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Authors: Sandy Goldsworthy

Aftershock

BOOK: Aftershock
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Aftershock

 

An Aftermath Short Story

 

 

By: Sandy Goldsworthy

 

THIS book is a work of fiction.  Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the authors' imagination or are used factiously.  Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

 

NO part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission.  Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author's rights.  Purchase only authorized editions.

 

Aftershock

Copyright ©2014 Sandy Goldsworthy

All rights reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-63422-042-2

Cover Design by: Marya Heiman

Typography by: Courtney Nuckels

Editing by: Cynthia Shepp

 

 

 

Images on the glass walls taunted him.

“We found your wife’s soul in Emma Bennett,” his partner said the day before.

Ben sat there for hours, long after the other agents left for the day. He didn’t need any witnesses when he reviewed the file of his soul mate, the wife he lost when he died in World War II at Pearl Harbor.

Photographs of Elizabeth’s past surrounded him, hovering in holograms around the room. Wedding pictures and childhood images brought back memories of their last life together.

When Ben reached the Afterworld and learned his wife had years left to live, he joined the Bureau of Investigation. Being an agent allowed him to travel to earth disguised as a human. He wanted to watch over Elizabeth and their son.

By the time Ben’s training was completed and he was finally free to roam earth, months had passed. He never saw his wife again. Ben sat in this same room at the agency’s headquarters when Elizabeth didn’t transition as expected, and no one could locate her whereabouts.

“There are millions of souls, Ben,” his commanding officer said back then.

He agreed there were millions of souls, but only one that mattered to him. Searching for Elizabeth for decades, isolating himself at times, he always wondered what happened to her. In those years, the bureau became his family, and he threw himself into his work.

Memories filled his mind as his life with Elizabeth flashed before him in a slideshow on the walls. Suddenly, it was fall, 1931.

Elizabeth Emmaline Hudson was sixteen years old and the most beautiful girl Benjamin had ever seen. She had shiny, brown hair and bright, blue eyes that smiled when she spoke, but when she looked at him, they sparkled.

It was a crisp, Saturday afternoon. At sixteen, Benjamin was too old for chores, he thought. But when his father ordered him to take the truck into Riverside to pick up groceries for his mother, he obeyed. He had plans to go into town with some buddies and catch a movie, but his father told him that would have to wait.

Benjamin climbed into the family’s pickup truck and turned the ignition, pumping the clutch, and hoping for an easy start. The old truck had its quirks, but it was all they could afford. It chugged to life, and he began his ten-minute drive to the city.

He almost stopped at Walt Crandon’s on the way, but thought better should his father find out. Any deviation from his father’s direct instruction would be met with harsh words, not to mention more wood chopping before winter set in.

Benjamin rarely went into Riverside. Most of his friends went into Westport, a larger city with a movie theater, which was the same distance from his house on the lake. He parked the truck in front of the store with the dark green sign that read “Hudson Grocery.” Through the front window with the yellow and white letters spelling “General Store, Est. 1894,” he could see Walt’s mother speaking with an older, heavyset man. He figured it was Mr. Hudson. Benjamin watched them for a second or two. Mrs. Crandon pointed out vegetables, which the man placed in a crate. Benjamin’s mother raved over the fresh produce carried at the store. It appeared that Walt’s mother preferred their selection, too.

Benjamin got out of the truck and checked his reflection in the window before walking inside. He heard that Elizabeth helped her father in the store on weekends. In case he would see her, he smoothed his dark brown hair back.

The store was bigger than he remembered, with several baskets of apples and squash in front. Mrs. Crandon was too busy ordering Mr. Hudson around for either of them to notice that he walked in, or hear the bell that rang when he shut the door. The floorboards creaked as he walked slowly past the russet potatoes to the counter. He stood patiently waiting his turn.

As Benjamin began daydreaming of all the things he could be doing, he heard a voice behind him. It was soft and delicate. “May I help you?” she asked. Startled, he spun around.

