Monday, July 4, 2016

Independence Day///Freedom's Price--short story



Hi all!!! How are you doing this glorious Independence day? Yes, I missed posting on Friday. Our week ended up super busy, and I didn't get time to schedule anything. So hopefully this post makes up for it. ;)
What's it like where you live? It's cloudy here, but hopefully it will clear up later on! (It's supposed to...) What are you guys doing for the 4th? We're going to have our grandparents for a barbecue, and singing, and fireworks. :) I LOVE the Independence day holiday--it's probably my favorite holiday! I love our nation and what it has stood for. Our forefathers fought so that we could be free from those who were oppressing us, and that we might enjoy the God-given rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. (Random, side note, did you know that Thomas Jefferson took that phrase from the writings of John Locke? He only changed the last one to "The pursuit of happiness", instead of "Property", which is what Locke believed was one of the three fundamental rights.)
It saddens me to see where we are going as a nation. But as everything around us grows darker, it gives us more of a chance to shine God's light to those around us! We were founded as a Nation under God, and if we, as a nation and as a people, repent of our sins, we can once again become the nation we were.
At church yesterday one of the elders was praying, and one thing he said stuck out to me. "As we celebrate out Independence from our earthly bonds, we re-affirm Dependence upon You, oh Lord."
Now that's what Independence is all about. Our dependence upon God for salvation, because it's only then that we can find true freedom. Freedom in Christ.

Well, all that to say, here's a short, contemporary story I wrote for the 4th. So often you here about those who have died for our country, but even those who return from combat alive and whole still carry the wounds that have been inflicted in the name of freedom. I hope you all enjoy, and have a wonderful Independence day!!!



