This one has the most cliche title in the history of the world, but I liked this one. This short story is actually the first one I ever wrote. I really like it, it was fun to write the twist. I also did not win the short story contest on this one either. Interesting prompt, though.
- Write a story with an expanded ending — readers are given a glimpse of what happens after the story ends, maybe a couple years or decades into the future.
As my tears fall on the photograph one by one at half-past midnight, I reflect on my life. It has been a good one, I guess. Full of experiences, wonderful people, too. But there is a lot of dark stains on my past and will be in my future, I’m guessing. I was foolish and naive when I was younger. Indeed, as I look back now, I wonder how I could have been so stupid to expect more.
When I was nineteen years old, done with my first year of college, I met him.
My hero. I had been walking down a street in our small suburb with a cup of steaming coffee in hand, not looking where I was going. I looked up from my phone when I ran into a stranger. I started to apologize when I saw the look in his eyes. He was a hulking figure, but his eyes frightened me the most. He looked at me as though he was angry. But I imagined something much more sinister in his mind. My mind was reeling, and I didn’t think I could get away easily. I was trying to remember what to do when another man came up behind me and grabbed my elbow.
I remember vividly that he had said, “Delaney! I told you to meet me at the next street, did you forget? Looking at your phone again? No wonder you ran into this gentleman. I’m so sorry, sir.”
He smiled at the dark stranger, then looked at me.
I looked up (he was very tall) into his handsome face and he took my breath away, even then, when I was terrified out of my wits. His dark brown eyes were staring at me urgently, and I suddenly remembered where I was.
“I’m sorry, Roland,” I had said, inventing the name on the spot.
He smiled and nodded at the colossal figure and put his arm behind me. He steered me down the sidewalk, to the next street over, and into a small bookstore. There, in the shadow of the Fiction shelves, he held me while I quietly cried out my shock and relief.
After I had calmed down a bit, I started to feel embarrassed. I thanked him over and over again, until he finally put up his hands.
“Miss,” he said, “it’s all right. You don’t need to thank me. I saw you needed help and I helped.”
I started to say something, maybe that I did need to thank him, when he shoved his hands in his pockets and looked at me with a hesitant smile.
“But,” he said cautiously, “while we’re here, would you like to go out to lunch?”
From that moment on, we kept in touch. He lived in the city, like me. We eventually kissed a week from that fateful night we met and became a couple. My college girlfriends were in awe that I could find a good and “cute” guy just like that. But I wasn’t surprised. I knew that no matter what, we would’ve met at some point. It was fate.
We were matched perfectly for each other. Where I had a temper, he was calm and collected. While I was terrible at cooking, he was a master. While I was a bookworm, he was happy to discuss the scenes with me. While I was not a sports-fanatic, he enjoyed the games once in a while, but did not obsess over them. We were both content with silence, though we enjoyed each other’s presence too much to remain quiet for very long. I loved Andy with all my heart.
But he had a dream.
Andy had a dream to join the military. And as much as I loved him, I was filled with horror when he confessed his lifelong dream to me. His father had been in the Marines, and Andy wanted to make him proud and do the same thing.
I thought that he would not truly think about joining the military, and I eventually forgot about it. We fell deeply in love. I could not think without thinking about him. There was times when I wondered how I could have found him, how I could have such a thoughtful person. I found most people at my age then, twenty, to be immature and careless. But Andy was a refreshing break from them all.
We were married in November of 2009. We were both 21. We knew it was a quick engagement, as we had only known each other for about a year, but my parents took it surprisingly well. As I walked down the aisle on my father’s arm, I looked at no one but Andy. His face shown with happiness, and I remember thinking that there was no one luckier.
Everything about my story sounds cliche and typical. Nothing special. But one thing I noticed a few years into our blessed marriage was how many divorces were happening. No less than five of my college friends divorced within two years of their marriages. Because of arguments, money problems, one could not have children, lack of communication, or just because they were not ready for the commitment of marriage. Being a Christian, I took this news with horror. It seemed terrible to me, and I worried a couple nights that it might happen to Andy and I.
But I needn’t have worried. Andy and I were married for five years without anything wrong happening. It seemed like we were on a permanent honeymoon. Every time he called to me through the house, I got butterflies. To this day, I get them when I think of Andy.
Around 2014, Andy told me that he had decided to pursue his dream. When he told me those words, my body froze. I couldn’t move a muscle. I recalled with horror what I had recently heard on the news, that some soldiers had been involved in fighting in Ukraine and many had died.
