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Moving on & Making amends

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Humming and doing the dishes were the only things keeping Charlotte from going insane in this undying quiet home. That was Greenville, Alabama for you; it’s always been a quiet little town, quiet everywhere. As she glanced up to the kitchen window to look at her wedding ring she had placed on the sill, Michael would be coming home in a week; she noticed two men dressed in uniform climbing out of a black sedan from her kitchen window. Instant fear took over her body; she knew why they were there. It was all a blur after that; the letter, his dog tags, their sympathetic apologies, closing the door, watching the soldiers walk back to their sedan. As she collapses on the floor gasping for air, her whole body shudders hard and uncontrollably, she can’t speak or even manage a scream of desperation. The only thing running through her mind was the pregnancy test she had taken just two weeks before and the unborn baby who will never meet their father. Her whole world had taken a turn within twelve minutes, and ended. Finally, the sound of Charlotte’s heaving sobs had broken the silence of the house.

As of three hours ago, old Mr. Smith declared she was going to give birth to an all American little boy. At the thought of him growing up without a father, she wept. She couldn't believe it had been 5 months already since Michael’s been gone. There will be no fishing trips; there will be no throwing a football in the front yard, no one to teach their boy to ride a bike. At an attempt to make herself feel better, she decided it was time to decorate and prepare the nursery. Unfortunately she was not aware that she was about to experience yet another life altering event.
At Buck’s Furniture store she couldn't find the right crib or dresser, at the end she had picked two that did not match. At Darlene’s Boutique and Thrift Shop she couldn't find the right bedding for the room, and she certainly was not driving an hour to the nearest Wal-Mart. Finally, after settling on a baby blue bedding set with little trains and cars on it, she headed to Charlie’s Hardware store to find the perfect hue of paint. As she was deciding between a ‘meadow green’ and an ‘ocean blue’, she heard a voice from the past.
“Well look what the cat dragged in!”
Charlotte spun around. There in front of her was her old high school best friend, Fay. Fay had moved to Oklahoma with her mom when their parents had divorced during junior year, Charlotte hadn't seen or heard from her since, except for the couple of letters she had gotten the first year.
“Oh my lord! I haven’t seen you in age’s darlin’!” Charlotte had replied.
For a second Charlotte let go of all the things that had gone bad that day, her best friend was home! Charlotte decided she was just going to buy both colors of paint, so her and Fay walked to the cash register and paid for their things. Fay had asked Charlotte to go to lunch with her and Charlotte more than happily agreed, it’s been a while, they had things to catch up on and she was in need of a girl talk.
As they sat down they discussed the past, boyfriends and all the old memories they had, and why Fay had moved back. Turns out she bought her daddy’s old ranch down near the big fish pond, she was going to fix it up and start boarding horses and training them again. There was still one thing they hadn't talked about though, the big elephant in the room.
“So how far along are ya’ll? Michael must be so proud he’s having a baby boy!”
Charlotte kept her cool only long enough to utter a response.
“Michael died five months ago in Iraq. He was ambushed on a patrol, there were no survivors. He never knew about the baby. I was going to tell him when he was due home the week after he was killed.” Just like that, Charlotte fell apart again. Fay let out a gasp and instantly held Charlotte. The distance between them didn't affect anything; they were still bonded to each other. After about ten minutes, as Charlotte still crumbled in Fay’s arms, she found the strength to pull herself together.
“Enough about this though! Do ya need any help on your daddy’s ranch with anything? I sure have all the time in the world ever since Eve made me go on leave early at the hair salon, she was afraid all the chemicals would harm the baby.”
“Ha! Charlotte, I would never put a pregnant woman to work, you’d go into labor, are ya loco?! I already have all the help I need. No! Don’t look at me like that, I’m not keeping a secret boyfriend or anything from ya, my—“
