Sorry, it's kind of an uneventful chapter, but things will happen soon!
The silence was heavy, but Danny had become accustomed to its weight. He'd even come to appreciate it.
At night, the violent memories from the war came flooding back. The thundering explosions and whir of bullets and cries of the wounded; Relief only came when he shot up in bed, covered in a sheen of sweat, breathing heavily, and the weight of the silence was there to crush the chilling chorus of war that tortured him every night.
He would slip out of bed, the adrenaline would make sleep impossible, and walk out onto the porch where he would sit in his father's rocking chair and listen to the lonesome sounds of the night. Sometimes, silent tears would stream down the contours of his thinning face. His father always told him that men didn't cry, even though as a boy he had sometimes heard his fathers soft sobs in the dead of night.
It seemed pointless to fight the tears. There was no one around to be brave for anymore. The grief he felt was strong now, because he wasn't so caught up in worrying about stayng alive, as he had when fighting overseas. When there is no one to be strong for, no distraction to focus on, grief comes crashing down like an avalanche.
This had become Danny's nightly routine. Next thing he knew, a month was gone. It was the beginning of June, and the nights were warming up, the heat making what little sleep he could ever achieve more difficult.
Danny rose from bed as always, and went out onto the porch, clothed in only his underwear, but still sticky with the summer heat. It was a little cooler outside. He looked up at the clear sky, the stars shining with such clarity that t made his own thoughts seem a little clearer.
It dawned on him just how tired of mourning he was, and how his isolation was doing nothing to improve his state of mind. It was the opposite really.
Maybe home wasn't the place to remember bad memories. They only seemed to intensify. Maybe the key to moving on was to really, move on. He couldn't sit around waiting for Rafe to come back and take the reins as he always had. Who nows when Rafe would be back anyways. In the words of Rafe, it was time to grow a pair.
He sat up from the rocker and made his way to the kitchen. He lit a couple of candles at the rickety table that was covered in old wax and two neat stacks, one of papers and one of envelopes. He sat down in front of the stack of papers, his halfwritten letter to Heaven glowing in the orange candlelight.
I'm not sure I'll ever leave this place. Theres too many memories. I grew up on this land. My father was buried in the cemetery not too far from here. My father built this house. I was born in it and my mother died it it. It just seems wrong some how, to leave this place, when it has been the only constant in my life...
Danny read the letter. And then he picked it up, and ripped it right down the middle. He let the halves flutter to the ground, and picked up his pen. He pressed it to the paper, determined to write it out before he changed his mind.
How does he start a letter like this? Should he really explain, or just keep it short, sweet, and simple. Simple was his best approach. He was fairly good at simple.
Know of any places I can stay in California?
The already mostly empty shack that Danny lived in was now completely vacant, stripped of any memorable possesion, which even then didn't amount to much. The memories were in the fields, on the streets and thickets and creeks. But its notlike he could pack any of those things in a suitcase.
Danny left all the furniture, the mattresses, even the dishes. He only had a duffel bag and a suitcase with a combination that held anything of value, his important papers, pictures Heaven drew for him, old family photos, letters he didn't have any heart to throw out, souvenirs from Pearl Harbor.
He was tossing the suitcase in the passenger seat when he heard the crunch of footsteps o the dry dirt. He turned, expecting the buyer, Mr. Shannon, but instead he saw Rafe's mother, standing there, sad little smile on her perfectly painted red lips and a grocery bag in her arms. He smiled brightly at the woman, who had been like a mother to him his whole life, who had filled his belly as well as her own children's, who had bandaged him up when he had scraped his knee.
"Hey Mrs. McCawley," Danny greeted her with warmth, and a bit of his own sadness as well. It was the McCawleys he would miss the most from his home. They practically were his home.
"Hello, Danny," she said, her voice wavering a bit, she looked at him with the kind of look a mother gives her child, when they finally leave the nest. It was the second time she'd given him that look. The other time had been when he and Rafe left for Pearl Harbor. She looked down, as if suddenly remebering the grocery bag. She held it out to him, lifting her chin a bit in the process because she was a dignified woman, "Well, I figure you didn't plan food all that well for the drive, so I brought you some things that won't go bad. Beef jerky, some apples- you'll have to eat those early on of course- some canned foods.." She looked up to the sky, as if exasperated, "you boys were always so impulsive. It's a good thing you have me."
Danny laughed and accepted to bag, placing it on the passenger seat.
"I know, Mrs. McCawley, I would have never made it without you," he said, and added jokingly, "Even if your cooking doesn't always agree with my stomach."
Mrs. McCawley acted appauled and shook her head at him, "And yet you always inhaled it anyways and became the chubby little boy I remember."
Danny laughed, putting a hand over his heart in mock hurt.
"Gee, Ma'am, now that there was a bit insensitive." only scoffed at him, but opened her arms to him. Danny complied and hugged her tightly, the stubborn woman that'd he'd always think of as a mother.
