#BlogBattle is now a monthly short story challenge using a single word for inspiration. Which is now administered by my two talented blog friends Rachael Ritchey and E. E. Rawls, as well as Gary Jeffries.
This month’s word: Clone
Joey comes barreling down the stairs, phone in hand with ear buds attached. We almost collide at the bottom of the steps as I walk out of my home office to go to the kitchen.
“Whoa! Slow down!” I laugh putting my arms in front of me as a buffer.
Removing an earbud, “Sorry mom, the guys are waiting for me.” He turns towards the door.
“Not so fast.” I stretch out my arms. “You have time for your birthday hug, c’mere ya big lug.”
Dropping his head, knowing he can’t argue with me, he walks into my embrace.
“Happy Birthday! I love you!” I give him a tight squeeze before I let go.
“Thanks mom, love you too!” He crams the ear bud back in his ear and walks out the door.
In the kitchen I set my phone down on the counter and reach for a coffee mug. The sun is shining in through the windows by the breakfast nook, and just like every other day, Joseph is already sitting there.
“Hey there handsome.” I smile as I pour myself a cup of coffee.
“Good Morning beautiful!” Returning the smile that I so love.
I add sugar and cream to my coffee and give it a stir. “Can you believe Joey is already 18? Eighteen years old! That was the age you were when I first met you, remember?”
With both hands wrapped around the mug, I savor the warmth and smell before I take a slow sip as I lean against the counter. “I remember the day I first laid eyes on you. You and your buddies came into the candy store I worked at after school, just laughing and carrying on. You walked in with that swagger of yours, not stuck up, but cool and casual, like you didn’t have a care in the world. Joey walks just like that.”
I set my coffee down, turn on the faucet to wash the few dishes that were left in the sink from last night.
“You think so? Huh, I never noticed.”
“Oh yeah.” I nod. “He is so much like you, the walk, the smile, he even sounds like you. It’s like he’s your clone.”
I am interrupted by a notification from my phone. I turn off the water and dry my hands. I was waiting on an answer from my boss to move forward on a project, and I just got the okay. I quickly respond and set my phone back down. As I look up towards the breakfast nook, Joseph is already gone. Just like he is every day.
“Oh Joseph, you would be so proud of your son. If only you were here to see him. God, I miss you.”
The last time I saw Joseph, it was a week after our honeymoon. We had gotten married during the time between his basic training and his first deployment to Afghanistan. As I hugged him goodbye, I didn’t even know I was pregnant yet. We were so young and in love, we didn’t think about the realities of war. I always pictured him coming home in his dress blues, me running into his arms as he picked me up and twirled me around.
I grab a muffin and my coffee and sit at the breakfast nook absorbing the warmth of the sun streaming through the window, memories flash through my mind like an old movie.
Joey was a little over a year old when Joseph returned home, he was too young to remember. But I remember. I’ll never forget that day. Joseph did arrive home wearing his dress blues, or at least that is what they told me. All I remember seeing are the bold colors of the stars and stripes draped over cold steel. Not the warm homecoming I envisioned. The days leading up to and after that moment are a blur, I don’t know how I made it through, but somehow, I did.
Joey was raised to honor the flag, and he knew his dad died doing what he was called to do, serving his country. Thankfully this is one area where Joey is different from his dad, and I would like to believe that it’s God’s mercy on my heartbroken soul that Joey doesn’t want to follow in his father’s footsteps and enlist. I don’t think I could find the strength to hug another soldier goodbye.
Joey wants to become a lawyer; he wants to help people fight for their rights and be instrumental in fixing the injustices of the world. His dad would be so proud of him. I’m so proud of him! It wasn’t easy raising a son all by myself. I wasn’t supposed to do any of this alone.
I finish off what’s left of my muffin. My coffee is still warm. I lean back in my chair, slowly drinking the last of it, looking out the window. Today I embraced the son that embodies the love of my life. He is every bit like the man I said goodbye to all those year ago. Yes, today is going to be a day of mixed emotions, but I choose to hold on to the happy ones. Just as I am about to get up from the table, I see a red cardinal fly into the yard and land on the top of our flagpole.
Laughing, I stand up. “Ah Joseph, you are always here, and know just how to make me feel better. Thanks honey.”
I give the bird a salute, take my dishes to the sink, and start my day.
© 2019 Carrie Ann Alexis
Hello! Wow, it has been way too long! I had to clear out the cobwebs on my blog. My life has taken me into a season where I needed to focus on some other things, but my desire to write has slowly been making its way back up to the surface. So I am super excited to return with none other than a #BlogBattle!
#BlogBattle is now a monthly short story challenge using a single word for inspiration. Which is now administered by my two talented blog friends Rachael Ritchey and E. E. Rawls, (I’ve missed you guys!) as well as Gary Jeffries.
This month’s word: Shield
“Not a word, and you won’t get hurt. We’re going for a ride.”
The voice is familiar. I am grabbed from behind and before I know it, I am pushed into a van. I recognize the guy holding the door open. As he jumps in, he slides the door shut, and we are plunged into darkness. When the guy who grabbed me flicks on a light, I have to shield my eyes from the brightness until they can focus.
