Author: Teresa Mummert
I threw my arm over my face and groaned as I continued to worry myself to death. My fears manifested in my dreams and I tossed and turned the rest of the night as visions of Shane returning and wanting nothing to do with me danced in my head.
I still hadn't told him I had talked to Chelsea. I didn't want to upset him or make him worry, but it was killing me inside to keep it from him. Once he was home safe and in my arms, maybe then I would find the courage. I knew in my heart Shane wasn't the kind of man to cheat and break hearts, but it is hard not to worry when someone has done that to you in the past.
August 29, 2010
"Hey, sweetheart!" I held up my finger to May to let her know I would be a minute. We were just heading out the door to do some school shopping for the boys.
"Hey," Shane sighed. He sounded exhausted.
"I haven't heard from you in days. Is everything okay?" I asked, knowing he wouldn't open up to me.
"I'm fine. Just busy. Getting ready to come home."
"I can't wait to see you." I stretched my back as I groaned.
"It's not safe for you to make that trip on your own."
"I'll be fine. I drive all the time now and I have already made the trip once with you."
"Jenn, if something happened to you or the baby-"
"I know, Shane. I get it. We will be together soon."
"I have to go. I love you."
"I love you, too." The line went dead and I frowned as I slid my phone back into my pocket.
"Was that Shane?" May asked as she gathered her red hair in her hands and pulled it back into a ponytail.
"Yeah. He's still so distant and now he worries if I stub my toe."
"He's just worried about you. Give him some time. He is still dealing with losing his friend, and this parenting thing is new to him. He's only ever had to take care of himself."
"I don't need him to take care of me." I rolled my eyes as I grabbed my purse and slung it over my shoulder.
"Don't tell him that. Are you still planning on going to surprise him?" She laughed as she pulled open the front door and stepped back so I could walk through.
"Yup." I smirked as I walked through the door.
September 9, 2010
"I am fine, May. I am making great time." I talked aloud over the car's Bluetooth system.
"Are you eating?" May asked. I pulled my hand from the bag of chips on the passenger seat.
"When am I ever not eating?" I laughed as I cruised down the highway.
"I wish we could have come with you. The boys wanted me to pull them out of school."
"We will be coming back to North Carolina soon. Don't worry."
"Jake wants me to let you know your job will be waiting for you."
"Good. But I plan to take his job."
"Oh, I will certainly let him know you said that." She laughed. "Call me in a few hours so I know you are still all right."
"You know I will. Bye." I ended the call and cranked back up the radio as I sang along. I needed to keep my mind off where I was going. I had waited for the day to come that I would see Shane again and now I was terrified. I had changed a lot since he had last seen me. I glanced down at my protruding stomach, making a face. I couldn't even squeeze into my jeans. What if he took one look at me and was repulsed? What if I wasn't the only one waiting to welcome him home?
September 11, 2010
September was a fitting day for us to come home from war. My heart was racing and I was more terrified to face the real world than I had been to leave and risk my life. I knew I had been distant from Jenn, but I knew that would change once I could get to Maine. I wanted her to be there to welcome me home more than anything, but I couldn't risk something happening to her or our baby. We had made it this long and a few more weeks wouldn't kill us.
The bus pulled into the parking lot of the old gym, and the world stood still as we parked. I knew the room would be filled with all of the families and friends of all of the soldiers. I didn't want the welcome home that we knew was planned. Not all of us came back, and it all just didn't seem fair.
As I stepped off the bus and my boots hit the gravel, I felt an overwhelming wave of relief wash over me. I didn't expect to make it back, some days I hoped I wouldn't. I didn't deserve to, but there were other plans for my life. Plans I haven't been let in on by fate.
As we filed into the large room, "American Soldier" blared through the speaker system, echoing off the walls. The crowd that lined the bleachers erupted into cheers and applause. It was incredibly hard for everyone not to run to the families they hadn't seen for months. Instead we got into formation and waited for the welcome home speech that we knew would last entirely too long.
I scanned the crowd, but it was nearly impossible to tell one person from the next in the sea of bodies. Some held up homemade signs or waved American flags. All I could think about was Owens's family. He wouldn't have this moment.
I didn't hear any of the speech. All I could do was map the exits just in case something happened. I knew the threat of attack was minimal in our country, but I couldn't stop being a soldier just because of my geographical location.
Before I knew it, everyone was cheering and the crowd was rushing toward us in every direction. My heart sunk into the pit of my stomach as I watched crying, happy families reunite around me.
I felt a tiny tap on my shoulder. I took a deep, shaky breath and turned around, hoping I didn't break down in front of a complete stranger.
"You weren't supposed to come here." I was in shock. Jenn was not the person I expected to see.
Jenn made a face at me and her lips quirked into a smile.
"I couldn't stay away from you, Shane."
