His Homecoming Promise

By Samantha Swalgin

Seven months.

Two weeks.

And three days.

Rebecca stood at the airport, clutching her coat tight in her arms as she waited for her husband’s plane to land. Her husband, First Lieutenant Jacob Stewart, sent off on his second tour just before the young couple could celebrate their second wedding anniversary.

She could remember the day they called; how hesitant he was to answer the phone. He had to, it was his commanding officer. They gave him 30 days to prepare for deployment, but the first week was spent wrapping their minds around it all. 

When the day came for him to leave, she debated asking him to simply not go, to go AWOL and leave them all behind so he could stay, but she knew better than to ask something so foolish. So, she simply hugged him tight, ingraining the feel of his arms around her, and promised that she’d be here when it was time to come home.

I’ll do whatever it takes to come back to you, Beck. I promise.”

His words echoed in her head, especially when she’d hug his pillow at night so she’d fill her senses with his scent.

Then, she got a call, telling her that Jacob would be returning from his tour a bit earlier than anticipated. They didn’t tell her why, but she didn’t press. She was just happy that her husband was finally coming home, like he promised.

So there she stood, watching out the window, waiting to see his plane touchdown.

Waiting for her love to return to her.

Each minute felt like hours, but she saw his plane pull up to the gate, and tears stung in her eyes. Tears of joy, tears of relief. But each feeling she had immediately turned into concern and worry when she saw him step through the gate first, his bag in one hand and his free arm hidden under his coat.

Jacob finally looked up and time stood still as they locked eyes. Her joy returned as he started walking faster towards her, her heart jumping for joy as he dropped his bag and wrapped his arm around her. Her coat was forgotten with his things and she hugged him back, burying her face in the crook of his neck. The scent of a pillow was nothing when compared to the love of her life.

“I missed you, Beck,” his voice cracked as he whispered in her ear. “Not a day went by that I didn’t think of you.”

“I missed you too, Jake. I missed you so much.” Rebecca held him tighter, doing everything in her power to hold back her sobs. “Come on, baby. Let’s go home.”

She picked up her coat and his bag, then she took his hand to lead him back to their car. Once inside, she buckled up and was ready to go, but when she looked over, she saw her husband struggling in the passenger seat, trying to clasp his seatbelt but to no avail.

“Would you like some help, Jake?”

He nodded, unable to look up at her as she secured him in his seat. It ended up being a quiet ride home, both of them unsure of what to say to break the tension that was building. She knew something was up, but she wanted him to come to her first, afraid she’d unintentionally go too far if she took the first step.

When they got home, she placed her coat on the back of a kitchen chair, and froze in place when she watched his own slide off his shoulder, down to the floor. In an instant, all her questions were answered, and her heart sank into her stomach.

In place of his right arm was a bandaged stump, the white cloth barely showing from under the sleeve of his t-shirt. His head turned away in shame, his eyes focused on the counter next to him.

“This is why I came home early,” Jake whispered. “This is why I couldn’t hug you as tight as I wanted. I’m not – I’m so sorry, Beck.”

She wrapped her arms around his waist, hugging him tight. “There’s no need to be sorry. I’ll be honest, I knew something was up when they said you’d be returning early, but I’m just glad you’re still upright instead of having a flag draped over you. I’m glad I have you home at all… is that selfish of me?”

His strong arm held her close, his lips pressed against the top of her head. “Only if it’s selfish that I’m glad I don’t have to go on another tour again. I’m home for good, baby girl.”

She buried her face in his chest and let everything out; all of her tears and the sobs she had to choke back before. While she was proud of the work he did in the army, she was relieved that she didn’t have to watch him go overseas anymore. She didn’t have to say goodbye anymore.

His lips were replaced by his chin, but it didn’t last long as he stood straighter. “What’s that on the table?”

With a sniff, Beck turned around and remembered the setup she’d left on the dining room table. Two red lace placemats that each held a plate, silverware, and a wine glass. The center had a small bouquet of red roses and two unlit candles on each side.

“Well, when your sergeant called this morning, I thought this would be a nice little Valentine’s Day surprise for you. Something to celebrate, you know?”

Jake’s brows furrowed a bit, “I thought Valentine’s Day was last week, though.”

“It was,” Beck shrugged, “but it doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate it now. Right?”

He chuckled softly, a sound Beck was afraid she’d never hear again. “I think we can do that,” he said with a smile.

She gently led him to the dining room, pulling his chair out for him so he could sit. Once he was comfortable, she dashed to the kitchen to get her famous Chicken Bacon Ranch Casserole out of the oven, then placed the warm dish on the table.

“You remembered it was my favorite?” Jake asked, surprised.

“You wanted to make it for us on our anniversary last year,” she smiled. “I thought this would be a pleasant surprise to come home to.” She sat in his lap, her arms around his neck as she kissed him. “Happy Valentine’s Day, Jake.”

He returned her sweet kiss, then rested his forehead against hers. “Happy Valentine’s Day, Beck. It’s good to be home.”

About Samantha

Jesse V Coffey lives and writes in Lexington, KY. She currently has three books available for sale – A Samantha Swalgin is a first time novelist from New York. She admits to a very active and healthy imagination; making up her own stories since she was a child. She is currently working on her first novel, a romance titled Kitten Takes the Stage. Find more about Samantha on Blogspot and Facebook.