Chapter One: Forgotten But Not Gone
Josephine Embry was a dentist. That meant she fixed people's teeth for a living. Sometimes it was as simple as counting them or plucking one out, and sometimes it was as grating as repairing the mouths of people who seemed like they couldn't pronounce "toothbrush" without biting their tongues. Even so, Josephine loved her job. Never mind being perceived as somewhat inferior compared to a "proper" doctor (most people didn't know just how sick bad teeth could make you), she got all the same quirks without having to do house calls. She had her own office complete with a receptionist, good relationships with her patients, and a fat bank account. And, unlike most people, she was able to keep her cell phone on at work, and answer it whenever it went off.
"Just gargle and spit Mr. Farber," said Josephine as she stood up from her stool. She flipped open her cell phone with the flick of a wrist and snapped away her mask. It revealed a small pointed nose and thin lips.
She grimaced as she pushed the phone to her ear and almost instantly pulled it away. There was a lot of background noise; clamoring, pings and pongs, and for a brief moment the roar of a very loud engine. For a moment, Josephine thought that perhaps her son's principal was calling her for the third time that month, but discarded the thought almost instantly as she thought it sounded more like an airport.
"Dr. Embry speaking," she announced, as she always did when she answered her cell phone.
The background noise continued, but the person at the other end didn't answer.
"Hello?" She asked and waited. She was about to snap the phone shut with a voice finally spoke.
And Josephine's heart fluttered.
A tall, built man sitting in the Arrivals lobby glanced at his watch for the seventh time that minute. His face was cross—maybe he was angry, but impatience was what was beginning to take him over. His long blond hair lifted off his masculine face briefly as he exhaled through his mouth: a sigh. She was supposed to be here over an hour ago, assuming she had actually meant "five minutes". No, he wasn't angry at her; he'd have to be a bit of a fool not to expect this from Jo, the flakiest woman he had ever met. Maybe he was disappointed; somehow he thought she would be dying to see him. He was, after all, dying to see her.
His frown flipped over when he saw her familiar face smiling at him through the front entrance. She had always walked with such confidence, he thought, as her curvy figure stomped toward him. She was half the way, and he could start to see the tears. Her eyes were flushed and flooded, and steady streams were now rolling down her cheeks; she'd missed him alright.
He stood up as she reached him, and then he saw it. There was a look on her face that he had only seen ever so few times. It was a mixture of terror, confusion, relief and joy. He guessed they must have told her that he died. It was fair enough; he was only just as good to her for all this time...his sweet Jo. And it was then he began to wonder if she'd moved on, thinking that he would never come back again; it was as if her eyes had read him...and they were saying yes.
She held him in a tight embrace and he held her back. Neither of them wanted to break it. He smelled her auburn hair for the first time in ages and a special place in his heart became warm again.
She was really there, right there; holding him.
When he finally felt secure enough to let her go, he wiped away his own tears and just grinned at her. "I was starting to think you wouldn't come," he joked.
Jo laughed. "I got...I ran out of gas—this is a miracle; I never thought I'd see you again."
"Told you you would, didn't I?"
"But they told me you were dead...I thought...I believed..."
The man held Jo's round face by it's pointed chin. "It's okay. I hope I didn't...I mean, when they found me I told them not to tell you anything so I could surprise you."
"Well I'm surprised," Jo said, finally managing to stop the flow of tears. "Really surprised."
"Not too much I hope?" The man's gray eyes bore down on her in genuine concern.
"No, No," Jo replied quickly. "You have no idea how great this moment feels. There were times when I thought, what if he came back, but I just never expected..."
"Well, why don't we go home, and talk about it some?" The man lifted up his bags and smiled, but his spirit was soon dampened by Jo's apologetic expression. "You...moved on, didn't you?"
"The told me you were dead, Nate," Jo apologized, "I had to."
The man felt his heart sinking and thought about how much of a fool he had been to expect any different; not only was Jo never on time, she was also impatient. Now she had gone and married somebody else to fulfill her needs. But even as the bitterness took him over inside, he understood. How could expect her to wait for him still, now years after he had been declared dead? Even the most patient of women would have seen futility; it didn't take impatience, it took common sense.
So he hid the bitterness. "It's okay, Jo. I understand. If you think it might be a problem for me to come back with you, I can give Rus a call. Wouldn't he be glad to see me?"
Jo chuckled. "I think it would be best."
The man nodded and pulled out the small phone that the commander had given him and a piece of paper with all the phone numbers he had asked for. He started pressing the phone's keypad and frowned.
"How do these things work?" He asked. "They showed me how to use it but it didn't really stick; I had to get some lady to help me call you."
"Let me see," Jo said. It was more of a formality than a question, as she had already snatched the phone away before saying it. "Oh, you just locked it. She dialed her brother's number and handed the phone back to him."
As the line rang and he stared at her with his bright gray eyes, she felt a warmth she hadn't felt in quite a long while. She felt compelled to say something. "I'm sorry."
He nodded and then spoke, but it wasn't to her. "Rus?"
He grinned as the person as the other person recognized his voice and started screaming though the line in excitement. His friends loved him still after all this time. Now, he could start his life afresh; he was in a town full of people who all knew who he was. Even if he didn't quite know himself.
He was Nathan Fargo, and he had been missing in action for sixteen and a half years.