All Nonfiction Bullying Books Academic Author Interviews Celebrity interviews College Articles College Essays Educator of the Year Heroes Interviews Memoir Personal Experience Sports Travel & CultureAll Opinions Bullying Current Events / Politics Discrimination Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking Entertainment / Celebrities Environment Love / Relationships Movies / Music / TV Pop Culture / Trends School / College Social Issues / Civics Spirituality / Religion Sports / Hobbies
- Summer Guide
- College Guide
- Author Interviews
- Celebrity interviews
- College Articles
- College Essays
- Educator of the Year
- Personal Experience
- Travel & Culture
- Current Events / Politics
- Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking
- Entertainment / Celebrities
- Love / Relationships
- Movies / Music / TV
- Pop Culture / Trends
- School / College
- Social Issues / Civics
- Spirituality / Religion
- Sports / Hobbies
- Community Service
- Letters to the Editor
- Pride & Prejudice
- What Matters
“In other news, seven Army men were killed. The date of their deaths are not released at this time, but it’s said that they died serving their country in combat...”
Sandy sips at her morning tea; the warm liquid trailing down her throat, making her tummy warm. Her soft, green eyes watch the small television screen intently. She waits to see if Henry’s name will appear, dreading the possibility. Her thoughts go through the same process as usual. They jump from one dreaded thought to the other. Her fingers tap rapidly against the cool, white-marbled bar. A nervous habit that she was trying to break before Henry left four months ago. Now every time the news mentions anything about the war, it kicks into full gear.
Sandy takes another sip of tea, her long, pale fingers grasping the mug as if it’s her lifeline. Her strawberry blond hair brushes her shoulders, annoying her. She roughly throws it up into a messy bun, leaving her bangs to brush across her eyebrows.
The news comes back from commercial, absorbing Sandy’s full attention once more. They start off mentioning some stories that they’re going to cover later. It seems as though it’s been hours by the time they come back to the story about the Army men.
“As for the story of the Army men, an update has been received. Again, seven of the men were killed during combat. The combat took place roughly two weeks ago in Afghanistan..” The news reporter is interrupted by Sandy’s doorbell. Her heart skips a beat. Hoping that it’s not anyone too important, since she hasn’t changed out of her pajamas yet, but also hoping that it’s not somebody bearing bad news.
She carries her mug of tea with her, something Henry had given her for Christmas, her fingers absently tapping against the hard surface. Sandy looks down at herself, examining her attire, which consists of Henry’s faded ACDC concert t-shirt and a pair of his old green boxers.
A small memory makes its way into her nervous mind. It was one of her and Henry’s first dates, a starlit walk across a beach along the coast. They were goofing off and having fun, when it suddenly started to downpour. They had made a mad dash for Henry’s old Jeep, that luckily had its hardtop secured to the car. They quickly jumped under the dry cover. Sandy was soaked to the bone, and had started to shiver. Henry cranked the heat to full blast. Then he reached into the back seat and pulled out the less old version of the ACDC concert t-shirt, offering it to her so she could be more dry. She’s loved the t-shirt ever since.
Her flashback ends with another ring of the doorbell. Since she’s taken enough time to stall, she hurries the rest of the distance to the door. When she’s about to answer it, she remembers the news and tries to listen. It’s no use, since it’s too quiet for her to hear from here. She opens the door.
“It’s about time you answered. You weren’t sleepin’, were ya?” Rita says, stepping into Sandy’s home like she owns the place.
Sandy lets her tense shoulders relax, and lets out a breath that she hadn’t realized she was holding. Her face lights up a bit when she smiles and gives a soft laugh. She follows the older woman back into the kitchen, which is now quiet besides the birds chirping outside in the colorful fall trees.
“What are you doing here so early?” Sandy questions her soon to be mother in law.
“Well, you know those damned crows, they can’t seem to shut their beaks. It’s going to make me go bonkers if I have to listen to them much longer. So, I figured that you wouldn’t mind if I were to come over here to do some things.” Rita starts to putter around, her mind and motions going just as fast as a child’s; typical Rita.
“That’s quite alright. I was getting a bit lonely anyways.” Rita gives a curt nod.
“Have you had anything for breakfast yet, dear?”
“No. I was just going to drink my tea. I’m not...”
“Nonsense! You have to have breakfast. Just because you’re done growin’ doesn’t mean that breakfast isn’t the most important meal of the day anymore.” She starts pulling things from the cupboards and refrigerator.
“Rita, really, I’ll just have some cereal.” Rita turns around to face Sandy, her slender hands placed on her thin hips.
“Sandy, it’s Sunday. And Sunday calls for pancakes, dammit!” Sandy laughs, making Rita smile.
“Okay, okay. I’ll have your pancakes!”
“Good, because I would’ve shoved them down your throat if I had to.” Rita turns her tall frame back to making the ingredients for the pancakes.
Sandy takes the silence to glance at her kitchen. Henry had surprised her when decorating it, he had basically the same taste as her. What she loved most was how sunny and bright it was, and how it always smelt like lavender. It was an open space, the only thing not against the wall was the bar that protruded from the rest of the counter. The white walls let in the most light possible from the giant windows that took up most of the wall space. The vast windows look out into their backyard. The place and yard was small, but it was perfect for a couple just starting out together.
“So have you heard from Henry lately?” Rita asks, breaking the silence. A hiss sounds as she scoops some pancake batter onto a hot pan. Andy notices some red chunks dotting the batter. Strawberry pancakes, her favorite.
“I got a letter in the mail last week. It was dated about month ago. How about you?”
“I got one two weeks ago. That one was dated only about a week before. The mail system over there is a weird thing.” Rita flips the pancake, causing another hiss.
“At least there is a mailing system. It’s helpful in calming the nerves.”
