Between moving and helping with renovating a kitchen, I haven’t been able to touch my NaNo project. Despite that, here is a sample for you:
The hospital room hummed with electricity, dripping, and beeping. The only light was the dusky glow filtering through the blinds. The room could not have been more different from the Hospitality House, with its silence and glaring white walls. After a month, Heather had grown accustomed to it, and, despite the pain-killers, she could not sleep. Grandpa noticed, and raised his head. He had refused to leave her side, and his rough fingers stayed wrapped around her hand, reassuring her that she was safe.
“Have I ever told you how I met your mother?” he asked, his raspy voice so loud among the inanimate buzz.
A grin broke across her face. She loved hearing his stories, even when they were painful for him to tell, or for her to hear. “Don’t you mean my grandmother?” she asked, her voice heavy from whatever they had pumped into her.
“No.” He shook his head. “Your mother.”
Smiling curiously, Heather lowered her head to meet his eyes. They were still bright and full of mischief.
“I never told you,” he said, cringing bashfully. “It’s not exactly something to be proud of.”
“I imagine she was some unexpected spoil of war.”
Tech nodded, not exactly sure of what she had said, but certain that she was correct. “I was in Tokyo. I had been in the hospital for, oh, about three weeks – that I can remember – and I get this phone call from my former CO, from before the Mission” – he only ever referred to it as “the Mission,” as if he had never had another – “and he tells me – he says, ‘Tech, I got a – a gook here, demanding to see you. She won’t go away.’”
He laughed nervously. Heather’s attention was completely devoted to him. She had developed that intense gaze over the long nights she spent sitting up with him when he woke screaming. He had been accustomed to it before she disappeared, but now it made him as fidgety and nervous as it had back then. She was slowly running her thumb up and down the hand that held hers.
“See, your grandmother back then was a waitress outside of Seoul. She loved to laugh. She thought I was an idiot. We – uh – I took her out a few times, but when I was pulled for the Mission, I didn’t see her for several months – almost a year. So, when he called, I said, you know, ‘Too bad, I’m in Tokyo, I’m going home tomorrow.’” He was quiet, running a hand absently over the copper-colored hair on his arm. “Colonel goes quiet, then he says, ‘I’m arranging for transport to Tokyo; You’re taking her with you.’ My reply was, ‘The Hell you are!’”
He chuckled, then sniffed. Heather could tell what was coming next. She swallowed hard, bracing herself against the dull ache that was already blooming in her chest.
“And he tells me, ‘She’s got a baby with her, Tech, a little girl. I didn’t believe her at first, but… She’s got your eyes; She looks like she’s ’bout to crack a joke any minute.’” He chuckled again, shrugging. His laughter faded slowly. Heather could hear the tears in his voice, but they hadn’t reached his eyes. He ran his fingers over them anyway. She squeezed his hand, and he squeezed back.
“I thought he was kidding, but that night, Vu – I called her ‘Vu,’ I didn’t know any better – she shows up with… with this… this little…” He freed his hand to gesture how small, his voice finally cracking. Giving up on the story, he shook his head. He had developed the same lump in his throat that Heather could feel in hers.
Grandpa clutched her hand again, and lowered his forehead to it. “She was so… so beautiful,” he squeezed out. His shoulders shuddered, but when he looked back up at her, his face was dry. “Heather,” he whispered, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean –” he choked and had to swallow. “What I said that night, I didn’t mean it. You are so much – so much – like your mother. She was so strong.”
Whimpering, Heather lowered her head, cradling his hand under her chin. A rattling sob escaped her. Leaning up, she wrapped her arms around him. She had to bite back a groan from the pain shooting from her collar and a broken rib, but it faded as he rocked her like a child, stroking her hair.
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