Short Story╽In The Shadows: The Guardian Angel Of New York By Samantha James
I wrote a new short story titled In The Shadows: The Guardian Angel of New York and I thought I would reshare the story today. I could really use any feedback, thoughts, opinions, criticism, encouragement, and everything else. As you guys all know, I am still bit of a green writer learning the ropes through this blog so any suggestions gives helps!
Story Synopsis: One late evening, the unthinkable happens to a young woman after leaving her shift at a busy New York hospital. Kimberly is found bloody and beaten in an alley near the bar her husband runs when Lt. William Dale of the U.S Airforce happens to stumble upon her. With all the men going off to fight Hitler in the war transforming Europe, it will take everything Kimberly has to find him again. Will they ever be reunited?
IN THE SHADOWS: THE GUARDIAN ANGEL OF NEW YORK
Written by Samantha James
A large fist slammed me back into the stool, shoving me to the ground in a crash. The snap of my wrist unmistakable. I shrieked out in anguish landing in a heap on the floor. I tried to get up. Sharp jolts of pain shot up the side of my arm as rapid as lightning as I stumbled, before becoming pure dead weight. I had broken it, but he didn’t seem to care at all.
“Danny, help me!” I pleaded in a gasp, unable to speak. Another punch came to my face as I tried to steady myself. The world swirled and blackened as my head smashed the wood counter-tops while I crumbled to the empty floor of the bar. I couldn’t help but think in these moments what a massive mistake I made. My husband was insane. Why hadn’t I seen it before? There were so many signs I ignored because I loved him, and now he was going to kill me. Making the move to New York had brought me nothing but misery. I tried to focus my eyes on his face silently begging him to just stop and listen to me for one second. He only needed to hear my explanation to understand it wasn’t my fault.
“Tell me the truth, Kimberly!” Danny raved in a voice no longer recognizable. He sounded like a rabid dog defending a bone. I could feel his spit as it splashed with each word. “I know bloody well you are lying! You were with that fancy doctor from the hospital! Why were you so late getting here tonight huh? The bar has been closed for two hours!”
Danny continued to rant about the doctor who worked at the hospital I had been volunteering at for months. Jealousy dripping from every scornful utterance. There was no understanding the lunacy going through my husband’s brain. The man he was referring to had only ever spoken to me once! If my life depended on it, no way I could even tell you that doctor’s name. How unfortunate his mind went there. None of this made any sense.
“There has only ever been you!” I screamed out, but this only lit up the rage in Danny’s mind. He came at me again. “You’re supposed to be here to help me close!”
“I swear, I haven’t been doing anything wrong! Stop! You’re hurting me!” I begged as he pushed me against the wall with his hands on my throat. His red pudgy face so angry the veins looked like they might pop out from his face. I didn’t know what to do as he delivered more blows to my head, causing me to fall again. I was in too much shock for tears, but a few escaped as I continued to plead with him, trying to glance around to see if anyone else lingered in the bar. No luck, everyone had left at least an hour ago. Danny was the only one who cleaned up and closed at night, although more often than not I did the work.
Trying to stand up again I put all the weight on my uninjured arm to lift myself but my hands found something wet and gooey causing me to slip back to my side unable to get traction. I noticed blood all around me and realized I was bleeding. His wild tantrum wasn’t going to end well for me. Nobody was here, there would be no help. Before any chance of assessing the damage, Danny’s shouting caused me to look up, “You are lying!” He kept screaming, delivering several hard kicks to my side. I felt something crack and yelped at the agonizing sensation. “How can you do this to me,” he cried “I will kill you!”
I couldn’t breathe!
The sound of stomping feet and then an opening door jolted me to my senses. Had he left? I looked around, finding it difficult to focus on the surrounding room. Now I needed to move, this being the chance to escape! Mustering all the strength possible, I got to my feet. The pain is excruciating and throbbing as I hobbled my way to a door off the side of the bar’s kitchen leading out onto the street. The night air was icy and blistering but a welcomed relief. I gripped the building’s wall and stumbled out into the alley. The bar was tucked into a busy New York street. There would be lots of people around, no matter the late hour. Safety and help wouldn’t be too far. Everything would be alright in the end.
