Frank Kearney had no choice when he was drafted into the war almost 40 years ago, to leave his Ellie behind. There was something about her from the moment he laid eyes on her...he knew she would be the one. Sure, he was young, but at 19 it seemed as if he had lived a life time just to meet her.
He loved the way her strawberry-blonde hair framed her freckled face. Her blue eyes chimed with warmth and her smile took the breathe from his lungs. She had a voice that was sweet and yet somewhat raspy. And when she giggled...her whole face beamed and lit up every dark corner and creavice of the room. Frank considered himself quite lucky when she agreed to that first date, that first kiss, that first night together. She was the real deal, the pounding in his heart told him so.
And yet, his pending departure to fight a war in another country...well...it scared him. He knew he would face some pretty terrific stuff over there...but the thought of not being near Ellie for any given time scared him. Ellie was his life and the absence of her equated to lifelessness. But what had to be done, had to be done, and Frank set it in his mind to come back in one piece...and to marry her when he returned.
Their last moments together, were filled with tears and kisses and a sturdy clinging. It seemed that all the world was right when he was in his Ellie's arms. When he had to go...he could hear his heart pounding through his body like a drummer leading the troops off to war. He couldn't look back. He'd only look forward, to a time when he could run toward her, when he could run home and be in her arms once again.
Vietnam was more of a challenge than Frank had anticipated. It was more like a nightmare that wouldn't end. He thought of Ellie everyday and wrote when he could, which was far short of often enough. Frank wasn't real sure if he'd ever make it home to be with his Ellie again. He had seen too much in this war...too much fighting and death...and the realization hit him that he wasn't exempted by any means. It could be his turn next and the possiblity of him ever seeing his Ellie again was not stacked in his favor. He didn't like his odds...not one bit.
Through two tours in 'Nam and surviving a blast that landed him on his backside, devoid of his left arm and with severe scarring down his left side, somehow Frank held on to a picture of his Ellie. If it was his wounded pride or just plain fear that she would no longer accept him, he wasn't sure, but bringing himself to call her or write her to tell her what had happened was something he found he could not do.
What kind of man was he? He was no longer whole, no longer in one piece. He couldn't accept what had happened to himself, so how could she? And above all, if he wasn't man enough to face her...then perhaps he wasn't good enough for her after all. Marrying her was out of the question.
He had to let her go. He had to move forward through a nightmare he didn't want her to be a part of. She would be better off without him. And as much as it pained him to do so...he proceeded to live quietly, a few counties over making a life without Ellie.
Sure, he eventually married another girl and they had one boy. But he never really loved her deep down. The marriage failed from all of his attempts to compare this wife to his Ellie. The child grew up to be a fine man, but distant from the father that never really accepted him as his own. He found himself facing the demons of alcohol and drugs. And then trying to recover from them. His life was never truly what it should have been. The lifelessness had definitely set in.
Frank found himself in need of medical care and made an appointment to visit a VA hospital a few counties over. He brought with him the necessary documents and records needed for the visit and a list of medications he was already taking. He went through the motions of the visit and after the doctor changed somethings around, the doctor sent in a nurse to explain his new medications and side effects.
She walked in without looking up and said, "Hello, Mr. Kearney." and with the sound of her sweet, raspy voice from across the room, he knew immediately it was her.
She was older now...but her beauty had not diminished. His heart thumped and pounded as he looked forward...seeing her just as he had seen her almost 40 years ago. He could tell that his staring had caused her some uneasiness because she had not recognized him the way he had immediately recognized her. How could she though? He didn't look the same after 40 years, with one less arm and scarring that frightened most onlookers.
When she was finished, he stood and left the room quickly. Headed for the front of the building toward the pharmacy. What were the chances of meeting his Ellie here today? He walked out into the hall and stopped half way down and tears consumed him. Everything in him wanted to turn around and run back in that patient room...and yet the fear of rejection set in and he was suddenly paralyzed in his tracks.
"Sir?" He startled as he heard her calling. "Excuse me, Mr. Kearney?" Slowly he turned to face her. Gently wiping the tears from his face, he heard her pause. "Here Frank, you forgot your prescriptions." at that very moment the inflection in her voice told him that she had recognized not only the name but the face as well.
Tears fell softly down his cheeks, his half scarred face was beat red of embarrassment. He held out his one good arm so she could hand him the scripts.
"Frank?" he could hear the almost disbelief in her voice. Then she beamed a smile that shattered the darkness around them. "Is it really you?" Instead of handing him his scripts, she took his hand and pulled him in.
They both knew the answer. He about collapsed from the excitement of this moment. He felt such happiness and at the same time such shame. Why had he hesitated all those years? Why had he let stubborness and pride over take him and let her get away? And looking in her eyes, none of that seemed to matter. She pulled him into a full body embrace and clung to him tight. "My goodness, it is so good to see you." she whispered with a small sob of her own.
Standing there in his Ellie's arms, he was where he should have been all along. It was then that Frank realized that if he lived his whole life for just this one moment...then it had all been worth it somehow.