Isabel swayed back and forth in the hammock, letting her heart feel it all again, like she hadn’t in a very long time. She heard Jack coming down the drive and she lingered just a moment longer.
His body had returned from Sicily whole, but his spirit was broken. John had tried in those first weeks home, to make it back to her but he drifted slowly and silently out of her life on a sea of despondence. He would make an effort, and then his nightmares would plague him and he’d disappear to a place she couldn’t possibly understand. Eventually seeking solace in the kind of brotherhood he had known during his time overseas, he joined a wildland team of firefighters known as Smokejumpers, taking Drew with him. It bore an eerie resemblance to his time with the SEALS and he felt more himself with them than he ever did at home.
To Isabel, it felt like she was losing her husband and her brother at the same time, and in many ways she had. She took a sip of her coffee but it was cold now and she got up to meet Jack on the hill.
John had spent more and more time away from home and Drew had taken to following him everywhere. They were parachuting into remote areas most people would never see in their lifetime and each fire was a trial that threatened to bring grown men to their knees. But this was a brotherhood that did not stay down; it was all they knew. When one would fall, another would stand in the gap. It was because of this, that he continued to march calmly into dangerous places while others were running out, as if dousing the flames that burned furiously in front of him, could somehow contain the one that burned inside of him. He was a flyer, but he chose to be on the ground, simply because he needed to be on the front line, where there was no room for any other thought than fighting what was right in front of him. There was a bitter irony in the knowledge that running directly into a forest on fire… was the only time his demons left him alone.
Isabel stood in front of Jack quietly, not saying anything for several minutes. Her memories tormented her and she looked so sad. He wanted to say something to alleviate it, to bring her back to the present, he just had no idea what. But he didn’t move. To his great surprise, she leaned forward and laid her head over his heart, wrapping her arms around him and clinging for all she was worth, unleashing sobs that would turn him totally inside out.
He held her until she was done and then he picked her up and carried her inside. Laying her down on the couch, he sat beside her and put her head in his lap. He pulled the blanket off the back of the couch and covered her with it, watching over her until her soft hiccups subsided and she fell asleep. Maya whimpered at the door but he didn’t move a muscle. She scratched a few times and then circled around back to lay in front of the glass door where she could see them both. He raised a finger to his lips. “Shhh, girl. Let her sleep.” He whispered.
He thought about her book and knew this woman had demons of her own. And he wondered as the afternoon wore on, just how much of a part he might play in slaying them, and whether he was even remotely ready for this journey.