“Hey there, are you okay? What happened to you?” A voice questioned with concern. I was too disoriented to see where the sound was coming from. Turning to get a look, the ground spun unevenly catching me in a daze of dizziness, making it impossible to determine where to go. The floor moving in motions I couldn’t keep up with.
“I need help!”
The words escaped my lips even though my lungs scolded like fire and the words came out all wrong. They were all jumbled and slurred; I tried again. “He is trying to kill me!” There was some scuffling before hands guided me towards the street. I couldn’t be sure if he had heard me at all. Nothing came out right and my ears felt stuffed up.
“It’s alright, Let’s get you to a hospital, ma’am.”
By the time we walked a couple of steps, the man became more clear in the light. He had blonde hair and dressed in a military officer’s uniform. Stirling silver wings shined from where it lay pinned to his jacket. He must have been a pilot. I wanted to explain the urgency of how we needed to leave as he continued to guide me away. It was too late!
Danny’s voice rang out loudly from the bar. He sounded psychotic. Waves of terror shivered through me as I panicked in fear. “Kimberly! Where are you!”
The blonde stranger was about to say something but abruptly stopped as a piercing sound thundered in the quiet alley like the backfiring of a car. That was a gun shot!
Without a word, the man picked me up in his arms and rushed us behind some dumpsters that laid in a group near the alley just out of sight as the door banged open. I couldn’t see the street from where he set me down. We both crouched, trying to conceal ourselves from my husband. This was difficult and the pain wouldn’t let me keep my balance. Honestly, if it hadn’t been for the man holding me steady next to him, I would have fallen over. As it was, I tried to focus on not passing out and listening to the sounds.
Which way had he gone?
All remained silent after the shot rang out. Even the street seemed too quiet, as if the world turned itself mute. The alley seemed empty; we lay hidden about midway to the street. The alley just one long corridor with lots of businesses strung in a row with apartment buildings higher up. Everything darker in our corner as we hid some distance from the lights above the bar’s backdoor. I looked up at the man. His face deep in concentration as he strained to listen, a perfect face of concern. He had known it was a gun too. Relief shot through me because he had saved me. I tried not to cry, but the tears streamed down my face anyway, stinging my injuries. The taste of blood reached my lips, and I sobbed harder in massive heaves. My ribs ached from the crying and movement, making it impossible to catch any air in between my sobs. Still, there wasn’t any noise. Danny most likely deciding to go towards the other side of the alley and onto 10th street. There was no way of knowing for sure. Everything at this point proved too much. I knew I couldn’t handle this. Wishing I could just disappear, I prayed to get through this.
“Who is that?” the man whispered, lowering his face to get a good look at me. His expression horrified me. I must have looked terrible. My eyes averted down in shame. I couldn’t answer the question. What words were good enough to describe to a perfect stranger that Danny was my husband? He seemed to get it regardless of the silence hanging between us. Sympathetic eyes regarded me curiously. I didn’t know what to say. How do I even begin the story of what happened tonight? It started alright until the hospital kept me longer. There had been an emergency and all the volunteers slogged through the early evening, rushing around changing bedpans, bringing supplies to the nurses, and providing medicine where needed. A derailed subway train in Manhattan meant the hospital sizzled to full capacity. Leave it to Danny to theorize I had been on a secret rendezvous with one of the doctors. He had always been too jealous. Ever since coming out here, he hardly ever let me out of his sight and friends were out of the question. I never argued too much, over time it just wasn’t worth it. A good wife obeyed her husband and cared for him. Tears of a different kind trickled down out of my eyelids against their will as I thought about how much I tried to be a good wife. It wasn’t enough.
“Don’t cry, Ma’am,” he whispered again, “I am going to get you to the hospital soon and you are going to be alright, I promise.” I nodded but said nothing. “What is your name?” He asked. Talking was impossible, I tried anyway. “Sir, my name is Kimberly Price,” The words came out clearer than I had expected but raspier than intended. He nodded and offered me his hand for a shake. “Nice to meet you, dear. I am Lt. William Dale. I think it may be safe to try the street, find a motorist. You need medical attention, I am afraid.”
