THE INTERIOR OF THE van was cool, yet Trisha couldn’t stop sweating.
She, along with her brothers and sisters in arms, rode toward her destiny inside a customized panel van. Three vans in all. Each one holding seven of the dedicated, if you didn’t count the drivers. And she didn’t. After all, they wouldn’t be doing any of the actual fighting.
She and her fellow Prawn sat on benches that had been bolted to the floor and ran the length of both sides of the cargo area. She clutched at her rifle, her knuckles going white. She could do this, it was what she was meant to do.
“Nervous?” The Prawn next to her asked. His name was Rick. The two of them had gone through training together.
“A little, yeah,” she replied. “You?”
“Are you kidding me?” Rick said. “Of course I’m nervous. I mean, this is it, isn’t it? What we’ve been training for.”
“Yeah,” she agreed.
The van rocked slightly as they hit a pot hole, or other such common road obstruction.
“We can do this, though, right?” Rick asked. She could see the strain around his eyes. He too held a firm grip on his rifle, his knuckles whiter than hers, if that was even possible.
“Darn right,” she said, sounding more confident then she felt.
“Just tell me one thing,” Rick said. “Tell me that when this is all said and done, that you’ll never forget me.”
“Of course I won’t forget you, Rick. What kind of talk is that?”
“I’ll never forget you either. Never.”
He sniffed and swiped at an eye. Had that been a tear?
“I have something important to tell you,” Rick said.
“Okay,” she said, and then laughed. “You’re acting weird.”
“Trisha,” he said. Then he laughed too. “I need you to know that I love you, and not like in a best friend sort of way.” The speed of his speech jumped up a couple of notches. “And not in a brother-sister way either. I love you Trisha. Like Mark Anthony loved Cleopatra, like Romeo loved Juliet, like Lancelot loved Guinevere. I love you Trisha Daley. I love you!” This last he shouted to the sky, or at least the ceiling of the panel van.
She could feel her eyes practically bulging out of her skull along with the heat that rose in her cheeks.
“This is neither the time, nor the place for that kind of talk, Rick Osterman.” She wanted to slap him, hold him, kick him, and kiss him all at the same time. But mostly she wanted to shake him for being so frustrating. What was he thinking?
“I disagree,” he said. “This is the perfect place and time.” Rick moved out of his seat, and in front of everyone else in the van, dropped to one knee before her.
“What are you doing?” Trisha’s eyes darted here and there, taking in the smiling faces of the Prawns watching.
“Trisha Daley,” Rick said, taking her hand in his. “I know that we’ve only known each other for a few months, but the time we have spent together has meant more to me than anything else in my life. I can’t stand the thought of us ever being apart.” He reached into a pocket and pulled out a ring. “So, before this van stops, before those doors open and we take up these rifles and go out to meet our destiny, I have just one question for you.”
“Don’t,” she said, though deep inside she knew she hadn't mean it.
“Will you marry me?” Rick asked.
There was an expectant hush in the van as everyone held their breath. All she could hear was the sound of the van’s engine, the tires on the pavement, and her own heart that beat like there was no tomorrow. She reached out and took Rick’s face in both hands, holding him gently. His beautiful face. His brown eyes. His nose that bent just slightly to the right. His dusty blond hair that stuck up just a little in the back. The face that she was going to be able to look at every morning for the rest of her life. She was so happy she wanted to sing.
Then, just as she was about to say yes, and then kiss him (of course), the speaker above her crackled.
“Prawns,” said the voice of their leader, King Crab, over the speaker. “Our moment is upon upon us.”
Trisha smiled down at Rick. Rick smiled up at Trisha. She bent forward and touched her forehead to his as the van came to a stop.
“No matter what may happen in there today,” said King Crab. “Know that I am proud of you all.”
Rick resumed his seat next to Trisha. He took her hand in his and gave it a squeeze.
“Today we show the world who we are, and that we are a force to be taken seriously.”
Trisha’s heart continued to beat strong and true.
“Remember your training,” King Crab said. “And feel secure in the knowledge that there is nothing to stop us this day.”
The two rear doors opened. Trisha and Rick shared one last look, took up their rifles, and followed their fellow Prawn into the failing light of evening.
- Will Trisha say yes?
- Just what are these soldiers up to?
- Did I leave the iron on?
Find out the answers to none of these questions in the next exciting installment of: The Mighty Piñata!