A Year Ago Today

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: War and Military  |  House: Booksie Classic
it had been a year to the day, and she was right back where she was then. in the same clothes, same place. alone. she missed him so much

Submitted: March 18, 2008

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Submitted: March 18, 2008

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She was getting dressed in her bedroom. She slowly put on the little black dress that he loved on her so much. The last time Lacey wore this dress was exactly a year ago today. After that she hung it up in the back of the closet and tried not to even look at it.  But no matter how much she tried, every morning she would see that dress right in the back of her closet near all his clothes that still hung there, right where he left them.  Walking into the bathroom she put on her makeup, foregoing the mascara even though it was waterproof she saw no point today. She grabbed her black high heel, knee high boots to put on, another of his favorites on her. Shutting the bedroom door she headed down the hall, stopping at the hallway table where she grabbed the necklace she had worn every day for the last year. Slipping it over her head she moved her hair and left it flowing straight down her back, just like he always liked it. Lacey grabbed her keys and walked out to the car, getting in she cranked it up and left the radio off, a year ago today she didn’t have the radio playing for this ride and she didn’t want it on today either.
Nick was spending the day at Tommy’s brother’s house, Lacey just couldn’t handle seeing him today. Any other day it was fine, but today that face just brought back too many memories. He was so much like Thomas, even so young he already acted like him, and looked like him.  She looked up and realized she was already at the iron gates of the one place she hated most in this world. The guard saw her and opened the gates, allowing her to pull inside and park in the gravel parking lot. She parked and slowly got out of the car, it was a warm April day, a slight breeze ruffled her skirt and hair.  She pulled the toy water gun from its toy store sack and carried it with her as she walked down the concrete walk way. Slowly she made her way down the path, turned right and stepped onto freshly cut grass. She walked with her eyes downcast, she knew where she was going, every step was ingrained in her mind. Finally, Lacey looked up when she knew she was at her destination.
“Thomas Dixon: Purple Heart. Medal of Honor. Iraq War. July 14, 1982 – April 4 2007”
She read the words out loud, Lacey still couldn’t believe that she was here, reading the gravestone of her husband. When she married him she knew she could be here eventually. But she didn’t think it would be only five years after they were married. “I’m wearing that black dress you loved so much. The whole outfit, shoes, hair, dress and all. Just for you Tommy.  I can’t believe it’s been a year. Today I’m here alone, I know you like it when I bring Nick to visit with me, but I just couldn’t today. He is so much like you, huney. Looks like you, acts like you, hell, he even gets mad like you. He sleeps with his head on my chest, just like you used to do when we would lay on the couch. Do you mind if I sit down? I’m getting kinda tired standing in heels.” She asked the gravestone. she spread the towel she brought with her on the grass and sat on top of it. Lacey was holding the toy gun she brought with her. suddenly remembering a conversation she had had with Thomas a few years ago, the reason she had the gun.
If something ever happens to me, don’t put flowers on my grave. That’s so cliché, bring shovels, those socks that the dryer ate their partners, ooo water guns. Bring water guns. Those are so much more fun than flowers.” They were lying on the couch, watching some war movie. He had his head on her chest and was looking up at her. She just stared at him.
“Don’t even joke about that. But ok, I’ll bring water guns. Fully loaded. Bright pink ones too.” He lifted himself up and kissed her.
“Thank you. Now let’s watch the movie.”
“I try not to think about it ya know? I try to go on with my day and not think of the morning that your friends came to our door. It’s hard though, I’m not sure I will be ready for the day it’s not hard.
She was just putting Nick down for his nap when the doorbell rang. She rushed to the door hoping the ringing didn’t wake him up. What she saw when she flung the door open made her heart stop. Two men in full dress uniform were standing there on her front porch heads bowed eyes looking at their feet. She recognized them almost immediately. Joe and Sam, Tommy’s best friends. They went through basic together and had been in the same unit ever since. Lacey knew, as soon as she saw them she knew Tommy wasn’t coming back alive. Joe finally looked up and she saw the tears running down his face.
“I’m so sorry Lacey, we did everything we could but he just couldn’t make it.” Lacey held her arms out and Joe walked into them, Sam followed suit and hugged them both.
“They told us to tell you that it was a training accident, it wasn’t.” as Sam was speaking Lacey slowly moved them inside her house and collapsed on the couch. Joe beside her, Sam sitting on the coffee table holding her hands and speaking to her. “We were caught in a firefight people shooting us all around there was a little boy that ran out in the road after us as we all ran to shelter. The boy was hit in the leg and fell. Tommy ran back to get him, he was shot in the back as he was bringing the boy to us. We got him back to where a medic could look at him, they tried everything they could. He lost so much blood so fast, they did everything but they couldn’t save him. Turns out that if he had lived he would have been paralyzed from the chest down.  All three of them were softly crying Lacey was trying to be strong, the guys could tell.