“True, but I just wish it could be more consistent.” Rita looks up at Sandy. “Sandy, I’m glad that Henry’s marrying you. You’re the best girl I could dream of him having. I thank my lucky stars he found you. I also thank the Lord that I’m not going through this alone, that you’re here to help me through this. After Danny and Jim died, Henry is all I have, but now I have you too.” Rita’s bright blue eyes fill with tears, making Sandy’s fill also.
“Oh Rita. Thank you. That means so much to me. And I feel the same. You’re like the mother I never got the chance to have.”
“I’m glad. I’ve always wanted a little girl to look over.” Rita turns back to the stove and plops the pancakes on a plate. She sets them down and makes her way over to Sandy to give her a hug. The two women sit there for a few seconds.
“Thank you.” Sandy mumbles again into Rita’s greyish-brown, curly hair.
“Dear, there’s nothing to thank me for. I’m just happy to act like a mother again. Now eat up.” Rita winks and taps Sandy on the shoulder. She walks back into the kitchen to make herself a cup of coffee. They both wipe at their eyes and Sandy starts to pancakes while Rita pulls a mug from the cupboard.
The doorbell rings again. This time, Sandy gets up to answer it in a worry free manner. Oblivious to the fact she still hasn’t changed or has a bit of strawberry stuck in her teeth. She opens the door, but instead of relief, fear shockers her body to the spot in which she stands.
Two sharp looking men stand before her, both dressed in their class A, Army uniforms. They look as if they could be twins; dressed in the same clothes, sporting the same haircut, have the same serious look, and have the same unwanted presence. The one on the right removes his hat, the one on the left follows, revealing that they both have different colored eyes and hair.
“Ms. Jamison?” The one on the right, who has blue eyes and brown hair, asks. Sandy is struck by how much he looks like Henry.
“You’re the fiancee to Major Henry Butler, correct?” The one on the left, who has green eyes and blond hair, asks. Sandy can’t speak.
“Yes. She is,” Rita answers instead, “and I’m his mother, Rita Butler.”
“Well, ladies. I’m so sorry to say that Major Butler has passed in combat two weeks ago.”
At first the news doesn’t register all the way in Sandy’s mind. Once it does, it’s like her heart is ripped from her chest. She let’s out a sob and tears start to streak down her face. Her legs give out, but she’s caught; and the familiar scratch of a uniform itches her face, along with the feel of strong arms holding her. The last time she was in this position was when she said goodbye to Henry. The memory causes her to let out another sob, causing snot to embarrassingly come out of her nose.
“No. Not Henry!” Sandy wails.
“Sandy, come here dear.” She vaguely hears Rita’s whisper, and then she’s passed from the man who looks like Henry, to Rita. “I’m going to put her to bed. Please, come in. I’ll be down in a few more minutes.” Rita says to the men.
“Take your time ma’am.” One says.
All that Sandy can concentrate on is her aching heart. How could I have lost Henry? I’ve lost my one true love, my soulmate, my best friend. Why? She thinks, Why does this have to happen? Not me, not Henry.
Without really knowing how she got there, she realizes she’s in her bed. She opens her teary eyes, looking around to see if anyone is in here with her. Once she confirms that she’s alone, she rolls over to the side of the bed and opens a drawer to her bedside dresser. At the very bottom, under many Cosmo magazines, is a small baggie of white pills. She then pops in two of the pills and swallows them dry. After crying some more, she’s taken into a deep, dark sleep.
The sun is shining bright, streaming in through the window. The light causes a cascade of beautiful colors as it hits the raindrops left over from last night’s rain fall. The smell of Henry is overpowering. Sandy brings her hand to her face and feels the wetness there. More tears come, as the memory comes flying back. She starts to sob.
“Sandy?” A deep, warm voice questions. Sandy stops sobbing, startled at the sound of Henry’s voice. She waits, and goes back to crying; thinking it was just her mind playing cruel tricks on her. She rolls over to his side of the bed, but is stopped by another body lying there. Sandy’s eyes snap open.
“Henry?” She asks, taking in her fiance’s features. His dark hair contrasts to his striking blue eyes, which are full of concern.
“Sandy, what’s wrong?” His voice is the sweetest sound to have ever gone to her ears.
“Oh my god. I thought you were dead!” Sandy collapses on Henry’s chest, hugging him as tight as she can.
“I had a dream last night that you died in combat over in Afghanistan. It was so real.” Sandy mumbles into his strong chest. Henry begins to stroke her hair, calming her down instantly.
“Honey, I’m not dead. You don’t have to worry. I haven’t even gone to boot camp yet.” Henry picks Sandy’s head up, “I’m not going anywhere anytime soon.” Sandy smiles, and Henry plants a kiss on the tip of her nose.
They lay like that for a long time. Sandy in happy disbelief that her love is in fact alive, while Henry comforts her. After awhile, they get up to have breakfast together and then go their separate ways to work. Henry works at a paper mill in the next town over and Sandy is a nurse at the local hospital. Sandy has a difficult, love-hate relationship with her job as a Pediatric ICU nurse. Being around the children there makes her look forward to her job, but when they have to leave is always when it’s the saddest on the floor.
“I’m gonna miss you!” Jamie exclaims, a seven-year-old that was in a car crash, when she gives Sandy a hug.
“Well that just means you should come back to visit. Only if you’re healthy though, of course.” She pulls the child away and smiles, receiving a holey smile in return. You can barely see the stitches from brain surgery anymore.
“Thank you again for what you’ve done.” Jamie’s dad, Mr. Boardman says, shaking her hand.
“I loved it, plus it’s my job.”
“It’s more than that. You saved our little girl. You’re an angel sent down from God Himself.” Mrs. Boardman says, pulling Sandy into a hug. Sandy offers her a tissue to wipe away her happy tears.
“It was my pleasure.” Sandy sends them off, happy to see the little girl skip over to the elevator. They weren’t sure she was going to wake up, or even walk. Sandy takes a deep breath and makes her way back to her station. She collapses down into her chair and sighs.
