Spencer Arrives Home

During the flight home Spencer considered all that had happened in the last week after he squished his tall frame in the tight seat, trying to keep his size twelve feet out of the aisle as best he could. At least it wasn’t a full flight and there would be less traffic in the aisle. He was very grateful for the conversation with Mrs. Kern and her understanding about Kate and Sarah. Spencer noticed Mr. Kern looked paler than the last time Spencer saw him and knew he had some sort of health problems, but seemed to be well enough at the funeral. They only spoke briefly. But any help he and Mrs. Kern offered with Sarah would help if Kate was agreeable.

But he wondered how much help she would need from him, or if she would even consider it. He knew Jen was a pretty good friend of Kate’s, and as quirky as Kelly was, she might help, but Kate had no family to speak of. How was Kate going to deal with sudden motherhood? After the death of John, this was going to hit her like a tazer.

All Spencer knew for sure was that Kate would definitely need help, which he was willing to offer. Single parenting was tough for those he knew in that situation, but this was going to be even harder. Add in Active Duty single parenthood and you had a triple whammy.

Back home after unpacking, he changed into gym shorts for a run. The locusts squawked in the trees and the leaves started to turn, falling in mini whirlwinds. Soon fall in southern Illinois would be in full swing. He felt the gust in his face and took off at a faster pace, feeling some of his stress blowing away with the breeze.

Later after showering, he called Kate and left a message. He needed to see her and talk about John. He did some laundry and prepared his uniforms for the following week. He checked patches for loose threads and polished his boots which were getting scuffed.

Finished with his errands, he picked up his phone and checked for messages. He had it charging while he was out running and doing his laundry. He had a text from Matt:

U home?

Spencer called him and they chatted about how the funeral went and decided to go see the movie showing that evening at the base theater.

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A Short Story

Dear Readers,

On the blog I share with three writing friends, we are doing a short story in a round robin fashion.  My friend Bev started the story, I posted my part today and two friends will finish it later this week.  Just thought I’d mention it for those who like short stories and to see what our writer’s group is up to.  Find it at paddlecreekwriters.com.

Enjoy!

Until next time,

Michelle

 

Spencer Visits with John’s Parents

Spencer called after Kate, wanting to set up a time to get together. But he let her go for now. He felt the same way, wanting to be alone with his thoughts and memories of his adventures with John. But he went back inside the church and talked with John’s parents. He wanted to see if John ever mentioned his daughter to them, without having to come out and ask point-blank. He also wondered why John left her to Kate instead of his parents, but figured he thought he and Kate would marry and raise her. Life had a way of changing things. He hoped Kate accepted it better than he thought she would.

Spencer ate a few bites of ham, mashed potatoes and a Jello salad with pineapple and coconut in it. Comfort food. But today it wasn’t very comforting.

Mrs. Kern leaned over and whispered, “She’ll be fine, eventually. We were kind of expecting this to happen eventually. With three sons in the military, our odds were pretty high.”

Spencer nodded. “Still, it’s hard.”

She continued. “It is, but there is always the Comforter to help in times like this. And we were very proud of him; still are.” She stopped to wipe her eyes with her tissue before continuing. “John’s brothers couldn’t make it; one’s in Kandahar and the other in Germany. But we’ll get together with them soon and have a good family cry.” She wiped her eyes and gave Spencer a wobbly smile.

He nodded, not wanting to say anything.

Mrs. Kern sipped her coffee before asking, “Now, will you be taking care of Kate?” She gave him a knowing smile.

Spencer turned in the direction that Kate took off. He turned back to Mrs. Kern and sighed. “If she’ll let me. She’s very stubborn.”

“That’s what John said. But he liked that in her, though sometimes it was a problem. I think she’ll need you, Spencer. I know the three of you have been friends for a while, and that you liked her from the beginning, but that she chose John. You’re a gentleman, and you deserve to have her now. Don’t let her push you away.”

