A Special Ops ChristmasBy: Kristen James
You’re right. We’ve haven’t gotten along or felt that special spark for several years. I understand why you want to give up. I guess we should get a divorce.
Aiden’s heart stopped. Not like the normal kind of stopping. This was the way his heart stopped beating when an IED—an Improvised Explosive Device—had detonated near Kabul and killed three of his team members.
But this wasn’t a mission where he expected danger. This was his marriage. His eyes stung and watered as he read her email again. First came shock. Then anger. And beneath those emotions there was something strange he’d never felt before.
This was the first time she’d ever ended a note with anything other than Love Always. Is that what he’d meant when he’d sent that email last night at two a.m.—give up on them? What exactly had he said? Aiden went back to his Sent Box and opened the email to his wife.
Vivianne, baby, all we do is fight. Argue. It’s not worth it. I’m sick of it. Because we want a baby? Because you want me out of danger—when this is my job? This is my profession. It’s what pays the bills. You knew that when we got married…
Wow. That was harsh. Cold. Mean. He hadn’t signed his email at all. Seven years together, three years married, and she wanted a divorce? They’d just celebrated their third anniversary, in fact. How could he lose his marriage over his profession?
Aiden was immensely proud of his military career; he had worked hard to succeed and took his rank as Chief Petty Officer very seriously. He was totally devoted to his closely knit four-man team. The unit had just successfully completed another mission, and he was grateful.
Despite his pride in his job and his team, Aiden regretted the timing of this particular mission, when he needed to work on his marriage. And right during the holidays.
Why were they talking about a divorce now? At Christmastime? The team would be flying out for the States in two weeks, unless different orders came down. Plans were always changing; that was a way of life in this business. Still, they were counting weeks instead of months, and soon would be counting days instead of weeks. The team, as always, would spend three days decompressing at a mandatory TLD—Third Location Decompression area—once they arrived back in the U.S. This initial process allowed military personnel to begin to adjust after an operational deployment. It was especially useful to the personnel in formed units, such as Aiden’s, who often had stress issues or other concerns after a dangerous deployment. Following decompression, the unit would be allowed to go home. Home. It hurt to even think that word.
Their commanding officer had tried to get them home in time for Christmas, but it just wasn’t possible. Aiden had even put in for an early flight home so he could see Vivianne for Christmas, but it was a no go. She was in San Diego, but that felt like Mars, measured in emotional distance. Here he sat email-arguing with his wife from half a world away, while at the same time wishing he could just hold her tight.
Aiden had met Vivianne seven years ago at a bar on Coronado Island called Mc P’s. He was out with a group of friends. In the crowded room, he’d heard her laughing—musical and happy, and the clear, magical sound stood out among all the other laughing and talking. He’d searched the faces, looking for whoever could make that sound and found himself staring at the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. Her long, dark auburn hair framed a sweet, inviting face that was next-door-neighbor pretty and overtly sexual at the same time. Like a naughty librarian. Her hazel eyes were arresting, confident and sparkly, pulling him in. She pulled in everyone, actually. The people around her were all turned toward her and clinging to every word, waiting for that infectious smile and laugh.
She stood among her group of admirers and gazed back at him like no one else existed. Very slowly, she tilted her head, her smile turning flirtatious and curious. Her lips were glossy red, decorated for the holiday.
At the time, Aiden had just completed BUD/S training on The Strand in San Diego in the Navy SEAL program. He was stacked, his muscles fine-tuned and sculpted. That evening at Mc P’s, people parted for him as he walked her way, never taking his eyes off her face. Once there, he offered his hand. “I’m Aiden O’Riley.”