by § Roseille ♥
A teen girl hears her boyfriend won't return from Iraq. (First story on WDC; 2005)
He's gone. He's never coming back.
Though in reality only ten minutes have passed, it seems like hours since the man came to her door. Kade, he said his name was. He was young, at least as young as Casey, and uncomfortable. The man had said that he was one of Casey's best friends. "I asked my Commander if I could be the one to come. I thought you should hear this from...someone who...knows Casey as well as I do."
Hear what? Marie tried to shut the door then. She knew what was coming. This was the thought that left her trembling, the distant possibility that woke her up, screaming and crying, late at night. But she hadn't been able to close the door. He'd talked for so long, telling her who he was and how he knew Casey...
Oh, God, help me! Casey. I need you now.
But Casey is gone. "With the Lord"; that was how the young man at her door had phrased it. A terrible smile crosses her face, gone as quickly as it appears: there is no easy way to tell someone that the one person they love most in the world is gone.
Her hand gently massages her belly. It's not big yet; it will be soon. She is only nineteen, when most girls are busy being rebels, busy believing that they are invincible and beautiful. Only nineteen, broken, with life growing inside of her when she is not even sure if her own is worth keeping.
On her lap, there is the letter. It's from Casey. The last letter he wrote. It is unfinished, placed carefully in an envelope with only her name on it, written in someone else's writing. It must be the reply to her last one, the letter in which she told him about their child.
Beside the letter, in a thin, bloodless hand, is her father's gun. It's heavier than she thought it would be. In the movies, the hero holds it out straight, unwavering, but it feels like a dead weight. The metal is still cold, though she's been holding it for a while. She wonders why.
Lifting the gun up, she holds it to her head experimentally, just to see how it feels. Adrenaline courses through her veins. She is amazed and terrified at the same time with the power she holds. Her whole body buzzes and tingles.
"Casey. Forgive me. I just... I can't." She can't do this without him. She's not going to be one of those girls all the kids whisper about in the cafeteria.
If there's a God, He'll make sure she finds her way to Casey.
She will pull the trigger. She wants to.
But what if there isn't a God?
It don't matter. I can't keep going on like this. Unbidden, a picture of Casey comes to her mind, a birthday hat tipped at an angle on his head, unruly blond hair peeking out from under it. That big goofy smile of his that always made her laugh. She sees the mischievous glint in his ocean blue eyes. Casey was just two years older than she is, but he looks younger. On his lap, her six-year-old sister sits happily, leaning forward, trying with little breaths to blow out the candles on her cake. Unseen, Casey helps her along.
She thought that she couldn't cry anymore, but the emptiness she feels when she thinks she'll never see that face, the smile, the cute glint ever again brings fresh tears to her eyes.
Her vision blurred, she picks up the letter, pistol dangling. She tears the seal with care, so as not to damage its contents, and takes out a piece of the familiar blue stationary, folded into an airplane, like he always does. Silently she unfolds the paper, and begins to read.
I can't believe it! Have you told anyone
yet? We're going to have a baby!!! Let's
call her Anastasia. I've always loved that
name. It sounds so beautiful, and I know
she'll look just like you.
I'm going to be home soon. I love you more
than anything, Marie. Keep our kid safe for
Daddy. I met a guy here, Kade Markinson.
He's a cool guy. I'll introduce him to you
sometime. I know he'll love you as much as
I do. LYTB (love ya to bits)!
And there is a sloppy heart scratched onto the paper. The letter ends right there. She is still crying, can't stop now. Her vision is so blurred with tears she could not read on even if there had been more to read.
Marie's grip tightens on the pistol. Her finger curls around the trigger.
She doesn't realize she screamed his name until the boy, Kade, comes back to the door. His car had never pulled out of the driveway. "Miss! Marie, are you okay?" he calls from the open door.
Hearing no reply, the boy races into the living room. He stops dead when he sees her. "Dear God." Marie can see that his face is wet with tears too. "Don't. Please."
Lost in her own thoughts, she hardly hears what he says. Her hands shake as the cold metal of the gun meets flesh. "He's gone," she whispers. "Casey's dead."
"Don't," Kade says again.
"He's dead..." She squeezes her eyes closed against the flood of images.
"Please, don't do this to yourself. Don't do this to your baby. Casey told me you were pregnant. He loved you so much, Marie. More than anything he wanted to see that baby. If you kill yourself, you're letting the one piece of Casey you have left die with you." He finishes, staring at her, biting his lip. There's a certainty in his eyes, a weariness. He's seen death before.
Marie shakes her head. It's lowered now; she can hardly see Kade through the haze of her tears and the straw-blond hair that falls over her face. The cold barrel of the gun wavers against her temple. "I love you, Casey. I love you."
