Myra stroked her bare, left hand, ring finger where her wedding band used to sit. She never thought things would change so dramatically in the space of a year. She had worked as a paralegal for a small law firm, her military husband was home on leave, and her two boys enjoyed their fifth and second Christmas.
This Christmas was dreary in comparison. She lost her job due to budget cuts and Aaron had been declared MIA in Afghanistan for the past three months. Her unemployment benefits were about to expire, but she had a part-time job in sight. Now, she had to pawn the last item that tied her with her husband, a simple, gold ring.
The tears sprung to her eyes, but she angrily wiped them away. She wouldn't cry. No more. It was Christmas, and William and Mark deserved a happy one.
Taking the $150 she'd gotten from the ring, she bought her children clothes, toys, and a few sweets. If things didn't improve, it might be their last good Christmas for a few years. Things had to improve.
Laden with gifts on that Christmas Eve, she entered their home, silently thanking his parents for giving it to them as a wedding gift, and readied the living room for Christmas. The small, artificial tree sat in the corner. Presents in brightly wrapped paper sat underneath. The room twinkled in red, green, and blue lights. It almost felt warm and cozy, like Christmas, in here.
The telephone rang, and she winced. She couldn't stand ringing phones and knocking on doors since Aaron's disappearance. She, also, hope it didn't wake the kids. Answering the phone on the fourth ring, she said, "Hello."
The voice sounded official, and she felt her heart speed up. "Yes, this is she. How may I help you?"
"This is Colonel Ruthering, ma'am. We wanted to notify you that we've located your husband, Sergeant Aaron Laraby."
His voice sounded faraway and yet all too loud. Not on Christmas Eve. Please, don't let him be dead on Christmas Eve. She rubbed her thumb across her naked ring finger.
"He's being transported from Afghanistan to a hospital in Germany before he'll be flown back to the states. He has sustained injury, but they are expecting a clean bill of health. He'll be contacting you once he is briefed, ma'am."
At first, the Colonel's words didn't register. She'd feared the worst. Then, a pleasant tingling giddiness entered her. She smiled a genuine smile for the first time in three months. "He's alive, right?"
"Yes, ma'am. He's alive."
"Thank you, Colonel."
"You're welcome, ma'am. Your husband will be contacting you soon. Have a good Christmas."
"Merry Christmas too." She hung up the phone. Everything appeared brighter, more cheery. She'd find a way to get the golden ring back too.