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I pull in to the drive way vacated by a military-grade car, hoping this is just a mistake, but I know the military does not make mistakes. Michael. I pull the key from the car and listen as the engine slowly hums to a stop. No. A fit of anxiety pricks my stomach and I slap the steering wheel. No. Please, no. I rest my forehead against the wheel and close my eyes against the wheel. Please.
I sob and unbuckle my seat belt. It releases with a soft click. I push the door open without looking up. Please. Not him. My eyes stream and I get up from my seat and look to the front door, it stands slightly ajar and I can see my mother clinging to a tall woman in black. From where I am seated I can hear her own cries. I know my worst fears are confirmed.
I lose what little control I had and let the tears run there route. My mother sees me in the yard and runs from the living room. She herself is crying so hard I am surprised she can even see. I know I am blind.
“Michael?” I ask even though I already know.
She nods, and I collapse to the ground.
“Why Mamma, why” I ask through the sobs that encase my body.
“Shh. Baby girl, shh. Its gonna be ok. Its gonna be ok.” She rocks me back in forth in her arms. My head is rested on her shoulder and I cry my hardest into her sleeve.
“What… What happened?”
“I don’t know baby, I don’t know.”
I look up from her shoulder and see the woman standing in the doorway, watching us. Her brown hair is plaited down her back, and her dress reaches past her knees. She’s the perfect definition of military.
“Do you know how?” My voice shudders as I ask her and I can’t see past the tears that cloud my vision.
“No, I’m afraid I don’t.” Her voice is even, and sends a chill down my spine to hear such a flat voice deliver such devastating news.
I stand and get to my feet and breath in a deep shuttering gasp. Mamma stands with me, and still holding each other, we walk inside. I pause at the doorway. Why did he have to go like this? What happened to us dieing together when we were old and gray? Why was he gone so soon?
“Mamma?” I stop by the couch and sit on the armrest. “Where is his… his… body?”
Mamma stops and takes a deep breath in. “We don’t know yet.” She looks at me through the corner over her eye. “Honey, im sure he’s in a better place.”
I nod in understanding. Michael is gone, gone in a foreign land and he couldn’t even die in his own country. Why did he have to go in the first place?
“He promised mamma, he promised he’d come back.” I lose myself again. “He promised, he told me he would come back! Mamma, why? Why?” I wail the last word, lost in misery.
She comes back over to me. “Honey, I don’t know. I don’t know.” Tears stream her face as she comforts my own feelings.
We pull into the church parking lot, an hour early, and yet the lot is half way filled. Mamma made the funeral arrangements, since I was unable to do so. She comes to help me out of the car, but I cant get out. Not here. Not to say good bye.
“Come on honey, you have to come.” She says in a husky voice.
I can't do anything but do so. My limbs do what my mind says for them to do and I climb from the car. My black dress causing a dark splotch of non-color in the parking lot. I flip my veil over, I can't let people see my tears, they have to believe I am stronger than that.
Mamma and I walk arm in arm into the church, passed the many aisles and up to the first row of seats. The pews fill up around us and family after family come to shake are hands.
“Im sorry for your loss.”
“Your in our prayers.”
“We’ll all miss him”
“He’s in a better place.”
All filtered through my head as the day proceded. The preacher walked out and began his sermon.
“Michael Davids was a good man…” and I allowed myself to cry.
later in the day
We stand in the cemetery, Michael’s family and my family. The coffin is draped in the American flag and surrounded by red and white roses. The preacher speaks again and they hand me a folded flag framed in a wooden triangle, protected by glass. Twenty-one shots fly into the air. The last feels as its pierced my heart and I let a sob escape from my constricted throat.
“Is it done Mamma?” My voice catches between my lips.
“Yes, we’ve honored Michael in the best way that we can.”
We walk back to the car as soon as the second funeral is over and drive back home.
A knock on the door breaks me from a stubborn sleep. A man in a dark blue uniform stands on my porch.
“Mrs. Davids?” He asks before I can say two words.
“It seems we’ve made an error. Your husband, Michael Davids, he is alive.”
I sink to me knees, my hand clasped to my mouth. “Are you serious? He’s… He’s alive”
“Yes ma’am. He is alive.”