Her thoughts wander back to the dream she had last night. She leans back in her chair and taps her fingers on the desk. It seemed so realistic. The most realistic dream I’ve ever been in. She thinks, What if that was real? What would I do? Her thoughts wander to the end of her dream, where she takes the pills. She shudders, not wanting to ever go back to drugs.
With the constant moving and bullying that came along with it, it was so much easier to control the hurt with different pills. It’s not like anybody cared about what she did. She didn’t have anybody. And then she moved to Maine her senior year of high school, is when somebody finally started to care about her.
Her still best friend, Samantha Johnson, decided to take Sandy under her wing after showing her around the first day. Sam offered Sandy a seat with her at lunch and would walk Sandy to her classes for the first couple days of school. This was the first time someone took notice to her in a nice way.
Slowly, the relationship between the two girls became an inseparable one. As the relationship grew, Sam worked with Sandy to give up the drugs, to give up the only constant thing that was in Sandy’s life for the past five years. Sandy thinks back to the turning point of her drug addiction.
“Sandy, you have to give this up. You’re wasting your money on something you don’t need.” Sam’s brown eyes started to turn red and watery.
“I need them. They’re the only thing I have.” Sandy’s own voice started to choke up. “Please don’t do this to me.”
Sam moved closer to the toilet with the baggie filled with an assortment of different pills. “You have to make a choice. Right now. Me, your only friend, or your addiction.” Sam’s brown hair fell in her face, which she tucked quickly behind her ear. She looked down at the bag, then up to Sandy. She let the tears flowed freely. “I’m only doing this because I love you,” she whispered.
Sandy walked over to Sam’s small frame. She took the pills and Sam let out a sob. Sandy then opened the bag and flushed them down the toilet. Sam looked up, and Sandy pulled her into a tight hug.
“I’m so sorry. I’m done. I promise.”
Sandy smiles at the memory, knowing that she made the right decision. After that, Sandy started to focus on her schooling. She was desperate to catch up on the work she had ignored all through high school. It was hard, she had to balance working and school and keep up the rent, since she had her own lonely apartment. She ended up graduating with a three point four GPA, near the top of her class. She went on to Pre Med school and continued her schooling to become a registered nurse.
Sandy looks at the clock on her computer, and notices that it’s getting close to lunch. With that realization, her stomach rumbles. She picks up her phone and sends a quick text to Sam, who works in the Emergency Room, to meet her. She receives a text back saying that she’s already in the cafeteria.
“What’s up?” Sam asks when Sandy sits down.
“I had this really weird dream last night. I’ve had a really weird feeling ever since about it.” Sandy takes a bite from her salad.
“What was it about?” Sam asks between bites of her burger.
“Henry was stationed over in Afghanistan and ended up dying. At the end of it I took pills I had in my drawer.”
“Do you have pills stored?” Sam looks up at Sandy with skeptical eyes.
“No. I gave that up in high school. You know that.”
“Alright. Now, what do you mean the dream has left you with a weird feeling?” Sam has a minor in Psychology and can’t help but sounding like a shrink at times.
“It was just so real. I thought he was really gone.” Tears form in Sandy’s eyes and Sam moves her chair to sit next to her. She wraps an arms round Sandy’s shoulders.
“Shhh...it’s okay. He’s not really gone. He’s still here. Now sometimes our minds like to play weird tricks on us. It may seem like the dream was real, but it wasn’t” Sam continues to run her hand down Sandy’s back. Sandy wipes the tears from her eyes.
“God, I just feel so weird about it.”
“It’s weird how that happens.” Sam’s pager goes off. “I’ve got to go, but if you still need to talk, just give me a call later.”
“Thanks, Sam.” Sandy pulls her into another hug and Sam goes back to work.
“Sandy? Sweetheart, you need to wake up. It’s been four days.” Rita’s voice filters through Sandy’s groggy mind. Sandy rolls over and finds the other side of the bed cld.
“Where’s Henry? Did he have to leave early?” Sandy sits up and rubs her eyes open.
“Darling, Henry’s dead,” Rita moves closer to Sandy on the bed and takes her hands.
“What? I was just with him yesterday. I woke up next to him.”
“No Sandy. He’s been diploid for four months. He died in combat two weeks ago.” Rita’s eyes are filled with tears.
“Rita, I woke up to him yesterday. I had a dream about how he died. This isn’t real.” Sandy tries to reassure her.
“Sandy, stop. Henry is dead. My last son, my last bit of family, is dead!” Rita collapses against sandy and starts to cry. Sandy is stunned.
“Shhh...you’ve still got me.” Sandy strokes Rita’s salt and pepper hair.
‘’Do I? You’re not going to leave?” Rita looks up with red-rimmed eyes.
“No. I already told you you’re like the mother I never had. That’s not going to change.” Sandy’s own eyes have started to water. She pulls Rita into a tighter hug.
They stay like that for a while, holding each other as they cry in silence. After some time, Sandy gets up to make a phone call. Rita moves to downstairs to clean the windows, an effort to keep her mind off her crumbling world.
“Good morning sunshine,” Sam’s happy voice answers.
“Morning. I have a question.”
“Yeah? What’s wrong?” Sam’s voice changes when she hears the urgency from Sandy.
“We had lunch together yesterday, right?”
“Yes, we always do.”
“Did we talk about anything important?”
“Yeah...we talked about Henry.” Relief floods through Sandy’s body.
“Oh good. So this is all a dream,” Sandy mumbles.
“Wait, what are you talking about.”
“We talked about the weird dream I had about Henry dying.”
“No...we didn’t. We talked about how much you miss him and how you can’t wait for the wedding plans to start.”
“Sandy? What the hell is going on? Talk to me.” Sam’s panicky voice breaks through the shock from Sandy. At least enough so she can talk.
“I need to come see you.” Sandy croaks.
