“Old Habits Die Hard” A short-story from my upcoming Anthology. #RRBC #IARTG #WritingCommunity #WritersCommunity

Old Habits image

Hello and welcome to “Old Habits Die Hard” a new short story from my upcoming anthology “Glimpses Across the Barricades”

 

Old Habits Die Hard

From the upcoming collection: Glimpses Across the Barricades

By

Suzanne Burke 2019.

 

Cassie sucked in a deep lungful of nicotine and waited for the coughing to start. She shook her head in acknowledgment of her own weakness and abject stupidity, coughed as expected and finished the cigarette. She grinned at herself. Old habits die hard.

The thought caught her unprepared. Were they all simply old habits? Did she cling to things so desperately only because they were familiar? Was it a comfort to know ahead of time how each would respond in any given situation? If that knowledge gave us the tools to avoid the more painful outcomes, did that automatically presume that we’d use that wisdom?

Cassie was irritated with herself for even asking the questions.

She looked across at her iPhone for answers, already knowing she’d find none waiting.

When had he become just another old habit to cling to?

Cassie drew in a shaky breath as the memory of their last conversation played out vividly in her mind.

The 5th anniversary of their sad farewell was tomorrow. They’d been friends long before they became lovers. Their lives had collided the first time three decades earlier. Each acknowledging the chemistry that lit up a room whenever they were both present. They both smiled at each other and refused to allow that fire to burn. Life moved on and so did they.

Then twelve years ago fate had flung them together again.  What had been intended as a casual fling, a one-night stand, had become a passionate affair that neither of them had attempted to prevent from spiralling out of control.

She smiled briefly as a sweeter image tugged at her thoughts. The first weekend they’d run from reality, they’d danced on a rickety old pier in the rain. It was foolishly romantic and memorably perfect, and so was he. She could hear the music they’d played. “Nights in White Satin” by The Moody Blues had echoed out across the deep water of the bay. They’d made slow sweet love in an old fishing shed, and watched on in shared wonder as a violent summer storm came sweeping up from the south. It played out a symphony with shattering crescendo’s and their lovemaking met and matched its passion.

Cassie reached for the safety of the present moment and whispered into the darkness, “Stop it. Don’t do this. Think about something else.”

She stood then and moved about her apartment, only vaguely aware of straightening things on the mantle that didn’t need straightening, and moving books around in the bookcase that hadn’t required moving.

She walked across to the bar, poured herself a double shot of JD and sat back on her sofa and lit up her bong. The balcony beckoned and she moved into the cool night air and the silence, alternating the hits of good weed and the alcohol and waited for the calm she craved so desperately to envelop her.

Yet the memories continued to invade. She was too stoned to avoid them, and they came at her without pity for her vulnerable state of mind.

Her marriage of thirty years had limped to a final conclusion twelve years earlier. She’d initially clung to the memory of it, allowing her mind to paint much prettier pictures of what had actually happened; she’d clung to it long past its use-by date.

Her lover’s staunch Catholic upbringing prevented his long marriage from taking the same course. He never spoke of it. Cassie never asked the questions. It was so much easier to pretend that their relationship may someday lead to them being together.

The memories flowed now, but not in sequence. The laughter they’d shared echoed through time, and conversations that made sense only to the two of them etched themselves afresh in this place and in this moment.

A jigsaw puzzle with pieces missing. Pieces that she now went in search of.

They’d been fishing and hunting together often. They’d spent so many cold nights sleeping out under the stars, where their shared body warmth sustained them completely. They both loved the sounds of the night. Or the sounds of that long stretch of beach on the hottest summer days on record, swimming just after sunrise, cautiously waiting until the great white sharks had fed in deeper water off the reef. Cassie moaned as the sound of his deep voice surfaced unbidden, “We need to burn this into our memory. So, we can take it out and look at it when the world goes to hell.”

She brushed the moisture from her eyes. She’d never forgotten that moment. He had a way with words that echoed the romance of his soul.

The years had gone by so quickly. She watched and waited, wondering if she’d recognize the end if she saw it coming.

