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June 7, 1975...the day she was to become Lieutenant Michael Grey's wife. The day her life was to start. The day a whole new chapter was supposed to be opened and revealed.
In a daze, she imagined her long, flowing, elegant cream dress she was to have worn. It was simple but beautiful. She had looked like an angel in it, her fiancée had told her lovingly. “With your eyes all aglow and your pixie-dust sprinkled eyes dancing in delight...” she remembered his exact words and drew a shaky breath.
“But you've never even seen me in it!” she protested laughingly, “so how would you know what I looked like?”
“I can imagine it by all the details you've given and by just picturing your beautiful face,” he had answered, covering her hand with his own.
“Your smile never leaves me, Lori,” he whispered that last night they had together, running his thumb along the side of her hand. Loretta could still remember the strong, salty smell of the sea air as they stood on the same boardwalk Michael was to embark off of the very next morning, bound for Vietnam and the war raging on over the seas. She wished the night would never end.
Allowing her mind to go back to his picture that was permanently burned there, she remembered his tall built frame and his sun tanned complexion. She remembered his dark brown hair that gave the perfect contrast to his skin and his brown, almost black eyes that made his hair and skin look even darker.
She remembered the way his hand felt against hers, so strong and comforting. She remembered how it had always made her feel secure and safe, like no harm could ever come to her as long as they're hands were linked together.
She sniffed as she returned to the present and struggled to hide the tears that threatened to flood her eyes. Why did he have to leave her? She had been waiting for forever. Waiting for always. But now they'd never be. Ever.
“Why him?!” she wailed, reaching the Memorial and falling to her knees with an anguished cry. “Why me, Michael? Why?!” she demanded, the pounding in her head becoming louder and louder, each heartbeat feeling like a sledge hammer taking blows to her heart, breaking the pieces into smaller fragments.
Suddenly her mind turned and she relived the day she found out her Michael was gone.
She'd had an ordinary day and was washing the dishes after supper, and was getting ready to go sit by the fire and listen to the radio to see if there was any news on the war.
Suddenly, she heard a loud knock at her door. Curiosity filled her as she turned off the water and grabbed the towel to dry her hands. Hearing the pounding knock again, she figured it must be important considering the time of night it was and the urgency the caller seemed to have so she brought the towel along with her and walked through the entryway to her front door.
She opened it eagerly, growing more curious and a little nervous about who she'd see on the other side.
Stopping suddenly and frowning she let the kitchen towel fall to the floor as she tried to force her eyes to focus on the uniformed men standing before her.
“Miss Phillips?” The taller of the two men said, breaking the ice between the three of them.
“Y...yes,” Lori stuttered, fully realizing why they were there and wishing she could run away and not hear what they had to say. “Michael, no!” she inwardly wailed. Taking a sharp intake of breath, she stepped backwards into the long entryway.
“Ma'am I'm afraid...”
“No!” she whispered, tuning them out. She closed her eyes tight and blocked out any sound. She couldn't stand to see their sympathetic eyes a second longer, She wouldn't listen to them. Michael wasn't dead. He couldn't be. He promised her...
Groaning, Lori's head began to swim with dizziness, making her feel sick to her stomach. “No,” she wailed, falling to her knees and burying her face in her hands.
“It isn't right! They're wrong,” She thought, completely unaware of the hands that caught her before she hit the ground completely or the arms that held her close and comforted her.
“Michael can't be dead! He promised me he'd be back!” she shouted in her head, feeling more sick and the dizziness coming stronger than she thought possible.
All the sudden everything stopped and went black. After that, the events were all a blur.
Returning back to the present, she gave up and stopped trying to hold back the tears. Allowing them to flow freely down her face, she watched as they splashed the little pond of water in front of the memorial.
Every tear separately hit the surface of the shining water that reflected the gray clouds overhead. The day matched her mood perfectly. Gloomy, dark, and completely un-full of life. Since she had received the news of Michael, she had felt like a major part was missing and she could swear she would never be the same again.
Still gazing at each tear as it struck the water, she watched as they came harder and faster for a few seconds, and then finally subsided.
She missed him so much she thought it would be impossible for her heart to feel any more broken than it already was.
Sniffing and not taking her eyes off his name on the wall, she lifted her hand up and slowly, carefully slipped the diamond ring off. She stopped when it was at her fingernail. She didn't have to do this; but she wanted to. There was no other way she would ever move on.
Slipping it off the rest of the way she twisted it around with her fingers one more time and felt every curve of the metal, every sharp point of the diamond, and memorized its feel in her hand, vowing she would never forget.
Letting a few stray tears make their way down her face she slowly, almost hesitantly, moved her cold hand out over the little pool of water.
Trying to steady her shaking hand, she reluctantly let go of the diamond ring and watched as it splashed quietly in the water and unhurriedly sank to the bottom of the fountain of tears.
Dropping her head she closed her eyes and thought of all the times her and Michael had shared and all the times they would have had, had he not died in the war.
Drawing a deep breath she steadied her shaking shoulders and gathered her tissues in her hand, squeezing them tight as she stood up.
Starting to turn she hesitated, and looked back at the pool of water one last time. All the sudden the diamond on the ring sparkled. Startled Lori looked up, expecting to see the sun peek out behind the clouds. But it didn't. Instead it looked just as gray as before, but she could have sworn she saw it sparkle as if the sun had hit it just right.
“Maybe its crazy, but I think I'm going to take that as a sign of Michael winking at me from Heaven,” she thought, smiling a little and glancing upwards at the sky. “I'm gonna' be okay,” she whispered softly.
Glancing back once more, she turned around and slowly made her way across the ground, away from the Vietnam Memorial.
Her heart may have been shattered...but that didn't mean it could never be glued back together again.