The sounds of the approaching music turned Abbi’s head. “Oh, look!” she squealed, bouncing on her toes as she strained to see the parade that was still several blocks away.
Josh grinned, his blue eyes twinkling. “Settle down, Abbi. They’ll be here soon enough. Be patient and relax. That's what the 4th is for.” As if to prove his point, he settled back in his chair, crossed his arms over his chest, and closed his eyes.
Abbi frowned. She was already scorching hot in just jeans and a t-shirt. How on earth he could relax in his uniform was beyond her. Of course, maybe he was hot and not showing it. There was one way to cool him off. . .
Taking advantage of his closed eyes, she swiped a half-full cup of water from the table beside her and tiptoed up behind him.
With a quick glance behind her to be sure her path of escape was clear, she tipped the cup over, splashing water all over Josh’s face.
“Why, you!” He sputtered as he shot up in his seat, and almost before she could start to run, he was on his feet coming after her.
Abbi giggled as she ran, darting around trees, picnic tables, and the play equipment. She turned a corner and darted behind a large tree.
Josh barreled around the corner, nearly trampling  a little girl who was bending down on the sidewalk. He stopped so fast he fell over backwards.
“Sir, use the eyes the good Lord gave you!” The mother of the toddler gave him a withering glare.
“Sorry, ma’am.” Josh shot to his feet. “Wasn’t watching where I was going.”
“Well, I’ll say!” The woman huffed as she pulled her child away. Josh looked mortified, and Abbi couldn’t help but laugh.  His gaze shot up, and she grinned impishly at him.
He narrowed his eyes and ran at her.
She shrieked as she left the tree and ran toward the center of the park, tripping over a cooler that had been left unattended. The slight fumble was all Josh needed, and in seconds Abbi felt his hands around her waist as he slung her over his shoulder and started jogging toward the fountain.
He was going to do it. He was really going to dunk her. She pounded on his back, but he didn’t seem to care. She could feel rather than hear him laugh over her screams, and before she knew it, he had dropped her into the ice cold water.
The air whooshed from her lungs, and she clutched the concrete sides, gasping for breath.
Josh stood in front of her, hands on his hip, his eyes smiling. “Well, you were hot, were you not?” He chuckled and stretched out a hand. “Come on, get out of there before you’re arrested for desecration of public property.”
“Before I get arrested?” She took his hand and he pulled her up. She stepped out of the fountain, dripping ripples of water onto the burning sidewalk. “You put me in there, and you should have thought about that. You’re the one in the military. You should know better then to dump me in the city fountain, of all places.”
The sounds of approaching music made her look past Josh and toward the street. With a gasp she exclaimed, “Josh, now you're going to make me miss the parade!”
Without waiting for him, she dashed across the park, ignoring the water dripping from her jeans. She just made it back to their picnic site as the parade started down the street.
“Why, Abigail Cartwright! What on earth happened to you?”
Abbi turned to her mom, the parade nearly forgotten. She looked down at her clothes and swallowed hard. She must look a mess. “I—”
“It was my fault, mom.” Josh jogged up behind her and interrupted before she could finish. “She, uhh, dumped water on me when I decided to close my eyes for a sec, so I assumed she was hot and I wanted to help.” He glanced at her. “You’re cool now, right sis?”
Abbi didn’t answer, only punched him in the shoulder.
Mrs. Cartwright shook her head. “You children. Whatever will I do with you?” Though she sounded grave, and smile played across her eyes. “Josh, you’re barely home for a week and I see things are already back to normal.”
Josh grinned and dropped into his chair, picking up Abbi’s phone that lay on the cooler.
Abbi frowned. One day Josh would go too far and mom wouldn’t over look it so easily. She had yet to see that day. “You’d better be happy that phone wasn’t in my pocket when you dumped me. Otherwise you’d be paying for it.”
“Oh, really?” He twirled her phone around, winking at her when she gasped. “What makes you think I would have dunked you if it was in your pocket?”
Before she could reply, Abbi felt a towel around her shoulders, and she turned to see her dad standing there. She smiled. “Thanks.”
He squeezed her shoulder. “It’s good to have Josh back, isn’t it?”
She let out deep breath. “Yeah, I guess so.”
“You guess?” He raised an eyebrow, clearly doubting her.
“Alright, yes, it is!” She shrugged her shoulders into the towel.  “But I do have moments when I wish some of his other military buddies were here. He actually acts like a gentleman around them.” She gave Josh a pointed look.
He only winked at her. “Good to know I was missed.”
She huffed and shook her head. “Dad, how in the world did Josh make it past training?”
Mr. Cartwright gave her shoulder a slight squeeze. “I expect that’s somethin’ we’ll be puzzlin’ till our dying day.”
“Oh, come on, dad!” Josh tossed his cap up in the air and caught it just before it hit the grass. “Surely I’ve changed some!”
Everyone laughed, and dad said, “Josh, you haven’t changed a bit.”
Josh gave an exaggerated sigh. “Well, I’ll leave you here to discuss me. I am going to go and fire up the grill.” He stood and grabbed a bag of hot dogs from the cooler.
Abbi sighed. “Better go with him, dad. He likes them black.”

