a romantic short story by Charlotte McMullen
Caleb’s heart raced, and he had a fluttery feeling in his stomach. After five days away, he wasn’t sure if he was more excited to finally be home or nervous to talk to his wife, Faith.
It was nine o’clock on Friday night when Caleb unlocked their apartment door and was greeted by the mouthwatering aroma of freshly baked cookies. He took a deep breath and exhaled slowly.
Earlier that month, Caleb had told Faith he’d taken a position that paid more but required him to work away during the week.
“This way we’ll soon have enough money to build that big, new house I promised you and the boys.”
Now back home after completing the third week away, Caleb set his bag down in the living room and paused. The two-bedroom apartment used to seem cramped, but now it felt cozy.
Working away was harder than Caleb had anticipated, and he was having second thoughts. The days were long. The evenings were lonely. At the hotel, he daydreamed about what his wife and four-year-old twin sons were doing, and if he was completely honest, what they were eating for supper. There wasn’t a lot to like about reality television and microwave meals.
Unfortunately, quitting the out-of-town job also meant postponing his promise to build their dream home. Caleb wasn’t sure how Faith would feel about living in the apartment longer than promised. He wanted to be with his family, but at the same time, he didn’t want to let them down. Especially Faith. He wanted her to be happy.
Listening closely, Caleb heard his wife’s voice coming from the twins’ bedroom. He tiptoed down the hallway and peeked around the doorframe. Lamplight flooded the room in a warm glow. Faith was in the middle of the bed with a boy snuggled on either side of her. In that moment, Caleb thought Faith had never looked more beautiful.
As Faith continued reading from the moss colored book with the simple pinecone graphic on the cover, Caleb leaned against the wall, closed his eyes, and smiled. This was the same bedtime story Faith’s mother had read to her, ceremoniously starting each reading, “THE MAGIC FOREST, by Stewart Edward White.” And both Caleb and Faith knew her favorite passage by heart:
“…he shortly concluded that he was living a fairy tale and that this must be The Magic Forest.”
Caleb stepped into the doorway. “Anybody home?”
“Daddy!” The boys scrambled off of the bed and wrapped themselves around their father’s legs.
“What are you guys doing up?”
“Waiting for you, Daddy,” one of the boys said, beaming.
“Well, I’m sure glad you did. I have something for you in my bag.”
In the living room, they all sat as Caleb carefully searched through his large, brown duffel bag. Eventually, he found what he wanted: three pinecones on a stick.
“While I was away, I thought about you all. A lot. After work, I’d walk. When I saw these pinecones, they reminded me of home. I carried them in my jacket pocket, close to my heart, every day.”
As Caleb spoke, he occasionally looked in his wife’s direction and held her gaze. The boys hung on every word their father said and thanked him when he finished.
After tucking the boys into bed, Caleb sat with Faith on the couch and pulled her close to him. “Thank you for taking care of things while I was gone. You’ve done a great job,” he said. “I missed you most of all.”
“I’m really glad you’re home.”
“I know it’s only been three weeks, but I already feel like I’ve missed too much. So, I’ve been thinking…” He paused, feeling nervous again.
“I’m listening,” Faith encouraged.
Caleb took a deep breath and started slowly. “Being away has made me realize how much I already have to be thankful for. I miss the little things like reading to the boys and big things too like home cooked meals. I don’t know if I can eat another microwave meal.”
Then, as if he needed to get everything out before his nerves could strike again, the words began to tumble out quickly.
“I talked to my boss and he said I can have my old job back. It means we won’t be able to build the new house for a while, but I’ll be here every night with you and the boys. I know it’s selfish of me, but…”
“Whoa, Caleb, slow down,” Faith said, “I don’t need a new house. I need you. As long as we’re together, we can be happy anywhere. I love you.”
Flooded with relief, Caleb took Faith into his arms and sealed the deal with a kiss.
A year later, a week after the couple found out they were expecting baby number three, they bought their forever home. It was a two-story home with a wraparound porch that Faith had adored since she was a little girl. Although it wasn’t the new house they’d originally planned to build, it felt like their happily-ever-after home.
We all need to begin somewhere, and this blog is my place to practice the craft, learn and improve. My writing will forever be a work in progress. Therefore, I’m going to make mistakes. Please be kind. I’m hoping I get bonus points for sticking my sometimes sh*t stories out there.
This romantic short story was submitted for publication and was not selected, but I like it well enough to share with you.
Thank you for reading Ruckus Girl Blog.