Promise Keeper

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic
This story is about Rachel and Jason the night before Jason's first deployment to Afghanistan, the during, and the after. It's my entry for Sarahh365's romance contest! Hope you like it!

Submitted: July 22, 2013

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Submitted: July 22, 2013

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~Promise Keeper~

 

Rachel Winters leaned back, propping her bare feet up on Jason’s dashboard as he drove his old Ford pickup into the night. His thumbs were tapping the steering wheel along with the beat of an old Conway Twitty song, and the wind was blowing her wheat-colored hair all around her face. She didn’t care, though.

They were going to Rachel’s parents’ lakeside cabin. No one would be there, and they would have all night, their last night, to be alone.

The highway was desolate, empty, and dark, and the sky was dark and cloudy. Rachel sighed to herself as she glanced out the passenger side window, eyeing the darkness. Perfect. The night matched her mood perfectly.

Coming closer to the driveway to the cabin, Jason slowed down, and flipped his signal on. Rachel giggled under her breath, and Jason shot her a half smile as he turned down the driveway.

“What are you giggling about over there?”

“There isn’t another car for miles,” she told him. “Who’s the signal for?”

“Good habits die hard,” he reminded her.

The driveway was long, snaking through the trees, and along the lake shore until it finally came out at the cabin. Jason shut the engine off, and when she didn’t look at him, he reached over and took her hand.

“Hey,” he said. With tear-filled eyes, Rachel turned her head. “I love you, Rachel.”

She nodded and he lifted a single hand to wipe away a tear that had rolled down her cheek. “I love you, too, Jason.”

“It’s our last night together for a while. Let’s make the most of it.”

She nodded. The thought was heartbreaking, but he was right. She wanted to make the most of every second she had with him tonight.

With their fingers laced, Jason led her across the yard to the door of the cabin. He stepped aside long enough for her to slip the key in, then finally, they walked inside.

By the looks of it, the place needed a good cleaning. It was barely spring, though, and Rachel knew her parents would be here sooner or later to get the place ready for the summer. Rachel had been there already today, cleaning up a bit, just getting ready for tonight. She’d dusted a bit, and tossed the sheets off the couch. The power wouldn’t be turned on until her parents came up, so they were spending the night by candlelight.

Rachel thought it was pretty romantic and hoped Jason would like it. She was sure he would, though.

“It’s dark,” she said, taking advantage of the moment to light the first candles. She struck a match, and lit enough candles to illuminate the entire room.

“You planned well,” Jason said proudly, smiling as he watched her.

She’d known he would like it.

“Thanks. I wanted it to be perfect.”

She walked over, slung her arms around his neck and placed a big, passionate kiss on his lips. By the time she had pulled away, the tears were back in her eyes.

Jason saw them, sighed and wiped them away, but not before they’d turned into full-out sobbing.

“I’m gonna miss you so much, Jason. I don’t know how I’m gonna make it without you.”

He took her hands, kissed them both, and looked her straight in the eyes. She’d never seen a more serious look on his handsome face. “You’re gonna make it just fine because you, Rachel, are the strongest woman I know.”

She sniffled, and fell into his hard chest. The hard, metal dog tags pressed against her ear underneath his shirt, so she gently lifted them out and into view.

Rachel had known this could happen when she met him. She knew it when she fell in love with him. Most of the men here at Fort Bragg were soldiers. That was why she’d moved to town five years ago, at sixteen. Her father was military, himself, and had taken a high, officer position of Lieutenant General and Corps Commander.

She was eighteen when she met Jason. He’d just finished basic training and was stationed at Fort Bragg. It didn’t take long for her to fall for him, despite warning signs that told her not to. She’d grown up an Army brat, all that moving around, and she’s lived through three tours where she wasn’t sure if she’d ever see her father again. She never imagined going through that for another man she loved.

But here they were.

Jason was leaving tomorrow morning for a year-long tour to Afghanistan, and after four years with him by her side, she didn’t know what she was going to do with herself besides worry.

God help her if she lost him.

