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Those at home

Posted on 01 Aug 2022 @ 9:49am by Jonathan Demir & Sofia Roselli

Episode: E1: A Historic Voyage
Location: The Liberetto book store
Timeline: Date 2025-04-22 at 1230

Sofia needed to get out of her apartment, a change of scenery would do her well. That and Palmerston kept glaring at her, she could tell the cat was communicating that there was one person missing, it was the same way when Ciara was in Groton for her advanced class, and when she moved out to Washington State.

That and there were a couple of books she wanted to pick up and she did promise Jon she would check out his shop. That and there was a pet store nearby and maybe some nip would chill that cat out.

She walked in to the shop and started her browsing. the smells of a bookstore made her remember the days spent in libraries when she would be reading documents that were so old they were still written in old English, especially studying the Tudors.

Jon was shelving. Or at least he was trying to. The Arizona had been underway for more than 24 hours and he'd made it a rule not to mope more than a day. Still, just thinking about Liz made his heart squeeze painfully and then leap in turns.

I'd like for my rank to not be the only thing that changes in the from section of my email.

He'd read it so many times now that some of the words had started to lose meaning. The most infuriating part was that she wasn't there to talk to. She'd let the pretense that they were just friends drop the night before leaving and then dropped this one in his lap a day later and he wished he knew what had changed. Was it just that they'd had more time together? Was it that they were coming up on 10 years of their together-not-together relationship? Whatever it was he hadn't seen it coming.

He had been so lost in thought that he had to stop, pull the last book he'd shelved back out of the stacks, and reread its title confirming that it was not, in fact, in the right spot. With a sigh he tucked it back up on the cart before noticing a familiar figuring stepping into his row of shelves.

"Sofia?" he asked, getting to his feet.

"I was in the area." She explained, "Just thought I'd stop by Jon, hope you're not too busy."

Book cart abandoned, Jon made his way down the aisle, an enormous grin on his face. "Never too busy for a friend," he said in greeting before looking at the book that Sofia had been perusing. "Interesting choice," he said, eyebrows raised.

"You caught me." She grinned, "My secret vice, bad Victorian romances." She made no attempt to cover up the cheesy cover with the usual swooning maiden, in the arms of the long haired shirtless man, "And you have a great selection of cheese."

"Cheese does sell well," Jon commented with a chuckle. "To a fairly broad demographic at that." He shook his head then. "Far be it from me to judge your recreational reading choices. My go to comfort novels are 90s-era John Grisham."

Turning then he scanned the shelves where they stood, index finger pointing along the rows of paperbacks until he found the one he was looking for. Pulling it down he handed her the book bearing yet another swooning maiden clasped between the unrealistically thick thighs of a barbarian looking man on horseback. "If you like bodice rippers," he said with a pop of his eyebrows, "this one sells particularly well."

She looked at the book, something she hadn't read. "Oh thank you." She paused, "This might be a series I haven't read yet, so, double thank you." She did pause, then grabbed a book on submarines, this one one, by Tom Clancy. "Gotta figure out what the hell Ciara even does, goes right over my head half the time."

Jon's expression was knowing as he watched her. "Good choice there. And if you'd like a fictional side by side..." he scanned again, this time pulling another Clancy novel down from near the top of the shelf. "You'll enjoy this one. Mind you, Red October is fictional, but it's a good read." For a moment he felt awkward, unsure if he should leave Sofia to her browsing or if she had really come more to see him than the store. He finally settled on what seemed most natural.

"I was just about to take a break and get some coffee. You're welcome to come up if you'd like a cup," he offered.

"That sounds good." She did smile, "I'd like that."

He nodded then tilted his head toward the back of the store indicating she should follow. "Just bring those with you," he said with a nod toward her small stack of books. "Perks of being the owner."

Taking the lead, Jon moved to the end of the stacks and then made a beeline for a wooden staircase with a Staff Only Beyond This Point sign hung across it. He moved it aside and gestured for Sofia to go ahead of him then reattached the chain and followed her up the steps. At the top he do-si-doed with her again, swapping places to open the door that led directly from the shop into the hallway between the two apartments. "We're on the left," he said without thinking indicating the apartment that was, technically, only his as the residence of both Liz and himself. He opened the door again, this time with a key, directed her inside not hesitating before moving toward the kitchen.

"Make yourself at home," he said gesturing broadly toward the living room and dining area. "How do you like your coffee?"