“I need to call his brother, and plan his funeral. God I shouldn’t have to plan my husband’s funeral, it’s only been five years since we were married. She stood up to walk into the kitchen, then she heard Nick start wailing. Lacey just broke, fell to the floor sobbing. Joe picked her up and brought her back to the couch and held her, Sam went to get Nick and put him back to sleep. A few minutes later he came back to find Joe and Lacey still on the couch. They waited until she had cried herself to sleep before picking up the phone and calling Luke, Tommy’s older brother.
When Luke answered the phone Joe hated what he was having to do. “Luke, its Joe, Tommy’s friend.”
“Yea, I remember you. Why are you calling me?” Luke could sense something was wrong, all the years Tommy and Joe had been friends he never once had called him.
“Tommy’s dead. Sam and I just told Lacey, she’s sleeping now. We figured when she wakes up we would discuss the plans for the funeral. The military can make the plans for her but you may want to be here for her and Nick.”
“I’m on the way now.” Luke said and hung up the phone grabbing his keys and running out the door.
When he made it to Lacey’s house he was still trying to believe that his brother was dead, leaving his wife and baby son behind to pick up the pieces. Lacey woke up as he sat next to her on the couch. “Luke. He’s gone.” Then she started crying all over again. Luke cried for his brother, for her and his nephew.
“Lacey, I just want you to know that the plans will be made, Sam and I will take care of them. Don’t worry about that.” Sam and Joe left to go start making the plans for a full military funeral.
“What am I gonna do Luke? Nick is a baby, he won’t remember his daddy.”
“Yes he will, believe me huney, he will remember his father. Joe, Sam and I will all make sure of that.” They spent that day crying, watching home movies and looking through photo albums.
That was the hardest day of my life. I cried and cried till I didn’t have any tears to cry. After that first day I didn’t cry anymore, until your funeral.” Lacey sat there staring at the headstone, her mind lost in time.
The limo came to the house to pick them up. Nick came, Lacey wanted him to be there with her, he seemed to know that it was a day of sadness. He didn’t cry once. As Luke, Lacey and Nick sat in the back of the limo Lacey had tears streaming down her cheeks. She hadn’t said a word since they left the house. They got to the cemetery and Joe opened the door and helped her out with Nick. She walked toward the tent they had set up beside what was to be her husband’s grave. Sitting down in the cloth covered folding chairs that were set up. She had to walk past at least 200 people in her way to the front row seats. Seeing all the people here to honor her husband brought even more tears to her eyes. Everyone was silent as the minister walked to the front. Then the pallbearers came carrying the casket with Tommy’s body inside it. Each of the six men carrying it had tears sliding down their cheeks, eyes hidden behind dark sunglasses.
She couldn’t take her eyes off of the casket as it was carried to rest on the table beside the open grave. “Thomas Dixon is a hero. He died saving the life of a little boy. Leaving behind his wife and a son of his own.” Lacey knew the preacher said more but she couldn’t remember any of it.
Joe walked to the podium and started speaking in a sad, hoarse voice. “Tommy was my best friend. I’ve known him since I was ten years old, we went through high school, the death of my sister, the death of his parents, him getting married, becoming a father, basic training all together and have served in the same unit since we joined. I watched him as he saved that little boy. His last words were that he loved Lacey and Nick.” Once again, Joe said more she was sure of it, but she couldn’t remember any. After Joe spoke Sam said a few words then his commanding officer got up and spoke. When everyone was done Joe and Sam stepped up and walked to the casket. Each grabbing an end of the flag that covered Tommy. They folded it, and Joe walked over and handed it to Lacey, along with Tommy’s dog tags that he had been holding onto. “He loved you Lacey, more than life itself.” She was crying. As they lowered then casket into the ground the guns firering in the back ground. She sat there long after most of the other people left. Joe, Sam, and Luke all standing a few yards behind her. Waiting for her to say she was ready to leave. None of them willing to leave her or Tommy yet. Slowly she stood up, carrying Nick in her arms. She stopped by the gravestone and kissed her fingers and touched the stone.
“I love you Thomas Dixon. I know you are watching out for us, just give me a sign every now and then ok?” as she said it a gust of wind blew straight at her, picking up a stray rose that had fallen onto the ground and causing it to land on Nick in her arms. After the rose fell into her arms the wind stopped as quickly as it started. “I guess you heard me then. Goodbye Tommy. I’ll keep my promises. I love you.” she walked toward the guys and didn’t look back.
“I live for those signs Tommy. But I kept my promise. I cried and grieved for myself for 3 months. Then I stopped. I still cry occasionally, but it’s not for me, I cry for Nick. I’m trying to move on, I found a job, nursing at a hospital, taking care of wounded soldiers. I brought you a bright pink water gun. Fully loaded with water.” She stopped talking and just sat there, remembering times when they were dating, when he proposed and when she told him she was pregnant. He was so happy. He always wanted to be a daddy. After three hours she decided it was time to leave. Slowly standing up she gathered her things. Leaving the bright pink gun, a sock with kitties printed on it, and a sand shovel all propped against the headstone. She walked away, turned back and blew a kiss to the headstone “I love you Thomas Dixon.” She felt the wind swirl around her and looked down to find a rose had fallen into her bag. Smiling she picked it up and brought it to her nose to smell. “Thank you, Tommy.”
 


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