Point of View - Excerpt

Liberty

I don’t remember ever crying before, but today, my tears flowed as freely as the dust that floated on the breeze and wafted across the harbour to my island sanctuary. O that my tears would be enough to wash away the misery! Alas! It was not to be. ...

Michelle

I’m late again. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but I’ve been late every day this week. I’ll lose my job. I’m so tired. I’ve got to hurry! I park the car, get out and slam the door. Still, I love New York. It’s so busy and Fall is just the best season of the year. It’s cool enough, without being too cold, and it’s pretty, too.

There’s a gentle breeze drifting down the streets, as clean as any city air can be. It’s still early, yet already the city is bustling with renewed life and energy. I think I just need a holiday. Then everything will be all right again. ...

Jules and Jack

My phone rings as I’m about to rush out the door. The children are unusually reluctant to go to school today, so we’re a little late leaving. To tell the truth, I slept in, and we’re very late leaving. I’m tempted to just let it ring, I mean, everyone who knows me knows I need to rush out the door at this time. Still, there’s urgency in the tone. I reach for the receiver and the phone goes dead. I’ve wasted precious moments in my indecision.

I turn to once again hurry the children into the car, and the phone rings again. I am closer now, so angrily, I reach for the receiver.

 

“Yes?” I say, imperiously, into the receiver. My tone is not welcoming and reflects my agitated state of mind.

“Honey, thank God you’re still home,” says my husband’s voice. I can’t believe it! Jack of all people knows my morning schedule and it’s on his account I’m so rushed today. He’s arriving home from a business trip shortly, and I have to drive out to the airport to pick him up, after I drop the children at school. And I wanted to fit in a beauty parlour appointment beforehand, you know, to scrub away the drudge of the past few weeks while he’s been gone.

“Jack, I’m just about to rush out the door…” I begin, but he cuts me off.

“Honey, the plane’s been hijacked. They say there’s a bomb on board.”

A buzzing fills my head and I go weak all over. I can’t think straight. He’ll be home soon. What kind of a joke is this? I sink to the floor, gripping the phone as if my very life depended on it. Somehow I knew my husband’s did. I felt powerless.

“Oh, God, Jack.” My voice is a whisper. “Please don’t do anything stupid.” But even as I’m speaking, he whispers to me his plan.

“Some of us think we can jump these guys,” he says. “We’ve got to do something. Someone up front overheard them talking. They’re heading for the White House. God, Jules, we’ve got to stop them.”

I want to keep him talking, but I don’t know what to say. I pray in my heart that they’ll be safe. But it’s an empty prayer.

“Uh, Jack, Don’t be a hero. Leave that for the younger studs, eh.” I try to keep my voice light, but it cracks, just a little bit. I swallow hard.

“Jack, I love you. You’ve got to come home.”

“Babe…” He hasn’t called me that since we were dating. “I need you to be strong for me. Time’s running out. We’ve got to stop them, or it’s all over.”

My eyes wander to the TV. I forgot we’d turned it on. Just as well Jack called. Now I can turn it off before I leave.  I start over to the set, and then stop. What am I doing? My husband’s in danger and all I can think about is turning the stupid TV off. It seems so unreal. There’s some early movie playing about planes hitting the Trade Centre Towers. Funny, I thought I was up on all the movies, but I’ve never heard of this one.

Oh, my God. It’s real.

“Jack,” I say, panic beginning to register in my voice. “The World Trade Centre’s been hit. Oh God, by two planes full of people.”

There’s silence on the other end, then I hear Jack’s urgent whisper. I can’t make out what he’s saying until I realise he’s not speaking to me.

“Babe,” he now says into the phone,” I need you to do something for me. I need you to call the newspaper and tell them what’s happening here. They’ll follow it up. In the meantime, stay with the kids. I’ll call you back in five minutes.”

He severs the connection. Numbly, I call the newspaper and relay my husband’s message to them. I don’t think they believe me. I hope they do.

“Jenny! Paul! Mickey! Come here!” I call out to my children. They come grumbling in, but something in my face stops them in their tracks.

“Hey, kids,” I say, gently now, “Daddy’s going to call us from the plane.”

I forgot about the TV again, and Jenny is staring at it. News reporters are on the scene giving a blow-by-blow account of the tragedy.

“It seems so real,” she says.

“It is,” I quietly tell her. She turns to me like a startled deer, horror written all over her ten-year-old face. “Daddy!” she whispers, knowing her Daddy is at that very moment on a plane home.

“He’s not there,” I tell her and I see the relief flood her face. Oh, God, I pray, how can I bare this? How can I tell my children they may never see their father again? I struggle within myself to regain control.

The phone rings.

I pounce on it.

“Hello?” I can barely breathe, but I force the word out.

“Jules, it’s me again.”

“Say Hi to the kids,” I tell him.

I hand the phone to Jenny.

“Hi Daddy,” she says. She listens for a bit, whispers: “I love you too, Daddy. I miss you.” Her voice breaks and she hands the phone to Paul.

“Hi,” he says. Jack talks to Paul for a little longer and then he talks to Mickey. Mickey hands the phone back to me, and my three little babies sit around me in a circle, their faces white and solemn. My heart aches for them.

“Jack, I’m back,” but he knows it’s me.

“Jules…” there’s a long pause and I can hear a heavy sigh. “It’s decided. We’re going to stop them, one way or another. It’s a good plan. We should be OK. I’m going to leave the phone line open, so you can hear our success.” I know he’s trying to convince himself, as much as me. I hear someone say, “It’s now or never,” then Jack tells me goodbye. He says he loves me, and no matter what, I’m to remember that always. I understand he has to do something. I know he’s going to die, but I don’t want his death to be in vain. Perhaps I’m wrong and they’ll gain control of the plane, but I don’t think so.

“I love you,” I whisper, and then I hear the thud as the phone drops. I slowly sink to the floor.

My heart is thudding as my ear, glued to the phone, hears the sounds of struggle. I hear Jack’s voice, and the muffled voices yelling in a foreign language.

“We’re going into the field!” I hear someone close to the phone yell. There are terrified screams, and I can hear a few prayers. Finally, an explosion. Then, nothing.

Still I sit with my ear pressed to the phone, hoping to hear Jack; hoping to hear anyone, I don’t care. But there’s nothing. I stare sightlessly at the TV, not registering the scenes unfolding before my eyes. New York is a tragedy, but it’s not my tragedy. My husband was coming home; now he’s lost to me forever. I feel as if my heart is breaking.

“Mom?” Jenny moves to sit beside me. She presses her little hands to my face and gently turns me to look at her. I see her, but through the haze of my tears.

“Mom, we’ll be OK,” she says. “Daddy said so.”

I let go, then. My grief flows like a torrent. My poor children! My poor husband! What am I to do? Silently, I gather my children to me and we sit in a solemn circle of love. I don’t know what the future holds for us, but I do know we have each other. And nobody can take that away from us.

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© 2015 by Phoebe Wilby.