When Andy and his parents returned to the home, she was still wearing the training uniform that she received from the Air Force. Andy’s mother lent her clothes. After they got home, Andy’s mother started to make a dinner for Andy. Matt who is Andy’s old colleague visited to see him. When Matt’s car arrived at Andy’s home, Andy opened the door to see him outside. They hugged each other. Matt said,
“I thought you were dead, Andy. I’m glad you are alive. Really. I missed you.”
Andy said, “I missed you too, buddy. I survived.”
They were hugging each other for a while. Matt asked,
“What happened to you?”
“I will tell you everything. Thank you for coming, Matt. Let’s go inside. It’s cold here.”
It was December. The outside was freezing with the grounded snow. They went inside together. Andy’s mother greeted Matt and she shook his hands. Andy introduced him to his mother.
“Mom, this is Matt. We used to work in the same company. He is my friend.”
Matt said, “Nice to meet you, Mrs. Edwards. I’m Matt.”
She said, “Nice to meet you too, Matt. I’m glad you came. I was making a dinner now. Have a dinner with us.”
Andy’s mother prepared a lot of foods for Andy. Matt found the girl from the island. She was standing next to the stairs that go to second floor. She was alert to everything. Matt asked in curiosity,
“Who is she?”
Andy said, “She was with me in the island. We got out of there together.”
Matt made a face that he did not understand what Andy said. Then Matt found Andy’s father coming out of the room. Matt greeted him as well.
They all sat at the big table surrounding it. They were having a good dinner that Andy’s mother put effort in it. Andy explained to everyone what happened during the first mission he had. He explained how he arrived island, how he lived there, and how he got out of there.
Andy’s mother said,
“It must be really hard time. I’m so happy you came back to us. We were so worried about you.”
Andy’s father said to Andy,
“Your mom did not sleep every night talking about you. I said Andy will come back to us so don’t worry about him,” he said with a smile. “So, what are you going to do with her?”
Andy’s father glanced at the girl. Andy said,
“It seemed she wanted to leave the island too. Probably, she might have to go back to island later. Until then, I will stay with her.”
“So, she was hiding in your raft?”
They all looked at the girl in short moment. She didn’t know what they were talking about, but she felt that they were looking at her. She looked at them and Andy said,
“I will take care of her.”
Andy’s mother said,
“We don’t mind she is staying with us.” She looked at Andy’s father next to her.
Andy’s father said,
“Not at all.”
“Thanks mom and dad. Tomorrow, I will go to mall with her to buy her clothes and anything she will need. And I will show her how it is around here.”
Andy’s mother said,
“Okay, it’s better to get used to here.”
They finished eating foods. They cleaned the table. Only Andy and Matt were still sitting at the table. Matt was about to leave soon. Andy asked Matt,
“How’s Julia? Is she okay?”
“She got better a lot. She seemed to accept the reality that she cannot see anymore. Oh, you wouldn’t know this. She was married few weeks ago. Her father’s friend is a rich guy and his son liked Julia. He still liked her even though she is blind. I heard he is living in a big house with the chauffeur and house maids. They got married. I guess that’s good for her.”
In the middle of the sea, the Navy ship saved Andy and a girl. They offered enough food and water to them. They were medically checked by the medics in the ship. Andy had a conversation with the commander of the ship, and he identified himself as an Air Force pilot. Although it was hard to explain about the girl, he told them everything happened to him during the mission including the death of First Lieutenant Robinson. The Navy ship’s commander said that several ships was patrolling the area of Arabian Sea of Oman to search the jet planes and reinforce the alert after the two pilots of United States got shot down. Andy told them he was one of the two pilots. He didn’t have a time to be sad for his senior officer’s death. Andy felt that he was dead indeed from that assault from enemies after all. The Navy commander immediately contacted Air Force to inform about Andy.
He stayed in the ship with her, and he took her everywhere. To be more precisely, it was her who followed Andy everywhere he went. When he returned to the Air Force base thanks to Navy, he was still with her. His parents were notified by Air Force that he survived the shot down, so they came to see him Muwaffaq Salti Air Base in Jordan which is his first duty station. All the personnel in Air Force base welcomed his return. One of the officers in his company gave him tip off that he will be awarded. He did not return to work immediately. While he was staying in the base, he was called to commander’s office to talk about what will happen. He discussed with the commander what he wanted to do. He was told that his parents will be coming to base soon. Andy told his commander that he will be a responsible guardian of the girl for now. He decided to be on leave and his commander in Air Force approved his leave without hesitation. He wanted to go back to see Julia wherever she was at. However, he didn’t know exactly what to do with a girl he is with. He was the only person she could rely on. He told his parents that a girl will have to stay with him for now until he finds where she can stay.
