My first story for my GetFlashed challenge: Yesterday’s Goodbye
Viewers chose prompts, I wrote a 1,000 word story in one week.
Genre: Romantic Drama
Prompt: Starts with, “He had a scar…”
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“He had a scar…” she whispered, her eyes fluttering open, the familiar phrase the first words on her lips as she awoke. I smiled, looking up from my book.
“Where was it, Grandma?” I asked, taking her hand.
Her eyes were open now, shining, as they always did when she stared off into her yesterdays and remembered him.
“On his forehead, like a kiss from old aunt,” she chuckled, coughed through her smile and continued. “It was actually a kiss from a stray bullet. ‘You’re lucky’ I told him as I cleaned the wound. But he interrupted and said…”
“Lucky I found you,” I finished for her. She nodded.
“That was the first time he touched my hand…”
“But not the last,” I offered.
“No, not the last.” She sighed and turned her head on the pillow toward me. She patted my hand. “You don’t want to hear this old story again.”
The story was older than I was. Older than my mother. Older than even my grandparent’s sixty- five-year-marriage. It was the story of a young soldier who had stolen my grandmother’s heart, been sent back to battle with it tucked deep in his breast pocket and then disappeared.
“Of course I do, Grandma.” She coughed again and I glanced the door. If only he’d hurry…
The girl’s message had been ominous yet vague. “Please hurry,” she’d said. “It’s important you do.” Of course, the moment he’d heard her name he didn’t waste a moment. It had been seventy years since she’d traced the lines of his scar with the tip of her slender finger, but he still remembered the shine of her dancing eyes. He still remembered every moment of their time together in that hospital and it was that same hospital he hurried to now. Well, hurried as much as an old man of 93 could hurry. He only hoped he would make it.
“After that first touch,” she whispered, “everything changed. Every day I went to his room, and he smiled. I sat down next to him and he took my hand. ‘Lucky again,’ he’d say. By the time the bandage came off, we were in love. By the time the raw red of the wound began to fade to dull pink and the skin began to lift its way into a scar, we were planning on getting married.” She turned to me then, as she always did. “I know you young people think it’s silly, love at first sight, but times were different then. No one knew how long they had together. But somehow, stupidly, we thought we would have forever.” She glanced at the machine beeping quietly next to her bed. “I guess none of us have forever.”
He glanced out the window of the cab at the solid line of cars in front of them. He rocked back and forth as if the motion would make the car move faster. It didn’t. ‘The same city,’ he thought. They’d been in the same city this whole time. Building lives, raising families, the way they had so briefly imagined doing together. Three months. It was all they had, but it was enough to build a life in their heads. Holding hands in the hospital cafeteria or on a bench outside, they’d envisioned a life with children, laughing, and a quiet retirement. But it was a life they’d both built with someone else.
The soldiers came for him early one morning, before her shift. He was healed, it was time to go. He’d left a letter but it was useless. He didn’t know where he was going or when he’d be back and then he’d gone missing. It was a simple paperwork mix-up, a mistake by the government that had later been remedied, but it had cost them their life together, it had cost them their goodbye.
She always made it clear to me that she’d loved my Grandpa very much. “But a woman’s heart is a complicated place,” she’d say with a wink. “There’s room for all different kinds of love. His love was my first. It washed in like a wave, enveloped me, and then was pulled back, leaving traces of the ocean floor behind.”
She got sick a few years after Grandpa passed and I knew it was time. The internet made finding him simple. The only question now was, would he make it in time?
By the time he’d come home, it was too late. She no longer worked at the hospital and no one there seemed to remember her, so many young nurses came and went. “She probably got married and quit, honey.” A gum chewing receptionist voiced his worst fears. She probably assumed he was dead, like his family had. It was over. He’d lost her.
But seventy years later, her granddaughter’s voice on his machine was a breath of fresh air, the feel of cool fingers across his forehead. The car jerked to a stop. He was there.
Her eyes were closed again and I could tell she was tired. I thought she was asleep and then she whispered, “I only wish…I wish we’d..”
“Gotten to say goodbye?” A deep voice trembled across the room. I looked to the door and he was there, leaning on a cane, shuffling his way across the tile. Her eyes fluttered open and I wondered if she was seeing the handsome soldier who had once wandered these very halls.
“Is it you?” she whispered as he approached the bed.
He reached out and took her hand, bringing it to his forehead. She smiled.
“Lucky again,” she said.
He laughed and I could see the tears welling in his eyes as he brought her hand to his lips. And then she sighed and I saw his eyes jump to the machine next to her as her hand went limp in his.
As the jumps in the green lines moved farther apart, he leaned down and kissed her forehead.
“Goodbye,” he whispered and the line went flat.