Coffey has interrupted their lives yet again. This time, he can’t give Diego extra time, only enough to say goodbye to his sons. Tissue Warning
The tears Janet had fought so hard, poured from her eyes when he asked that simple, every day question.
“Pumpkin?” Evander took her in his arms, asking Diego for explanation.
Diego squatted by his sons, taking them in his arms. “I’ve got to go for a while,” he said quietly. “See the man in the car?” Danny nodded. “He’s a friend of mine, and he needs my help. He’s got some more friends who are in trouble, and Daddy needs to help them. I’ll be back soon, and we’ll go see the prairie dogs, okay?”
The prairie dog village was Danny’s favorite place to go. He could watch them for hours. He nodded happily. Diego hugged them close, kissing them.
“Don’t forget, Daddy loves you very much. And no matter what, I’ll always be with you. Don’t ever forget that. Danny, you need to watch after your brother, and take care of Mommy, okay?”
Danny hugged his father, kissing his cheek. Ricky gnawed on his fingers, wide eyed. Diego kissed them both again and stood. He held out his hand to Evander.
“I know you’ll watch out for them, Dad.”
“Always, son. You can count on that.” He said nothing, but his eyes held understanding.
Janet went to Diego, holding him close. “Don’t you dare die,” she whispered. “You come back to me, you understand?”
“Don’t! Don’t promise. Because if something happens…. If you break it…. Just don’t.”
Diego laughed, smoothing her hair. “I’ll do my best. I love you more than my own life.”
“You’re my heart,” she said. “You come back. I can’t live forever without my heart.”
They kissed a long time. Finally, Diego broke their embrace and walked to the car. He turned to wave. Danny clutched his grandfather’s hand. Janet held Ricky in her arms. Diego stood there, memorizing that picture of them, before getting in the car.
Janet watched the car drive off, feeling like someone had punched her in the chest. She followed her father into the house and flopped on the couch, unable to go another step.
“Boys, come help Popop with dinner,” Evander said, herding his grandsons into the backyard.
Janet let the tears come. She cried until her eyes hurt. Finally, she went into the tiny half bath off the hallway and washed her face with cold water. She redid her makeup and tried to smile. The boys ran at her, hugging her around the legs and she forced herself to greet them without tears. Her father smiled at her, nodding. She knew no matter what, he’d be there for her.
“Sookie called. She and Tim are coming over.”
“It will be good to see them.”
Two weeks passed without a word, but Janet hadn’t expected one. She went through her days on autopilot, teaching her classes and caring for her boys. One evening, the boys were in bed and she was grading papers listening to Prince’s Purple Rain album.
She heard a car pull up outside. Thinking it might be her sister or father, she turned on the outside lights, flinging open the door. She didn’t even dare to hope that it was Diego, but a part of her fluttered at the sound. Three uniformed men walked up her path. The leader was Colonel Coffey. He didn’t have to say a word. His expression was enough. Janet broke down. Her legs giving out, she sank to the floor. She couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think. Numb all over, she gasped for breath, as the impact of their silent message hit her. Blackness surrounded her as her body lost the fight.
Some time later, she woke, finding herself in bed, with her sister lying beside her. It was morning and Sookie was asleep with her head on Janet’s shoulder. She held Janet’s hand. Janet moved and Sookie woke up.
©2020 Dellani Oakes