Exercising the craft—November 16, 2020

By Ekta R. Garg

(This is the third installment of the story I started at the start of this month. Find Part 1 here. Part 2 is here.)


“Kylie, stop pacing.”

“I can’t help it,” she said, crossing the living room for the tenth time since Suzanna had dropped onto the sofa. “I don’t know what to do. What am I going to do?”

“You’re going to stop pacing,” Suzanna said, picking up the spoon yet again and examining it. “You’re making me dizzy.”

Kylie’s fingers laced through the hair on top of her head, but she managed to stop moving.

“Now,” Suzanna said, “you said Daniel sent you this spoon. You know that can’t be true, right?”

A ball burned at the back of Kylie’s throat. She swallowed, making it travel down to her stomach where it sat like a brick. Forcing her fingers to let go of her hair, she brought her hands to her belly and pressed hard.

“I know,” she said. “I know it can’t. That’s what’s bothering me, Suz. I’m just starting to believe he’s never coming back. So why won’t he let me do that?”

Suzanna shook her head. “No, I mean, Daniel couldn’t have sent it to you, but someone else might have. Someone who he… I mean, someone who was a good friend. Did he ever mention any of the other soldiers who he bonded with maybe?”

Kylie sank into the easy chair facing her friend and bit her lip. “I don’t remember. He talked about a few guys, and there was one woman who he said reminded him of his favorite cousin, but that’s it. And this note has a D on it, Suz. Why would some other person sign his initial?”

Suzanna frowned into the distance, and Kylie could see her friend struggling with something.


“Maybe he had these things ready ahead of time. The watch and the spoon. You know, just in case.”

Kylie’s face fell. “In case of what?”

Suzanna pressed her knees together. “In case of what happened. Soldiers have to be ready for anything, Ky. Maybe…maybe Dan was thinking ahead to the possibility that a moment might come when he wouldn’t—couldn’t—come back to you.”

He was thinking about the possibility of getting killed? This whole time? Why didn’t he say…

Even as her brain trailed off, a memory came back to her. In the heady hours after the proposal, Daniel had taken her hand and said he wanted to discuss something important. She’d nodded, still in happy delirium that he’d finally popped the question, so she hadn’t listened to every word. Now, though, her mind combed through the event.

She remembered the seriousness in his face and voice as he discussed his love for the country, his commitment to the troops who he served with. She could feel the squeeze of his hand as he told her that he would fight every single day for them and to come home to her, but as a military wife—and in the moment, her heart had powered through the first word right to the second—she had to prepare herself for a moment when he might not come home. She would, she’d said, throwing her arms around him again.

She knew, now, that she hadn’t. Not in the way that mattered. Definitely not in a way that would bring him back.

“What do I do now?” she whispered. “He’s gone. He got himself killed and left me a damn spoon. He’s gone!”

Kylie burst into tears and curled into herself. After a moment, she felt Suzanna’s arms close around her. She leaned into her friend and for the first time in weeks allowed herself the luxury of sobbing until her lungs went ragged.

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