"We have to talk," Tom said.
"Look, I couldn't help it," I blabbered. "Gymboree was having a 50% off sale, plus I had a 20% off coupon, so I had to shop." I threw my hands in the air. "It would have been a crime NOT to shop the sale. I certainly don't have that kind of willpower. If you had seen the clothes, you'd have understood."
Tom blinked at me from the computer screen. We were talking via Skype, and he seemed at a loss.
"I wasn't talking about that," Tom finally said.
I had assumed he had checked the bank account and had seen the charge from Gymboree even though I had promised PROMISED that I wouldn't shop there again until it was time to redeem my Gymbucks. But that was before the sale. The FIFTY PERCENT OFF sale. (Actually, the sale is still going on now. If you're wondering.) I didn't feel too guilty about going back on my promise that I wouldn't shop, mainly because Tom vows that he won't buy anything else, and then he'll go, "Oh, but then I saw these shoes, and I needed shoes so..." And then he'll shrug sheepishly as if to say, "What did you expect me to do? Say no to the shoes?" Same with video games. He'll vow that he won't buy anything for many months, and then he'll see one on the shelf, hug it to his chest and go, "Can I? It looks awesome. There's a sinking BOAT on the cover."
"Well...since you weren't talking about that, can you delete it from your memory?" I tapped the air with my fingers and went, "Click, click, DELETED!" just like Jim Carrey did in Liar, Liar. I love that movie. I've seen it more times than I can remember, and it always makes me laugh. Especially when--
"I'm being serious," Tom said.
Oh. Okay. He was being serious...
Oh my God, was he having an affair? You hear about that sort of thing happening all the time. Granted, it's usually the spouse left at home, but it can happen out there. I started to chew on my fingernail. If he had an affair, I'd fly my ass to Korea and attack the chick with my chewed on nails. I may look weak, but I have a pointy elbow and a purse filled with loose change.
"What?" I nibbled my thumbnail.
Tom took a deep breath. "You know what's been happening over here, right?"
I nodded. "North Korea is starting shit." God, North Korea was like a spoiled child, the one kid in playgroup that everyone cringes when he or she approaches. Nothing seems to make the child happy, so it causes mayhem.
"That's right," Tom said. "And...well, we're on high alert here, as I'm sure you're aware. It's just, if they need volunteers to go to North Korea, I'm doing it."
My heart dropped. "But that's dangerous. Did you not see what they did to Lisa Ling's sister? I mean, I don't think they did much, just kept her captive, but that was pretty rude in itself, don't you think?"
Tom shut his eyes for a moment, then opened them. "I'm being serious."
"Me too! Poor Lisa Ling's sister! And her friend. Can you imagine being stuck in North Korea? I bet it stinks. I saw this special on MTV about it, and it's so quiet there, hardly anyone walks around so you could walk into a coffee shop and be the only one there."
"I'm volunteering, Amber, and I just wanted you to know. I joined the military to defend my country," Tom explained.
I knew this. All along Tom had told me this. In fact, it killed him not to go to Iraq or Afghanistan. He tried to go, several times, but wasn't needed. He did eventually get to Qatar and did some missions in Iraq, but it wasn't enough for him. He'd watch stories about his fellow soldiers fighting and dying, fighting and getting injured, and I could see this disturbed him. Why should I get to sit on this couch, enjoying life, when they've lost theirs? When they've hurt themselves?
"Could you maybe just let a group volunteer first, see what happens to them, and THEN volunteer?" I asked meekly. "Like the people who have no families, surely they can go first?"
"Everyone has families, Amber. Maybe not their own, but mostly everyone I work with, they have loved ones."
I knew this too. I knew I was being selfish in my thoughts.
"Yes, but, they don't all have a little girl who would be crushed if anything were to happen to her Daddy."
Tom swallowed. I knew he was picturing Natalie, arms outstretched, calling for him. "If anything did happen, she'd be proud of me."
"She would, but she'd--I'd--" I could feel my nose start to prickle and had to stop or else I'd surely burst into tears.
"You'd be fine. You'd go on with your life," Tom said knowingly.
"I wouldn't WANT to go on with my life," I replied stubbornly.
"You would. Look, nothing may not even happen. I'm just telling you if it does. I'm going. I'm going to North Korea."
I sniffed. "I'd love you if your face got melted off."
Tom's eyebrows shot up. "EXCUSE me?"
"On Oprah awhile back, there was this soldier, and his face got melted off due to an explosion and his wife stuck with him. He literally had no face left, just...well, I think there was a hole made for the mouth, but as I've said before, I'd love you if you didn't have a face," I said grandly.
"Um. Thank you?" Tom answered. "But I do love you. I just wanted you to know."
I sighed. "I sort of suspected, Tom. We've been together awhile now and I...sort of suspected." I was quiet for a few seconds. "Want to hold your hand up to the screen and I'll do the same? It seems like something that would be done if we were in a movie with soft music playing in the background."
Tom shook his head, unmoved. "No, thanks. It'll make my screen all smudgy."
Somehow, I don't think the male character in a romantic comedy would say that. But oh well.
"Just...if you did volunteer, don't offer to like, be the hero or anything. Don't risk your life. Don't drive your spaceship into the alien spaceship to blow it up for the sake of all mankind," I said passionately.
Tom rolled his eyes. "Have you been watching Independence Day?"
"Maybe. But still. That sort of applies here. Only no spaceship. Or aliens."
"I'll do what I have to do," Tom said. He was acting like Yoda. Ugh.
I just hope nothing does happen.
I hope he'll be able to come home in August, as planned.
I just hope.