Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Celebrating Navy Wives' & Navy Girlfriends' Courage

photo credit: Daniel*1977 via photo pin cc 
As some of you know, I am a novelist. I usually stick to novels but sometimes I'm inclined to write short stories and this is a little something . . . inspired. Don't forget to leave a comment to let me know what you think and subscribe to get weekly updates on posts.

Are you a writer? Do you have a short story about a Navy Wife experience that made you feel nuts or got an idea for one? Write it up and see my "Guest Blogger" page. I'd love to post some reader stories.

Sammy sat in her faded blue Honda Civic, listening to the windshield wipers squeaking back and forth. Who could she call? The police? What if she had made a mistake? She imagined the police placating her with contempt in their eyes. Would they fine her, like when you call an ambulance, do they charge you when you call an ambulance? She couldn’t afford a fine. She swallowed. She stared at the blue and white lights flashing against her living room curtains.
             Sammy leaned over and yanked her purse off the floor of the passenger side. She rifled through the plum-colored faux leather and found her cell. She scrolled through her contacts, jabbed at Melissa’s name, lifted the phone to her ear.
She felt like such a coward. This entire experience made her feel like such a coward. She used to be strong, tough, independent. She used to be the kind of girl who powered through the roughest situations, bullies, jackass boyfriends, a car accident, but now, alone, she felt so vulnerable. She always felt vulnerable now.
The phone rang, rang, rang. Sammy pulled it away from her ear, doubting even calling, when she heard, “Hello?” Sammy swung the phone back up to her head. “Melissa, it’s Sam. I’m freaking out, and I don’t know what to do.”
“What’s wrong?”
“I think someone is in my house.”
“Oh my God. Did you call the police?”
“No. I’m not sure. I’m outside. The TV’s on, but I’m sure I shut it off.”
She always shut the television off during her routine walk-through before leaving the house. She double checked the curling iron, unplugged the space heater, flicked the oven knobs on and off just to be sure, and always unplugged the coffee pot. She did this once, twice, sometimes even three times before she felt safe enough to leave. She felt stupid for doing it, a little crazy too, but when she weighed crazy against listening to the news cast of the stupid woman burning down the house while her poor husband defended his country half-way across the planet, she felt crazy had a better ring to it.
“You probably just left it on.”
“Maybe. I don’t know. I was late this morning and rushed out. I swear I checked everything, but I can’t remember.” Sammy reached out and turned the heater down. She felt sweat on her hairline. “I don’t want to call the police. It’s probably nothing. This is stupid.”
“What do you want to do?”
“I don’t know.” If this were Danny, she thought, he wouldn’t blink. He wouldn’t have made a habit of checking things three times every day either. He would stomp into that house, probably wouldn’t even check the rooms for hidden intruders, and get on with his evening. If he did feel threatened, he’d grab a gun or something. A gun or something. Sammy lifted her head toward the dark shed being pelted by the rain. “Will you stay on the phone with me?”
“Are going in?”
“First I got to get something.”
“There’s a gun in the shed. Danny showed me before he left.” Sammy remembered Danny joking about her getting the gun if she ever got scared. Sammy had replied that she didn’t want that thing in her house. She felt stupid again.
“If you’re that scared maybe you should—”
Sammy cut her off, “—No! I’m sure it’s nothing. I can’t just go calling the police every time I get scared.” I have to this on my own. I have to take care of myself. Sammy looked back up at the blue and white lights of the television. She imagined the recap on the unsolved murder show. If being stupid saved her life, it wouldn’t be so stupid at all. If walking in there unarmed ended her life, then that would be stupid. Get the gun. That’s what Danny told her to do. That’s what he would say to do if he were here. “I just want to get it. Just to be safe.”
“I have to go into the shed. It’s pitch black and raining.”
“Shit, Sammy I swear if I could I’d be there in a second.”
“I know.” Why couldn’t she have made more friends in the area? They had only just moved there when Danny left, and Sammy thought she would make friends at work but she hadn’t. She hadn’t wanted to go out or do anything since he’d left. She had the number to one of Danny’s friends from a different squadron, but she had never even met the guy. She didn’t want to call someone she didn’t know when this was probably nothing. She probably just left the TV on. “I’m going to put the phone in my pocket so it doesn’t get wet but don’t hang up. Ok?”
“I won’t.”
Sammy tucked the phone into her inside pocket, turned the car off, and shoved keys in her jacket. She grasped the door handle.
“Sammy!” A little muffled voice called from her pocket.
She stopped and pulled the phone back out. “What?”
“Do you know how to use the gun?”
“I think so. Danny showed me once when we went camping.”
Sammy heard Melissa take a breath then stop herself.
“It’s probably nothing. You’ll be on the phone. If I scream . . .”
“Oh, my God.”
“I won’t. It’s nothing.”
“It’s probably nothing.”
“Ok. I’m here.”
Sammy shoved the phone back into her inside pocket. She grasped the door handle and regretted wearing heels to work. She opened the door and braced against the cold rain pelting her jacket. She turned and shut her car door slowly to prevent any noise. The hard rain immediately soaked her styled hair.
She scanned the area trying to make out shapes in the moving haze of rain. What if they were outside? What if they knew she came home and were watching her? She pushed the thought from her head and took her first step toward the shed. The driveway was made of rocks and dirt and her heels sunk. Why couldn’t they get a house on base or in suburbia? This country-living shit sucked! If she had neighbors close by, she could run to them if someone tried to attack her, but the closest house was a half-mile down the road. Sammy hobbled through the muddy driveway to the sodden lawn. The rain seeped through her thin work clothes and the cold made her tremble.