She saw it over five years ago. Phone calls that had begun every new day for years suddenly stopped coming, until they spoke only every couple of weeks. The visits went from a driving need to be together as often as they could steal the time, to a late-night knock on the door heralding a man who had only one need that remained to be met.

Cassie had tried so hard to ignore it, she floundered like a fish out of water on the sands of indecision.

She began wrapping her isolation around her like a comforting shawl.

The knock on her door at 3.30am on a hot summer’s morning had awoken her.

She knew instinctively who it was, and was angry well before she opened that door.

He stood there looking sheepish, then smiled. “Aren’t you gonna ask me to come in?”

Cassie stood aside without speaking and waved him across to the sofa.

He looked surprised as she stood there watching him, “What wrong, hon?”

“When was the last time we spoke?”

He looked away uncomfortably as he answered, “Guess it’s been a few weeks.”

“Try for three months!”

“Shit. Really? I’m sorry.”

“So, why are you here?”

He stood then, “You’re upset. I’ll call you later.”

She touched his arm. “I deserve better than this.”

For the first time in the thirty-plus years that she’d known him his dark hunter’s eyes filled with tears. She barely heard him as he struggled to speak, “Yes, honey. You do.”

She followed him across to the door and he turned and touched her cheek, then tucked a wayward curl behind her ear. He was shaking and his voice wavered as he spoke, “Goodbye, my love.”

Cassie felt the sobs tear through her, and she let them come.

He’d phoned after that, every couple of months and at ungodly hours. She’d register who was calling and declined the calls. The loneliness threatened to overwhelm her at first, she recalled using a telephone box to phone his work number just to hear his deep voice when he answered. She tortured herself like that constantly after they’d ended.

And now, what about now? She grimaced at her own question.

For now, she’d just get herself through the next anniversary.

And just before the alcohol lulled her into sleep on that anniversary morning her iPhone rang.

She was drunk, but not suicidal. She declined to take the call.

*

And for your enjoyment. “Nights In White Satin” by The Moody Blues.

 

What do you bring to a pity-party? Aka “Uh-oh, she’s back.” #RRBC #RWISA

 

This is your official invitation to the pity-party I’m having, right here and right now!

I’m home again after another sixteen day stay in hospital. That makes four long stays in Hospital this year. I’m pleased to be home again.  I’ve been scrambling around my head trying to find a way to ease myself back into my online world. I’ve been absent (Again) for a few weeks, and yesterday I discovered myself settling into self-pity mode.  That’s never a good look. So I decided to just throw a pity-party and get myself the hell over it. Groan. So let’s get this party started.

Cue intro music,  “Another one Bites The Dust,” by Queen and drape the party-scene in colors of purple and blue.

Menu; Serve Cold. Smörgåsbord

Pity Pork Pie.

The Coldest Cuts possible.

Helpless Hash Browns.

Morose Meringue

Sides available.

A We all know what realy happened to ‘Caesar’ Salad and a platter of Overwhelmed Artichokes.

Depressed Dijon Mustard.

Bar service: Help yourself to your favorite poison, if you’ll pardon the expression.

Party-games.  You already know this isn’t gonna be pretty.

Russian Roulette The old fashioned way.  (I warned you)

Method:

Blend all the above, and place 911 on auto-redial.

I’m working on my way out of a downward mood spiral, my friends, but it may take a little while longer this time around. Meanwhile I’ll start searching for things I can laugh at, and maybe laughing at myself is a good place to start.

In the interim please send a virtual kick in the butt in my direction.

Thank you all for making the time to stop by.

I’ll be catching up with you all over the next few days.

Welcome to the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! Day 2 #RRBC #RWISA @dlfinn

RWISA SHOWCASE BADGE 2019

The Poetry of D. L. Finn

POETRY by D. L. Finn

ICICLES 

The icicles dangle downward

Reaching for the substantial snow

Each drop bringing them closer

As the landscape merges into itself

It is silent in its existence

Until a raven reveals itself

Wondering what’s in the trash

Yet, the moment remains peaceful

Sitting and surveying in the chill

An instant promising potential

When there is no celerity

When crackling fires call

When surroundings are concealed

Soon, the renewal will be revealed

But now it’s the stage of contemplation.