That’s when Charlotte saw him. She had hoped that only Fay had come back to Greeneville, but clearly that wasn't the case. Twelve feet away and walking towards them was Jackson, Fay’s older brother. Charlotte was still irate with him. All three of them had been childhood best friends, and Jackson had been her high school sweetheart afterwards. He had split even before his parent’s divorce; he had just taken off one day without a goodbye. She never had the slightest hunch to where he went or what he was doing. Charlotte had always blamed herself though, if she hadn't of gotten pregnant on prom night, he would have married her. All Charlotte and Jackson could do was look at each other. She was still in disbelief, her mouth agape. Fay broke the silence lurking around us.
“Hey there Jax, whatcha up to?”
“Grabbing some tools from Charlie’s, just came over to see when you’d be comin’ back to the ranch, I could use some help with the fences.” He replied to Fay while still staring at Charlotte.
“Let me pay the bill real quick and then I’m all yours.” As Fay got up to walk inside the diner Jackson sat down.
“I know you still hate me Charlotte, I’d hate myself too. I’d really like to talk to you about what happened though, if that’s alright with you and your husband don’t mind.” He said glancing at the ring she had on her finger. She still didn't have the heart to take it off just yet.
Charlotte couldn't find any words; she was so angry with him yet so confused at the same time. Who does he think he is to just waltz back into her life after all this time, expecting to just so easily get her to talk to him? But all she did was nod; a silent agreement to meet him here for lunch the next day.
Jackson picked Charlotte up and they drove to the diner in silence. She had nothing to say to him, but she did want to get out of the house for once, and having someone suck-up to her and pay for her lunch sounded like an OK time. They got to the diner and Charlotte ordered a cheeseburger with sweet tea. Charlotte listened as Jackson ordered the same thing he always did, an all American burger with a large sweet tea and fries. After they ordered they discussed where he’d gone when he took off and Michael. Charlotte insisted he tell her what he needed to get out, and apologize.
“I know I didn't act like a man back then Charlotte. I caused a problem and I should have been man enough to deal with the consequences. That baby wasn't supposed to be just your responsibility; I was supposed to be there for you, but I left. I was scared, I was only 19 Charlotte. What I did was wrong though, I want to apologize. It was never your fault, it was mine. I just wish I was man enough to have come back sooner; I just couldn't face you after what I did.”
Charlotte told him about how she had planned on keeping the baby, hoping one day he’d come back, even though her parents fought her hard. Then one day she had woken up bleeding, she had a miscarriage. In the end she felt a pang of relief, he was gone out of her life, and so was the baby. She realized she wouldn't have been able to care for it while still in school and she still had a lot to live for before she wanted to become a parent. At the end of lunch she had told Jackson she had forgiven him. It was nice to have her old friends back and the past behind her.
Humming and folding the laundry were the only things keeping Charlotte busy in this unusually quiet home; she was antsy for Abel’s birthday tomorrow. He’d be turning 7. Bringing his clothes into his room, Charlotte looked around. On a shelf were blocks spelling out his name, Abel Michael. Above his bed was the triangular folded flag from his father’s funeral, and on the dresser, a picture of Michael with his dog tags hanging on the frame. Charlotte had come a long way in 7 years. She still missed Michael, still loved him, but she had finally accepted that he wouldn't be coming back, but he’d always be with her inside. Inside Abel too, whom when Charlotte looked at him, instantly saw Michael. He’d be proud of Abel. As she looked out the window she saw how happy he was, throwing a football around the yard with Jackson. Jackson had helped with the pregnancy and the grief of Michael’s death, helping care for Abel once he was born too. They had become close friends until a year ago, when he had proposed, and she had accepted. The feeling that Charlotte got from knowing Abel would have a father figure in his life, without losing touch his real father, made her heart melt. When anyone asked Abel if he wished he’d met his father, he was proud to tell everyone yes he did, but he had two fathers, and he loved them both the same. Finally, the sound of Abel’s laughter from the yard broke the silence of the house.




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