***

“Now, you have got to admit that was the best hot dog you have ever tasted.”
“I’ll admit no such thing, Joshua Cartwright!” Abbi made a face and slid her plate under her chair. “It was burnt. So burnt I couldn’t even taste the meat. Did you take a class on the finer points of burned food?”
“Haha, very funny.” He tossed his empty cup at her, and she batted it away.
“Would you two settle down?” Dad shook his head. “Come on, let’s get all the food picked up before the fireworks start.”
“Fireworks?”
Three heads turned toward Josh, and Abbi nodded. “It’s the 4th of July. You know, cookout, parades, fireworks. It’s all part of the day.”
Josh’s eyes widened, and he took a deep breath as if to calm himself, all the while gripping the arm of the chair till his knuckles shone white.
Mom stepped forward and laid a hand on his arm. “Josh? Is everything alright?”
Abbi watched as if in a trance. What could have happened to him? One minute he was laughing, the next he looked as if someone was trying to kill him.
Josh nodded and relaxed a little. “I’m fine, mom. I just, uhh, didn’t quite think of the fireworks.” He smiled, but it was strained. “Well, come on. Let’s get this food put away like you said, dad.”
Dad frowned. “Are you sure you’re okay?”
“Yes, I’m fine. When you mentioned the fireworks it just---reminded me of something.” He smiled again, and this time it was genuine. “I promise, I’ll be fine.”
Abbi wasn’t sure her parents were convinced, but they let the matter drop, and in no time at all the food was all packed away.
“Hey, Abbi.”
She turned just in time to catch the keys Josh tossed her way. He bent down and picked up the cooler. “Let’s take this to the trunk of the car and grab the blanket.”
They walked in silence. As they neared the car, Abbi punched the button on the key-ring to open the trunk.
Josh set the cooler inside, took out the folded blanket that had been pushed toward the spare tire, and then closed the door.
As they turned to start back toward the picnic area, Abbi paused. “Uh, Josh?”
He turned. “Yes?”
She twirled the key ring around her finger. She had his attention, and she had no idea how to put words together into a tactful sentence. “What’s wrong?” Well, that was great. Nothing ever worked quite like simply blurting out the question.
“Abbi, I’m fine.” He ran a hand through his short-cropped hair. “Seriously. I’ll be okay. Now come on. Let’s get back to mom and dad.” He turned and walked away, not giving her a chance to ask anything else.
Abbi sighed and trudged after him. If Josh was determined not to tell her, she’d stop asking. But somehow she’d find out what was wrong.
She took her time on the walk back. The sun was setting behind the trees, and the park was quieting down as everyone prepared for the fireworks.
By the time she made it back to the picnic area, Josh had spread the blanket down. Dad sat on the edge, mom was next to him, and Josh was on the far side of the blanket. His eyebrows were knit together in concentration, though Abbi couldn’t figure out what in the world he was trying to concentrate on.
She went at sat down on the blanket next to him, and flipped on her phone. The fireworks were always amazing, and she was going to be ready to get some pictures.
“How many years you been doing that?”
Abbi started as Josh leaned over her shoulder. “Josh!”
He grinned. “Sorry. How many years have you been taking pictures?”
“Umm…” Abbi thought back. She had started taking them on the old digital camera when she was ten. “About eight years, I think.”
“Oh, that’s right. I remember that year when I was helping with the fireworks, you were twelve, and I was what... sixteen? You got a picture of me just as I burnt myself."
“Well,” Abbi smirked, “What can I say? You’ve always had a talent for burning things.”
“Oh yeah?" Josh raised his eyebrows. "Well, remember the time you—” His voice was drowned out as the first round of fireworks exploded in the darkness, bathing the area around them in a colorful array of lights.
“Oh, Josh, look. They’re…” Abbi’s voice trailed off as she turned to Josh. Both hands were clenched and balled into fists. His arms were shaking and he crossed them, as though he was trying hard to stop.
“Josh?” Abbi touched his shoulder and he flinched. She quickly took her hand off. What was wrong? Why was he like this?
“I’m sorry, I just…” Josh’s voice was taut and clipped, and his breath was coming in shallow gasps. “I need to go.”
Without another word he stood and nearly ran from the park.
“Abbi?”
She turned as her dad touched her shoulder, a worried look on his face. “What happened?”
“I—I don’t know.” She shook her head. “He was fine one minute, and the next he just…ran.”
Dad started to stand. “I’m going to go see what happened.”
“No, dad, can I go? Please?”
Dad paused as though he was thinking, and Abbi bit her lip. She had no idea where Josh had gone to, and every second she waited he got further away.
At last dad nodded. “Okay, but if you can’t find him, don’t go too far from the park, and keep your cell phone on.”
