Coffee, I needed coffee. The day wasn't going well and I needed some distraction -- any distraction. Stepping into the Commissary I almost smiled, there sat my distraction, their backs to me.
Sam was bent over presenting one of those views I lived for, as she leaned over my two boys, something in her hand. They all seemed very 'distracted' by what ever it was. Just the ticket. Reluctantly I adverted my eyes from the view that I'd never admit to having enjoyed, let alone noticed, and headed for them.
"Hey, what's up?" Lighten up. Your face won't break. Show 'em you're as happy to see them, as they seem to be to see you. Hey, not that much. You're still their CO ya know! I grin even wider. Today was getting better and better all the time.
"Here Sir, Happy Valentine's Day."
In my fingers lays this teeny, tiny envelope, with just a ghost of a red heart showing. Damn, it's so cute. I'm her valentine.
"Thanks Carter. That time of the year again?" Slipping the card free I smirked for her. Making sure the guys saw it too, such a small silly little thing to having everyone grinning like idiots. Gratuitous grinning, now that's a distraction.
"My nephew helped me pick them out this year. They're just like the ones he took to school."
School. Parties. Excited kids. Paper and candy hearts. Now I'm smiling, a big genuine smile. Kids and valentines. Carter beams at me; her smile a REAL valentine. Sigh.
"Sweet. Just stopped for a cup of Joe and wanted to remind you of the briefing at 0900. 'Kay? See ya later."
Slipping the little card back into its envelope I hurried through the line, got coffee and retreated to my office leaving my smiling team behind, but taking my own smile along like a doggie bag.
Abandoning the cooling coffee next to my full in-basket, I carefully placed that little white envelope in the center of the desktop. For long moments, I stared at it, savoring the joy on Sam's face. Finally, I turned and pulled out a book from the shelf behind me. Inside were similar cards, each a treasured memory. One was the card Carter gave me last year. Roses. There were yellow roses on it. How'd she know I liked yellow roses? I don't know. There aren't any in the garden.
Slowly I laid all the cards out. Four. Four very special memories. All but one dressed in pristine white. Fondly I had touched each until the last one. The oldest. It wore a dingy, soiled and stained barely-there envelope. This one didn't say Colonel, O'Neill, or Jack. Scrawled across it in green crayon was DADDY.
Anguished love boiled up from my heart, overwhelming the recent joy, squeezing out a single hot tear, adding another stain to that precious scrape of paper.
Every time I see this card, it's sweet agony.
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