He wondered if she still loved him.
| He wondered if she still loved him.
He sat watching from the hangar as the flight line mechanics readied their planes. Watched the pre-launch checklists being performed. The engines screamed to life. A warm gentle breeze washed over him as the exhausts turned to point in his direction, moving the aircraft toward the runway.
He watched as the planes took off, afterburners roaring in the waning daylight, while he waited for his fuel truck to appear. He wondered if she still loved him. Did he love her? Without a doubt.
Several of his compatriots lived by the motto, “What happens on the road, stays on the road.” That wasn’t his way, though. For better or for worse. Through good times and bad. That was the vow he made. And he meant to keep it. Still he wondered if she loved him. Loved him as much as the day they said “I do.”
The fuel truck arrived. He went through the motions. The struts were properly lubed, the plane grounded, as was the fuel truck. Chocks set at their proper distance. Fuel nozzle locked in place and gas pumping.
All the while he wondered. He couldn’t help being away from home. It was his job. Even though it upset her, it was what he liked to do, was meant to do.
“Does she really love me still?” he asked himself. Routine took over. He walked around the jet, checking this and that, making sure everything was going as planned.
Then a spark caught his attention. It was minor, immaterial even, out of the corner of his vision. Yet, there it was. The plane had come ungrounded. And the spark was directly under the fuel vent.
“STOP!” he managed to yell. But it was too late. The fuel vapors ignited with the next spark. Hell let loose on earth.
The conflagration entered the fuel tanks, where it exploded on contact. He was immolated. The scream ripped from his throat; his lungs seared. A secondary explosion, the fuel truck catching fire, launched him, crushing him against the wall of the hangar. His final thought was, “Does she know I love her?”
He awoke to the sound of the bugle.
The grass was green. The sky was blue. Yet, all was not right with the world. He couldn’t place his finger on it until…
Seated before the coffin, the grief washed over her. Barely aware of her surroundings, she’d somehow made it this far…and she would have to make it farther still without him by her side. For the sake of the two tiny boys. For her own sake. She had to.
The flag pressed into her hands. “A grateful nation…,” the only words she heard. The rest was background noise to her one, and only, thought.
“Did he know how much I loved him?”
At that moment, she felt his presence. His touch alongside her face. And she knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he did.