Dear Benjamin, Love Jennifer

When Jennifer received a letter in her mailbox whose return address stated “Sgt. Benjamin Arbor, USMC” she felt a simultaneous jolt of relief and anxiety surge through her body.

Jennifer had not heard from Benjamin for the previous 3 1/2 years. The last time Jennifer heard from Benjamin was 2 months after his deployment to Afghanistan, as he was adjusting to the new terrain. After his letter, news reports began covering his kidnapping by enemy forces.

Jennifer began to tear open the envelope, her mind exploring 1000 scenarios and wondering what he had to say, and what she had to tell him.

“Dear Jennifer,

It is me, Benjamin. They told me that this letter would reach you. I am headed back to the U.S. Do you still live in Albuquerque? Send me a letter with your contact information:

Sgt. Benjamin Arbor
PO BOX 713
West Palm Beach, FL

-Forever Yours,

Benjamin

In one moment, the entire 15 year history between Benjamin and Jennifer flooded Jennifer’s mind: Elementary school when they were both too shy to talk to each other, Becoming best friends in 8th grade, and their entire relationship between 8th grade and when Benjamin left for Basic Training. Jennifer had not thought about him or their relationship after the first, painful year when media stories kept circulating and the uncertainty of Benjamin’s condition began to slowly unravel Jennifer from the inside-out.

Jennifer was married now, to Sebastian Cumberbatch, a local politician in the Republican-dominated New Mexico State Legislature. Jennifer was 3 months pregnant with her first child with Sebastian, and within a few weeks would begin to show. Jennifer gripped her stomach as she sat down in her front drive-way and began to weep.

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Benjamin and Jennifer Date Night (Part I)

Benjamin drove his father’s 1987 Honda Accord speedily through the stop-lights and stop-signs of Murphysborough, Georgia. Benjamin was leaving for Marine Corps boot camp in less than 2 days, and this would be the last time he would see Jennifer, because she had a volleyball tournament in Atlanta, Georgia the next day.

Benjamin hastily came to a stop in front of Jennifer’s house, triple-checked his appearance in the rearview mirror, collected himself, and opened his car door to head up to Jennifer’s door, where he knew her dad would be waiting for him.

“I want her home by 10:45 and not one minute later.”

“Yes sir. Of course. When have I ever brought her late?” Benjamin replied in the most professional demeanor he could muster.

After a few more minutes exchange between Benjamin and Jennifer’s father, a prominent business attorney in Atlanta, Georgia, Jennifer appeared flowingly from the second floor of her 5-bedroom, 6 bathroom mansion. Benjamin’s attention suddenly focused drastically and intensively on Jennifer as she walked down the 14 steps to appear on the same level as Benjamin and her father.

Jennifer was wearing a flowingly white silken dress which emphasized her small waist leading to large, developed and muscular hips, legs and thighs.

Benjamin only became aware that he was standing next to his fiance’s dad when Benjamin was bumped on the arm and brought back to reality.

“Now Jennifer, you be good. Big Volleyball tournament tomorrow.”

“Yes, Daddy.” Jennifer dutifully responded.

As the door closed behind Jennifer and Benjamin as they headed to the car, Benjamin breathed a sigh of relief.

Jennifer looked at him and smiled, and without a word the beautiful young couple walked hand and hand until Benjamin opened the side door of the car for Jennifer, and after she was in the car, Benjamin closed the door, entered the driver’s side and sped off towards the direction of the mountains.

Envious

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Green-Eyed Monster.”

Benjamin was always a rebellious boy, Jennifer noticed. By this time in 3rd grade, Benjamin and Jennifer had been classmates for over 6 years, and although he thought she didn’t notice him all these years, Jennifer had been quietly watching Benjamin ever since Jennifer’s mom warned her about him.

But Jennifer was slightly envious of him. While Jennifer lived in a comfortable but strict household, Benjamin had survived only by bouncing between family members when his parents could no longer handle his rambunctious energy. Jennifer envied the way Benjamin was care-free and undisciplined. Free to do what he wanted, when he wanted, a caged spirit inside of Jennifer ached for this freedom.

Every day to school Jennifer’s parents ensured she represented her family history in both dress and attitude.

