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The sky was overcast with a chilly November breeze rolling across her body. They were huddled together. They knew nothing about each other, but at the same time they knew everything. The women and families were waiting attentively until they saw the military jet liner skid to its landing. The ongoing hangar was full of wives, mothers, daughters, sons, and other relatives. Ultimately, the war craft halted and a metal aerodynamic door elevated from the plane’s exterior. Stairs disengaged from the inside on a submerged path.
A chiseled, tan skinned man filed down the steps with his camouflage bag swung over his shoulder. He walked with a perfect military stride near his comrades. His five o’ clock shadow was evident alongside his dark sagging eyelids. When he saw her though, his eyes lit up like its Christmas morning. To him, she looked more beautiful than she had two years ago before he had left.
Autumn sprinted towards him. Her excitement in seeing him was indescribable. All at once, her arms swung around the back of his neck and his arms wrapped intently around her waist.
“Welcome home!” Autumn whispered in his ear as she was in his arms.
“Thanks Autumn. I love you,” he replied to her, with a faded grin on his face. James was exhausted, and Autumn knew he would want some time to rest.
For the next week, they spent every moment together. Whether it was taking a nap or going to the grocery store, he was by her side. James was still looking for a job, because the military had paid off his previous debts that he dug himself into ten years ago. Now, all he intended to do was get a permanent income to last the rest of his life.
Another week went by. The job search was descending for James. His wife was always out and about either at work or with army wives, which left him at home with a can of beer and the TV. Autumn usually asked him to come, but James would deny. Most times, he would doze off and flashbacks recurred beneath his eyelids…
He could feel the rupture beneath the military tanker implode. The vibrations rang through his ears as the fiery wrath surrounded his body. The car side bomb had gone off and there was close to no time left to escape. It was every man for themselves. James could see himself grabbing his gear as he jumped out the side window through the flames. He made it, James thought. He stayed alive another day. Suddenly, James heard Autumn fling the door shut behind her and she called out his name.
“James, will you come here a sec?” Autumn questioned, waiting for an answer in the kitchen. It had been several days since James was out in public, and she felt uneasy about how they were going to make their mortgage this month.
“Yeah, yeah just hang on.” James voice echoed through the house. Aggravated, he pulled up the recliner into its upright position and thudded into the kitchen. “What do you need.” James demanded blandly.
“Well…” Autumn started, side tracked. She didn’t know how to tell him what she needed to without sounding insistent. “Well…you know that our bills are due on the 23rd right? In a few days.”
James grumbled to himself. The last thing he wanted to be woken up for was to talk about bills. “Yes.”
“Okay…um…so…” Autumn stuttered. “I am not really sure if my income will flip the bill this month. It’s enough for me to live on my own, but now that you’re home it’s double the groceries, laundry, and all of that kind of….”
James cut her off. “Don’t you DARE disrespect me with that tone of voice! I am in the United States army. I was serving my country, my people! Don’t you go thinking…”
“James, I didn’t mean it in that way!” Autumn interrupted, as her throat stretched to extremes.
“Let me finish.” He commanded. James’ body was leaned against the kitchen table with a fist pounded into one of the chair’s cushion. Autumn stood behind the counter.
“You sure as hell know that what I did on those fields is ten times harder than anything you’ve ever done at work. If you need extra money, work extra hours. I’ve worked hard enough for the past two years to get us out of those ridiculous debts you put us into...I’m leaving. I need to get some air.”
Autumn’s body felt like it had been struck by lightning as she stood there stuck behind her counter. She waited until the door frame thudded closed and raddled. His breathing was thick and heavy. She couldn’t believe what had just happened. James had never fought with her before. That night, Autumn was unaccompanied in her king sized bed and was left alone…
The couch had lumps that made James’ body feel lopsided all over. Usually he would sleep in the recliner, but tonight he thought he would try to get a better sleep on the couch. His plan fell through. Hours went by until finally his eyelids started to feel like ten pound weights gravitating down on him. James was taken over again by nightmares that came out of his real life experiences overseas…
Autumn couldn’t sleep and her mind was restless. She lifted her heavy blonde head of curls up to check the clock. 3:30 am. She couldn’t take it anymore. Silent as a mouse, she tippy toed her way down the main stairway and into the family room. Searching through the darkness, her eye caught James, breathing deeply on the couch.