For sustenance

For solace

For soul

To live on our abundance of the past

This is the gift of the snow

When we can replenish our hearts

In the silence of the icicles.

 

 

FREEDOM (Musings from the back of a Harley)

The freedom of the blue skies

Welcome us warmly back

Our path is asphalt

Our vehicle a mechanical horse

Our guide is the wind

Lush green walls soar

The sun illuminates the way

Oaks are waking up after a long nap

And I…

I fill my soul

With nature’s flowering renewal

Bursting with beauty and abundance

In the freedom of spring.

 

WHERE THE RIVERS MEET
Roaring white, pounding the granite

Swirling, swelling, splendor

The air is heavy with anticipation

It blows over me like a lover’s touch

Filling my heart with sweet floral ecstasy

I relax into the experience

Each breath carries away my worries

My eyes fill with abandonment

As the rushing liquid serenades me

Singing the praise of this paradise

Until the different directions converge

After a brief resounding rumble

They combine and continue on their way

Leaving the moment where the rivers meet.

 

OCEAN

As I sit perched up high on our lanai

Comfortable on my recliner in the shade

The ocean draws my gaze

Its sapphire and emerald water calls me

While the blue pool floats in its space—uninviting

I hear the sea’s song as it smashes onto the shore

The surfers ride its motion

The snorkelers gaze into its depth

And the swimmers float on its perception

Our attraction is undeniable

Opposites: one of air, one of water

It beckons, and I must respond

Offering myself up to the hidden world

Under the cerulean summon

I answer, embracing the ocean completely.

 

Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.

We ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs.  Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!  Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

D. L. Finn RWISA Author Page

 

 

Welcome to the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! Day 1 #RRBC #RWISA

 

RWISA SHOWCASE BADGE 2019Welcome to Day 1 of the Watch RWISA Write Showcase, where each day a different author will be featured!

It is my pleasure to start off this tour with Author, John W. Howell!

The Road

by John W. Howell

Just a couple more hours and I’ll be able to rest my eyes. Been on this damn highway for what seems like forever. His head slowly nods until the rumble strip noise causes him to jerk awake. “I have been asleep,” he yells. He yanks the wheel, and the tires screech in protest as he swerves back on to the highway. He can feel his heart in his chest and pressure in his eyes. In an instant, he regrets being so weak as to give in to the physical need. He also becomes alarmed since now he knows that sleep could overtake him without notice.  One second, his eyes could be open and the next closed. Thank God for the jarring and noise of the rumble strips since without its alarm, he is sure he would have ended up piled into a tree.

As his heart settles down, he concentrates on the road ahead. There’s someone at the side about a half mile away. A hitchhiker by the looks of a backpack. A sign in the person’s hand is not readable at this distance. The thought occurs that It would be a good thing to have someone else in the car to help him stay awake.  Of course, there are dangers in picking up a stranger. As he gets closer, he can see that the hitchhiker is not a guy like he thought. It’s a young woman about his age.  She is wearing some kind of overalls, but the distinctive female form still comes through. He decides to slow down and assess the situation. A girl makes all the difference in trying to reach a decision for or against a pickup. After all, who knows where this could lead? He does know that in all probability, she is not likely to stick a knife in his ribs and demand his wallet after a couple of miles down the road.

He eases the car to the shoulder and can’t help kick up some dust in the process. The sign is facing him even as the person turns away to avoid the dust storm he has created. Kansas City in black marker on cardboard is all it says.

He opens the passenger door and waves her over. “I’m going to Kansas City. Want a ride?”

The young woman looks back at him, and he can tell she is doing an evaluation on the safety prospects of accepting a lift. She slowly hoists her backpack on to her shoulder and walks with hesitant steps toward the car. She puts her hand above her eyes to cut the glare of the sun and stops short of the door. She leans in. “Did you say you’re going to Kansas City?”

“Yes. Yes, I did. I also asked if you would like a ride.”

“That all depends on your intentions?”

“My intentions?”

“Yeah. You are offering a ride. How much will it cost me?”

“Cost you? I’m going to Kansas City. Your sign says Kansas City. Why would it cost you anything?”

