For Just A Moment

Submitted into Contest #27 in response to: Write a short story that ends with a twist.... view prompt

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Mystery

For Just A Moment

I was tired of all the fighting. I just left the office of the mediator, and once again, my soon to be ex-wife had decided not to show up with my kids. No one loved those kids more than I did, and it was killing me that I hadn't seen them in almost three months. What was she telling them about me? Knowing how mad she had been when she wrote the note, her she was probably painting me as the bad guy, the one that couldn't make time for his kids. I just needed to hold all three of them in my arms. It had been too long, three months, to be exact. It had been after a long day working, and I just wanted to go home, eat, then cuddle my kids and go to bed.

I’d been working extra hours; I was trying so hard to save up the money to take us all on a family vacation. Lori and I had married so young, and we hadn't even had a real honeymoon. I hadn't told her what I had been doing. It was going to be a surprise. Well, the surprise was on me. I got home late, hoping that dinner would be waiting for me. Instead, I found a note taped to the door for me.

I took it inside the house. It read, 'Dear Bryce, I hope that whoever she is has been worth losing the kids and me. I've taken the kids to my parents' house. Don't come by or call. My dad won't let you in, and I'm not answering the phone. My attorney will send you all the information that you need.' She hadn't even signed it. She never let me explain why or what I was doing.

My drive back home sucked. I started thinking about our lives. I thought we were genuinely happy. I guess somewhere along the way, something must have happened to change the way she felt. I loved Lori, and I loved my kids. What would I do without them in my life?

I waited in the baggage claim area. I held onto a bunch of flowers that had seen better days. I stopped and picked them up at a local grocery store. Already since this morning, they'd been dropped a few times, gotten squished in the elevator doors, and I noticed that I was bleeding on the stems that I held tightly. Must have been a stray thorn. Still, I wasn't going to let go!

Would I recognize him? They say war changes people, but would I still recognize him? I know he'd lost his right leg just above the knee. His regiment had been on a reconnaissance mission, and Kris was standing too close to a grenade. He lost his leg, but he was one of the luckier ones.

I was afraid to face him. Would I look at him and be repulsed by his dangling pant leg? Would I be able to glance at it without staring? I felt myself squeeze the stems of my roses even tighter. I knew that he would appear soon. I saw many other soldiers dressed in their fatigues converging in the area. Most of them had someone there to greet them with hugs and kisses. A few had no one at all. It helped me feel better about coming. At least Kris had me here to greet him.

He had a very large family, and he'd asked them to wait for him at home. He wanted to spend his first moments back on American soil with me. I was thrilled and scared to be alone with him. I took a deep breath; I saw that the wounded soldiers making their way into the area. Some were hopping along on crutches, and a few were just limping or cradling an injured arm.

I recognized Kris immediately. His smile had been the first thing that had attracted me to him, and I was relieved that he still had all of his beautiful teeth.

An airport employee pushed Kris toward me in a wheelchair. His voice cracked in the middle of talking. "Hello beautiful, I'm so happy you're here. I missed you more than you will ever know!" He held out his arms towards me and I ran. I didn't even realize that I had dropped the flowers.

The attendant helped get him outside, and he even helped me get Kris into my small car. It wasn't until we were trying to get him into the tiny front seat that I noticed his missing leg.

I gave the guy five dollars for his help; that was all I had. "Thank you so much for your help!" He tried to hand it right back to me.

"Miss, I didn't do anything. Thank you for your service, soldier!" He pushed the bill back into my hand and walked away. I started tearing up. I had done so well throughout the whole morning, and now I was crying because of something an airport attendant had said to me.

I quickly wiped at my nose, and then turned to help Kris with his seatbelt.

"Hey, look at me. I want to look at your beautiful face. Do you know that it was your face that kept me going every single day? "He reached out and grabbed both of my hands. "After we visit my parents, I want to go for a walk with you. Is our park still there?" Het let go of one of my hands and placed his finger under my chin. "I missed you, Mandy!" He gently pulled my chin forward, and we kissed — a slow, hungry, devouring kiss.

"God, I missed you too, Kris. Thank you for that. Now let's get you to your parents. I know there are plenty of people waiting to see you!"

