It was three days before she summoned the courage to put on the glasses again. She found Marco smoking a cigarette.
“Ugh,” she grumbled. “I wish you wouldn’t do that.”
Marco smiled wanly. “Sorry, Maiv. I know you hate these things.” He held up the cigarette in mock salute. “Just one of the many wonderful benefits of army life.” He put the cigarette between his lips.
Maiv removed the VR glasses with trembling hands and looked out the window. The moon shone bright in the clear night sky. She put the glasses back on and entered a rainy afternoon many weeks in the past. Marco was watching the girl die in the hologram.
“Who was she?” Maiv didn’t expect an answer.
Marco blew a smoke ring and watched it dissipate in the rain. Finally, he said, “you always did wonder but never asked, at least not in words. Ah, Maiv.”
He thumbed a dial on the cube and the hologram changed to an image of Maiv treading water. She was watching someone off camera and burst out laughing as droplets fountained over her. Marco had cannonballed into the pond and came up for air next to her. The image ended as, laughing, Maiv gave him a kiss.
Marco said to the hologram, “I do love you, Maiv. Never doubt that. It’s just sometimes there’s no redemption.”
The whispers started up again.
Maiv said, “Stay with me. Tell me about the girl.”
Sorrow furrowed his brow. “You remind me a little of her. That’s why I stopped to talk to you the day we met. I was on my way here. But there you stood at the edge of the forest trying to coax that damn cat down from a tree. Course, I didn’t know the difference between Chinese and Hmong then.” He smiled wryly. “Then again, you’re about as Hmong as I am Spanish. Our families came over too long ago. Anyway, I see her in the slope of your eyes, the line of your cheekbone, color of your hair.” He set the hologram down and picked up the coil of cable.
Maiv said quickly, “What was her name?”
“I never knew her name.” Marco doled out the cable. “My squad was searching her village while giving out medical supplies. But we were really there looking for snipers. We were taking PR pics too.” He shook his head as he tied the hangman’s knot. “She should have shown me what was in her hand.”
Tears rolled down Maiv’s cheeks. “It wasn’t your fault.”
Marco stood. “Just one in a long series of mistakes. You shouldn’t watch this, babe. Her ghost earned this long ago.” He turned the image back over to the dying girl.
Copyright 2014, Kimberley Long-Ewing, all rights reserved