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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

The Empty Spaces Between Us - 33. Chapter 33

As Brian awoke the next morning, he could hear the gentle drumming of raindrops outside against the house. He lay there, listening to the whisper of the rain, wishing he could just lay there and go back to sleep until this nightmare was over. After a few minutes, the need for coffee urged him to work up the energy to get out of bed. Brian could see the clock across the room and realized he’d slept two hours later than usual. Slowly working around the room, he peeked through the blinds and saw a dark world around him as the slow, steady tempo of the rain continued on. In the distance, the muffled sound of thunder could be heard. Storms were brewing all around him, he thought to himself. Not unlike what was going on in his heart.

He turned away from the window and got some clothes on before he went down to the kitchen to start the coffee. He wasn’t particularly hungry that morning, but he wanted the coffee to help wake him up and keep him awake in case there was any news. All last night he thought about how long it had been since he slept by himself. The last time he was with someone who made him feel safe and wanted like Andy did. He already knew the answer though. While he may have had several dates, a handful of boyfriends, a couple lovers and maybe one or two meaningful relationships in his life, Brian always felt like he was just there waiting for the next thing to come along. It wasn’t the easiest way to live, but it was all he had back then. It wasn’t until that night in the parking lot with Andy that he actually felt as if the possibility of a better life might actually exist.

Once the coffee was made, he poured a cup and went into the living room to sit down. He turned on the television and put it on the news. A part of him hoped maybe he’d hear something, anything to let him know Andy was still alright. His emotions kept flowing back and forth from angry to sad, worried, annoyed and back to angry. Ultimately, he decided he didn’t like being in the house by himself. Not without Andy or the children. As much as he hated to admit it, he’d been alone for a long time. Even with all the boyfriends he had over the years, none of them really meant anything to him. They were just there to make him feel better about himself. And he was nothing more than a convenient fuck for them most of the time as well. It wasn’t until Andy made his feelings known that he finally felt like he wasn’t cursed to live and die alone. He didn’t want to go back to that life. Couldn’t go back. Not after what he had gotten to feel in the last year.

He lost track of time as he lay there on the couch, sipping his coffee and staring at the television without really watching it. The sounds of the thunderstorm eventually drifted away and the world outside began to brighten as the clouds dispersed. A knock at the door startled him out of his inner thoughts. Brian frowned and slowly got to his feet. The last thing he wanted was bad news. He steeled his heart before opening the door and sighed in exasperation. “What the hell are you doing here?”

Jacob ignored Brian’s frown and smiled in a friendly greeting. “Have you had breakfast yet?”

“No. Just coffee,” he replied. “I’m not hungry.”

Jacob stepped inside. “Good thing I brought this with me.” He held up a bag before stepping past him and walked into the kitchen.

Brian grumbled and reluctantly followed behind him. “I ate late last night.”

Jacob started taking things out of the bag. “Doesn’t mean you can’t eat again. You probably need it.” He opened a couple cabinets looking for something. “Where does Andy keep his skillet?”

Brian stood there in the doorway watching his friend go about the business of starting a breakfast. “Lower cabinet to your right. What are you making?”

“Biscuits and gravy,” he replied as he retrieved what he was wanting.

One corner of Brian’s lips rebelliously lifted as he shook his head. “Homemade biscuits?”

“Dad made them this morning,” Jacob answered. “Then he packed them up and had me come over.”

“Ah. A group effort.” Brian crossed the threshold and sat down at the table as Jacob got to work. “What about Kyle?”

“He’s home, with the kids. Stephanie’s doing good, thanks for asking.” Jacob grinned and looked over his shoulder at him. “I’m thinking it’s a boy.”

Brian grinned and tried hard not to laugh. “What makes you think that?”

“Just a feeling.” The pans started to heat up and he got to work making the sausage gravy. “Not that it’s that big of a deal, really. Boy or girl, it’s still gonna be our baby.”

“Did you finally decide on names,” Brian asked.

“Julia, I like for a girl. Julia Lynn.” He seemed to ponder it and shrugged. “Still working on a boy’s name. I like the sound of Scott, to be honest. Kyle kinda gave me a funny look when I mentioned it.”

Brian giggled and got up to pour himself another cup, pulling a second mug out of the cabinet for Jacob. “I think there was a kid named Scott from when we were younger. I think he beat Kyle up or something to that effect.”

Jacob rolled his eyes. “He needs to tell me these things. I think he just takes it for granted that I’d know.”

Brian shrugged. “Just telling you what I know. I doubt if he hated the name that much, he wouldn’t say anything.”

Jacob shrugged. “I might stick it in the middle then. I got a couple more months before it’s time.”

“How were the boys this morning?”

“They’re fine,” he replied. “I think they were getting close to asking when Andy was coming to get them, but Dad headed them off at the pass and told them he decided they were going to go swimming today and stay all weekend.”

Brian felt a small sense of relief. “Good. Last thing I want is them worrying about what might happen.”

“You mean, worry over nothing because Andy will be home before they have time to miss him.” Jacob looked over at him when he didn't hear a response. “He’s coming home, Bri. I know it pisses you off that he left the way he did, but he is coming back. Don’t doubt that.”

Brian placed the coffee cup on the counter next to him. “I want to believe that.”

“Then believe it,” Jacob said. “Brian, you’re worrying too much over this.”

“Why are you so confident that everything is going to work out?”

Jacob shrugged. “I’ve seen worse. I’ve been through worse. I had friends and got out of it. He has someone with him, and I have faith that Tyler isn’t going to let anything happen to Andy.”

Brian sighed with a sardonic smirk and went back to the table. “God, you’re annoyingly positive today.”

Jacob heated up the biscuits in the microwave as he finished with the gravy. “Sorry. I’m happily married, have a beautiful son and another child on the way.” Brian watched him with a smile as Jacob finished putting everything together on two plates before bringing them over to the table. “Eat. You’ll feel better.”

Brian did as he was told. Taking his time, he relaxed a little as he chewed. Jacob was right, he decided. Despite his fears, Andy would come home. “You realize… when he comes home, he’s getting an ass kicking from me.”

“Oh, no doubt,” Jacob said in agreement. “He forgot the rules. If one of us has a problem, we all have a problem. He should have told us what was wrong, or what he felt he had to do before running off like this.”

Brian nodded. “Glad we’re in agreement.”

“Just remember,” Jacob cautioned. “Hear him out first before stripping the skin off his face.”

