Wish for You

By: Marquita Valentine



You know what goes through your head when you’re in the middle of a war? Absolutely nothing.

If you’re a Marine, that is. There is no time to reflect on life, no thoughts of could have, would have, or should have. Only two things should be happening in war, a mantra I could chant in my sleep.

React. Recoil. React. Recoil.

Know why? Thinking gets you killed, thinking makes you want to reconsider what you’re doing, what the enemy’s doing, and why you’re even there in the first place.

That’s what happened to my buddy, Nathan. We’d been trading pictures of the girls waiting for us back home, and he’d taken his helmet off for only a minute, but it was about forty-five seconds too long. All because we wanted to think about the future, about dates and homecomings, and soft beds and beer. All because he thought he saw a glint of metal. All because he wanted to question first and shoot later.

But at least those assholes are dead. And at least I carry the scar of that day on my left thigh as a reminder.

I bend down, brushing my hand over the bottom ridge of his gravestone. It’s cold and sharp, yet smooth, like there’s nothing beneath it. Like my battle buddy isn’t laying six-feet deep.

“Should have been me,” I say, righting the American Flag. My commanding officer should have let me bleed out, right there in the middle of a poppy field.

Strange how beauty and violence had collided that day. Strange how I didn’t think of a single thing, until I was on the ground and staring up at the sky. Then all I could see was her. All I could hear was her voice.

Only I’d turned to one side and found Nathan’s blue gaze, blank and lifeless. Blood had pooled around his head in some sort of grisly halo.

“Should have been me,” I growl, slamming my fist on the ground.

Glancing around as I stand, my jaw clenches. Three people are headed this way, and I know exactly who they are.

My stomach twists. I can’t deal with Nathan’s family, not right now. Maybe not ever.

They don’t blame me for his death.

But I do.

Chapter One


The best thing about my therapist is that he never utters the phrase: Tell me how this makes you feel.

The worst thing—I tell him exactly how I feel.

Dr. Lewis steeples his hands together. “Let me make sure I have this right. You’re upset with Lacey because she no longer wants to have a romantic relationship with you.”

I grit my teeth, not wanting to rehash the entire conversation, but the Doc likes to summarize. A lot. “Yes. She gave me no warning, and we didn’t talk about it. All she said was it wasn’t a good idea, and we should go back to being friends.” See, I can summarize, too, about the girl I love ripping my heart from my chest and crushing it in her hand.

“Hmmm,” he says. “Do you want to force Lacey change her mind, or will you respect her decision?”

“A decision she made without me—concerning the two of us—that’s asking a lot.”

“Maybe you wouldn’t be so upset if you’d—”

“Not going there. Nathan’s—” I swallow, my gut churning, “death has nothing to do with Lacey arbitrarily changing the rules of our relationship—romantic or otherwise.”

“At first glance it doesn’t, but Lacey and Nathan have something in common, and the events that transpired with both of them have affected you the same way.”

“Some girl breaking up with me is trivial compared to a Marine’s death,” I snap, but she’s not just some girl. She’s The Girl. The One. I glance out the window, through the partially open blinds, and into a manicured flowerbed filled with mums and pansies.

“So your relationship with Lacey is merely trivial?”

“No. I mean, yes. No.” I slice my gaze back to his and lean forward in my chair, placing my elbows on my thighs. “You know what I mean, Doc.”

“And you know what I mean. Both of them, whether by choice or not, took control of the situation from you—Nathan by dying, and Lacey by rejection.”

I hate that he makes so much sense, yet I’m relieved to know that I’m not out of my mind. That what I feel is so normal that he can docsplain it to me. Still…

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