Tom's voice wafted in the air as I carried Natalie down after giving her a bath. I set her beside him and didn't think much of it. Tom had his laptop balanced on his thighs as he sat on the couch and he was staring at the screen in horror. I assumed that he was losing one of the video games that he plays on there.
"Oh no," Tom said again.
It was on the tip of my tongue to remind Tom that it was okay if he lost; that he didn't always have to win.
But then Tom went, "I just got orders."
A prickly feeling went down my back. Orders. Orders, for those who don't speak military, basically are papers that tell us where we move to next. We had been waiting for orders ever since Tom finished his K-9 school. Our hopes were that we'd get Texas or Ohio.
"I just got orders to Malmstrom," Tom said sounded somewhat pinched. He looked as though he had just been sucking on a lemon.
Wait a minute. This couldn't be right. Malmstrom was in...Montana...who wants to go to Montana? Plus, Malmstrom is another missile base. We're currently at a missile base. How can we be tossed right back to a missile base? That certainly wouldn't be fair. That certainly wouldn't be...he had to be kidding...right?
"Tom," I snapped. "That's not funny. You don't JOKE about things like that." I gave him a dirty look for good measure. Shame on him for teasing me! Shame on him for...wait...why was he looking at me like that? He had a look of pity across his face...why...why...
"I'm not kidding," Tom finally spoke, swiveling the screen towards me. He pointed to his virtual military page and there it was in black letters:
MALMSTROM AFB, MONTANA
My heart dropped.
A lump instantly formed in my throat.
This couldn't be right.
Montana wasn't even on our list of bases that we wanted. Of course I knew it was long shot that we'd even GET a base that we wanted but I assumed it would at least be a NON missile base.
"But.." I sputtered. "But..."
The words wouldn't form in my mouth. It felt as though I had been sucking on cotton.
"Maybe you'll see a bear!" my Dad said cheerfully from the couch. I hadn't even realized he was there.
Okay. Don't panic. You have to be a supportive wife. Squeeze Tom's shoulder and say that everything will be okay so long as we're together. So it's Montana. Who cares? Yes, we'll have to go through cold winters all over again. Yes, we'll still have the strong winds that rattle our windows. Yes, there may not be a Target around but surely that's okay? Who needs a Target anyhow? I need to cut back and..and...
Suddenly a sob escaped my throat.
"I don't WANT to see a bear," I gasped out and then huge tears started dripping down my cheeks.
Stop Amber. Stop. You're not being a supportive wife. Stop crying.
I tried to force a smile on my face but I ended up frightening Natalie.
"What Mommy doing?" she asked Tom, staring at me in shock.
"Mommy is..." Tom began but I didn't hear what he said because I darted into the guest room and rushed for the shower. I had to get away. I couldn't let Natalie see me distraught. I turned on the water and stood with my back against the wall as the water spilled onto the shower floor. Then I slowly slid down and hugged my knees to my chest.
This can't be happening. Why? Why is the Air Force doing this to us? Is it so hard for them to send us someplace warm? It doesn't even have to be warm. I'd settle for anywhere but Malmstrom or Minot, which is in North Dakota. Please....why...
The sobs kept coming.
Okay. Think of the starving children in Africa. People have it so much worse than I do. Crying over this is ridiculous. At least it's not Europe. At least it's...
Fresh tears dripped onto my knees.
Stupid Air Force. Why? Tom is a hard worker. Why do they keep giving him crap assignments. He got Top Dog in his K-9 class for craps sake. Shouldn't that account for something?
I stood up and shut off the shower and backed up onto the bed. I settled down as Natalie walked in.
"Mommy?" she asked timedly.
I quickly wiped away my tears and pretended that everything was fantastic.
"Hi darling," I croaked out as my Mom poked her head in the door.
"Are you okay? I just heard," she said, her voice masked with sympathy. I knew a part of her was crushed too. She was so hoping we'd get stationed in Texas.
"I'm..." Another sob came up. Mom hurried over and settled beside me and pulled me into her arms.
"It's okay," she said in a soothing voice. I suddenly felt as though I were seven and not twenty seven. I tried to calm myself down but I kept picturing bears wandering around and the cold winters in Montana and I couldn't.
The thing is, Tom can't deny the orders or he'll be kicked out of the Air Force. Or really, it just means he can't re-enlist next year.
But Mom mentioned that we could try to argue them. She gave us a list of numbers to call. She suddenly looked like the Colonel she used to be as she ticked off the things we could do to try and get the orders changed.
"It may not work," she reminded me. "But at least you could try."
My heart lifted a bit. "We could try," I repeated. I was suddenly inspired. Why SHOULD we just lay back and take this?
So Tom is going to call some people.
I'm going to write letters.
We have to do something. It's just not right for them to send us to another missile field. That should be illegal. I'm tired of the Air Force treating my husband horribly after all he's done for them.
We've got to at least try. We have seven days to at least try.