Brian smirked. “I’ll try to remember that.”




Tyler had been driving for over four hours after leaving Indianapolis to get through the traffic around St. Louis and then headed south. Andy had gotten them up around five that morning. When Tyler objected to starting so early, Andy insisted that they be there before noon. With no other choice, Tyler got dressed and they hurried out to put gas in the tank before making their way to Missouri. The radio played as the miles went by which helped to make the trip seem almost like just a normal thing two friends would do. Andy had been a little more talkative that morning when they first started. Commenting on the scenery and the various places they saw as they went along. Tyler was thankful for that but once they entered Missouri the conversation tapered off.

Out of habit, Tyler would glance over at Andy to make sure he was awake. Most of the time, he found Andy looking out the window at some unknown point. Tyler enjoyed the view of their surroundings once they got out of the suburbs of St. Louis. It was then that he remembered Drake’s time living there. He smiled to himself, thinking he would have to text his friend next chance he got. The further south they got the more Tyler became intrigued by the stone outcroppings on either side of the highway. The trees towered over the interstate on either side, giving way to rock faces while overhead the sky was a magnificent blue with a few clouds driving overhead. He couldn’t explain it, but everything seemed bigger here.

He heard Andy sigh quietly and decided it was time to get him talking again. “Is this the way you took before with Brandon?”

Andy nodded. “We kind of took the long way. We were in no hurry with two weeks on leave. Stopped in Indianapolis that time too.”

Tyler frowned slightly, wishing he had mentioned that last night. “How are you feeling today? I mean, about what you’re going to do.”

“Nervous,” he replied. “I’m not quite sure what to say.”

“What is it you’re wanting?”

Andy’s voice went quiet as he replied, “forgiveness.”

Tyler’s frown deepened. “Forgiveness for what?”

“For letting him die.”

Tyler was taken aback by his words so much he wasn’t even able to muster up a response right away. “Wh… what do you mean exactly?”

Andy rubbed his hand over his eyes and down over his goatee. “I failed him. I was supposed to take care of him, and I didn’t. He died because I didn’t do what I knew I had to do.”

What Tyler had just heard made no sense. He found it impossible that Andy would allow someone that close to him die. “What did you do that made it happen?”

“It’s what I didn’t do,” Andy replied.

“Tell me.”

Andy shook his head. “No. I owe it to them to be the first ones to know the truth about why their son never came home.”

“Alright. I understand. But we’re not done talking about this.” The truck continued to speed down the highway. Even so, Tyler felt as if the last hour was an eternity in the silence that had descended upon them. He loved his friend and would do anything for him. But he had a hard time believing what he had heard. It went against everything he knew about Andy.

He could tell they were getting closer after passing the first exit for Cape Girardeau when Andy sat up a little straighter in his seat. A few moments later, he saw a sign for Scott City. Suddenly, Andy barked out, “Stop! Take this exit right here.”

Tyler blinked and carefully pulled the truck off the highway and up the ramp to a stop light. “Which way?”

Andy seemed more animated as he looked around, trying to reorient his surroundings with his memories. “Right. Turn right.”

Tyler made the turn at the light and headed down the road. Around them flat vistas of trees and open fields seemed to stretch out in every direction. The farther away from the city, the fewer buildings stood in the way of the natural beauty of the area. Andy was leaning forward as he kept his eyes trained over every road they passed until he saw the one that triggered his memories. “Turn left here at this next road.”

Tyler could barely see a road there and only noticed it when Andy pointed it out. As they kept going, he slowed their speed to give Andy time to find whatever it was that he was looking for. A few minutes later, there were barely any houses left to see. What Tyler saw most was rolling fields surrounded by tall trees with broad limbs stretching out overhead. The leaves seemed to shimmer as they slowly moved with the warm summer breeze.

Andy tapped his shoulder and became louder as he suddenly said, “stop! Stop here. Stop.”

The truck came to a stop at a curve in the road. Andy was out of his seatbelt and hurrying to get out before Tyler had time to put the truck in park and turn the engine off. He felt a moment of panic as Andy was suddenly out of the truck and running around and out of sight. Tyler frantically clawed at his seatbelt and jumped out of the truck, looking for where his friend went.

A few yards away, Andy was standing completely still with his eyes closed. His head tilted back slightly. Tyler moved over to him, watching him carefully. If he didn’t know better, he would have thought Andy was meditating from how he seemed so suddenly quiet. Even with his eyes shut, Tyler got the impression he was searching for something. Or listening to something only Andy could hear. Tyler focused his attention on the sounds around him, but he couldn’t figure out what had Andy acting like this. All he could hear was the heavy sounds of insects in the air, the whispering warm breeze flowing around them and the occasional rumble of a truck which let him know that despite how far they drove, the highway was still nearby.

“Andy? What’s going on?”

Another moment of silence followed his question before the marine swallowed a lump in his throat and opened his eyes. “This is it. This was where we were.” His eyes slowly started to take in the vastness of their surroundings as the memories came back to him. A small smile graced his lips as Tyler watched him.

“Can I help you two,” a deep voice asked coming from behind them.

Tyler turned to see a middle-aged man with a cautious frown on his face approaching. Thinking quickly, Tyler responded, “sorry for trespassing, sir. My friend here was in the marine corps and he just had to stop for a minute.”

The older man slowed his step and the frown became more curious. “Why stop here?”

Tyler looked to Andy. “Where are we exactly?”

Andy, speaking as if he wasn’t even aware of the other man’s presence said quietly, “this was it. This was his house. The one he wanted us to live in.”

Tyler turned back to the man. “I guess this house used to belong to a friend he served with years ago.”

The man blinked in mild surprise. “Well…. I bought this place six years ago.”

Tyler gave him an apologetic look. “Well, the person in question was killed in action ten years ago yesterday, sir.”

“What was his name,” the man asked carefully, trying to verify their claim.

“Tucker,” Andy blurted out as he turned to look at him. “Brandon Tucker.”

Any suspicion was gone from the older man’s face as he stepped up to them. “Yup. When I bought the place the last owner’s name was Tucker. Not Brandon though.”

“Gordon,” Andy guessed. “His dad’s name.”

The man’s eyes registered surprise as he nodded. “Yes, sir. You served with him?”

Andy nodded slowly. “In Afghanistan.”

