Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Joy (05/18/06)
By Ruth Neilson
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“Hello?” A familiar voice called out across the thicket. I looked up and gasped. He was home. Peter was home. After months of fighting for respect from the British, my husband was home. Gathering my petticoats and lifting the undress as high as I dare, I ran, eager to be with him.
As I neared, my pace slowed. Something was not right. Peter normally stood straight. But now, he was leaning to his right side, his normally square shoulders were sloped. A wooden crutch was under his right shoulder.
“Eva, I’m home.” He said, meeting my gaze.
My mouth was dry. How was I supposed to react to Peter’s pant leg pinned at the knee? He wasn’t whole. How were we to survive out here on the frontier with him...
No, I would not think of Peter as a cripple. He had survived a war and come back to me and to his home. I should be happy that he returned home. So I smiled, or attempted to.
“Welcome home, Peter.” I murmured, once again memorizing his face. “I was preparing candles for the next year.”
He smiled; it was painfully empty. Part of his soul was gone. He was not the same Peter that left me over a year ago. I reached out for his satchel and took it from his trembling fingers. I took his hand and lead him to the bench that he had made, just before he left.
I wanted to feel something, anything besides numb maybe thankfulness or even joy that Peter returned home. But there was nothing.
He sat down with what seemed to be practiced ease and I sat with him holding his hand for a few precious moments before rising once more to make the candles. Peter is my husband, and I am not going to leave him...
Not even if he was a cripple. I would continue on here, working as I did, and now he was here to help, as he could.
Eva was a welcome sight. Her smiling face was enough to energize me for the final several yards. Then she started towards me, running as fast as her petticoats would allow her. I was home. The phantom pain of my right leg disappeared for a moment as I managed to pick up my hobbled pace.
Then, she slowed. Her face was betraying her true feelings. My missing limb snuffed out any joy of my homecoming.
My voice was hoarse as I finally spoke, “Eva, I’m home.” She forced a smile as her trembling hand took mine. I knew what she was thinking...that I was a cripple that I was not going to be able to take care of my family here on the frontier.
This was my home. And I loved the solitude and peacefulness that it offered me. I eased myself onto the weatherworn bench. There are three worn spots that represented my family— Eva, Isaac (my son), and mine.
Isaac would have to work harder, but he was a strapping lad. I smile faintly as I watch my Eva rise to her feet to continue dipping the candles. Unsteadily, I rose to my foot and followed her.
“Peter, you are wounded! Sit down!”
“Eva, I lost a limb, but I am not a cripple, I am still your husband and I came home, just like I promised.”
She stares at me with her dark brown eyes, doe eyes; I always had called them, startled. Then a small smile formed on her face. A bitter laugh escaped from her lips. Taking careful steps, I went to her and held her.
Eva did something unexpected. My strong, beautiful wife wept openly.
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