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Her Touch(4)

By:Alexa Riley

We’d grown close over the four years of working together, and he was like a father to me. I never knew if he felt the same or if I was just harboring some sort of hero worship. But I’m not ashamed to admit that on that day on the airstrip when he walked over to me and pulled me in for a hug, I may have shed a tear. I was back in America, but it finally felt like I was coming home.

“What happened there?” Major asks, shaking me out of my thoughts.

I look down at my hands and see the bloody knuckles adorning them. “That’s a need to know, Major.”

“Do I need to know?” He raises an eyebrow, and I smile.

“Absolutely not.”

“Does it have anything to do with you going out late last night?” he pushes.

“Yes, Major.” I won’t lie to him, but I don’t have to tell him all of the details of where I went.

He shakes his head, seeing that he doesn’t want to know the whole story. Just then we both turn to hear Maggie coming down the stairs.

“Morning, bug,” her dad says, and walks over to kiss the top of her head.

“Morning, Major,” she replies, hugging him and then going to the fridge.

I watch their dynamic as they move around the kitchen. She makes breakfast and they talk a little about their day, and it’s so normal. I smile because I find it funny that it’s so normal.

“Are you taking the bus today, or do you need a lift?” Major asks.

For a moment Maggie looks nervous and bites her lip. I wonder if it’s because she was planning on riding to school with that asshole from yesterday. I clench my fists and feel the burn in them, the pain reminding me of what happened last night.

“I can give you a ride if you want. I’m heading out that way, and I’ll be there until this afternoon,” I offer. I want to try to be as much help as I can while I’m staying in their home. Even though the Major keeps telling me to think of it as mine, too.

“That would be nice. I’ve got to head into work now, but it’s in the opposite direction. That okay with you, bug?” Major says, and Maggie nods.

She gives me a look of relief, and I nod. I’d have to imagine being driven around by your dad in high school has to feel lame.

Major leaves for work, and we finish eating and cleaning up before we head out to my truck. Luckily my damaged leg is the left one, so I’m still able to drive. I took some shrapnel to the face, but by the grace of all that is holy, it didn’t get my eye. I’ve been left with a nasty scar, but the doctors say it will lessen over time. It’s not really my concern at the moment. Walking like normal again is my goal, then eventually being able to run.

We climb in my truck, and I turn the music on low as I drive. It’s quiet, but I’m okay with that. Maggie is a good kid, and from what I’ve learned she doesn’t give her dad too much of a hard time. After a mile or so, I hear her clear her throat, and I look over.

“You okay?” I ask.

“Yeah. I, um, wanted to thank you again for yesterday. And then not telling my dad. That was really cool of you.”

I clench the steering wheel and let out a breath. “I’ll be honest. I thought about it last night. I lay in bed for a while contemplating what I’d do if I had a daughter who was treated that way.”

“It’s not what you think—”

“It doesn’t matter what I think,” I say, cutting her off. “It’s what I saw. And what I saw was a young girl being assaulted. A young girl who is the daughter of a man who has been like a father to me. So when I went to bed last night and thought about what the Major would do, I got up and did that.”

There is a beat of silence before she understands what I’m saying. “Eli, what did you do?”

Her voice is barely above a whisper, but I catch it all.

“I educated him on how to treat women. And what happens when you disrespect them.”

“Oh God.” She puts her hands over her mouth and closes her eyes. “What am I going to do at school?”

She asks the question, but it’s more to herself than to me. But I decide she needs a dose of reality. I pull my truck over onto the side of the road, I put it in park, and turn my body to face her.

“Maggie, look at me.” After a second she turns her watery blue eyes on mine, and I feel my heart break a little for her. Jesus, she looks so innocent. How could a piece of shit like that guy put his hands on her? “You didn’t do anything wrong. You understand? Men like him deserve a lot more than the beating I gave him last night. He put his hands on you, so he doesn’t get to use them for a while. I think that’s fair.”

“I know, I know. I’m just worried about what people will say,” she says, rolling her eyes.