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Finding Home - Chapter 7

Siobhan Fallon
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tagged: fiction
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Chapter 7

by Siobhan Fallon, Army spouse

Val and Lucy sat in Lucy’s living room, waiting for their dad to call. He’d spoken to Lucy yesterday and asked to schedule a time “to talk” with both sisters. This, of course, freaked them out: It could only be news about his new relationship. So the sisters had been drinking steadily from a large bottle of cheap Merlot since dinner to bolster themselves.

            The phone rang at nine o’clock on the dot. Lucy picked up. “Hello, Dad.”

            Val glanced at her empty wine glass, motioning to her sister that she’d get a refill in the kitchen. When she returned with the bottle of red, Lucy had the phone on speaker.

            “OK, Dad, let ‘er rip,” Val said. “I’m back in the room and fortified.”

            Lucy glanced at her sister and shook her head, not amused.

            Her father’s rich voice filled the room. “Well, girls, I think this will not surprise you. Rita and I want to have the wedding as soon as possible. How about a trip to Columbus, maybe in two weeks?”

            Val slugged back half of her glass while Lucy, forehead creased like an accordion, murmured quiet congratulations.

            “What’s the rush, Pops?” Val asked. “Why don’t you get to know one another for a while longer? Live it up and live in sin?”

            “VAL!” Lucy shouted. Val couldn’t restrain her laughter. Man, sometimes she really cracked herself up.

The phone was silent.

            Val continued, “C’mon, Dad. I just want to see you have some fun. Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? Right?”

            But it wasn’t her father’s voice that replied. It was Rita’s. “That’s very… noble… of you, Valerie. And I am sure you are just looking out for your father’s best interests. But I am a little more, shall we say traditionalthan you young folk.”

Lucy buried her face in her hands.

            “Oh, hi… Rita, no one told me you were on the phone,” Val replied. “Ha ha. I was totally joking.”

            Then her father’s First Sergeant voice took over, short and brisk. “Thank you, Valerie. Mark your calendar. Two weeks. Rita and I will buy a size-4 flower girl dress for Juney.” The phone abruptly disconnected.

“Seriously?” Lucy asked."'Why buy the cow when you can get the mile for free?!' Even if Rita wasn’t there, why would you say that to our father? What is wrong with you?”

Val shrugged, biting the side of her thumbnail. Her sister was right. There was something wicked in Val that always came out when there was talk of a wedding, especially when mixed with a few glasses of alcohol. “I don’t know,” she whispered. But part of her knew exactly what she was doing—right or wrong, every time someone Val loved got married, she couldn’t help but feel like she was losing them.

After the phone debacle, Lucy had demanded Val spend the night. When Val got home to her shabby studio apartment the next day, she brewed a pot of coffee and turned on her new laptop. It was the one extravagant thing she’d bought since moving to New Orleans. She had a used futon for a couch, one of Lucy’s old mattresses for her bed, and the most rickety, god-awful pea-green colored dinner table from the Salvation Army. But she had splurged on a laptop with a built-in video camera and Wi-Fi. It had been Billy’s idea.

She’d sit down at the computer, and even if there weren’t any e-mails from her husband, it still felt like a portal magically linking them together. She could hit ‘send’ and whatever words she’d strung together on the keyboard would eventually get to him thousands and thousands of miles away. It was more dependable than the mail he sometimes sent, half-legible notes he jotted on scraps of paper while on guard duty and trying to stay awake.

Of course, she kept all of those, too, in a shoebox by the bed. She’d reach inside and read one each night, liking that the last thing she saw before sleep was his handwriting. The way he wrote in miniscule capital letters made it seem if all of his sentences were being softly shouted to her from Paktika, Afghanistan.

Today there was an e-mail, and Val wouldn’t let herself read it until she had a huge creamy mug of coffee in her hands and Ella Fitzgerald crooning from her thrift-shop boom box.

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