He returned to his home with family and her. His parents thought Andy was dead, and so did his all friends because of his missing. Julia heard about Andy’s missing too. Andy’s mother recalled memory of the day the military soldiers visited her home. After the complete missing of Andy, Air Force sent the military personnel to his home that Andy is missing by the shot down. Two months ago, she was working at the kitchen in the morning waiting for Andy’s contact. She was thinking that Andy could not keep in touch with her because of busy works. She saw that three guys stepped out of car. They were wearing military uniforms. They walked in a row. She saw them through window coming to her house. Something choked her and it spread to her whole body. Ominous feeling flashed through her mind. She thought what might be coming, and that might not be what she was thinking. But her lips started to trembling cornering downward from the edge of it.
Andy believed there will be Oman continent if he kept sailing to the way his jet plane fell. Oman was one of Arab ally of America in the Middle East. He had to be courageous to go back to America to see her. He was afraid of invisible fear on the sea. Anything could be there. However, he rowed the raft everyday looking forward. The sky was getting darker. He went to the spot that he stored the food and fruits to have the food for the day. There he found a girl who was lying down next to the foods with the eyes closed. It was the girl who tired to stop him making a raft. He was surprised by someone of the raft, at first. Then soon enough, his surprise turned into anger. He did not think that she will be on the raft before he left the island. He was already too far out of the island. He could not go back to island again. He ran vapid before he got mad at her. He could not help carrying on the sailing. She sat next to him looking downward.
He prepared to eat a meal. He did not hand her food. He didn’t know what to do with her. It was not his responsibility to be with her. She was annoying existence for him. She didn’t seem to want to eat the foods either. He thought she would be hungry too, so he shared the foods with her. He had to keep going forward. When the night came, he fell asleep on the raft, and so did she. They did not say anything to each other as usual. Three days passed and the foods almost ran out. They were getting more tired of the fear and anxiety in the middle of the sea. If she did not follow him on the raft, there would have been more foods. She reduced the amount of foods she eats in a day. She tried to watch his face to read if he is mad or not. The water was running out as well. The land of Oman was nowhere near and the sea wave was getting stronger today. He noticed the sunset.
The storm was coming. The wind was getting stronger. Big waves moved the raft all over the places. Both were holding onto each different pole on the raft not to fall on the sea. If she fell into the sea in this storm, she would not be able to survive. They were looking at each other in a fright. When she lost the grab of the pole, she tumbled on the raft. She was dragging down to the sea. Before she sank down, he quickly grabbed her hand to stop her from falling. He held her, and they held the pole together whole night until the storm passed by. After the night passed, all the foods in the raft were gone by the storm. His mouth was getting dried without the food and water. He was exhausted. He lied down on the raft looking at the sunny sky. She was lying next to him. Then the dark and big shadow blocked the sun he was looking. He got up immediately. The huge U.S. Navy ship was sailing by his raft.
She felt as if he was from another world. Since she has never seen a person from outside the island, she felt weird feeling from Andy who looks quite different. When people introduced Andy to everyone, she was looking at him hiding behind her father. Every day when she walked by of his place of work, she could see him. His physique and his hair were different than anyone in the tribe. It made her heart pound too fast that it was even hurting to see him. It was the first time she having a feeling to someone. She wanted to know more about him. She wanted to get close to him. However, it was impossible to talk to him because of language. She didn’t know the English and he didn’t know her language, so she couldn’t say anything to him. Watching him from the distance was all she could do. She hoped he would like her someday.
She sometimes saw him going somewhere by himself in afternoon or at night. She was wondering where he was going in the island, so she followed him sneakily. When she found him at the beach, he was making a raft. It was a shock to her. It looked obvious that he was making a raft to leave the island. She did not want him to leave because she fell in love with him. It was a faith for her that he came to the island. She just wanted to stay next to him. While he was making a raft, she went to him to stop him. She slapped the woods he was holding. He was looking at her in a surprise. She shook her head looking at him. She felt like crying. It was frustrating for her that she could not express her mind. She did not want him to leave the island. When Andy saw her, he knew what she was trying to say, but he could not stay in the island forever. He ignored her and kept working on the raft. Then she tried to use the wood to break the raft. He stopped her holding her arm. She was huffing heavy breaths and he found her eyes were watery.