I shook my head to clear it and was brought back to earth. Andy had wrapped his hands around my shoulders. How strange, I thought, I hadn’t felt them.
He asked me over and over if I was okay. I finally responded a minute later.
Once I got over the shock, Andy told me more details. I struggled to maintain a poker face so as not to upset him. He told me that he was still planning to be in the Marines, and that he’d only employ for a couple years. He didn’t plan on being the “army dad” when we had children, he had said with a faint, teasing smile. That sentence made hope blossom in my chest more than anything had ever before.
That sentence made it possible for me to go through the weeks he spent researching and contacting people. When he finally got his airplane ticket, I sobbed uncontrollably for an hour. I packed his suitcase using his direction, my vision still slightly blurry. I drove him to the airport as he left for the army base.
“Don’t worry.” he had told me with a confident grin and a sparkle in his dark eyes. “I’ll be home before you know it. I get leave during the summer, remember?”
I kissed him before his plane left, and I had to stay in the city for a while to cry myself out so I wouldn’t be a danger to others on the road. I stayed there, crying in a bathroom stall, for about two hours until I pronounced myself safe.
I drove home and barely made it before midnight. I stayed in the house the next day, trying not to think of anything but Andy’s promise.
The year that Andy had gone passed by so slowly, I wondered if someone had bewitched time to slow down. When September of 2015 finally came, I drove to the airport to wait. When I finally saw him, I ran to him and almost knocked him over. I kissed him for a long time, afraid that if I let go he would disappear again.
We got home and I spent a month with the love of my life. He talked little about his time in the military, knowing that it would only terrify me. What he did say, I knew he was only saying what he knew wouldn’t make me have another panic attack. I sensed the meaning behind his flippant words, and I knew it was harder than he thought. He had seen things that I couldn’t imagine, and I understood that.
When Andy left again, I cried even harder than the first time. I missed him so much that every cell in my body ached. I couldn’t imagine that he was going to be gone for a whole year. I waited anxiously for September of 2016.
But, when I waited with building anxiety at the airport, my beloved Andy did not step off that plane. The weather seemed to mimic my mood, pouring rain on the windshield the whole time I drove home, fighting torrents of tears. When I arrived home, I found a person sitting on my porch bench, waiting for me, I assumed.
“Mrs. Davis?” he said, standing up.
“Yes?” It came out like a question. I stood at full attention, waiting for any news of my Andy.
“I’m sorry to tell you, but your husband, Mr. Davis, went missing in the Pacific four hours ago.” I realized this was a death notifier, telling me that my Andy would never come home, that we would never have children. He couldn’t keep his promise.
“Mrs. Davis?” the notifier said. I turned, already fighting tears. “I’m very sorry. I knew Andy and he was one of the best people I’ve ever known.”
I nodded once more. I went inside my house and closed the door.
I then released the creature clawing its way out of my throat and into the room now filled with melancholy.
Three Years Later….
It’s been a while since Andy died, and I still think of him. I haven’t even started dating, though I doubt I ever will. It’s a hard thing to contemplate, that I won’t ever see him smile, see him laugh, see him look at me with that sparkle in his eyes. But, I realized that night when the notifier came to my front door, that the memories are the same. I still love Andy more than anyone or anything. It’s just that he’s gone away for a while. And I’ll see him when I die.
Even though I look healed on the outside and to my friends, I still cry when I take out the box of his pictures. There are so many, some from our college days, some from our wedding, some from hanging out with friends at a dinner. All of them cause some pain and some happiness somewhere in my heart.
But I don’t know how to take it anymore, I think, as my tears fall on the photograph one by one at half past midnight. I just want it to be over, this pain that never seems to fade. But I must bring this upon myself, I think. I keep staying in the small, old house that Andy and I bought together.
I’m startled by a loud knock on the front door. I jump up, wiping my tears, and head slowly to the door.
I open it, wondering who would come in this weather at this hour.
I look out, and I see him.
His brown hair is wet and dripping, his eyes sparkling just for me, his smile melting the inside of my heart. My mind reels, both jumping in with two feet to accept that this is real, but the logical part of me is saying that this can’t be true.
As I run forward and wrap my arms around him, he disappears.
I look all around me in a panic. It slowly dawns on me that he may not have been there at all.
Sorry! I had to twist it! My friends were insanely mad at me when they read this short story…. I have to say, I like being the evil author. The one that everyone hates but loves. >:)
Yours in writing,