Stories from the War-First Meeting: Part 4
First Meeting, the first short story in my new WIP Friends of my Enemy continues with Part 4! If you haven’t been following along with Monday Reads, you can read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 by clicking on the links.
Events in the story are moving ahead quickly now, testing new friendships and older love. Which one will bring the help that is needed, or survive new troubles, is yet to be decided.
Friends of my Enemy
Stories from the War
First Meeting: Part 4
“FLF?” Michael asked.
“Freedom Liberation Front,” Arinna told him. “Ambassador Eldridge made it seem like we should have heard of them. You haven’t either?”
“No. I can ask,” he offered.
“Quietly,” she cautioned.
“You got the impression we haven’t been told about them on purpose?” Michael asked, amused. His smile evaporated when she didn’t answer. “Our country wouldn’t lie to us.”
Arinna leaned across the table and took his hands. “How many diplomats and foreign officers are here under the same orders? We’ve seen the change over in staff at this embassy. We’re lucky to have lasted this long. And that’s just it. I’m starting to realize how replaceable we are if we don’t create the connections they want,” Arinna said, not wanting to admit how much she’d come to question their assignment. Some days it felt like they’d been shipped to a minefield without warning and no map. “If this is something high up back home, why would they tell us? We aren’t exactly in the loop of terrorist threats and containment over here.”
“I’ll see what comes over the bulletins the next few days. And there are a few people outside our operation I could ask,” Michael said, giving her hand a squeeze.
“How bad was the attack?” she asked.
“From the reports, the blast took out half the city.”
“How did they locate the materials to make a bomb that big? There aren’t enough unregulated supplies or ammo for that.”
“Black market could have improved since we left?” Michael hazarded.
“In four months?”
“I know what you’re thinking,” Michael said, leaning into his chair. “After what you heard from Ambassador Eldridge, you think they got government supplies. Someone let them into a depot.”
“It’s the only thing that makes sense.”
“From where we’re sitting.”
“Which is out of the loop,” Arinna admitted with a sigh. Michael would never doubt his commander or his country. These days, those amounted to the same thing. “You’ll tell me if you hear more?”
“Of course.” Michael said, giving her a smile that touched his hazel eyes. It stirred a memory of a campsite in the wilderness when they had been explorers of abandoned worlds. “How was your day with Byran?”
“Oh please, if I talk about it I’ll get mad again.”
“That bad?” Michael asked, amused.
“I thought we had shown up at the Ambassador’s unannounced.” The choking memory of sitting in Byran’s car flooded her again. “He drives too fast, he never listens, he…”
“He took you to the Ambassador’s where Minister Lewin was waiting.” Michael said, taking her hand and then pulling her to his chest. “You made more progress in contacts this last month then I have in the four we’ve been here.” He added, kissing her scalp.
“I don’t know if he’s worth it.”
Michael chuckled at her exasperated tone.
Arinna used the attacks as an excuse to avoid Byran for a few days. Not that there was much to do. But she needed the break from him. The blast and hunt for suspects afterwards consumed all resources, at least those in the US. Communication to the embassy in Spain dropped to a few scattered updates or obscure questions. It was nearly a week since the attack before Michael came home, expression serious.
“You heard something?”
Michael shook his head. “Not about who they are looking for or that group, the FLF. We have orders.” Michael finished, cutting off Arinna before she could speak. Her mind went blank.
“They are recalling us.”
“No,” Michael paused. “You don’t want to go home?” His steady gaze splintered her thoughts.
Blushing, Arinna glanced away. “No! I… its just.” Arinna took a deep breath and looked back at her husband. “I’ve seen the families here, and at home, and… here it’s different. It reminds me of when I was a kid, before the fighting in the streets and the riots. Children run and laugh and don’t just play war. I didn’t believe this sort of world existed. I… I’ve been thinking. Michael, this is where I want to start our family. Then when the US stabilizes, we’ll go back. I know how important that is to you.”
It was his turn to be at a loss for words. “You’r…”
“No! Goodness, you think we’d talk about it first. Maybe, in a few months… if you want? If we can manage to stay here that long.”
Michael pulled her against him, his arms pressing her tight. “Of course, I…” He pulled back to look in her face. Arinna was relieved to see the light in his eyes and the smile. Her heart flipped as his lips found hers, passion taking her breath and thoughts.
It was several minutes later before Arinna remembered the start of their conversation. “We have orders?” she asked.
“Yes,” Michael laughed. “Apparently to avoid being sent home for a year, at least,” he teased. She elbowed his stomach. “We are to feel out what countries will be willing to send troops or supplies to deal with ‘internal unrest.'”
“They’re preparing for a possible civil war,” Arinna said on a whoosh of breath.
“It looks that way,” Michael agreed, hooking her shoulder length hair behind her ear. “It might not happen. It’s just a feeler. You know our government. They like to be prepared.”
“True,” she agreed, holding him tight to block her unease.
Read part 5 here.