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Today was the day; it was on every radio station in Columbus Ohio. “Our 356th BOD Regiment of the U.S. Army is due to arrive at Gahanna Lincoln High School at 3:00 p.m. after a one year tour of duty in Iraq.”
The sun was shining brighter than ever, store windows and homes were lines with “Welcome Home” banners. Party shops were packed with men and women preparing for the long-awaited return of their brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, husbands and wives.
The plane ride seemed to take forever; soldiers were laughing, talking, showing pictures of their loved ones whom had been waiting for them for a whole year. Finally the plane landed at Columbus International airport. The laughs and cheers grew louder as the soldiers exited the plane and headed towards the bus. They were home after a year of fighting, marching, and destruction, they were finished. In a matter of minutes they would reunite with the ones they loved.
The soldiers and their loved ones were all there hugging, kissing and crying. Staff Sergeant Christopher Mickens slowly scanned the auditorium looking for his wife Sheila. Seconds passed, then minutes and then an hour had passed. Christ left the building and lit up a cigarette, calming his nerves with each puff. Why wasn’t Sheila there? Did she forget? Did some emergency happen with the kids? Twenty minutes and two cigarettes later, Chris decided to catch a taxi.
The taxi ride was nothing less than grueling. The taxi driver was way too curious for his own damn good. Everybody should know when a soldier returns home you don’t ask them how many people he killed. What was his problem?
Finally he was home, not as some high school auditorium, but home. Sheila’s car was in the driveway. Why wasn’t she there to pick him up? Whatever, he’d just ask her once he got inside. He opened the front door and there she was in the kitchen, even more beautiful then when he left. It’s been a whole year (374 days to be exact.) Since he held her hand, hugged her, kissed her, made love to her.
“Welcome home Chris” she said while attempting to give a weak smile. He hugged her and attempted to kiss her, but she pulled away. Sheila looked sheepishly at the ground while biting her fingernails and tears were forming in her eyes. The strangest sense of fear and confusion hit Chris.
“What’s Wrong Sheila?”
“You were gone a long time Chris.” She mumbled while a single tear drop fell from her left eye. Chris caught the tear with his finger; Sheila still kept her eyes at the floor. “Where are the kids?” he asked suddenly scanning the kitchen and living room.
There was something not right about that living room. He couldn’t quite say what it was, but he knew something was wrong. The television was still there, everything was the same color…..the pictures! Where the hell are the pictures from the wedding? From the first pregnancy? The first family vacation?
“Where are the kids Sheila?”
“At my mother’s.”
“Why are they at your mother’s house?” Christ struggled to keep himself from yelling. He and Sheila usually only dropped the kids off at their grandmother’s house was when they wanted to have one of their “romantic” weekends.
Sheila just stood there staring at him shaking and biting her fingernails. Chris slowly walked to the family room and sat down, covering his face with his hands. His heartbeat was racing; his mind was all over the place, what was going on? Sheila walked slowly into the family room with streaming freely down her cheeks. There were so many questions that Chris needed answers to. Why did she stop mailing him when he was close to coming home? Why wasn’t she at the high school to greet him? Why were the pictures of him gone from the family room? Why were the kids at their grandmother’s house?
Could his marriage be falling apart? He’s heard stories about older Generals and Commanders returning home to witness their families falling apart. That never happened to a thirty-three year old Staff- Sergeant who’s only been married for eight years. There had to be some sort of strange yet reasonable explanation for all of this.
After about twenty minutes, Sheila broke her silence once more. “You were gone for a very long time Chris.”
“I know this Sheila.” He replied with nasty, sarcastic tone. “I was over seas fighting for this country, fighting for you.” His voice seemed to escalate with every word he spoke. He no longer cared about refraining from yelling or cussing or any of the nonsense. Sheila rolled her eyes “You weren’t fighting for me.” Sheila said with her voice growing cold and low.
“For the past eight years who cooked and cleaned Chris? Who had to put the kids to bed alone while daddy stayed long hours at his unit? Who gave up their career huh Chris?”
Chris sat there speechless glaring up a Sheila. Sheila stared back while wiping the tears from her cheeks and she began biting her nails once again.
“I’m sorry Sheila.”
“It’s too late to apologize Chris.” Chris covered his face with his hands once again as he began to cry. Still, none of his questions had been answered. “Please explain what is going on Sheila.”
“I got extremely lonely while you were over there and I…”
“And you what?” Chris said sounding extremely irritated and concerned at the same time. That feeling for the fear and confusion began to build inside of him once more.
“And I found somebody else.”
Chris just sat there dazed, confused and immobile. “What do you mean you found somebody else?’
“I’m sorry Chris”
“What about me? What about the children? What about us?” Chris began to cry almost uncontrollably. What did he do so wrong? Why did this happen to him? What did he do to deserve this?
“What about us?” Chris managed to blurt out past his intense weeping.
“I think that we should get a divorce.” Chris was crying even harder now. Sheila stood there staring, blank and emotionless. Seconds later the lock clicked open and a man stepped into the house.