Welcome back to part 3 of Goodbye Isn't in the Dictionary! (Part 1 and Part 2!) Things are heating up between Christina and Uncle Abel! Let's see what happens next!
Uncle Abel frowned. “Is this about that parade?”
I swallowed back a look of defiance. “Yes. I’m going for Stanley.”
I could have kept it together. I could have breathed through it.
But he rolled his eyes and frowned.
Like Stanly and all our fallen soldiers didn’t matter.
As if it were silly.
As if it were sinful.
I lost control.
“How dare you!” I hissed. “How dare you… forget! Stanley looked up to you! He wanted to make you proud! He bent over backward for you and gave his life, just for you to—”
“Christina, we have customers. We’ll talk about this later. And you will be here Monday. I forbid you to go to that celebration of violence.”
I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. He was our guardian…had been since Stanley passed. But we are of age, I had been even at the time our parents passed. And I can’t let him keep me from honoring my brother’s sacrifice.
“Uncle Abel, there’s nothing to talk about. I’m sorry, and I mean you no disrespect. But I’m not going to be here Monday. You knew what Hudson and I were planning. Mother and Father always taught us honoring our fallen soldiers is important, and we promised we would. I will keep my promises. I’m going to the Memorial Day parade.”
He nodded slowly, knowing my mind was made up. “Never could talk sense to your father. Your mother was the problem there. And I see you are just like her. Well, go to your parade, but don’t come on Tuesday. Your position will be filled. You are no longer needed. I love you, and I’ve tried to lead you in the good path of peace. But if you insist on honoring those who break the 6th commandment, killing people, then I cannot have you influencing the children daily. You and Hudson may stay on at the apartment, but you will not be permitted here as anything other than a customer. Good day.”
I stumbled out of the café in shock. I fumbled in my pocket for my flip phone and pressed the speed dial for my nineteen-year-old brother, two years my junior.
The sound of clanking metal and men laughing in the background met my ears. “CPL Schnyder, how may I—”
“Uncle Abel fired me!” I sobbed into the mic. “He fired me because I said I wouldn’t work on Memorial Day. And he…he’s pretty much told me to stay away!”
“Where are you?”
“At the Café.”
“Don’t go anywhere, just sit in the car. I’ll be right over.”
“But your shift doesn’t—”
“My sergeant will let me get you. Hang on.”
He muted the speaker for all of two minutes and 48 seconds. “Chrissy?”
“I’m coming, he’s covering for me. Jamie will get the car. I don’t want you driving.”
Within fifteen minutes, ten minutes faster than they should have been there, my brother and his best friend were there, and I was lifted into Stanley’s truck. Hud didn’t let go of my hand once on the whole drive back to FT Bragg.
When we arrived at the base, he handed the guard our IDs and drove through moments later. It was then I realized where I was. “Hudson, why did you bring me here? The apartment—”
“Will be empty tomorrow. I’ve got a place for you to stay on base.”
“WHAT? Hudson, that’s not—”
“I’ve been working on this for several weeks, Chrissy. I was gonna surprise you tomorrow, but you beat me to it. Oh, and while you’re here, there’s a family here you’ve gotta meet. They’re here for another month, he’s Navy, been helping with a med course, but anyway, they are so nice! You’ll be staying with them tonight. Here we are.”
He parked his truck, and I instantly recognized Becca’s little Beetle.
I jumped out of the truck, and the door swung open, revealing a young man in Marine Cammies. He smiled and said, “Come on in, Becca’s in the living room.”
I hurried into the house, and Becca ran out into the hall to meet me, hugging me and crying with me and tugging me into the living room all at the same time.
We sat on the couch, and I told her the whole story. We cried some more and discussed the parade and how even though I still loved my Uncle, he had let his misguided desire for peace divide us. And we couldn’t stand like that.
Mrs. Springfield called everyone in for supper, and I was seated between Becca and Hudson. And across from the Marine with the sad smiling eyes. Salem. The one they almost didn’t get to keep. The one this war had nearly stolen. And I could see in his eyes that two years hadn’t even made a dint on his wounds.
