tonight. She was so lonely.

“Where are the kids?” asked Bubba.

“My mother took them over to her house for the night so Brad and I could have some private time alone. That didn’t work out, did it?”

“It gives us some time alone if that’s what you want.”  Bubba was hoping the answer would be “yes”.

Jenna looked at Bubba and said, “I’ve never done anything like this before. I’m a little nervous.

“You deserve to have someone who really loves you, Jenna.  I really love you.”

Jenna looked into Bubba’s eyes and she couldn’t say no.  She was too vulnerable.

They drove back to her apartment.  She was so nervous yet so anxious.  The look in Bubba’s eyes made her want to say “yes”.  Everything felt so right as if it were meant to be.  This was a night she would never forget.

  Ring, ring, ring, it was the telephone.  Both Jenna and Bubba were startled by the loud noise.  Jenna answered the phone. It was Brad.

“Oh my God, he wants me to come and pick him up at the ship.  It’s 4:30 a.m.  We need to get this place straightened so I can go down and pick him up.”

They quickly straightened the apartment.  Jenna got the car out of the garage and told Bubba she’d drop him off at the base gate.

“Please don’t say a word to anyone about tonight, please.”

“Jenna, don’t worry, this is our secret.  I won’t tell anyone, I promise you.” He gave her a kiss as he exited the car.  She was on her way to pick up Brad.

She drove down to the pier. She could see Brad standing at the pier pacing up and down. She slowed down and stopped right in front of Brad.

Brad opened the door and slid in the passenger’s seat.

“Long time no see, babe.” Brad didn’t even bother to kiss or hug Jenna. Jenna noticed how withdrawn he was but didn’t say anything.

“I’m so glad your back.  It’s been a long, hard nine and one-half months.”

“Goddammit, there you go.  I’m not even home for five minutes and your complaining.  Do you know how to do anything else?”

Jenna’s mouth dropped open and she couldn’t believe her ears

He’s not even been home yet and he’s criticizing me.  What’s the matter with him?

It seemed no matter what Jenna did for Brad it wasn’t enough. He didn’t mind showing her how displeased he was with her. She continued to wonder why.

Tears came to Jenna’s eyes as she listened to Brad belittle her.

“I waited for all this time for this shit,” she thought to herself.  He isn’t the same man I married ten years ago.

Brad noticed the tears running down Jenna’s cheeks.  He decided he needed to back off and keep the criticism to a minimum. After all, she did take care of the house while he was gone.

You could have cut the air with a knife. Silence replaced the yelling. It was better than Brad’s constant badgering.

Her mind wandered back to Bubba and the wonderful encounter she had with him. No criticizing, no yelling, just a wonderful loving exchange.  It was something she desperately needed.

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