A Real Man by Nils Durban

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He could probably manage that. And he probably had just about enough money left for it too.

"Sure," he said, in as easy going a manner as he could manage, "I'll be back soon."

He set off purposefully in the direction of the bar, before realising that he didn't know what she wanted. He turned around quickly.

"G and T," she said with a wink, before he could even ask the question.

He had to borrow money from both Melvyn and Howard on the understanding that they could observe his exploits from a safe distance. One more thing for him to worry about.

He was amazed to find her waiting in the same spot for him when he returned. Or was she simply waiting for her drink? She drained the glass in a single gulp, before reaching down to grab his sweaty palm and proceeded to drag him towards the centre of the hall, "Let's dance," she proclaimed.

David danced with Grandma at Christmas time up until he was about age eleven and Grandma began to use a stick. He had been watching the dances all night and was completely astounded by their elaborate nature. "I can't," he tried to say to her, but by then they were amidst the general melee and David had only two choices. He could dance or he could run.

He danced. Or, at least, he tried to dance.

"Isn't it wonderful, David," she whispered into his ear.

"Yes, wonderful," so overwhelmed was he by the act of holding her body against his own that he could do no more than repeat her words.

"It's like being in high society, don't you think?" she said, "especially all the uniforms. Sergeants, Corporals, Captains. It's so romantic, isn't it?"

"Mmm," he managed, "romantic."

And then, as her words sunk in, and the band reached the end of their present melody, he decided to ask her a question. "What is it about the uniforms, Katie? Why do you like them so?"

She smiled at him, "It's just so heroic I guess. It's what real men are meant to be like, I suppose."

And then she whirled him into another dance, "One more," she said, "and then you'll have to walk me home."

They walked arm in arm, by her choice rather than his, although he certainly wasn't complaining. There was a cold chill in the air, but that was not the reason why he still had goose pimples.

When they reached her door she turned to face him.

"Do you want to kiss me goodnight?"

"Yes, please," he said, aware that he sounded as if he was asking for extra vegetables.

"Go on, then. If you want to." she closed her eyes and leaned towards him.

On a crisp Spring morning, three days later, David waited at the end of her street until she came out to go shopping. She almost walked straight past him, until he called her name.

She turned to look him up and down, disbelief and horror written upon her face, "David? What have you done?"

"I've joined up, haven't I. Do you like it?" He held his arms up to better display his army uniform.

"But, you're barely eighteen David," she wailed, "Why would you do that. They couldn't even make you join when you're twenty, not with your job at the waterworks and all!"

David didn't understand.

"I did it for you, Katie. And," he paused, searching for the words, "to be a real man."

Tears coursed down her cheeks as she turned and fled, "go and get yourself killed then," she shouted back at him, "if that's what you want. I never want to see you again."

He stood there for a full five minutes, dumbfounded.

"I did it for you," he whispered to himself.