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See You Soon

by

Ryan Broll

 It was a cool day outside. A light breeze gently blew the colourful leaves on the maple trees lining the property. The smell of fresh grass clippings filled the air, and a light dew made the ground sparkle in the early morning light. An old barn could be seen off in the distance, the weathervane pointed towards the north. Inside the old brick house a woman yawned quietly as her young daughter slept in her arms. The white silk canopy covering the bed fell softly on the hardwood floor, as the red coals in the fireplace on the far wall shimmered from the previous night's fire.

John had been drafted when Mary was just seven months pregnant. It came as a surprise to them since John was a doctor. Usually doctors didn't get assigned to battle; they were in the M.A.S.H. units stitching up the wounded. John wasn't that fortunate, though. He was one of the unlucky thousands selected to put their own bodies directly in front of the enemy.

Three weeks to the day after John was drafted, he left. He was shipped over to England where he would undergo three months of training before being thrown out onto the battlefield like a piece of bloody meat would be thrown to a hungry shark. The hardest thing to do was say goodbye. They both knew that day was approaching, but they couldn't bare to think about it. They both knew the dangers of going to war, yet they were unable to talk about the possible outcome. When the day finally came, the young couple went out for an extravagant breakfast at the fanciest restaurant in town. They hugged and cried all afternoon, sitting outside, listening to the birds, and talking quietly about all the things they were going to do when John got back. And then he left. That was the last time they had seen each other - outside under the sun at the end of the driveway as John got into the truck. He had gone to do battle and fight for the freedom of his nation, and his people.

At first, the letters were very frequent. While he was training, John even had the chance to phone home a couple of times. He only knew his newborn daughter through the pictures Mary sent him, and the faint sound of her crying in the background when he called. When he was sent to the trenches he was no longer able to call, but he did manage to write about once a week. His letters were long, heart-filled, and an absolute joy for Mary to read. She knew that as long as she was getting letters from her husband, everything would be okay. He was alive and safe if he was able to write. The weeks would go by so slow as she waited at home for the letters. She would sit on the edge of her bed, looking outside and waiting in anticipation for the postman to arrive. Every day, Mary would run out to greet him, knowing most of the time she would be disappointed and have to wait another day. Lately, she was waiting longer and longer though. John's letters slowly decreased from arriving every week, to biweekly, to monthly. Now, she had not received a letter in over two months.

John had missed so much while he was gone. How was Mary ever supposed to explain to him the wonderful sights he had been so far away for? The birth of his daughter, her first word (which was, ironically, "Daddy"), and even her first steps. If he did not come home soon he would even miss her first day of school! But Mary realized that these were all very small things. All she really cared about was seeing her husband again. It had been so long, so hard. Nothing could ever make up for the amount of time that they had lost together. No amount of money the Army sent her every two weeks. No medals that John had been awarded for bravery. No personal letters from lieutenants or colonels. Nothing could make up for the lost time, and Mary knew that.

Then one day it happened. The moment she had been anxiously awaiting for so many years. She was ecstatic on that cool October day. Mary heard the postman's footsteps as he made his way up the gravel path towards the house. She leapt out of bed, pushed away the canopy, and darted down the stairs in nothing but her pajamas. She made it to the door just as the postman was about to knock, and snatched the mail out of his hands, slamming the door quickly behind her. She threw the envelopes down on the ground one by one until she finally reached the one that had that all too familiar type face. She tore it open and read it quietly.

October 10, 1944

Dearest Mary,

I'm so sorry I haven't had the opportunity to write for so long. I was moved onto the front lines over two months ago and we were not permitted to write because we always had to be ready for the enemy's attacks. It was the most frightening time of my life. At times we were so close to the enemy that I could see the whites of their eyes. I really wish I didn't have to kill them. It's so hard when you are that close to them. At least when you are farther back on the lines you can't see what they look like, you can only see their uniforms. But when you are at the front, you can see what they look like; you can hear them pleading with you for help. But you can't do anything about it. It was the worst experience of my life.

But I was okay. I was never harmed once. I know you must have been terribly worried, but I assure you everything was fine. I also have some incredibly good news. I couldn't wait to find a pen and some paper so I could send this to you. I was told by my commanding officer that I am receiving my discharge from the army! He told me that in two weeks (probably just a few days after you receive this) I will be on my way home! I can't wait to get home so I can see you, and finally see our beautiful daughter. But now I must say goodbye temporarily. I did not have a lot of time to write this, but I couldn't wait any longer! I have to meet with the colonel now to discuss what I will do for the last dew days I have here. Don't worry - it will just be general duties around the camp. Finally I can say this - I will see you soon!

Love Always,

John

A tear softly rolled down Mary's cheek as she finished reading the letter. This was the day she had been awaiting for so long. She quickly ran up the stairs three at a time, and rushed into her room taking her sleeping daughter in her arms, and hugging her with all she had. "He's coming home!" Mary yelled, a smile taking up her entire face. "He's coming home! Daddy's coming home!"

The letter was the best news Mary had heard in years. Life could not get much better than this. She had a beautiful, healthy three-year-old daughter, and now her husband was finally coming home, after over three years of putting his very own body on the line for his country. Within a matter of hours Mary had called all of her friends and family to tell them the good news, and had invited them all to a "Welcome Home" party for John a few weeks later.

It had been two weeks since Mary had received the letter from John saying that he was coming home. She knew that any day now he would walk through the door. Just as she had waited for his letters, she would now sit in her room looking out the window, waiting for him to pull up to the house. Every time she saw a car pull into the driveway from the street about half a mile away, she would run outside, only to be disappointed when John did not emerge. She could hardly sleep at night, imagining what he would look like now and the smell of his cologne when he got back. Day after day passed, and yet he still did not come home.

On the Wednesday before the party, Mary was once again sitting in her room, looking out her window, when she saw a truck once again pull up the driveway. Once again she felt the rush of joy and hope coming over her body. She knew she had been disappointed so many times in the past, but this time, for some reason, everything felt different. She had a certain feeling in her heart that she had not had before. This time, Mary was sure John was home. She did not race down the stairs like she usually did. This time, she prepared herself for the moment. She checked her hair and makeup in the mirror above the dresser, and then slowly made her way down the stairs. She pulled the curtain covering the window in the door aside slightly, and quietly watched the truck approach. As it came closer she could tell that there were two men in uniforms in the truck. One of them was the driver and the other must be John! They were still too far away for her to see their faces, but she was positive it was him. She neatly smoothed out her dress with her hands and stood with her back to the door, her heart racing.

A few moments later there was a knock at the door. She waited a few seconds, took a deep breath, and opened it. As she did so, a look of confusion came across her face as two unfamiliar men stood in front of her.

"Mrs. Smith?" the shorter of the men asked.

"Yes." Mary replied slowly.

"This is Lieutenant Jeffery Robataille and I'm Colonel Robert Austin of the United States Army. On October 18th of this year, 1944, Major John Smith's camp was bombed by German attack planes." A dull and stunned look came over Mary's face. She just stared blankly at the two men standing in front of her, unable to talk. She was frozen in her doorway like a statue, completely paralyzed, as the men continued to talk.

"We're sorry to inform you, ma'am," they continued. "There were no survivors."

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