Five minute fiction
As the sun rose over the horizon, Rose sat on her front porch sipping a cup of coffee, watching as twilight gave way to morning. She hadn’t slept a wink. In fact, the last week had been a whirlwind. Nothing was the same anymore. Words sounded hollow and meaningless to her. People coming and going had seemed like a dream, one of those ones where you are running from something scary in slow motion. Motivation had gone on holidays, maybe permanent holidays. Rose hadn’t quite made up her mind yet on whether she even wanted it back.
Rose leant back in the chair holding her hot coffee in both hands and closed her eyes with her face tilted towards the sky. The warm sunshine touched her skin lightly and sent warm waves over her body. It should have felt like a glorious day, but it didn’t.
Right at that moment, the phone rang. Rose looked at the clock hanging on the wall just inside the door…6 a.m. She sighed and went inside. The phone sounded extra loud today. Her body felt heavy as she set one foot in front of the other, and as her arm reached out for her mobile.
“Hello,” Rose said flatly into the device.
“Hello, Rosie. How are you today?” It was Anna. Normally, that would be a reasonable question, but today it felt like a stupid one.
“Just dandy,” she replied. “Never felt better.” She heard Anna sigh at the other end.
“I know that’s not true,” she said sympathetically.
“Well, why ask, then?” Rose was not in the mood for chit chat.
“ You know, it’s because I love you. Okay, well, I’ll be over at eight. Be ready. Okay?”
“Okay,” she said with reluctance.
“See you soon,” Anna promised and ended the call.
Today was going to be the hardest day of Rose’s life and all she wanted to do was go to sleep and wake up tomorrow when it was all over. How on earth was she going to get through it all and face everyone? Tears welled up in her eyes as she stepped into the shower. She didn’t feel strong enough to see it to the end. Water fell on her head and over her face as she stood there staring at the wall and drifted off into a daydream……….
There, Rose saw him – a tall, handsome man, strong and gentle, walking towards her. His bright smile gleamed and his dark shoulder length hair moved slightly left to right and back again with each stride. There was a bright light behind him making it difficult to see his face clearly but she knew it was him. She had been waiting for him. Rose’s heart pounded and a smile grew on her face as she reached out to him………….
A knock on the bathroom door brought Rose back to a painful reality.
“What?” Rose demanded in an impatient voice.
“Mum, you’ve been in there for ages. And I could hear you crying. Are you alright?” It was her son, Robert. He was the spitting image of his father, something Rose hadn’t taken much notice of before. At twelve, Robert still looked like he was ten. Soon he’ll be a teenager and will need his dad more than ever.
“Yes, I’m okay, Rob. I’ll be out in a minute.”
“Okay. Dad will be here soon. Do you want to come with us?” Robert enquired.
“No. It’s okay. Anna is picking me up. Thanks though.”
“Alright then.” And he walked away up the hallway.
Rose got out of the shower and dressed in a lovely black dress with a red belt and red shoes. She didn’t really feel like putting make-up on. It was only going to be cried off. But she made an effort and put on a small amount anyway.
The doorbell chimed and Robert answered the door. It was his dad, David. Rose looked at the time….7:30 a.m. She greeted him as he entered the lounge room.
“Hello, David,” she said with the best smile she could muster.
“Hi, Rose,” he replied. “I’m sorry for your loss. Gunna be a hard day for you.”
“Yes,” was all she could manage without bursting into tears.
“Jack was a great bloke. Robert always talks about him,” David continued. This time only a held-together-nod was possible.
“If there is anything I can do……..”
“Thank you,” she sniffed, holding back the tears. “Just support Rob.” David nodded.
“Well, I guess we’ll get going then. See you over there.” Rose nodded as Robert and David left, wiping away more tears and damning her mascara.
Not long after, Anna arrived, followed by Rose’s parents, Lyn and John, her two sisters, Gail, and Louise, and her two brothers, James and Steve. There was now a lot of noise and talking going on and Rose felt like it was all echoing inside her head. She was thinking that if she just stayed home maybe it would all be a mistake and Jack would walk through the door, smiling, happy and alive. She didn’t want to say goodbye.
Finally, it was time to head off. The drive to the funeral hall with Anna was a quiet one. It was only Rose and Anna in Anna’s car. The others had their own vehicles and were driving ahead of them. Memories churned in Rose’s mind – the first time they met 10 years ago, their first kiss, their first date, their wedding day, their shared love for gardening, his crazy obsession with fishing, his infectious laugh, and those beautiful deep brown eyes of his. She missed snuggling with him watching movies. She missed his touch. She missed his smell. She missed his voice. And she longed for all these things with an intense aching that made her body hurt.
“Can a soul break like a heart breaks?” Rose wondered.
They arrived at the funeral hall right on 8:30 a.m. The place was crowded. It was hard to believe that all those people knew Jack. In lieu of flowers, on the table outside the funeral hall was a box for donations to a refugee foundation to help those in war torn countries, a deep-seated passion of Jack’s. Just outside the doors was the Hurst which contained Jack’s coffin. Rose looked at the Australian flag on it. Tears and pride flowed as she remembered the day he left for Syria 6 months ago.
As her mind came back to the present, Jack’s Army friends took the coffin from the Hurst and to the music of the Australian Anthem, carried their fallen comrade to the front of the room, with Rose, her parents, her son, and her siblings following closely behind.
The eulogy was given by one of Jack’s closest friends and Army buddy, Sam. Jack fought hard in Syria to protect those caught in the war over there. Jack was driving an Army truck with two other officers in order to pick up supplies when it was hit by a missile. All died instantly and all died heroes. All died protecting and fighting for the innocent. And all died serving and loving their country – Australia. They all paid the ultimate price for freedom.
Despite her grief, Rose walked up to the microphone, Robert by her side, and started to talk……..
“I remember the day we met – it was a bright sunny day and I was sitting on a picnic blanket in Central Park reading when I looked up and saw this tall and handsome man with dark shoulder length hair walking towards me, but I couldn’t see his face well because the sun was behind him. I stood up as he came into view and then lost my balance, falling over onto my butt with an awfully loud thud!” People in the room laughed as she wiped away the tears and continued,
“Jack came rushing over to me asking me if I was alright. I think I was a bright red when I said that I was fine despite the stabbing pain in my posterior!” Everyone laughed again.
“That was ten years ago. He had just applied to go into the Army when we met. It was always hard when he was away for long periods of time. But we had so many fun times together. And Rob adored him. One particular time we went to the lake, and it was the first time Rob had tried fishing. Jack was in his element showing him how to use the rod, bait the line and reel the fish in. They didn’t snag many fish that day, but they did bring home some interesting finds amongst the seaweed.” The gathering chuckled at the thought of what those things could have been.
Rose turned around and faced his coffin.
“Jack, you are my husband, my lover, my best friend and my one and only true love. Nothing has prepared me to live without you. And to be honest, I don’t want to. You died doing something you passionately believed in – protecting freedom and the innocent. The Australian Army were privileged to have you serve with them. The Australian people were privileged to have you serve for them. The Syrians were privileged to have you protect them. But I was the most privileged, honoured and blessed to have been your wife. Rest in peace, my love, my best friend, my hero.”
Rose walked over to Jack’s coffin, paused and then placed a kiss on it. She whispered “I love you, Jack” before heading back to her seat.
As she walked out of the funeral hall at the end of the service, never to see her beloved Jack again, the Australian Anthem sounded proudly out of the speakers once more reminding her that freedom was not free. It has been paid for in blood. And still is.
LEST WE FORGET