09 October 2011
Day 3, 4, 5 @ 3:17 PM
The rain pattered on the tin roof fiercely, causing the cat to hide under the bed and the children to gather around their mother's skirt. "Read to us," they trembled over one another and she smiled, producing a tattered storybook. Opening the cover, her breath caught in her throat; the note inscribed on the title page always made her heart jump and ache simultaneously. Her late husband had given her this book the Christmas before their first of four children was born. It read: To my dearest Jean, I have no doubt you will be the most compassionate and wise mother; how lucky am I to have a child by you. I hope you'll read this stories to our children as my mother read them to me. I love you, John.
It had been months since he'd be lost in the war, assumed dead after weeks of searching. She turned to the first story and began to read, holding her tears for their children, all she had left of her dear John.
There wasn't much to be said about the long dirt road that lay ahead of them. On either side, fields stretched for days only contained by a splintery wooden fence older than both of the combined. In the fields were wheat, or another stalk just like it, dotted with little yellow flowers, pests among the product. Every so often, the sound of a car would come rumbling up the road but it would never make them, for it either turned off while it still could, or was merely a mirage. The boys continued moving north, buckling ever so slightly under the weight of their packs, but never daring to complain. A long journey lay ahead of them, but even so, an even longer fault lay behind them. Each took to one side of the road, keeping their distance from each other, but still close enough to never forget for a moment why this long dirt road lay in front of them, and what would meet them at the end.
He watched her sleep as though she had a secret, and he was waiting for it to spill over into her subconscious. Truth was, she had a secret, but a secret she didn't yet know. Earlier that day, in the midst of a break from working on his novel, he met the mailman at the road for a short chat before collecting the envelopes and heading inside. Absentmindedly he tore through the mail, compulsively separating bills and coupons and correspondence, but he came to a letter thick and marked from the hospital. Without worrying about the addressee, he opened it gingerly and read, practically whispering to himself as the new grew grave. It read this his fiance, who he later noticed was the addressee, needed to return for more tests and possible chemotherapy scheduling for the tumor found in her thyroid. He was flabbergasted and fell to the floor, hurt both by the news and by the fact that his fiance, who would in a month be his wife, failed to mention she was seeing a doctor.