She reached the shed and grabbed the door handle. The door was too low to the ground, and she had to yank to open it, causing a loud scrape sound. She froze like a rabbit and looked back at the house. Nothing happened, so she slipped into the dark shed and instantly into cobwebs. She shrieked and scrambled to get them off.
“Sammy?” The little voice in her pocket shouted.
Sammy clung and fretted with the spider webs off her face with one hand and reached for her phone with the other. She tripped on something metal, which scraped and clanged against the ground, making all kinds of noise. She tried to stop, but her heel caught on something like netting, and she lost her balance and toppled sideways into wood handles. She heard the clink, clang, cling, clang, clang, scuttle of shovels and rakes falling all over the place. Sammy sat there motionless, the little voice from her pocket panicking. “Sammy? Sammy, oh my God! Sammy?”
She brought the phone up. “I’m fine. Be quiet.”
Sammy leaned forward and peered out the half opened shed door. She couldn’t see anything out in the dark rain. She waited, listening. Finally, she brought the phone to her ear again. “I’m fine. I tripped, but I’m fine.”
Melissa didn’t respond.
“What now?”
“Hold on.” Sammy, turned her phone around and the light shone on a rake in front of her and the mess of tools she sat in. She stood up and started shinning the light around, imagining an intruder rushing out to the shed.  
She brought the phone back and whispered angrily. “I said hold on.” She turned the phone back around and saw it, the rifle, leaning against the wall of the shed. She shined the phone on the floor and tip-toed over the mess she created. She grabbed the rifle with one slippery hand and brought the phone back up. “I got the gun.”
“Now what?” Melissa asked, sounding panicked.
Sammy stood motionless and thinking. She whispered, “I’m going to look out. Don’t say anything.” She tip-toed back over the gardening tools to the door, and started to wonder if a spider might be crawling on her from that web. She crept up to the door and turned her body to the so she could see the house from behind the half-opened door. It looked the same, motionless, except for the TV flashing against the curtains.
“Ok, Melissa, I’m going to the house.”
“Ok. I’m here.”
Sammy put the phone in her pocket and held the rifle diagonal across her chest with both hands. She stood at the shed door staring at the house, gripping the gun, and grinding her teeth. She told herself she could do this. She opened the chamber like Danny showed her, and saw the bullet ready then she pulled back the little lever that loaded it. She told herself, she wasn’t cared. In fact, she realized she was kind of pissed. She was so sick and tired of being scared all the time. She didn’t care if someone was in there. She didn’t care if they were going to try to rape and murder her. She fumed with so much anger that if she found someone inside, she wasn’t even going to shoot them. She was going to beat them to death with the barrel of that gun. She didn’t care anymore. She was done. Sammy kicked her heels off, shoved the door open, and marched toward the house like an assassin marching toward a target. She wouldn’t even sneak around back. She charged for the front door. She didn’t even feel the rocks on her bare feet.
She stomped up the front steps barefooted, and furiously grabbed the keys form her pocket, shoved them into the door, unlocked it, and shoved it open with all her might. The door cracked against the wall and Sammy swung the gun in. She pointed it toward the living room and the TV turned lowly humming on the news station. She turned to the right, toward dining room, saw the round table, chairs. She marched into the kitchen, her eyes wide and her teeth clenched. She turned down the hall, passing photos of happy occasions and wedding photos. She yanked the guest room door open and flicked on the light, growling in anticipation of someone jumping out. She could hear in the living room, the news anchor reporting a car accident blocking traffic on the freeway. She pointed the gun into the bathroom and Danny’s “man cave,” and finally she turned toward the bedroom, the last place to hide. She stomped in and flicked the light on. Nothing. She ran to the bathroom, the walk-in closet. Nothing. No one. Sammy blew out the breath she’d been holding.
She walked back down the hall and sighed. She realized how tense her neck and shoulders were and let them relax. Her head felt dizzy and her hold body trembled. She laid the gun down on the dining room table and plopped down into a chair. She slowly pulled out the phone, wondering if it had hung up because she didn’t Melissa screaming for her. “Melissa, you there?”
“Yeah. You in?”
“Yeah. No one’s here. I left the TV on.” She laughed, shook her head. “I’m such an idiot. This was really kind of stupid. I am such a coward.”
Melissa’s breath hit the receiver. “Actually, Sam that was kind of courageous.”
Sammy froze, surprised. She looked down at her feet and the dirt tracks she had stamped all across the house, her clothes were dripping onto the floor, and her hair clung to her cheeks. She shifted and looked at the gun, replayed in her mind what she had just done, and smiled.  

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About Stephanie Carroll
U&E Founder & Author
Buy Her Book A White Room!
Photo by Randy Enriquez
I dated and married my husband in 2004 when I was 19. I felt like an outsider for the first half of our marriage. He didn't understand what I needed to know about the Navy, and I didn't know what to ask.

After ten years of learning in the Navy, I founded Unhinged & Empowered. I wanted to spread the knowledge that I needed when I was new, to reveal what took years for me to learn.   
Cover Design by Jenny Q
In addition to being a Navy Wife, I am also a novelist. I write historical women's fiction.

My first novel A White Room debuted in 2013 and is about a woman forced to sacrifice her own ambitions of becoming a nurse to marry a man who can save her destitute family. He moves her to a strange, small town where she slowly succumbs to madness until she stumbles on an opportunity to nurse to the poor despite the fact that her husband prosecutes unlicensed practitioners.

Learn more at and connect with me @CarrollBooks on Twitter, Facebook, or on Pinterest!

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