#BlogBattle is now a monthly short story challenge using a single word for inspiration. Which is now administered by my two talented blog friends Rachael Ritchey and E. E. Rawls, as well as Gary Jeffries.
This month’s word: Clone
Joey comes barreling down the stairs, phone in hand with ear buds attached. We almost collide at the bottom of the steps as I walk out of my home office to go to the kitchen.
“Whoa! Slow down!” I laugh putting my arms in front of me as a buffer.
Removing an earbud, “Sorry mom, the guys are waiting for me.” He turns towards the door.
“Not so fast.” I stretch out my arms. “You have time for your birthday hug, c’mere ya big lug.”
Dropping his head, knowing he can’t argue with me, he walks into my embrace.
“Happy Birthday! I love you!” I give him a tight squeeze before I let go.
“Thanks mom, love you too!” He crams the ear bud back in his ear and walks out the door.
In the kitchen I set my phone down on the counter and reach for a coffee mug. The sun is shining in through the windows by the breakfast nook, and just like every other day, Joseph is already sitting there.
“Hey there handsome.” I smile as I pour myself a cup of coffee.
“Good Morning beautiful!” Returning the smile that I so love.
I add sugar and cream to my coffee and give it a stir. “Can you believe Joey is already 18? Eighteen years old! That was the age you were when I first met you, remember?”
With both hands wrapped around the mug, I savor the warmth and smell before I take a slow sip as I lean against the counter. “I remember the day I first laid eyes on you. You and your buddies came into the candy store I worked at after school, just laughing and carrying on. You walked in with that swagger of yours, not stuck up, but cool and casual, like you didn’t have a care in the world. Joey walks just like that.”
I set my coffee down, turn on the faucet to wash the few dishes that were left in the sink from last night.
“You think so? Huh, I never noticed.”
“Oh yeah.” I nod. “He is so much like you, the walk, the smile, he even sounds like you. It’s like he’s your clone.”
I am interrupted by a notification from my phone. I turn off the water and dry my hands. I was waiting on an answer from my boss to move forward on a project, and I just got the okay. I quickly respond and set my phone back down. As I look up towards the breakfast nook, Joseph is already gone. Just like he is every day.
“Oh Joseph, you would be so proud of your son. If only you were here to see him. God, I miss you.”
The last time I saw Joseph, it was a week after our honeymoon. We had gotten married during the time between his basic training and his first deployment to Afghanistan. As I hugged him goodbye, I didn’t even know I was pregnant yet. We were so young and in love, we didn’t think about the realities of war. I always pictured him coming home in his dress blues, me running into his arms as he picked me up and twirled me around.
I grab a muffin and my coffee and sit at the breakfast nook absorbing the warmth of the sun streaming through the window, memories flash through my mind like an old movie.
Joey was a little over a year old when Joseph returned home, he was too young to remember. But I remember. I’ll never forget that day. Joseph did arrive home wearing his dress blues, or at least that is what they told me. All I remember seeing are the bold colors of the stars and stripes draped over cold steel. Not the warm homecoming I envisioned. The days leading up to and after that moment are a blur, I don’t know how I made it through, but somehow, I did.
Joey was raised to honor the flag, and he knew his dad died doing what he was called to do, serving his country. Thankfully this is one area where Joey is different from his dad, and I would like to believe that it’s God’s mercy on my heartbroken soul that Joey doesn’t want to follow in his father’s footsteps and enlist. I don’t think I could find the strength to hug another soldier goodbye.
Joey wants to become a lawyer; he wants to help people fight for their rights and be instrumental in fixing the injustices of the world. His dad would be so proud of him. I’m so proud of him! It wasn’t easy raising a son all by myself. I wasn’t supposed to do any of this alone.
I finish off what’s left of my muffin. My coffee is still warm. I lean back in my chair, slowly drinking the last of it, looking out the window. Today I embraced the son that embodies the love of my life. He is every bit like the man I said goodbye to all those year ago. Yes, today is going to be a day of mixed emotions, but I choose to hold on to the happy ones. Just as I am about to get up from the table, I see a red cardinal fly into the yard and land on the top of our flagpole.
Laughing, I stand up. “Ah Joseph, you are always here, and know just how to make me feel better. Thanks honey.”
I give the bird a salute, take my dishes to the sink, and start my day.
© 2019 Carrie Ann Alexis