Wide River to Cross by Buddy Miller on Grooveshark
The light shone through the panes of the kitchen window, and marked her forearms with crosses of shadows as Jessica took out utensils, cups, and saucers from a cupboard box. She concentrated on her task at hands until the warmth of the sunlight broke through her skin that was still peeling from sunburn. She traced her fingers across the panes chilled by snow and wind, and then blasted trails freed of dust along the bare window sill.

She imagined small pots of bell peppers and mints glittering under the sunlight above the kitchen sink. New curtains would flutter with delight against the spring breeze. As the tea kettle whistles away, she would hurry the children along to get ready for school, while her husband read his papers by the kitchen table. How many children would they have? A pair of boy and girl would be just perfect. She smiled at the thought that perhaps she would even catch a glimpse of a cardinal’s flight through the air. Home, at last.

As Jessica resumed unpacking, a delicate porcelain cup emerged in her hands, a precious wedding gift. She sat the cup down just a little too close by the edge, and began to flatten the newspaper wrapper on top of others, unfurling foreign news from a desert landscape both alien and known to her.

In one photo, a group of women with burqas knelt in front of a collapsed building, wailing and beating their chests. Another was a close-up of a bare-headed woman, her brown hair set free in the wind, her beautiful cheeks unveiled, yet stained with tears. Her burqa was probably left behind in a hurry, along with her jars of saffron, coriander, cardamom, now under the collapsed house that was once her home. Her eyes were filled with scorn and hatred towards the one wielding the camera. The same scorn and hatred Jessica had seen first hand as her platoon threaded carefully through the desolate street to avoid mines sown by unseen enemies.

Jessica’s breathing quickened. Coughing from the tear gas that leaked from her memories, she tightened her hands into fists. The whiteness of the light reflecting off the snow was as blinding as bomb blasts. Her heart began to pound heavily against her chest. Shots were heard. Her hands searched for the gun holster she was not carrying. Her feet stumbled against a duffel bag which could be a dead body. Cold sweats gathered around her forehead. The ringing in her ears began. She found her army knife on the table.

A jingle of keys shot from the direction of the front door. Jessica grabbed the knife on the table and dived beneath, dragging along the table cloth with her, and sending plates and cups flying and crashing. The ringing in her ears grew louder, beneath which were faint sounds of footsteps. She tightened her grip on the knife. 

“Honey? Are you alright?”

Her husband’s voice came through the thick fog in her head. When she regained her vision of the present from her past, Mathew was already standing over her, his hands pressing down firmly on her hands that would not let go of a kitchen knife.

“Where are we?” Jessica let go of the knife. Disoriented, she looked about the shattered plates around her, while her husband went to put the kitchen knife away. The light shone through the window panes left marks of crosses over the floor on which the shattered porcelain pieces lie. 

Jessica lifted herself up so she could kneel in front of what remained of her wedding gift. For a brief moment, her quiet tears were hidden from her husband, behind the veil of her blond hair.
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