The man held his hand out. “What your name, Marine? I’m Quinn Harper. U.S. Army. Fought in the Gulf War back in ‘91.”

Andy took his hand and shook it. “Andrew Stewart.”

The man nodded. “What brings you here? Just strolling down memory lane?”

Andy thought about it and then replied, “actually, I’m trying to find his parents.”

Quinn rubbed his chin as he thought about it for a moment before saying, “why don’t you boys come inside for a moment and I’ll see if I can find my old paperwork. Might have something there to give you a hand.”

“Thank you.” Andy started to fall in step behind the man when Tyler hesitated for a moment.

“Hey, ah,” Tyler called, “maybe I should move the truck off the road first?”

The older man looked back and said, “go ahead and pull her into the driveway.”

Tyler worked as quickly as he could to get the truck parked and get back to Andy. He wasn’t sure what might happen next and he felt he had to be ready for anything. His quick thinking of mentioning Andy being a marine probably saved them from getting arrested or shot for trespassing. It helped get conversation going and built some level of trust. So far, it worked out better than he thought it might.

Once he finished parking the truck he headed into the house where he saw Andy and the older man go inside. Stepping into the cool house, he saw Andy standing quietly as his eyes slowly went over the room. He closed the distance between them and put his hand in Andy’s, hoping to keep him in the present. “Where’s Quinn?”

“In the back of the house,” Andy replied in a hushed voice and his eyes continued to look around the room. “He’s looking for their address.”

Tyler followed Andy’s gaze. He could only wonder what might be playing out in his mind in that moment. “You don’t remember where they were?”

Andy shook his head. “It’s been twelve years. I remember parts of our visit but not how to get to their house.”

“It’s okay,” Tyler whispered reassurance. “We’ll find it one way or another.”

“They painted the walls,” Andy remarked absently as his eyes took in the simple but welcoming room they stood in. “It’s all so different. But I can still remember.”

“What do you remember?”

Andy’s eyes stared through the doorway that lead into the kitchen and the rest of the house that lay beyond. “I remember… thinking how it would have been a good place to live.”

Tyler heard footsteps approaching and watched as the owner of the house reappeared with a piece of paper in his hand. “Took me a minute, but I found their address. My wife would probably know it right off, but she’s in town shopping. Knowing most folks around here, they’re probably still there, if they’re still alive.” He held a small piece of paper out to Andy that contained a scribbled address.

“Thanks,” Andy said with a respectful nod. “We shouldn’t keep you. You have a nice home. Take care of it for me.”

The older man looked at him with a curious smirk and nodded. “I’ll do that.”

They were escorted out and Tyler breathed a sigh of relief as they walked back to the truck to resume their journey. “How much farther is it?”

“A couple minutes,” Andy muttered as they buckled up. He glanced at the paper and handed it over to Tyler.

Tyler pulled his phone out and put the address on the paper into the phone’s map system. In seconds the route was on the screen and he started up the truck to get started on the last leg of their trip. “How’re you feeling about all this?”

“Don’t know yet,” Andy replied. “I just want to do the right thing.”

Tyler was heading back the way they came to get back on the interstate as the directions on his phone told him. “It’ll be okay. I’ll be there with you.”

Andy turned his head to regard Tyler with a slight smirk. “My hero.”

Tyler chuckled softly. “I’m trying to drive here.”

Andy went back to watching the road as Tyler got the truck back on the highway, heading south to their destination. As he sat there, he started to decide what he was going to say to Brandon’s parents and how he was going to say it. He prayed there wouldn’t be a fight or yelling. The point of his trip was to get rid of the secret he’d held inside for a decade. Deep down he knew that was what was eating away at him. It had been killing him slowly. Each day a little more of the past started to trickle in. He had to tell them the truth that he had been hiding for so long.

As he took the exit for Scott City, he was more than a little surprised by its appearance. If this was an actual city, then his own hometown was right up there with Philadelphia. A set of train tracks ran through what appeared to be the middle of town. There were fast food and gas stations next to the interstate, but beyond that, not much else was notable. As he drove down, he found the other main road in town and turned, taking them over the tracks and over a lot that held dozens of silos. He figured the population was a tenth of what they had back home.

Tyler took his time getting to the house on the map. He glanced over at Andy a few more times, hoping he was up for this. With no idea of who they were meeting and what was going to happen, Tyler had to rely on faith that things would work out. The house at the address they were given was a simple two story white house on a corner. It looked like most of the other houses on the block. Well kept, bushes in the front with an American flag on one side of the door and a Marine Corps flag on the other. Tyler wasn’t sure how good of a sign that was. “This is it,” he said as he parked the truck on the edge of the curb. He turned his attention to Andy. “Are you ready?”

Andy stared through the window at the house for a moment before nodding. “Yeah. It’s time I do this.”

They exited the truck and walked up the driveway to the front door. Andy pressed the doorbell and stood there waiting as Tyler stood behind him. The sound of movement inside suddenly had Andy feeling self-conscious. It might be that they didn’t want any reminders of their lost son and his presence would only exacerbate their grief. Knowing there was no way he could back out now, he stood there with his head up, his dark blonde hair resting just past his shoulders now that he’d neglected to get it cut. He hoped he wouldn’t come off looking like a stranger.

When the door open, an elderly woman appeared in the doorway, looking up at Andy curiously. Her southern accent was thicker than Tyler expected but her voice seemed devoid of animosity which he took as a good sign. “Can I help you?”

Andy cleared his throat before he answered. “Hello, Miss Mary Jo? Not sure if you recognize me. I’m Andy. Andrew Stewart? I was… a friend of your son.”

Her eyes widened in sudden recognition and a smile graced her lips. “Andy…! Of course, I remember you.” Without hesitation she embraced him warmly. “You’ve changed so much. I wouldn’t’ve known you if you hadn’t said your name. Lordamercy, it’s been ages.”

Andy felt a sudden rush of emotion bring a smile to his lips even as a few tears starting to form in his eyes. He could remember Brandon’s voice sounding just a little deeper than his mother’s. “It’s good to see you again,” he said. “I…ah… I came here to visit.”

She leaned back, keeping her hands on his shoulders as she blinked the mist from her eyes. “I know. It’s never easy this time of year, but I’m glad you’re here.”

“Is Mr. Tucker here?” He wasn’t sure how else to ask.

She nodded. “He’s not as strong as he used to be. Spends most of his day going from the recliner to the bathroom and back.” She looked over Andy’s shoulder to the young man behind him. “Who’s this you brought with you?”