Vivid in her mind, bringing a slight smile to her face, is the memory of Casey proposing to her.
It had been in the strangest of places, and she'd been so unprepared. Casey had always been impulsive. Right outside of school, beside Ernie's hotdog stand, Casey had grabbed her up off of the ground, kissing her for the very first time on the mouth. "Do you love me, Marie?"
Caught off guard, afraid her body would give way, Marie just stared at him, wide eyed.
"Do you love me?" he repeated.
She rasped her reply out through a tight throat: "Yes."
"Will you marry me, then?"
No hesitation. "Yes."
When Casey caught her up in his arms, Ernie clapped, and then all the kids on the school-ground began to applaud, and Marie had been sure she'd learned how to fly. It had been the best moment in her life.
Life. She remembers something that Casey said to her when he told her he was going to Iraq. She told him to let it go, let someone else do it.
"Everyone deserves a chance, Marie," he'd said. "A free life is the best gift a person can have. I can't just stand by."
"What if you don't come back?"
"Then just keep going. I love you, but there's a world out there without me."
Everyone deserves a chance. Anastasia deserves a chance. Marie can't take that away from her. She looks up finally, meeting Kade's eyes.
Slowly, the gun falls away. Marie stands to her feet, the letter drifting off of her lap. The gun clatters loudly against the hardwood floor.
Kade breathes a deep sigh of relief, stepping forward and enveloping Marie in a comforting embrace. "Thank God." He breathes. His arms tighten around Marie's shaking body. Her arms go around his neck, holding on as if for her life. Maybe she is.
"Dear God thank you." Kade closes his eyes, returning her desperate embrace.
"Mommy?" Four-year-old Casey Anastasia Laurence looks up at her mother with twinkling ocean blue eyes. "Mommy, tell me about Daddy."
Marie looks at her daughter wistfully, thinking how much her eyes look like her father's, rubbing the soft blond hair with a smile. "He was the greatest Daddy in the world." Marie's eyes fill, and Casey looks scared.
"Are you okay, Mommy?"
"I'm fine. You wanted to hear about your dad?"
"Mmh-hmm." Casey nods eagerly. "What happened to him? Why isn't Daddy here now?"
Marie leads her daughter into the living room, sitting on the soft armchair, and pulling Casey onto her lap. She watches her little girl as she waits expectantly for the answer. Casey's tiny fingers twine together and she brings them up to her face and starts chewing on a nail. At any other time, Marie would tell her to stop, but not now. She feels a pang of emptiness when she remembers that Casey used to do the exact same thing.
"Mommy?" Casey says, getting worried.
"Daddy's gone," she says softly. "He died trying to help someone."
"Who did he help?"
"He was trying to keep Uncle Kade safe, Sweetheart." Though he isn't related to Casey at all, she always calls him Uncle. Marie thinks it's adorable.
The little girl is silent for a moment. "Daddy didn't love me, did he?"
Marie is shocked. She hugs Casey, tears coming to her eyes at her daughter's solemn question. "Oh, Honey. Why do you think that?"
"Because he wanted to help someone else. He didn't come to see me."
"He wanted to see you more than anything, Casey. He was going to come home just to see you, but..." Marie's voice trails off. When she speaks, her voice is very soft. "He loves you, Casey, wherever he is."
Casey smiles. "That's good. Can I go play with Unca' Kade now?"
"Yeah. Go play."
Casey hops off Marie's lap and trots outside, where Kade is just walking up the driveway, dressed in faded jeans and a tee shirt. He picks Casey up and spins her around. Her skirt flutters in the light breeze, and she cries out in delight. Marie watches him from the window, a contented smile on her face as she looks at him. His brown hair, she notes, should probably have been cut a week ago. His green eyes, the color of grass, are alive with happiness as he stares into little Casey's. There is still pain when she thinks of her husband, Casey, and the hole he left in her life when he died, but Kade almost fills up that hole.
She closes her eyes, smiling a soft, unburdened smile, letting the fresh breeze flow over her, and she dreams about the future.
To everyone who has ever been in the military, and to everyone who has or has had someone they care for defending our country, Thank you.This story is for you. Thanks to StephB for helping me with the military aspect of this.
Notes: This was written when I was 14 years old. It was actually the first item I ever posted on WDC! Thank you to all the people (over 60 of you!) who spent time writing helpful feedback. You stoked the flames of writing in me and helped me improve. While feedback is amazing and always appreciated, I recognize the flaws in these stories and am keeping them as an archive of my early work rather than a piece I am actively trying to rewrite and improve. For that reason, I have chosen to disable reviews.