Rain was Falling from the Sky that Night

March 3, 2011
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There was rain falling down from the sky that night. The few stars were covered with dark grey clouds and every so often thunder could be heard from a distance. The intimidating, flashing lightening was the only source of illumination that evening. I was standing outside in my camouflage uniform, organizing my luggage for the months to come. As I was loading the bags into the SUV parked in front of my house, the cell-phone in my pocket began to ring.

“Hello,” I grunted into the receiver. I began trudging through the sodden ground, back to the maroon-bricked home that I would soon be leaving.

“Johnson, where the hell are the pistols you were supposed to put in the plane? We have to leave for Kabul in four hours and I can’t find ‘em anywhere,” a voice barked into my ear.

“Chief, I have them right here, I’m leavin’ in a few minutes.” I controlled my tone and kept it level; trying to suppress the agitation I was feeling.

The line went dead and I shoved the phone back into my pocket, entering the residence. All the lights were off except for the two lamps in the family area.

I entered the warm room, drenched, attempting to catch my breath. It looked the way it always did. A painting hung above each dark blue sofa and a soft, plush rug was in the center of the mahogany floor. The television was set on the news channel with the volume low, making the newscaster’s voice barely audible. My eyes immediately fell upon the navy, leather couch at the far end of the wall. Upon it sat three people; my wife, my daughter, and my son.

Hearing my boots hit the wooden floor, their three heads shot up to look at me. None of them were smiling; they were too still. Letting out a shaky breath, I thought about how to say goodbye; what to tell them before leaving for six months. I couldn’t really think of much.

I lowered my head, unable to look any of them in the eye. I unsuccessfully tried to swallow the lump in my throat.

“I got all my stuff ready, I guess I have to leave now.” I quickly turned around and left through the front door. I held on to the fence outside, my hands clenching the sopping oak, looking up to blink away any trace of crying. But those stupid, sorrowful drops of water still managed to find their way to my cheeks.

“Stupid crying,” I muttered under my breath. I didn’t think I would be able to go and say something, anything, to each member of my family. Just the idea of it was too painful. So, I started making my way to the truck through the thick mud.

Just before I got off the patio, I heard small footsteps coming up behind me. Reluctantly, I turned around to see my five year old daughter, Melanie, looking up at me. Those doe-eyes were glazed over; almost killing me.

“Daddy,” she whimpered, “when are you coming back? Will you be here for my sixth birthday party? Huh? Will you daddy?” Her soprano voice was soft from crying. She could barely get the words out.

Bending down, I took her into my arms, patting her hair down.

“Shhh, Mel, it’s okay, off course I’ll come back. I’d never break my promise to you.” Soothing her was difficult. Difficult in the sense that it made me want to cry. That’s what lies did.

“Sweetheart, go inside and make sure Mommy and Johnny are okay.” She looked up at me. Her pale skin was stained with tears and rain as she tried wiping them away with her pink sleeve. She nodded her head and ran back inside.

Within seconds, I saw Johnny sprint outside and into my embrace. He dug his face into my shoulder and clung to my jacket, shaking.

“Daddy, please don’t go. I-I promise I’ll e-eat my vegetables, I’ll stop playing video games, I’ll e-even go to sleep on time. P-please, just st-stay.” He sobbed the words into my ear, tightly holding onto me. My voice was caught in my throat as I just hung onto him.

What I had hoped I could avoid, the moment that I had been dreading this entire day, finally came up. My wife, Lindsay, walked out, carrying Melanie.

I picked up Johnny, and stood to face her. Those hazel eyes that I had first seen fifteen years ago, stared at me. They were swollen and red, as she wiped them with her free hand.

“Dan, don’t forget to take you medicine and all okay? I put them in the green duffel bag with your flashlights and first aid supplies. A-and call me when you reach the plane. A-and don’t forget –“

“Lindsay.” I took a step towards her and brushed her cheek with my hand to remove the stream of tears. “D-don’t worry. I will.”

I couldn’t muster up the strength to say much else. I just brought her body closer to my in an embrace.

“I love you guys,” I managed to say. They were all sniffling and trembling into my ear. I wished I could stay there for much longer, , but it was time to leave. I brought myself away from Lindsay who was collecting herself. I gave Johnny to her, and picked up my final suitcase.

“I’ll call every day. Promise. And send whatever I can.”

They all nodded. There was a haunting, frightened feeling that hung in the air.

I started walking away towards the car. The mud reached the top of my boots as I made my way to the front door. Climbing in, I put the key into the ignition. I maneuvered the vehicle, through the storm, down the driveway. Before turning onto the street, I looked into my rear-view mirror. The three of them were huddled together for warmth, still on the patio, and flash of lightening went by, illuminating their faces. It was raining that day, I remember.

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