Finding Home - Chapter 1
by Siobhan Fallon, Army spouse
Val had a small backpack and a return bus ticket, which made her feel untethered and free as she walked toward Bourbon Street. It was drizzling and there was music in the air; the sound seemed part of the drops that fell lightly on her denim jacket and she stopped to listen to a man in a wheelchair fill the sunset with his trombone’s song. She put five dollars in his jar, knowing Billy would like that.
Billy always gave too much money to the open hands and empty coffee cups held in his direction. He had a kindness Val wished he hid a little better, a kindness that made him easy to hurt, and she wasn’t proud that she was the one who usually hurt him.
Yesterday, they’d fought on the phone. Billy had forgotten to tell her he changed his debit pin number and Val hadn’t been able to use it at Publix to get groceries. It wasn’t a big deal, but it embarrassed her in front of the cashier who chewed gum in the side of her mouth and looked Val over as if she was a thief. Val used her credit card to pay, but yelled at Billy anyway, said he wasn’t looking out for her, that after only a month he’d forgotten her already. Her voice got too loud as she asked him what he would forget next. To deposit money in their joint checking account? Maybe he’d forget her birthday, or the color of her eyes?
As soon as the words were out of her mouth she regretted them, but she was someone who only said sorry when it was too late. She knew this and yet it didn’t make apologizing any easier. Billy, in his Billy way, laughed gently, said there was no way he would forget Val because her hot temper would be chasing him all night in his dreams.
Then he told her he’d try to call again in a week. A week. A whole week of feeling miserable and not able to do anything except wait for his call. A week to kill, and it made her want to be in New Orleans. Billy had been raised not far outside the city, so New Orleans felt like the closest she could get to him, walking around in a place full of his memories.
She took the 5:55 a.m. Greyhound bus out of Atlanta, and twelve hours later she was here, in this oddly magical place of ornate iron balconies brimming with ferns and flowers, horse-and-carriage buggies clomping down the street, old-fashioned street lanterns casting an antiqued glow over everything. She could even see the shine of metallic beads caught at the top of a lamppost, twinkling ?in the last light, a ghost of Mardi Gras past and future.
Val had always wanted to see New Orleans, the French Quarter, the parades and floats and general debauchery of the place. When her sister, Lucy, moved here four years ago after her wedding to a Navy man, Val assumed she would visit. But the silence between them stretched out, and now it had been nearly that long since Val had heard her sister’s voice.
The wheelchair bound trombone player switched from "Mack the Knife" to "Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen." The song welled up, tinged with grief, and Val moved on, trying to get out of earshot of the sudden sadness. She’d make everything OK with Billy. Of course she would. She felt around in her pocket for her list of local dishes he loved.
Sign up for the Military Spouse weekly email, and never miss out on our most popular topics.
The Creep I Found In My Crawlspace
At first, my neighbor’s invitation to her Tupperware party made me apprehensive. On the con side, it would be late in the evening (during my son’s bedtime), I’d miss out on TV time with my husband...
Finding Home - Chapter 9
Chapter 9 by Siobhan Fallon, Army spouse Lucy looked exactly the way Jim felt: She looked as if she had spent the past nine months hoping against all hope that the person she loved most would retur...
I Left My Heart in Old Town - Part 1
The Day of the Dead festivities at Old Town in San Diego were in full swing. Decorations adorned the historic buildings, as well as the recreated ones, too. The Spanish historic town that was so ...
A: Dear Sally, My friend dumped me because my husband was promoted and hers was not, how do I deal with this? -- Rank Ruined Friendship Dear Rank... Read more.
A: My husband comes home from his first deployment soon. We have only been married a little over a year and he has been deployed most of that time.... Read more.
A: My husband is deployed and they are scheduled to be coming home soon. I keep seeing other spouses in the unit posting stuff like dates and locatio... Read more.
A: I know lots of people who hate base housing, but I really like living on base. Well, I did until my new neighbors moved in... they are driving me... Read more.
A: At what point should we let our kids have a say in whether or not we accompany their dad on his next PCS? Our children, ages 15 and 17, have really... Read more.