When Shipping Love NotesA Story by A. Dade
It was just like that night where the two of them had driven out to the dock and made love in his car. The stars were out, the sky so clear that you couldn't count the visible stars if you tried, there were millions. Caroline wondered about life on other planets and she lie flat on her back staring at the distance. She would do anything to get him off of her mind, she'd been trying for days. Caroline's tawny hair snaked into the grass underneath her head, instead of sitting in her car with her seat reclined, on this night, she got out and in her pale yellow sun dress she lay herself on the grass next to her car. Over the years love and the strife that came with it had made Caroline progressively thinner. At the age of nineteen she was filled out with wider hips, larger breasts, and a wider face, by twenty five she could fit comfortably into a size four. Her small body lay in the grass as if she were paralyzed, her arms and legs splayed out in a position that would indicate that she had fallen into the grass and been rendered unable to move her extremities from the ragdoll like position they fell into. In her small town, she could find many places of peace and quiet but very few places where she couldn't be eventually found when her mother came looking for her. This place was behind a warehouse near the mouth of the river where it was just a little stream, she would park her car behind the shielding view of the building and then convince herself she wasn't coming here to think about him, she was coming here to think about her kitten Charlie, or her job at the diner, or about a plot to get out of this town and make something of herself, or maybe even about the fourth of July - anything except for him.
He had been gone for four months, nineteen days, eighteen hours. Away from her, away from his family, away from everything he ever knew. He grew up in this town too, starting out his life as a farm hand and then trading it all in for a uniform to make something of himself. Isn't that what everyone ever does in the course of their lifetime? Try to make something of themselves? Be somebody? Caroline had agreed when he said those exact words to her pleading his case about his decision to sign his life over to a noble cause. Caroline couldn't say No to the only man she'd ever said Yes to in her life. She let him go.
The story floated about town that these two were some childhood lovers and Caroline just never corrected them. The truth was Caroline hadn't loved him, or even cared about him until the night he saved her life. Sue Ellen Werner's Dad had a real bad drinking problem, and an even worse temper. One night he had beaten her up real good and Sue Ellen snuck out and ended up on the screened in back porch of Caroline's house. Sue Ellen knew Caroline was awake because her bedroom light was still on. A few rocks tapping on her window and Caroline knew, like usual, Sue Ellen had had a rough night.
"I am not doing this anymore, Caroline. I'm just not. He smacks her around, throws me down, and my Mom doesn't do nothin'!" Sue Ellen cried and it left little shimmery trails on her cheeks.
"I know." Caroline had tried to comforted but she knew her words weren't enough. At eleven years old, what was she going to say to make years of emotional and physical abuse go away.
"I'm taking the boat, packing some things up and heading away from here." Sue Ellen cried through her words but spoke with sincerity.
"Sue you can't do that, you could get hurt. Why don't you just tell my Momma, and she will call the police? Then maybe you can live with us!" A naive Caroline reasoned.
"No, Caroline! I gotta get away from here. The boat'll do just fine." Sue Ellen wouldn't budge and the two argued over the possibilities for what seemed like hours, but was more like minutes, before Caroline gave up.
"Well, if you're going, then I'm going with you. I'm not letting you go on and get yourself killed alone."
After the two girls snuck out, packed a few sandwiches and some canned goods, but no can opener, a few changes of clothes they set out onto the river like there was an end to it that held some promise for Sue Ellen. Caroline never learned how to swim good, she'd tried it a few times at summer camp, but she could barely doggy paddle. Before the girls had realized that they had no idea how to drive a motor boat and the back paddles alone were too big for them to handle by themselves, it was too late, the swift river had swept them on. The sun was coming up and they were floating aimlessly down stream and past fields and farms and families waking up to begin work in their barns and tending to their livestock. From the distance nobody would notice who they were or how old they were. Sue Ellen couldn't swim either, but hadn't mentioned it. As the girls neared a shipping yard they noticed the imminent danger right in their path, several rocky protrusions, and branches jutting up from the water where they had gathered against a concrete column that held up the county service road. The girls panicked, they had no idea how to steer this boat, and were heading steadfastly towards the boats demise and potentially theirs. A boy was standing on a nearby dock where a small bay area in the river had made calm water close to the bank and he looked to be older than them but pretty scrawny. The girls braced themselves for impact and when the hit the front of the boat burst into pieces, sending wood, metal, and fiberglass into shreds at it's point. The boy saw the impact and heard the two girls screaming as the boat took on water quite quickly. The sun burned boy dove headfirst into the river and swam like his life, or someone elses, depended on it. He swam against the current floated downward into the wreckage. After steadying himself kneeling on top of the branches where the boat was perched, he spoke.