Under a few blankets lay James seemingly peaceful as he was sound asleep. Autumn crawled creepily next to him and squeezed her petite body on to the couch beside him. She gave James’ arm a tight squeeze and hugged him close to his chest. His eyes flung open quickly. The view of Autumn’s facial profile so close to his had startled him. Coming out of his nightmare, James nudged her off of the couch in a swift motion. “Get away from me, now.” He ordered her, his voice groggy with sleep.
Autumn laughed. She figured he was crabby from his sleep. Her body lay motionless on the wooden floor and she kept a locked stare on James.
“I’m serious. Get away from me now.”
She threw a snickered giggle at James. Autumn knew that he liked to play mind games with her, just to put her off. She expected this to be one of them.
“Fine!” Exclaimed James cautiously. “If you’re not getting up, I have my weapons right here, don’t underestimate me. I am trained to kill.”
She knew he had given his weapons back to the forces. They were not his property, and by law, he had to return them until his next excursion. Finally, she picked herself up off of the raw living room floor and glared at James.
“Alright woman, you asked for it. First you want me to pay the bills, now you wake me up during my precious sleep just to giggle and make fun of me? Oh you’re going to get it girl. You just wait.” James briskly bounced off of the couch and swung the basement door open. Autumn did not follow.
His socks were sliding down the basement steps as fast as he could go and he reached the storage closet. He specifically hid the storage box behind the furnace so Autumn would never know about it. He fingered through the lock combination easily and the door swung open to his collection. The hand gun that his father gave him was the smallest but most powerful gun, so James decided to snatch it up quickly and left the basement.
James’ wife was astonished as she stood next to the couch. Her cotton striped pajamas hung limp against her body and chills ran up and down her spine. ‘What is he thinking?’ She thought. ‘Maybe he’s sleepwalking…’ Autumn tried to convince herself. Abruptly, James appeared through the basement doorway and his shadow approached Autumn faster and faster. The darkness made it difficult for her to see who he was and what he was doing. She ran toward him also, thinking she could hit James and wake him up from this horrible dream he was having. As soon as her body collided with his, she felt a cold hand ring around her neck.
“James! What are you doing? What’s happening?” Autumn squawked, gasping for air. Her arms and legs were flailing at him as he began to raise her body from the ground. In his other hand, he raised the gun towards the side of her head. “Stop it! James let’s talk about this!” She choked, her throat closing inch by inch. James grip grew even tighter.
“Did you really think I was happy Autumn? Did you think that I enjoyed having to pay YOUR bills for the past two years in Iraq because you were too damn lazy to work longer hours? Well newsflash- I was miserable. I was miserable the day I married you. Hell, I was happier in Iraq with all of the other ladies I met than with you here. You, Autumn, are trash, and I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time…”
She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Was she dreaming? Or was this real life? She could feel the blood clotting in her neck and her feet as they were now inches from the floor. “Not once did I disobey you James,” She whispered to her husband, seconds away from death.
“I never loved you Autumn, and I never will.”
A rage suddenly streamed through her body. Those were not the last words she wanted to hear. Her blood was pumping, and adrenaline circulated through her veins. All at once, her legs began to swing back and forth rapidly towards James, and her nails started to claw away at the skin of his arm that wrapped around her neck. Harder and faster she kicked and scratched, until finally his sweaty palm gave way around her neck and she dropped to the floor. Autumn kicked at his shins and thighs until he ultimately fell to the ground. As fast as she could, she walked bare footed over his stomach to hold him down after he had fallen. James was sprawled flat on his back, and his soon to be ex wife took advantage in order to spare her life. Her arms held down his, and she put all of her weight down onto him to keep him on the ground. Inches away, she noticed the loaded handgun. James was too in shock to notice that she had surged off of him in the direction of the gun. Autumn couldn’t comprehend how she had gotten the gun in her hand, but it was there. Before James had the time to even question what she was doing, Autumn rambled off a sentence that she will never regret.
“I’m glad our baby will never get to meet its lame excuse of a father.” Autumn recited in a triumphant voice, and she pulled the trigger.