Short Story Saturday: Home for Christmas Part 2
It's here! Part 2 of Home for Christmas is here! Come and get a taste of Christmas! Find out what happens to Kenneth and Kate in this holiday short story!
Kenny? No, it couldn’t be. Kenneth was away...lost somewhere...buried somewhere… If he were alive, he would have been here sooner. Therefore, he couldn’t be standing there in the doorway, alive and...there.
But he was.
Oh, God, thank You, thank You, thank You!
Ragged breath filled her lungs, a lump lodging in her throat that prevented her from screaming or crying or even speaking. Kate took the smallest of steps forward, suspended somewhere outside of her body as she watched herself inch closer to the husband she hadn’t seen for three whole years.
He whispered her name. For the first time in so long, she heard his voice, felt its soothing cadence caress her aching heart.
He looked so handsome. Oh, he was beautiful, leaning against the doorframe with rapture coloring his features. He hadn’t changed much, she noticed. His form was more gaunt, compliments of the war, his eyes shadowed and red-rimmed, his face sullen. But he was still Kenneth, with strength emanating from his square jaw; a zest for life in his crooked grin; boyishness in the dimple in his chin; love alight in his blue eyes. It was her Kenny.
Praise be to God, it was her Kenny!
A smile cracked, eased onto her lips as she moved with shuddering steps near enough to reach out and place her hand on his shoulder. Her fingers craved to touch him and feel if he was really, truly there and that she wasn’t dreaming. She brushed her knuckles against his cheek, where a scar had formed, traced the curve of his jaw.
He shifted closer, leaning into her touch as his eyes slid closed, his step slow and wobbly. It was then that she looked down and saw the crutches, the tied up pants leg that stopped at his knee.
It hit her like a ton of bricks.
He’d lost his leg.
“Oh, Kenneth,” she breathed, images flooding her mind of blood and bullets and makeshift hospitals and… She slammed her eyes shut at the torture she imagined, wrenching back as though burned. The pain… God help him. Three years to her and Bonnie had been slowly passing, tedious days of endless waiting. Three years for him had come and gone, robbing him of the life he’d once known with one swift jerk.
She saw his gaze dim, casting to the floor, when she finally looked up. His voice was hoarse, a mere murmur against the hum of the heater and the echoing tick of the clock, when he stuttered out, “Kat—Katie, I...I missed you.” He swallowed, his Adam’s apple bobbing as his chest heaved in labored breaths.
He looked as though he had been stabbed in the heart, face drooping and stare averted, body lurching with every inhale.
Distress seized her, nearly knocking her off her feet as a myriad of possibilities assailed her, each one a dart more fiery than the last. Was his love for her still there? What if he were...regretting the hasty decision they had made so many years ago—when they were fresh out of high school, madly in love, and eloping?
Surely that wasn’t it. Absence made the heart grow fonder, after all, and she had no regrets. Maybe he was just still so shocked over it all. Maybe he was still addled from the war. Maybe he…
Then his arms were around her, her breath caught in her chest when he wrenched her to him and crushed her in a desperate embrace. And he was whispering words in her ear, his mouth warm against her skin. She could barely hear his voice over the wild thud of her heart, but she knew the words he spoke denied her every concern.
He was here. And nothing had changed.
Kate nestled into his arms, grasping him by the waist, both afraid he would topple without his crutches and longing to soak in his strength. The strength that kept her upright when she sagged against him in relief. He was home. Forever. To be with her and Bonnie until death did them part. And, oh, how sweet it was!
Kenneth drew back only an inch to meet her gaze and gifted her with the big, huge grin she had missed for so long. “Oh, Katie, tell me you’re all right. Tell me everything’s going to be all right,” he mumbled on a groan, his sky blue eyes wild with worry, love, yearning.
“I’m all right, sweetheart. It’s all okay.” All expect for one thing. “What about you, baby? I mean, your leg!” A frown stole over her lips as she chanced a glance at the space where his leg should have been. The very thought of him going through such pain, from the wounds to the infection to the surgery, ripped through her heart like nothing else. It was a miracle that he was still alive.
