I could practically feel my face turning red with the exertion I was putting myself through. Having spent years in the Air Force I didn’t like to show the pain I was in, and instead preferred to work even harder. I had eventually been discharged from the hospital and was looking forward to finally getting out of the sterile building.
The bright sun felt amazing as it lightly sizzled against my skin and I heaved my large duffel bag over my shoulder as I hobbled down the path with my crutches to the closest cab. The driver nodded as I fell into the back seat and I felt the whole cab sink much lower under my weight. “Where to, Sir?” he the driver asked lazily as he started the engine.
I smiled softly to myself before fixing my stern expression back on and replied in my clipped commanding voice. He nodded again and slowly pulled out of his spot while I leaned back and closed my eyes, ignoring the throbbing pain in my thigh. Once the car began to move a little more steadily I opened my eyes and watched the scenery pass the window.
I hadn’t been back in my hometown for ten years and it while it hadn’t changed, it also had in a way. The small beach side town with a population of roughly three thousand people still housed the laid back and happy townspeople. Children laughed loudly while they played on the side of the street, or in cases of the teenagers on the street, while the adults watched from cafes or restaurants. The sun shone brightly with no traces of clouds and the black silhouettes of seagulls hovered in the sky before squawking and diving down for their meal.
What had changed were the buildings and shops that lined the street and the newly built houses that didn’t look familiar. My eyebrows rose in interest at a new gym that seemed quite popular, if the amount of people inside had anything to say – Shell’s Gym. Sounds... well, it suits the beach I guess. As we drove further I saw a few more gyms. I kept their names and location in the back of my mind for when I started my physiotherapy and was allowed to do more physical work.
Allowed to do more physical work. The concept of not being allowed to do physical labour was such an alien feeling and I didn’t like it one bit. I was used to hard, physical and almost bone-breaking labour that lying or sitting down like I’d been doing over the last few weeks was torture. I hated not moving around, using my hands to do something or at the very least being useful!
I caught sight of myself in the rear view mirror and took a moment to really look at myself. I’d lost some weight since leaving the base and was also a little paler. Despite the weight loss I was still much bigger than everyone at the hospital and noticed that they still gave me a wide berth whenever I was in the hallways. I rarely spoke when I was there, only speaking when I needed to and even then it was short sentences.
I was never rude, though. No, I was brought up well to be a gentleman by my mother. She always taught me to respect my elders, to be straight forward and honest. I was to be firm and strong-willed towards men yet respectful and gentlemanly towards women. Suffice to say, my mother was my hero and I didn’t care what anyone else at the base had to say... I loved my mom and would carry the world on my shoulders for her.
Almost as though my thoughts had been preparing me, the cab stopped outside the familiar peach painted house with white framed windows and I felt a sense of welcome and ease overwhelm me. I thanked the driver and threw a couple of bills at him, offering him a generous tip before hauling myself out of the car with my crutches and duffel bag in hand.
I was home.
I shouldered my bag and crutched my way along the shell paved driveway towards the front door. I was excited and yet so nervous. Of course I’d always written my mother whenever I could and sent her money to help her out so she wouldn’t have to work so hard but I hadn’t seen her since I graduated and became a full pledged officer. She never visited me at the hospital simply because I never told her I was there. I didn’t want to worry her and have her see me attached to machines and tubes. She didn’t need to see that.
The familiar smell of home baked goods wafted over to me as I neared the front door and I couldn’t stop the smile that grew. As always the door was open, no matter how many times I told her to keep it locked, and I walked inside dropping my bag to the ground just inside the doorway. Nothing had changed. Mom had kept everything just the way it was when I left and I loved how everything felt familiar. It was so good to be home!
“Katrina is that you?” I heard my mom call from the kitchen. “I’m just taking out the last batch of cookies for you”
I hobbled further inside towards the kitchen and leaned in the doorway watching my mom bend down to pull out the tray of cookies she was talking about. She looked as beautiful and wise as the day I left for the air force. Of course she had a few more wrinkles and was a little plumper around the waist but to me my mom would always be the most beautiful woman in the world.