The idea of moving away from our hiding spot caused my heart to break out like a hummingbird. Was it safe? Before I could offer any objections, Lt. William picked me up in an effortless movement and turned towards the end of the alley. The noise from the streets drifted to my ears, but everything sounded so far off. The jostling brought my attention back to the pain in my body. It felt like I broke everything. My head spun, and before we reached the end of the building, the world tilted before going black.
Hours later I had woken up in a hospital hurting a thousand times worse than I had back in the bar and the alley. My eyes could barely open; they were so swollen. My lips felt like enormous balloons and my cheeks were sore to the touch. I lay there confused for several seconds as my hand touched around my face, taking a survey of the damage. There was no possibility of even lifting my other arm tightly wrapped in a sling. Mobility wasn’t something I could manage. Everything hurt, the bandages and blankets made me feel to snuggled in the bed. Memories of the evening flooded me as they replayed in my mind. Oh, Danny! Was he here at the hospital? Fear caused me to make an effort to get out of the bed, but I just wasn’t able to, but my attempt attracted the notice of a nearby nurse, who hurried over to me in a rush. Her face determined to stop me. Her kind blue eyes reflecting pity and worry.
“My! My! You poor sweet thing, do be still darling!” she gushed before adding, “You cannot get up. The doctor says you need to just rest! You are quite hurt, you know!” She shuffled around the bed, her hands gently fluffy up the pillows. Once satisfied I was comfortable, she brushed her hair back and narrowed her eyes at me. “I am glad you are awake. There is a handsome detective waiting to talk with you, and everyone is dying to find out what on earth happened to you tonight. You sure lost a lot of blood and you’ve got broken bones all about you. Your arm and ribcage took a tremendous beating!”
“Um…..” It was all I could get out.
“That is alright, you just take it easy and rest for now. I am going to tell the doctor that you are awake. Here, do you need any water?” The nurse asked while bringing a tray with water over to the bedside table. She filled a small cup and brought it to my lips. “Take it slow” she warned as I took my first sip. The water was the most amazing thing I have ever tasted. The cold liquid soothed my raspy, sore throat that was much too dry. Sighing with contentment with each deep drink. I drank two full cups before resting my head back down on the pillows, feeling much better than before. “Thank you,” I said, giving the nurse a small smile that caused me to cringe and gasp a little in discomfort. “I will be right back, just relax and stay put honey.” I watched as she checked on some other patients in the room before exiting into a hallway.
The room hummed of safety, I recognized the place immediatley. It was the same place I volunteered at each week, and I knew the layout of this entire hospital. The room was spacious. Big enough to hold twelve beds in two rows, six on opposite sides of each wall. Looking around, it was full. Each bed filled by a patient. There had been a massive crash in the subway station late that afternoon, and everyone had worked into the evening caring for the injured. Some patients I remembered from earlier. I couldn’t imagine they knew who I was now, with my face so damaged and me all bandaged up. Shivering from the memories of what brought me here, I was able to think a bit. Where was Lt. William? He would need a heartfelt thank you for saving me like that. I owed the man my very life. I hoped Danny hadn’t caught up to him. Was he somewhere hurt in this very hospital? The next time the nurse came by, I would inquire about the man who had saved me. He had been such a kind soul. The image of his concerned eyes and blonde hair slicked back under a cap washed through my mind. His bright and honest face would not be one I ever forgot. So different from Danny’s usual dark clouded eyes and intense face full of hostility. They were opposites, and I didn’t need to know either very well in order to determine that. Whatever happened now, I was through with my marriage. I would go back home to Kansas to live on my father’s farm, or perhaps stay with my aunt in Brooklyn. If she were kind enough to have me. New York was a dashing place and without Danny, maybe staying here wouldn’t be such misery. There was so much more I could do without him sucking the life out of me daily. My head grew tired with these thoughts. The only thing I knew for sure was I would never return to Danny, no matter what the law said. He wasn’t safe, and I couldn’t live like this anymore. My father and mother would understand.