“Just want to make sure is all.”

“No charge. I’ve been on the road forever, it seems, and I would welcome the company. My name is James.”

“Sorry, James. I know I sounded a little ungrateful, but I have also been on the road and have met several guys that think I owe them something for a ride.”

“I can understand that. Let’s just say you can ride or not it’s your choice. No other decisions to be made.”

“Fair enough. I accept your offer. My name is Sarah.” She slides in and slams the door.

“Nice to meet you, Sarah. You want to put your backpack in the rear?”

“No, I’ll just keep it here in the front with me. You can never tell.”

“Tell what?”

“When I’ll have to bail. Everything I own is in this pack, and I sure wouldn’t want to leave it behind.”

“I get it. No use trusting someone just cause they say you can.”

“Right. I think I like you, James.”

“Wainwright. My last name’s Wainwright. How about you?”

“Not sure I have a last name. I go by Sarah.”

“No last name? How can that be?”

“You going to start this car or is my fear well founded.”

James flushes as he turns the ignition. “Yeah, here we go.” He looks in the side mirror and signals as he pulls back on the highway.

“You are a cautious one. There’s no one for miles.”

“I guess it’s a habit from city driving.” He keeps checking in the mirror until he is up to highway speed

“Where you from, James?”

“New York. You?”

“I think I was originally from down south somewhere.”

“You don’t know?”

“Well, it’s been a long time.” She pauses.

James glances at her and sees that she is lost in thought somewhere. Her skin is fair, and she has the high cheekbones and lips of a runway model. She looks vaguely familiar, and he compares her looks to Joni Mitchell. There is that innocent, fragile look that makes you want to take care of her.

“I’m sorry. What did you say?” She is back.

“I didn’t say anything. I’m amazed you don’t know where you are from.”

“Well do you remember where you’re from or is it someone told you?”

She has a point. James only knew he was born in Chicago because his parents told him so. He lived in New York for twenty years so unless clued in he would have thought he lived there his whole life. “I guess I should rephrase the question. Where did you last live?”

“Yes, James. That makes a little more sense. I last lived in Dubuque, Iowa.”

“What a coincidence. I am driving from Dubuque. Do you believe that?”

“I can believe that. Someone once said there are only six degrees of separation of everyone on Earth. You and I traveling from Dubuque at the same time certainly falls into that realm.”

“Aw come on, Sarah. We are both going from Dubuque to Kansas City. That has to be more than a coincidence.”

“I never said I was going to Kansas City, James.”

“Wait. You have that sign that says Kansas City.”

“Doesn’t mean I’m going there.”

“What does it mean?”

“You think I know?”

“I’m getting a weird feeling here, Sarah. Like you aren’t telling me something.”

“Do you remember swerving after you ran off the highway?”

“What? Back there. Yeah, I remember almost falling asleep. Hey, wait a minute. How would you know about that?”

“Think a minute, James. How do you think I would know about that moment?”

“Sarah I’m too tired for guessing games. What is this all about?”

“Do you feel okay, James?”

“Yeah, just tired.”

“Look around. Do you see any other cars?”

“No, but I haven’t for a while. What are you trying to tell me, Sarah?”

“You fell asleep, James.”

“When did I fall asleep? I know I nodded off, but when did I fall asleep?”

“Just before your car went off the road and you hit a cement culvert.”

“Now, you are joking. Right? Right, Sarah?”

“No joke, James. Look ahead. What do you see?”

“Uh, up the road, you mean?”

“Yes, up the road.”

“Nothing, but what looks like a sandstorm.”

“It’s no storm, James. It is nothing.”

“Who are you anyway?”

“Do you remember that little girl who went missing in the second grade?”

“Yeah, what does that have to do with you?”

“Does the nickname Jimmy Jeans mean anything?”

“That’s what Sarah called me in the second grade.”

“How did I know that?”

“You wouldn’t unless.”

“Unless I’m Sarah.”

“Oh My God. Sarah. It is you. Where have you been?”

“That’s not important. What is important is you were broken-hearted when I vanished. You prayed for my return and made promises to God if only I would come back.”

