The shirt lay on the end table beside her chair- unfinished business yet a hollow chore considering the distance between them. Four years newly-wed and blessed with a three year old son, they were lovers in a storybook romance. Each page in the photo album a chapter in a fairy tale, chronicling their meeting, their courtship, their marriage and their new life together. He played the part of the dashing young knight so well; dark hair and dark eyes, but a dazzling smile that could disarm both friend and stranger, young or old, man or woman. His smile was not the smile of the player or Casanova. No, his smile was all the more devastating because of its sincerity and the good heart from which it sprung so readily. It was that smile that had attracted her those years before and the good and decent heart that caused her to fall and remain, in love despite the distance. It was pure light, warming and brightening.
He loved to fly. He could not get enough. Which is why he joined the Army and became a pilot- to fly. In his letters, he had complained that he was not getting enough time in the cockpit but said his commanding officer had promised him more flying time. In fact, he said, that time was coming soon and he was very excited. His excitement charged the words causing them to fairly leap off the pages of his latest dispatch.
He planted grass in the desert. That was who he was. He went to war and planted grass in the desert. Not only did he plant grass he made it grow and be green and flourish there in the desert. Others wrote to tell her that he was their cynosure, their guide and center. They told her how he brightened their days in the desert. His smile, his laughter, his green grass.
She examined the shirt beside her, the missing button making it look incomplete. It was given to her husband as a wedding gift complete with glass buttons. Buttons which she brought with her when she moved to this country. Buttons handed down from her grandmother's grandmother. Handmade connections to other worlds and other times. No place for that shirt in the war, in the desert, and no need for the tiny glass buttons.
He had a plan for his return. They had a plan, the two of them and their three year old son. They'd start a greenhouse business. He would land his helicopter and put his degree to work. They'd grow things- plants and children. They would make a life beyond the Army. "The trick," he said, "was to maximize the land usage, get the most yield from a small plot and then expand. She smiled as she read the letter again.
She took the needle and thread in hand. The thread seemed to stretch between them, a translucent bridge across the distance. It seemed to quiver in her hands as if with electricity. The button seemed a lucent window through space. She pierced the fabric with the needle and as she did the needle gave a small jump and pricked her finger. She held her hand out in front of her, and wondered at the small dot of blood oozing to the surface and dropping beneath the left breast pocket of the shirt, followed by a tear.
Finished now, she folded the shirt and placed it in the box with his uniforms and medals and letters. The stain would no doubt remain. But she knew he would not mind.