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Not Today

by Lisa VanGalen 9 months ago in children
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The dying days of summer

The last rays of the late summer sun lit upon the lonely pear, clinging to its perch high in the tree. Cassie stood watching bees flitting in and out of the leaves, the blossoms long gone, only the sweet smell of ripening fruit drawing them close. Beneath the gnarled branches, the remains of the harvest lay rotting. More bees, drunk on sun-cooked pears, crawled back to their ground nest, too laden with pulp to fly.

Fireflies began their evening dance, adding an air of mystery and wonder to the moment. Guilt chewed at her as she stared out past the orchard and over the fields of golden grain. Her shoulders dropped with the weight of the responsibility. Sorrow and grief overwhelmed her as the enormity of the situation bubbled up inside.

“Momma?”

Cassie shook off her reverie to smile at their son – re-frame that – her son, as he tugged at her sleeve.

“Sorry, baby. I was just thinking.”

“What about, Momma?”

Tears threatened to overflow and she cinched her eyes tight. It took two tries to form the words.

“About your daddy, Charlie.”

Charlie's eyes glistened. “I miss my daddy,” he said, his tiny voice think with emotion.

“Me too, sweetheart,” Cassie replied, as she crouched to hug the three-year-old. Picking up his teddy bear, she brushed the dirt from the toy. Charlie hugged it tightly as if giving it all the love he could not give his father.

The long months of waiting, of not-breathing, had come crashing down when she saw the uniformed men standing on her front step. Only four days ago, hope still lived in her heart, though inside she cried with the innate knowledge of loss not yet made real. The rendering of her soul as the words sunk in completed the transition from wife to widow.

Her memory of their visit held only the distorted image of shiny metal on stark white linen, the slow-motion collapse of her world, shrunk to the boards of her porch as she fell to her knees and wept. None of the words remained, disappearing into the ether like smoke from a chimney, their essence lingering only long enough to enforce the truth of what she already knew.

Their dreams, their hopes, the life they had planned together was gone. All of it. Cassie mourned more than just her husband as she sat under the pear tree, Charlie curled up on her lap. The rough bark dug into her skin, but she welcomed it. She wanted to feel more than just lost.

Two big wet eyes looked up at her. “When is daddy coming back?”

And there it was. The one question she did not want to answer. Just saying the words out loud made them feel more real, more permanent. For a moment, she wanted to lie. Lie to Charlie, lie to herself, lie to everyone. She thought of all of the possibilities, the stories she could tell their firstborn. There would be time for those later. As hard as it was, Cassie needed to say the words.

Buying just a few more moments, she stood Charlie up. Looking him in the eyes, she saw the eyes of another looking back at her. Tears flowed freely as she stared up at the solo pear as the sun set, silhouetting tree branches against the pastel-painted horizon. A faded yellow ribbon encircling the trunk fluttered gently in the dying breeze. Holding her young child, his lanky form leaning upon her newly-bulging belly, she found the strength to whisper:

“Not today, Charlie. Not today.”

children

About the author

Lisa VanGalen

I am a panster by nature, discovering my characters as they reveal themselves. To date, my novel writing has involved the paranormal or magick within a more familiar setting, blending it with mysteries, police procedurals, or thrillers.

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