Listen to this while you read! :)
Eleven months. It’s been Eleven months since I’ve seen you. Eleven long, torturous months. Eleven months since I boarded that plane. It’s been eleven months too long. And, love, I miss you. But there’s only a couple more months until I can come home and see you and Aubree, and that’s what keeps me going.
I can’t wait to see her, to meet her, to hold her in my arms. Does she have my curls and your eyes? Or your smile and my dimples? The pictures you send just aren’t enough. How could they ever be enough, when I know there’s a little girl across the sea, waiting to call me Daddy?
I carry the picture you sent me in my boot. You and her. It’s my good luck charm. My two girls. The woman who owns my heart and the little girl who already has me wrapped around my finger.
Every night, I lay awake and stare at it. Shadows dance across the walls and scenes play out in my head, things I’ve missed. I was deployed only a month before Aubree was born, and I kick myself every day for missing the birth of my child.
I can only imagine how that would have gone. I can imagine you waking me up at three in the morning, whispering that your water broke. As we both know, I would have freaked out. You would have been the calm one, grabbing the overnight bag and the keys.
Her first smile, her first steps, so many things I’ve missed out on. I’m sorry, love, but I’m coming home. I’m coming back to the place I belong. Only a few more months, and we’ll be together again. In just a few months, we’ll be a family.
I love you. Forever yours, Ryan
The letter ends, and I smile. “I miss you,” I whisper. It’s been so long since he’d left. I just want to be together again. I want to see his face, hold his hand, hear his laugh.
I grab Aubree from her crib and head downstairs to feed her lunch. Opening the cabinet, I pull out her favorite snack and set it on the counter, but the sound of the doorbell fills my ear.
I shift her to my other hip as I head for the entry way. “Just a second, baby girl,” I tell her as I open the wooden door.
I freeze when I see the camouflage that the man wears. His hair is cut short, his combat boots laced all the way up, and dog tags hang from his neck. In his hand is a thin envelope, and his last name is stitched onto his shirt. Johnston. His eyes are apologetic, and that’s what hits me the hardest. His eyes. Deep blue with flecks of silver, and filled with sorrow.
I can’t answer. I know what’s coming. He’s gone.
“Y-yes. That’s me,” I force myself to choke out.
“You’re husband was killed last week. It was a roadside bomb. Almost every man in the vehicle was killed.”
“He’s dead, ma’am.”
The four letter, one syllable word hits me hard, knocking all the air out of my lungs. I lean forward, and place my free hand on my knee, the other still supporting Aubree. I can barley breathe. When I was finally able to draw in a breath, it sounded like a wounded animal. It was a gut- wrenching, broken cry, so desperate and mournful.
I slowly stand upright, hand over my mouth, stifling my sobs, and look at him. “I’m terribly sorry, ma’am,” He hands me the letter and turns to leave but then turns back around. “He was a very honorable man. I knew him personally, and that’s something I’m proud to say.”
“T-thank you,” I whisper and shut the heavy wooden door. I collapse on the couch, sobbing. “No, no, no, no, no,” I wail, repeating it over and over.
Aubree soon joins in, whimpering softy. Whether if it’s from hunger or from hearing me cry, or if she can sense something is wrong, I don’t know. “Shhh,” I whisper. I hold her head close to my shoulder and rock back and forth. “Don’t cry, baby, don’t cry,” I tell her, even though my weeping is louder than hers.
My gaze catches in the mirror above the fireplace, and I’m startled. I don’t cry often, but now my eyes are red and puffy. They’re full of fear, anger and despair. But the thing that strikes me the most is the full-blown terror.
“Ryan….” It’s the only word I can manage, when really, I want to say how much this hurt, tell him that I can’t do this, that it was too much. But I can’t. He isn’t here. He can’t hear me. He’ll never be here again. He’ll never meet the daughter who looks just like him. He’ll never get to teach her how to ride a bike, or how to drive a car. He’ll never get to sing her to sleep or kiss me goodnight.
What’d I’d do for one more chance, just one more day with him.