Andy started to feel affection to the island and the people, but he could not forget Julia. Nothing was guaranteed even after he leaves the island. He just wanted to see her again. He wanted to tell her to be with him. His reality felt harsh when he thinks of her. It was another chance given to him that she is alive. He did not want to miss it again. The regrets he had made him purposeful. He wanted to protect her. He did not want to see her suffering again. It made him appreciate everything that she is alive. He was making the raft from that motivation and it was about to be done tomorrow. He did not want to say farewell to people. He wanted to leave the island at night without anyone knowing it. He did not want her to know him leaving the island. He thought he would come back to this island someday.
In the dawn, he got out of the hut secretly and went to the raft. He was storing foods and fruits in the raft. He brought some more of them. It was chilly dawn. He slowly moved the raft to the sea. He turned around to the island. It was dark but he could see people came out to the ocean sand.
‘They knew it.’
He waved his hand to them. He began sailing with his small raft.
Andy was getting used to their life in island. He worked together and ate food together. He did what they did and followed wherever they went in an island. At first, they were beware of him, but they were accepting Andy as a friend. He found out that the people in island had their own orders to live as a group. They knew who was working hard and who was not, so he worked harder than anyone. He could sleep in his one of empty hut and spend his time in it. It was impossible to communicate with them because of language. Instead, he used the body language. Also, he tried to catch what they were trying to do. Since he was different from them, he often stood in the center of attention. One by one, he was becoming a friend with them.
‘It has been a month since I came to this island. Why are they not still here for me? Are they still looking for me? Do they know I’m alive? Was my GPS tracking system broken when they shot my jet?’
He believed that the U.S. Air Force personnel would come to find him. Although his anxiety was getting bigger as time goes by, he tried not to think of it. He focused on the life in the island.
He started to teach people how to play baseball. The knowledges he had helped them in several ways for them. Everything Andy knew was new for them. People treated him specially and friendly. But he didn’t leave the thought that he will leave the island soon. He could not live here forever. He wanted to leave the island someday to see Julia again. Two more months passed, and he got a conviction that they are not going to find him. He thought that either they don’t know where he is, or they don’t look for him. Therefore, he thought he should leave the island by himself. Whenever he got a spare time, he started to build a log raft near the beach of island without anyone knowing it. The materials were good enough to prepare for it. He cut the woods and used the cords to connect them to make it like a boat.
One day, Andy caught a girl’s eyes looking at him. It was a young and small girl who has a dark skin. It seemed she was too young to find a guy to get married. She looked like 15 or 16 years old. He often felt her looking at him. When he was taking a rest in the middle of the day, she came to hand him one of the indigenous fruits. When he was about to thank her, she just ran away. He thought she is just a shy girl.
Matt who was Andy’s coworker visited Julia in the hospital. She was lying down on the bed. He knocked on the door and entered the room. He said,
“Hello, how are you doing? I’m Matt.”
Julia sat up her body and looked straight in front of her. Matt said,
“I was Andy’s colleague.”
“Yep. We went to the same company before he joined the military. We got close during a year.”
“I see. Nice to meet you, Matt. I’m Julia.”
“Nice to meet you too, Julia. I hope I did not disturb you. Can I sit over here?”
He sat on the chair next to the bed. Julia said,
“Did Andy tell you about me?”
“He sent me an email from Jordan. I heard a lot about you from Andy. You were his friend from the college.”
“Yes. We are pretty close friend.”
“I’m sorry for what happened to you. Andy told me you cannot see because of the accident. He asked me to visit you instead of him.”
“Thank you for visiting me.”
“Andy was hoping to visit you, but he seemed busy with the work now. He is like my brother. Whenever I wanted to quit the work, he always cheered me up to stay in the company and work harder. His words always went a long way. But I didn’t know he would quit the job.”
Matt laughed as he talked about Andy. Julia said,
“I didn’t know he would join the military. I remember him talking about the recruiting notice on the board one time during the college semester.”
“I guess he was thinking of joining military since then. He is deployed to Jordan now.”
“I heard it from friends that he is in Jordan as a pilot. I wonder how his life is going there.”
