I watched my crew out the window until they became specks in the distance and eventually the clouds covered my view. We flew over the entire expansion of Bluevale Headquarters, and passed over the Minor Barracks, where I spent my first three years. I looked down at the roof, remembering all the times I had spent up there with my original crew members, looking up at the stars and wondering if my family could see the stars back home, and if they were thinking of me, too.
In a few hours, I can ask them, face to face, if they ever did go out into the night sky and wonder if we were both looking at the same constellations. The thought of seeing them in real time for the first time in eight years makes my stomach knot and proceed to attempt back flips.
Banner gets up from his seat across the aisle and slides into the seat next to me, which isn't very comfortable considering his bulk.
"I have a sleeping pill you could take, if you want it." He holds out the small blue pill, which I take out of his hand. I look down at it, considering whether or not to take it.
"Or, we could talk," he says hesitantly. "Whatever you want to do." I can hear his cautious tone, and I know he believes he's walking on thin ice here. If I know anything about Banner, it's that he's the unofficial crew therapist. I decide to oblige him.
"You know what?" I rip the words out of my chest, feeling like I'm stepping into open fire. "I'm kind of scared."
Banner chuckles, "If you weren't, I would turn you in for testing." I look at him, and release of breath of relief. "It's going to be strange, both for you and for your family."
I hadn't thought of that. It probably is hard for them right now, too. I know that they spent every single day of the first few years trying to get a hold of Bluevale, trying to get their daughter back. I had heard stories growing up about how people who return from their service at Bluevale are never the same again. I understand it now, though. They're not the same because they have a new sense a purpose in life.
"What can I do?"
"Honestly, just give them a chance. It's going to be hard, and I know you're going to be counting down the seconds before you can return," this earns an enthusiastic nod, "but until you do return, try to experience what your life might have been like."
What my life might have been like. I have wondered on several occasions what would have happened if I never did join Bluevale. Instead of waking early each day to go to training and missions, I would be milking the cows and baling hay. I wouldn't be fiddling with tracking devices and polishing my microphone bugs; instead I would be tuning the tractor and polishing horse shoes. How different my life could have been.
The three hour flight seems to vanish before my eyes as the seatbelt light comes on and signals our descent. Banner took the sleeping pill back from me and popped it in after our chat, and has been snoring in the back of the cabin ever since. I get up and try to shake him awake to no success. Instead, I go and get a couple of ice cubes from the bucket in the kitchen area and make my way back to him. We've had this prank war back and forth for years, and more often than not ice cubes were involved. It looks like I'll get the last laugh.
Twenty minutes and a shirt change on Banner's part pass by as the private Bluevale jet taxis to a stop. We get thank the pilot and grab out luggage, then head out into the afternoon sun. A sleek, black car is awaiting our arrival, all on the behalf of Bluevale, and we jump in. Banner takes the drivers seat, seeing as I am shaking too much to be very good at steering. As I point out random landmarks I recognize, my heart begins to beat faster and faster and my stomach completely dissolves in a fiery inferno.
It's only about thirty minutes to my home, and I'm just beginning to think that the minutes are dragging by when I realize that our car ride is at an end. Banner has navigated the car to my street, which only has a few houses on it because everything else is fields. Apparently he tried to get my attention a few times, but decided to use the GPS to find our way instead because I was unresponsive. All I can focus on right now is a single word pulsing through me at the same rate as my heart beat, drowning me in complete and utter dread mixed in with the occasional flutter of excitement. Home.