The letter looked wrinkled and smudged in the fading afternoon light, yet to Maggie O’Brien: the letter was her only life-line. Dated 14th of June on the right corner with couple of crossed out scribbles where her son had most likely changed his mind and wrote over them.
My troop is sure missing some new tidbits. I read my letters to a few of the guys here. Some of them don’t have a mother to write back home to. Hope you don’t mind me sharing some of the good stuff from back home. I think it makes them feel a bit at home out here in the hills and the desert. Riley E. devoured the tin of shortbread cookies down to the last crumb. Next time, make extra and I’d hide a few from the guys. Ha ha.
Morgan got hit a while back. Hit bad in the knee by a sniper. He’s being sent home this week. One of the best men I’ve come across. John Clyde got promoted to Sergeant. Afghanistan is pretty a rough place- never know which way to go. Still, I hear from my buddies who ended up here on second, third, even a fourth tour how difficult this war is. Some who did their tours before in Iraq. Still, I know I made the right choice to stay in. I owe to these men and women who had my back.
I know I promised this was gonna be the last time. My buddy, Keith has been talking about when his time is up in November around thanksgiving. I hope I can come see you guys soon. Tell Noelle and Alan, I miss them. I’m sure you will read this to Dad - Dad, forget the Redskins. My boys will win the Super bowl.
Momma- take care of yourself. Love ya.
Maggie folded the letter and slipped it back in the envelope hidden in the drawer of her writing desk. She murmured an I love you . Leaning back in her chair, she made a steeple with her fingers under her chin. Looking out the window.
“Honey, how many times have you read that letter today?” Dean, her husband spoke softly..
“I haven’t heard from him for so long lately. I keep reading this in hopes I find something new hidden in all of this.”
“It’s hearing his voice all over again.” She sighed before meeting his blue eyes full of sympathy.
“ I just close my eyes and see him as that little tow-headed toddler running into my arms.”
She felt Dean’s arms embrace her in a warm, enveloping hug and the smell of his Old Spice cologne as her security blanket. The two of them locked in an embrace that seemed to both of them, an eternity. Dean pulled back. He smiled at her with the heart-stopping O‘Brien grin. He tapped the calendar on the wall where she had circled November 25th with a big red-tipped pen.
“Don’t forget, the family are all coming in. Your sister called this morning. She’s gonna be late coming in with her kids from N.C. You know how she is. Don’t ask what she’s bringing for the potluck. She wouldn’t say what it was.”
“Probably some tofu dish.”
Maggie wrinkled her nose. Knowing her sister, Virginie, the mystery dish would consist of a new-fangled vegetable that no one could pronounce much less digest to their heart’s content. She glanced at her phone; several messages already from Miss Impatient. Too bad, Virginie was adept at texting whereas her culinary skills had left a lot to be desired.
“AVV.” Dean chuckled. He excused himself from her with a remark about picking up Grandma O’Brien at two p.m.
* * *
Maggie sighed in relief when Virginie and her two daughters tromped in, bags and all in the living room. They all chattered happily for a while, catching up on news, giggling like old times. She glanced at the clock. They jumped as the phone rang from the kitchen. Maggie hurried to grab the receiver. The number flashed red: 377-495-8934. Dean‘s cell.
“O‘Brien, where have you been?” She winced at the sharp tone.
She heard Dean mumble about getting something. A loud throaty Ahem greeted her ears.
Gasping, she nearly dropped the phone in shock. She could make out Dean’s laugh in the background.
“Mom, I know this is on short notice . Do you think you can hand out an extra plate at the table tonight?”
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