“I never got over that either. I think of that little girl. I mean, I thought of you almost every day. Why didn’t I recognize you?”

“’Cause I’m all grown up. There would be no way.”

“Where have you been, Sarah. I have missed you so much.”

“Don’t cry, James. I’m here with you now.”

“Can you tell me what happened to you?”

“No, James, it’s not worth the time.”

“So why now? Why are you here now?”

“To help you, James.”

“To help me. How?”

“To understand what your life is like now.”

“Now? What do you mean?”

“You were in an accident, James. You ran off the road, and I am sorry to say your body didn’t survive. You are now going with me on an eternal trip.”

“You are saying I’m dead. I can’t believe that.  Look at me. I’m just as alive as you.”

“That’s right. You are.”

“Um, Sarah?”

“Yes, James.”

“You are dead too?”

“Yes, James. A man took me from school and killed me. They never found my body.”

“W-what?”

“Don’t think about that now. Think about the future. Because you prayed so hard and missed me so much, I was given the honor of escorting you to the other side.”

“Other side? There’s a future?”

“A wonderful one.  You and I for all time.”

“I would like that.”

“Take my hand then. Let’s be off.”

“I have more questions.”

“All in good time, James. All in good time.”

THE END

Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.

We ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs.  Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!  Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

John W. Howell RWISA Author Page

#BlogTour “Just Her Poetry: Seasons of a Soul” by D.L. Finn @dlfinnauthor #RRBC #RWISA #NewRelease #poetry.

I’m delighted to share in the excitement of this New Release by author D.L Finn. This is her first release of a book of her poetry. “Just Her Poetry: Seasons of a Soul” Please make her welcome.

BLOG TOUR DLFINN BOOK COVER JUST HER POETRYJust Her Poetry Cover (2).jpgThank you, Suzanne, for having me on your blog to celebrate the release of my first poetry book, “Just Her Poetry Seasons of a Soul.”

Finn Facts:

  1. I have a tittering laugh that my older grandkids find amusing.
  2. I’m a cat person who has dogs.

BLOG TOUR DLFINN BOOK COVER JUST HER POETRYJust Her Poetry Cover (2)

Blurb:

Take a journey with D.L. Finn as she blends her love of nature with her deepest emotions. Sit with her on the forest floor observing its tranquil beauty, or stroll along the ocean’s shore admiring the vastness of its horizon. Here in these peaceful moments you’ll be able to experience her thoughts and feelings in the light—and in the darkness. This is a thought-provoking collection of poetry that invites the reader into all the seasons of a soul.

Excerpt from THE EMOTIONS: Those Feelings

WHIRLWIND

It entered my life like a storm…

Blowing everything familiar away from me.

I clung to the numbness it left behind.

It holds me above the weight of evil

That tries to drown me in its darkness.

I gasp to fill my lungs in this whirlwind

That swirls life around me hitting me with debris.

I’ve stopped ducking the pain, coming to expect it.

My normal life is ripped away from me, cruelly.

My comforts—gone

My emotions—grim

My distrust—growing

I swirl in this whirlwind brought to me like a present…

All I can do is survive this whirlwind of illness.

Amazon Purchase Link

RWISA PROFILE DENISE FINN

D.L. Finn is an independent California local who encourages everyone to embrace their inner child. She was born and raised in the foggy Bay Area, but in 1990 relocated with her husband, kids, dogs, and cats to the Sierra foothills in Nevada City, CA. She immersed herself in reading all types of books, but especially loved romance, horror, and fantasy. She always treasured creating her own reality on paper. Finally, being surrounded by towering pines, oaks, and cedars, her creativity was nurtured until it bloomed. Her creations vary from children’s books, young adult fantasy, and adult paranormal romance to an autobiography with poetry. She continues on her adventures with an open invitation for her readers to join her.

D.L. Finn Links:

Twitter

Facebook

Instagram

Pinterest

D.L. Finn blog

 

Thanks so much for joining in the excitement today. Your thoughts and comments are always appreciated.

Book Review: “Vanished” by Mark Bierman @mbiermanauthor #RRBC #IARTG #MustRead #Thriller

BOOK REVIEW COVER VANISHED BY MARK BIERMAN.jpg

Hello and a warm welcome to my latest book review.