"Tell Rafe to write this address when he gets home," Danny said when she'd released him, and gave her a slip of paper with Heaven's address, until he got settled in his own place.
"I will, but if you two boys want to visit, it's gonna be here, 'cause Rafe's not going anywhere for a while once he gets home," she told him, and then gave him a kiss on the cheek, "Be safe Danny. California is a wild place I've heard.."
"I will," he promised. With that, she left, back through the beaten down path in the grass he had followed many times as a boy. He rubbed his cheeck, knowing her red lipstick had probably left its mark.
Soon, the new family drove up, ready to finish signing off papers. The Shannons were a decent bunch from the city, who decided that they wanted their children, a 6 year old boy and a 4 year old girl, to be raised in a healthier environment then the bustling town. While the adults talked about the land some, and how to improve the shack of a home, the two young children took off in the grass, playing some sort of Cowboy and Indian game. It made Danny smile. He had played the same games in the same tall grass so long ago. Now it was another generation's turn to explore all that the land had to offer.
The sun was high in the sky before Danny finally left, rolling down the dry dirt road, past the field that had never contained more than a modest garden in all the years he'd lived there. He wondered what it would bear for the Shannons. He glanced in the rear view mirror, taking one last look at the shack, also small and modest. He suddenly heard Heaven's voice in his head, telling him that it was bad luck to look back. He wasn't superstitious, but the overwhelming desire to move on made him focus on the road and not look back once more. The wind blew in his face, the air smelled sweet, and things were finally looking up.
Know of any places I can stay in California?
She could hardly believe the words. She'd carried it around with her for the past week. How long ago had it been when he'd actually written it? A week? Two weeks? Does that mean he would be there soon? Or was he waiting for her reply? If so, what would she tell him? Although she'd acted like nothing had ever changed in her letters, she was different.
She looked up at her powdered face in the vanity, the whiteness of it conflicting with her tan summer complexion. Her lips shone a red that was more seductive than any other color she'd ever worn. Her cheeks were too pink. Even her hair was different, no longer long but to her sholders, in the fashion that most women wore it brushed and re-curled, even though it dissagreed with her real hair.
This was not the same Heaven from before.
And what would Danny think of Gabriel? Speaking of Gabriel, she had to go to work.
Heaven bicycled to Bambino's, the italian resturaunt where she was a waitress. She parked her bike behind, and went in through the back door, into the kitchen where the aromas of italian food and their cooks greeted her. She put on her best smile for them, and tied her waitress apron around her waist.
She headed into the resturaunt, which was much quieter than the kitchen, and not so busy due to the fact that it was early in the afternoon. She was getting ready to head over to her section, where a man had sat down and began browsing the menu, when someone grabbed the back of her apron and pulled her to the hallways to the bathroom, making her stumble.
"Gabriel," she hissed, adjusting her apron.
She glared up at him, an exasperation rising and making her irritable. Gabriel worked in the kitchen as a dishwasher. His hands, cold from being recently washed, rested on her arms.
"What?" he asked, shrugging, his trademark devilish smile coming into place, "Can't a guy kiss his girlfriend?" With that, he leaned down. Heaven dodged his kiss, his lips landing on the space just beside her lips.
"Is somone in a mood?" he asked again, attempting another kiss. She squirmed against his grasp and pulled away quickly when his lips touched hers, as if they were as cold as his hands.
"I've got a person in my section I've got to get to," she argued, and squirmed against his grasp again. Gabriel chuckled, his blonde brows shooting up.
"They can wait," he said, his voice low, sounding almost like a growl. He put his lips to her neck. Heaven sighed, exasperated, but the fight she'd once had was not as strong as it once was, and she let him kiss her for a minute, before she pushed him away.
"Okay, now I really have to go," she warned, and she was finally relinquished. Gabriel's blue eyes narrowed.
"Jeez, alright. You don't have to be such a prude," he spat before going back to the kitchen. Heaven watched him go, her throat tight with hurt. Gabriel was a good man, despite the fact that he sometimes had cutting words when he was angry. She'd always told herself this when she craved a gentler nature, like the one that Danny possesed...
A long while ago she had decided that Danny was never coming back to her. She couldn't wait for him forever, in the words of her mother. So she got a job. And she made some new friends. And she met Gabriel, who was handsome with ocean-blue eyes and golden hair, and he knew it too. When he set his sights on Heaven, they played cat and mouse a while, and she finally gave in to his charm. Whhy not?, she had asked herself.
And then, Danny had started writing her again. It tore her heart in two once more.
She kept writing, and although some cynical part of her had expected him to stop talking with her as he had before, he kept on, and recently, sent her a promise of visiting. She could feel that promise, folded up in the pocket of her dress.
She didn't think she'd have to heart to continue seeing Gabriel with Danny around, even if Danny only wanted a friendship with her.
Her feet carried her to the table with the patiently waiting diner, her head somewhere up in the clouds. She pulled her pen and pad out and kept her eyes trained on it, not willing to deal with putting on a fake smile for the customer, and greeted hello, my-name-is-Heaven-and-I'll-be-your-waitress-today- can-I-start-you-off-with-something-to-drink?