“Oh, this is my friend, Tyler,” Andy explained as he looked back with thankful eyes. “He helped me get here.”

Tyler could only smile and nod politely. “Ma’am.”

She smiled kindly to him before saying, “come on in. I’m sure Gordy’ll love hearing from one of Brandon’s friends.”

They all stepped inside. “Gordon,” she called out as she shut the door behind them, “we have a visitor.”

From the rear of the house they heard a deep voice answer back. “Who?”

Tyler noted the voice didn’t sound either pleased or angry. He glanced at Andy who seemed to be unconcerned as Mrs. Tucker yelled back, “it’s Andy. One of Brandon’s friends from the service.” She motioned for them to follow her as she escorted them down the hallway, through a well-kept kitchen and into a large open living room. A large glass sliding door led to the back yard, letting sunlight into the room.

An elderly man who Tyler could tell was once fit sat in a large, plush recliner with the television playing an old movie in the background. His hair was white and wispy over bushy dark grey eyebrows. Dark blue eyes looked up at them as they entered the room, filled with caution and a little confusion as he watched Andy walk in. There was a moment of silence before the older man said in a gruff voice, “have a seat.” Tyler took a seat furthest from the others, wanting to give them space to talk without him getting in the way. This was Andy’s conversation. The less he said, the better.

“How’ve you been, sir,” Andy asked with a small smile.

Gordon Tucker shrugged. “Good days and bad ones. Not much for hunting anymore. Doctor doesn’t want me out in the cold for too long cause of my breathing problems. He wants me on an oxygen tank, but I told him to fuck off with that nonsense.” The older man blinked a couple times and leaned in closer to give Andy a more inspecting gaze. “Yeah, I remember you. Bran’s friend from the marines. Ya’ll were on leave… shit… back when God was a boy.”

Tyler stifled a laugh as his wife admonished him for his language while Andy just chucked silently. “How’re the others? Chris and Heather.”

Gordon shrugged. “They’re good, last I heard. Chris is married with three kids.” When Andy grinned at the news the older man just shrugged. “I know… I keep trying to tell him to cool it with the baby making, but he’s a willful boy. They’re living it up in Kansas City. He’s got himself a degree now so he’s managing a big business doing God only knows what. But he seems happy. He calls about once every two weeks and visits on holidays.”

Andy nodded appreciatively as the old man went on. “Heather got herself a husband and he’s a piece of work. Race car driver, thinks he’s too good for NASCAR even if he can’t get in.” He rolled his eyes. “They bring their grandkids over about once a week or so. I keep telling her she could do better, but she’s my baby and once the baby’s all grown, you can’t tell them anything they don’t already know.” Gordon settled back in his chair more. “But enough about me and mine. You look like you’ve added a couple miles on your face. What’ve you been up to?”

Andy shrugged as his cheeks reddened slightly. “Married. Divorced. Two kids.”

Gordon held his hand out palm up and motioned. “Let me see’em.”

Andy blushed more. “I… ah… forgot to bring my phone.”

“Hold on,” Tyler spoke up and Gordon looked up at him as if just now realizing he was there. Tyler pulled out his phone and went through it to find Andy’s Facebook page and into his pictures. He stepped over and knelt down to show the older man the pictures of Andy and his kids. “That’s Tanner and that’s Blake,” he said helpfully pointing to the two children in the picture.

The old man peered at the screen and squinted. “You sure they’re yours? What’s with the red hair on the little one?”

Andy laughed. “That’d be my dad’s doing. Him and my older brother were the redheads.”

Gordon grunted appreciatively and returned to look at Andy. A silent moment passed between them before he asked bluntly, “you come to visit him?”

Andy nodded slowly. “Yes, sir. I feel bad I haven’t been back since…” His voice trailed off, knowing he was about to take the coward’s way out when the opening presented itself. He couldn’t do that. He looked up to get his mind in order when he was suddenly met with Brandon’s face looking at him on the wall. It was his dress uniform portrait. Even if it was just his face and shoulders, Andy could remember how straight and tall Brandon used to stand at attention and the serious look on his face each time. For a moment, he could almost feel him there in the room with him. A catch in his throat made him take a sharp inhale as his eyes teared up. He couldn’t waste this moment. “There’s another reason why I’m here, though.”

Gordon’s face slowly turned into a slight scowl, not understanding. His eyes narrowed as if he was getting prepared to hear bad news. “What’s that?”

Tyler moved around and sat next to Andy as Mrs. Tucker’s face got very subdued as her eyes focused on Andy. Andy took another breath and swallowed before he spoke up. “There’s… some things I need to tell you. About why Brandon died. Stuff that I couldn’t talk about.”

Gordon’s frown became more pronounced as he looked to his wife and then back to Andy. When he spoke, it came out as a soft growl. “Go on.”

Andy closed his eyes and said a silent prayer for strength as he finally shared what he had never told anyone.




It was hot, humid, and Andy was on the right flank of their patrol. He looked over to his far left and was met with Brandon’s playful grin from the other side of their unit. Normally they were together in formation, but they had bickered back and forth that morning during breakfast. It was mostly in fun but when they’d complained to their squad leader, he just grinned and told them he’d separate them and let them both “cool off” until they got back to base after a day of patrolling the area for a couple dozen miles.

Andy stuck his tongue out and returned his attention forward. It had been innocent enough. Brandon had wanted them to go to Andy's home in Pennsylvania first after they got back while Andy wanted to go anywhere else. He was still uneasy about going home but he knew Brandon was eventually going to win the fight. In truth, he’d been working up the nerve to email the others and tell them about Brandon. He figured if he gave in, then he could forego the email and surprise Troy and Jacob with the fact that he’d been involved with another guy instead of striking out with girls constantly.

“Fuck, I hate this heat. Wish we could get some rain.” Mason’s lament was met by chuckles from the men nearby as they all stayed in step. Andy rolled his eyes and was about to say something when the world seemed to suddenly explode.