“Hey,” he said, holding her arms and looking her straight in the eyes. “I’m coming home, Rachel. I promise you.” He slipped a ring onto her finger, and she gasped at the coldness of the metal. “I want to marry you.”

She shook as she looked down at the beautiful diamond sitting on her left ring finger. “Jason,” she breathed out.

He smiled, then kissed her lips. “Now if this isn’t a promise keeper, I don’t know what is. So do you say yes, Rachel Winters?”

She cried and smiled, all at once. “Yes. Yes, Jason Martin! Of course I do!”

 

~~Three Months Later~~

 

Jason loved his platoon. His buddies, his fellow soldiers were like brothers to him. He knew he would die for them as quickly as they would for him, but when he received letters or phone calls from home, particularly Rachel, he needed his privacy.

It was late, and the guys in his platoon were enjoying a little downtime. Everyone else was in his or her barracks, some of them playing a game of cards, but he was walking toward an empty Humvee, somewhere he could be alone with his mail. The most important one was from Rachel, as always. Usually they spoke over the phone, or via Skype, but when she could, she sent him pictures, and letters. He’d requested this so he’d have something to read over and over when times got hard over here. And times did get hard.

Hopping into the driver’s seat of the Humvee, Jason dropped the other mail and immediately tore into Rachel’s. She’d sent him a larger-than-usual envelope, and as always, it smelled sweetly of her perfume.

Opening the envelope, he was faced with a black and white picture, something that he couldn’t quite make out. After a couple of seconds, realization hit him.

This was an ultrasound.

His jaw dropped when he read Rachel’s name across the top, next to it was “Gestation, 9 weeks.”

Words escaped Jason as his eyes traced the photo. He’d never been any good at reading these, making out what part of the baby was what, but he didn’t care. This was a picture of his baby.

He sucked in a breath as reality settled further in.

Rachel was pregnant. Jason was going to be a father. A smile a mile wide spread across his face. He was so happy he almost didn’t notice the letter inside the envelope.

 

Jay,

I wanted to tell you so many times on the phone, but over the phone didn’t seem special enough. I hope this is a good surprise. You’ve got a little one who’s going to need you, so here’s your real promise keeper. Love you always. See you when you get home.

Rachel.

 

A tear rolled down Jason’s cheek as he folded the letter back up and slid it back into the envelope. He had to hear her voice now.

Forgetting about the rest of the mail, Jason hopped out of the Humvee, and started back toward the barracks when—

Boom!

The blast was so intense, it through him backwards a good ten, maybe twenty feet. In front of him, Jason saw the explosion make its way toward the sky.

He swore under his breath as pain gripped his left leg and a high-pitched ringing pierced his ear.

IED. Right there on base.

Men flooded out of the barracks, and he shouted for them to watch out; be careful. No sound, no matter how loud he shouted.

His heart pounded harder as a frightening realization hit him; his hearing was gone.

He tried to rise up, examine the damage to his leg, but he couldn’t move. His body began to go numb as two of his fellow privates ran over to him.

The sounds were coming and going, sounds of chaos as other bombs exploded around them.

“Insurgents!” he heard someone shout. “We’re under attack!”

His buddy, Ray, leaned over him, his lips moving, but no sound came out.

“My leg,” Jason tried his hardest to say, reaching.

“He’s losing a lot of blood, McConnel!” Ray said to the other man. His name was George McConnel, and like Jason, this was his first tour. McConnel looked left and right, terrified out of his wits.

“McConnel!” Ray shouted. “Get a medic!”

The sounds began to fade, and the world around Jason started to go black. He used every last ounce of strength he had to take another look at his baby’s first picture. He’d managed to hold onto it throughout the blast. It was singed, but it was intact.

Promise keeper, he thought.

Another man kneeled over Jason now; the medic, he assumed. He said something, but Jason couldn’t hear it. He tried his hardest, but he was so sleepy. He closed his eyes and let himself drift to sleep…

 

~~

 

Rachel chewed her bottom lip as she watched the news. She touched her tiny baby bump, and looked down, whispering softly, “It’ll be alright, jelly bean. Your daddy doesn’t break promises. He’s coming home.”

