Chapter 23-I'm No Hero
Song: Hero Of War-Rise Against
I can’t tell you why I opened up to Emily, although, she did have a right to know how I was feeling in regards to our son. Our Son, it feels weird when I say it but at the same time, it feels right. I haven’t met the little guy yet but Emily showed me the pictures and all it took was one look to know he’s mine. I can’t wait to meet him yet, I’m terrified I’m going to fuck it all up.
Emily is wrong about me not being broken if she only knew the things I’ve done and the lives I’ve taken she would know how truly broken I am. Then again she may try to justify it by saying its war, it happens, and where that is true, it doesn’t change the fact that I’m a cold-hearted killer. I never hesitated to pull the trigger except for that one time and I still live with the consequences of that fated day.
When I hear the soft snores and steady breathing I tell her the very thing I’ve been holding back from her. “I' am broken Emily, more than you will ever know because I’m haunted by the faces of those I've killed.”
I glance down and my heart stirs with how beautiful she looks when she’s sleeping. Long blond tresses spread on the pillow, her hands are folded, and tucked underneath her head. I’m jealous of how she can sleep so peacefully when every time I close my eyes I see people dying. I relive the nightmare over and over again and it fucking sucks.
“Excuse me, Sir?” A kind female voice pulls me from my inner turmoil, I look over and see a flight attendant standing in the aisle. She smiles softly and maybe perhaps a little flirty. “Can I get you anything to drink?” I guess she has to be flirty to do her job but she was making me uncomfortable with Emily laying on my lap.
“Um..no, I’m good but thank you,” I respond. Her smile drops and I feel like an asshole for not playing her game but I’m not into random hookups. She walks away and I sigh, I hate when girls see me in army uniform and think I’m good for a quickie. It happens more times then I care to count.
Emily shifts her body and lets out a small whimper or moan; I can’t tell. I lay my seat as far back as it can go without bothering the passengers behind me. Using my good arm I scoop her up and make her more comfortable. Once she’s settle’s back down I close my eyes and hope the dreams won’t come.
At the hospital Em would stay with me at night, she thought if I was close to her then I wouldn’t have the nightmares. She was right in some ways, her hand stayed in mine the whole night and her touch was enough to calm me. As I close my eyes I imagine how it’s going to be when I meet my son for the first time, and it’s those thoughts that lure me into sleep.
“You don’t want to do this! I know this is scary but please put the weapon down.” The little boy shakes his head while his tears mix with the dirt and grime on his face. His hands are shaking and his body is trembling, he doesn’t want to do this anymore than I want to be standing here pointing my weapon at him.
“He’s just a kid!” I shout to the older man forcing the boy to fight in a grown-up war. “How can you live with yourself?” Of course, he can’t understand a word I’m saying since he’s screaming in Arabic. I don’t have to understand the language to know what he’s saying. He’s telling him to shoot me.
I stand there stunned as the boy puts his finger on the trigger, and I don’t flinch. I pull my trigger and fire a kill shot. The bullet flies through the boys’ heart, killing him instantly. His body drops to the ground and his blood mixes in with the brown sand. I fight back tears as I stare up at a tiny lifeless body and his chocolate brown eyes opened toward the sky.
His eyes change to a light brown, his mocha skin turns into a cream and his whole face morphs into that of my three-month-old son.
“NO, NO, NO! How could this happen?” I drop to my knees and scoop up his little body into my arms.
“Damien?” Emily’s voice calls to me but I don’t see her. I feel the tips of her fingers brush against my cheek but I still don’t see her. “Damien, you need to wake up baby. It’s only a nightmare, and I’m here. You’re okay, just open your eyes.” Her soft voice sings to me like a lullaby, I slowly open my eyes and see her cornflower eyes locked on me.
“What happened? Where am I?” Emily cups my face in her palm.
“You had a nightmare and the plane is going to land soon.” She gives me a small smile. “We’re almost home Day.” The word home doesn’t bring me comfort anymore, I don’t know where I belong when I’m not in the middle of a battlefield and engaged in combat. I haven’t heard from my mother in almost a year and I don’t know anything about her well being or whereabouts.
