AN: Hi! This version of Come Back was written by Nat, (me) for Mischa, there's a second version that recounts the other couple's issues and family that comes from the same events, written by Mischa for Nat (still me) let us know which one you like better (nicely, we're still best friends and won't take kindly to people shooting the other one down!)
"I love you."
Three little words. Eight letters and a period. Those three words used to make her smile. Now they brought tears to her eyes. When Will came home from Kindergarten and asked a perfectly innocent question, "Mommy why don't I have a daddy?" Melanie froze and after a minute opened her arms to him and he ran to her. She picked him up. His green eyes mirrored hers and she smoothed a cowlick from his floppy blonde curls.
"Sweetie you know how much I love you right?" He nodded curiously "Your daddy loved you so much too, but sometimes love just isn't enough."
"Ok Mommy." Will smiled and hurried off to play again.
'An innocent question, he didn't mean anything by it.' Melanie assured herself. She wondered what brought it on. He was closest with Jack, her best friend's son, but he'd never questioned the existence of Steve, the boy's father.
Will couldn't have known the can of worms he opened up, but later that night after putting him to bed, she lay awake for a long time remembering.
"I love you." She whispered into his shoulder.
"I know." he mumbled back "Mel, I have a crazy idea." He said rolling away a bit she he could see her face in the moonlight.
She turned so her head was propped up on her hand. "Ok." She giggled.
"Marry me." He smiled lazily, like he was commenting on the weather.
"Your right, that's a crazy idea." She laughed and snuggled into him again. For a few minutes they just cuddled, then he pulled back again and looked up at the stars.
"Why?" He asked stretching out and resting his head in the palms of his hands.
"Why is it crazy? Why can't we just do it?" He looked back at her, serious now.
"Ry, I'm still in High School!" She smiled and shook her head. "And you, I mean you're in the prime of your life. Why settle for me?"
"Your not settling for me Mel. You're everything." (cue sugar land song entitled 'I ain't settling' lol didn't even plan that)
"Well we've overlooked the fact that you're my teacher. People would say things." She insisted.
"Do you love me?" He asked, looking her right in the eye.
"So much." She breathed.
"And I love you. So what's the problem?" He smiled. She melted.
But really he was right. They were happy. Who cared?
Melanie woke up in a cold sweat. She'd been dreaming. She squeezed her eyes shut trying to hold onto that image of him looking so peaceful as they stared up at the stars laying in the bed of his truck. But like everything else it slipped away. She was dreading the day that she would wake up and her first thought wasn't his face. That would mean she was forgetting, something that would hurt even more than remembering.
She crept quietly out of bed, careful not to wake Will, and padded down the stairs to the fireplace. On the mantel were three framed pictures. The first was their wedding photo, the second was her Ryan and Will minutes after he was born, and in the center, was a headshot of Ryan in uniform. Black jacket and white hat, he stared back at her from under the brim, and she cried.
They'd been married only a few weeks when she woke up one morning, and had to run to the bathroom, barely making it to the toilet in time. He heard her retching and hurried in to see what was wrong. She spat, flushed and rinsed her mouth.
"No school for you today." He said, steering her right back to bed.
"But I'm fine." She insisted. He shook his head and pulled the covers up around her tightly so she couldn't move.
"So." He argued. "We're still staying home today." He climbed back into the bed again and pulled her up to his bare chest. They stayed like that for a while, eventually flipping on the tv to relax together on their day of hooky.
So by some stroke of chance, they were home to see it.
She had nestled down into the pillows and blankets and was about to drift off for a cat nap, when the TV cut to static for a few seconds before a military insignia flashed on the screen.
She caught snippets of the press conference "Bombed….declared war…armed forces….need for a draft…healthy men…18 to 35." Her eye lids fluttered as her tired brain processed the news.
"Ry? What's going on?" She mumbled, but sleep was taking her already.
"Sleep now, we'll talk about it later." He soothed and rubbed his palm across her back as she drifted off.
"K." then she slept.
He looked at her innocence radiating from her face as she breathed regularly. Their world had just been turned upside down. Like it or not, he was going to war.
Melanie woke up on her couch, clinging fiercely to the photo of Ryan she kept on her mantle. She checked the clock and carefully put it back in it's place before waking Will for school.
He slept like she imagined the angels did, but she didn't want to think about angels now, too painful.
Will rolled over in his sleep and groaned. He really was just like his father, Ryan never wanted to wake up either. Melanie sat on the edge of the bed and began to rhythmically rub his back until the little boys opened his eyes. He blinked the sleep away and mumbled. "Hi Mommy. I had a good dream, Daddy was there, and we played catch all day."
Melanie's smile seemed stuck to her face as she nodded and swallowed hard. "That's wonderful sweetie."
"Mommy?" Will asked quietly. "Can you tell me about Daddy please? Auntie Leelee and Uncle Steve were talking about him when I was playing with Jack, They said I'm like him. I wasn't supposed to listen, but they were talking loud."
Melanie closed her eyes and smiled. Of course they would say that, it was true. She saw more of Ryan in Will everyday.
"Well, your daddy was a great man. He was loyal, and strong, and brave, but he also knew that sometimes talking worked better than fighting. Your daddy was the best man in the whole world." She pulled him close to her and for a few blessed moments, they stayed like that, then life returned and she hurried him up and ready for the bus to kindergarten.
"You look good in uniform." She smiled and snapped another photo. They were on their way to his training camp, he was going to ship out in a week.
"You make a good Army wife." He replied glancing away from the lonely road to see her face again. "Make sure you feed yourself, and baby too." He reminded her. "I don't want you withering while I'm gone."
Her smile grew wider and she rested a hand on her stomach. It had been about four months since the announcement of the draft, and he'd finally gotten a conscription notice in the mail last week.
"Honeymoon baby's gonna need all the food we can give him." She replied patting her baby bump.
"I still think it's a girl." he insisted.
"See there's your problem. You're a man trying to think." She joked because she was too scared to do anything else. "Hey Ry?" She said after a minute.
"Yeah?" His voice was strained.
"Come home for me. Ok?" She asked sliding her hand on top of his on the gear shift.
His grip tightened and he swallowed as he turned down the dirt road to the base. "Yes Ma'am." He said at last. "Hey Mel?"
"Don't ever forget that I love you so much it hurts."
She felt the tears that had been building the entire car ride spill over. "Never." She whispered.