You’ve seen Colt from Gillie’s Little secret in action for the past couple days, but he wanted to introduce himself. To that end, today’s post is more of a character sketch and not actually part of a particular story.
When you arrive at the address you been given, it’s a sprawling brick-and-concrete building not terribly distinguishable from any number of other public high schools scattered across the state and the country. You stop in the front office and ask the secretary to see Colt Avery. This request only garners you a blank look. After a moment, she blinks owlishly at you and says, “Oh, you mean Gunny?” When you tell her you do, she buzzes him on the intercom to inform him of your arrival and upon obtaining his approval, gives you directions to his classroom.
You make your way to room 243, carefully following the aforementioned directions. At first, you are uncertain and not at all sure you aren’t getting hopelessly lost. The school itself isn’t overlarge. That isn’t the problem. The problem is that every hall and every classroom seems to be identical, virtually indistinguishable from the next, slathered in a light industrial gray paint and dotted here and there by dozens of colorful signs, banners, and posters advertising any number of clubs, teams, and classes.
When you turn on to the appropriate hallway though, all earlier doubt vanishes. This hall is clearly Marine Corps territory. The eagle, globe and anchor emblem is emblazoned in bright gold and red paint in the center of one wall and a fierce looking bulldog adorns the other. Recruiting posters are displayed prominently and a glass case features awards and trophies won by the various drill and flag competition teams.
Room 243 is directly across from the trophy case. The door is closed but not latched, leaving a small crack between the door and the frame but still providing the occupant with privacy. You knock hesitantly on the door. From the other side, a deep male voice calls, “Enter.”
You push open the door. “Excuse me, Mr. Avery…”
He looks up then, surprised. When he sees you, he gets immediately to his feet. “Come in. Sorry about that. I thought you were a student. They know I have my planning period at this time and are forever popping in.”
You get an immediate impression of a large, solid man. Objectively, he’s probably not over average height, but there’s something about him that just seems big. He doesn’t seem like any high school teacher you have ever known. For one thing, he’s wearing fatigues and boots and has a very short military style haircut. You know from what you’ve been told that his hair is brown, but the cut doesn’t make that immediately obvious. Civilian or not, this man is clearly a warrior. He looks like he’d be more at home on some foreign battlefield than in a classroom.
He gestures to the plastic chair in front of his desk. “Please have a seat.” He means it simply as a courtesy but his gruff tone makes it seem like a command and you find yourself obeying without conscious thought.
He returns to his previous seat behind the battered metal desk, though his face is impassive, his brown eyes are friendly. “Gillie told me you were coming by today. How can I help you?”
“Mr. Avery…” You begin.
“It’s Colt or Gunny, if you prefer,” he says. “Everyone calls me Gunny and has for years.”
“Gunny,” you begin again only to find yourself fumbling for words.
“I know you want to talk about the more unconventional parts of our relationship,” he supplies. “Gillie told me that much.”
“I guess I just want to know your side of it,” you say finally. “What do you think of it now?”
He leans back in his chair, thoughtful. “Well, I’ll tell you, it wasn’t something I ever thought I would find myself doing. To say it caught me by surprise is beyond an understatement. I was floored. In all these years, I never had the slightest hint that my wife might be wanting or needing more. Granted, I usually wasn’t home for more than a few weeks at a time, but I never suspected a thing. Looking back now, some things make sense, like her teddy bear collection and the fact that she accumulated children’s books even though we didn’t have children. I never thought anything about it. I just assumed she was keeping them for our nieces.”
“What about now?” you ask hesitantly. “Do you regret it?”
He shakes his head, regarding you with a surprising fierceness. “Not a bit. It hasn’t been easy, but I’ve seen how happy it’s made Gillian. If anything, I wish she had told me years ago. It’s not easy, but very little worth having is. I tell my cadets that all the time, and it turned out to be just as true for us. It’s worth it, absolutely.”
The bell rings in the hallway and he jolts, clearly surprised by it. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize the time. I’m going to have to go. I have a class. Can you find your way out?”
You assure him you can, as he follows you out the door, closing and locking it behind you. He bids you goodbye and disappears into the crowd of teenagers.
That’s all for today. Let me know what you think and be sure to go visit the other participating authors.