"Sure, but only if you'll have one with me."
His voice was so familiar. Too familiar. Scratch that, she'd recognize that deep timber with a hit of country anywhere.
"Danny?" she asked, disbeleif flashing in her eyes as she lowered the pen and paper and got a good look at him. Her jaw fell ajar when she saw him, smiling up at her with his bright smile, the same small gap she had loved still there. His face was a little thinner and tired-looking, his hair was a little longer and unkept, from travelling maybe, and a couple of new scars flecked his face. He was as handsome as ever to her.
"It is you! You came!" she suddenly attacked him with a hug, tackling him right there in the booth, not caring that the diners around them were casting odd looks at them. She was so caught up in the moment, asking him more questions than he could answer, that she didn't notice the manager come up behind her.
"Easy, dolce cuore, you might scare away my customers," the manger warned, Mr. Bambino himself, in his thick italian accent. Heaven jumped up so fast she almost knocked herself off balance. She tried to keep her giddiness contained, but giggles laced her response, "Sorry boss, he's an old friend. He fought in the war. He was a fighter pilot!" Among her tone of happiness was pride. Danny looked very shy all of the sudden, like a shy school boy who'd been given praise. Mr. Bambino rubbed his thinning head of hair, eyes raised.
"Is that so? Mio dio! Give the boy a drink on the house!" he patted Danny on the back, slapping him on the back with that same pride that most men also showed when he first came home. He turned to Heaven, "This here is a good, good boy, dolce cuore, treat him very well. But why you workers always bring your lives to the resturaunt! This is work! Oh, mio dio, you all will never learn.." Mr. Bambino clapped Danny on the back once ore, before walking away, mumbling in Italian. Danny looked at Heaven, a laugh threatening.
"Sorry to get you in trouble," he chuckled. Heaven looked surprised.
"What, him? He's always like that, saying he doesn't want to know about our personal lives, but we all know he secretly does," she winked, picking up her pen and pad off the table. She smiled at him a couple of moments, ecstatic that Danny was finally withing arms reach. She realised she was simply staring at him, and coughed lightly.
"Sorry about that. How about that free drink?" she asked him. Danny stood up though, shaking his head.
"I actually just came to say hello," he told her. Heaven's face fell. He's leaving already! she thought. Sensing this, he reassured her, "I have to find a place to stay, or at least park my truck where it won't get towed-"
"Stay with us!" Heaven blurted out before he could continue. She sensed her over-excitement and cleared her thought, continuing in a calmer manner, "I mean, you ca stay at my house. It's right by the beach, and my mother would be happy to have you."
Danny looked afraid.
"Mama bear?" he asked, raising a brow. Heaven scoffed, rolling her eyes.
"Please, she wouldn't hurt a fly. She just likes to talk tough. It entertains herself or something," she explained. Danny looked unsure, so she pushed on, "Please, just stay with us. I insist. My Daddy could use some help with fixing our car too anyways. He knows next to nothing about cars." She looked at him hopefully. Danny resisted looking at her, because he knew he was likely to give in if he did. He looed at her anyways, and inwardly curse.
"Alright," he agreed, then added in a teasing tone, "Only 'cause you begged me too..." Heaven snorted and slapped him playfully on the arm.
"Please, I just know you won't make it a day in this town without me," she quipped.
"Oh, I see how it is."
"Well good then. Meet me at this address, at 5 'o'clock..." She scribbled down an address on her paper pad and tore it out, handing it to him, "Don't be late, or Mama will have a fit." That convinced Danny, as he took the paper. Heaven laughed at the fearful expression on his face. Honestly, it was pretty funny to see a big man, who flew planes in a war and risked his life over and over, afraid of none other than her mother. She laughed outwardly. Danny glanced at her in confusion.
"I'll see you then ok? I gotta get back to work, or Mr. Bambino might really fire me," she said, standing up on her tip toes and kissing him on the cheek. She was releuctant to have him leave, but the comfort of knowing she would see him soon was there. Dany bid her farewell, and walked to the door. She watched him, all the way to his truck through the window. He waved to her and smiled once more before starting it and driving off.
She went back to work, taking order and bringing food. She bumped into the Hostess, Annie, on her way to the kitchen.
"Hey Annie, Sorry bought that," Heaven said, laughing a little at her own clumsiness. Annie raised a brow.
"Someone's in a good mood," Annie said suspiciously. She looked t her nails with nonchalance, "Could it be that fine specimen of a man that was in here a bit ago?" She raised a brow at Heaven, gauging her reaction.
"What?" Heaven realised what she could be implying, "Oh Danny. He's my friend." It made her uncomfortable that Annie thought of Danny as attractive, especially when Annie was known for getting what she wants. Annie just nodded, looking unconvinced.
"Well, you're lucky Gabriel didn't see that. He sure looked like a lot more than a friend," and with that Annie went back to work, leaving Heaven there as she remembered.