Thinking of them made me miss them. They were good, hardworking people that strived to give me and my siblings a good life. I had loved growing up, roaming the big green fields, chasing the chickens, and riding horses. Nature was something that I had missed immensely while living here in the city. At home, there were large family gatherings and home-cooked meals. Everything is simple and pleasant on my parent’s farm. In hindsight, I couldn’t believe I had ever married Danny and allowed him to convince me to move out here, away from everything I had ever loved. What had I been thinking?
“Hello, Ma’am?” The voice had come from a man in the doorway, I looked towards where it had come from as he entered the room passing several beds. When he got closer, he said, “I am Detective John Mitchel. How are you holding up?” “Alright sir” I nodded, unsure of what else to say. He gave a reassuring smile “I am glad to hear of that, miss. Would you mind if we had a quick chat?” he asked. “You are Mrs. Danny Price?” Frowning at his use of my married name, I corrected him. “I am Kimberly Price, yes,” I said, throwing a little steel in my tone. He picked up on my displeasure with an uncomfortable chuckle. He seemed uneasy, and like he had some bad news to deliver and wishing he didn’t.
“I am here to inform you that your husband passed away this evening before they brought in you tonight. May I ask what occurred this evening and what happened to you?”
“What?!” I asked in shock, going cold all over as the blood drained from my face.
“He was found with a self-inflicted gun wound just a few hours ago. One of the nurses recognized you when you were brought in and reported to the police that you had been attacked. Did your husband do this, Ma’am? Is he the reason you wound up here? He attacked you after closing the bar this evening, didn’t he?” The detective’s voice was gentle as he inquired about the evening. His eyes showed sympathy. That was it. I lost all control and burst into uncontrollable messy sobs. The grief and hysterics were so strong that I couldn’t even feel the pain I was under anymore. Just sadness and disbelief as I hyperventilated and choked on tears. How could this have happened? Danny was dead? I never wanted that. This was all my fault and what a monster I must be. He just wanted a good wife and I couldn’t be that for him. What was wrong with me? Overwhelmed, I leaned to the side to puke over the bed onto the floor. I couldn’t believe this. Poor Danny, all he had ever wanted was to be happy.
“Now there you go, upsetting her!” chastised the nurse. We both turned to find her standing there with her arms crossed. She scowled before shuffling over to me, pulling my hair back and feeling my forehead. Her eyes darted to the detective in which she gave him an admonished look before saying, “You can just come back and ask your questions later! Shoo!”. The detective looked to both of us in apology. “I’m sorry ladies, I regret the troubling news. Mrs. Price, we can talk about tonight’s events later. You just rest up and heal Ma’am. I am so sorry again.” Then he went to turn and leave. “It was lovely seeing you, Meredith,” he muttered to the nurse. It was at that moment I understood how deeply I needed answers and right now. So I sat up in protest. “Oh. No please, don’t go! I need to know what happened myself! Yes, Danny did this to me. A man saved me, one Lt. William Dale. He brought me here! Is he well? He should have been able to give you a witness statement that Danny had shot a gun at me and put me here in this condition.” I paused for a second, noticing their confused stares at what I was saying. As if something didn’t quite match up in their minds. “Where is the lieutenant? Please get him for me.” I pressed anxiously. The way they were acting made me uneasy and worried.
The detective looked down in his notes thinking to himself and the nurse averted her eyes, not looking at me. “Well?” I asked again, my voice going up a volume. “Well, Mrs. Price, it seems my records indicate that they found you going onto the street by pedestrians near the bar Mr. Price worked at. The one right on Tenth. You were found all alone, barely conscious and screaming. Everyone had heard both gunshots. It was the second shot that ended Mr. Price’s life. There was no one with you when you came out the alley. You are lucky to be alive Ma’am from all I have gathered.” He looked at me, like he had answered all my questions. Meredith gave me a fresh blanket before straightening her apron and wiping her hands. “Very lucky to be alive is right, you are going to get through this!” was her only comment. I shook my head at them perplexed, I wiped away sweat and pushed my hair back behind my face. There was a misunderstanding, and this needed to be fixed right away.
“No, you have it all wrong. Lt. Dale saved me. He was right in there when I escaped through the backdoor into the alley. He was in his uniform and had his wings. A pilot, and he brought me here to the hospital. A true hero who rescued me from that nightmare.”