The first blast caught him by surprise and only his training probably saved him from injury as he quickly went down along with everyone else in his unit. A few more explosions and the world was suddenly columns of smoke and dust thrown up around them, obscuring their vision. A wave of gunfire erupted around them and the marines closed into a tighter, more defensive formation. Shouted commands registered in his shocked brain as he brought his weapon up towards the direction the mortars had come from. Others in his unit were scrambling for cover and he found a minimal amount of protection in a small ditch. He returned fire along with the rest of his unit. A scream was heard on his left, but he blocked out the sound as he crawled to get a better fix on were the enemy fire was coming from. As he worked closer to Mason and the others, Andy heard that scream again and it made his heart constrict almost painfully. He dared to glance to his left and did a headcount. He could see everyone was kneeling or on their stomachs with assault rifles pointed in the general direction of where the attack originated. Sweat was starting to flow down into his eyes as he screamed out, “Tuck! Where are you?”

Andy’s aim was off, but he could see armed men a little more than a hundred yards away. They were outnumbered and he knew they’d be overrun soon if something didn’t change. He fired a few rounds and was pleased to see one insurgent fall to the ground. The chaos around him fell into focus as he took aim again and shot another man. One part of his mind was focused of hearing a reply to his shout, but none came. He was about to make a run across the others to where he last saw Brandon.

“Marines! Fall back!” The order was sounded. and the others were all starting to back away, laying down cover fire as the smoke from the mortar attack helped give them some aid. Another mortar exploded nearby but it was too far away to do any harm and only added to the smoke and dust covering their escape.

Andy’s heart started to panic as he looked around frantically for Brandon. He dashed over towards the spot he’d last seen Brandon near when his group leader shouted out, “Stewart! Fall back now!”

“Sarge! Tucker’s missing!” He couldn’t hide his desperation as he was silently begging for this to not be happening.

“I said fall back now!”

Andy’s feet wouldn’t move at first. He had to turn his heart off and obey orders. It was an order he knew he had to follow. He turned and fired again and again into the smoke as he started to back step to join his fellow marines. It was a slow but successful retreat and the sergeant called in the attack and let them know they had a man missing as soon as the gunfire ended. Andy stood next to him and was ready to be told to go back and get him. For Brandon, he was willing to do anything, even if it meant his own life.

“Everyone back to base,” the older marine ordered.

“What about Brandon!?” Andy managed to ask without any tears in his eyes even as he felt a part of himself dying inside.

“SAR is on its way now,” the man in charge said. “Get back to base now.”

“But, sir, just let me –”

“You have your orders, marine,” the man yelled at him. “The SAR will find him and bring him back. Now, move out!”

Andy bit his lips and fell in with the rest of his unit. He hoped and prayed Brandon would be alright and back at base in an hour or so. But the day passed with no word. And then the next day. Finally, once the area had been secured of any new insurgent attacks, his unit was allowed to join in the search. At that point, Andy had felt hopeless and sticking to his training and his duty kept his heart from reeling out of control. A stupid, playful fight ended his dream.

A few hours into their search, Andy saw the familiar spot that had been obscured by smoke. A drop off along the trail they had been on that went down ten feet. Just at the top, Andy felt his heart nearly burst as the tip of a boot was visible. He yelled out and ran to the spot. Coming to a halt he stared down at the body lying there. He only saw the name on the jacket before turning around to cover his face with his hands. Later, after he helped bring the body back, they learned Brandon had been clipped in the left thigh and slowly bled to death laying there. Andy had been five feet from where Brandon was bleeding to death when his troop commander had ordered the retreat. Had he taken three more steps, he would have seen him and brought him back. Andy didn’t speak other than to answer direct questions from his superiors for five days. Every night, he laid there alone crying and begging God for forgiveness. Because he knew he could never forgive himself.




Tyler watched through tear filled eyes as Mrs. Tucker stood and left the room. He couldn’t blame her after hearing Andy’s confession. His tears weren’t for Andy or for his lost love, but for a dream that had died in the middle of a war. He wanted to wrap Andy up in his arms and comfort him, but this wasn't the time or place.

Andy didn’t bother hiding his tears as he continued. “I can’t tell you how many times I dreamed about what would’ve happened if I would have just listened to my instincts and kept looking for just a few more seconds. I felt so guilty for so long…”

“Stop,” Gordon muttered.

He continued, not hearing anything but his own grief finally released from its prison for so long. “If I hadn’t had that stupid argument with him that morning, he’d still be here…”

“I said stop.”

“I wish I could’ve told him one last time that I loved him and—”

“Shut the fuck up,” the old man roared in anger. Andy stopped and blinked as if coming out of a dream, looking up at the old man. “I don’t want to hear anymore,” Gordon said as his anger dissipated. “You followed your orders. He followed his. If you had taken those three steps, you don’t know what might have happened. You may have been killed yourself.” The man leaned forward and glared at Andy. “Don’t you dare tarnish my son’s honor. He died protecting his country. You didn’t do a goddamned thing that got him killed. Nothing you could have done would’ve changed that. That’s why you follow your orders, son. You don’t follow orders, more people die. Your company commander made the right call.”

The man’s lower lip trembled before he went on. “Yes, I lost my son that day. There hasn’t been a day since then that I haven’t missed him and haven’t hurt knowing I wasn’t gonna get to see him again. But I’ve accepted that he’s gone. My oldest boy. Following in his daddy’s footsteps. I’m as much at fault as you are. He was a hero, Andy. Don’t steal that from him.”

Andy was dumbstruck. His mind kept telling him Brandon was dead because of him. Now a new voice was telling him something different. “I just… I’m so sorry.”

“It’s war, son,” Gordon replied. His voice had lost its anger and now just sounded tired. “Not everyone comes home. He knew that it could happen, and he accepted it. I don’t blame you or anyone else for my son’s death. You need to accept the fact that he died through no fault of your own.”

Andy didn’t know what to say. It wasn’t the response he was expecting. But what had he expected? For the father of the man he loved to hate him and vilify him for his role in a death of a beloved son? Maybe deep down, some dark part of him was hoping he’d just shoot him and put him out of his misery. Forgiveness was such a foreign concept to him, it never occurred to him it would be possible.

Before anything else could be said, Mary Jo reappeared in the room with something in her hands. She had an uncertain look in her eyes as she slowly sat down in the chair she had been in earlier when she heard Andy’s confession. “I, ah…” Her hands trembled for a moment as she held an envelope in her hands. It looked as if he had been white long ago, but time had turned it a dull yellow and had a weathered look to it. Her fingers managed to pull a few sheets of paper from it as she found her voice again. “I got this in the mail. About ten years ago. I’d only read it once.”

Tyler watched her unfold the pages. A pair of reading glasses were perched on the edge of her nose as she began to read.

