Welcome back to Tales on Tuesday! I so hope you enjoyed my story, Check Yes or No. Starting this week, I’ll be sharing another story I wrote a few years ago called More Than My Own Life. Happy reading.
~September 11, 2001~
“Oh, my God.” I can’t tear my eyes away from the television screen. Black smoke rises from one of the most prominent skyscrapers in the New York cityscape. The blue sky—normally a scene of serenity and happiness in early September—is suddenly daunting. I know what’s coming next, because the television station has been playing it on repeat all morning. “There it is,” I whisper, eyeing the second airplane, which I now know to be United Airlines flight 175. I watch with horror as the plane flies straight into the South Tower of the World Trade Center. The shot switches back to the live view of the Twin Towers—what’s left of them, anyway. I don’t even hear the newscaster’s voice anymore. What she’s saying doesn’t matter, not in the grand scheme of things.
“Maybe we should turn it off for a while,” my husband murmurs. He’s been sitting next to me all morning, neither of us able to peel our eyes away.
“Okay,” I agree automatically.
Neither of us move, and the plane flies into the tower again. And again. And again.
~September 25, 2001~
Two lines. Two little pink lines. I don’t know whether to be happy or not. Three months ago, I would have been ecstatic to see the positive pregnancy test. Now I’m not so sure. Joshua and I had been trying to have a baby for six months, but after the terrorist attacks, we decided to take a break because he’d gotten deployment orders from his commanding officer. He’s leaving for Afghanistan on the seventh of October and will be gone for a year—at least. And now I’m pregnant. I sink to the floor next to the bathtub and weep.
~October 7, 2001~
We’re standing in the large gym of a Denver high school. I’m not even sure which one; it doesn’t matter. There are other couples everywhere around us, all in the same situation, but I barely notice any of them.
“I don’t want you to go. I get why you are going, but I want you to be here with me.” I’m not whiny, just sad. I’ve never in my entire twenty-three years been as sad as I am now.
“I know, baby.” Joshua holds me close. “The timing couldn’t be worse. You’re the strongest woman I know, though. You’ll survive.”
“Yeah, I will.” I look up at him with watery eyes. “I’m worried about your survival.”
“I’ll be okay.”
I’m not sure I believe him.
“Soldiers!” a harsh voice hollers from the front of the gymnasium. Everyone in the large, echoing room looks up at General Raymond Daniels, the leader of Joshua’s unit. The soldiers all snap to attention while their spouses and partners stand next to them.
I hear that General Daniels is speaking, but not what he says. I spend these precious moments drinking in the sight of my husband, who I’m not going to get to see for the next twelve months. I memorize every line, every contour, of his face. It takes every ounce of self-control in my small body not to reach up and stroke his face. I settle for clutching his arm and breathing in his scent, which has somehow become part of the uniform he wears.
“Let’s go!” The general’s voice is very commanding; it’s not surprising that he’s in charge—he’s obviously very good at his job.
“Already?” Tears are streaking down my face, reminding me why I didn’t wear makeup today. “You can’t go.” Sobs wrack my body.
“I have to, baby,” Joshua murmurs, and he looks just as heartbroken as I feel. “I’ll write to you every week, though; I promise. All I want you to do is take care of yourself and our baby. And write back to me.” One corner of his mouth pulls up in what could be his trademark smirk, but seems more to me in this moment like a smile he can’t quite pull off.
I throw my arms around him, not wanting to let him go. “I love you,” I whisper in his ear. “Please come back to me.”
“I will. I promise,” he whispers back. “I love you, Katie. More than my own life.”
Thank you for reading. Make sure to come back next week for the next installment of Joshua and Katie’s lives.