Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Indestructible Youth

Lane won't be leaving for the Army in a week, like we first thought. It'll be a month. Lane's particularly excited about the bonus the Army's giving her to report for Basic Training within 30 days. Looks like she'll be getting herself $20,000 dollars for agreeing to go that fast. The Army calls it a quick-ship bonus. Sounds like cargo, doesn't it? Anyway, there's ink on a piece of paper that means we have no power to reverse this. It's a done deal. She is going.

We fixed veggie chili for supper, but Lane was dead asleep on the couch by the time it was ready to eat. Starr Ann and I didn't want to wake her. Poor kid was exhausted from all the excitement. We were, too, but somehow had managed to stay on our feet. We filled our bowls and drifted into the living room, where we sat silently eating and watching Lane's mellow face as she slept.

Starr Ann whispered, "It's like she's fallen onto this huge assembly line that'll carry her right into the jaws of a vicious steel monster."

I nodded and put my bowl down. "I don't think I've ever felt so helpless in my life."

"Me either."

Right then, Lane's eyes popped open and she started laughing like crazy. She sat up, still laughing, and bumped her head against the wall behind her. Didn't faze her a bit. "Holy crap, you guys! You'd think I was dead or something." She adjusted the couch pillow to make Bates more comfortable and stood up. "Chili looks good. I'm about to starve." She bounced into the kitchen.

Starr Ann looked at me and shrugged. "She has no idea what we're going through, does she? No idea what she's gotten herself into."

All I could do was shake my head.

Lane plopped down in the recliner and wolfed chili while planning out her evening. She said, "Mind if I go meet Sandy and Jen in town?"

Funny how just two days ago, we had been all worried about Lane being late getting home from a night out with her friends. That seemed more than tame now.

Starr Ann said, "Sure. What time do you expect to be home?"

Lane went into hysterics again. "Ohmigod! You guys are frickin' freaking out over this Army stuff, aren't you? What happened to the old, 'You need to be back by nine' routine?"

I'll be danged if she didn't actually go back to the kitchen for her third bowl of chili. After downing that one, she stretched real big, and said, "Look, this is a good thing, okay? Don't you understand? I've finally done something that's going to get me somewhere in life. And you all are the ones that gave me the confidence to do it." The awkward, unsure Lane almost surfaced for a second, but the new, happier Lane managed to stay in charge. "I love you, okay? There! Satisfied?" And she did the most amazing thing. She kissed each of us before flying upstairs to get dressed.

I was just about drained, emotionally, and felt sure Starr Ann was too. I said, "Like you always say, Starr Ann, we gotta deal with what is."

Starr Ann couldn't argue with that.

Before Lane left, she handed us a slip of paper. "Here's a number you can get me at tonight, if you get worried about me or something, okay?"

I hugged her and said, "You really have grown up in the span of a single weekend, haven't you? Thanks for thinking of this."

There went that laughter again, and Lane bopped out the door, happy as could be, promising, "Be back by nine, don't worry."

When it got to be ten thirty, and Lane still wasn't home, Starr Ann turned my cell phone on and said, "What's that number, Margo?"


Starr Ann punched it in, listened for a bit, and hung up. She tossed me the phone, laughing hard and saying, "That girl's a mess."

I did check it out, and Starr Ann's right. I said, "Looks like the US Army might be in for some trouble."

Starr Ann's smile vanished. "Yeah, and we're the two geniuses who gave her the confidence to join."