“Dear, Mama. It’s late here in Afghanistan. I know I should be in bed, but it’s hot out and my bunkmate is snoring so loud he’s probably giving our position away.”

Her eyes darted up to Andy and a corner of her lips ticked up slightly.

“He’s kind of why I’m writing this letter. If you remember, he’s the guy I brought home with me last year when we had that two week leave. We’ve gotten real close since we first met. When I first joined up, I was a little overwhelmed and I’ll admit I was scared. If it hadn’t been for him, I probably would’ve tucked tail and ran back home.

“I’m sure you remember how polite and funny he was. He’s like that all the time. Well, most of the time. You’re probably reading this and wondering what I’m getting at. You might be thinking about all the girls I dated in high school and about a few rumors you may have heard about me and Jennifer. All I’ll say about that is they’re mostly true. But this is different.

"Mama, remember when you talked to me about love and about finding a person who means more to you than anyone else? Well, I know now what you were getting at. I know this is probably a shock but that person for me is Andy. If you’re surprised, I’m right there with you. Never in a million years did I think that I’d fall in love with another guy. But it happened and I’ve got no problem with it.

"We rely on each other. I talk about how much I miss home and he talks about his home and his family. I’m not going to lie, Mama. He’s hurtin’. When you met him, he was still getting over his daddy’s death and still managing a smile and his charm like there was nothing wrong in the world. He’s like that with most people, but not with me. I know there’s times when he misses him. Our tour is gonna end next month and I’m going to talk him into visiting his home this time. I figure it’s only fair since he’s seen mine. He talks about an apple orchard that belongs to a friend he grew up with. I really wanna see that.

"After that, I think he and I are going to muster out and move back into the house out in the sticks. Not sure exactly what we’ll do, but we’ll come up with something.

"I need to end this and get back to bed. If I have to, I’ll kick him in the balls to get him to roll over so I can get some sleep. Don’t tell Daddy about this. I want to tell him myself when he’s in a good mood. Maybe next time we go hunting together. Just know I love both of you. I miss you—”

Her voice which had been strained as she read broke making her stop. She wiped her eyes, reset her glasses and continued.

“I miss you bunches. But I got a mission to do. Two missions now. Protect my country and protect the person I love. I’ll call you next chance I get. Love you always, Brandon.”

The men in the room had been silent as she read. Andy’s face had gone from smiling to remorseful as he heard the words and could almost hear Brandon’s voice in them. Tyler slid his hand into Andy’s as he fought back tears while Gordon Tucker stared at the floor silently.

Mary Jo stood up. “I never did tell anyone his secret, and it only got here a day before we got the news. But seeing you come here reminded me.” She turned to her husband. “I should’ve told you, but I felt it wasn’t important anymore and Andy wasn’t able to be here for the service. I’m gonna give Andy some of his stuff we got, unless you got a problem with it.”

Gordon frowned and shook his head. He sighed heavily and looked back over at Andy. “You should go see him. Say goodbye.”

Andy nodded. “I want too. Where is he?”

“Lightner cemetery,” he replied. “Just down go back down to Maple and turn right. Then right again on Roth and it’ll be on your right. He’s on the farthest end behind some trees.”

Andy nodded. “Thank you.”

“Come with me,” his wife said and led him and Tyler upstairs. She opened the door to a back room that contained an empty bed, some boxes and the walls covered in pictures and memorabilia. Andy felt his heart ache with grief as he looked at picture after picture of Brandon on the walls. From toddler pictures to high school to photos of him and his siblings. It was a display of his entire life shared with his family. There was one large frame with half a dozen pictures. Pictures of him in his combat uniform that he’d obviously sent to them. In one, he could see his younger self sitting next to him as they both gave exaggerated smiles for the camera. He could remember how much love they felt for each other at that point in time, even if it wasn’t obvious to anyone looking at them.

She crossed the room to a couple boxes and put them on the bed. “This is stuff from the house. After he… was gone, I went through and picked up stuff without really looking. I figured someone might be wanting it and I didn’t really want to part with it.”

Andy stepped up and opened the boxes to look inside. His eyes searched for anything that held a connection between them. He saw one of Brandon’s marine issued jackets with his name on it. He reverently picked it up in both hands before gently pressing it to his chest and closing his eyes. For a moment, that familiar ache in his heart grew stronger than before. It almost started to overcome his self-control until the words of Brandon’s father came back to him and his heart settled. The ache remained as it always did. Like a small little hole inside his chest that never healed. But now, it felt a little easier to carry within him. He looked deeper into the box and found other things. Pictures, a thumbnail drive, other things he didn’t know much about but seemed to spark something in his mind he couldn’t focus on.

He got to the bottom of the box and Andy’s hand froze as he stared down at the sudden discovery. The look on his face was enough to get Tyler’s attention that something was wrong. Stepping up to his friend he followed Andy’s gaze. He reached inside and carefully pulled out three pairs of military issue socks. Tyler looked at his friend’s face and was a little surprised to see the anguish. He bit back a sob as he slowly reached out and took the thick socks in his hand. Andy seemed to shudder as he lifted them to his nose and took a deep breath. Tyler thought he looked more grief stricken than he had earlier. “Are you alright,” he asked softly.

“No,” Andy said in a voice thick with the memories of precious moments that were held in these simple items. “It’ll be awhile before I feel alright again.” Even as he said it, his mind replayed the sight of Brandon, kneeling in front of him as he tenderly removed Andy’s socks before replacing them with clean ones.

Mrs. Tucker put a consoling hand on his shoulder. “Brandon was right that you were a good man. You said you have kids?”

Andy nodded. “Two boys.”

She smiled slightly and nodded. “You can take whatever you want from in here. Just… please, tell your children about him. Don’t let him fade away.”

Andy nodded. “I promise.” He thought for a moment and then asked, “could I just take these boxes?”

She smiled and nodded. Her voice was one of gentle compassion and understanding of his plight. “Of course, you can, darlin’.”

“Thank you.” He gave a nod to Tyler who picked up the other box. Andy gathered the other box and they were escorted down the stairs by Mary Jo. Mr. Tucker stood there waiting next to the door. Andy’s eyes lowered in embarrassment as he stepped up to the door. “Thank you for having us.”

Gordon Tucker nodded and put a hand on Andy’s shoulder. “Go talk to him. If you were really his friend, you’ll hear him tell you the same thing I did. I can tell it’ll be awhile for you, but you’ll eventually come to accept that I’m right.”

