Deliciously DamagedBy: KB Winters
Mandy ~ Six months ago
I couldn’t believe it. Not again. Seventeen years after I stood in this same cemetery and said goodbye to my parents, I was here again, this time to bury my brother. My hero. Everyone called him Ammo because he loved guns, even as a kid. But he was just Mikey to me, and he’d been taken from me, thanks to another pointless war, far too soon. I didn’t even know how I’d survive without him. If I’d survive without him. He’d been my mom and dad, my best friend and my protector. He was my everything. And now, he was fucking gone.
Life was so unfair, a fact I knew all too well, but today I just wanted to rail about it to anyone who’d listen. But Ammo was in the ground, which meant there wasn’t anyone who’d listen, much less give a damn, so I kept my grief hidden behind a pair of knock-off Chanel sunglasses I’d picked up from a street vendor in the garment district. Not that there was anyone here to share my grief with anyway. Ammo had spent most of his adult life in the Army, so many of his friends were either dead or still in the fucking desert. The rest of them, his motorcycle club buddies, the Reckless Bastards, hadn’t been given an invitation.
Except for one, anyway.
I didn’t have anything against the Reckless Bastards; I didn’t know them and honestly, I didn’t care to. The last thing I needed was more reminders of all the family I’d lost. This third plot, that slowly filled with dirt and had yet another date of death engraved on the dark headstone, was all the reminder I needed. I was alone in the world. Not even thirty and on my own.
It wasn’t the first time. When Ammo first joined the Army, I was a teenager left on my own. It’d taken some getting used to since my brother had always been there to make sure there was food in the fridge for me to cook and cleaning products so I could take care of the house while he was off with his ‘club.’ But Ammo had forgotten some of the details and after a few months there was no more money. Then no lights, no water and eventually, no food. I found my resolve and a fake I.D. They both helped me find a way to make it work until I finished high school and decided on my future.
Leaving Las Vegas had been liberating, and as much as I’d missed it, being back to bury my brother wasn’t exactly the homecoming I’d envisioned. Luckily, I wasn’t here to stay.
I sighed as the cemetery workers shoveled dirt over Ammo’s body, no longer able to hold my tears inside. They slid silently down my cheeks, the most energy I could dedicate to crying, because I hadn’t sobbed since I’d stood here years before, when Mom and Dad were lowered into the ground.
I couldn’t imagine a world where I couldn’t pick up the phone to call my brother or send him a silly care package full of his favorite blondies and old action figures that his Army buddies would tease him about. I couldn’t call for advice or receive a middle of the night phone call on my birthday. With a hand over my chest so I could feel the cool metal of his dog tags against my skin, I bent and picked up a handful of dirt, sprinkling it on top of the smooth pine casket. “Goodbye, Mikey. I love you.”
On shaky legs, I walked through the cemetery and back to where my rental car waited for me.
I knew that voice; I’d heard it a few times when Ammo was between tours. I stood taller and turned to the vaguely familiar voice. “Yes?”
“Is there, uhm … is there anything I can do for you?” He seemed nervous which was out of character for the cocky, boisterous man I remembered, but then again death had a way of making even the toughest person crumble.
I shook my head because the only thing I wanted was to have my brother back. “No but thank you.”
“Are you sure? Maybe you want some help clearing up Ammo’s things?”
I laughed at his uneasy demeanor. The Savior I knew was never nervous. Everything about the man had always screamed confidence. “I’m not here about his possessions.” If there was one person on the planet who might know Ammo better than me, it was Savior.
He blinked, staring hard as though he was trying to place me. Figure me out. “How about a drink then, to toast one of the best men I knew?”
“I have a bottle of Irish whiskey at his house, if you want a glass.”
“You’re staying at his house?” he asked, his voice filled with surprise. “He never said anything about having a woman.”
I could have corrected him, but it kind of stung that he didn’t remember me when he’d left such an indelible mark on my memory. I was no longer the same little girl with lopsided blonde pigtails and skinned knees. I’d chopped off my hair and dyed it, so I had a white-blonde pixie thing going on. It was perfect for spending long hours in a hot kitchen, and it was easy to maintain. But I didn’t look all that different. “Since he doesn’t have one, I’m not surprised.”