“I’m not Katrina... but I wouldn’t mind some of your famous cookies” I said with a smile tugging at the corner of my mouth. My mom gasped and spun around quickly holding her floral oven mitts to her mouth as her eyes grew to the size of my hands. I could see the recognition in her eyes (which were filling up with tears) but she seemed a little too shocked to say anything. “Hi mom”
“Ray!!! Oh my God my little Rayray is home!” she shrieked as she ran across the kitchen and enveloped me as best as she could in an embrace only a mother can give. “What happened to you?! When did you come back? How did you get here? Why didn’t you tell me you were back? How long are you staying for-“
I cut her rambling question with my burst of laughter and I squeezed her tightly back. “It’s a long story. A few weeks ago. I was shipped back. You didn’t need to see in hospital and at least a year according to the doctors”
Suddenly my mom smacked my arm and gave me a stern look, “And why did you think it was best that you kept this whole injury away from me? I am your mother! I am supposed to know these things!”
I knew she was only half ‘angry’ so I let myself chuckle at her angry Chihuahua face. If she had actually been seriously angry there was no way I would have laughed. In general, a child who respects their parent would be somewhat transported back to their childhood days when their mother got angry at them, especially when they use their full name. There was no way I was would step out of line if my mother had actually been angry.
“Because I was heavily sedated anyway mom, don’t worry about it. You’re the first person besides the doctors and nurses who’ve I’ve seen. See? You’re still important!” She gave me one last stern look before smiling.
“Fine. But if this ever happens again, though hopefully not, you better tell me. I don’t care how big and tall you get you are still my baby and I will slap you one on the side of the head if need be”
I laughed and shook my head at her motherly tendencies, “Yes, mom”
She beamed and I let her help me sit down at the dinner table while she prodded about every aspect of my life, not that there was anything else besides the Air Force. When I told her how I got injured and how I was shipped back she ended up crying and I immediately thought how much of a bad idea it was to tell her everything about it.
“My poor little boy” she sobbed.
“I’m not a little boy anymore mom. I’m fine. Just need a few months to heal and then a few more months of physio and I’ll be back at the base like nothing happened” I told her, leaving out the part about the test I’d have to go through deciding whether or not I was physically able to return.
She sniffed the last of her tears and fanned her face lightly. “You will always be my little boy, Rayray. Now, get yourself settled in. Have a rest if you need it and I’ll have dinner ready soon. I’ll make your favourite!”
I stood up slowly and grinned. My favourite food was mom’s lasagne. She literally had to make two of them because, even ten years ago, I would finish a whole lasagne to myself and sometimes even eat the leftovers of hers at midnight for a snack. She made the best food and I could already feel my stomach growling in anticipation!
I woke up in a sweat as I gasped for breath. My heart thundering against my ribs so hard that I held a hand to my chest for a while I waited for it to slow down. Every night... every night I had nightmares of the ambush on the base and the shots that pierced my flesh. Every night I’d been constantly reminded of how much it hurt to be shot, as though seeing the physical reminder wasn’t enough.
I glanced over at the alarm clock and saw that the numbers read quarter to five. I wiped the sweat on my forehead and threw the sheets back. I wasn’t going back to sleep. I’d feel even more tired and after ten years in the Air Force it wasn’t too bad waking at this time. Normally I’d be up at five and that was a sleep in!
I grabbed my crutches and got dressed. My leg may need healing, but I needed to do more than just sitting around watching TV or doing nothing. I locked the front door and made my way down the shell drive way turning towards the hidden pathway that I found when I was younger. I wondered if anyone had found it during the decade I was gone and whether it was a common walk way now. It was a path that cut straight towards the beach with no need to travel around the trees, bushes and other roads.
To my surprise and happiness I discovered the path had overgrown with the thin spindly trees that grew by the sand off the main stone pathway and I grinned as I pushed my way through it. Obviously no one had found the hidden pathway and I felt like I was ten years old again as I pushed my way through the trees. The sandy path was still here, but the trees simply grew over making it almost impossible to see if you weren’t looking for it.
