Number of Photo: 31
Story Title: Honour
Story Rating: T
Story Summary: Showing a hero exactly how much they mean to you.
The soft rain drummed a steady tattoo on her large umbrella as she stood and looked, unseeing through her tears, at the fresh grave in front of her. The flowers of the many wreathes drank up the steady rainfall as they lay across the mound of deep brown earth which was being splashed onto her shoes. For once, she couldn't bring herself to care.
After what seemed like hours, but in reality was only a few minutes, she finally felt strong enough to begin the slow process of composing herself. Wiping her tears away with one of his plain, white, cotton handkerchiefs, she started to feel a little more human rather than simply a shell of someone left behind. A gentle smile made the corners of her mouth twitch as she thought back to the summer two years previous.
His passing out ceremony had taken place on a blazing hot parade square completely open to the extreme elements. She had half expected to collapse from the heat that felt as thick as honey, making it almost impossible to breathe. She, and the numerous family and friends of the others in the regiment had, mercifully, been under the cover of a huge marquee whilst the newest members of the British Army stood proud and tall in their freshly laundered uniforms and their highly polished boots. When she had finally gotten to hug and congratulate him after the long day, he was drenched in sweat. Three weeks later, he was dispatched to Basra in Afghanistan, complete with the watch she had given him on that ridiculously hot day.
A lingering feeling of dread had followed her around for months as she constantly worried about him. He had been so far away, fighting for the freedom of another country. Yet a small sliver of happiness dampened her fears, safe in the knowledge that he was doing the only job he ever wanted to have, a career he loved and wanted to excel in. And knowing him the way she did, she had no doubt that he would fight tooth and nail to do just that. He would climb the ladder and reach his goal methodically. She had every faith in him doing just that, and when he did, he would be set up for the rest of his life.
Remembering him wasn't as hard as she thought it would be so soon after he had... gone. As long as she only thought about the good times. The others... well, they could wait a while.
Thinking back to finally meeting him off the plane at the air base for his first R&R, she could almost feel the shock that had rushed through her at the sight of how much weight he'd lost in just six months. The heat and the absence of a fully balanced diet will do that to a boy, no man, of over six foot in height. He shouldn't have his ribs shine through his skin. Nor should his muscles be so defined that they were almost his only stand out feature.
They spent all their time together, creating new memories for him to take back to keep him going through the next six months of his tour. They spent a lot of time laughing over nothing in particular and everything that came across their paths. A camera was their faithful companion as they never stayed in one place long enough, and wanted to record their every moment together.
But they didn't spend all their time alone, no, that would have sent them insane, because they knew that soon, they would be separated again. Instead, they met up with others. Some of his colleagues, also home on R&R, and longtime friends who had missed and worried about him. There was more than one night spent at the pub, drinking and catching up. Again, the camera was utilised and many an embarrassing picture was tagged on Facebook. Pictures of him smiling as he was able to just let loose and forget what he had seen on the front line, even if just for a few hours. They were soon to become her most prized possession, and she spent hours gazing at them, remembering his smile as if he were just in the next room.
Saying goodbye that second time, knowing he was going back to a place where high numbers of servicemen and women often came back in an ambulance or worse, a coffin, was almost too much for her to bear. She withdrew into herself for a while, causing her friends and family to worry about her, not knowing what to do to bring her out of it. Eventually, her own life was brought to the forefront of her mind three weeks after he left. She discovered she was five weeks pregnant. Knowing that someone was now totally dependent on her for survival not only scared her, it excited her. He was the first person she told when she found out. He had happened to phone her as she waited for the test, his timing as impeccable as ever. Once he recovered the ability to speak, he couldn't explain how over the moon he was. He told her that this, more than anything, gave him a reason to return home alive and in one piece.
At least once a fortnight, he would call her to make sure that she was eating properly and going to all her appointments. It made her so happy that he used up his limited calling cards to make sure she was OK. After all, he was the one who was in a war zone literally fighting for his life. He always ended their calls by telling her he loved her. When she had her 'hormonal' moments, her family rallied round and helped her to remember the good times and to look toward the future. In return, once a month, she made sure she sent him a package of things she knew he missed and included a picture of her and her expanding waistline enabling him to keep track of her pregnancy as much as possible.
