Vivid - Jessica Wilde

Prologue

There are a lot of things a man can hear about himself that won't puncture his thick skin. A lot of things that won't make a difference in how he lives his life.

He's an asshole. I can say, with almost complete certainty, that every man hears those words at least once in his life. It comes with having a dick.

He's an idiot. That one sucks, but it can be overcome, and we all know why we are idiots. We think about sex every seven seconds. We think about a woman's underwear almost as often. Yes, we can be idiots, but only because our minds are preoccupied. We learn how to get around it, eventually.

He doesn't understand me. Well, of course we don't. If you don't tell us what the hell we are supposed to understand, we never will. It's not worth the drama, most of the time, but the times that you actually talk to us and tell us something that isn't spoken in code, we try to understand. We try to fix it.

He's awful in bed. Well, that one has an effect, but again, we just get better. Sleep with a few more women or learn a few more things, and voila! We are better in bed. That one is probably the worst to hear, but again, it doesn't change anything. We are still me. We will still act the same once we get it fixed.

It won't change us. We adapt and overcome. Then, we carry on.

But there comes a moment where something does change. We've done everything a man should do. We heard the shit said about us; we dealt with it and got over it. Then, we hear the one thing that penetrates after we've done the one thing that has already destroyed us.

"He's blind."

This isn't the metaphorical blind. This is the real deal.

For twelve years, we've had the discipline, the training, and the work. We've put on the gear and lived in a special type of hell, all for the purpose of protecting our country. Protecting our friends and family.

We've done it. We've sacrificed.

Now?

We were spared long enough to see a cloudy image of our friends being torn to pieces, shot at more times than one can count, and cornered, with the only thought being, 'How long will they torture us before God finally takes us?'.

We see it all happen right in front of us, and we are helpless to stop it, no matter how hard we try. Then, suddenly ... everything goes black. The last image in our mind is our best friend bleeding all over us, crying to God to take him home to his wife and unborn child, and knowing without a doubt that it won't happen.

I should stop saying 'we' because it doesn't happen to every man. Only a rare few.

But it happened to me.

And now, every hope of seeing light again is stripped away.

"He's blind."

Not only do I feel like I've been torn to shreds, burned to the bone, then slowly broken into a million pieces; I see nothing but blackness. Hear nothing but the sound of my mother crying softly in the corner of my hospital room. Feel nothing but the anger and disappointment in myself, knowing I could have done more. Knowing that because I was still alive, it was all my fault. I should have been the one to die. I should have been faster. Smarter. I shouldn't have been thinking about how fucking hot it was in that blistering sun or how long it would take me to get all the sand out of my clothes. I should have prevented it all from happening. It was my responsibility.

I lost two of my men, watched the others nearly die, and prayed, to the only God I knew, that it would end.

He ended it, but not the way I asked for.

He took away my sight. He took away my ability to see what was happening and my ability to fix it, to adapt and overcome ... to save my friends.

"Will he walk again?"

"With therapy and time, yes. His hand will be a difficult transition. We have another surgery scheduled for some hardware to be placed, but he will have the use of his hand, eventually. I imagine it won't be at one hundred percent, though."

"And his burns? How long?"

"We're treating him carefully. There will be scars. His burns are too severe for plastic surgery to help significantly. He will be in pain for a long time and will need to