Thank You, Lord!
Kenny heaved a rough, tormented sigh that slit through her heart like a knife. “I know, Kate. I know. And i-if it bothers you, then...”
She knew what he meant, what he didn’t have the guts to voice. She wished she didn’t, though, that he wouldn’t have even thought so low of her. Where had he gotten the harebrained idea that she would love him any less? Her love for him was more powerful than any anguish he could endure, any wayward desire, anything that said one less leg made him that much less of a man.
“Kenneth Merritt, look at me.”
He did, half torn between the hope in his eyes and despair etched into his haggard features.
“Only one thing bothers me, and that’s that you would ever doubt my love for you. You are the man I chose to marry eight years ago. You are the one I loved with my whole heart then and the one I love with my entire being now.” Her hand lifted once again to cup his cheek, her fingers soon trailing off into the silky strand of black hair teasing his collar. “And you are the one I will love wholly, fully, and unconditionally until the very day I die.”
Her name was a moan as her husband tugged her back into his embrace and cradled her head in his hands. “I love you too.”
She remained for moments or years—she didn’t know which—listening to the thump of his heart, the steadiness of his breathing, savoring him just in case he disappeared again.
Then a thought interrupted the calm in her mind, disconnecting her from him both mentally and physically. “Kenneth, are you hungry? Gosh, you’re probably dog-tired, and here I am keeping you up. Do you want something before you go to bed?” Heaven knew she wasn’t that great of a cook, but if her man was hungry, she’d stay up ‘til morning fixing him whatever he wanted. He deserved that much, with a good night’s rest to boot.
Kenny chuckled softly, a wicked gleam entering his eye that she hadn’t seen since high school. “Oh, I’m hungry all right, but not for food.” Even while she protested, he reeled her in, angling her mouth beneath his as he dominated her with a kiss long overdue.
* * *
The sunshine seemed so much brighter that morning, but not even the glitter of the sun’s rays sparkling like diamonds against the snow could compare to the light in Kate’s heart that Christmas morning.
Rolling over in bed with a soft moan, she collided with something hard, warm, and—hairy? Strong arms wound ‘round her waist, the vibration of very loud snoring jolting her from slumber.
Memories of the past night filtered through her mind like a dream—a dream sweeter and more real than any her subconscious could have ever conjured up. It was the best Christmas she’d ever had, and all because of one amazing gift that God had brought back to her.
Kate curled up in Kenneth’s embrace, relishing the warmth he gave. It was so good to have him back—for more than one reason. She slid her own arms about him as he began to nuzzle her neck, the touch she had so sorely missed causing her heart to skip a beat as though it were their wedding night again.
At that very wonderful moment, the door burst open, and little footsteps pattered their way into the room before a bonny little lass jumped right on top of her mother.
Kate coughed as all her organs shot up to her throat, smiling all the while at the excitement in her daughter’s squeal.
“Mommy, Mommy, Chris-mas is here! Chris-mas is here! Hurry and get up so I can open my presents!” As if collapsing her mother’s stomach was not enough, Bonnie began bouncing on Kate’s legs in a painful display of feverish impatience.
Kate sat up in bed, rubbed the sleep from her eyes, then pulled her little bundle of joy into her arms. “Merry Christmas, sweetie. Mommy has a very special present for you.” She couldn’t contain her grin—surely it gave her away—as Kenneth shifted in bed.
Bonnie beside Kate, her eyes wide. “You mean the man in your bed that looks like Daddy?”
She nodded. “Bonnie, Daddy came h―”
Bonnie launched herself into her father’s open arms with a happy shout. “Oh, Daddy, I miss you lots!”
Kenny laughed heartily, collapsing onto to bed and holding her close. “I’ve missed you too, baby. Now why don’t we go open up those presents of yours?” he suggested, lifting her up and setting her on the floor beside the bed.
As Bonnie bounded out of the room, Kenneth leaned over to give Kate a long, lingering kiss that warmed her down to her toes.
Yes, it was a very merry Christmas indeed!
Copyright © 2020 Grace Ann Johnson