“I’m home right now.”
“I’ll be there in five minutes.” Sandy hangs up the phone.
Her drive over is something that she’s done very often. Seeing as though Sam lives about five minutes away, it’s easy to stay close after high school and college. They swore after high school that they would stay best friends. And they accomplished it. When she gets to the family-worn house, Sandy walks in knowing that Sam hates it when she, of all people, uses the doorbell.
“Henry’s dead.” Sandy states when she walks into the dining room where Sam is waiting.
“What?” Sam spits out her coffee in surprise, spraying the oak table. “Oh my god. Sandy...” Sandy sits down across from her.
“He’s not dead though, “ Sandy says.
“Umm...what do you mean?”
“This is just a dream. I think. I’m just so confused.” Tears start to sting Sandy’s eyes.
“Explain to me what happened.” Sam listens calmly to Sandy’s explanation of what’s happened over the past couple days. Sam only interrupts to ask simple questions to try to figure out the deeper meaning of what this all means. After Sandy finishes, she notices that Sam had taken out a notepad to write things down. They sit in silence. Sandy waits patiently and Sam looks at her notes while chewing on her pen.
“Hmm...this is weird,” Sam mumbles, “and you said you can’t tell which one’s a dream or not?”
“Well, I don’t know what to say. Only that this could just a phase. You might just have to wait it out.”
“Sandy. Wake up! You’re going to be late for work,” Henry yells from downstairs. Sandy rolls over and moans, not wanting to have this confusion continue. How much longer is this going to go on? Which one is real? What if Henry really is dead? Sandy’s mind is bombarded with numerous questions. She eventually rolls out of bed and joins Henry for breakfast. “You have a weird look on your face.” Henry says when he sets a bowl of cereal in front of her.
“I think I’m going crazy.” Sandy pushes the bowl of cereal away from her.
“Honey, if you’re stressed about the wedding and waiting, we don’t have to wait,” He pauses, “if that's what you want.”
“Oh it’s not about the wedding.” She takes Henry’s hand in hers, needing a part of him to remind her that he’s real. “Don’t go to basic. You can’t,” she blurts.
“Huh? I thought you were supportive of me going?” Henry’s voice sounds hurt.
“Not anymore. I don’t want you in the Army any more. I’ve changed my mind.”
“Sandy, don’t be like this. You know it’s been in my family for years upon years. It’s always been my dream.”
“Well look at what happened to your father and brother!” Sandy is in tears now. “I can’t lose you Henry. You need to stay here with me.” Henry holds both of her hands in his now.
“Sandy, I’m going to be alright. I promise.”
“You can’t promise anything with a war going on. You of all people should know that.”
“Okay, calm down. You don’t need to be bitter like this. Where is this all coming from?” Sandy sniffles.
“Remember that dream I told you about?” Sandy asks, Henry nods. “Well I had it again, and I can't tell which one is real or not. I don’t know what to do. Maybe the other part is the future and this is now, and I need to save you from dying.” Sandy looks at Henry’s deep eyes. All they read is disbelief. “You don’t believe me.”
“Honey, I think this just may be a phase. I think you’re just scared of what may happen, when it won’t. Remember I can’t get deployed for at least a year after I come back from boot camp. I still have a couple years.”
Sandy sniffles and takes her hands from Henry to wipe at her eyes. Henry comes over with a tissue that she uses to blow her nose. She looks up at him with sad eyes.
“I can’t lose you. I love you.”
“I know dear. I love you too.” Henry pulls Sandy into a long hug.
“Let’s both call in sick today.” Sandy pulls away to look up at Henry, who has a puzzled look on his face.
“That sounds great,” he pauses, “but I’ve got to tell you something first.” He runs his hands over his face and up through his hair, letting out a blow of air.
“My date got moved to leave for training,”Sandy waits, “They’re shipping us out next week, instead of next month.”
~Two Months Later~
“How are you feeling today?” Sally, Sandy’s therapist asks as she sits down.
“I’ still having the dreams of him. It’s hard. I’ve come to accept the fact that Henry’s dead, I just wish we had something to bury and for my mind to stop tormenting me this way.” Sandy presses her palms to her leg, trying not to cry.
“It’s been four months since you found out, have you called or tried to get in touch with anybody?”
“Yes, but they all give the same answer. They still haven’t found him.” Sandy’s throat closes, Sally hands her a new tissue box.
“Let me make some calls. I think that’s what you need to have some closure. Maybe then the dreams will stop.” Sandy nods and there’s a long pause. “How have you been with your new prescription?” Sandy tries to think of which one she’s talking about. She takes so many pills nowadays, some prescribed and most not, she can’t tell which is which. She’ll do anything to try to ease the pain away.
“They’re working out fine.”
“Is there anything else you’d like to talk about?”
Sandy shakes her head.
“Then I guess this was a short session today,” Sally says, “I’ll see you next week?”
“Yup. Thank you.”
Once Sandy leaves she tries to decide what she’s going to do for the rest of the day. She could go see Sam and her new baby girl, Cassidy. She could visit Rita, she could go to the fabric store and pick up a new project to do. Sandy keeps driving, ending up at the beach where Sandy first wore Henry’s ACDC t-shirt. She puts her Camry in park and shuts it off, sitting there in silence.
Then she opens the door, letting in the cold breeze of the coming winter. Sandy steps out of the car and makes her way to the water. Her mind wanders to that night. How happy they were then, not knowing what would happen in the end. Not knowing that they wouldn’t get a happy ending. She makes her way to the edge of the shore. Without thinking, she keeps walking. The frigid ocean water seeps through Sandys boots. Then it continues into her jeans. She stops, letting the numbness take over. It starts to rain, and she let’s out a sob. It’s raining, just like that night. Only now it’s cold and she’s alone.
“Is this how it was supposed to be? Why? Why did this have to happen to me?!” She shouts to no one, “I don’t deserve this! I haven’t ever hurt anybody. Why can’t my life be easy for once? I’m a good person...”
