Chris has written more than 300 flash fiction/short stories. Working Vacation was 21st out of 6,700 in the 2016 Writer's Digest competition.
The gazebo in the town park is the location for the wedding ceremony. The reception will be in the pavilion near the lake in the same park. It is a magical setting for such an occasion. Birds sing, seemingly in harmony. Swans arch their long, delicate necks, raise their wings, only slightly, to catch the soft breeze and sail in the golden sunlight. I expect at any moment to hear angels singing.
Sharon, my rose, and I had met in high school when she and her family moved to town. For me, there was no question from the first moment that we were destined to be together. I loved her with the passion of a sailor for the sea, of a mountain man for the lofty peaks. I wrote poems and read them to her over the phone while her head lay on the pillow and her eyes fluttered, fighting off sleep for just one more line. Often, I would finish reciting to find that she had succumbed. I could hear her gentle breathing and knew that she slept in the depths of my love.
Deer roam freely in the park, nibbling at the finely cut grass. Their beauty and grace remind me of Sharon when she practiced ballet. She was music, light, and shadow in human form. Grace was her constant companion, causing others to stop and view the young goddess who had come down from the mountain to bless them with her smile and her charm.
And I was with her. Arm in arm we strolled through this very park during the summer festival. We were queen and king at the prom. When a fire destroyed three homes on Main Street, Sharon and I held a bake sale in front of the town grocery store to raise money for the families. We were together, we were one.
Then came the war. We were passionate and patriotic. The strikes against our country could not go unanswered. I enlisted in the Marines. We faced the enemy and struck hard, time after time. We were fearless in the midst of battle, but at night, in the quiet of the desert, we were afraid. I feared I would never see my rose again.
Death surrounded me. My fellows lost arms, legs, and nearly their minds. Somehow, I survived. But I was changed, at least for a while. We all were. I treasured any communication I could get from Sharon. We reaffirmed our love over and over again. I longed for her. My heart ached in battle and in slumber. I fought with renewed vigor so that I would be a whole man when I came back to her.
My time with the military was up. I could reenlist or go home. I told Sharon I could not leave the other men behind to face the enemy without me. I chose to stay and fight another day. On the morning I was to sign the reenlistment papers, my heart broke. Just in time, I chose the little town with two churches, one school, and a park with a gazebo. I chose Sharon, my rose, my guiding star.
I came home unannounced. I walked from my parents' house to her house on the other side of our town. It wasn’t far. I had marched across a desert in the full sun. I could stroll across this town, especially knowing that my love was on the other side.
Her house was in the middle of the block. I turned the corner and fought the urge to run. I could already feel her in my arms, our lips touching. And finally, I did run. I ran until I stood at the gate to her yard. But I did not open the gate. The fireworks in my mind burned out and settled into darkness. My smile faded. Clarity of thought for the future became a fog thick enough to stop any ship from leaving port.
Her slender arms embraced the man at her front door. They kissed. I took a step back, confused, angry. I took another step backward. The tires of a car screeched, and I dove out of its path. Sharon and her lover came running to the gate. Our eyes met. Her’s were wide with surprise and shock. Mine were narrow with jealousy and rage. We spoke not a word.
I was already stressed by my time overseas. Sharon’s surprise put me over the edge for a while. I spent some time away, getting the help I would need to go on with my life, but many times I considered ending my life at the present. What was there to live for if not for Sharon?
The birds sing, the swans sail in the sunlight. The deer graze on finely cut grass. The guests arrive. I wait in the background until the minister takes his place at center stage. Musicians play stringed instruments, and a little girl drops white flowers along the path leading to the steps of the gazebo.
The music stops and the minister checks his watch. He nods to the musicians who begin another piece. The guests stir and whisper back and forth. The music ends again. We all wait in silence. The birds aren’t singing.
Her voice from behind startles me. She wears blue jeans and a flowered blouse. My love, she says. Though I could not find you, I knew you would come. This ceremony is not for the other and me. I ended that the evening I saw you on the street. This solemn ceremony is for you and me.
My heart—my heart beats like I've run a hundred miles. My mind races ahead, questioning, doubting. I look back at the gazebo. It is our minister, my family and hers. In my depression, I had missed it.
My Sharon, my rose, has blossomed forth, has risen from despair, has chosen me. The darkness of my mind gives way to the sunshine, and the birds begin to sing.
© 2018 Chris Mills