As the sun began to set to the far side of the coastline, the four Marines sat at the bar of a downtown Accra restaurant. This particular bar doubled as a dance club at night. Romero took a private table where he shared a plate with the adventurous French girl he had met at the market. She called friends vacationing with her to join the impromptu party. It was exactly the kind of party Romero wanted to be invited to. The girl, more familiar with Ghanaian culture and cuisine, ordered him a plate of Grilled Tilapia, Basmati Rice, and Ghanaian “Red-Red”, a bean and meat stew served with fried ripe plantain. “Perhaps Accra really would go better than Havana,” he thought.
The night drew in as Romero sat with his partner from the market. Suicide, meanwhile entertained another girl off to the far side of the bar. Perhaps the mystery that hung over him would open doors at some point. The truth was, no matter how much fun the rest of them were having, Fannon couldn’t escape the knowledge that if he didn’t make sure they all got back to the Tripoli in time for formation, it would probably be him who was blamed for it. He was polite to his girl, but didn’t feel at ease if he couldn’t keep eyes on the rest of them. Lolo was on the dance floor, moving with anything that had a pulse. Kaiser was actually more engaged with the restaurant’s owner than his date, probing into the economic outlook of Ghana, probably more lost in speculating futures and schmoozing for free drinks than the future of this night. He’d had girls before. Perhaps he was more interested in just being here. His date didn’t seem to mind being ignored, at least not when his watch shined in the lights of the disco ball, itself illuminated by the fog of the very dirty Ghanan martinis.
Romero talked to his date for the next hour, long after their meal was over. During a lull in the conversation, she leaned in and whispered into his ear with her alluring French tones.
“I didn’t think Americans were so shy?”
“What?” Romero asked.
“Either you’re shy, or you’re not interested in me.” She said.
He was a little panicked. Why would she think he wasn’t interested in her?
He replied in a flurry. “No. No. I’m interested. I’m really interested. You’re really interesting. I swear. Why would you think I’m not interested?”
“Well…” she replied. “We both know you want me to invite you back to my hotel, but you haven’t asked or anything; not a dance, not a kiss, not a nothing. So why are you being so shy? You want me, right?”
He was taken aback. He’d never been with a girl so forward, so direct. How could this be that easy? Having it finally dawn on him that, yes this was happening, he decided to do the only thing that made sense – and do what the girl asked.
“Umm… yeah. Okay then, do you …”
As the words left his mouth, he was interrupted by a buzzing in his pocket. At the same time, he saw Suicide reach for his pocket, removing the official phones the Marines issued them before the deployment. It was lit with a notification. Romero quickly looked to Lomax on the dance floor. He had stopped to check a notification, as well. So had Kaiser at the bar.
Romero’s heart sank. This sort of notification could only mean one thing when they weren’t due back to the ship for another twelve hours.
From behind him, Suicide broke the news.
“Emergency recall. Back to the boat.”
Nathaniel felt sick. This couldn’t be happening.
“But… but…” He looked at Su, and back to the girl, and back to Su. “Dude, just give me an hour. Just one hour. Come on, man!”
“Emergency Recall Romero. I’m sorry, man. Say goodbye. You can look her up on the holonet. We gotta’ go now.” Kaiser and Lolo were collecting their things, as well.
“Guys come on!” He was pointing to the girl, “Twenty minutes!” he said, pleading with them.
“Romero!” Fannon barked with finality, “We have to go! If you’re not back on the Tripoli when it sets off, you’ll go to the brig.”
He looked back to the girl, herself hoping he could stay for just a while more.
“I’m sorry. They’re calling us back.” The two exchanged information, though both knew they would never see each other again. He gave one last look to the girl before turning with complete frustration.
The walk back to the Tripoli was at a quick pace, but painfully silent with the echoes of missed opportunity.
As they made their way up the Tripoli’s gangplank, Kaiser broke the silence.
“Just so you know… the reason you got that necklace so cheap was because I bought another $3,000 worth after you left. I’m having it shipped off to the United States to sell back. I’ll easily make ten grand off it.”
“Why are you telling me this?” Romero was downtrodden and cared nothing about a rich kid’s profit margins.
“Well, you know, this whole thing with the Emergency Recall isn’t exactly my fault. So we’re still even for Havana.”
When the four of them returned to the ship, they made their way to the media room. Several TVs were broadcasting the news and the room was buzzing with commotion. Corporal Williams was already there.
“Well, glad my Marines decided to make it back.” The Corporal didn’t attempt to hide the scorn.
“Sorry Corporal,” they each said, though they actually weren’t guilty of anything other than not being on the ship when the news went out.
Lance Corporal Fannon asked the question on their minds, “Corporal, what is all this about?”
“You just missed it,” Williams said, “The President was on. Started talking a lot about Venezuela about the same time the recall was sounded. Sailors over ship operations are in a scurry and the scuttlebutt is they are moving out the flotilla to meet with the USS Enterprise’s battle group. We’re turning around.”
It slowly began to dawn on Romero what all of this meant. Williams cleared any doubts he had remaining.
“Gentlemen. It looks like we are going to war.”
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