Abbi nodded, tucked her phone in her pocket, and took off at a run the way she’d seen Josh go. At the other edge of the 15-acre city property, the park administration building sat at the end of the grassy lawn, and she leaned against it to catch her breath.
As the sound of the fireworks dimmed behind her, she caught the sound of heavy breathing and muffled sobs.
Cautiously she walked around to the back. She stopped at the corner, stunned by what she saw.
Josh sat there, his back to the wall, knees pulled up to his chest. “Josh?” Her voice hardly seemed to break the through the stillness that surrounded them.
When he didn't reply, she walked over and lowered herself down beside him. “Josh.” Her words were hardly a whisper. “What’s wrong? Please, tell me what’s wrong?”
Josh looked up, and his eyes met hers. “I thought I could handle it, that I was strong enough. But I’m not.”
The look in his eyes sent a chill through her. She put a hand on his arm, and this time he didn’t pull away. “What happened, Josh? You thought you would be strong enough for what?”
Josh swallowed hard, and for a moment Abbi was afraid he wouldn’t tell her. But he took a deep breath and looked up toward the sky.
“I was overseas,” he started, “our mission was supposed to be a simple one. There had been reports of Palestinians smuggling large amounts of weapons into the area. We were to investigate.  But something went wrong.” He paused and clenched his jaw, trying to gain control of his emotions. “Chad was with me. I was just inside, he was covering me outside. I went about to lift a trapdoor when Chad yelled at me to get out. I turned to look at him, and his eyes are wide. Something wasn’t right. I started back toward the door, but I wasn’t fast enough. Chad ran in and shoved me out onto the street as the building behind us exploded into flames.”
As Abbi watched Josh, a faraway expression came over his face. Almost as if he was back, relieving those moments.
“I stayed down till it was quiet, then reached for the weapon that had fallen from my grip when I hit the ground. I stood slowly, and turned around to look for Chad.” Josh bit his lip and put a hand on his head before continuing. “He was gone. Part of him was there, the other part...he must have still been in the house when the explosion came. He saved me, but he died.”
He dropped his head in his hands, as though the story had been too much to tell, his shoulders shaking.
Tears were running down Abbi’s face and she tightened her grip on his arm. What could she say that would soothe pain and anguish he was feeling?”
After a long moment he looked up again. “The fireworks. I thought I could handle it. I thought I could get through them for one night. But I can’t. Every time I hear them, I’m back at that house, being pushed to the ground. And every time It gets worse.”
“Oh, Josh.” Abbi wrapped her arms around him. “Why didn’t you tell us?”
“Because I didn’t want to have changed.” He shook his head. “I wanted to come back home, I wanted everything to be the same. I’m sorry, Abbi.”
At that, Abbi sat back and drew in a sharp breath. “No you’re not, Joshua!” Her eyes flashed as she spoke. “You were brave, you were doing what you had been ordered to. Of course something like that would change someone! But don’t you dare apologize for it.” She took a deep breath and the fire left her. “I can’t even imagine what you’ve been through. But, Josh, it’s okay. We'll get through this together. With mom and dad, as a family. Don't shut us out, Josh.” She took his hand and squeezed it. “We don’t understand everything you went through, but we want to help. Don’t try to be strong.”
She paused to wipe her eyes, and Josh did the same. When was the last time they had cried together? Had it ever happened before? Abbi couldn’t remember.
“It hurts.” Josh said as he idly rubbed a finger over her knuckles. “It’s hurts to have to depend on other, to not even to be able to get through a fireworks show.”
Abbi didn’t reply right away. After a moment of silence, she said, “Just trust Jesus, Josh. I don’t know why He allowed you to go through what you did, or why he allowed Chad to die. I know that trusting won’t fix all the pain and hurt you're feeling, but if you call on Him, He’ll be with you as you go through it. He’ll be strong for you, Josh.”
Just as she finished her sentence, the phone in her pocket vibrated. She took it out and looked at the screen. One new text message from dad. Abbi, are you and Josh okay?
Abbi set the phone in her lap and looked at Josh. “Come on, why don't you go and get the car? I’ll get mom and dad and explain everything to them, okay?”
Josh nodded, but hesitated. “I don’t want to ruin the 4th for you, I know we’ve watched the fireworks show here since we were kids.”
Abbi smiled and shook her head. “Don’t you understand, Josh? Fireworks are just… fireworks. There’s nothing too special about them. We’d rather spend the night with you.”
She rubbed his shoulder and stood, sliding her phone back into her pocket. “Come on, let's go home.”