As I walked, the trees thinned showing the sandy banks and other beach side plants. There were plants with thick leaves and bright flowers and little crabs that scuttled away before I neared them. I looked up to see the dark blue and purple sky with a faint dusting of clouds. The sun hadn’t risen yet and the sand below my bare feet was cold and comforting. I knew that once the sun was in the sky the sand would be as hot as coals so I was thankful I’d brought a pair of flip flops.
I began to hear the soft crashing of waves and my smile grew. I’d always loved the beach, ever since I was younger the beach had always given me some sort of reprieve from the world. It calmed me down and, besides my mom, it was the one thing I missed the most while I was in the Air Force. I didn’t see the beach much and I could really feel myself relaxing now that it was so close.
The trees seemed to close in again and I easily pushed through them sighing in happiness when the sight of endless ocean met my eyes. The sand surrounding me was a greyish yellow and the ocean was a dark grey blue. In the distance the first rays of light were beginning to streak themselves like paint on a black canvas. Where the rays of light hit the sky the sky turned from a dark blue to an interesting shade of imperial purple before lightening to lavender.
I walked slowly a little ways, leaving my crutches where the break in the trees were, letting the muscles in my leg work themselves a little harder as I walked in the sand. I’d heard it was better to walk on sand if someone had a leg injury because the muscles harder and I had to admit... that was very true. I’d walked for about ten minutes before stopping to sit on the sand bank. There was a lone surfer in the water. By the look of her bikini it was safe to say the surfer was a ‘she’.
She sat on her board staring at the horizon and I turned my head in the same direction. The sun had begun its journey upwards and the top of the sun made its appearance over the flat line of the water. Sunlight burst out changing the sky all hues of colours. The grey-blue water lightened to a deep sapphire blue then continued lightening to a crystal blue as the water became shallower. The sand was no longer greyish yellow and instead it was easy to see that it wasn’t a single colour, instead every shade of yellow, white and pink was on display as the sun rose.
I breathed in the air as a gust of salty wind blew in my face and I sunk my fingers and toes into the sand. I’d miss this. A lot. My life here seemed even more far away than the life I’d lived in the Air Force and it seemed odd that I could fit into both. I turned back to the lone surfer and watched in surprise at how good she was.
Her strokes through the water were so fluid it didn’t look like she was even trying. I watched her as she caught wave after wave and I couldn’t help but wonder who she was. Her body movements were so graceful and she had this sort of finesse that a lot of surfers couldn’t seem to perfect.
Plus her body.
Her body was insane, in a definite good way.
It was hard to keep my eyes off of her. In fact, I watched over for so long I didn’t realise how time seemed to fly and too soon she was paddling her way back to the shore. She grabbed a towel that she had left in a pile with a bag and dried herself off before slipping on a pair of ripped denim short shorts over her bikini bottoms. She let her sandy blonde hair down and shook it out. I noticed it was longer than I’d thought reaching half way down her back before she wound it back up into a messy bun.
She grabbed her board and bag then flung her towel over her shoulder before walking up the sand banks and out of my sight. I sighed. Despite how much I loved the beach it wasn’t the same as when I was watching her. I stood up and dusted the sand grains that clung to me and made my way back to my crutches. By now my leg ached painfully and when I finally saw the two metal crutches I felt relieved at having some sort of physical aid.
I walked back through the hidden pathway using the crutches and soon could feel the sand heating up beneath my feet. I slipped on my flip flops and continued walking. The whole walk back I couldn’t help but think of the lone surfer. She didn’t look familiar, though I was a fair distance from her to have a proper look. Was she new? Or just one of the people I didn’t get to know before I left?
One thing I knew for certain was that it was going to take a lot to get her out of my mind.
Hm.... Yeah, this chappie is pretty much to show you how much of a mommy’s boy Ray is and just a bit of his life.
Dedicated to @ariesgirl72 for correcting me with my Air Force terms (n,n) I respect anyone who puts their life on the line for their country and apologise if I made any other mistakes. I personally don’t have any sort of background with this kind of thing so if I make any mistakes please let me know =D