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Soldier Tags

By Tamzin Atkins All Rights Reserved ©

Drama / Romance

Blurb

Cason Matthews has been found, five years after being missing in action. He is deeply scarred inside and out by years of struggling to survive. The only thing that has kept him going and all that he can now think about is his beautiful wife Sarah and their baby daughter. He finally returns home filled with joy and excitement only to find that his wife had died a year ago and that his mother is raising his emotionally traumatised daughter, who has an obsession with soldiers. Cason has to learn to fit into a world that is no longer his, come to terms with the loss of his soul mate, and raise his daughter who like a stranger sees him as a soldier and not as her father. This is a tale of devotion and love; where two broken people need each other and where letting go is harder than anyone expected. Raising a five year old is an unfamiliar war, can Carson survive this one?

Prologue

Outside the window a cool breeze blew autumn leaves off the trees. Sarah Matthews had been staring out the window for the past half an hour. Watching the leaves float to the ground while children raced their bicycles through the fallen leaves. This was her neighbourhood, the perfect place to raise a family. She watched the couple across from her house, packing their car for a family trip. The father was holding his three year old daughter in his arms, as he tickled her tummy causing her to giggle innocently. Sarah let out a deep sigh, leaning her forehead against the cold glass. She peered down at her new-born daughter asleep in her arms. Her soft dark brown hair was sticking out from under the blanket in small tufts, her little mouth sucking on her fist hungrily. She was so beautiful, everything Sarah had expected and more and today was the day she had been waiting for. Today was the day her husband came home. She smiled down at their daughter her new-born deep blue eyes staring back at Sarah, before gently fluttering closed in sleep. Sarah looked up again out of the window, her heart beating nervously as a sleek black government car parked in her driveway. The door opened and two uniformed officers climbed out of the car, sunglasses shielding their eyes from her. She peered past them in search of her husband, but there was no sign of him. A ball of lead-filled her stomach, a wave of nausea suddenly consuming her. Where was he? He promised he would be home today. Sarah hadn’t heard from him in the two weeks since telling him about the birth of their daughter and today was the day he would meet their child for the first time. A loud knock at the front door startled her out her spiralling thoughts. She took a deep breathe and stepped forward, opening the front door. Her husband’s dog barked excitedly at the intruders, pushing past her to get to them. Sarah stretched out a hand trying to keep her balance. The officer closest to her grabbed onto her arm to steady her, while the other removed his sunglasses.

“Mr’s Matthews? “ Sarah nodded her jerkily, her throat going dry. “May we come in?” asked the first officer, removing his hand from her arm. Sarah stepped sideways, giving them enough room to enter her home. The second guy closed the front door as her heart jumped in panic at the finality of that small action. They both turned to face her, a look of sadness and regret flashing in their eyes.

“Would you like to sit first, ma’am?” questioned the second officer, waving towards the chairs across from them. “Just tell me where my husband is?” snapped Sarah shakily. “We are sorry to inform you that he was last seen a week ago.” “What does that mean?” asked Sarah, her daughter starting to sob in her arms at the sudden tension in the room. They both looked down at their shoes, refusing to make eye contact. “Nash, I have known you for three years and you are his best friend. So tell me what you are hiding?” shouted Sarah stepping towards them. He looked her straight in the eyes, unshed tears held back. “He was last seen a week ago, there was an explosion close by and no one has seen him since. We believe he is a hostage,” answered Nash regretfully. “Hostage!” whispered Sarah, her world crashing down around her from that one word. Her worst nightmare had just come true, she had always known it was a possibility but never expected it to actually happen. Sarah felt her legs buckle, her vision going black. Her baby was taken from her arms and a set of strong arms scooped her up. A silent scream escaped from deep within, her mouth open, but nothing coming out. How could this have happened? He had promised her he would be home to meet their daughter. Sarah felt her body shaking, tears running down her cheeks. In the distance she heard her daughter crying, crying for her, and she opened her eyes. Nash was perched on the couch next to where he had laid her down. While the other officer awkwardly held her daughter trying to stop her from crying. Nash took something out of his pocket and held it in his open palm. Sarah looked down at the dog tags and picked it up with shaky hands. She knew what-what was on the tags but read it once more. “Cason ‘cricket’ Matthews” engraved on the front. Another heart wrenching sob escaped from deep within. Her daughter’s screams were getting louder by the second. Sarah wiped her eyes on the burping towel on her shoulder and looked at her daughter. She was red in the face from screaming, her arms and legs kicking angrily. Sarah opened her arms and the officer passed her daughter to her. She stared down at her daughter, gently rocking her. Sarah heard Nash on the phone with her husband’s mother who lived not far from here.

“Sarah..” started Nash, but was cut off by her holding up a halting hand. “Please leave! I need you to leave now!” said Sarah refusing to look at them. She heard Nash sigh in frustration and stand up; she waited for them to leave before she broke down crying again. Sarah stood up on shaky legs and went to their bedroom. She climbed onto the bed with her sleeping daughter across her chest. Staring across the room, at the portrait of her and Cason on the wall! Their dog jumped up onto the bed and laid his nose on her leg, whining for attention. She put a hand in his thick fur; letting the tears flow. Sarah looked up at the photo of her and Cason. They were so happy in that photo as he had one arm around her and the other on her swollen bump, at the time she was five months along. That was the last time she had seen him in person. Would she ever see those caring grey eyes again? Or feel those strong arms wrapped around her in her sleep? She used to love it when he grew his hair out and would run her fingers through his hair; knowing it annoyed him. Sarah looked down at their sleeping daughter and touched her soft rosy cheek; she gently put the dog tags around her baby’s neck.

“Let my girl meet her father; let him know we love him and miss him” cried, Sarah.

She kissed her daughter’s cheek once more and spoke to her daughter. “Daddy won’t be coming home today sweetie; they say he is missing. We know it won’t be for long; because he has us waiting for him. Daddy will come home Shelby, and until he does come back, you can be my cricket” whispers Sarah, closing her eyes. The bedroom door opened and Cason’s mother walked in; she climbed onto the bed with them and wrapped her arms around Sarah as they cried together. Neither spoke a word as they grieved together.

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