I wrapped my arms around her waist and lifted her into my arms. Tears, happy tears, fell from my eyes as I held on to the only person in the world that could take away all of my hurting with a simple smile
"If something would have happened to you."
"It didn't. We can't live our lives in a protective bubble. Things are going to happen, sometimes bad things, but we shouldn't let that decide how we live our lives. Don't be mad at me."
I sat her down on her feet and brushed the hair back from her face as I studied the curves I had memorized months before.
September 11, 2010
"You shouldn't have come." He shook his head and my heart clenched in my chest. He didn't want me there. I wasn't the face he was searching for in the sea of people.
"Who were you expecting?" I asked as my knees began to give way beneath me.
"Jenn, I need some closure form my past before I can move on with us."
"Move on?" My hand fell to my belly as I covered it, protecting it. "It's a little late for that."
A man dressed in military uniform placed his hand on Shane's shoulder, effectively ending our conversation.
I turned around as my head spun, fading into the crowd around us and disappearing. I couldn't get out of their fast enough. My heart would explode if I had to stay another moment and witness his betrayal.
My cell phone rang in my purse and I pulled it out to see it was May. I turned the volume off and shoved it back into my bag. As I reached the car, I was practically hyperventilating.
I managed to make my way to the hotel room where Roxy was waiting for me. Roxy had gotten me through some of the hardest times in my life and I would have to say good-bye to her too. This wasn't how I pictured his homecoming. I thought back to the phone call I had gotten from Chelsea. I knew he had talked to her. That was a fact. He wouldn't open up to me. I couldn't understand why he would want to share his feelings with someone who had crushed him just months before. Maybe taking Roxy was all just part of his plan to get her husband caught in the act of cheating. Maybe I was just a distraction.
I collapsed onto the bed and tangled myself in the covers as I cried.
I don't know if minutes or hours passed. I passed out from exhaustion. The knocking at the door grew louder and I pulled a pillow over my head and hoped they would go away.
"Open the door, Jenn."
I sat up on the edge of the bed and pushed my messy hair back from my face as I stared down at my belly.
"Let me explain."
"I don't want to hear it."
The lock on the door clicked and he pushed it open, a small grin on his face.
"I told them I had left the key to my room with my fiancé."
I looked down at the large ring that wrapped around my finger.
"Can I explain?" he asked as another man stepped through the door. I nodded once as I ran my hand over Roxy's back.
"This is Devin Tudor, my father."
My eyes shot up and locked on to Shane's before I glanced to the man that he said was his father. On second inspection, they had the same square jaw and intense eyes, but his were green. He must have gotten his blue eyes from his mother.
Shane nodded as he took a tentative step closer.
"I thought…" I ran my hands over my face in embarrassment.
"Would you mind giving us a moment?" Shane turned to his father who nodded and stepped outside of the room, closing the door behind him.
"What did you think?" he asked, closing the space between us and towering over me as I sat on the edge of the bed.
"Why did you call Chelsea?" I tried my best to keep my voice from wavering.
"Chelsea?" He looked confused for a minute before something clicked in his memory.
"She had all of my belongings. I needed my class A uniform for Owens's funeral."
"Oh, God. I'm such an idiot." I squeezed my eyes closed, hoping the hotel bed would swallow me whole. Shane's fingers wrapped around my wrist and slowly pulled my hand from my face.
"How did you know I called Chelsea?" he asked as he sank down to eye level with me.
"She called May's house. She said-"
"When?" He was flexing his jaw as he struggled to keep his composure.
"When Ryan died."
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"You were upset. I figured she just knew him and you felt more comfortable talking to her. I was scared. Are you mad at me?"
"I'm not mad at you, sunshine." He pressed his lips against mine and my body melted against him. He kissed me as if my breath was the only air he could breathe, leaving no doubt to whom he had been thinking about. He glanced down between us at my belly that stuck out from my T-shirt. The one curve that had changed. He dropped to my knees and placed a kiss on my stomach before wrapping his arms around my waist and hugging me again. My fingers ran through his hair as he clung to me. The world felt right again. All of my fear and anxiety about Shane coming home washed away as he held on to me.
September 25, 2010
"You ready?" I asked as I closed the trunk of the car.
"As I'll ever be." Jenn smirked and gave me a quick peck on the lips before getting into the passenger side of our car. I called for Roxy and held my seat forward for her to jump in before I did.
"You excited to see Jake and May?"
"It feels like it's been years. I can't wait."
"You gonna tell them about your dad?" she asked as she pulled the seatbelt around her and clicked it into place. I shook my head as I pushed the start button and backed out of the hotel parking spot. I still couldn't believe that I harbored so much anger for my father after all these years. My mother couldn't handle the constant worrying of my father always being gone, so she told him to leave. He told me he had wanted to stay, that he loved her, loved us, but he had to respect her wishes. He and I had more in common than I had realized.