Second Chances

By: H.M. Ward

Chapter 1

"Ma'am?" The officer is sitting beside me on my little couch, his eyes full of sympathy that I don't want to see. As soon as I opened the door, the pit of my stomach dropped and a chill raced up my spine, strangling me into silence. I know why he’s here, standing tall with a second officer, both in dress blues. They are here to say the words no wife wants to hear, but he’s yet to say them. First they introduced themselves, mild smiles on their faces, and asked to come in. Then they start down the slow path to reality, one that ends with a coffin. I know how this works. I know because it’s something I’ve feared every time Cade deployed.

Just breathe. Staring blankly at Cade’s huge television hanging across the room, I continue to hold the serene smile on my face, as if they are here for tea. The surreal nature of the moment needs to be shattered, but I can’t do it.

"Ma'am, I’m afraid we’re here with bad news," the chaplain starts again, putting a hand on my shoulder and startling me back to the present. "Is there someone we can contact for you so you won't be alone?"

I shake my head and keep my eyes fixated on the TV—the TV Cade wanted so badly, with the super huge screen and the super expensive HD whosie-whatsit that he thought was so cool. I never could see a difference. Cade stood in the store gaping and excitedly pointing, explaining why this one was better, how the screen was so much sharper even though they all looked the same to me. We had gone into the mall for a blender, and came out with this. Cade was beaming, practically bouncing up and down. It seemed like a better purchase, because no kitchen appliance in the world would ever put that kind of smile on my face. Now the television sits there silently, its black screen mocking me.

I find my voice. “Just say it. I can’t bear it any longer. I know why you’re here. Just say it.” My throat is so tight that the words sound strangled. I blink once, but I don’t dare look at him.

His head lowers and he says the words I knew were coming. They float through the air and for a moment this seems like someone else’s life, not mine. But his firm hand on my shoulder, the way he grips my arm and tips his head to the side to catch my eye makes me look at him. He says, “I’m sorry for your loss. Can I call someone?”

I shake my head. The one person I want is gone.

“Ma’am, if there’s anything I can do—anything at all—please call.” He hands me a card. I take it between my fingers, noticing the smoothness of the paper on my skin. Minutia rules in moments like these. The clock ticks louder, my breathing is labored and sounds like screams in my ears. A car rolls down the street roaring like a jet engine rather than an automobile. Another tick. Another tock. A drop of water from the faucet splashes in the sink deafeningly loud.

In a zombie-like state, I walk the men to the door and thank them. I smile and go through the motions like a robot. Thank you for coming. Thank you for telling me. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Closing the door behind them, I lean back against it, my knees going weak as I remember how happy I was just a few hours ago. Today should be one of the most joyful days of my life, and instead, I'm preparing to tell everyone I know that Cade will never come home.

I knew something was wrong, but I wouldn’t let myself worry. Things happen sometimes preventing his call. I kept telling myself it was nothing, but my stomach’s been so queasy. Cade promised he would call me on Tuesday. I was grinning ear to ear since Monday night, practically bouncing up and down with news, but his call never came. Then, Wednesday and Thursday both passed without a call or even an email, but I still told myself that it was nothing. Plus my secret was burning a hole in my mouth. I had to tell him and I wanted to tell him first, so I waited—excited beyond measure—dreaming of a future that can never exist.

Pushing off the door, I walk over to the hallway table that sits by the phone. I look down at the tiny white stick that changes everything. One little word that would have made him so happy, and now he'll never know.

Suddenly, tears begin to roll down my cheeks in great globs. They fall so fast and furious, I can barely see. Picking up the pregnancy test, I clutch it to my chest as my legs give out and I sink to the floor. I pull my knees tightly into my chest and my head tips forward to rest on top of them. Bone crushing anguish races through my body as I hold fervently to that piece of plastic.

“I never got to tell him,” I say to no one.

I glance at the stick again, staring at the one word that seemed like magic a few days ago.


Now this baby is all I have left of Cade, and our child will grow up never knowing his father.

Chapter 2

I don't know how long I sit on the floor in front of the phone, staring at the word pregnant glaring up at me. I barely move when my mother kneels down beside me, wrapping her arms around me and holding me tight. She murmurs nonsense into my hair as she rocks us back and forth, before noticing what I'm clutching in my hands.

"Oh honey!" she exclaims. "When did you find out?" Her excitement is palpable, even through both of our tears.

I don’t understand how she can be happy right now, about anything. I was overjoyed about the baby when I first found out, but that happiness has been eclipsed by gut-wrenching grief. Instead of spending the next eight months sharing sonogram pictures, picking out baby names, and decorating a nursery with my husband, I will instead spend the next eight months knowing he won't ever see our baby.

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