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Kate at John’s Funeral

Kate sat in the front pew of the church, next to John’s parents and Spencer. Various other family members and the group from Scott Air Force Base, including CO Connors sat in rows behind and to the right of them. She tried not to cry whenever she heard someone else sniff. Be strong. She stared at the bouquets of carnations and roses, several arrangements in the red, white and blue colors of their beloved country. Several peace lilies, with their huge white blooms in stark contrast to their dark green leaves adorned the stage along with other house plants that she didn’t recognize.

The pastor talked of peace and a reunion of some kind in heaven when those who also knew Jesus would one day be together again. Kate had heard John talk a little about religion, but she had never thought much about what she believed. And right now she didn’t want to think about it. She was so angry that John was gone and left her behind. She had so many questions and would never get the answers. It felt like she was left hanging with nowhere to turn. As far as funerals went, John’s service seemed to be more uplifting than others she’d attended. That gave her food for thought as she followed the line winding into the fellowship hall.

After the service, Spencer and Kate and a few others had lunch with John’s family. His mother, Mrs. Kern, had said she heard so much about her, and Kate wondered how much John had said. “Kate, I know the next few weeks will be difficult for you, but please feel free to call me if you like.” Mrs. Kern handed Kate a lavender envelope with a scent that reminded her of a spring garden. “You can open this later.” Mrs. Kern squeezed Kate’s hand and said she’d be praying for her. Kate said thanks, wondering if John had been in love with her or not. Now she would never know, and that hurt most of all. And then she wondered why his mom would be praying for her. Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

After eating what little she could get down, she said goodbye to John’s parents and left. She was anxious to get out of her blues and to have a good cry by herself. Spencer called after her, but she kept her pace, ignoring him. Confused and hurt, she made a quick getaway. She needed to be alone.

****

Until next time,

Michelle

Spencer Prepares for the Funeral

Spencer straightened the ribbons on his blues jacket, swallowing his sadness. He had met John’s family a time or two when they had visited John when he was stationed at Castle and Pope. They were proud of their son and tried to visit each base he had been stationed at. The last time Spencer had seen them was two years ago. He knew this day would be tough for all of them, especially Kate. He prayed for strength and wisdom for the weeks ahead.

He thought of the letter written by John, now sitting on Spencer’s desk at home after he pulled it out from his file safe. He would have to give it to Kate and soon. He’d rather stand still through a tornado.

Spencer recalled previous exchanges he’d heard between Kate and John when Kate would say something like, “I’m never going to be a mother and there’s no changing my mind.” Or, “Motherhood, who needs it?” Spencer didn’t take her too seriously, and hoped she had been joking. He’d find out soon enough.

But now, he had a funeral to attend. He ran down the stairs to the lobby and out to the cab, feeling like a twenty pound pumpkin weighed down his stomach.

****

Until next time,

Michelle

Kate Prepares for John’s Funeral

For several days, Kate found herself wandering her apartment, looking at photos of her and John on dates at the zoo, or at the St. Louis Arch, or with other Air Force friends. She cried so much, she couldn’t anymore.

Jen came over one afternoon after her shift with a small bouquet of carnations and daisies and a card. She stayed for a while and sat with Kate, not saying anything. In the silence they stared at the walls or watched Buttons playing with his rope. Kelly called and brought over some German chocolate cake, which Kate appreciated but couldn’t eat. She put it in the freezer for another day.

The only productive things she did had to do with making sure her blues uniform was in regulation form and packing it in her garment bag along with her black pumps wrapped in a towel to keep them from getting scuffed.

Spencer had called a couple days earlier to let her know when the funeral would be. He offered to come over so they could arrange the same flight, but she didn’t want company. As soon as she hung up, she called for a flight up to St. Paul/Minneapolis. John’s family lived in a suburb of the Twin Cities.

Two days later, the day of the funeral was bright and sunny, completely the opposite of Kate’s mood. She didn’t pay any attention to the scenery during her cab drive to and from the airport to her hotel. Somehow she blocked out the traffic and noise along the freeways. She knew the Mall of America was around somewhere, but she certainly wasn’t interested in anything like that. This morning she dressed in her blues uniform and fixed her hair and makeup, in a robotic state. Spencer booked into a different hotel and was coming to pick her up while she waited in the lobby.