“Oh, it’s you two.” I recognize Dominic’s henchmen, Marco and Jimmy, they watch my every move. I had just left the club with my friends after a much-needed night out.
“It’s always a pleasure Roni.” Marco smirks.
“What did I do wrong this time? Was it the way I was dancing? Did I drink too much? Was it the . . .”
“Shut. Up! You’ll find out soon enough.” Jimmy rubs his hand down his face. I’m surprised Jimmy even had it in him. I pegged him as the muscle of the operation, he usually doesn’t talk. He must be having a bad day.
The van comes to an abrupt stop, I hear the front door slam, as the driver gets out. I’m left with Fric and Frac.
Looking at Jimmy, Marco nods his head towards the back doors, “You and Nick, go take a walk, stretch your legs, I got this.”
Without a word, he leaves slamming the door behind him. From what I can tell we are in a nondescript parking garage.
Marco glowers, “So, the guy you were talking to at the bar. . .”
“Geeeez-us.” Shaking my head. “I should have known. All this, for that? He’s an old friend! You really have to . . .”
Marco holds up his hand to stop me from talking. “Roni, seriously, stop talking. We don’t have much time, just listen to me.”
Crossing my arms over my chest I slump back in my seat. “Fine. Then talk.”
“I’m not who you think I am, I’m on your side. Your old friend, Dennis? He is one of us. We are about to take down Dominic, and he’ll be locked up for a long time. If you don’t cooperate with us, you will go down too. But, we know how desperate you are to get away from him, so I’m thinking you will.”
“We? Who’s We?”
“I can’t get into that right now; you just have to trust me.”
“Yeah? What happens when Dominic figures out I’m helping whoever? He’ll kill me in my sleep.”
Shaking his head, “Nah, we see your every move, even at home. To keep tabs on you, Dominic recently installed video surveillance throughout your house . . .”
“Video surveillance? Are you frickin’ kidding me? So, I’ve got you and Jimmy watching me undress and take showers?”
“Roni, calm down. We don’t have access to those areas of the house. But just so you know, Dominic made it clear that he was the only one to access those cameras for his private viewing and has it securely encrypted.”
“Oh great, I feel so much better.” Rubbing my forehead as I feel the onset of a headache.
“So, here’s what’s going to happen. When you get to work on Monday, you will receive a package, it’s a burner phone and that is how we will communicate with you, leave it at work.”
“Okay. Package, phone, got it.” I count out each step on my fingers to remember.
“In a few minutes another van is going to pull up, the guy,” he emphasizes using air quotes, “you were talking to at the bar, will be dragged out and Jimmy will rough him up while I make you watch. Dominic can’t know about Dennis. So, we got a decoy. This guy, and Jimmy are one of us.”
I run my fingers through my hair to get it out of my eyes, “This is a lot to ask of me.”
“I know, I’m sorry. But I know you can do it.” He pats my knee for reassurance.
“We told Dominic that you were talking with some guy, and that we would make sure you didn’t do it again, that’s why we grabbed you. We will take you back to your car, you will go home and pretend none of this happened. Then you will wait for our instructions. Are we clear?”
“Crystal.” This is a lot to take in, for once I’m at a loss for words. I fidget with a loose string on the hem of my sweater.
“Roni. I know this is a lot to process. But you want a whole new life, away from Dominic, a fresh start. We can make that happen.”
“And how do you know what I really want?”
“We’ve got eyes and ears everywhere, you know, big brother and shit.” He shrugs like it’s no big deal that my whole existence is on display.
“That’s supposed to make me feel better?” I rub my palms on my jeans, trying to calm my nerves.
“It is what it is. In time, this will all make sense.” Marco looks at his smartwatch. “Now, it’s go time.”
When I pull into the driveway, Dominic is outside smoking a cigarette; I hate that smell. He walks towards me and meets me halfway as I walk up to the house. He puts his arm around my waist to pull me close beside him, and kisses me on the top of my head. “How was your night out Veronica?”
He uses my proper name when he is being smug, and he knows I hate it. “It was fine. It was nice to get out. What did you do?”
We enter the house and he closes the door behind him. “Not much, just watched the game.”
He grasps my hand and pulls me close for a kiss. “I know you must be tired. Why don’t you go upstairs and take a nice, long, hot shower?”
I force myself to smile and try to stop the chill racing up my spine. “It’s late, I think I’ll go right to bed.”
“Okay then, I’ll be up later. I have some uh, work to do. Don’t wait up.” He smiles as he kisses my hand, looking up at me with eyes that are filled with pure evil. How have I stayed this long?
“Good night then.” I walk up the stairs, even though I want to run.
I grab my pajamas and go to the one part of the bathroom where I know I am not being watched, close the door and sit on the toilet lid. It’s there I can finally breathe. I lean my head against the cool tile wall, thinking about my conversation with Dennis. It makes me smile and fills me with a happiness I have not felt in a long time.
It gives me hope.
© 2019 Carrie Ann Alexis