Water poured from her eyes like the gentle rains from the heavens above. She stared at him, her face frozen in a mask of unbelief, her eyes wanting to blink away his false image, but ceasing to close least the vision of him be proved a lie.
He took a step forward, dropping his sack down at his feet, gingerly touching her fingertips that had all but pressed their way into the solid framing of the door, she gripped it so tightly.
The thick lashes of her eyes spiked with the fluttering dip of her lids, soaking up some of the moisture from her tears. “Caleb?” She whispered his name and begin to tremble.
Caleb’s own eyes stung with the threat to of his own want for crying. He had never thought to see this day, only held on to the hope of home, and her, by the tiniest cord that daily threatened to break and blow away like old cobwebs caught in the wind.
“Men don’t cry! Only sissy do!” His father’s harsh words ripped through his thoughts like a searing arrow, almost completely licking up the liquid of joy that so desired to spring forth.
The muscle in Caleb’s eye twitched, the smile that had sprouted upon his lips almost shocked into a frown. If his father were alive he would have cursed him dead for the hardness he had planted in Caleb’s heart.
Struggling with the taste of bitterness that slowly eased upon his tongue, not wanting her to see it upon him, Caleb pulled her hand from the door and drew her into an embrace. His arms wrapped around her with such fierceness that he felt her stiffen. Loosening his hold he cupped her head, weaving the fingers that so longed to feel the touch of her, through her hair. Kissing her temple he whispered. “It’s me, Emaleen. I’ve come home,”
The trembling that he had fought himself overpowered him and the tears that his father’s words had tried to burn away with its hateful fire, slipped from his pressed eyes and into the waves of Emaleen’s hair. He felt her fingers grip and claw the stiff fabric of his shirt, each thread so saturated with sweat that the garment could have stood up all on its own.
Caleb’s heart swelled, filling with the warmth and touch of her, and the sweet scent of the honeysuckle fragrance that danced within her pores. He kissed her head again.
Emaleen stiffened even more, this time pulling away from him just enough to gaze into his eyes, her fingers still holding a fistful of his shirt. Caleb’s brow drew together as his eyes probed hers.
Something was wrong. The shock in her he had anticipated, joy he had longed for, but fear? Fear he had not thought to see staring back at him.
“Whose at the door, sweetheart?” A familiar voice called from the back of the house, its tenor making the hairs on Caleb’s back bristle. His eyes looked forward and then back down upon Emaleen’s face. More fear and tears pooled within her eyes and slid down their corners. Her full lip, a lip he had matched several time with his own, drew inward and hid itself between white teeth that all but chattered.
Knowing liked to have scooped Caleb’s insides out and dumped them right at his feet. Still holding Emaleen’s gaze, he pried her hands from around him, and took hold of her hands, not in promise but to confirm what the familiar voice beyond them had announced without even having said.
With the pads of his calloused thumbs, Caleb found the wedding rings, rings he had not placed on the delicate hands he now held. And why had he not? Because “Real men don’t leave widows, boy, and you are sure as shootin’ gonna find yourself dead. Ain’t now coming home for you. Leave that Hicks girl be.” His father’s words again.
Pain like knives of glass cut through his mind and made Caleb stumble backward. Emaleen said his name and reached for him but he managed to stay out of her reach. Her beautiful eyes, pleaded with him, pleaded with apology, one he couldn’t even fathom receiving.
Why had he listened to his father?
Yule finally made himself visible, him and the child he carried in his arms. “Whose at the door?” He asked again, only to stumble in his stride knocked back by the same invisible force that had knocked into Caleb.
Caleb didn’t know how he found his bag or how he managed to make his legs run, but he ran, ran hard, back into the darkness he had slipped out of and towards the graveyard where he meant to curse his father and himself for ever listening to him.
THE END FOR NOW
Poor Caleb. Don’t worry though. I have every intention of figuring out where he has been, how long he has been gone…obviously long enough for the woman he loves to have gotten married and had a child, and how to bring his darkness to a place of light. I will admit that even though I have been moved to write romance, science fictional aspects are constantly asking for a play date with these tales. It wants part of the action. My thought, is to create a world not unlike earth, where this story (stories) take place.
What do you think? Do you think that would take away from the heart of the tales? I would sure like to know your thoughts if you are willing to give them.