“Shall We Dance”
Valentine’s day was looming again and Candace resisted the temptation to rip the month of February from the calendar hanging on her kitchen wall.
She needed no reminder of the celebration. For so many, it heralded a beginning, a step into the future with a love that they were certain would last a lifetime.
For her, it had been both the beginning and the end. Mitch had proposed on that long ago Valentine’s Day. He’d taken her dancing that night. He’d danced her around a room filled with uniformed Marines and as they watched on he’d dropped to his knees in the middle of the dance floor and proposed. They’d all cheered as Candace had given him her answer.
The sad-faced pastor and Lieutenent Colonel Brian Henderson had arrived at her door on February 14th almost a year ago. Her Mitch wouldn’t be returning from Afghanistan. What followed was now etched forever in her memory. The hushed voices of their friends as they’d rallied around her to offer their understanding support and comfort. The wives who had hurriedly blessed their own lives, grateful that their own men were safe, for now.
Candace had searched everywhere for comfort. The inside of a bottle gave her only a temporary respite from the agony of his absence.
She and her Mitch had refused to discuss the possibility of him dying in the service of his country. That knowledge hovered unspoken on the peripheral of their lives. Giving it life was unthinkable. The future unimaginable without the enduring love they’d shared for almost fifteen precious years.
They’d already mourned and accepted the fact that they couldn’t have children of their own. Mitch had been eager to explore all the other avenues now available to childless couples. It had been her choice to remain childless. For her, Mitch would be the only love she’d ever need in her life. Her decision came back to haunt her now in the desperate solitude of her days and the eternal emptiness of her nights.
The new future danced in her nightmares. She’d stopped drinking when even the oblivion of alcohol had handed her no solace.
There had been no coffin proudly draped with their countries flag. No headstone to dignify his final resting place. A plaque on a wall was all that signified his passing. He was listed M.I.A and presumed dead along with two others from the Seal team he’d led with such utter devotion.
The bodies of his two team members had finally been located and identified. Candace had attended their funerals and wept along with their wives.
After shutting herself away for many months and drawing the increasing concern of her friends she’d finally begun to see a counselor. Yet as much as she’d understood the words he was saying, as much as her intelligence had accepted the innate wisdom of those words, she’d still steadfastly refused to accept the finality of Mitch’s death. How could he be gone when she could still hear his laughter? And on the long nights, as she lay in the darkness she’d smell the scent of his favorite aftershave waft through the room.
She’d reach for him in the darkness and moan his name, then cry for hours at the empty futility of her longing.
Candace dragged her mind back to the present. The sound of her cell phone had interrupted her thoughts several times in the past two days. She’d ignored the calls. Tomorrow was the anniversary. She knew it would be folks ringing to check on her and offer up their kindness and willingness to help her in any way they could. She’d hidden away from the repeated knocks on the front door that had been increasing in frequency. She couldn’t deal with the pats on the shoulder and the looks of sadness. Not now. Maybe not ever.
A car pulled up out front and a young Marine slid an envelope under the front door. Her hands shook as she picked it up, it was from the office of Lietenant Colonel Henderson and marked as extremely urgent.
Candace couldn’t bring herself to open it. She knew what it would be. This explained all the calls and the attempts to make contact. It could only be the acknowledgement that Mitch’s body had finally been recovered. Opening that envelope would leave her no choice at all but to believe he was gone.
It must wait till after Valentine’s Day tomorrow. She gave herself permission to have this one last chance of disbelieving.
Candace sat on the sofa in the gathering darkness, she leaned her head back, closed her eyes and began humming Shall we Dance from the King and I. That was the marvelous music that Mitch had arranged to be played on the happiness fuelled Valentine’s night when he had proposed.
The memories swept her away for hours and she welcomed all of them. The day was beginning to dawn as she fell into a troubled sleep. Today would be the final day before she was forced by facts to move on with her life.
Candace jumped with shock at the sound of someone pounding on the front door. She flicked a glimpse at her watch, “Jesus! Hold on. Do you know it’s four o’clock in the morning!” She threw on her bathrobe and hurried across to the windows and pulled back the curtains. A base staff car with flags flying waited outside the house. “What the hell?”
Candace opened the door. The uniformed man stood alone in the semi-darkness. “Yes, Marine?”
“That isn’t funny.”
“Candy, honey, it’s me.”
Nobody ever called her Candy … only … “Oh my God! Oh my God! Mitch?”
The man stepped into the light shining on the porch from the sitting room.
Mitch stood there holding himself erect with the aid of two canes.
“Darling, oh my darling, I knew it. I knew it. Hold me close before I believe that I’m dreaming again.”
The man leaned his walking aids against the wall and held out his arms. “It will be a little while before we can go dancing again, honey.”
Candy heard the hesitation. “Mitch, my dearest love. We now have forever to practice.”
All the explanations and questions could wait.
Their arms enfolded each other and they cried together in the joy of reunion.
Valentine’s day had now become their new beginning.
Valentine’s night. Five-years later.
Mitch Avery swept a bow to his wife and gave her his perpetually cheeky grin. “Shall we dance, m’lady?”
He held her in his arms and they moved in perfect unison around the dance-floor.
The poker faced Marines watching on cleared their throats as tears threatened, then they began to cheer.
Delighted whoops of joy from their two adopted six-year-old sons rang out as they ran across the dance-floor and threw themselves into the loving arms of their parents.
Candace had finally acknowledged that she and Mitch had more than enough love to share.
The future waited.
They walked forward as a family to greet it.
I have a further treat for you all. For those that know and Love “The King and I” Here is the original clip of ‘Shall we Dance” For those who may have never seen it I envy you the new experience.