Sandy wails and moves her heavy feet forward. How easy it would be to just end this now. It wouldn’t be quick, and it would be painful. Although, that’s how her whole life has turned out to be hasn’t it? The only time she’s been truly one hundred percent happy was taken away from her with a pull of a finger. How is this fair? Why does this happen? Sandy is up to her knees in water. She continues to slowly move forward, bracing herself for what she’s about to do. Just then, her phone rings from her pocket. She stops moving. Should she answer it? Who could it be? Could it be good news or bad?
“Hello?” Her voice cracks.
“Sandy dear! The Army just called me, they found Henry. We can bury him properly now.” Rita’s voice says through the receiver.
“Where are you? What’s wrong?” Sandy takes a deep breath.
“I’m at the beach, but I’m on the way now. Where are you?”
“I’m at your house. I’ve already called Sam and she’s on her way. I felt as though it would be rational to start planning as soon as possible, since it’s been so long.”
“Yeah. That makes sense. I’ll see you in a few.” Sandy sighs as she puts her phone away. She stands there, taking in the scene of the colors along the vast ocean. Sandy closes her eyes, taking in the pain that courses through her body. There’s the pain in her heart, which hasn’t dulled over the past months, and the numbness she’s been having lately. She just doesn’t want to do anything anymore. At last, she notices the numbness in her feet that’s starting to turn painful. She takes one last look at the scenery, wishing she was here with Henry, and turns to leave.
Sandy get’s home and finds that there’s quite a few people here. There’s Rita and Sam, like she expected, but there’s also a few men in uniform, Sally, and some man she does not recognize.
“Hey Sandy. Why are you so wet?” Sam asks when Sandy peels of her soaked socks.
“A wave accidently went over my legs,” Sandy lies, “I’m going upstairs to change, then I’ll be right back.”
Once Sandy changes into dry clothes, she goes back to the living room where everyone is seated. As Sandy enters the room, the conversation that they were having seces. She walks in, looking at the floor and sits on the loveseat next to Sam.
“So these men have finally found Henry’s body,” Rita starts. Throwing out the word body as if it means nothing, although Sandy knows it’s just her way of speaking.
Sandy nods, she keeps her focus on her hands, not wanting to look at the soldiers. She picks up one of the frilly, decorative pillows and starts to play with the fringes.
“Do you remember these two?” Sandy can see Sam motioning to them out of the corners of her eyes. She still doesn’t take her eyes of the pillow. She just nods. How could she forget them? They’re the one’s who told her Henry was dead.
“They’re going to help make Henry’s funeral be an honorable one,” says Rita, trying to break the tension.
“I’m glad. He deserves it,” Sandy says. She takes a quick glance to the men and offer a small smile. “Thank you.”
“It’s the least we can do, ma’am,” says the one that has the striking resemblance of Henry.
“When is this going to be?”
“We were thinking as soon as possible, like I said, and since these gentlemen have informed us that the group that does funerals is always ready...” says the man sitting in the corner, assumably a man who works at the funeral. “Anyways, there’s time to do it tomorrow.”
Sandy nods. “I’d like that.” She turns her glance to Rita who catches her look. They both smile as relieving tears begin to form.
Dear my beautiful Sandy,
Training has been rough so far, but I think I had it a bit easier since I knew what was coming. Some of the guys here weren’t prepared at all. I’m surprised they’re still here. most of the woman here are more ready than they are. With all due respect of course. it’s just a little bit funny. my company has done some fun stuff. they hold some soccer games every once in awhile. it’s nice to exercise for fun. some of the people here are really good. i wonder why they didn’t go on to play in college. they must’ve had scholarships waiting for them. could you imagine? being able to go to college for free just because you’re good at a sport? i wish i had that happen to me. if i want to be an officer, i’d have to go to college anyways. i think that’s what i’ll end up doing. i can make much more money that way, and my retirement would be more also. maybe someday i’ll go into the guard. i don’t know much about it though. nobody talks about whether you’re in the guard or enlisted here. we’re all the same. It’s nice.
it’s been relatively easy settling in here. basically everyone is in the same boat, which makes it easy to deal with. i like all of the people in my company too. so far so good.
how are you doing? i’ve been writing to Mom also and she tells me you’re doing fine. I’m worried though. I know when i left you weren’t pleased i decided to go. i hope you realize that this is my dream, it’s what i really want. i don’t want you to be upset. I miss you so much. How is the whole dream situation? you haven’t wrote much about it to me in awhile. Are they still bothering you? How are you coping? Have you talked to anyone about it professionally? Do you know what it might mean? I’m still alive, and I still love you. i can’t wait to get back, have you in my arms, and start the rest of my life with you. i’m glad you sent me a picture, i keep it with me all the time. i know some of the guys have girls back home, but i think they’re starting to forget what they look like. it’s a natural sort of thing. just like you probably wear the clothes i left, but i don’t want to forget. i’m glad i can keep that image of your gorgeous face. i’ve got to go now. i’ll write you again as soon as possible.
Forever and always,
Sandy folds the letter back into the creases it came with. She opens the drawer next to her bed and sets it on top of the other letters that he’s sent over the past couple of months. She sighs and looks around her clean room. Ever since Henry left, the house has been abnormally quiet. There’s usually always music or the tv playing. The smells are different also. It’s so...bland. It seems as though just the scent of Henry was a big part of the household, and now it’s not. She’s tried to get it back, but it’s useless. Now all you can smell is the excessive amount of cooking and cleaning materials that she’s always using. Since she doesn’t have anyone to do anything with, cooking and cleaning is how she spends her day.
Sandy gets up from her bed and makes her way downstairs. The only sounds she hears the whole time is her own breathing, her own footsteps, her own movements. She starts to get a little creeped out, so she turns on the tv and plops down on the couch. This is how my life is now..she thinks to herself. She takes out her notepad and starts a letter back to Henry.