“I’m sure he is doing well. It seemed he had known about your accident recently. He asked me to visit you few days ago.”
“Most people around me didn’t know about the accident. I didn’t have a chance to let them know and I haven’t talked to my friends for a while. Only few people knew it including my family.”
“I’m sure Andy is worried about you. He looks like an indifferent person, but he genuinely takes care of the people around him. He is a hard-working guy as well so he must be doing well in military.”
“I agree that. Please tell Andy that I always appreciate him. And I hope he takes care of himself before he comes back.”
“I will, Julia.”
“Thank you, Matt.”
They didn’t say anything. A short silence passed them by. Julia broke the silence,
“Andy is very precious friend to me. He is like a childhood friend that I can talk to him anything. He always listened to me and he was always next to me. Even though I cannot see his face again, I wish to talk to him again someday.”
Andy woke up from the sleep. He had a slight headache because of the crash on the tree so he rubbed his head where the pain came from. He looked around of him. He was trapped in the jail that was made by woods. He didn’t know how much time has passed so far. The day was getting darker because of sunset. It seemed like it’s early evening.
‘Damn. I got caught by them.’
He started to think what happened. As he was looking around the outside of jail, he found several huts and people walking around of him. Some people were looking at him. The naked children were running around the huts as well.
‘I think I’ve seen people like them in the documentary. Aren’t they usually cannibal? Are they going to eat me too?’
A small kid came close to him.
‘Children are cute in everywhere.’
He was keep staring at Andy. Andy put his hand in his pocket of the pants and took out a chocolate bar. Andy asked him,
‘Do you want to eat chocolate?’
A kid did not say anything, so Andy opened the bar and gave it to him. He received the chocolate bar. A kid who was holding it kept staring at Andy again. Andy pointed his mouth to signal him that he can eat it. He started eating it. He put beady eye on him. Andy smiled at him. A kid left. Then after few minutes, a group of people came to him. There was a guy who was standing in front of him looking like a leader of the tribe. They started looking at Andy. He got nervous.
‘Are they going to kill me now?’
“Can you speak English?”
No response came back to him. He thought they might not be that aggressive people. It seemed they cannot speak English so the communication would be impossible. It looked impossible to get out of the jail. They just left. Different thoughts made him anxious. Andy thought,
‘What will happen to me? Will I be able to see Julia again? Will my family know that I’m alive? Will the headquarter be looking for me?’
When the night fell, he fell asleep. After the night passed, he was given a food. A guy brought one bowl to him. It looked like a soup. Since he did not eat anything from yesterday, he wolfed down a soup.
‘It’s pretty good.’
A guy who brought a soup went back. After a while, a leader and several guys came to the jail again. They opened the wood jail and signaled him to come outside. They took him to near their workplace. Several of them made him do something. Andy followed what they told him to do. He started moving different kinds of materials. Andy was relieved that they didn’t seem to kill him for now.
As Andy’s jet plane lowered the speed, he ejected from the cockpit. After the eject, he opened his main parachute. He saw his jet crushed to the sea and he was also slowly falling to the sea. As soon as he fell on the sea, his body went deep under the sea. He took out his knife from his pants and cut the rope from parachute. Then he started swimming to the island. The sea felt clean and the island looked like it was never touched by human being from outside. When he reached the ocean sand, he lied down on it and looked at the sky. It was still cloudy. He thought,
‘I should have practiced swimming. What should I do now? How should I contact to headquarter?’
Several questions came across his mind. He looked at the island again. There were shrubbery trees at the end of the sand.
‘It didn’t look like a big island from the sky. Are there people here?’
He decided to walk around the island. He was so thirsty that he needed the water. He went through the trees to find the water first.
An ordinary looking forest filled with tall trees were in front of him. He passed the trees and carefully looked around the forest. He focused on listening to any sound. He could hear the birds and insects. As he kept walking for around 10 minutes, he saw something coming to his way. He crouched behind the big tree. The indigenous people with their swords on their waist. He started to get scared.
‘Were their islands like here in the world? What if they are cannibal?’
He kept looking at them walking by him. When he moved his leg to the back little bit, he stepped on the branch and it made the sound. They looked at the spot the sound was made. He quickly hid his body behind the tree. He looked at them. They were still looking at him. They slowly walked to him. He started running back to where he came, and they started chasing him too. When he turned left, one of the guys jumped and tackled him. Andy hit his head on the ground. He got knocked out.
