Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Love (04/27/06)
TITLE: A Husband's Love
By Catherine Pollock
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She spends her Saturdays sitting in the living room with her chair turned towards the front window, staring out of it like she thinks he’s coming home for her. But when he calls, she refuses to talk to him. His emails go unanswered. His letters get “Return to Sender” scrawled across them and thrown back in the mailman’s face.
I told her that the two of them were jumping back into a relationship too fast. Betrayal takes time to heal. He needed the time to forgive her, and she needed the time to forgive herself.
Not that she listened. As soon as the adoption papers were signed, she went back to him. I don’t know which part I find worse – that she did, or that he let her get so close again so soon. They needed space, but never gave it to themselves.
I haven’t stopped loving her, of course. She’s my daughter, and I love her – mistakes and all. She also loves him, and he loves her. But six years of regret have taken a toll on their marriage. His deployment to a hot zone was the last straw. He went to Bosnia. She went to a lawyer’s office.
Guilt is eating her alive right now. Guilt because she cheated. Guilt because she chose to give life to a child whose father wasn’t the man she loved. Guilt because she loves that child anyway. And now guilt because she’s holding onto him even though she should have let him go before. So she thinks the answer to let him go now.
He hasn’t given up on her, though. He faithfully calls every week. Not to demand answers. Not to make her feel guilty. He asks me if she wants to talk. When I tell him she doesn’t, he asks how she’s doing, and tells me how he’s doing so I can tell her if she asks. The conversation always ends with the same message for her – “I loved you then, I love you still, and I always will.”
The phone is ringing now. She knows that it’s him, and has curled up into a tight ball in her chair, refusing to look in the direction of the phone. I sigh, turn down the television, and walk over to answer it. Of course it’s him. It always is at this time, on this day.
When I answer it, I expect it to be the same old routine – a routine that we’ve all settled into over the past six months. But it’s not. It’s him, but he sounds different today.
“She’s not around, is she?” He asks, his voice low, his tone strained. Normally, his tone is even, a little bit worried as I tell him how she’s doing. Now I know something is wrong.
“She is.” I answer, looking over at her as she sinks lower into her chair, and ignore the curse coming from his lips. He’s been in the military for six years now. I never used to hear it from him, but now I expect it.
“I’m not coming home.”
So he’s finally given up, I think, my gaze locking on their wedding picture on the wall. He’s giving her what she says she wants and letting her go. I can’t say anything. I have no idea what to say. She can hear my end of the conversation. She’ll know something is wrong.
“There’s… there’s some stuff going on here,” he goes on, not waiting for me to talk. “I wish I could explain, but…” He takes a deep breath, his tone heavy when he continues. “We’ve made the arrangements. All she has to do is make the call when she gets the news.”
I frown. What arrangements is he talking about? Then my eyes dart towards where she’s now sitting straight up, staring at me, and I know.
“Tell her I’m sorry, and-”
“You loved her th-“
There is a click on the line, then static, and finally dial tone. My hand shakes as I hang up the phone. All I can think as I stare at my daughter is how do I tell her that the man who loves her more than life itself is never coming home to her again?
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