"The car broke down," he said into the cell phone as he jogged down the road, toward the lights of the nearest town. 'Look, I'm trying to get there as fast as I can."
"Don't rush. They say . . . I'm fine for now . . . ."
"I'm gonna be there," he said, puffing slightly as he ran, the sky darkening overhead as the sun finished setting.
"You've always been there for me," she replied, and he heard the smile in her voice. "I'm not scared now."
"But I am," he whispered.
"I'm about seventeen miles out," he said, and his smile returned as he heard her voice. The rain was slashing down as he screamed down the highway at speeds beyond legal.
"I hope you make it," she said, her tone faint, but content.
"I'll get there, I promise," he said firmly, and she laughed, the sound light and pleasant.
"You remember, when our first was on the way?"
"Yeah," he said, smiling. "I had to commandeer the Ragnarok to get there on time."
"You remember his first cries, right?" she asked, and he nodded.
"I do. I'm not going to be late."
"You don't need to hurry," she explained. "Its not like you can save me this time."
"It doesn't matter," he whispered.
Ellen Kadowaki waited until he was finished, before sitting down in the chair across from him. She had seen it plenty of times, including with her own mother. A doctor was trained for this kind of moment, but it still hurt her deeply to see him, of all people . . . .
"She had something to say before she moved on," she said, and he looked up, his eyes rimmed in red. He was still hurting, and would be hurting for a long time, but Ellen hoped the words would comfort him.
"She said she'd wait for you," the doctor spoke. "No matter how long it took, she'd wait at the gates, and tell them she couldn't go in without you. Paradise wouldn't be complete without you."
He was silent for along while, and she watched his head sink down, and he put his face in his palms, but he no longer shook.
They hadn't found it before it was too late. Shrapnel, internal hemorrhaging . . . .
"Why . . . ." he whispered.
The office door swung open, and he looked up. The man who walked inside was clad in full dress uniform, armed and ready for work and combat. He stood at attention and swiftly saluted.
"Reporting as requested, sir," he said, his voice perfectly military. Not even a Galbadian SeeD was that stiff and rigid. In all honesty, the Commander blamed himself.
"I am not 'Sir,'" he stated, standing up. "Not anymore, and especially not to you. I am your father."
"With all due respect, I'll refer to you as 'sir,' sir."
Both men were silent for a short while, and the Commander finally shook his head.
"Is this an order, sir?"
"You don't call a civilian 'sir,' do you?"
The other man was silent for a second, confused, and the Commander sighed. He reached up, and pulled the silver chain necklace off his neck, yanked it over his head, and extended it out toward his son.
"You've never forgiven me, and I'm not going to ask for forgiveness now. What happened to your mother was my fault." The younger man looked at the necklace, and raised a hand slowly, taking it with hesitation. The Commander then lifted his right hand and took off a single silver ring, and gave it to his son, before turned and walking across the office to a large, wall-mounted sword case. He flipped it open, to reveal a long gunblade, of shining, polished steel and emblazoned with a crouching, winged lion. He took the sword off the mount, and turned toward the younger figure.
"This is yours now," he said.
The other man looked down at the weapon, his confusion complete, and his father finally closed his eyes.
"I'm dying," he whispered.
"Ellen says its getting critical," he muttered, wiping his hand on the marble stone. "Says I should be in bed, but I'm not going to die in a gown with a catheter stuck in me."
He looked up as he sank to his knees, and rested his elbows on the altar.
"I . . . never forgave you for what happened. Over two decades . . . She was everything to me, and you took her away."
The old man closed his eyes. A thumb traced over his face, long the bridge of his nose, and the ancient, rough tissue there.
"She believed," he said. "She had faith. I never did. I never thought there was something beyond, a higher power, not with all the killing I've done in my life, all the men I've sent to die . . . ."
He opened his eyes, and looked up past the altar.
"But she's waiting for me."
With that, he lowered his head, and closed his eyes. His fingers clasped together, and he put his forehead against his hands.
"Forgive me," he whispered.
The crowds had left, and the meadows were silent, the stones inert. He peered down at the headstone, and shook his head as the breeze rustled the green blades and verdant leaves.
"They found him on the altar, ya know," said the old man behind him. "Said he must have gone while kneeling there, praying."
"Strange," spoke the old woman, her once strong voice a faint, harsh crack.
"Never thought he would have gone this way," said the other old man, shaking his head. He ran a finger over his scar, and then through his silver hair. "Always thought he would have died on the battlefield, the way he was meant to be, especially after she went on."
The cemetery was silent, neither wind nor person speaking at that moment. After a small forever of reverent stillness, he nodded.
"Goodbye, old friend," he whispered, and walked away.
You waited for me . . . .
I promised I would.
Are you ready?
For eternity? Together?
I heard a rather sad country song on the radio where I work that inspired this little bit of text, where a woman was telling her husband over the phone that she didn't care if he was late, while he was hurrying to the hospial while she was dying. Everytime I hear it I tear up during the final verses, because they're being spoken by the doctor after he arrives too late, about the wife waiting at Heaven's gates for him. The idea got stuck in my head, so I tried to do something I don't normally do: write a somewhat disjointed, melencholy, and simplistic story, while covering a wide number of concepts and themes. Hopefully I delivered well on it, and I left a lot up to the reader's imagination as to what happened between each segment.
Until next story . . . .