"I take it black." She responded as she settled in, setting her purchases down on the table, "Does it get easier?" She figured, he was going through a lot of what she was, if this was the first time she'd figure it out, but it never hurt to ask.

His head popped up from where he was making coffee, giving her a quick look of understanding before finishing the steps to get the pot brewing. He came over and pulled out a chair at the table, settling into it. "Yes," he said kindly, "and also no." He brought his hands up, clasping them on the table in front of him and leaning forward on his elbows. "You get familiar with it. Able to set up boundaries and guidelines for yourself when they go. You put routines in place to help yourself cope. But it always hurts. A part of your soul is going away for a while. And possibly doing dangerous things as well. That part is always hard."

Jon's head swiveled quickly, peeking back at the coffee pot before turning back to Sofia. "The returning though... there is nothing like it."

That got a pause, then she sighed, "I wonder if this is how my grandmother felt when grandpa went off to war. Too bad I can't ask her." Seeing John's quizzical expression, "Grandpa served on the USS Indianapolis during World War 2. He never liked swimming, in the ocean, though he liked Jaws."

"Ah," Jon said, nodding acknowledgement. His own grandparents had immigrated in the late 40s during the war. "I suppose folks served wherever made the most sense then."

The burbling of the coffee pot had slowed and he slid from his chair retrieving two coffee mugs, dosing them from the pot. Some cream went into his own before returning to the table and sliding Sofia's over to her. "Have you heard from her yet?" He asked then. "By email I mean. It's spotty communication, but better than nothing."

"Yeah, she sent me a little something letting me know that they were on the way." She paused, "Apparently she's got a roommate. and she's settling into her routine. I try and send pictures of stuff around here, and Palmerston." She sipped her coffee, "Our cat."

Jon nodded, sipping his own cup. "They've all technically got roommates except for Liz and the Skipper," he clarified. "Though Ciara's probably in officers quarters so maybe one or two other people where the rest are in these long hallways full of racks. They're tight in there." He set his coffee down, turning the mug on the table until the handle was pointed away from him so he could wrap his hands around the ceramic exterior. "Any other questions I can answer for you? The first time is always the hardest and most confusing."

There was a pause, usually Sofia was quick with a comment, but she was silent for a bit, "First time is the hardest, hell I better get used to this right? Problem with everything starting with shore duty, That was the easy time. Now comes the hard part." She then continued. "Do they at least get some time at home?" There was a little humor and some hoping her relationship with Ciara wasn't a series of good byes. Right now it was just tough.

Expression gentle, Jon nodded. "There are. You just came through one. Those periods are really lovely. And even when they are assigned to a boat there's a back and forth sort of rhythm to it. I got lucky with Liz. We had a few years together before she was assigned elsewhere." He grimaced, a pained expression on his face that passed quickly. "Truthfully, you're still together. That's something. Liz and I were dating at that point and we split up over it. She didn't want me following her. And I didn't want to lose her. And..." he trailed off. "This isn't meant to be a recount of my own history. Sorry. Just know that you're already doing well because Ciara left knowing you were still here."

That made her pause, then she continued, "Too true." There was a pause, "Thanks for sitting down with me."

"Of course," Jon said with a sort of self deprecating shrug. "It's what we do. How we get through it. No one waiting for their submariner to get home should do it alone."

"I had an idea." His comment on no one alone had made her think, "Why not have a family get together. I'm sure lots of folks would have questions, and it would be good to hear from people who've been through this mess before." She then smiled slightly, "I'll even cook."

"Not a bad idea," he said. "I wonder if they'd let us do it on base so some of the families wouldn't have far to go." The wheels were already turning at the idea, but as he thought he went one step forward. "Maybe also some sort of book club or monthly get together. Folks can come here, we'll close the book store for an hour, and just chat and get support. It's off base, so folks who need a bit of a change of scene can get it that way. What do you think?"

"That sounds like a good idea." Sofia paused, "I'll even make my Nonna's cannoli."

Jon grinned at that thought. "Deal. Although maybe more like weekly for the book club. We'll barely get through a book if we only go monthly. I'll reach out to make the arrangements and we can go from there."

He sat back in his chair, sipping the last of his coffee slowly before it could cool too much. "I'm glad you stopped in, Sofia," he said as he set the now emptied cup back down, and he was pleased to find that he really meant that--not just because he was doing what he'd promised Liz he'd do, but because it was nice, as he had said, not to go through it alone.


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