She looked up in time to see her father come into the living room. Thank, God, she thought. He’d been on the phone for what seemed like ever, just trying to find out what was happening over there.

“They’re not saying much, Rachel,” Lieutenant General Carl Winters said to his daughter, taking a seat next to her. “Just slightly more than what’s on the news. Jason’s platoon was under fire last night. There are casualties, but no names have been released.”

Rachel stiffened and nodded as tears rolled down her cheeks. “I can’t stand not knowing.”

Her father pulled her into his embrace and kissed her temple. “Rachel, I think he is just fine. That boy is a fighter. He loves you and he wants to come home. I know he does. You’d be surprised at how important that is when it comes to surviving over there.”

Rachel wiped a tear from her eye. “I should have told him on the phone. I shouldn’t have waited, but I wanted it to be special. What if he never got the ultrasound? What if he doesn’t know, and he—”

She couldn’t finish what she was thinking. She couldn’t say out loud ‘what if Jason dies without knowing he is going to be a father.’ Instead, she just burst into tears. And she cried. She cried all night until finally, she’d cried herself to sleep.

Rachel didn’t know what time she’d fallen asleep, but she woke up in her bed. She knew her father had carried her there, just like when she was a little girl. She smiled at the thought, but only slightly.

The sun was pouring through her window and looking at her clock, she saw it was nearly noon. She was surprised she’d slept so late, but happy she had.  She had slept very little since the news of the attack on Jason’s convoy, and she knew losing so much sleep probably wasn’t good for the baby.

Eager to find out if there was any news on Jason, Rachel rushed downstairs, and found her father.

“Anything?” she asked anxiously.

Sadly, her father shook his head. “Afraid not, lady bug.” He put his coffee to his lips. “I’ve been calling all morning.”

Rachel felt defeated, lost. She hated not knowing.

She walked to the window, and peaked past the curtains. If anything—God forbid—bad had happened to him, his parents in Alabama would be the first contacted. But they didn’t know she was pregnant. She’d wanted to talk to Jason first about it.

Rachel was walking back to the kitchen when the phone rang loudly throughout the house.

She rushed over, getting to it before her father. Not bothering to look at the ID, she yanked it off the hook, and shoved it to her ear.

“Hello?!”

Sniffles were on the other end. “Rachel? Is that you, honey?”

Her heart dropped. That was Jason’s mother.

And she was crying…

 

~~Six Months Later~~

 

Lieutenant General Carl Winters looked through the glass into the nursery at his brand new granddaughter. Lillian Grace Martin. He smiled as she squirmed around in her little pink blanket, with her matching pink hat covering her bald head. He hadn’t seen a more beautiful little girl since his own baby girl was born. It was hard for him to believe twenty-two years had passed and she was now a mother of her own.

Footsteps interrupted his thoughts. He recognized by the inconsistent weight and the cane on the left side who they belonged to before he even looked up.

He smiled and patted Jason Martin’s shoulder. “You have yourself one beautiful little girl, son.”

Jason smiled lovingly at his daughter and nodded. “She’s perfect, sir. She sure kept me alive.”

Carl didn’t have to ask what he meant. He’d done enough tours, thinking about his own wife and daughter to come home to to know exactly what that meant.

Jason reached into his pocket, and pulled out the folded up paper. “This is what kept me alive out there.”

He handed Carl the ultrasound and the letter he’d kept since the night he’d nearly died.

Carl looked at them both and smiled. “You’re a good man, Jason. I couldn’t ask for better. I knew that the day you asked my permission to marry my daughter.”

Jason gave a crooked smile. “That means a lot coming from you, sir. I know I could never live up to you, but I’m going to do my best as a husband and a father. I love your daughter and granddaughter more that life itself and that’ll never change.”

“Stop calling me sir,” Carl said with a smile. “We’ll be family, soon. You can call me, Lieutenant General Winters.”

They started down the hall back towards Rachel’s room and both of them laughed.

His little promise keeper would be joining them soon.

 


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