Fighting Redemption
Author:Kate McCarthy

Fighting Redemption by Kate McCarthy

 

 

 

 

To my daughter and son.

 

I’ll love you longer than the stars that live in the sky.

 

 

 

 

 

Not wishing to invite attention or conversation, she stood alone, adrift from the crowd—vulnerable. Dressed casually in fitted jeans and an emerald green cardigan, she was tall and a little on the slim side. Her tousled blonde waves were tied in a careless knot at the nape of her neck as though she hadn’t given it a second thought, yet the effect was effortlessly beautiful. Shivering from the cold, she wrapped her arms around her body, hands moving up and down to keep warm. Green eyes remained focused on one thing, her watchful gaze never deviating from its direction. Some followed her line of sight and smiled indulgently. One man, after seeing what caught her attention, changed his mind about approaching her.

 

All of a sudden she smiled, wide, vibrant. The way it lit up her face drew the attention of those around her. It was like you’d been given the gift of seeing the sun radiate brilliant rays through dark clouds. It changed her demeanour completely and was enough to take your breath away. Her arms unfolded, the golden flecks in her eyes sparkling with life, and she appeared less isolated and more approachable. It made you wish it was you she was smiling at. That you were the one she needed to light up her entire soul from the inside out.

 

“Mummy, mummy!” yelled a little boy.

 

People turned at his shout seeing a toddler starting to lose his baby fat and heading towards lean, his windblown, dark brown hair curling softly over his ears. His cheeks were rosy from the cold, and his brown eyes were filled with delight as he ran towards the beautiful, solitary woman. You wouldn’t have picked the resemblance until she smiled. Her profile and the same delight in her eyes told you how much they belonged together.

 

“Hey, my baby.” She laughed, leaning down to catch him as he jumped into her arms.

 

“Tell me again, Mummy,” he demanded as she stood back up, the little boy happily settled on her hip, his place in her arms firmly and familiarly established.

 

“Again, sweetie?”

 

He wriggled impatiently. “Pease, Mummy. Wanna hear ‘bout Daddy.”

 

“Okay,” she agreed.

 

She shifted over to a nearby seat and sat down, the little boy settling on her lap. Patiently while he fidgeted and squirmed before getting comfortable, she took the time to tuck a loose wave behind her ear and breathe deeply to calm the racing of her heart.

 

“Ready?”

 

At his nod her smile dimmed, turning from indulgent to bittersweet, and a light sheen of tears stung her eyes. She closed them for a brief moment, composing herself, before blinking them back open to begin the tale.

 

“Your daddy was an SAS soldier with the Australian Army. Now these soldiers aren’t just your ordinary, everyday soldiers. These are the toughest, strongest men that ever lived. They—”

 

He interrupted with the same question he’d asked the last time she told her tale. “Stronger than SEALS right, mummy?”

 

“Yes, honey. The very best,” she replied at the interruption. This time, she expanded a little further. “Not just strong of body, though, sweetheart, but strong of mind...” she pointed to her temple “...and strong of heart.” She pointed to her heart. “But your father always said that being a soldier is never just about strength. It’s also about knowing what you want, how hard you’re willing to work for it, and what you’re willing to sacrifice for it.” She choked over the last words and faltered.

 

The little boy placed a chubby hand on her cheek. “You ‘kay, Mummy?”

 

She swallowed the sadness that formed a lump in her throat and forced a smile for her son. “Yes, little man, Mummy is okay. In fact, Mummy is going to be just fine.” She ran a loving fingertip down the soft, precious skin of his cheek. “Your father wanted to be an SAS soldier so much. More than he even wanted to breathe.”

 

“What’s breathe, Mummy?”

 

“See this?” She drew in a deep breath and exhaled noisily into his hair so he giggled. “That’s breathing. Breathing helps keep your heart beating, sweetheart.”

 

His big, dark eyes peered up at her intently, and her heart ached. “Did Daddy’s heart beat too, Mummy?”

 

She swallowed another lump at the memory of the words forever etched into her heart. “Your daddy once told me that his heart only beat for one thing.”

 

“What was that?”

 

“I’ll tell you.”

 

She began the rest of the story …

 

 

 

 

 

Approximately 5 years earlier

 

Forward Operating Base (FOB) Khost

 

Eastern Afghanistan

 

 

 

“Yo, Kendall!” Jake called out.

 

Ryan turned and gave him the finger. Jake hadn’t shut up the entire afternoon. He’d been trying to tune him out, but Jake was a relentless bastard. Always had been.