This situation was crazy. I couldn't let this happen to our family. I had to try and explain to Lori what I had been doing. I had my check stubs from my other job with me, and if she would only listen to me, I know I could get her to understand what I had been doing. I'd had to work longer hours a few years back when my son was hit by a car.

We hadn't had insurance at the time, and after the drunk driver hit my boy, I worked as many hours that I could to pay for the specialist that Timothy needed.

Timothy Bryce Williams, the 4th, named after the rest of the men in our family and me. He was a special boy. It was a long hard fight, but we had won it. We found a specialist to diagnose him, and he'd gone through many painful therapy sessions to help him walk again, but Lori and I were with him every step.

Lori knew I worked longer hours to pay for everything. We didn't want any handouts. We'd all survived that horrific event, and the man who'd hit my son was sentenced to six months in jail. We felt like six months wasn't long enough for what he had done. However, we were grateful that we still had Timothy.

We worked on our feelings of anger toward that man after hearing what he was going through. It didn't make the drinking and driving okay, but we understood his reasons. We had forgiven him and moved on.

My mind was made up. I was going over to Lori's parents' house and demand that they let me speak to her. Even if they had to be there with us, she was going to listen to me. I wouldn't let this misunderstanding destroy everything we'd built together.

It was just after five. I knew they would be sitting down for dinner. At her parents' house, it was the law that dinner was served at precisely five-thirty every night. If I showed up then, they would all be at the table. If nothing else, I hoped to at least see my children and make sure they understood how much I loved them.

I arrived at the large two-story Victorian house and sat outside looking at it. The dining room was in the rear of the house next to the kitchen, so I knew no one would see me yet. I gathered my thoughts and made sure that the check stubs were in my wallet. I picked up the flowers that I bought at the corner florist. They were her favorite white roses. With the roses in one hand and my heart in the other, I approached the front door and rang the bell.

We pulled up to Kris' parents' house. I loved being here, and I adored his family. Sheila and Karl made me feel welcome, and his brothers Ken and Keith teased me just as if I was the sister they never had. I'd come here often while Kris was away.

However, the last time I was here had been very solemn. They’d asked me to come by after getting a call from an officer in the Army. He had something important to discuss with us.

"No, sweetie, I asked the same thing. Kris is alive." Sheila and I sat on the couch and held each other's hands. When the official car pulled up in front of the house, we were all prepared for the worst. Still, the shock of hearing that he'd lost part of his leg had the whole family in tears.

After the men left, we discussed what needed to be done for Kris before he returned. He was being released because of his injury. He would receive a purple heart and a letter of thanks from the president of the United States. Not much for losing a limb, but he was coming home.

His family waited on the front porch for his arrival. Nan and Pop were there too. His brothers ran down to the car and opened the door. They lifted him out of the vehicle and held him between the two of them as they hugged and kissed each other on the cheeks. There was a lot of love in this family.  

His father came down the walkway leading from the porch pushing a wheelchair, and his voice cracked when he spoke. "Welcome home, Son."

Keith and Ken helped him into the chair, cracking jokes about popping wheelies up to the front porch. I followed at a somber pace behind them so they could have the time with their son. His mom hurried down the stairs, followed by his Nan and Pop. The two women were sobbing.

His mother reached for his dad's hand, and they knelt on the ground in front of him. They each picked up a hand, and I knew they were going to pray. I lowered my head and listened to what was said.  

Next, his Nan and Pop leaned over Kris and hugged him. "We're so proud of you, Kris!"

His Pop said, "Let's get this young man inside and feed him."

Nan replied, "Your mother and I made your favorite. Pot roast with potatoes and fresh peas from the garden. Hopefully your brothers didn't finish off the cobbler I brought." Everyone went inside to celebrate the life of this soldier and to give thanks that his life was spared.

I left Lori's parents' house feeling angry and upset. They hadn't let me in the door. I begged them to let me talk to Lori. I saw my kids run into the hallway at the ruckus. Her father yelled at me and called me names. I tried to explain everything in a hurry, as Lori ran into the hall and grabbed my kids. She took them upstairs, as they called, "Daddy!"

I tried to get past her father, and he grabbed my arm and told me to leave his house. He yelled at his wife to call the police.

