Author: Teresa Mummert
"I'm so sorry. I need to start cooking or the boys will be up late. School starts back up soon and I need to get them on some semblance of a schedule."
"It's no problem. I'll watch the end of the movie. Shane should be calling soon anyway." I gave May a hug before locking the door and plopping back down on the couch to watch the scene where the boy dies in the Twin Towers and my heart breaks into a million pieces. That scene, that real life, terrifying event, was the reason the man I loved was off at war. I turned off the television and went to my bedroom to lie down until Shane called. I was exhausted from running all day and had barely slept last night because I was too excited to find out what I was having.
I placed my hand on my belly and closed my eyes, dreaming of the day in the theater with Shane.
I awoke three hours later, searching the bed for my cell phone, which was right next to me. I unlocked the screen to check for missed calls but there were none. I dialed May's house and chewed on my nail as I waited for her to answer.
"Hello?" Jake said into the receiver.
"Hey, Jake. Has Shane called you? He normally has called by now."
"No, we haven't heard from him, but you know he can't call every day."
"What if something happened?"
"You're worrying for no reason. You know he will call as soon as he gets a free minute. If you want, you can come stay here. May was going on and on about the movie you two watched together today. She really wants to see how it ended."
"Thanks." I put my hand on my forehead and sighed, trying to calm myself down. "I think I'll stay here tonight. He's probably working out."
"The offer stands. Talk to you later."
"Bye." I hung up the phone and dropped it on the bed as I mentally counted down from twenty. When I talk to Shane later, he is going to lecture me about getting upset for no reason and stressing out our baby. I smiled as I pushed from the bed and stretched. He worried more than I did.
I did everything I could to make the evening pass by as quickly as possible. By eleven, I had finished my laundry, washed the dishes, and made a list of baby names to go over with Shane, who still hadn't called.
I could barely keep my eyes open and decided it was best to get some rest just in case he called in the middle of the night. I changed into one of Shane's T-shirts that I had yet to wash and crawled back into bed.
Aug. 14, 2010, Day Two of Blackout
I pulled on my pants, nearly falling over, so I could answer the phone.
"Hello," I answered breathlessly, hoping to hear Shane's voice.
"I think you should come over." May's voice didn't sound right. She wasn't her normal snarky self.
"What's wrong? Tell me now." I sat down on the bed as my mind raced with all of the possibilities.
"Nothing is wrong. I just need to talk to you. Did you talk to Shane last night?"
"No. He never called." I ran my hand through my hair trying to get the tangles out of it from a night of tossing and turning.
"I'm sure he will call soon. When can you come?"
I looked over at the clock as I chewed the inside of my cheek.
"I can be there in a few minutes. I just need to grab something to eat."
"Come here. I'll cook you breakfast."
Something was definitely off with May, but I couldn't argue with free breakfast. May was an excellent cook.
"I'll be right over." I hung up and made my way into the bathroom to brush my teeth before pulling on my tennis shoes. I gave Roxy a kiss on the head and promised her I would be back soon.
The entire drive to May's house I wondered what could be so important that she couldn't just tell me over the phone. I hoped that she and Jake were finally going to have another baby. They have been trying for so long, and I don't know two more loving or deserving parents.
I knocked on the front door and let myself in. May was over the stove frying up scrambled eggs and bacon. As soon as the smell hit my nose, I felt like I was starving.
"That smells great, May." I gave her a smile as I made my way into the kitchen.
"Have a seat at the table. I'm just finishing up now."
I sat down at the table and drummed my fingers on the wood, staring at my cell phone. May set a steaming-hot plate of food in front of me and gave me a weak smile before sitting down across from me.
"Okay, what gives?" I asked as I picked up my fork and took a bite of egg.
"This happens all of the time and it really is nothing to worry yourself over," she said. Jake was coming from the hallway leading to the bedrooms, and May motioned for him to join us.
"You're scaring me." I set the fork down and sat back in my chair.
"We aren't used to this either. They don't happen that often," Jake explained, as I crossed my arms over my chest.
"Used to what?" I asked, hoping they would clarify so I could relax.
"I received an e-mail," said May, as she fidgeted with her hands.
"An e-mail?" I repeated.
"A warning that a red message would be coming."
"What does that mean?" I sat forward, the smell of the food suddenly turning my stomach.
May and Jake exchanged concerned looks before Jake spoke up.
"Someone was injured or killed," he said, his voice wavering as my vision clouded over with tears. I clutched my belly as the world around me began to spin.
"Oh…that is why Shane hasn't called. He is hurt!"
"No! They shut the phones and Internet down for a blackout so they can notify the family before rumors spread.
"Oh, God. What would I do without him?"
May was at my side, taking me in her arms for a hug as my imagination raced. I couldn't fathom losing Shane. My entire world revolved around him. Our baby, our son, wouldn't even get to meet him
"Shane will be fine." Jake tried to reassure me, but it was useless. My heart would cease to beat without him.
