~ Chapter Three ~
Everyone runs around the house frantically cleaning and decorating, so that everything will be perfect when my dad gets home. Luke and I, with the help of Calum, are re-hanging the "Welcome Home” banner that I knocked crooked this morning, while the others are picking up garbage and organizing anything that is out of place.
“A little to the left.” Calum says from below us. Luke is on his tip toes across from me, and I’m struggling to reach the banner even with the little step stool I have.
“No your other left!” Calum changes his mind.
“Calum,” Luke shakes his head. “Get your lefts and rights straight.”
Across the room I can see Alisha, Hayley, and Michael folding blankets and piling them in the corner. Next to them, Danielle and Ashton are… well, were, hanging more ornaments on the Christmas tree and decorating the living room. Now they are caught up in a tickle fight with some random kisses in-between.
“Ashton!” Danielle screeches loudly, causing me to jump and drop the banner.
“Faith!” Calum groans. “It was perfect!”
“Oh my gosh, you guys are so particular.” I laugh, picking my side of the banner back up and attaching it to the overhang above us, and Luke does the same.
“Wait, guys, it’s not centered!” I shift my gaze to Luke and roll my eyes. He grins back at me then grabs my hand, and we walk towards the living room. Already, the whole room looks transformed. The fireplace, which originally only had my dads and my stockings, now had one with Luke’s name on it too. In-between the three stockings, silver and gold ribbon is strung up. On the bookshelf in the far corner of the room, are red and green beads hanging over the sides. Above the fireplace mantel, there are three stars, gradually getting smaller from top to bottom. But what’s on the mantel is the thing that takes me by surprise.
“Where, where did you find these?” My gaze is locked on the countless frames upon mantel, all of which are pictures of me and my dad. But thats not what I’m asking about. Inside of the front three picture frames, behind the photos, are pieces of paper that I recognize all to well.
“The pictures?” Danielle asks in confusion. “They were on the bookshelf so I just-“
“She means the letters.” Luke interrupts quietly, giving my hand a tight squeeze. Danielle’s facial expression grows more confused, along with everyone else’s. I slowly reach my free hand up and grab one of the frames. As I remove the picture I find one of the letters, already knowing what it’s contents is. Gradually, I open it up and begin reading the dark, scribbly ink.
I hope everything is going okay back home. Scout and I are great, even better now that I got some amazing news: I will be coming home on Christmas Eve! Thats only a few months away! Just in time for us to celebrate the most wonderful day of the year together! I know I’ve been gone for a long time, and I know times are tough at home for you but things will get better, I promise. Just keep your head up.
I imagine it must be hard, being a seventeen year old girl all alone at home. But I know your mother would be proud of you. I want you to know that-
The letter gets cut off there. A large chunk is missing in the page that is burned around the edges. I’ve wanted to ask him what he wanted me to know for so long, and tomorrow I’ll finally be able to.
I feel Luke’s other hand grab mine thats holding the letter as a few tears slip from my eyes. “Hey, don’t worry, he’ll be home before you know it.”
“I know, I know.” I wipe away my tears quickly, and take a deep breath. “I guess I just don’t believe that it’s true.” I’ve had speculations about him coming home for so long now, that my mind almost doesn’t understand it.
“How,” Alisha speaks up. “How long has it been since he’s written?” I think about it for a moment, and realize how long it’s actually been.
“Five… Five months.” Everyday since he sent that last letter, I’ve been waiting for another. I’ve never replied, not because I didn’t want to but because I couldn’t. There’s some rule with the military group my father works in that he can’t communicate with the outside world while in work, which is all the time. He’s not even supposed to be sending letters to me, but one of our close family friends is my fathers main commander. He allows my dad to send me letters because of this, as long as I don’t reply.
“Why haven’t you asked him what the rest of the letter was supposed to say?” Hayley asks, seeming to read my thoughts.
I explain to her why I can’t write back to him, and she starts to understand.
“So he’s… He’s breaking the law?” Michael asks, almost mortified.
“I guess you could say that.” I say solemnly.
“Wow.” Danielle sighs. “He really cares about you a lot, if he’s willing to risk breaking rules to send a little letter.”
“I’ve never really thought about it like that before.” I consider what she said for a minute. Every time he puts pen to paper with the words, “Dear Faith,” he’s risking getting thrown out of the army, which would put us in the worst debt imaginable.
“Luke,” I start to worry about the military finding out about the letters. "Luke what if they find out? What if he gets dismissed from the military?”
“Faith, that’s not going to h-“ He tries to speak but I cut him off.
“We would be in financial ruin!” I cry out.
“Faith don’t worry it-"
“We’d have no money! We’d lose the house, we’d lose Scout, we’d lose everything!”
“Faith, Faith stop being ridiculous!” Luke exclaims strongly, which intimidates me. He pulls his hands away from mine, and strides into the kitchen were he paces back and forth. Suddenly, I find new tears coming to my eyes. He never raises his voice with me, ever. He always is so understanding and helps me calm down when I start freaking out about something. We’ve never had a real fight before, not once. I mean sure, I’ve gotten mad at him for forgetting something I asked him to do or something meaningless like that, but never has he yelled at me. Never.
A sharp pain abruptly shows up in my heart, and it doesn’t go away. In fact, I think it gets stronger. Is this what heartbreak feels like? Please Lord tell me this isn’t heartbreak, I can’t lose Luke, I can’t. With the pain still present in my chest I shift my gaze to the window. Outside, the snow is falling like crazy, the wind is roaring, and the trees are swaying quickly back and forth. The image I see out there, is what I feel happening inside of me. I look over to Alisha who gives me a sympathetic frown and mouths the words, “I’m sorry.” She turns to Calum and gestures her head towards the door, and they quietly file out of the house, leaving me almost alone.
I must of been sobbing louder by this point, because Luke rapidly turns around. A wave of regret flashes across his face once his eyes lock with mine and he sees the pain he just inflicted upon me. He runs back over to where he left me standing in a puddle of pain, and puts his arms on my shoulders.
“No, no, no, no.” He wipes away my tears with the back of his hand. “Faith, no. No I didn’t mean that, I didn’t mean it. I didn’t mean to yell at you.”
I turn away from him so that his hands fall from my shoulders and whimper the words; “Then why did you?”
“I, I don’t know… I don’t know.” He shakes his head, and I can tell he’s beating himself up inside. “I just… Faith, if your dad lost his job, you should know I would support you guys! I’d never let you two just plummet and loose everything! I have money to spare, you know that.”
“But I don’t want to take your money Luke!” I weep. “I’ve told you it before, and I’ll tell you again. I, I won’t take it from you!”
“We’re practically family Fay!” He uses the nickname he gave me on our second date, and I feel my insides twist. “My money might as well be yours!”
“Can we… Can we just not have this conversation Luke, please?” I whimper. I feel his arms wrap around my waist and even though my mind tells me I should push him away again, I don’t.
“Alright, alright. I just want you that I’m always here for you. Okay?”
“It’s getting late, you should get to bed.” He rests his chin on my head as he speaks. “Don’t you think?” I nod in response and he walks me to my room. Sitting down on my bed, I wipe away the rest of my tears on my sleeve. Luke places a kiss on my forehead, and whispers goodnight, before standing up to leave.
“Wait.” I call after him, making him turn around and lean on the doorway. “Stay with me.” He smiles and walks back over to the bed, crawling under the covers with me. He plants a kiss on my lips which I willingly accept, before falling asleep against his chest.
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"I'm always here for you, Okay?"