“Sweetie, I was here when they brought you in. It was an ambulance and a police officer that escorted you here to the hospital. There was nobody else.” Meredith said, standing by my bed preparing a small bag of pills. “You need some medication to help the pain and so you can get more rest. The doctor has requested a fresh dose. Be a good girl and take these for me.” She placed two tiny white pills into the palm of my good hand. I swallowed them as she brought a cup of water to my lips. “Here, drink some more water” Meredith encouraged. The detective excused himself, and I tried to get some sleep. It was difficult at first, but the medicine kicked in before long where I drifted in some needed sleep. I didn’t know what to think.
I stood sitting on my aunt’s front porch feeling frustrated. It had been over a week since they had released me from the hospital. Not a single piece of information could I find about Lt. William Dale. It was like he hadn’t existed. Everyone insisted I had been in the alley alone that night, and the only person I had encountered before collapsing in the street was my late husband when he was trying to shoot me. It was all very aggravating. I hoped to find this man and thank him in person. I wanted to see him again. Sighing, I took a sip of my morning coffee and looked into the street. My aunt’s house had a magnificent view of a small park that was vibrant with greenery and trees of all kinds. Beautiful trails into the ground started from the street. It was lovely, and I was grateful to my aunt Lorraine for welcoming her home to me with no notice.
The front door opened and my aunt walked out carrying some mail. “A few letters for you dear” she smiled, handing me the little stack of envelopes. “Thank you,” I said, taking the stack and setting them to the side. “How are you feeling?” Lorraine asked, sitting down on the bench tucking her lovely satin skirt down as made herself comfortable. Not a hair out of place.
She rubbed her hands for warmth and shuttered pulling her robe closer to her body. “It is cold out here, don’t you think?” It was a cool morning, but I had seen worse days than this.
“Oh! It isn’t so bad, auntie,” I chuckled.
“Of course, you would say that being young as you are,”
I laughed and just shook my head. “Well, why don’t you go inside, I am going to read my mail then will join you for breakfast in just a few minutes?” Looking down at the envelopes, I could see letters from my mother and another from my sister; however, there was a telegram that popped out, grabbing my immediate attention. Western Union was scrawled in big black letters at the top. This is what I had been waiting for! News about Lt. Dale! I scooped them up and began reading the words. The more I read, the more everything seems to be too incredible.
Dear Mrs. Kimberly L. Price,
The secretary of the army asked me to respond to your inquiries as requested in your letter. He asked me to express his deep regret that one Lt. William Dale died in combat from wounds received while in action during a mission in the Netherlands on February 1st of this year. It is with our sincere sympathy that we inform you of this. The family will be hosting a memorial in Queens, N.Y on Saturday, April 10th,at the Bradford Saloon on Balsam Avenue at 3pm. All who knew him are welcomed to pay their respects. Unfortunately, this loss is greatly felt. Lt. Dale died a hero. This confirms personal notifications responding to your request made by the representative of the secretary of the army, Kenneth W. Bickhams. Enclosed is a photo as you asked for.
K.W.B, secretary general.
I dropped the telegram, no there must be some mistake! He couldn’t have died months ago. He had just been here in New York last week when everything had gone down! They have the wrong person, it must be! I scanned the rest of the stack, finding an envelope that contained a single photo of Lt. William Dale. There he was. The same blonde hair and blue eyes. He was smiling as he stood in front of an airplane with the rest of his crew. They all looked so happy. It was no mistake they had the right person, but their records must be wrong. He was alive. I had just seen him! I scanned the rest of the letters, deciding to read them later. My mind was too troubled to focus on their letters right now. Tonight I will write to them before bed.
