Before...and After

"Jamie...Jamie, help me! Help me!"

My voice shocked me out of the horror I had just been in.

At once, warm arms grabbed on to me, and a gentle male voice tried to soothe me.

"Darling, darling, it's okay. You're here with me. It was just another bad dream."

Another bad dream. The seventh one in seven nights. Shaking, I held on to Jamie in the darkness, in what had once been the comforting haven of our bedroom. Where we had talked and laughed and made love.

That was Before. Now we lived in the land of After.

"What happened this time?" asked Jamie.

"I was falling down the elevator shaft of a very tall building...flames were shooting out of the open doors of every floor, and I could hear others screaming all the way down..." I shook my head, splattering tears onto the comforter. "I'm so sorry, Jamie!"

"Sorry? For what?"

"For waking you up like this. It's training camp time. You're losing sleep because of me."

"Hey." Jamie turned on the light so he could look into my eyes. "Don't ever think like that, darling. When you're scared, never hesitate to come to me. camp doesn't seem so important anymore."

No, it didn't. Along with thousands of other "problems" that had pricked at our lives...Before.

"I don't know what I'm going to do, Jamie. In a few weeks' time, you're going to be away from me for long periods of time. I know I can't keep you here, am I going to cope?"

Jamie drew me into his arms.

"Remember that you live in a country that is doing everything it can to protect its citizens, both here and abroad. Remember that we are on the side of good, and that good will ultimately triumph over evil. And remember that you have a husband who loves you more than life itself. If any terrorist cockroaches harm you -- if they leave even a scratch -- I promise I will go after them and kill them. With my bare hands if necessary."

The sudden hardness in Jamie's voice startled me. I had never heard him speak with such grittiness before.

But I should not have been surprised. Underneath that round marshmallow face, the whimsical sense of play, was that core of steel that all good men possessed: the desire to protect their teammates, their women, and their country.

No matter what.

How blessed I was, to live in a country full of such men. How blessed I was to hold such a man in my arms, to be his consort in life.

But with blessings came responsibilities. I could not just leech away Jamie's strength. I would need to tap into my own reserves of courage. to make whatever contributions I could, and even to let Jamie lean on me when he needed to.

I snuggled against Jamie.

"Do you feel better, darling?" he whispered in my ear.

"I sure do." I kissed his tender lips. "Thank you, Jamie. Thank you a million times."

"All in a day's work, my love."