There she was. Elizabeth stood behind the wooden counter with jars of rock candy in three colors. She looked like an angel sent from heaven. It was months since he first saw her, at a party that summer. Elizabeth looked directly at him. Shoulders back, standing tall, she confidently waited for his reply.

Suddenly, Benjamin was uncomfortable.

“Ahh…” He hesitated. For a second, he forgot why he was there. “Umm… yes. Yes, I’m here to pick up a grocery order. My mother called it in.” Benjamin stuttered over his words, staring at her. When their eyes met, he knew she was the one for him. His heart began to race, and he hoped she wouldn’t notice.

Benjamin completely forgot about his friends and the plans they made to see
Frankenstein
. Everyone from his school was going, but he no longer cared. He was standing in front of the prettiest girl in Westport County, and she was talking to him.

“Sure… for Holmes, right?” she asked.

That was the first time his heart stopped.

“Yes.” He paused. “I didn’t realize you knew my name.” All the confidence he thought he lost was back. She remembered him.

“Oh, yes. We met at the island this past summer.” Elizabeth blushed as she spoke. “I’m sorry I jumped in your lap during that ghost story.”

“Ah…” He grinned, and her eyes sparkled in return. “I didn’t mind.”

Elizabeth’s face reddened, and she glanced down at the counter. “I shouldn’t have done that. My father would be very upset with me.” Elizabeth looked up at Benjamin again. “It wasn’t very ladylike.”

“You were very much a lady evening, Miss Hudson. Very proper, actually.”

“Thank you. You can call me Elizabeth.” She hesitated a moment. “I better get your mother’s order.” She turned toward the back room where she came from.

“Did you need help?” Benjamin suddenly remembered his manners. “I mean, I can carry it for you.”

Stopping, she faced him. “That would be nice.” She smiled. “There are two boxes. I had them in a wagon for you.”

Benjamin followed her to the red Radio Flyer that held his mother’s grocery order. He lifted a box with ease, proud to show his strength in front of her. Elizabeth was waiting for him when he returned from the truck. He signed the receipt to charge to his mother’s account and picked up the last box. Hesitating, he stood there a moment. Elizabeth eyed him cautiously.

“Do you like going to the movies?” he mumbled, resting the groceries on the counter.

“Yes.”

Benjamin fidgeted a second or two before gaining the confidence to continue. “Would you like to join me tonight?
Frankenstein
is playing in Westport.”

Elizabeth hesitated, chewing on her lower lip. Benjamin regretted asking. She glanced toward her father, still chatting with Mrs. Crandon on the other side of the store. “Actually, my father would need to approve that… and um…” She paused for a moment. “I’m not sure he would agree.” She looked down, her long lashes moving in slow motion when they opened and closed.

“I see.” A sense of relief struck him. She didn’t say no. Benjamin looked around, and then back at her. “I’ll be right back.” He grabbed the box of groceries and carried it to the truck. When he returned, Mrs. Crandon was gone and Mr. Hudson was beside Elizabeth at the counter.

“I wanted to introduce myself,” Benjamin began. His father always told him to look people in the eye while he spoke, but his nerves got in the way. Instead, Benjamin looked at the man’s apron tied at the waist, and his thin, black tie tucked in.

“Ah, yes. You’re the Holmes boy.”

“Yes, I am.” Benjamin extended his hand in proper introduction. “I’m Benjamin.”

“I ’member when you were just a tyke,” Mr. Hudson said. He was as jovial as he was round. They shook hands.

“Well, sir… I wanted your permission to take Elizabeth to the movies tonight.
Frankenstein
is playing in Westport.”

Mr. Hudson’s smile turned flat. He looked at Elizabeth a long moment before staring at Benjamin again. “Well…” the man began. The silence was awkward as Elizabeth begged her father with her eyes. Finally, he spoke. “Your mother’s a good woman… and a good customer.”

“Yes, sir.”