When I went into the dining room, the breakfast had already been placed on the table. Bacon, eggs, and fresh blueberries muffins filled the air. The table looked impeccable as usual with a variety of options. The maid was pouring fresh orange juice that smelled just like the grove near the farm. My aunt Lorraine was my mother’s sister. They had come from money. My mother had left Boston to be a farmer’s wife after meeting my father at a carnival one night. It was love at first sight, and my mother left everything to travel to Kansas and have her happily ever after with the man she loved. Now, my Aunt Lorraine was a unique creature entirely. She had met and married a rich proprietor who had invested in the stock market. He was older but kind like my aunt. They both believed in using their wealth for good and involved in numerous charitable programs and co-founded The Food For All America Foundation. Both sisters had been brought up in Boston, but their lives took them in different directions. I don’t think either ever regretted their path. My aunt had two children of her own, my two cousins Lawrence and Daphne. They were both away at school. My aunt looked up when I entered the room. “Come eat, darling, everything looks scrumptious!” Everything looked great. I smiled and took my seat. “I am so happy to have you around for some company, Walter had to leave to the office early this morning,” she continued smiling as she grabbed a fork and looked down at the plate humming.
“Thank you! It looks great, auntie!” I said, trying to put some enthusiasm into my words but failing. It didn’t escape my aunt’s notice, and she looked at me for a moment, scrutinizing my face. I felt self-conscious. I know I still have a black eye and bruises on my face.
“What is the matter?” she asked, before putting a bite of eggs into her mouth. “It’s nothing, just that I had a troubling telegram. That is all.” I replied with caution, unsure of what her reaction would be to the telegram I had received. Looking around the room, I avoided the subject for a moment, taking in the windows opened to the beautiful morning light. They set the dining table with beautiful roses in a pale blue vase. It was lovely here, but I knew I would have to sort my life out soon. I couldn’t hide here forever. Now was a chance to find my place in the world and make it on my own. My chance at happiness someday. The time was now or never. I couldn’t wait but loathed to leave such pretty mornings like this in Brooklyn.
“It’s about that Lt. Dale, I told you about. It is very disturbing. The army says he died in the Netherlands months ago.” I said before adding, “It just doesn’t add up, and I don’t understand it.” With a sigh, grabbing a muffin to pick at I looked at my aunt for guidance in this puzzle. I didn’t feel like eating all that much. My mind was a confused mess.
“What do you mean died, dear? Wasn’t he the one who got you away from that awful man you married?” She said, sounding just as confused as I.
“Yes, it makes no sense!”
“Well, that is a dilemma, sweetie, I have to ask you. Are you sure that you didn’t perhaps just imagine someone helped you? In your state, it would be understandable.” she asked, giving me her best empathic I am sorry for going here face then adding “I don’t mean to offend you darling, but I just had to ask. Maybe you just read his name somewhere?”
“No, auntie, that would be impossible. I know he was there. Here, look!” I said jumping up towards a small table by the door where I had placed my mail. “This is a picture of him, and he is just who I saw. I described him to you that night when you came to the hospital.” Handing her the photo, my aunt looked at it, studying the men in the photo for several seconds before looking up at me and shrugging. She looked away from the photo.
“Well, he is as you described. I don’t know what to say. “
“What should I do?”
She grabbed my hand. “I believe you, darling, and you must go down to this Mr. Bickham’s office right away. Let him know your story. Do you think the Lt. Dale wants to be found?”
I puzzled over that question for a very long time as I laid in bed that night. Sleep wouldn’t come and I kept turning the question over in my head. Did he not want to be found? Perhaps he hadn’t revealed he is alive for a reason. Why would he hide that though, what about his family? It wasn’t something I could answer without more information. I would at least go to the office in the morning and speak to someone. There was nothing else I could, I had to find him. There was a mystery here, and I was determined to find out who he was. I couldn’t get Lt. Dale out of my mind. I never got to tell him how much his kindness had meant to me. There would be no peace until I could speak with him, then I could close this terrible chapter and start fresh.
The very next day, I found myself standing at a desk in a small waiting area at the secretary general’s office, begging with all my power to get an audience with Bickham. The secretary, a stuffy woman with glasses too large for her face, was not making it easy for me at all. Her pointed eyes unwavering. “Please ma’am, there must be a way I can speak to him. It is a matter of great urgency. Tell him it is about Lt. William Dale! Please! My name is Ms. Kimberly Price.” I pleaded to no avail. Shaking her head, “You must make an appointment, he cannot be seen today, the schedule is just too busy. Please, next in line!” With that dismissal, I turned to leave. With my head up high, I made my way towards the exit when someone caught my attention. I noticed a man had stood up in interest from where he had been slouching before.