I can’t explain in words how much I miss you. This house is so quiet and empty without you. I don’t want to do anything since you’ve been gone. I know you probably don’t want to hear this, but then again, you asked how I was doing. I really am doing fine. I’m just so lonely without you. I’m glad I have your mother to help me through this, since this really is the first time I’ve been away from you for so long.
The dreams have continued, but since I’m away from you in both, it’s not as shocking anymore. I just want them to stop. I don’t want you out of my life. Although having you at basic isn’t all that bad. I miss you. I look forward to your letters every time the mail comes.
Wow I sound so depressing. Well, I’m glad they’re giving you chances to play soccer. Do you miss playing? I know you say there’s people there that could’ve gone off to college, but didn’t. I think you definitely could’ve done that too. But you want to fulfil the family legacy and your dream. Which is perfectly fine. I just want you to be safe and to not regret anything. I love you! Write back soon.
Forever and Always,
Sandy rolls her wrist, listening to the sounds of her bones cracking. She sets down her pen and brings a soft blanket up over her body. Then she stares at the tv. It’s on a cooking channel, but she’s not paying attention. Has my life really come to this? She thinks, being so caught up in somebody else that I don’t have my own life anymore? She lays back and wonders if this is how she wants things to be. Maybe it is, maybe it’s just because I don’t know what to do without Henry. Now that Sam has had her baby girl, she really doesn’t have very many people. Rita is the last one, but she only visits from time to time and calls randomly to check up on her. Before long, the dark, warm room takes her into her dreams.
It’s a crisp fall day. The leaves have begun to fall. The wind picks them up and tosses them around, bringing the smell of decomposing grass and leaves and cold along with it. The sky is shining blue above, with the sun showing its bright face also. The landscape is beautiful, the land taking on fiery shades of red, yellow, and orange. Due to the recent showers, there’s still green grass, along with the distant smell of some that has been cut recently. Along with the shades of the landscape, are the depressing shades of black that gather here. The darkest color of black that can be found is all gathered in one group. The contrast of colors making it almost look like a Halloween gathering. If only it were that amusing.
Tissues and sniffles are passed around like the leaves. Perfumes join the wind and spread to the noses of others. After a while, Taps on a trumpet start to play, and everyone takes a seat. Among the first row sit Sandy, and Rita, both wearing black, modest dresses. Rita has her hair pulled back into a tight bun that pulls her face back. Sandy’s hair hangs in loose curls, Henry’s favorite style. Sam sits next to Sandy and takes her hand. Sandy extends the gesture and takes Rita’s hand also. The three women sit there, holding on to each other like it’s all they have. Although, this is all that Sandy has now. A silent tear rolls down her cheek.
Drums start to patter, joining the trumpets, and a couple of trombones. The crowd turns to face the young group of men in uniform. Their faces are blank, they’re bodies are tense. Together they hold a cherry wood coffin with gold trim. On top there rests an American flag. The two in front are the men that have been through this with Sandy all along. There’s a mumble of a command from the back of the group of men, and they start to march forward. They march in perfect unison down the path from the main road. Everybody’s eyes follow them intently, watching the ceremony start.
Once they reach their destination in front of a raised platform with flowers all around, the men stop marching. They swing the back of the coffin around so that it will slide smoothly onto the platform, which it does. The men do a half turn from where they stand, so that they face the coffin. Slowly, they each bring their hands up into a salute. Then they bring it back down. The men continue their turn so that they’re now facing the crows. There they stand, and the priest rises from his chair to start his part.
The ceremony drags on, Sandy blocks out most of it. She doesn’t want to be here but wants to at the same time. She needs to be here. This will be her closure and she knows it. After this, the dreams will be over. Rita needs her, Sandy needs Rita. She squeezes Rita’s hand slightly. Rita takes her other hand to pat the top of Sandy’s hand. They look at each other with matching expressions. Both having the same feelings of this whole thing.
“Mrs. Butler? Would you or Ms. Jamison like to say anything?” The priest asks the two of us. Rita nods and stands up.
“Henry was my youngest son. All through his life his biggest dream was to follow his daddy’s and big brother’s footsteps. When those two were killed in battle, it only made his want stronger. He wanted to show them that he could do it, since he was always the small guy growing up. He wanted to live up to their expectations,” her voice wavers. “To me, that was always hard. Seeing him willingly sign up to the Army, knowing that there was the possibility to not come home. I never stopped him though. How could I? All I could do was hope that he wouldn’t have the same fate. I guess I didn’t hope enough.” Rita pauses to take a tissue out to wipe her eyes. “This was what he wanted to do. This was his dream. He accepted this possibility more than I did, more than I ever will. For him to accept this, I respect the most. I will miss him so much, just like I do with my husband and oldest son. I will love him and will look forward to seeing him again one day in heaven. Thank you.” Rita sits back down while the crowd lightly claps.
“Sandy, would you like to say anything?” The priest asks. Sandy stands and looks out among the crowd. There’s not many people, only the one’s Henry still kept in touch with. There was Dan, Henry’s old boss at the papermill; Nick, his best friend from high school: and a handful of relatives and acquaintances.
“Henry and I have been together for three years. We met at a diner along the coast when our group of friends met up one night. I was a junior in college, and he was a guy working at the papermill. We hit it off and talked the whole night. Before we knew it, we were dating and in love. He became my best friend. After some time, he took me hope to meet his mom. Meeting this wonderful woman is something that I will always be grateful for. Henry and Rita became the loving people that I never really had throughout my life. When Henry asked me to marry him right before he left for basic training, all of my dreams were coming true.I was going to have a family of my own.
