Her bumper sticker is peeling. The one that says 'I (heart) my Marine!' It's been months, but it's still true, so she keeps it, letting it peel and fade in the weather like a scab. Like a scar.
The sticker is hers, the truck is his. Nevermind that all the paperwork is now in her name. Nevermind he hasn't driven it in a year or more. She drives it to work, and pumps the high-priced gas, and pays to have the summer tires swapped for the snows. But it's his truck.
The wall above the bed becomes his shrine. She papers it with photos. His high school senior photo. Their prom photos. Photos of him with his brother, his sisters, his dogs. Photos of him hugging his mother, laughing with his father. Photos of the two of them hiking, swimming, lounging on the couch, playing touch football with their friends. Pictures from summer parties, Fourth of July, and Halloween -- him with his face painted white and black, her in form-fitting black and temporary tatoos toting his paintball pistols. Photos from Thanksgiving and Christmas. Photos of him and his brother Marines in the desert.
Their wedding photos.
The photo of him in his dress blues has a silver frame and a place of honor in the kitchen. His clean jaw and square shoulders and serious eyes that stare not at the camera, but out of frame; the red piping on his jacket set off by the backdrop of flags.
She carries that picture with her, a small copy tucked in her wallet behind clear plastic. He looks too perfect in that picture. Too much like their posters, and not enough like she remembers him. But he looks so powerful and proud; and because she is proud of him, she carries that photo.
She wears his clothes. His military surplus jacket, though it is much to big for her, makes her feel safe. He bought it years ago, before he ever thought about joining up. It is battered and faded and soft, going ragged at the edges. She wears his tshirts to bed, his sweats if it's cold. She breathes the fading scent of him. She sleeps on his side of the bed.
She curls into the hollow where he used to be, the echo of him. She falls asleep aching for his presence and warmth and the security of his powerful embrace.
She dreams of his warm strength, his arms around her, his laugh, his smile, his voice. His kiss. She dreams of running her fingers over his 'jarhead' haircut, the prickle of his short-cropped hair. It made him look younger somehow; but also stronger.
She wears his dogtags. Constantly, day and night, even in the shower, his name, rank, numbers, blood type, cover her heart with a little scrap of punched metal. And with the tags, his ring.
Their wedding rings are silver. A simple flat band, inscribed inside "Devotion." He added 'Semper Fidelis' to his own. It was more to him than just the Marines' motto. It extended to her. She embodies all he stood to defend. Fidelity and devotion.
Who is it that never let you down?