"We want you to stay here until this is over." May stroked my hair.
"How long?" I stared off at the food in front of me.
"Usually around three days. If you didn't hear from him yesterday, this is day two. If we are lucky, we will know something by tomorrow."
I didn't know if I would make it another minute let alone an entire day of not knowing if Shane was okay.
"I left Roxy at home." My voice was oddly calm as I tried to sort through what all of this meant in my head. "I promised him I would take care of her."
"I'll get Roxy." Jake patted me on the shoulder. "She can stay in the backyard."
I nodded as the boys began fighting down the hall.
"Boys! That's enough! We have company," May called after them. I couldn't help but smirk.
"Boys are a handful, huh?" I asked as I rubbed over my stomach.
"All their lives," she sighed as she stood and held out her hand for me. I took it and we walked into the living room. I fell back onto the couch as everything I knew fell apart.
"How about we have a game night? The boys would love it. We could play cards, and I could make that cheese dip you like."
"What if he doesn't come back?" I asked, my voice barely making a sound.
"He's coming back to you, Jenn. He made you a promise, and that man does not break his promises."
I nodded as I stared off at the television. My imagination was running wild. I couldn't picture a world without him in it. I was terrified to be a mother, let alone a single mother. We haven't had enough time. It wasn't fair. None of this was fair.
"I don't know what to do," I mumbled to myself. May grabbed my hand and squeezed it.
"All we can do is wait." I could tell she was just as scared as I was.
"I didn't even get to tell him that we are having a son."
"You will get to tell him when he calls tomorrow."
When Jake finally returned with Roxy, I followed them into the backyard. All I could do was keep my promises to Shane. I sat down on their wooden deck and wrapped my arms around our dog, crying into her fur. May tried to convince me to come inside, even bribing me with my favorite foods, but I couldn't let go of the one thing that connected me to Shane. My hand fell to my stomach. Two things.
She finally stopped asking after a few hours and brought my meals to the deck, sitting down beside me to eat. She didn't say anything and I was thankful. I couldn't manage a conversation while my world was falling apart around me.
She grabbed my plate and paused for a moment before retreating inside. My back was aching from sitting on the wooden planks but I felt like if I gave up and went inside, I would be giving up on Shane. As the sun set, the backdoor opened again.
"I'm fine," I sighed as I ran my hand over Roxy's back.
"You're not fine." My sister sat down next to me as she stared off into the yard. "I never told you this, but I have always been jealous of you."
I snorted and rolled my eyes as I looked over at her.
"You are naturally beautiful and funny…you have everything."
"I may have lost it all…" My voice faded off as a lump formed in my throat.
"I know I am probably the last person you want to see right now."
I cut my eyes to her as Thomas entered my mind and she let out a nervous laugh.
"Second to last person. But it's better late than never, right?"
I nodded. All of this was too much to take in.
"I'm glad you came," I said, bumping my shoulder against hers. She draped her arm over my shoulder and pulled me against her side as we stared off into the now dark yard.
"Mom and Dad are inside."
I pushed up from the deck and stood, brushing off my bottom before I held out a hand to my sister. She took it with a smile and let me pull her up. Her arms flew around my neck and she hugged me. I let my eyes fall closed as I squeezed her back.
"Geez, Jenn, you are getting fat." She laughed and I pulled back from her, playfully swatting her arm.
"Don't make me laugh." I wiped my cheeks as I continued to giggle.
"He would want you to be laughing right now. Come on." She looped her arm in mine and guided me back inside the house to my parents who sat waiting for me on the couch.
August 16, 2010
"Jenn! Honey, wake up!" May was rubbing my shoulder and I sat up, remembering I had fallen asleep on her couch. Gail woke at the sound of her voice and sat up quickly.
"What is it? Is it Shane?"
"I just got the e-mail." She took my hand and pulled me from the couch. I followed her to her kitchen table, feeling as though I were an inmate walking to my execution. Her laptop was booted up with an open e-mail on the screen. I glanced over my shoulder to Gail, who was chewing on her lip nervously. Jake came from the hallway, practically sprinting.
"What is it?" he asked as I took a deep breath and clicked on the e-mail titled "Red Message."
At approximately 5:30AM North Carolina time on August 13, Pvt. Ryan Owens, Field Artillery 18th FA BDE, lost his life in defense of our nation in Iraq. Pvt. Owens joined the Brigade in February of 2010. He has served with honor and distinction and will be missed by all in Task Force Hawk and the Patriot Brigade. This American Hero will never be forgotten. We ask that you keep his family in your thoughts and prayers. All next of kin have been notified.
We join the Family of Pvt. Owens in mourning his loss and they will remain in our thoughts and prayers. The FRG will contact you if they require your assistance. Please respect the Families of these heroes by not spreading rumors.