[incomplete!] Chapter _; book i
Working chapter title: cut your little heart out
*author note: this chapter was replaced on march 30, 2011.
Nighttime was the hardest. In the mornings, it was easy to forget and let herself believe he’d simply left for work. Once a month, she’d get a video message from him, the colors dim and shadowy, but his eyes still shone. Little viridian worlds. She turned the stove off and set the skillet to the side. Her open beer sat on the counter beside her. An alert buzzed from her phone and she scrambled around the kitchen to turn on the wall monitor, dropping her spatula and salt shaker onto the floor along the way. She touched the icon on the screen, blowing the video up to its full size.
“Hey beautiful,” he smiled at the camera and she grinned back. “It’s day 179 here in [location], and the weeks are all beginning to run together. The nightmares have gotten worse,” his tone lowered, the last remnants of a smile falling into a dissociative sigh. “Every night this week I’ve dreamt of minefields littered with my squad-mates. I’m starting to wonder if there’s more to it than just trauma,” he said, rubbing his eyes with his fingers. “Maybe I’m being warned.” She could hear the exhaustion in his voice.
Noises from beyond the camera caught his attention. Another man said, “Sir, the scout found a hideout.”
Pilot’s eyes flicked to the camera, then back off screen. His tone was different from any she was familiar with. “How many?”
“A dozen, or more.”
“Suit up; I’ll be right there.”
When he looked back at the camera, he didn’t look at all worried.
Her heart raced. Nearly a dozen? She tried not to think about it. It would do no good, she thought to herself, she wouldn’t get another video for a month. A month of paranoia and speculation was an awfully long time.
“I’m sorry I have to cut this short, Ather. As always, take care of yourself, okay? I wish I could get videos from you,” he frowned, his brow furrowing as if he were in pain. “I think just seeing your face would make this all so much easier.” He took [a long breath], glancing off-screen again. When he looked back, his emerald eyes held a fierceness she didn’t recognize. Who was that behind those eyes? Gliding like a serpent, shifting the gears. A subtle changeover of control and he was someone else. But who? “I’m coming home to you as quickly as I can. I love you.” He looked into the camera for a lingering moment, then his arm reached across the screen and he was gone.
She hit play again and settled into a chair.