I could've cried watching them step off the plane but I didn't. Not for me or him but for the two year old tightly gripping my fingers holding the brown teddy bear her fathers had sent her for her second birthday.
She had never met the men stepping off the plane but she knew them. I showed her pictures all the time. Told her stories about their bravery and how they were protecting her and millions of other people. She even got to FaceTime with them once, it was short but at least she got to see their faces and they got to see hers.
My mind wandered to the last trip before they were deployed.
There was the man who stayed behind, who let us go so he could find the perfect house for us and our child, a man who wore his heart on his sleeve, my Billy Castle.
Then there was the last trip and it was just him and I. The moment I knew that no matter how many months and years we were separated for, he would always be my man, my Frank Castle.
Two years earlier: California
"It's so beautiful on the coast" I said watching the ocean go by. We had come to California for one last trip before frank got sent overseas. He was going be a United States Marine and I couldn't be any happier or prouder of him.
We had been taking a road trip across America and had arrived at our final destination, California. We had seen the great cities of San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, and Los Angeles and now we were just taking a coastal drive through the Santa Cruz mountains.
We would turn in our rental car tomorrow afternoon and fly back to good old New York but for now it was just him, me and the coastal highway.
Laying my head on his shoulder I breathed in his scent. He smelled like a mixture of coffee and whatever cologne he had thrown on this morning. He had already gotten his head shaved. His friend, Billy Russo, was also leaving with him. I was glad that Frankie wouldn't be going alone and Billy was easy on the eyes.
We pulled up to a little parking lot that overlooked a beautiful beach. It wasn't that busy and I wanted to get my feet wet. Frank, the gentleman he was, came around to my side and opened my door. He offered his hand and I took it, letting him help me out of the car.
The two of us each grabbed some of our beach equipment and headed down to the quiet beach. I quickly kicked off my sandals and run into the water.
"Be careful Maria, I wouldn't want you to get eaten by a shark" Frank yelled from his chair. I snorted and gave him the middle finger jokingly and went back to playing in the cool water.
After having my fill of the ocean I went back to Frank and pulled him off his beach chair and onto the blanket. He grinned and pinned me down.
Straddling me, he unbuttoned the shirt i had. He started to kiss my neck and then started making his way down my chest. His tongue flickered softly across each one of my nipples as he continued his trek. Returning to his normal path he continued down to my stomach where he stopped.
My eyes watered a little as he put his ear to my stomach. It was still too early for him to actually hear anything but he did that everyday. "She's going to be a spitfire" Frank said as he kissed my stomach. He was pretty sure it was going to be a girl and he already named her. I liked the name so I allowed him to keep it. Her name would be Lisa.
Suddenly Frank's face was in mine. He had a look between happiness and sadness. I knew it was killing him he wouldn't be back before she was born but he also was excited to go.
I also knew that he missed Billy. Billy was as much a part of Lisa as Frank. He would've been here with us but he was back home finalizing the purchase of our forever home. We felt guilty for leaving but he told us to. He also didn't like road trips so he was really ok staying behind.
Frank brought me back to reality with a soft kiss to my cheek. "I love you Maria and I love our daughter and I love Billy. I will always come home for all of you that's my promise".
I couldn't stop the tears this time. Frank softly kissed them as they fell and then kissed me on the lips. The rest of the night we just laid on that beach holding each other. Frank played his favorite songs on his guitar.
We slept under the stars and the next morning put everything back in the car
and sullenly headed to the airport. The plane ride home was silent and the trip from the airport to our new home wasn't anymore exciting.
When we pulled up to the house though that all changed. It was beautiful. A two story house with a big backyard and Billy waiting by the mailbox smiling. I jumped out of the car and gave him a deep hello kiss. We didn't care about the norm. We were three people in love and we would stay that way.
With Frank holding my left hand and Billy holding my right, we walked in together to our new home and our future.
I was shaken back to the present by a little voice asking "is that my daddies"? I looked up and saw Billy and Frank standing in front of me and i couldn't stop it. The tears just ran down my face. The two men who promised to come back were standing in front of me. "Yes Lisa, these are your daddies" I said and my heart leapt for joy when she sprang into their arms. She was fearless and loving just like her dads.
I just watched and then it was my turn. Billy came up first, taking my face in his hands, with tears streaming down both our faces he kissed me deeply. I let out a soft moan and wished he would never be gone from my lips again.
After what could only be described as forever we finally pulled apart. "I missed you Maria my love" Billy said kissing my cheek. "I missed you to Billy" I said trying not to cry again.
Billy went over and gave Frank a soft kiss. "Ok Frankie, go be lover boy and I'll watch this beautiful little lady" Billy said taking Lisa from Frank's arm. Lisa just went from grasping Frank like a hook to grasping Billy like a hook. I couldn't help but laugh.
Frank came over and spun me in a circle and we danced. We danced with no music right there in the airport. Suddenly I was in a dip and Frank was kissing me deeply. After a couple seconds he pulled me up and kissed me again.
"I missed you so much Maria" Frank whispered into my ear. "I missed you to Frankie" I said leaning my head against his chest.
Billy came over with Lisa and Frank pulled him in for a passionate kiss. Lisa clapped. She was enjoying all of this a lot. So was I.
I knew that they would leave again. I knew that Lisa and I would have to say goodbye again. But none of that mattered. They were home right now and I wasn't going to waste time worrying about the future when I had a present to live.
Just like the night we pulled up to our forever home, Frank took my left hand, Billy took my right and the three of us and our little angel, who Billy was holding easily with just one arm against his chest, walked out of the airport together.