Because of Tim’s rank, he eventually got a room to himself. That’s when Maria started spending the night on a regular basis. Every morning she would get up a little earlier than usual and head back to her dorm room to get ready for work. It was just easier to do this since, even though Tim had his own room, he still had to share a bathroom with someone.

Within the next few months, Tim’s housing status changed again. He was allowed to move off-base and started receiving BAH. BAH stands for basic allowance for housing. Tim got a shitty little apartment outside of base in the town of Marysville. It was your typical crappy apartment complex. The units still smelt of the previous occupants, the walls were paper thin, and the assigned covered parking spaces were too small for anything other than a compact car. The steps to the upper floors were so worn that the once square corners of the wooden planks were now round and splintered.

Tim was hoping that these substandard conditions would warrant a lower rent than what the Air Force was paying him, but this was not the case. The property manager of this shithole dealt with the military so much that they knew what the BAH was and charged exactly that amount for rent.

Once he signed the lease, Tim headed off to the closest Goodwill to furnish his apartment. He picked up a bundle of utensils that were taped together with clear plastic packing tape marked $5.99, one pot, two drinking glasses, and two coffee mugs (Though he hadn’t figured how he was going to make coffee). He found a semi used mattress and flat screen TV on Craig’s List and put them both on the floor of the bedroom. Back on base, he loaded his pickup with his dorm room contents, made a stop at the Base Exchange for some bedding, and stopped the chow how for one last free meal.

Tim’s first night in his apartment was also Maria’s first night in his apartment. She became what was known as a ghost. A ghost was someone who kept their dorm room because they were not authorized to move off base yet but lived off base anyway. When it came to dorm room inspections, their bed always looked perfect, as if no one had slept in it, because no one had.

It was on that first night Maria realized that Timothy’s apartment was going to need a “woman’s touch.” Most of the people they associated with called him Rogers. Nobody she knew called him by his first name. To Maria, calling him Rogers just didn’t seem right but neither did Tim. For some reason, she started calling him Timothy when she learned of his full name, Timothy Adam Rogers but mostly she just called him babe.

Unlike Tim, Maria knew that one day she would live on her own and started preparing for it as a teenager. She knew that someday she would have her own kitchen. So, every time her mother upgraded any type of appliance or utensil, Maria saved the old version in boxes she kept in the garage of her childhood home. Her mother upgraded so often that it got to the point the Maria was replacing items she hadn’t even used. By the time Maria joined the Air Force she was already on her second coffee maker, toaster, wooden spoon set, and blender. 

“I’m going to have to go home and get some stuff before too long. We can’t live like this,” Maria told Tim.

“Like what?”

“Oh my God Timothy. I  just had to heat up tomato soup then dump it into bowls so that I can use the same pot to make grilled cheese sandwiches. That’s like what. I can’t have my kitchen like this.”

“Oh, it’s your kitchen, huh?”

“Am I your girl?”

“Hell yeah, you are?”

“Do I cook for you?”

“Hell yeah, you do.”

“Then yeah, it’s my kitchen,” she affirmed. “I’m gonna put in for a couple of days leave. That way I can go during the middle of the week while you’re at work and we don’t miss out on time any time together.”

“I’m not coming with you?”

“Hell no, you’re not coming with me. You think my parents know that I’m shacking up with some dude that I hooked up with at a party?”

“Wow!”

“Listen, it’s not that I don’t want to tell them, but they are very Catholic and very Mexican, you know? They probably still think I’m a virgin. Telling them that I have a boyfriend and that I’m living with him would just cause a bunch of drama I do not want to deal with right now. Not yet.”

“It’s because I’m white. Isn’t it.” Tim understood but couldn’t let her off the hook that easy.

“Ay Dios mío!” Maria said this more to mock her mother that to really say it, holding her hands up looking up at the ceiling. She then brought her hands to the sides of Tim’s head and gave him a kiss. She then picked up his bowl and plate, which were paper, and took them to the trash.

There may have been a little of gender roles because of Maria’s upbringing, but she honestly did love to do things for Tim. He never expected it of her but let her serve him as much as she wanted. He loved it and loved her for it. Being taken care of by woman was something he truly missed. Both because he did not get it from his mother and because he got it so much from grandma. Maria could see the appreciation on his face when she put a plate of food down in front of him. It made her warm inside.

Maria put in to take a Wednesday Thursday and Friday off but could not get it approved unless it was two weeks in advance so for now, they did what day could with what they had.

It was during these two weeks that Tim got the call.

I actually spent most of my morning getting another chapter ready but chose to publish this one instead. I felt like the other needed more work. It turned out this one needed a lot too. Still feels like it does but I hit the road so here it is.