“We come from a great, long line of Glass. Why, my great grandfather fought for the Confederacy during the War of Northern Agression.”

So Jennifer was required to wear a pearl-white lace dress to school every day, with white leggings and white buckled-shoes, and to return spotless home from school.

Jennifer envied Benjamin’s wardrobe. Benjamin had never matched clothing one day in his life, and often looked as though he was wearing someone else’s dirty clothing. Oftentimes too large, Benjamin would inevitably head home covered on mud from head to toe from playing football with the other boys at recess.

Jennifer would watch Benjamin make tackles and get tackled, both cheering and then fearing for his safety. Jennifer often fantasized about running into the mud-pit the boys were playing in with her pearly white shoes and dress, knowing exactly the punishment she faced if she were to return home in that condition.

Benjamin’s Land of Confusion

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Land of Confusion.”

As Benjamin and Jennifer laid on their backs and watched the stars above, Jennifer turned to face Benjamin, and asked him “What’s your favorite school subject?”

Never the studious type, Benjamin’s stomach reflexively knotted up anytime people discussed anything related to academics.

“I’m planning on joining the Marine Corps after high school, so that stuff doesn’t really matter to me.” Benjamin stated, in his best tough-guy voice, hoping Jennifer would be intimidated and stop down this line of questioning.

“Of course you need to know Mathematics and English, haha!” Jennifer replied, mistakenly thinking that Benjamin was joking. “We’ve been together 4 months and you still won’t open up to me! This is our junior year of high school, so we need to start thinking about colleges together. Maybe we can both go to Georgia Tech together!”

“I-I…I’m not very good at school, and Mathematics is my worst subject.” Benjamin confessed to Jennifer. Benjamin suddenly felt a lightness between the two of them.

Benjamin continued: “Do you remember the 3rd grade with Ms. Carter?”

“Yes, with the pet iguana that got out of its cage and Ms. Carter found it in her desk 3 days later?” Jennifer asked.

“Yes, Well that year I was struggling with math but still doing pretty well. I asked Steven to help me with my homework and he ended up telling all the other boys that I couldn’t read or count. After that they all made fun of me and I never cared about learning math from that day on.” Benjamin looked at Jennifer, who was watching him the whole time.

Jennifer scooted her body to where Benjamin was laying down on his back, and when she was right next to him, gave him a kiss on his forehead.

A Short History of Benjamin Arbor and Jennifer Glass

Even before either Benjamin Arbor or Jennifer Glass ever set foot on this earth, their relationship was already forming. Jennifer’s Dad, Bruce Glass, and Benjamin’s mother, Anita Arbor, had been classmates at Georgia Tech, when on the first day of English 101, Bruce sat next to Anita, and in a startled moment, knocked his cup of coffee over, covering Anita’s entire bookbag.

“I-I-I-I’m sorry ma’am! Let me help you with that.” Bruce Exclaimed as the class went silent and the teacher investigated the commotion.

“No need for worry, I keep a handkerchief for such an occasion.” Anita Replied, as the teacher continued to lecture and the students returning to their slumped-over positions.

And so began the initial contact which would result in a tumultuous relationship between Benjamin and Jennifer, which would unfold over the three next decades.

Jennifer and Benjamin were born 6 months apart, and when they were 3 years old, they attended the same day care and would be in the same classes from day care until Jennifer left to college at the University of Kentucky with a volleyball scholarship.

Benjamin’s first words to Jennifer were:

“Hi Jennifer! How’s your Dad’s…” as he slipped and fell in the hallway at their middle school between first and second period, nearly breaking his arm as he fell and Jennifer helped him up.

“Are you okay?” Jennifer asked when Benjamin regained his footing.

“Y-Y-Yes.” Benjamin stuttered before collecting his books and walking away feeling completely embarrassed, with his hand still hurting from the fall.

This experience was the first and the last time Benjamin and Jennifer were to speak, until they both were seniors in high school.

After Benjamin and Jennifer had been dating for almost 11 months, high school graduation would take each of them on very different paths: Jennifer was to attend the University of Kentucky on a full athletic scholarship after being heavily recruited during her high school volleyball career, and Benjamin had enlisted in the United States Marine Corps.

