Jack was at a loss. He told himself he wouldn’t let this happen. He went to check on her, not to fall in love with her. Damn Eloise and everyone’s inabilities to tell her no. He hated that about her. The way she always got what she wanted, but he loved it, too, in a way, because it meant she was happy. Eloise would rip him to shreds. God, he loved her. He loved her from the first day she walked into that theater at eighteen, but now it was different. It wasn’t just her body or sex or lust, it was friendship and trust. It was months of messages, packages, and phone calls. It was knowing that she’d finally let him in, let him within reach.
Jack couldn’t help but wonder what that would be like once he got back. They’d have so much to talk about. He’d go wherever, leave the Army if he had to, be as much in this as she’d allow. He just wasn’t sure how much she’d actually allow. If he gave up everything, changed his whole life for her and she pushed him away, he wasn’t sure he could live through that. He’d lost Eloise once, but he’d never really had her, or at least that’s what he told himself. This would be a relationship, with labels, with attachments. It was something they’d had the entire time, but never said so out loud. Talking about it made it real, and Jack wasn’t sure Eloise was ready for real.
Jack looked at the letter in his hand and reflected on what Eloise had said about the words leaving her soul. He needed that too. He carefully folded the letter, stuck it back in its envelope and then in his chest pocket, and went to find Chase.
“Chase,” Jack yelled and found him at one of the tables with a few other men. “I need some paper.” Jack remembered that Chase kept a couple of notebooks to write his wife. Everyone mostly used social media, but as Jack now knew, there was something about a physical letter.
“Writing Miss Eloise?” Chase stood and Jack followed him.
“She said she loves me.” Jack slammed into Chase’s back. “What the fuck?”
“Sorry.” Chase turned to face him. “You shocked the shit outta me. She said what?”
“You heard me, man.” Jack didn’t want to tell Chase that Eloise had endured more trauma. He didn’t want Chase to bring up the possibility that Eloise only said that because she was hurting and didn’t have anyone else. He didn’t want Chase to suggest that it didn’t mean anything, that she’d take it back, or that once he was home and she had to face her written words, she’d cover them in friendship and destroy him in the process. Jack already felt those things. No, he didn’t need Chase to say them.