The news was full of the disaster. Dozens of Navy SEALs, Special Forces, crew
, and Afghan soldiers killed in a ground-to-air missile attack against a helicopter up in the mountains of Afghanistan.
It was so bleak, so horrible to think about. All those lives snuffed out in an instant.
Press knew, without having to be told, that Lieutenant Commander James Harticutt of SEAL Team 6 was among the dead. He’d heard from him just the night before on SCYPE. He’d said he was leaving in the morning—couldn’t say where he was going—he’d be back in a few days. He’d call Press as soon as he got back.
The call would never come. The call from his father came instead. It was confirmed. His best friend since childhood was dead.
A shudder of grief ran through his system. Rachel had left him alone in his study to grieve. He wasn’t afraid for her to see him cry for God’s sake. He just didn’t want her to see him break down completely.
As the sobs overtook him, he heard her quietly enter the room. She sat beside him drawing her bare feet under her and pulled his head to her breast. She simply held him while the tears flowed, and the sobs wracked his body.
Just as he had gone after her in Maine last year, she had come after him now.
The loss was overwhelming—not just for Press, not only for the families of those onboard that helicopter. If he’d been lost just weeks before…
“Come on you lump! The girls are waiting downstairs.”
“Press, leave me alone. I’ve got a calculus final tomorrow. If I screw this one up, I’ll never get into Annapolis this fall.”
Press knew his friend was right about the importance of the test. He also knew his own dad had recommended Jim to the Naval Academy. Recommendations from U.S. Senator William Andrews were not handed outfrivolously, and they were respectfully honored. There was no way—with his stellar grades and the Senator’s recommendation—Jim wouldn’t get in next fall.
Jim had lost his place last year when they graduated from high school to a guy with almost perfect SATs and a recommendation from Teddy Kennedy. Therefore, he had spent his freshman year driving himself unmercifully to get top grades.
Geez, Press thought. How was he supposed to beat SATs that high—not even William Andrews could trump a recommendation from the Lion of the Senate and near perfect SATs. However, this would be Jim’s year. He was all but guaranteed a spot.
Jim had been in Naval ROTC throughout their high school years. Despite his recruiter’s pleading, he had staunchly refused to sign up until he could get into Annapolis.
All Jim had ever wanted was to go to the academy and become an officer and a Navy SEAL.
Jim always did what was best for his future, as did Press for that matter, but there were times when a guy needed to blow off steam.
Okay, Jim. I’ll just escort both of those gorgeous young ladies in their snug jeans and tight spring-weight sweaters to the movie tonight.” Press paused for dramatic effect. He could almost see his roommate and best friend since they met the first day of elementary school drooling onto his text books.
“You stay here and study.” He vigorously patted his best friend on the back and walked to the door.
“You’ll ace it either way!” Press mumbled, as he left and closed the door behind him.
“Damn it, Andrews!” Jim shouted, as he picked up his jacket and raced out the door to catch up with Press.