Chapter 5

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Ben pulled out his pack of cigarettes and lit one as he watched the flames erupt in the pit. The sun was beginning to set and the breeze was cooling down after a warm day. Ben sat down on the chair next to the table and stretched his legs out. They welcomed the release of tension from all the hobbling he had been doing all day.

"How is your leg doing?"

Ben looked at Radcliff and noticed he was looking at the deep scars on his legs.

"I'm in pain all the time to be honest. But that has become a norm for me."

"Do they have you on pain killers?"

"Here and there. They decide when to give it to me or not. It's like they can't make up their mind what's best for me. One appointment it can be a strong pain med. The next will be only something over the counter."

"That's ridiculous."

"It is. But, I'm sure you are going through the same thing."

"Good point."

The sliding glass door opened and closed quickly.

"You mind if I smoke?" asked Reyes as he pulled out a pack of smokes.

"Go right ahead. We like the company," responded Radcliff with a smile.

Reyes eyes went to the scars on Ben's legs almost immediately. It was hard not to see them with the sun's rays glistening on the angry skin.

"If you don't mind me asking, what happened?" asked Reyes nodding to Ben's leg.

Radcliff saw Ben's face twist in emotion and quickly responded, "He was injured."

"I'm sorry. I know I shouldn't have asked."

"It's okay," responded Ben.

An awkward silence continued until Ben stood up to extinguish his cigarette in the ashtray. He walked back inside and heard murmuring behind him. He turned and saw that Radcliff was talking sternly to Reyes. He turned back to the living room and saw that Taylor was glued to the TV. So was Wyatt. Ben looked on the screen and saw that the news was on. He grabbed another drink and headed back outside before he could be triggered. This was not the time to be exposed to the intensity of the news.

Radcliff stopped talking to Reyes when Ben walked outside.

"Everything okay Ben?"

"Oh yeah, I just decided to have another cigarette," Ben responded with a smile.

Ben lit up another one as Reyes darted back inside.

"You scared the poor kid," said Ben with the cigarette hanging out of his mouth.

"The kid deserved to be scared."

Ben chuckled as he looked at his friend's face grow very serious. "Don't think about it too much. It was harmless. This is his first military experience."

"Yeah, but no common sense. You know me. I like people with common sense."

Radcliff and Ben smiled at each other. They sat silently waiting for the pit to grow warm.

"So anything exciting in your life lately?" asked Ben.

"Like what?"

"I don't know. Fucking any girls, good news in your life, something...."

Radcliff laughed, "I wish."

"I'm sure Taylor can tell me a story or two."

"That and a tall tale. I love that guy but, man, he can come up with them."

Ben nodded in agreement as he watched Radcliff place a thick steak on the pit. They exchanged old stories as he continued to grill. They were rolling with laughter after an hour of talking. Ben felt light hearted for the first time in a long time when suddenly a loud sound erupted above them.  

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