“When Henry came back from basic, an emergency deployment was needed. Leaving me to wait for wedding plans until he got back a year later. I’ll never get to make those plans with him now. He became one of the most important people in my life, and I’ve lost him. I’ll never get over this pain fully. He was my first love and will always be a huge part of my life. I will miss him and love him until the day I die. I’ll always be thankful of the joy he had brought into my life. May he rest in peace, thank you.” Sandy mumbles the last part of her speech and sits down before she starts to completely lose it. The priest says a few last words and walks back to his seat from before.
The Army band begins again. The men turn back to the coffin. All together, they pick up the flag that has been resting on Henry. The wind ripples the patriotic fabric, causing a wave effect. From there, they fold the flag slowly. When they finish, one man is holding the flag clutched to his chest. It’s the man that looks like Henry. He makes an about face and marches, by himself, over to where Rita and Sandy are sitting. He stops and places the flag on Rita’s lap. She let’s out a sob and a thank you.
He stands back up and marches back to his place. Upon his return, the men raise their hands in salute one last time. After they finish, they all turn to face the crowd and march back to the waiting car on the main road. The two who have been with Rita and Sandy through everything wait next to the door of the car. The two women stand and walk over to the car, accepting the opened door, and slide in across the cool, black, leather seats.
“Can you stay for a little bit?” Sandy asks Sam. It’s after the funeral and everyone has left.
“Sure thing sweetheart. Well, would you like to come over to my house and see Cassy? Sam asks, wiping down the counter where some crumbs had been spilled.
“Yeah, I’d like that. I’m going to change first. This dress is starting to get really itchy.”
“Alright. I’ll be waiting down here.” Sam continues to wash down everything and put things away.
Sandy goes upstairs to change into something more comfortable. She decides on a pair of old, faded jeans, a worn Bruins t-shirt , and Henry’s Army sweatshirt. Then she sits down on the bed and stares at the wall. On that wall hangs a picture of Henry and her. They’re dressed nicely. Sandy wears a simple, blue and green flowered-printed sundress with some lace flats. Henry has on a blue-striped polo shirt and khakis. His shirt is rolled up to his elbows. Sandy is sitting on an old, wooden fence that borders the beach that they visit so often; and Henry is kneeled down in front of her in the sand. In his hand sits a small, black box with a sparkle inside. Sandy’s face reveals the happy shock of what could only be an engagement ring.
That picture means so much to her. She reaches up to touch the frame. It had to have been one of the happiest days of her life. Now she’s sitting there, experiencing one of the worst. She takes a deep breath, wondering for the millionth time why this was happening to her. Why couldn’t her life be easy for once? The pain is getting too much to handle.
Sandy pulls open the drawer next to her bed. She ruffles through it with tear-filled eyes, blurring her vision. Her fingers wrap around the plastic bag. Without thinking clearly, she pours out the pills into her hand and swallows and unknown amount, gulps them down dry. She waits there a moment before making her way back down to Sam.
“You ready?” Sam asks, standing up from a seat at the bar. Just then, Sandy’s head starts to throb.
“You know what? I think I’m going to stay home. My head is throbbing.” Sandy walks over to the medicine cabinet and takes some Tylenol to prove her point.
“Do you want me to stay with you?” Sam gets up and hands Sandy a glass of water.
“I think I’m fine. I’m just gonna go lay down and take a nmap. It’s been a rough day.” Sandy swallows the water and Tylenol.
“Okay. Call me if you need anything at all. I mean it,” Sam smiles and plants a kiss on her forehead. “Stop by later if you want dinner. I’ll have extra.”
“I’ll keep that in mind. Thanks for everything Sam.”
Sandy follows Sam to the front door before making her way back upstairs. On the climb up, she starts to get very dizzy. The stairs blur, one becomes two and four and so on. Sandy grasps onto the railing for balance. She’s never had this type of reaction before. God, she was stupid for taking that Tylenol. How many pills did she take? She hasn’t even made it halfway up the stairs before she collapses. Her head feels as though it’s splitting open. She let’s out a blood curling scream. Her legs feel tingly and her breathing is shallow. Sandy goes to curl up into a ball, but starts to fall forward. There’s a snap and a shot of pain goes through her leg. Her shrieking becomes louder until she reaches the bottom, where she smacks her head off of the banister. This causes the shrieking to cease and her eyes to flutter shut.
There’s a light. A light so beautiful and bright, Sandy has to shield her eyes with her hand. She looks around and finds herself back at the beach on a warm summer day. Seagulls crow and swoop around the water. A fresh, salty breeze flows through Sandy’s nose. The soft sound of the waves crashing the shore add to the calming environment.
Sandy takes a look around and finds that she’s not alone. Down the beach a ways is a tall man looking out onto the water. She leaves him be, not wanting to disturb someone else’s peace. As Sandy stands there some more, she wonders why she’s here. How did she get here? Where was she before? She can’t remember anything about what she was doing before she came here, but she definitely wasn’t doing this. She takes another sneaky glance at the man. He has moved closer. Now Sandy can see his features. The man has a small smile placed on his face. His green eyes shine with a hidden happiness. He has a bit of a scruffy, brown beard growing on his chin. He sports a navy -shirt, a light pair of blue jeans and a pair of black sneaker. Sandy gasps.
“Henry?!” She exclaims, running the rest of the way to him. He turns and catches her into a tight embrace.
“I was waiting to see how long it would take for you to notice me.” He laughs his joyful laugh, his breath smelling of peppermint.
“Oh, I’m so glad you’re here. I’ve missed you so much.” Sandy mumbles into his shoulder.
“Sandy,” he pulls her away, “ho back now. You don’t have to worry.” He presses his forehead to hers and brushes her hair back.
“I don’t want to go back. You’re not there.”
“You don’t understand. If you go back, you won’t have to worry anymore. I promise.”
“I don’t know what you mean!” Henry let’s go of her.
“I know, but you will soon.” Henry turns around and leaves. She tries to go after him, but her feet won’t move. All she can do is watch him go.