BOOK REVIEW: “Vanished” by Mark Bierman.

Meet the author:

BOOK REVIEW PROFILE PIC MARK BIERMAN

Born and raised on a farm near Brockville, Ontario, Mark Bierman’s childhood consisted of chores, riding horses, snowmobile races across open fields, fishing trips to a local lake, and many other outdoor adventures. He is also an avid reader of both fiction and non. Mark enjoys the sport of River Boarding and thrives on adventure.

Transitioning towards adulthood also meant moving from the farm and into large urban areas that introduced this “country boy” to life in the big cities.

Drawing on his many experiences as a private investigator and later a Correctional Officer, Mark combines his unique experiences and imagination to create his stories and characters.

BOOK COVER:

BOOK REVIEW COVER VANISHED BY MARK BIERMAN

 Book Blurb.

Tragedy . . . heartache . . . how much more can Tyler Montgomery and John Webster take? This missions trip, the “healing” one, has only added fresh layers of pain. Construction of an orphanage in Haiti’s northwest . . . yes. But a doomed rescue operation, human traffickers, human anomalies, extreme personal danger . . . risk of death? They hadn’t signed up for those.
Turning their backs on the crisis, however, is unthinkable, it’s just not who they are.

***

 

My REVIEW: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 A Riveting insightful and moving reading experience.

Many authors shy away from the dark side of human behavior. Author Mark Bierman tackles it head-on. The breadth and depth of “Vanished” is astounding. The authors characterizations of the central protagonists bring them to life on the page. We as readers can see them, hear them and through the words of this writer we are granted an insight into both their dreams and their pain. Human trafficking will never be eradicated if we continue to close our eyes to its existence.  I salute Mark Bierman for his ability to shine a spotlight on it, while also allowing us to see into the hearts and minds of those that rail against it, and take action to help save a child caught up in the horror.

The pacing is fast, it kept me turning pages, eager to discover the ultimate outcome. The author has drawn widely on his experiences as a private investigator to bring us a book that shines and is resoundingly believable throughout.

If you enjoy a moving, provocative and emotionally charged reading experience then this is an absolute must-read.

CONTACT the AUTHOR:

On TWITTER

Purchase VANISHED on AMAZON.Com

On FACEBOOK

On Goodreads.

 

#Valentine’sDay #ShortStory “Shall We Dance.” #RRBC #IARTG #Romance

love is ommortal valentines day image

“Shall We Dance”

By

Suzanne Burke.

 

Valentine’s day was looming again and Candace resisted the temptation to rip the month of February from the calendar hanging on her kitchen wall.

She needed no reminder of the celebration. For so many, it heralded a beginning, a step into the future with a love that they were certain would last a lifetime.

For her, it had been both the beginning and the end. Mitch had proposed on that long ago Valentine’s Day. He’d taken her dancing that night. He’d danced her around a room filled with uniformed Marines and as they watched on he’d dropped to his knees in the middle of the dance floor and proposed. They’d all cheered as Candace had given him her answer.

The sad-faced pastor and Lieutenent Colonel Brian Henderson had arrived at her door on February 14th almost a year ago.  Her Mitch wouldn’t be returning from Afghanistan. What followed was now etched forever in her memory. The hushed voices of their friends as they’d rallied around her to offer their understanding support and comfort. The wives who had hurriedly blessed their own lives, grateful that their own men were safe, for now.

Candace had searched everywhere for comfort. The inside of a bottle gave her only a temporary respite from the agony of his absence.

She and her Mitch had refused to discuss the possibility of him dying in the service of his country. That knowledge hovered unspoken on the peripheral of their lives. Giving it life was unthinkable. The future unimaginable without the enduring love they’d shared for almost fifteen precious years.

They’d already mourned and accepted the fact that they couldn’t have children of their own. Mitch had been eager to explore all the other avenues now available to childless couples. It had been her choice to remain childless. For her, Mitch would be the only love she’d ever need in her life. Her decision came back to haunt her now in the desperate solitude of her days and the eternal emptiness of her nights.

