|The Harder They Fall
Author: LadyExcalibur2010 PM
Outtakes from "The Bigger They Are" from different POVs. Won't make much sense without reading Bigger. Bella is a military widow with four sons, Edward is a confirmed bachelor and career soldier. He only does casual, but she's got lots of baggage.Rated: Fiction M - English - Romance/Drama - Bella & Edward - Chapters: 57 - Words: 121,585 - Reviews: 2,615 - Favs: 806 - Follows: 833 - Updated: 03-21-11 - Published: 06-15-10 - id: 6054708
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The Harder They Fall
Outtakes from "The Bigger They Are" from Bella's POV. These won't make sense without reading the other story. No need to leave reviews if that isn't your thing. If you like it, then thank you. This story just needs to come out, so I'm obeying the muse and hoping she'll have pity on me.
#1 Two Men at the Door
I heard the knock on the door, but it didn't register at first. I was finally sleeping, that elusive healing trace that came with so much difficulty now that I was alone in the bed again. I reached over out of habit, but Mac's side of the bed was empty…cold. Fuck. Then I sat up in the lonely bed and realized that it had been the knock on the door that woke me up. I glanced at the clock.
Shit. Six fifteen in the morning? No good news ever arrived at that time. My heart began thumping hard in my chest. Dread settled in, bone deep. I shrugged on a robe and tripped down the stairs. I could see the figures of two men in the illumination from the porch light. I always left the lights on all night when Mac was gone. I'd left the lights on a lot during our marriage. I felt my loneliness as a sharp blade slicing through me, right through the middle, but the two men waiting at my door caused fear to wash through me. Terror trumped lonely.
I squared my shoulders. I could do this. I was an Army wife. We knew the score. Even as I opened the door I knew. Any of my neighbors would have known too. We looked for that car, even when we didn't. Some part of our head was always waiting…just waiting… We had seen the car stop at other houses; all of us had seen other families shattered. And we waited for our turn. But we never expected it.
Most of us on this street had someone over there…in harm's way. For some reason, that phrase made me want to laugh. It sounded almost…poetic. But war wasn't poetic. It was hot and dirty and deadly.
And Mac was in the thick of it.
Dawn had just begun to spread its golden light on the Texas landscape. I blinked up at the two men in uniform. "Mrs. Isabella James?" It was the taller one, and his voice and face were kind…and full of pity.
The world swayed and tilted and suddenly they were leading me back into the house. They said a lot of words, but only a few of them were important. Dead. Killed in action. McCarty Emmett James. Someone will be in touch. Words, just words. Worthless, useless words and I refused to pay attention.
"If you need anything." The taller one shifted uneasily. What a shit job he had. "Hello, Mrs. Fill in the Blank. I'm sorry to inform you that your husband has made the ultimate sacrifice and died in the service of his country." In that moment, I hated him. What was he doing here in the States, safe and in his clean, crisp uniform while my husband was out there dying?
Did I need anything? Was he serious?
Hell yes I needed something. I needed Mac. I needed my husband. But he wasn't coming home. Never again. Then there were other arms around me. I looked. It was Linda, my next door neighbor. They always called a friend or neighbor. I knew the drill. Linda was a good choice, steady and stolid. She wouldn't crack under the pressure. She'd keep me from doing anything stupid. Or at least she'd try.
Her husband Ray was serving with Mac. We had lived next door to each other for two years now. We got along fine. She was a little older than I was, but my kids liked hers. That was good enough for me.
Now she was here to hold me while I tried to make sense of the news that my husband had been killed. I realized then that I hadn't caught the words that explained exactly what happened. Sniper fire? IED? Mortar fire? Vehicle rollover? It seemed there were a thousand ways to die in a war. Mac and I had talked about that one time. I didn't like to recall the conversation now.
Linda was crying. Wait. That was me. I didn't realize it until Linda handed me a tissue and pulled me close. In that moment, she felt a little like my mother and so I just sobbed. It was shock mostly at that point. I couldn't feel the grief yet. The pain hadn't hit me. Not yet. It would. It was coming like a beast of prey. I could feel it stalking me. I could feel its hot breath on my neck.
Oh yes, I was going to hurt. I was going to go down. It was going to be a big hurt, the kind that separates your life into "before" and "after."
Then there were two small hands wrapping around mine and I looked up to see Jakey. He looked distorted, but I figured out that was just the tears. I hugged him so tight I think he hurt a little bit, so I let up. He buried his face in my neck.
"What's wrong, Mama?" He hadn't called me Mama in a year. Last year I became Mom. He informed me that kindergartners don't call their mothers Mama. My baby knew. My wise old soul, of course he knew.
I couldn't answer him; I couldn't say the words. Linda offered to go get the other boys for me. Was I ready? Hell no. But I had to do it all the same. That was part of the job. I was an Army wife and I'd do the job, same as Mac did his.
But suddenly, I wanted my own father with me more than almost anything in the world. Except for Mac. I wanted Mac more. But he was gone.
Then Emmett was standing there, his lower lip quivering, his expression defiant, and his eyes full of tears he wouldn't shed. He had taken one look at the uniforms and his face had shifted. I'd watched him grow up in that instant. His childhood was over and he knew it.
Seth stumbled down next, blinking sleepily. He looked at Emmett and started crying. My smart, sensitive boy. Of course he knew too. They were Army brats; they knew the score too. They'd been to the funerals. They had seen their friends pack up and move away when a parent died over there. We lived on base. Death and early morning visits were just a fact of life. Death. Life. Did it really matter anymore?
Then Sam, slipping his hand into mine and squeezing hard. He hated waking up early, but he was wide awake today. Like most children, he had an instinct for reading situations that adults think they can hide. By now Jake and Seth were both crying, but not Emmett. Not Sam. Sam was clenching his jaw and trying to listen to what the men in uniforms were trying to say. It almost seemed like he wanted to take notes.
Linda was nodding and answering them. I was silent, except the heaving breaths. I couldn't get enough air. That was the problem.
"I'm going upstairs for a minute," I called out and rushed up to our bathroom. My bathroom now, I supposed. No, not mine. We'd be moving soon. That's how it worked.
I barely made it to the toilet before my stomach emptied itself out. I hugged the white porcelain toilet for a long time, a lifetime. My stomach heaved and roiled and protested. Mac couldn't be gone.
No. He had promised me he'd come home. He had promised me that things would be better and he'd be home with me and our boys. Promises made. Promises broken.
Then I was rocking back and forth on the bathroom floor and I heard a keening cry that sounded like an animal caught in a trap, chewing off its own leg just to get free. Get free. Get free. Get away!
Escape the pain. Oblivion is better than this agony…
Anger was better than pain. The rage fluttered at the edges of my pain.
So I let the anger flow in, I welcomed it. I fucking reveled in it.
"Fuck you, Mac. Fuck you." I pounded the floor with my fists. The white tile floor was soon smeared with streaks of red. I couldn't figure out why or what it was. No matter. I kept hitting. Better to hit than to cry. Pound. Pound. Slap. The sweet stinging pain of my hands was a relief. Red anger fluttering around me, holding me fast in its grip. It was safe there, no pain allowed.
But the anger couldn't be sustained. It abandoned me and the pain flowed right back to its rightful place.
The bathroom floor was cool against my cheek. I should have mopped it. I would have mopped it if I'd known.
Mac. Oh God Mac, how am I going to go on without you?
Mac! You promised. You lied.
And I was alone.