Home > Consolation (Salvation #3)

Consolation (Salvation #3)
Author: Corinne Michaels

To Crystal, there are few women who can endure the life you do.

You’re strong, beautiful, and no one’s consolation prize.

I hope you never lose your sparkle.

 

 

“Oh, Chloe, if you’d like to come out, please wait until your Daddy gets back,” I insist, holding my belly as another Braxton Hicks contraction hits. I grip the dresser and try to breathe through it. It seems like they’re coming more frequently.

Once it passes, I try to finish what I came in here for. Aaron is away, but I want the nursery done so we can enjoy the next few weeks once he returns. I walk around what will be her room, putting a few more of the pretty pink dresses in the drawers. Aaron and I have fought about the vast array of pink things that are now strewn around the house—he hates it, I love it.

He insisted we paint her room in camouflage. Brown, green, and black camouflage for a girl? No. I almost sent myself into labor with that argument. I got home and he and Mark were drawing it out on the walls. I launched various household items at Mark while throwing him out of the house. My husband found out shortly after how much he could suffer by my hands. I may not be a SEAL, but you don’t mess with me either. In the end, I won with purple walls and the sheer netting around her white crib.

“Daddy’s going to love this room, Chloe. I can’t wait to see his face when he sees the pretty butterflies.” Needing to take another break, I sit in the rocking chair and rub my stomach. It soothes me knowing she’s in there. I can protect her—it’s my job. I love being pregnant and it’s a miracle we were able to conceive her. I’ve already told Aaron I want to try for another one as soon as she’s born. I close my eyes and sink, allowing the world to fade away.

I imagine holding her in my arms, sitting here in this chair, soothing and kissing her. I picture Aaron with her asleep on his chest as she gets to hear his heartbeat. She’ll own his world and have him wrapped around her finger.

Knock, knock, knock.

I hear the door, but it takes me a few seconds to get out of the chair.

KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK.

They bang louder this time.

“Coming!” I yell at the door. Jeez, give me a second.

Waddling to the door takes me a minute since I’m the size of a whale.

I open the door and see Mark Dixon, Aaron’s boss and close friend. He works at Cole Security Forces with Aaron and served with him for years. His head is hanging low and when he looks up, his eyes are full of sorrow.

“What’s wrong?”

“Lee,” he chokes on the one syllable of my name. The one Aaron uses. Something is definitely not right.

“What happened?” I ask again as I begin to shake.

Tears fill his eyes and I know. I know my life is never going to be the same. I know everything I’ve ever feared is about to come true because Mark doesn’t cry. Mark wouldn’t be at my door if something weren’t really, really wrong. “It’s Aaron.”

My heart stops beating and the world I live in ceases to exist. “Don’t,” I beg with tears blurring my vision and my breath accelerating.

This can’t be happening.

“Please, don’t, Mark. Please,” I beg him again, because once he says it . . . but I know it’s futile. It doesn’t matter because he can’t stop it. It’s already happened.

“Natalie, I’m so sorry.”

The dreaded words that every military wife fears. Only I wasn’t supposed to have to worry about this anymore. We were done. We got out. I wasn’t supposed to ever fear this again.

Please, God, don’t take him from me. Please!

“But, I’m p-pregnant. I’m having a baby,” I stammer as if that will somehow make none of this real. “He said he’d be back. He said he . . .” I trail off as it becomes difficult to breathe. My hand flies to my mouth to stifle the scream about to escape. Everything goes colorless.

“It was an IED. I’m sorry,” Mark says as his eyes glimmer with unshed tears.

I fall.

But he’s there, cradling me in his arms. “I’m so fucking sorry.”

“No. No. No.” Mark holds me as I sob clutching my stomach. “You’re lying,” I hiss, tearing myself out of his embrace.

“I wish I were,” he says as I struggle to get up.

“It was a mistake. He’s having a baby. He said it was a simple in and out!” I scream and throw my hands against his chest. “You’re lying!” I scream, even knowing it’s not a lie.

“I’m sorry.”

“Stop saying you’re sorry!” My sorrow turns to hatred. I hate him. I hate everyone in this moment. I hate Aaron and everyone who was there. I hate this house and everything in it. I hate the air that he no longer breathes. Hate consumes me. Hate smothers me. “Get out!” I yell and push against his chest. “Get the fuck out of my house! Aaron will be back in a few days and then we’re going to get ready for our daughter to be born.”

“Please,” Mark beseeches and I refuse to look at him.

This isn’t happening because Aaron’s alive.

He’s not dead. How dare Mark lie to me.

“He’ll be back. He wouldn’t leave me. He promised.” Aaron wouldn’t lie to me. He never does. When he left for missions, he would always say goodbye like it could be our last. But this time he kissed the tip of my nose and said, “Now don’t have that baby until I get back.”

“Can I call someone? Your mom?”

“No, you can’t call anyone because he’s not dead! Go get him, Mark! Go get my husband and bring him home.” I step back pointing my finger at him. “You all promised. He promised.” I clutch my stomach as a sharp pain radiates, but it’s nothing compared to the agony sitting on my chest. Tears flow relentlessly as I struggle against his hold. “He promised.”

“I know he did,” Mark says as he holds my head against his chest.

“He lied.”

My life is gone.

My heart is dead.

I’m a widow at twenty-seven.

 

 

“Aaron Gilcher was a man who left this Earth too soon. He was a loving husband, father to his unborn child, and friend,” the priest speaks softly. “We are gathered today to say goodbye but not farewell. He will live in our hearts as long as we hold on to him.” A sob escapes my chest. I can’t hold it in. My stomach drops with the realization that he’s gone. He’s really gone and this solidifies it. The final piece of a puzzle that I was desperate to not put together.

I feel hands grasp my shoulders and squeeze. I don’t need to look to know who they belong to. Jackson and Mark are at my back on either side. Protecting me when my husband no longer can. My mother grips my hand while my father holds Aarabelle. After she was born, I wanted to honor her father. I battled with the name we’d chosen versus something special. In the end, when I saw her, I knew. I wanted her to have part of her father for the rest of her life.

“Lord, please lift the hearts around us and grant them peace during this time. Help us to remember Aaron and give us a sense of calm knowing he’s in your arms.” He finishes the prayer and the part I’ve dreaded most is next.

“Lee, I’m right here,” Mark whispers from behind me.

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