He seemed to have been listening to my request. “Excuse me, Miss?” He asked, standing up and offering me his hand for a shake. “I am Private Nicholas! I couldn’t help but hear you were asking about William, did you know him?” He questioned.
“Yes, I am trying to locate him, and needed to speak to Mr. Bickham. He sent me a telegram, but I’m afraid it must contain the wrong information!” I informed the stranger, letting go of his hand. “Do you know where I might find him, sir?” I held back that I had just seen the Lt. the week before. I didn’t know if I could trust this man, I didn’t know who he was.
He shuffled his feet a bit, his facing looking apprehensive. He opened his mouth to say something but stopped before a word slipped, instead a nervous laugh came out.
“Ma’am, I am sorry. My deepest regrets. The Lt. died months ago.”
“No, that is quite impossible, sir. How do you know?”
“Well, I was there ma’am. Lt. Dale was in my unit. He died in my arms, I was lucky to get out of alive, he wasn’t. Shot before my very eyes by some German who caught up to us after our plane crashed. You said your name is Kimberly?” he asked. “I don’t remember him bringing anyone up with that name. How did you know him?”
There wasn’t anything I could say. My eyes teared up, and I was on the verge of crying again. How could that be true? He couldn’t have died months ago. There wasn’t any way he could have been in New York then to save me. Had I imagined it all? “Excuse me, I am so sorry. I must go,” I told the man, before rushing outside into the fresh air. My mind dizzy and lost in thought.
Taking a deep breath, I stood on Balsam Avenue in front of the saloon dressed in my best black dress. My hair pinned into a braid behind my back. Standing there like an idiot, unable to make myself walk into the door, I questioned myself. What was I doing here? There was no reason for it. What would I even say to his family? Lt. Dale wouldn’t be here. “Stupid, just so stupid” I mumbled. With a sigh and another deep breath, I opened the door. Paying my respects was the least I could do. The place was still empty because of my early arrival. Some mourners had set up and stood in a corner by the bar talking among themselves. The place wasn’t very large but was a nice hole in the wall. The bar and tables made of mahogany and dark black leather booths lined the walls. It was clean and well-cared for. A place loved. In the middle of the room stood a photo of the Lieutenant surrounded by a lovely round wreath. Various flowers decorated the stand all the way to the ground. A woman with light hair in a black dress was alone, looking at the photo holding a handkerchief. Her eyes were red from crying and she looked so sad.
A single red rose was in her hand.
That wasn’t the most shocking thing about her though, I gasped. The woman’s face showed to be as bruised as mine. Two black eyes stood centered on her surrounding face. It looked like someone had been beaten her within inches of life. Just as I had been when I left the hospital. I watched as she placed it among the other flowers and turned. She stopped when she noticed me staring, her eyes going cold at the intrusion, but then it shifted to a soft understanding as she noticed my face still healing from the injuries.
“Oh, my! Did he save you too?” She asked in a whisper.
I nodded. “Yes, he saved my life!” She grabbed my hand and gave it a squeeze. “Me too.”
Nothing more was said, it wasn’t needed. Both of us had understood. By some miracle, our lives had been saved by this man and how that was possible just didn’t matter anymore. I watched as she walked away, then turned to place my own flowers in the pile and looked at William’s photo. He was quite a handsome man, this savior, this ghost. The photo must have been a family celebration. He sat on a couch among two younger boys, and a small girl in pigtails.
They were all staring at the camera holding ice cream cones in their hands. They looked like siblings. Big smiles covered in ice cream greeted the camera. The little girl had big white drops of vanilla on her nose. They were all having a giggle. William looked to be laughing. It was at that moment, I realized how special this man had been. By some miracle he had saved the lives of people. Where he was and whether he was real or not just didn’t matter anymore. I knew in my heart that he had been there for me when I needed somebody the most. I would go living my life happily and it was all because of him. William’s bright face stared out at me. He was in the middle of the photograph and the focus of the shot. His siblings’ eyes all looking up towards him. Each mimicking their brother’s exact pose. “Thank you for being a hero” I whispered to him.
© Samantha James and The Chronicles of History: Reading Into Our Past, 2022. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Samantha James and The Chronicles of History with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
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