The new future danced in her nightmares. She’d stopped drinking when even the oblivion of alcohol had handed her no solace.

There had been no coffin proudly draped with their countries flag. No headstone to dignify his final resting place. A plaque on a wall was all that signified his passing. He was listed M.I.A and presumed dead along with two others from the Seal team he’d led with such utter devotion.

The bodies of his two team members had finally been located and identified. Candace had attended their funerals and wept along with their wives.

After shutting herself away for many months and drawing the increasing concern of her friends she’d finally begun to see a counselor. Yet as much as she’d understood the words he was saying, as much as her intelligence had accepted the innate wisdom of those words, she’d still steadfastly refused to accept the finality of Mitch’s death. How could he be gone when she could still hear his laughter? And on the long nights, as she lay in the darkness she’d smell the scent of his favorite aftershave waft through the room.

She’d reach for him in the darkness and moan his name, then cry for hours at the empty futility of her longing.

Candace dragged her mind back to the present. The sound of her cell phone had interrupted her thoughts several times in the past two days. She’d ignored the calls. Tomorrow was the anniversary.  She knew it would be folks ringing to check on her and offer up their kindness and willingness to help her in any way they could.  She’d hidden away from the repeated knocks on the front door that had been increasing in frequency. She couldn’t deal with the pats on the shoulder and the looks of sadness. Not now. Maybe not ever.

A car pulled up out front and a young Marine slid an envelope under the front door. Her hands shook as she picked it up, it was from the office of Lietenant Colonel Henderson and marked as extremely urgent.

Candace couldn’t bring herself to open it. She knew what it would be. This explained all the calls and the attempts to make contact. It could only be the acknowledgement that Mitch’s body had finally been recovered. Opening that envelope would leave her no choice at all but to believe he was gone.

It must wait till after Valentine’s Day tomorrow.  She gave herself permission to have this one last chance of disbelieving.

Candace sat on the sofa in the gathering darkness, she leaned her head back, closed her eyes and began humming Shall we Dance from the King and I. That was the marvelous music that Mitch had arranged to be played on the happiness fuelled Valentine’s night when he had proposed.

The memories swept her away for hours and she welcomed all of them. The day was beginning to dawn as she fell into a troubled sleep.  Today would be the final day before she was forced by facts to move on with her life.

Candace jumped with shock at the sound of someone pounding on the front door. She flicked a glimpse at her watch, “Jesus!  Hold on. Do you know it’s four o’clock in the morning!” She threw on her bathrobe and hurried across to the windows and pulled back the curtains. A base staff car with flags flying waited outside the house. “What the hell?”

Candace opened the door. The uniformed man stood alone in the semi-darkness. “Yes, Marine?”

“Candy.”

“That isn’t funny.”

“Candy, honey, it’s me.”

Nobody ever called her Candy … only … “Oh my God! Oh my God! Mitch?”

The man stepped into the light shining on the porch from the sitting room.

Mitch stood there holding himself erect with the aid of two canes.

“Darling, oh my darling, I knew it. I knew it. Hold me close before I believe that I’m dreaming again.”

The man leaned his walking aids against the wall and held out his arms. “It will be a little while before we can go dancing again, honey.”

Candy heard the hesitation. “Mitch, my dearest love. We now have forever to practice.”

All the explanations and questions could wait.

Their arms enfolded each other and they cried together in the joy of reunion.

Valentine’s day had now become their new beginning.

***

Valentine’s night. Five-years later.

Mitch Avery swept a bow to his wife and gave her his perpetually cheeky grin. “Shall we dance, m’lady?”

He held her in his arms and they moved in perfect unison around the dance-floor.

The poker faced Marines watching on cleared their throats as tears threatened, then they began to cheer.

Delighted whoops of joy from their two adopted six-year-old sons rang out as they ran across the dance-floor and threw themselves into the loving arms of their parents.

Candace had finally acknowledged that she and Mitch had more than enough love to share.

The future waited.

They walked forward as a family to greet it.

#

I have a further treat for you all. For those that know and Love “The King and I” Here is the original clip of ‘Shall we Dance” For those who may have never seen it I envy you the new experience.