"Either of yous know how to swim?" He yelled over the gurgle of water rushing in between the rocks and branches. The two girls looked at each other and both shook their heads. The boy didn't look discouraged, he looked to be maybe fourteen, he had a few sprouting chest hairs and a little tuft of hair just underneath his belly button that disappeared behind the zipper of his jeans. "Ok then, one at a time. You stay here, hold onto this." He grabbed a paddle and speared it into the gnarled mess of the branches and tree trunks. The boat was titled enough so that it was taking on water faster now at that angle and soon Caroline would have nothing to hold onto. Luckily for all them they were at a point in the river where there was no strong or evident current, but the water was swift enough to sweep about an eighty five pound eleven year old girl. Caroline held onto the edge of the paddle as the boat begin to give way beneath her until it dislodged itself and floated a few feet from and begin moving down stream beyond the concrete post, only one side of it was visible. Half of Caroline's body was submerged and she was holding desperately oto the paddle trying to curl her toes around a branch that wavered under the water near her foot. She could see the boy getting Sue Ellen onto the muddy beach and he was heading back for her.
"I'm slipping. These branches are slimey!" Caroline yelled out. He stroked faster sluicing through the water and spitting water to call out to her.
"Hold onto the paddle!"
When he got to her he climbed up over the branches and pulled her from their uncertainty. He told her to put her arms around his chest, positioned just beneath his armpits and to hold on tight. Caroline did as she was told and when they were heading back she could smell his scent, his deodorant washing into the water, his honey colored hair was glistening as the water washed over his shoulders wetted it. She had no idea who he was, she just knew they had lived in this town together for so long and never known one another, that she hoped this wouldn't be the last time she saw him.
Once the girls were safely ashore, in a firm stance he stood over the two shivering girls in wet clothes sitting in the grass.
"What the hell were you two girls thinking?" He exclaimed loudly, his jeans sagging under the weight of the water, showing more of the tuft of hair trailing from his belly button. He sounded so fatherly, so paternal, and it scared Sue Ellen a little, but it made Caroline fall in love.
After Collin, the boy who saved her, had taken the girls into his house and they were dried off by his mother, the police were called since neither of them knew how to get home on their own. The girls ended up on the ten o'clock news, and so did Collin, for being a hero. He ended up in the paper too after a whooping and a day of grounding, Caroline found his face in the paper under. "Local Fourteen Year Old Hero Saves Drowning Girls". She cut it from the paper after her mother was finished with it, she kept it in her bedside drawer and it remained there still. Even though the room had moved down the hall, then with her when she moved out of the house, she had gotten a new bed, new bedroom furniture, years later, she and Collin even ended up moving into together when she was twenty two and it remained there in that bedside stand.
She knew there was a chance he wasn't coming back from Iraq. She knew there was a distinct possibility that the day he left, might have been the last time he'd ever look back over his shoulder at her and smile, or tip his hat, or kiss her. Caroline might actually be sleeping alone, forever.
After a ten minute drive home from behind the warehouse, she stepped into the home where his scent was fading from her surroundings and she pulled out a pad of paper onto the kitchen table. She began to write him a letter, knowing it may or may not reach it's correct destination, in tact. The letters got scrapped one by one, and she could never truly portray what she was feeling, she felt immense fear, anger, sadness, longing, loneliness, and love. But none of it she could put down in words.
Finally she stood from the table, opened her night stand and pulled out the badly yellowed article.
She shoved it in an envelope with a note that read.
"Your business is to rescue people. You rescued me so long ago. This piece of paper belongs to me, and now that I've sent it to you, it needs to be rescued...it needs to come back to me, it's rightful owner. Now, you're the only one who can save it, now, you have no choice but to come home.
I love you,
© 2008 A. Dade
Shelved in 4 LibrariesAdded on April 9, 2008