Jake McGraw reached a trembling hand towards the door of his too pricey house. Nothing was as he expected. A hundred times in his dreams he’d watched her run from the house. Her sweet body crashing into his. This was reality though not some fantasy meant to keep him going through hellish conditions. A quick check of the chrono on his arm only confirmed what he already knew. It was only midday so maybe the unease growing in the pit of a nervous stomach was wrong. There was more than her not being home. From the twenty messages left on an unanswered com, to the lack of a trash can waiting by the curb to be picked up, things didn’t feel quite right.
After being gone two long years fighting a war he didn’t believe in, some parts of daily life were bound to be different. A nerve rattled hand wrapped around the doors bronze knob. Less than a second later a familiar buzz signaled the houses recognition. Pushing it open, he heard the squeek of unoiled hinges he meant to fix before setting off.
Walking through each room in turn, his worst fears began to come true. Everything was gone. At first, he thought robbers took advantage of his absence. Then he noticed a small metallic disk sitting beside a bottle of whiskey on the dark marble kitchen counter. Several members of his unit got news their wives and girlfriends had either cheated or left them outright. Not once in twenty-four months did he even imagine she’d leave. Yet, there it was, a small holo disk. The same type his friends received. At least she’d been considerate enough to leave a bottle of whiskey. His favorite brand too. She always was the sweet type.
Reaching for the disk, he felt a sudden pain stab deep into a muscular chest. Out of nowhere it hit, that weak depression which sapped all strength. Tears were soon to follow. Breath came in wheezing gasps as his hand closed around the cold heartless metal.
After pressing a blinking button, a blue figure appeared beneath ceiling mounted holo-projectors. It was her. Devoid of all color except blue. Seemed fitting. He struggled down the marble counter to the lone bottle. Both were lone, soon to be together in more ways than one. With a twist of his wrist, the cap came off. Even before the figure started to speak, he took a long drink. The harsh liquor burned its way through his system. Soon nothing would matter. Only the anger created by a raw message. Turning his attention to the figure in blue, he barely saw the shoulder of a stranger leaning in to press record. Another gulp sped down his throat. For the message he expected to see, one bottle wasn’t about to be enough. She didn’t smile. At least she had enough respect to pretend while she destroyed his world.
“I’m sorry Jake,” said the figure. It was a bad beginning. Predictable. “you’ve been gone about two years. I have been faithful I promise.” With little more than a whisper uttered, Jake paused the message.
Just the start and already she went from apologizing to blaming then on to the explaining part. This was bound to be a short talk. Taking another drink, Jake shook his head in disbelief. He’d said the same words more times than he cared to count. Never was it the truth when someone said they’d been faithful. It was one of those lines meant to make someone think you aren’t a complete asshole. Even when you are. Still, she wasn’t the only one not so whitewashed in the whole matter. During the war, he’d gotten a little closer than friendly with a fellow infantryman. Being lonely was never easy, or fun. Especially when every day was a gamble for survival. As far as he knew, they’d both made it out alive. She’d gone to a city called New Wichita, same place where he spent many a summer growing up. While he returned to Merikaar territory and a girlfriend who didn’t seem to need him as much as he needed her.
A sob escaped his lips while he wiped tears from bloodshot eyes. In a shaky voice he told the projection to continue. One more drink. Numbness spread like wildfire through his body. She was starting to speak again. This time he could hear someone in the background.
“It’s not your fault. Please believe that. I know I am hurting you and I wish things could be different. If only you didn’t leave. I miss you baby.” She always did like calling him baby. At first it bugged him, then he gradually began to look forward to hearing it. With legs too weak to hold his weight, he slid down the side of the kitchen island. Leaning against the solid wood, he lifted the bottle to his lips.
“I met someone new. At a spousal support group of all places. Would you believe it? Its so ironic I can hardly believe it myself. He has helped me through all the sleepless nights spent wondering if you were ever going to come back home. You would like him. He is so sweet and gentle baby just like you always were.” His whiskey numbed mind whirled with everything she said. Yet the more she talked only added fuel to the anger raging inside.
“He can go to Hell! You can join him,” said Jake the tears in his eyes making the image blurry. Words borne of pain and anger. Before they even left his mouth, he regretted it.
“Jake, I have moved on. I hope in time you can too, maybe we can go on double dates. That would be a lot of fun. I just want you to know that I am always going to be here for you. I just want to go back to being friends though so please don’t try and convince me to leave Snugglebear. On second thought, maybe we should give it some time before we speak again. Sort of to let the emotions have time to settle down. Snugglebear says that is usually best to let hurt feelings have time to mend. Oh, I paid the rent up to the last of the month so there is no need to hurry and find a new job or a place to live. I had to use your pay however. Sorry. It took all I had to move. I know you don’t care right now, but I wanted to tell you the good news. I am PREGNANT! Isn’t that the best news ever?”
Jake looked down at the half empty bottle, then at the image floating in the air. With a loud roar he threw the bottle square through the center of the image. In a blur he was on his feet. Fists passed harmlessly into his one-time love. Spinning on one foot, he sent the other exploding into the thick wood paneling of the island. Curses and slurs sputtered from numb lips. More than once he found himself uttering the names slut and whore.
Nothing mattered. Faster and faster he flailed. Large wet tears streamed down red cheeks. Blood ringed holes appeared wherever his fists connected with wood paneling. Most of the walls were sheetrock. Thinner and easier to destroy, they’d been his first targets. When the anger finally dulled to a shallow flame he ripped the thick bottle from where it landed.
With a final four gulp chug, he downed the last of the whiskey. Between blood covered knuckles and exhaustion, it was all he could do to keep weary eyes open. Jake stumbled down the hall towards what had once been a comfortable bedroom. Only the carpeted floor remained to serve as a mattress. Laying down he curled into a ball while anguish washed over his shattered heart. Somewhere amid the sobs and rage he slipped into a drunken slumber.