Andy nodded politely but he didn’t expect any ghosts to be there waiting for him. Tyler waited until the front door was opened for them before he smiled politely and thanked them for their hospitality. They wished the boys a safe trip before he and Andy silently headed to the truck carrying two large boxes in their arms.

The two of them got the boxes into the back seat of the truck before getting back in. Tyler looked over at Andy, not bothering to hide his concern. “One more stop for the day?”

Andy’s eyes were bloodshot as he stared at nothing. Tyler thought for a moment they should take some time and do this tomorrow until Andy nodded his head and said, “yeah. I need to do this.”

Tyler put the truck in gear and turned, following the directions he heard Mr. Tucker give them before they left. A few minutes later Tyler could see a cemetery on their right hand side as he drove up the street. The other side was devoid of anything, so it wasn’t hard to find. He slowed down and turned in, heading toward the back. He needn’t worry about getting lost. It was possibly the smallest cemetery he had ever visited. He took a couple turns on the gravel paths until he saw a line of trees that partially obscured a few back rows of gravestones. They rolled to a stop and Tyler shut the engine off, taking a look at Andy again before getting out.

Andy was a little slower getting out of the truck and Tyler had already come around before his feet touched the ground. He felt tired and filled with apprehension. Knowing what he needed to do was different from knowing how to do it. He stood there trying to get his bearings as Tyler stood by patiently. With a dry mouth, sore eyes from the tears he’d recently shed and a reluctant heart, Andy stepped off the gravel drive and into fresh green grass. A few hesitant steps later, a familiar hand rested on his shoulder along with a few whispered words of encouragement. “It’s okay. You can do this.”

Andy sighed and then nodded. Together, the two friends stepped quietly between the headstones, scanning each one for the name from a past that had never given Andy peace. They saw graves of old and young alike. On their third pass, Tyler slowed and said, “Andy?”

He turned to look at Tyler and then followed his gaze down to the headstone he was looking at. Andy’s heart seemed to stop for a moment and an odd sensation filled his throat as his eyes captured the words etched in the marble.

Brandon Jackson Tucker.
1986 – 2008
Son, brother
Marine, hero

The pain of remembered grief stabbed at his chest. He fought down a sob even as new tears sprang to his eyes. Despite ten years of knowing he was gone, seeing it in front of him brought the grief from all the years of denial and refusal to face the reality that Brandon was truly gone. In the past, all of his tears had been of shame and guilt. It had been impossible for him to really face the loss when he was constantly focused on his role in it. Always, those five feet kept him from accepting it. But now, with the truth finally out and his soul laid bare for all to see, all he could think of was the loss of something special and of a person who had changed him in so many ways for the better. Who had made it possible for him to be who he really was, even if it took him years to figure that out for himself. “I, ah…” Andy looked at Tyler and said, “I need some time alone. Could you wait for me at the truck?”

Tyler nodded. “Sure.” Not really understanding why, he gave Andy a quick hug and a kiss on his cheek before walking back towards the truck.

Andy’s lips raised slightly, and his heart felt lightened from the burden that had always been there but one he had convinced himself was nothing. He stood there a few seconds, looking at the slanted piece of marble in front of him before he found any words to say. “Hey, Bran. I, ah… I guess I should apologize for not getting here any sooner.” Andy stood there for a moment before he sat down on the grass, crossing his legs in front of him. He kept his head bowed, looking at the ground in front of him. “Not that I figure you’d mind. I really don’t have any kind of excuse. I didn’t even say your name for years. Wouldn’t blame you if you were pissed at me. But, then again, you never would get pissed at me. You’d just give me that little smirk of yours, like you was daring me to try to be an asshole. Nothing I ever did made you angry.”

He closed his eyes, almost able to hear that laugh and that touch that was always so comforting. “I guess you know why I’m here. And what I’ve been up to in the last few years. Wish you could see my kids. I just…” Grief closed his throat and he had to shut his eyes as the tears rolled down his face. “I just know you would’ve loved them. And they would’ve loved you. But, then again, if you had still been there, there would’ve been no girl to accidentally knock up and then marry. And I know, if you’d been there when I was getting married, you’d been yelling at me. ‘The fuck’re you marryin’ that whore for when you got that hot boy right behind ya?’” He grinned slightly at the notion in his head even as the pain remained in his heart. “Yeah. Brian is something special. And I do love him and want to marry him. The way I see it, that’s your fault. Before I met you, I was scared of the idea of loving him, or any man. Then I fell for you and you fell for me… I know it sounds weird, but you made me feel okay with it. I remember those first few months with you, and I felt bad. Like I was cheating or living a lie. Cheating on Brian. But, then again, he wasn’t saving himself for me anyway. We had our wires crossed a lot.

“But you helped me make sense of who I was. And I can’t thank you enough for that. I was so lucky to have known you and gotten to love you.” He shuddered slightly at what he was about to say. The feeling of loss got stronger and his voice wasn’t able to hold off the grief as his tears ran down his face again, getting ready to say the hardest words he’s ever had to say. No amount of strength could hold back the sorrow in his voice. “But I have to leave you here now. I can’t keep holding onto you and pretend it’s okay when Brian deserves better. I love him so much, Bran. But I can’t give him all of me when I still feel this ache inside me that never leaves because I lost you in the worst way possible. I’m sorry we never got the life we dreamed of. I would’ve loved nothing more than to spend my life here with you. To spend our days and nights together. But that dream died on a battlefield on the other side of the world. I spent years slowly dying and wishing it would all end so I could be with you again. Brian has given me a reason to live. Not just live, but to really be me again. I’m sorry, but there were a few times I almost forgot about you.”

He wiped his face and composed himself. Taking a moment to just breathe and relax. The admission had been a painful one and he felt like he was tearing part of his heart out of his chest. He wasn’t sure if it was the grief or his fractured mind, but for a moment, he felt like he was back in that tent in the barren hillsides of Afghanistan. Feeling loving arms around him and slow, gentle kisses on his cheek. He swallowed his tears and felt himself come closer to peace. “You promised me once that you’d love me until the day you died. You kept your promise. I promise you that I will always remember you and the love we had. I won’t deny it anymore or pretend it didn’t happen just to save myself from feeling the pain again. But I’d give anything for one more chance to hear your voice. Or feel your arms around me. I really mean that. But I know I’m going to have to leave that here with you. And I won’t be coming back. I can’t keep doing this to Brian or to my kids. I told your… your mama that I wouldn’t let you fade away. That’s a promise I make to you too. When they get old enough, I’m gonna tell them about you and how you were the bravest and best marine I ever loved.”