After returning from 4 years active duty, Benjamin returned to the United States to find Jennifer engaged to a lawyer in Lexington, Kentucky.

Benjamin continued to work various jobs in San Francisco, Seattle and New York City.

Benjamin would not cross paths with Jennifer for another 7 years, until one fateful day would bring both of them together.

Fireside Chat

“I’ve never told anyone this story…” Benjamin spoke to Jennifer, both of whom were watching the fire flickering in a fireplace, logs neatly formed into a stacked formation. Benjamin and Jennifer enjoyed Christmas break at a hidden away cabin in one of the small mountain towns near Denver, Colorado. Jennifer had just finished her winter term finals of her senior year. Benjamin had been home from the military for only a few months.

“Those 3 years I was in Afghanistan and unable to communicate by phone or by mail.”

“I know, I know. You were being held hostage. Your country is proud of your sacrifice.” Jennifer reaching out to hold Benjamin’s hand.

“I wasn’t ‘hostage’. I was court marshaled while I was out there and had to spend 3 years in custody.” Benjamin confessed. Jennifer took her hand back, startled by her new understanding of this man.

‘Wh-What happened?” She asked, running a million different scenarios through her head.

“One of the first nights we were there, it was my turn to watch the entire American outpost, at our base ‘Camp American Eagle’ on the outskirts of American occupation.” Benjamin paused, reflecting on the fact that this revelation would forever change his relationship with Jennifer. “We had just finished a 15 mile journey to build an alliance with the local tribesmen. I was cooking my dinner a few hours after the rest of the platoon had gone to sleep. I was cooking army-issue sausages, when the grease from the pan caught fire and spilled over onto the wooden platform of the tower I was in.”

Jennifer’s eyes searched over Benjamin’s facial features, eyes, mouth, nose, as if she was viewing each of them for the first time.

Benjamin continued: “The fire spread, I barely escaped with my life as the flames engulfed the watch tower. I pulled the fire-alarm for the barracks, so no one was injured, but approximately 1/3 of the base was burned that night and I was court marshaled the next morning. I was required to serve 36 months hard labor as punishment. I’m sorry I lied.”

Jennifer noticed the reflection of the flicker of the flame on Benjamin’s face, warping his figure and distorting the shadows cast on and by his face. Jennifer searched inside herself for some type of response or reflection. Nothing. Jennifer slowly turned away from Benjamin, and when her face was shielded from his view, began to weep silently.

Hindsight is 20-20

As Benjamin looked over New York City from his 38th floor, glass walled apartment, he began to reflect, speaking directly but facing away from a man dressed in a grey suit with black shoes.

“I can rewrite history? What’s the catch.”

“No ‘catch’, but there is a price.” The man from Decathlon Technologies responded. David Houston, the senior vice-president of sales and marketing for Decathlon Technologies, had just informed Benjamin about Decathlon’s Technologies newest ability, to rewrite history.

“Benjamin, what is it in your history would you like to rewrite?”

Suddenly a flood washed over Benjamin as he thought of 3 or 4 very distinct events, that if he was able to change, would, Benjamin believed, drastically alter the course of Benjamin’s life. Benjamin was now lost in his own head, thinking about how he would fix his past mistakes, and where he would be in his life if he never made those mistakes.

Before Benjamin could answer, David calmly stated the price:

“$10,000 per event.”

The price was no longer a consideration for Benjamin at this point in his life. From the age of 5 until 13, Benjamin lived on a one-room, thirty-four (34) acre farm just south of Atlanta, in Murphysborough, Georgia where his father was a farmer, who, if he worked hard enough, could scrape together enough food for Benjamin and his family to eat for that day.

“So how does it work?”

Revealing what, appeared to Benjamin to be similar to an Apple iPad, David opened his HyperView 2035 and, after a few hand gestures, a hologram of the Hindsight 2020 filled the entire apartment, displaying the technical details of a new machine designed to travel back in time for 15-20 minutes at a time.

“What you are now seeing is the Hindsight 2020 by Decathlon Technologies. After approximately 3 decades of research, this unit is now available to a select, few, high-worth individuals such as yourself.”

David paused while Benjamin considered the technology.