It’s cloudy afternoon. The sky was getting darker. Andy and First Lieutenant Robinson was flying on the sky of Iran. After the few communications with the Air Traffic Tower from Jordan Air Force Base, they dropped the Guided Warhead bombs on the land of enemies. They felt from inside of the F-35 that the job was done successfully. Both of their F-35 jet planes were called Rad 2 for Robinson and Rad 3 for Andy. Air Traffic Controller, which was called Jade said through the radio,
“Rad 2. Target eliminated. New mission of refuel. Head South.”
Robinson said, “Rad 2.”
ATC said, “Climb maintained 5500 turn right heading 0-2-0 traffic 7’o clock.”
Robinson said, “Jade, copied that.”
ATC said, “Rad 3, Jade, status of the heads up?”
Andy said, “TOI, tracking 300, level 2.”
ATC said, “Possible enemy forces detected. Head now to South. Immediately.”
Robinson said, “Jade, continue inspect. We are turning to…”
Before LT Robinson finished his words, Andy and ATC heard the loud and continuous noise of anti-aircraft gun hitting the Rad 2. Then the jet plane started to move to the left. After few seconds of more gun shots from the ground, Rad 2 exploded. Before Robinson’s jet plane exploded, Andy swiftly turned his jet plane to the right. The gun shots were coming to Rad 3 now. He saw several shots going through the body of his jet plane. He yelled to the radio urgently,
“Jade, Rad 2 is down.”
But there was no response back from Air Traffic Tower.
“Jade, this is Rad 3.”
Still no response came back.
Andy felt like throwing up by the fear of death. He did his best to keep turning his jet plane to the south east direction. He was still on the sky of Iran coastline. He could not control the jet plane anymore. He passed the border of Iran and flew the Gulf of Oman. The speed of Rad 3 kept on steady. He could lower the speed slowly, at least. Rad 3 was making smoking line from the back of it. He knew it was falling. It was not listening to Andy’s control. Now, he was flying on the Arabian Sea. He guessed that it was going to fall on the sea after around 3 minutes. He thought did not have to eject.
‘I can’t die here.’
When his jet plane was getting close to the middle of the Arabian Sea, he saw an island.
Andy was sitting in the briefing room with his senior officer, First Lieutenant Robinson. Commanding officer came into the room. He said,
“How are you all doing?”
“I’m doing good. How are you sir?”
He stopped talking and looked both of their faces. He started talking,
“I’m here to brief you the mission for tomorrow. I’m sure you guys are already tracking it. Your mission is to attack the location where is a residential post of enemies in Iran. Tomorrow, both of you will fly F-35 and drop the Guided Warhead in that area. Execute it as instructed. After the attack, you guys will go to another Air Force base, RAFO Thumrait, in Oman where they operate refueling. Get refueled there then you will return to the base.”
After the brief, he walked out of the room. He thought,
‘Tomorrow is my first mission as a pilot. If I do it the right way like I did in training, I can complete the mission successfully. I can do it. It’s not going to be hard.’
First lieutenant Robinson said,
“It’s your first mission, right? Don’t worry about it. It won’t take that long.”
After he returned to his barracks, he checked his email. He found the email from his old friend.
Hey Andy, it’s been a while, my friend. I’m proud of you for serving in US Air Force. It’s a great dedication for our country. It must be hot there. I’m doing alright here, sucking in the office, you know. I’m still staying until late at night in the office. I think I should just join the military too. I miss the college. I have something to tell you. Julia is alive. But she can’t see anymore because of that accident. She is blind. We all visited her yesterday. We all thought she was dead. Nobody knew where she was. All other injuries are getting better, but unfortunately only her eyes are unrecoverable. When you come back from deployment, go to see her. I’m sure she wants to see you. Andy, take care of yourself well. I will talk to you soon.
Andy was shocked.
‘She was dead in me. When she thought I was Ethan after the accident, I knew I’m not inside of her. She loves him. I could never go inside of her. I’m just one of her good friends. There was no place for me in her. I might have enjoyed silly thing of missing her. And I did not want to mess everything up trying to make her love me. But I want to see her now. I’m so glad she is still alive. I want to see her again. I can tell her what I really wanted to tell her. I love her.’
In next morning, Andy flew his jet plane.