Sitting on the damp sand not far from the water's edge, Felicia watched as the sun slipped from the horizon beneath rolling clouds that promised yet more rain. The salty ocean breeze carried her back in time to their first meeting here at this very spot. She had just completed Jr. High that summer; Toby was two years older. Her dad had frowned at their budding romance, but her mom had smiled and told her to follow her heart. Her mother had always trusted her to use good sense, and she'd never let her down.
After that, they met up every summer as the their families returned to the same cottages year after year. In the months between they exchanged countless texts and emails, and spent an hour or more every night talking on their cellphones until one or the other drifted off to sleep.
When Toby graduated from high school he joined the Air Force, just as his grandfather had two generations earlier. Felicia understood that he felt this was his destiny, but their first summer apart was the hardest of her life. She drew hearts in the sand and sent him pictures, then watched as the waves wash them away.
The summer following Felicia's graduation was the most exciting time of her life. She and Toby were getting married on the beach when he came home on leave. All their friends and family gathered at sunset in a fairytale ceremony complete with tiki torches, bare feet, coconut drinks, and flower leis for everyone. Felicia and Toby were deeply in love; it was a magical time in their lives.
Toby returned to duty, and soon received orders sending him to Iraq. Felicia began college and tried hard to focus on the time when his dangerous tour of duty would be over; when once again they would stand hand-in-hand at the water's edge and plan their future together.
Then came the night when she answered the knock at her apartment door to see her father standing there sober-faced, with an Air Force officer along side him. Felicia began to tremble, sensing that her world was about to fall apart. The officer informed her that Toby's plane had been shot down during an encounter with the enemy. American forces had recovered the plane along with Toby's remains, there hadn't been time for him to eject before it crashed. Felicia crumpled into her father's arms.
The following weeks had been a blur of people coming and going; Felicia was too dazed to remember most of it. She stood at the funeral service as the young Airmen folded the flag that had flown with Toby's squadron in Iraq and handed it to her for safekeeping. She didn't cry, couldn't cry, not yet. She had to be brave for him, just as he had been brave.
Then finally it was over, families hugged and parted, leaving her alone with the small box that she now cradled in her arms. Then, as the sun disappeared and the shadows of night moved slowly in, Felicia did what Toby had always said he wanted, she walked down the beach slowly scattering his ashes on the waves as they slipped back out to sea, setting him free to become one with the very source of life.
Task finished, she began the long, slow walk back to the beach house she had rented so she could be near him for just a little while longer, Toby's dogtags now jangling from the chain around her neck. The heavy skies opened up and began to weep, and Felicia folded onto the sand and wept with them.
This post is linked up at Two Shoes Tuesday