The day she went for the scan which told her she was going to have a son, she decided to call him Edward, in his honour. There was no other possible name for her baby, she felt that it was the most fitting compliment to her hero. When he came back in one piece, she knew he would always be there for her, and the boy he would help her raise. Her family supported and was pleased by her decision. They helped her to get prepared by helping her buy everything she needed, most of it in blue. She loved to sit in the newly decorated nursery and picture her baby boy growing up in the room she had designed, just for him.
Three weeks before her due date, as she waddled aimlessly around the house making sure everything was just right, he suddenly appeared in her front room. She moved as fast as she could to get into the safety of his embrace. He stroked her hair and reassured her that he was real and was there to stay. He would be there for her for as long as she wanted him. That had made her laugh. She punched him in the arm and told him she would always want him around. She loved him, simple as that.
They were, yet again, inseparable. He had gone into 'protective' mode. He made her sit down constantly, doing everything for her. It drove her crazy, but she knew he did it because he loved her as much as she loved him. Eventually, she sat him down and told him that she was pregnant, not terminal and was able to cook for them, walk to the bathroom and tuck herself into bed. He pouted a bit at this revelation, but agreed to let her be her own person, unless he thought she was pushing herself too far.
He took her shopping for any last minute things that she needed, or hadn't thought of buying. He insisted on paying and soon enough, she was ready to bring baby Edward into the world. Then the nightmares started. She'd wake in the middle of the night, screaming for her baby, causing him to pull her close to him and hold her until she fell back to sleep. She told him it was just pre birth nerves that all first time mothers experienced from what she'd heard, but she was scared. What if something happened to her baby? What if she did something wrong? She never divulged these thoughts, knowing it would worry him even more.
Two days before her due date, he was there, by her side, holding her hand as she delivered baby Edward. Tears and smiles adorned both of their faces as they gazed happily into the small boy's scrunched up face. Once she was settled into the ward for an overnight stay, he gently kissed her on the forehead and left to go home, promising to be back early the next day with anything she needed.
Waking up to feed her son and finding her father instead of him sat next to her bed, eyes red from crying scared her. Gently, he had told her the news. Her hero was dead. She barely remembered anything after that crushing statement. Eventually, she was able to piece together the information to discover that he had been on his way home when a drunk driver ploughed into him. She couldn't believe it. All that time in Afghanistan trying to stay safe for her, he lost his life at home. What a waste of a life of someone who put his life on the line for others.
The preparations for his funeral were handled without her input. The British Army dealt with most of it as he was a serving member. Her son was the only thing that kept her from completely losing all control. He was her sole reason for getting out of bed each day. His unfocused eyes, his tiny hands and feet fascinating her as he lay in her arms or in his crib.
The service itself was a blur. She gripped the pushchair handles as the priest spoke of him in glowing terms. Many members of his regiment stood, resplendent in their uniforms throughout the church and beside the grave. The only time she was able to show any sign of being aware of what was happening around her was when her body flinched at the sound of the gun salute as his body was lowered into the ground. That was when the tears started to fall, when everything started to feel real. He was really gone, never coming back to hold her or make her smile. She never noticed the other mourners start to disperse, giving her time to say her goodbyes in private.
"I don't know how I'll cope without you. You were always the strong one." she whispered. "I'm scared to even try." she admitted.
"Alice?" She turned to look at Jasper, pushing their son in his covered pushchair dressed in full uniform. "It's time to go honey." She nodded and turned back to the fresh grave which now encased her beloved twin brother, her hero, once again. She glanced down to find the folded Union Flag that had been given to her before her brother's coffin had been lowered into the ground. Fresh tears started to streak her face again. How could she not remember being given it, or even seeing it draped carefully over the coffin which had been reverently carried by the six pallbearers from his regiment?
"Goodbye." she repeated, this time her voice stronger as Jasper's presence soothed her fears of the future.
She walked over to her recently returned fiancee and looked in on her sleeping boy. "Your Uncle Edward was a real hero, just like daddy... I'll tell you all about him when you're older," she whispered before standing up and kissing Jasper's cheek.