Mark enlisted in the marines straight after high school. He had been a popular student and a great athlete. In all his years of school, though he was always part of the ‘in’ crowd, he maintained a platonic relationship with a girl named Malise. Malise was a nice brunette girl, with shapely curves and a contagious laugh. The two of them always had fun together, childish jokes poked at one thing or another. But that wasn’t Mark’s girlfriend. Mark’s girlfriend was the popular girl, whose name was Eva.
Eva and Mark were supposed to last forever, but a short time after he had been deployed, she split, sending him the signature ‘Dear John’ letter to let him know they were through. Mark had a rough time throughout his tour, losing several of his closest friends in duty, and the shrapnel from a suicide bomber even tore off the bottom half of his leg.
When he returned home, he was never quite the same. His friends took notice, and he no longer had anything to do with the crowd he was once the leader of. His good looks remained, however, and his blond hair remained thick, as did the strength of his face.
One day, at the bar, he spotted his old friend Malise, who was strung along the arm of an old pal whose name was Tony. Mark knew Tony, who was largely a clown, and he knew him well enough to know that he had not a hint of intention to stay with Malise very long, and Tony had not a single bone in his body to know what such a girl meant in comparison with the others.
Mark had been sitting at the bar, sipping on his fifth beer by himself, watching the group he formerly knew as his friends. Malise was laughing just as she always was, and the smile on her lips never seemed half as beautiful. She made her way over to Mark.
“Hey,” he said, before taking another sip.
“You should join us over there,” said Malise, pointing to the group with her thumb.
Mark looked over at the group playing darts.
“No thanks,” he responded.
Malise rubbed his shoulder. “Alright then, fine. Suit yourelf grumpy!” She said with a wink. She left and returned to the group on the other side.
After several more beers, Mark still found himself in his all-too unaffected state of sobriety. A country song came on, and after a short glance at Malise, he stood up, and made his way over to her.
At his approach, the group all turned and smiled to him. “Hey mark!” Said tony, giving him a punch on the arm.
Mark didn’t seem to notice, and turned to Malise instead, taking her by the hand. “Come dance with me.”
Malise giggled. “Oh, so now you wanna dance, huh cowboy?”
Mark didn’t smile, only led her away.
The pair started dancing, Malise with a smile, Mark with a serious expression on his face and deep gaze into her eyes.
“Something wrong?” said Malise, though smiiling.
“No,” he answered.
They danced through the song, until another came on, of a much slower tempo. Mark brought Malise in so that she was up against his chest.
“Come marry me,” he said.
Malise laughed. “What?”
Running a hand through her hair, Mark repeated himself. “Come marry me.”
Malise tried to laugh it off, but found Mark’s intense expression wasn’t lettin up. “Are you drunk cowboy?”
She laughed again, but Mark only pulled her in closer. “Come marry me.”
“What? I can’t Mark! Are you joking? You know I’m with Tony!”
Shaking his head, Mark gripped her hand tighter. “Tony’s a clown. You don’t want to be with Tony. You want to be with me.”
“Ah! A bit confident, are we?” She said, trying to ease the tension.
Sliding a hand over her cheek, Mark forced her gaze up to his, and the smile left her. “I don’t think so.”
Tony approached quickly, and his words came through equally fast. “Hey back off a little, would ya?”
Mark shook his head. “No. I’m not going to.”
Laughing awkwardly, Tony looked to both sides, then set his hands at his hips. “Hey Mark, I know your bitter about bein’ a gimp and all, but you seriously need to back off.”
“Do I?” Said Mark, releasing Malise and stepping his way.
Tony scratched his head. “Alright, whatever. Malise, I’ll be over there with the boys. Let me know if he creeps to close to you.”
“Okay,” she said softly, looking at Mark. “I will,” she said slowly, then gulped.
Tony poked Mark in the chest. “And don’t be-”
Mark plucked his hand before he finished, twisted his wrist, then led him forcefully back to the bar. “What? What Tony? Don’t be what?”
Tony took his hand away, turned around, then threw his arms into the air.
Returning to Malise, Mark took both her hands them strung them behind his neck.
“What’s gotten into you?” She said, tilting her head to the side.
Mark brushed her hair back. “I want to be with you. I want to be happy again.”
She laughed. “You don’t need me for that.”
Mark ran his hand through her hair, and stared into her eyes.
“Are you alright?” she asked.
The directness in his tone never let up for a single word. “I’ll get us a house. I’ll build one if I have to.”
“Why?” She said, chuckling. “Why the sudden interest in me?”
“I want to have kids with you. I want to get a normal job then come home and have dinner with you. I want to laugh with you.”
“Come on, on you pulling my leg?” She said, slightly pushing him away.
Mark pulled her in closer, then led her until her back hit against the wall. He took both her hands in his then raised them up above, pushing the backs of her hands into the wall behind.
He kissed her.
“Mark,” she said, wiping her lip, speaking breathlessly.
Tony stormed over, then shoved Mark away.
Mark cocked back his elbow, then slugged Tony across the face. Tony wobbled at the knees before falling over, his face to the ground. The bouncer rushed over.
“Mark,” said Malise, wide-eyed and whispering, hand over her mouth.
Mark moved her hand away, hugged her in close, then took her lips into his. She moved herself closer into his chest, turned her head sideways, and closed her eyes.
The bouncer ripped Mark off from her, and pushed him by the back, prodding him to exit.
The group of friends all crowded around Malise, and watched Mark’s departure together, equally stunned. Malise, however, watched with a rising chest and a hand to her heart.
– Thomas M. Watt