“Home, where is that Emily?” I ask her and her smile turns into a frown. “I don’t know where I belong anymore.”
“Damien, home is wherever you want it to be. Michael is my home, so wherever he is, is where I want to be. Where do you want to be Day?” Where do I want to be? Where can I go? The only place I ever felt peace was the times I stayed with the Wood’s and if I’m being honest I only ever felt at home with Emily.
“Wherever you and Michael are is where I want to be. I don’t want to be haunted by the past anymore.”
“I don’t want to be either Damien. The only thing we can do now is to stop living in the past and move forward.”
“How do I do that Emily? You look like you got over your past and are holding yourself together.” She scoffs.
“I only show what I want people to see Damien. I’m literally a walking mess all the time, I’m constantly having to look over my shoulder and take extra precautions because I’m afraid Zeek will strike at any given moment. I really am a fraud Damien because instead of being open and honest about everything I hide.” I can’t believe what she’s telling me but it’s also killing me to know that she’s still hurting. I never wanted her to hide, and with me she never did but when I left she went back into herself and fell into the arms of entitled creep.
“No matter how many times I apologize for leaving you, I will never be able to rid myself of this guilt.” Her beautiful blue eyes fill with unshed tears, and she opens her mouth to say something but the touch of a hand on my shoulder causes me to jump out of my chair and come face to face with the idiot who touched me.
Guilt swam inside me once again when I meet the eyes of a kind old man. The look in his eyes told me he understood and was sorry he startled me.
“I’m sorry young man, I just wanted to say thank you?” I’m not sure what he was thanking me for since I haven’t done anything to warrant this kind of gratitude.”
“For what, Sir? I haven’t done anything.” He glances down and points to my ACU’s but I still don’t understand.
“I was once like you.” He went on to say. When I turned eighteen I enlisted and left my girl. I’ve seen and done things that would give my children nightmares as I’m sure you have as well. I feel like I need to just say thank you for your service and sacrifices. Leaving a family and what you’ve always known is one of the hardest things a person has to do, but then to go and put yourself in the middle of a war zone makes that person a hero in my book.” I have no words because I’m not a hero. Hero’s don’t get their best friends shot and kill little kids. Hero’s don’t leave their pregnant ex-girlfriends and then spend fifteen months avoiding her. I’m the exact opposite of a hero.
Emily reads me and knows I’m getting lost in my own head again, stands up and holds her hand out for the man.
“Hi, I’m Emily and this is Damien.” She introduces with a smile. “Damien is defiantly my hero along with my brother Dan. He’s the one over there.” She points over to where Dan is sitting, he’s got his eyes closed and his earbuds in. Dan is finding his own peace by listening to some quack job Brooklyn told him about.
“You both are great men and please don’t let what this war has done to you destroy your soul.” I wanted to say something but he had already left the plane. Then one by one more passengers went up to Dan and shook his hand. I could tell it was getting to him but he just plastered on a smile and graciously took everything in stride.
I, on the other hand, would run if Emily wasn't holding my hand and keeping me grounded. She says I need this so I can see that I am a hero. I love the girl but she’s wrong and I don’t think anything is going to change that for me.
When the plane landed and I stepped onto the pavement I took a much-needed breath. Having all those people shaking my hand or wanting a hug was stifling and consuming me. I wanted to scream and tell them not to fucking touch me but it’s not their fault. They can’t begin to understand what I’m feeling, or dealing with.
“Damien, are you okay?” Mrs. Woods asks.
“Yeah, I will be.” I drop my bag on the ground and place my hands on my knees, then place my head in between them.
Take a deep breath then count back from ten. I remind myself of what the medic and I worked on while I was on base. He says it helps ward off panic attacks but I think it’s a load of shit, there is really only one thing that really helps and I’m not about to do it right here in the middle of a fucking airport. I also promised myself I would never let it happen again, it was a mistake and felt all sorts of wrong.
A hand starts to rub soothing circles on my lower back and that pissed me off even more. I’m tired of being invaded so I say,
“Leave me the fuck alone!” I throw my hand out and push the person away without looking. I hear the person hit the ground and a small sob. That’s when I turn around and see who I pushed.