I sped away from their house. I had to go somewhere and calm down. There were still a few hours of daylight left. I knew where it was that I wanted to go. I wanted to drive to Harley's and drink until I couldn't think or feel anymore. That's what I wanted to do. But that would only make me a danger to myself and others.

I had to calm down. I was going too fast for these streets. I glanced at the speedometer. Fifty? I saw something in my peripheral vision and looked up to see a young girl chasing after a ball. I swerved to miss her.

"Thank you, everyone, for that fantastic meal. It feels so good to be back home again. I have a favor to ask all of you." Kris asked them if they would stick around for a little while longer. He wanted me to push him around the block and visit the neighborhood park.

"We'll be right back!" They helped me get him situated in his chair. We waived to them, and I pushed him in the direction of the park.

We'd talked about getting married before he left. Would I be okay doing this with him for the rest of our lives? He hadn't asked me yet, but it was something that I needed to consider. Whatever happened to him while he was gone, would always be a part of our lives.

We approached the park, and I heard him humming a song. "You silly goose, you remembered our song." I loved that song. "Counting Stars. Kris, were the stars different on the other side of the world? I often looked up at the sky and thought about you. I wondered if you were thinking about me at the same time. I imagined that you were, and I spoke as if you were right by my side."

He laughed, then he began to reminisce about our time together before he went away. Suddenly, he yelled out, "Here, I need you to stop right here."

Did I do or say something wrong?

He seemed so desperate. "Mandy, I want you to push me over to that rose covered wall." I did as he asked, it bordered one side of the park, and I smelled the heavenly scent before we ever reached them.

"Okay, goose, we're here. What's the big deal?" It had sounded so urgent that we stop. "What do you want me to do now?" I stepped in front of him and folded my arms over my chest.

He fumbled around in his pockets for something. Finally, he asked, "Mandy, will you help me stand up. I must do this out of the chair."

Now he begged, "Please, Mandy, I can lean against the wall with your support. I do have one good leg still. I want to hold you close to my heart. I told you before that thinking about you was the only thing that kept me going some nights."

He pleaded now. "Let me hold you close and kiss you as I've dreamt of doing every day since we've been apart. Let me show you how much I've missed you, my Love."

How could I resist that? "Alright, you had me at kisses." I went over to him and set the lock on the chair as his dad showed me to do. Then I came around to the front of him and took both his hands. "On the count of three."

Kris stood right up, and I helped him hop over to the wall. He put his back up against the bricks and then pulled me close. We held onto each other like that for a few minutes.

"Kris," It was still daylight, and people were walking around the park. I pushed away from him. We hadn't even kissed yet, and I was panting. "Let me move this chair off of the path. We wouldn't want anyone to trip on it and get hurt."

I moved it out of the way, and as I turned to walk back towards Kris, I heard a loud noise. Then in slow motion, I saw and heard people opening their mouths. They seemed to be screaming and shouting.

I sensed something hot above my head, and I searched for Kris. The look on his face stopped me in my tracks.

The terror I saw in his eyes confused me. He held his hand up, and he mouthed the word, 'Stop!' I watched as a vehicle went soaring above my head and smashed into Kris. He was pinned against the wall by a small dark sedan.

I didn't think about what I was doing. I ran over to Kris, and I tried to pull him free. I heard others yelling for me to stop, but I couldn't. I wanted him away from that wall.

He said something to me as I struggled to get him free. "Mandy, please hold me. Let me look into your eyes."

I did as he asked and held him. There was nothing else I could do but watch as the man I loved spoke; blood gushed from his lips.

At that moment that I knew I loved him, and I hadn't told him yet. "I love you, Kris!" A crowd was gathering. Someone asked if the man inside the car was okay, and someone else tried to pull me away from Kris.

Kris whispered, "I want your face to be the last thing I see…" He stopped talking. His eyes stayed open, and his hands went limp.  

I whimpered, " Kris, you can't leave me. I just got you back, Kris!" Someone pried my fingers from his and hauled me away from the wreckage. The sirens grew louder as they neared us.

Someone spoke, "I was trying not to hit that little girl. She ran out into the street after her ball. She was the same age as my daughter. I only took my eyes off the road for a moment."


January 31, 2020 22:33

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