He sat there in silence for a few moments. There was a noticeable absence inside him. It wasn’t a painful loss. Like something had been drained out of him that left him feeling weaker. But with that weakness, came an assurance that he would get better over time. “I’ll always love you Brandon. Someday, I promise I’ll catch up to you. But I have a life that I want to live. Just wait for me.” He looked around as the warmth of the sun started to intensify. In the distance, he could see Tyler standing there next to his truck, watching him. “I think my ride is waiting for me. So, I need to go.” As he stood, a part of his heart felt like rebelling. Wanting to say here and lay in the grass next to Brandon. “I’m not going to say I’m sorry. Because I know you loved me. And you want me to be happy.” He reverently placed his hand on the tombstone before saying in a quiet voice, filled with love, “goodbye.” Andy turned and walked away, heading back to the truck. Each step seemed harder as his heart felt like it could take no more. In the past, the pain was born of his own feelings of regret and torment to prevent the unpreventable. Now the true grief began to fill the space where Brandon had been lodged inside him. By the time he got up to the truck, his feelings were so naked and exposed, Tyler took one look at him and immediately pulled him into an embrace that seemed to free the grief inside him and he wept bitterly, giving into the pain of losing not just Brandon, but so many of his friends who he had known and served with that had lost their lives.

Tyler held onto him and let Andy cry for a few minutes until he eventually calmed. “Do you need anything,” he asked him once his cries had stopped.

Andy let out a shuddered breath of relief, feeling the pain he’d carried inside him for so long start to weaken its hold on him. He wiped his eyes and said in a strained voice. “I want to go home.”

Tyler smiled, feeling relieved to hear him say it. “Well, get in. I know the way.” He let go of his friend and opened the door for him before going around the truck to begin the journey home. Before he got in, he pulled his phone out and tapped out a quick message and sent it. Once that was done, he got in and started up the truck. He glanced over at Andy who was staring out where Brandon’s grave lay. “You sure you’re ready to go?”

Andy nodded once. “Yeah. Just saying one more goodbye.” He looked away from the cemetery and leaned his seat back.

Once he saw Andy’s eyes were closed, Tyler drove them out of the cemetery and found his way back to the highway, heading back the way they came.




It was a little afternoon and David had been trying to keep his mind on his work as he made plans to strip the apples off the three dozen or so trees that were marked for cutting once the season was over. He’d test the apples himself, but he knew about the only thing they’d end up being good for would be for making apple butter later in the fall. It was never a pleasant chore to do, and he would have to wait a year before replanting new trees while the soil was getting tested to make sure whatever disease that was in the trees wouldn’t migrate.

Jacob was working away in his shop and Kyle and Stephanie had taken the boys swimming to keep them distracted from what was going on with Andy. He wished he could find something to distract him. Andy was all that was on his mind for the last day and he kept wondering what he had missed or why he hadn’t pushed the boy more to get him to really talk about what was going on inside him. He sighed and said another prayer in the hopes that he would get to find out the answers to his questions soon enough.

A ring on his phone caught his attention. When he picked it up, he saw a message from Tyler there. He opened it up to read the message. It had been sent to him and the others. A feeling of relief began to grow inside him as he read the three simple words.

“We’re coming home.”

Copyright © 2019 Jdonley75; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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Chapter Comments

And we finally find out why Brandon’s death has been an issue for Andy. Survivor’s guilt is difficult to get over. It’ll take some time for Gordon Tucker’s message to overwrite what Andy has believed for more than a decade.

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Brandon Tucker from Missouri. Cameron Tucker* (and his sister Pameron Tucker) from Missouri. Distant cousins? Or some sort of weird coincidence?

* The extremely flamboyant half of the Gay couple on Modern Family. Cam has two unnamed siblings, but his parents are Merle and Barb, not Gordon and Mary Jo. Cam is played by the heterosexual, Eric Stonestreet.

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1 minute ago, Jdonley75 said:

I find it ironic that I'm posting this the day before Veteran's Day in the U.S.

Shhh! Just tell everybody it was intentional. No one needs to know different.

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1 hour ago, chris191070 said:

Wow what an emoticon packed chapter.

I only see one emoticon above…

And I wondered why @chris191070 would make such a fuss about a single emoticon.

Edited by droughtquake
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1 hour ago, droughtquake said:

I only see one emoticon above…

I’ve edited my spelling 😊
Because I’m a perfectionist @droughtquake 😊

Edited by chris191070
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4 hours ago, Jdonley75 said:

I find it ironic that I'm posting this the day before Veteran's Day in the U.S.

And I have read it on Remembrance Day in the UK 

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1 hour ago, RJ6040 said:

It’s hard to read through eyes blurred by tears. This chapter is exceptional!

Thank you for reading.  :) ❤️

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59 minutes ago, nix said:

I had to pause every once in a while and do something else before continuing on because this chapter was extremely emotional for me, and because of this it took me hours to finish this particular entry. I’m glad (and relieved) that Andy finally had the catharsis and closure that he needed so he could fully give himself to Brian and the kids. 

The only negative thing I would say is, damn I have to wait for another week to read the next installment.

I feel a little bad admitting it, but out of all the chapters in this book, this one wrote itself fairly quickly.  The story leading up to it just made all the pieces come together so that I was mostly just a spectator writing what I saw.

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5 hours ago, Jdonley75 said:

I guess I should fess up about the location.

Scott City is where the more prominent part of my family hails from.  Specifically, my mother's mother's mother.  That would be my great-grandmother who lived in Scott City in my first few years of life.  She died when I was only five years old.  But I remember her house very well.  I remember her voice, her smile and her kindness towards everyone.  Those times are etched into my memory.  I first learned how to spell my name at age three while sitting at her kitchen table.  I've looked at google maps ground view and the town hasn't changed in decades.  Her house, unfortunately is gone.  Burned down by the people who bought it after she passed away.

As for the last name Tucker, that is the last name of my great-grandaunt (her sister.)  She survived longer and I remember her from when I was twelve.  Both of them, along with many other family members are buried in the same cemetery Andy visited in this chapter. :) 


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