The tacos were amazing, and Salem was shocked to find out that I eat them “like they are supposed to be” with lots of jalapenos. I laughed, and he smiled his sad smile and dug into his fifth taco. Yes, all the rumors about how much Marines eat is true. And by the looks of 17-year-old Jason’s appetite, he’ll follow right in his footsteps.
After the meal, Salem left to head back to his base in Havelock, and the rest of us headed to the living room and watched a new movie. It was about Football, but even though not one of us in the room were fans, we all loved it. The biblical principles were so strong. The determination of the characters…Hold nothing back, don’t stop fighting, don’t quit, if God chooses never to give you the desire of your heart, will you still love Him?...
That’s the line that broke me. The desire of my heart was for Stanley to have made it home. For dad to have survived the heart attack and for mom not to die of a broken heart when we were teens. For me to have a good relationship with Uncle Abel and family…but so far, none of that had panned out.
But I could still say I loved God. He was the one Who had gotten me through. And He was the reason I could cope with having three family members waiting for me over There and one trying to make his brother proud by following hard in his footsteps.
I got up and walked out for a minute. I needed a moment without three guys watching me cry. I slipped down the hallway and tried to pull myself together, missing Mom and Dad and Stanley and praying I wouldn’t lose Hud too.
Gentle arms wrapped around me, and I found myself in Mrs. Springfield’s embrace. She didn’t say a word. We just cried. And it felt so good to be understood without words.
The Springfields and about half of Hud’s platoon helped me get everything moved in, unpacked, and set up the next day. I couldn’t believe it. His platoon sergeant gave me a gift card to my favorite décor shop to get a few more pieces. I instantly had a deep place in my heart for all of them. I felt at that moment that I had come home.
As I set my Bible and dictionary on their honored place in the living room on a shelf, flanked by army boot bookends, I noticed Salem in the corner with a strange look on his face.
“Something up?” I asked, eyeing him holding my music case.
“Huh? Oh, I was looking at your violin.”
“No. Becca does. She’s playing for the parade Monday.”
I smiled. “It’s not mine.”
He looked up in surprise. “Oh, is it Hud’s?”
“Oh, dear, no,” I laughed, the idea of Hud being able to carry a tune, much less play an instrument, striking me funny. “It was Stanley’s.”
“Do you play it?”
“He taught me, but no, I don’t play it.”
“You should.” I turned as Becca set down another box and pinned me with a fierce look.
“I couldn’t play Stanley’s violin.”
“Yes, you could, and you should. What better way to honor his memory and spend some time with him than to play his violin?”
I stared at her as she took the instrument out of the case, tuned it up, rosined the bow, and handed it to me. “Boys,” she said to the two or three others in the room, “out.” And she turned heel, leading the column of heroes plus a wannabe out of the room.
I held the violin in my hands, staring at it in disbelief. Could I? Becca said I could. But should I?
I glanced at the dictionary. CHRISSY, GOODBYE ISNT IN THE DICTIONARY OF THE CHRISTIAN FAMILY.
Taking a deep breath, I placed the bow on the strings and pulled it across. I closed my eyes. Two years had left me a little rusty, but maybe I could do this…
Stanley’s favorite song filled my ears before I even realized what I was doing. It was an old Confederate Ballad…
…If I must die for my home and land, my spirit will not falter. Here’s my heart, and here’s my hand upon my country’s alter…
…And Heaven be with us in the strife…
Yes, God had been there with Stanley through it all. He had been there as he gave his heart and hand. He had been there as Hud, and I tried to press on, day after day without them. Stanley’s spirit hadn’t faltered, and neither had mine or Hudson’s. God had seen to that.
Dear God, my heart cried, give us strength, give us peace, and give us a relationship with Uncle Abel and the family. Whether or not they ever understand, if they could know You the way they should, that’s all that matters. Let us have a See You Later with them and not a permanent Goodbye…
What do you think will happen next? Are you excited about Memorial Day? How do you celebrate? Does your town have a Memorial Day Parade? Tell me all about it in the comments below!
God Bless America,
Christian. American. Southern. Author.
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