As he picked up the note Nikki had left for him, he used his dirty handkerchief to again wipe the blood from the scratch on his cheek.
“Hey, Babe,” she had written. “I’m at the hospital with Megan. Her water broke and she started labor about 730 this evening. There’s a pot roast in the crock pot. See you later. I love you lots. Nikki.”
It was just like Nikki to help other people when she could. It irritated him some because she seemed to be away from home more than at home. But he wouldn’t want her to change at all. Besides, Megan’s husband was deployed overseas and her mom lived too far away.
Josh crumpled the note and tossed it on the kitchen table where it landed near a plastic water bottle. He smiled. Nikki was forever leaving half full water bottles around the house—on her bed-side table or in the bathroom or on her reading table in the family room. It amused him, but it concerned him some, wondering if her memory was going. He remembered, though, that her twin sister was somewhat scatter-brained. He prayed Nikki wasn’t becoming that way.
Josh had played an impromptu hockey game with some of his buddies before coming home. He had phoned Nikki to let her know he’d be late. He’d gotten the scratch in a tussle with another player who accidentally hit his cheek with the end of his stick. He’d been a star college player, but, in his senior year, his left knee was permanently damaged in a collision with an opposing player. It dashed his hopes for a professional career, but not one to let it get him down, he moved on with his life and became a sports writer.
As he stuffed his gloves into the pockets of his coat, he felt the puck in the left one. Even though he had a bad knee, he could still play a pretty mean game. He’d scored 3 goals tonight and his team-mates gave him the puck as a trophy.
He thought again about Nikki, and Megan. Megan’s husband, Wade, was a career officer. Special Ops, she said. That’s all she could say. He was on his third tour in the Middle East. Wade adored Megan but he had a strong sense of duty and was devoted to God, country and Corps. Megan understood that, and she was a patient wife, but she dreamed of the day he could have a permanent state-side assignment. It wasn’t the first time he’d been away when she gave birth. He didn’t meet his oldest child, Dustin, until the boy was almost 6 months old.
“It’s a dirty war,” Josh said to himself. Then he realized the absurdity of his statement. All wars are dirty. He didn’t know for sure what he thought about the country’s current involvement in the Middle East. He and Nikki prayed for the servicemen and women every night. He had wanted to enlist after he got his degree, but his knee kept him out. It disappointed him that he couldn’t serve his country in that way, but he tried to positively influence and encourage young lives as a little league coach and church youth leader. At least he could help them through some of the challenges of life. If they ever did have to go to war, he hoped he’d been able to help them build a foundation that would sustain them.
He smiled at the thought of some of the kids he’d coached and taught over the years, including his own. Some were a delight and others had tried his patience. But he loved them all.
About that time his stomach growled and he was reminded of Nikki’s note about the pot roast.
“Guess I better get a bite to eat,” he thought, “then I’ll go see how Nikki and Megan are getting along.”