“No! Come back!” The shout is useless, taken away by the wind, because Henry is already gone.
Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. The sound penetrates Sandy’s mind, annoying her. Where is she? Her eyes feel heavy, and she can’t find the strenght to open them. Her fingers spread across the coarse fabric beneath her. Rubbing alcohol flares through her nose, making her head throb even more. She let’s out a soft grunt, while she tries to get comfortable, but finds that she doesn’t have the strenght to move either. She tries opening her eyes again, and see that they open this time, showing her that she’s in a hospital room.
“Hello?” Her voice is raspy as she tries to get someone’s attention.
“Yes? Sandy?” Sam’s voice comes from somewhere next to her. Sandy turns her head and sees that she’s sitting there with Henry.
“Yes baby, I’m here. How are you feeling?” He asks as he makes his way to her bedside.
“My head hurts.”
“Okay. We’ll see what the nurse can do.” He motions to Sam, who walks out the door and into the hallway. Moments later she’s back with a young girl dressed in lavender scrubs.
“Good afternoon, Sandy. How are you feeling?” The girl chirps, pulling her long brown hair back into a ponytail.
“My head hurts,” Sandy repeats.
“Well alrighty. I’ll give you some medicine to help that out, but how bad is the pain on a scale of one to ten?”
“A seven.” The nurse nods and goes over to Sandy’s IV, where she brings out a needle to stick into the cord falling out of it.
“This should make you feel better in no time,” she says before leaving, shutting the door behind her. Sandy closes her eyes briefly, feeling extremely tired.
“What happened?” Sandy asks, her eyes still shut.
“You overdosed on some pills. Rita came back to take you to lunch and found you sprawled out on your bathroom floor. She immediately called an ambulance. This is the first time you’ve been awake over the past four days.” Sam answers.
“I don’t remember ever taking pills.” Sandy’s eyebrows come together.
“Maybe it had something to do with those dreams you were having.”
“Oh. The dreams.” There’s a pause in the room. Henry and Sam think that she’s fallen back to sleep, so the go to sneak out the door. “What are you doing here?”
“I got excused early from basic because of this emergency,” Henry replies, figuring the question was to be answered by him.
“Huh. So we’re in the part where you’re alive.” Sandy moves a little to get more comfortable. Before long they hear her breathing go shallow with sleep.
“I think we need to get someone to talk with her. This dream thing has gone on way too long than I expected,” Sam says to Henry once they’re out in the hallway.
“That’s a good idea. Maybe it should wait though. She just woke up and we wouldn’t want to overdo it,” Sam nods and goes over to the nurse station.
“Hello, my name is Samantha Duntz. I was wondering if you could find out when Dr. Kevin Rogers is working again? If you tell him who I am, I’m sure he’ll be able to call me as soon as possible.”
“I’ll try my best. What’s a number I could give him?” The nurse that was just in Sandy’s room asks.
“He already has my number. I’ve worked with him many times. Thank you.”
“Henry, what have I done?” Sandy says a couple days later.
“It’s not your fault sweetheart, you didn’t know what you were doing,” Henry replies from beside her bed.
“I guess so. They’re gone you know.”
“Yeah. I haven’t had them since I’ve been here. I don’t think I need to see a shrink.” Sandy looks at her hands that are holding her newest knitting project.
“Sandy, it’s still won’t hurt to get a professionals opinion.”
“Do you think I’m crazy?”
“No. I think you were stressed. It happens. Maybe your addiction from the past was the reason why you fell back into it so easily.”
“Maybe. That was all the way back in high school though.”
“I know, but it could happen. That’s how it always works. Even when you’ve stopped for countless of years, you can get addicted again just like that.” Henry snaps his fingers.
“I don’t even want anymore pills.” Sandy shrugs, “but your right. I should still talk to Dr. Rogers. When is he coming?”
“Soon. He told me around noon, and,” he looks at his watch, “it’s eleven-fifty right now.” Just then a short, old man with round glasses knocks on the door.
“Is this the room of Sandy Jamison?” His old, deep voice croaks.
“Yes, I’m her fiance, Henry Butler.”
“Oh congratulations. I should say Sandy Butler instead, now shouldn’t I?” He chuckles to himself before reaching his hand out to Henry and then Sandy. “I’m Dr. Kevin Rogers. You can call me Kevin. No need of this official doctor title.” Sandy and Henry laugh lightly. “Would you like to start right away?”
“Yes, that would be fine.” Sandy answers as she sets her knitting aside and sits up straighter. “You can pull up a chair if you want.” Kevin does so. When he sits down, he pulls out a large notebook and pen.
“Now, where do you want to start?”
Sandy goes on to tell him what has happened over the past couple of months. This time she leaves out no detail about how she felt. She tells him how confused she was, and how vivid the dreams were. He doesn’t interrupt often, if ever. He just lets her go on with her story, writing down notes now and then. When Sandy comes to the end of the story, she sighs. There’s a long pause as Kevin looks over his notes. Henry reaches from his seat to take her hand in his.
“That is quite the story,” Kevin says at last.
“Yeah, it was quite the experience. That’s for sure,” Sandy replies.
“Have you heard anything like this before?” Henry asks.
“From time to time I get some patients who have problems like this. I’ve never seen any of it go to the extent of landing a room in a hospital, but that’s just from the prior addiction I’m sure. You said you haven’t had the dreams for about a week now, correct?”
“Hmmm...I would just say to wait things out. If you ever have the dream again, you need to call me as soon as you wake up. Even if it’s in the middle of the night. Although I don’t see that happening. With my past patients, when they reach a point where they don’t have the dream for at least three days, they don’t ever have it again.” There’s a sigh of relief from both Sandy and Henry.
“So this is the real world?” Sandy asks.
“What’s the longest period of days that you’ve ever experienced in your dream?”
“No longer than a day, I would say.”
“Yes. This is real life.”