Now she would meet John’s family for the first and last time. The thought upset her and she grabbed a tissue from her bag.

****

Until next time,

Michelle

Spencer and Kate Go for a Drive

A minute later, Kate returned with her cap shoved on her head, her eyes red. Spencer said quietly, “My car’s this way.” As much as he wanted to, he wanted to hold Kate’s hand, but regulations wouldn’t allow it unless they were out of uniform. He stuffed his left hand in his pocket, the other holding his keys which he didn’t feel like spinning on his finger. He would miss his friend and the memories and jokes they shared. But he knew things would change after he finally told Kate what John could not. And he dreaded that conversation like a root canal.

The drive was silent as a cave minus the dripping. Not even the radio was on. Spencer couldn’t remember when or why he had turned it off. He didn’t bother turning it back on. He still had weepy eyes and wasn’t in the mood for music. Somehow silence seemed fitting.

Instead of driving straight to her apartment, Spencer drove to the park nearby where he sometimes jogged on Saturday mornings. He wasn’t sure he could trust himself to be alone with Kate in their grief. Though he had always had feelings for Kate, he saw early on that Kate had eyes for John. He backed off, and tried to think of other things, but he saw her almost every day, which made life difficult. Now with John gone, he felt guilty. He just couldn’t win. He turned the engine off and put the windows half-way down. Kate, with tears still falling, hadn’t noticed Spencer had parked. He let her be, lost in his own thoughts.

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Friends Grieve with Kate and Spencer

Previously on HFN: Spencer Grieves and Worries

Kelly came outside and rubbed Kate’s shoulders, “I’m so sorry, Kate.” Then others trickled out of the building to offer their condolences. Spencer slid over on the bench, but only slightly.

After a few minutes, Kate and Spencer were alone again. A pair of uniform pants and boots appeared in her vision and she let go of Spencer. Their commanding officer, Senior Master Sergeant Connors, must have asked Sergeant Thompson where they were. She didn’t even feel guilty and when she saw the look on his face; she knew it was okay under the circumstances. She and Spencer slowly stood up and half heartedly saluted.

Connors was a cool guy, not a hard-nosed jerk like some officers they knew and had worked under. Kate knew he had a sense of humor, though she didn’t see him often. She also knew he was fair.

His tall frame towered over them, but he never used his height to lord over anyone. His blue eyes often twinkled and he loved to share a good joke.

The CO dismissed them and was silent for a moment. When he finally spoke, it wasn’t a reprimand. “I’m sorry, Kate, Spencer. These things are difficult to take, but they happen.”

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Hang in There!

Sorry for the delay, readers. I’ve gotten some additional information on how military funerals are handled and now have to re-write a few scenes.

Also, I’ve had my mom’s day care kids this week while she’s out of town. She has a home daycare and watches kids day in and out and has been doing this for years. I’m exhausted after 2 1/2 days! I don’t know how she does it, but it is definitely her gift. It is definitely not mine 🙂

I will try and get back to Heir Force next week! Thanks for your patience, your likes, and your follows!

Until then,

Michelle

Spencer Grieves and Worries

Previously on HFN: Kate Loses It

Spencer was in trouble. Big time. He swiped tears from his cheeks and thought about John never coming home, never telling Kate what had held him back. He and John would never tease each other again, never provoke each other on the running field or catch a movie together.

Spencer sighed as he thought about what would happen now. It felt like cinder blocks anchored his insides, leaving him with a heavy sickening feeling. He tried to comfort Kate, hugging and crying with her. Coworkers from the building were coming out in pairs now that the news was out about John. He felt pats on his back and shoulders. But they weren’t going to help.

Spencer prayed for the days and months ahead and for the reaction from Kate when she got John’s letter. Spencer regretted not pushing John harder to tell Kate his secret. But there was nothing he could do now, but push forward, for better or for worse.

****

Next time, Friends Grieve With Kate and Spencer

Until then,

Michelle