...Where at least I know I'm free. And I won't forget the men who died, who gave their lives for me. And I'll gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today. 'Casue there ain't no doubt I love this land, God bless the U.S.A!
~Lee Greenwood God Bless the U.S.A

Happy 240th birthday, America!! One nation, under God, invisible with liberty and justice for all.

17 comments:

  1. Aww, I loved the story, Jesseca!! It was so sweet! It's so hard to imagine what so many of our troops go through on a daily basis. I thank God every day that there are men and women who are willing to die for our country. :) Again, loved the post, and have a great Fourth!!

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    1. Thanks, Livi!! I'm glad you enjoyed. :)
      Yes, it is. They go through so much so that way can remain free!! Definitely a huge thing to be thankful for!!
      Thanks again! ;) We did!! :D

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  2. What a great story, Jesseca! I love this whole post too! <3

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    1. Oh, and I forgot to mention it, but I LOVE that first picture!!

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    2. Thank you, Emily! I'm glad you liked it. :)
      Oh, yes, that picture is amazing!! (Thanks, pinterest. ;)) It's one of my favorite American flag pictures!

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  3. That was amazing!! Thank you for posting it!

    -Mikayla-

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    1. Oh, I'm so glad you enjoyed it! And You're welcome! Thanks for reading. ;)

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  4. Happy Independence Day, Jesseca!!! :D
    I loved your story! It was sooo good! :)

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    1. Happy Independence day (late. ;P) to you too, Rebekah!!
      Oh, yay!! And thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed. :)

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  5. Your story was AWESOME. <3 I loved the brother/sister stuff. B-) Happy Independence Day! :)

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    1. Aww, thank you!! ^_^ I'm so glad you enjoyed it!! I LOVE brother sister stories, too!!! (which, yeah, is probably very obvious. ;P)
      Happy Independence day to you, too!! (A day late. ;))

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  6. *wipes eyes* Comment? Like, how am I supposed to leave a comment and it make any sense after that?

    Woah. AMAZING STORY, JESSECA!!! Seriously, that was heart rending. <3 You write the deep siblings relationships sooo well. If David, Erin, and Michael turn out half this good, I'll be pleased. :)
    Again, remarkable story. As hard as it is to say, I'm glad I had to wait in suspense for it. :P

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    1. Aww, I'm so glad you enjoyed it! And your comment made lots of sense. ;)

      Thank you! Re-reading it I was like, "Oh, this is so sad!" I surprise myself, sometimes. ;P
      Sibling relationships are one of my favorite things to write! It's something I have a lot of experience with... ;)
      And David, Erin and Bethany's is amazing! You've done a great job with them!
      I'm really, really glad you enjoyed it!! And I wanted to send it to you sooo bad, but at the same time I wanted to know what your reaction would be if you read it on my blog first. Does that make sense? Probably not... :P Oh well. I never said I made sense...

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  7. Wow. After all the sibling teasing and stuff, I was not expecting that sudden turn of events. You sure know how to put a person in tears, Jesseca ;)

    It was so sweet and I LOVED it. Thank you so much for sharing it, Jesseca! :D

    Happy (belated) Independence Day! :)

    Oh yes, and before I forget, I tagged you for the Pray for People and Country tag. If you're interested, you can check it out here: https://countingyourblessingsonebyone.blogspot.ca/2016/07/the-pray-for-people-and-country-tag.html

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    1. Aww, I'm glad you enjoyed it. ;) I really love this story, so I've thought of perhaps making it into a longer story... we'll see! :)

      You're welcome! Thanks for commenting; comments always make me so happy! ^_^

      Thank you! And happy (very late) Canada day to you! ;)

      Oh, awesome! Thanks! I'll go and check it out. :D

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  9. Okay, sooo...something that we were talking about in Sunday school made me think of this. So here I am, looking it up and re-reading. So good, girl. <3

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