Married for a year, I thought dreamily as I walked among the dress mannequins. I couldn’t believe that it was already my first wedding anniversary.
“Can I help you?” A shop assistant approached me, a polite smile on her face.
I smiled at her and gestured around the store. “I’m looking for a new dress. I was thinking something black.”
The assistant’s eyes twinkled. “A little black one?”
“Exactly,” I said with a grin.
She led me over to another collection of mannequins. “Is there a special occasion?”
“My husband is taking me to dinner tonight.” It still felt a little strange – in a good way – to say my husband. I felt a tiny thrill every time I said it. “It’s our anniversary.”
“Congratulations!” She beamed before starting to direct me to dresses.
A short while later, I left the store with the perfect dress to wow Tommy’s socks off.
I checked my hair and make up in the bedroom mirror while outside the headlights of Tommy’s unmarked flashed through the bedroom window as the car pulled up.
I stepped into the other room just in time to hear the front door open. A smile curled my lips. “Happy – “ I cut myself off, taking in Tommy’s ashen face. “Tommy, what’s wrong?” I asked urgently, rushing over to him.
He blinked at me owlishly; my usually confident-looking husband looked shaken to the bone. “Arnie Lashlee – remember, you met him at the Christmas party – he got shot today.”
“Oh, God, is he…?” I covered my mouth with my hands as Tommy shook his head.
“He was a beat cop, you know. He always said he didn’t care about getting a detective shield. He wanted to be out on the street…”
He was just rambling now, I could tell. I reached out and took his arm, guiding us both to the loveseat. He wasn’t the only one who probably needed to sit down; I felt like my knees were going to give out.
“What’s his wife gonna do? And his kids – oh God.”
Tears burned my eyes. I pulled Tommy into my arms and held him as hard as I could. All too easily, I could imagine myself in Mrs. Lashlee’s shoes. The first year that Tommy had been on the force, he’d been involved in a shooting. Tommy had just been on the sidelines – another officer had shot at a guy robbing a convenience store – but it had been more than enough to give me nightmares for a month.
What could I possibly say to make this better for Tommy? There was nothing – no words could soothe this ache. If I was imagining myself in Mrs. Lashlee’s position, Tommy was certainly doing the same with Arnie. Still, I felt as if I needed to say something.
“That isn’t going to be you,” I whispered fiercely. “Because you’re not allowed to die, you hear me? I’ll hunt you down in the afterlife just so I can beat you for leaving me.”
A laugh hiccupped out of Tommy. He leaned his head against mine. “I know you would.”
I stroked my fingers through his golden blond hair, the strands coarse and wiry. I soaked up the warmth of his body against mine. Listened to his breaths. What would I ever do without him? I had lived in a world knowing him for longer than I hadn’t at this point. I couldn’t actually imagine my life without Tommy in it. If I were to lose him now, what would I have of him besides pictures and memories? Officer Lashlee’s wife at least had the comfort of their children. What were we doing – putting off something we both wanted when Tommy worked in such a dangerous profession?
“Tommy, we should stop waiting,” I said, looking into his familiar green eyes. “Life is so – so fleeting. I don’t want to put off our family anymore.”
His arms tightened around me, and he nodded, his nose brushing my cheek we were so close. “You’re reading my mind again,” he said, attempting to inject a little levity into the pall that had fallen over the room.
I smiled weakly and kissed him, hugging him hard enough that I might just leave bruises. “I love you. I love you so much.”
“I love you, too, Loralee. And I swear – I will always come home to you,” he said fervently. “Always.”