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Story a Day: Day 28 – Memorial Day

Today’s Story a Day prompt was to include the words: ink, previously, work, breeze, seven, run, delicious, example, spontaneous, barb. As today is Memorial Day here, I decided to run with that theme as well. This will come after the end of Jonas & Isaac’s story.

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A breeze ruffled through Jonas’ hair as he headed down the path. It wasn’t the smoothest path, so he was glad Isaac had insisted on him bringing his cane along, even though he’d been walking without it for a few months now. Still he didn’t want to damage his prosthetic or hurt his residual limb. Again.
He wasn’t thinking about that now, though. It was all over. Isaac’s father was back in prison, and not getting out any time soon. Whatever had happened previously didn’t matter. The last seven months had been the most peaceful Jonas could remember in a long time.
When he reached the stone he was looking for, Jonas slowly lowered himself to his knees and brushed some cut grass and dirt off the top of it. A year. It was hard to believe it had been a year already. And maybe a little ironic on the timing of it all. The previous Memorial Day he’d spent tethered to machines, not even knowing yet that his best friend, his former lover, had already been buried.
He pushed those thoughts away and reached out to run his fingers over the letters engraved into the stone. “You’d want to shake me for it,” he murmured, “but sometimes I still think it should have been me instead. You shouldn’t be the one gone, Santiago. I still don’t understand why I’m the one who survived.” He kept his hand on the stone and kept talking, even though he’d never get a response from Santiago again. Never be able to trade barbs with him again or hear the man burst into spontaneous song when they were working together.
“You’re supposed to still be here. I’m supposed to be able to tell you that I got back together with Isaac. I know you’d be happy for me. And that I’m going to begin work as a paramedic soon. I didn’t think I’d ever be able to do that kind of work again, and it’s a lot less likely I’ll have to dodge bullets or bombs when I go out on a call.”
He heard Isaac’s footsteps behind him. He knew his boyfriend was worried about him, but there wasn’t much he could do to assure him he was doing better now. He’d gotten his pain issues mostly sorted out, was accepting the help that was offered, even when it didn’t settle right with him. He felt Isaac’s fingers trace over the ink on the back of Jonas’ shoulder. He’d encouraged Jonas to get it. One more way to honor what had come before.
“I’m going to go now,” he said. “Your mom’s making some of her delicious enchiladas for us. Just another example of how lucky I was to know you.”
Isaac helped him back to his feet. He could have done it on his own, but it would have taken longer, and he knew it made Isaac feel better to be able to do something to help. Then, Isaac brushed his lips over Jonas’ jaw and to his mouth. “I’m okay,” Jonas insisted. “I’ll always miss him. That won’t change. But, I’m okay. Come on, let’s get out of here. He’d rather we celebrate what he did with his life than wallow in the fact he’s gone.”
Isaac looped his arm through Jonas’, leaving the other free to wield the cane so he didn’t lose his balance. Isaac kept him keep that most of the time now anyway. And he couldn’t help but think he’d never have found his way back to him if that helicopter had never crashed. Yes, he’d always miss Santiago and the direction his career could have taken. But, sometimes things worked out the way they were supposed to.

Story a Day: Day 29 – Memorial Day

Toby stepped out of his car, leaning back in to grab the bag off the passenger seat. He locked the car and walked deeper into the cemetery. This had become routine. Not just today. He came here at least three times a year, to lay flowers on Edward’s grave.

Marrying Toby’s mom hadn’t meant Edward had to take him on as well. He could have just been a stepfather, but he’d been so much more than that. He’d saved Toby, and he wasn’t sure he’d ever thanked the man while he was living for doing that.

It wasn’t the main reason he was here today, but still he knelt in front of Edward’s grave and set the vase he’d brought long against the base of the headstone. “Thank you,” he said softly. “Not just for your service to this country, but for taking on a punk kid like me. You taught me everything I know about honor, integrity, and duty. I’m not sure I ever said thank you for making me the man I am. If I didn’t, I’m sorry.”

He stood there in silence for a moment then stepped back and retrieved his bag. He had a few other stones to visit. He headed toward a section of the cemetery where he knew too many of the people who were buried. As he approached, he saw another figure kneeling in front of one of the stones. It took him only another moment to recognize the man. he was a little surprised to see Patrick here. Maybe he shouldn’t be. The man was a veteran, too, and would likely want to honor those who had fallen just as Toby did. But, if he was visiting graves, he’d thought he’d do it back in New Mexico where he’d moved from recently.

He saw which grave he was kneeling before and took another step forward. He would have left the man alone, but it was one of the ones he’d come to visit anyway. “I served with him,” he said, taking another step toward the man and the grave.

Patrick looked up at him, and Toby had the feeling the other man had known he was there. “I went to school with him. He was a year ahead of me, but he was still a good friend. His parents moved up here right after he graduated. I heard about his death just as I was being deployed the first time.”

Toby could still remember that day. He didn’t think he’d ever forget. He’d lost many friends in one single ambush. “He was a good man,” Toby said, setting one of the small wreaths he carried against the stone.

“Yes,” Patrick said, “he always was.”

They started walking off together, and Toby glanced over at Patrick. “I figured you’d be going home for the holiday.”

Patrick glanced back at him and smiled a little. “This is home now. But, I get what you mean. I’ve said good-bye to the ones I’ve lost enough times. And the doctor put Kellie on bedrest. I didn’t want to leave town and leave her alone.”

Toby had heard Kellie was pregnant but not that she was having any issues. He needed to get out of his head and back to his friends. Especially those who were still living.

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For today’s Story a Day, I went with a story specifically written for Memorial Day.

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