The heat of the jungle was so oppressive that just standing in one place was almost like swimming through thick, dense air. It was a presence you could feel and smell and touch, and yet the men pressed forward wanting to see her … to get closer … to see more…. Their shoulders were tightly compressed, as they sat there, side by side, cross-legged on the ground. In the front, way up front, they had folding chairs, but they had run out of chairs hours before. The men had been sitting there since sundown, baking, sweating, waiting. It felt like a hundred years that they'd been sitting here in the thick jungles of Guadalcanal and they didn't give a damn. They would have waited half a lifetime for her. She represented everything to them right now … mothers … sisters … women … girlfriends they had left behind … women … Woman. There was an almost audible purr after nightfall, as they sat there, talking, smoking, rivulets of sweat pouring down their necks and backs, their faces glistening, their hair damp, their uniforms sticking to their flesh, and all of them so young, children almost … and at the same time children no more. They were men.
By 1943, they had been here for longer than they cared to remember, and everyone wondered when the war would end, and if it ever would. But tonight no one thought about the war, only the men on duty had to worry about that. And most of the men waiting for her now had bought out for the night with every kind of currency they could lay their hands on, everything from chocolate bars to cigarettes to cold hard cash … anything … anything to see her … they would do anything to see Faye Price again.
As the band began to play, the air wasn't thick so much as sultry, the heat no longer oppressive but sensual, and they felt their bodies stir in a way they hadn't in a long, long time. It wasn't just hunger they felt for her, it was something deeper and more tender, something that would have frightened them if they had felt it for too long. They felt the first stirrings of it now as they waited … waited … every moment a pulse beat as a clarinet began to wail. The music wrenched at the gut and was almost painful, and every face, every man, held his breath and was still. The stage was empty in the darkness, and then suddenly, dimly, they saw her, or thought they did … it was impossible to be completely certain, a tiny spotlight sought her in the distance. It found her feet and there was a flash of silver, a sparkle from afar, like falling stars in a summer sky … the shimmer of her body as she approached them made their guts ache, and suddenly she stood there before them. Blinding perfection in a silver lame gown. There was an audible sigh from the men who watched her, a perfect blend of desire and ecstasy and pain. Her skin was like the palest of pink velvet in the dazzling silver gown, the long blond hair was almost the color of ripe peaches and she had worn it down. Her eyes danced, her mouth smiled, she held her hands out toward them as she sang, and her voice was deeper than any woman they remembered. She was more beautiful than any they had known. She moved and the gown revealed endless, exquisite flesh, the pink perfection of her thighs.
“Oh God …” One voice murmured in a back row, and around him, a hundred young men smiled.
They all felt that way about her, had for years. They hadn't believed it when they'd been told she was going to do a show for them. She had been doing shows like this halfway around the world. In the Pacific, in Europe, in the States. A year after Pearl Harbor, the guilt had overwhelmed her, and she'd been touring off and on now for more than a year. Recently, she had stopped to make another movie, but she was back on the road now … and tonight, she was here … with them.
Her voice had grown mournful as she sang to them, and in the front row, the men who watched could see a pulse beating in her neck. She was alive … she was human … and if they had reached across the