The phone rang at 2:21 a.m. I will never forget it. One doesn’t forget moments like that. I had grown accustomed to your calls coming at odd hours, but we talked just yesterday. Even in my slumber, I knew you would not call two days in a row, so this had to be bad. The secrecy of your unit’s mission made this more difficult. Not knowing where you were, what you were doing, when you were coming home, or if you were coming home, was torture.
The dog and I both sprang alive on the first ring. Remember how she liked to sleep so she was touching us both? After you left, she took to sleeping with her head on your pillow and her rear on my shoulder. I’m sure she could still smell you in the down feathers. It wasn’t until the receiver flipped to the floor that I realized my right arm was asleep from the pressure of her weight on my body. The phone clanged against the floor, then the bedside table, twice, then against her teeth as she caught it, the whole time with me shouting, “I’m sorry, hello, I’m here, don’t hang up, hello!”
Please let it be you. Please let it be you, I kept praying. It wasn’t. He said his name, but the whirling vacuum in my ears prevented me from hearing it. Specialist somebody, I think. I stood there, crouched over the nightstand in flannel polka dot pajama bottoms and your navy Billy Joel t-shirt, in the dark, frozen, as he said what he had to say. Through my fear, his words began to seep in.
I don’t remember much for a few seconds after that. Later I found the phone on the floor and the front door open. I remember running. I ran down our driveway and to the corner. I ran past Lieutenant Johns’s house where we celebrated your birthday last year. I ran past the post office where I mailed you letters and care packages every single day, hoping they would find their way to you, for ten months, three weeks, and five days. I ran past the gas station where I lost, and you found, my grandmother’s necklace. I ran past the Troop Medical Clinic where you worked when we first came here. I ran down the road I had not been down since the day you left. I ran. In my PJ’s. No bra. No shoes. No thoughts, but one.
Sadie matched my stride as she always did when we ran. But she could sense this run was different. She kept nudging my left hand with her nose, asking if I was okay. And then, just as we reached the airfield, we both saw your silhouette stooping to pick up your rucksack, backlit by tarmac lights. Sadie, now understanding our destination, left me behind, sprinting to your arms. You’re home.
Teresa Davis’s work has appeared in several online magazines, the most recent being Flash Fiction World. She won first place in the Spring 2009 WOW! Women On Writing Flash Fiction Contest and was once long-listed by Fish Publishing. She has also been known to write teaching curricula for an online teacher’s resource.