“I’ve known her for years.” He paused, taking a deep breath. “Your father’s a veteran, isn’t he?”

“Yes, sir. Navy Captain when he retired.”

“That what you planning to do, son?” Elizabeth’s father rubbed his cheek, speckled with a five o’clock shadow.

“Yes, sir.”

“You in school?”

“Yes, I graduate this year, sir.”

The man nodded, lost in thought. He scratched his bald head, and a bead of perspiration formed at his temple.

“Please, Papa,” Elizabeth interjected.

“I promise to take good care of her, sir,” Benjamin added.

Mr. Hudson was silent. After an uncomfortable pause, he agreed to let Benjamin take Elizabeth on a date, but not until he gave a significant lecture on the proper respect of a young lady.

Benjamin promptly arrived at six o’clock as instructed. Elizabeth’s father greeted him at the door before he rang the bell to their home above the store. Mr. Hudson escorted him up the staircase, where Elizabeth’s mother waited. She shook Benjamin’s hand, led him to a small parlor overlooking the street, and gestured for him to sit while he waited for Elizabeth. He chose the davenport.

“What a tall boy you’ve become. So nice to see you,” Mrs. Hudson said. She sat across from him, folding the handkerchief she held in her hands.

“Nice to see you, too, Mrs. Hudson,” he answered. “My mother says hello.”

“Oh, please tell her the same. I hope she enjoyed the apples she ordered.”

“Yes, ma’am. She did. She’s baking pies for tomorrow’s festival.”

“That’s lovely. Your mother makes the best pies.”

“Thank you. I’ll be sure to tell her. She will be delighted to hear that.”

“Now, son,” Mr. Hudson interrupted. He sat in the chair beside Benjamin and leaned closer. “Do you remember my instructions?”

“Yes, sir. I do.” Despite the confidence in his voice, Benjamin felt uncomfortable.

“You treat her like a lady.” He glanced at his wife, who looked down at her hands. “I expect you to keep your distance. Arm’s length. At all times.”

Mrs. Hudson’s shoulders slouched as her husband’s voice increased. Benjamin saw the embarrassment on her face.

“Absolutely, sir. I will be a gentleman,” Benjamin answered.

“I’m counting on you, son. This is
my
daughter
.” Elizabeth’s father aimed his forefinger at Benjamin while he spoke.

“Eh-hm.” Elizabeth cleared her throat and entered the room. Everyone stood and turned to look at her. Dressed in a blue, floral dress, Elizabeth was beautiful, and Benjamin couldn’t take his eyes off her. “Father? May we leave now?” Elizabeth asked. Her hand was poised on her hip.

Mr. Hudson was visibly taken back. After mumbling “Fine,” he extended his hand to Benjamin.

“Thank you. I’ll have her home early.” A sense of relief overcame Benjamin.

“I’m really sorry about my parents,” Elizabeth said after they were a block away.

“Don’t be. I understand.” Benjamin glanced at her as he drove. “Your father’s just nervous about letting go of his daughter. That’s all.” He smiled. “I would be too. If… I mean, if I were a parent, I would be protective of my daughter, too.”

They talked the entire ride to Westport. Elizabeth was everything he thought she was and more.

At the movie theater, they sat a few rows away from their friends and shared popcorn. When the music grew loud and everyone jumped in anxiety, Elizabeth turned to cover her eyes, burying them in Benjamin’s chest. He carefully put his hand on her shoulder to console her, until the music quieted and she could open her eyes.

“Sorry,” Elizabeth whispered.

“Are you all right?” he asked. “Do you want to leave?”

“No, I’m fine.” Elizabeth sat upright in her seat until the music increased again. “Will you… I mean, um…?” She mumbled something Benjamin couldn’t understand, glancing between him and the screen as if afraid to look.

“We can leave, if you’d like,” he whispered.

“No, no…” She looked at him. “Would you please hold my hand?”

BOOK: Aftershock
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