Fireflies (excerpt)

via Daily Prompt: Profuse
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“He doesn’t look like a victim”

“He could have easily fought back”

The internet is filled with articles about how to recognize a toxic relationship, but those are always geared towards women.

How does a man escape a toxic relationship when by nature, he is supposed to be the one in power?

Love + family = hope

*****

Jen had taken a seat holding Shauna in her arms like a teddy bear. With her back against the wall, Jen looked ready to fall asleep. “Your sister can go in first.”

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“Are you kidding me?” I asked. “We just traveled halfway across the country.” My lack of sleep was causing me to be more hostile than I intended.

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“Sean, cool it,” Remy said with a raised hand. He took a seat next to Jen. “Your father’s been asking about you.”

“I don’t know if I can go in.” Jen looked at me with an irate glare. “And Sean, no offense, but you have never had to watch someone die.”

“Hey,” Remy gripped her hand. “Do you remember what your dad used to call you when you were little?

Jen covered her mouth as tears streamed down her cheeks. “Remy, please don’t.”

“He told me you were his butterfly. Your father told me he wrote to you every day when he was deployed. He saw your face in every little girl that he saved because no matter how bad it got he knew was coming home to you. When you smiled it healed something deep inside him. You were his light in the darkness.” Remy gasped for breath as wiped tears from his own eyes. “Your father is very sick. They say he’s not going to make it, but I don’t believe that for one second. Your father is a soldier. He served multiple overseas tours, saved countless lives. He ended his military career with a back full of shrapnel and chest full of medals. Someone that strong is not going to lose to a vindictive bitch.” Remy took Jen’s hand. “Don’t let your mother win. Jenessa, your father needs your strength.”

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I picked up the phone by the door and waited as the instructions indicated. A nurse picked up from inside.

“Visitors for Diego Quinto,” I said.

“Relation?”

“I’m his daughter’s boyfriend. Is there a limit to the number of people who can see him?”

“We like to limit visitors to a maximum of three at a time.”

“How about small children?”

“How small?”

“Under two, she’s asleep.”

“I’ll allow it if you keep that holistic medicine freak’s behavior in check.”

I snickered as I looked to Remy. “Yes, Miss. I’ll try my best.”

The automatic doors opened. Remy led us to Diego’s room. “Hey, guess who’s here?”

Diego turned his head. He wore an oxygen mask. His left arm was hooked up to a dialysis machine. There was an all too familiar looking port in his neck, a necessary evil for blood draws. (Just seeing it made me shudder with horrible memories.) And a second IV in his right arm attached to a bag of antibiotics and morphine. At the sight of Jen, Diego started sobbing.

Jen hugged her father—carefully. “Hi, Daddy.

Diego swallowed hard, struggling to speak. “Jen…”

Jen sat down beside him holding his hand. “I love you, Dad.” As she stroked his limp fingers I couldn’t help but be reminded of the video where Cam made his life ending declaration. “There’s something I always wanted to ask you. When you were in Texas, undergoing physical therapy for your back, did you ever see fireflies?”

Diego closed his eyes as he nodded. “Outside my window, when I couldn’t see the stars…always knew you and your brother sent them to me.”

Jen nodded. “Mom told me you were in Texas because you didn’t want to come to North Dakota. She didn’t tell me how badly you were hurt. But somehow Cam knew. He asked me to collect fireflies, as many as I could, and together we would give them a message to send you. He told me the fireflies would lead you home.” Jen kissed her father’s forehead. “Mom won’t hurt you ever again. No matter what happens next, you’re going to be okay. You have a family. You have people who care about you.”

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