True love never dies, but is it enough to heal a broken faith?
Claire and Evan met when they were children. They grew up together and fell in love. When Evan became a soldier, he and Claire held onto their love, remaining faithful to one another through every deployment. As the years passed, it seemed that life had given them everything they ever wanted … until tragedy struck.
Evan, left in the wake of tragedies, is now forced to decide what is most precious to him. Will love heal him or will devastation destroy his faith? Can Evan’s family show him the way? Can love truly set him free?
About Sarah Galloway
Sarah Galloway is an
Army wife and a mother to four wonderful children. She began writing as a child and continued her love of writing throughout her life. Sarah wrote The
while her husband was deployed in Afghanistan in 2012. She
and her husband are residents of Colorado Springs, CO, but are currently stationed in beautiful Monterey, CA.
Sarah and her husband are both avid readers and enjoy a library of books that they keep along the length of their wall in their home office. One of her favorite past times is curling up with a good book while her Great Dane snores at her feet.
Sarah is also a Registered Nurse and spent many sleepless nights working in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Colorado Springs. She is very humbled by the tiny miracles that she saw during her years there and she loves all of the babies
and families that she had the opportunity to care for. Sarah is continuing her
education to become a Family Nurse Practitioner and plans to graduate at the
end of 2014. Sarah’s passions include writing, healing people, and providing
comfort to those who need it most.
How to reach Sarah Galloway
Excerpt of The
They had been so young, so very young. She remembered walking to the school bus, alone and scared. Her first day of first grade and then there he was, a young boy in a dress shirt and slacks, a lunch box in his hand and a blue and red backpack on his back. Tall and quiet, the boy’s eyes did not meet hers. His dark brown hair was well cropped above his big brown eyes. She saw him and lost some of her fear. Walking up next to him, she stood silently as they waited for the bus.
That was the beginning of it. From that moment on, they were never far from one another. She chose a seat next to him in class and she always picked the seat next to him on the bus ride home. They sat in silence at first, both looking straight ahead with their hands folded neatly in their lap.
Later, when she could finally stand the silence no more, she glanced over at him. “My name is Claire, what’s yours?”
The boy’s voice was quiet. “Evan.”
“Evan,” she repeated softly. “Okay.”
He gave her a puzzled look. “Okay what?”
“Okay, I like your name Evan. You can be my friend.”
Evan looked at her, a small, confused smile playing at the corner of his lips.
Time went on. They played, built forts, explored the forest behind their neighborhood, and laughed. They grew up together. They became best friends, and that did not change.
Middle school approached and Evan became an awkward, lanky boy while Claire was a dark-haired, green-eyed beauty. She didn’t seem to care. All of the sudden, the boys noticed Claire, but still, she stayed by Evan.
“Hey Claire,” they would say. “Want to come hang out with us after school?”
“No thanks,” replied Claire.
“I’m studying with Evan.”
Despite the whispering, whining, and complaining that came from the other boys, Claire never wavered. When she left school, she always walked to the bus with Evan. She rode with him, laughed, and told jokes with him, even when the others snickered or sneered.
One day, as they rode next to each other, Claire realized that what she felt for Evan was more than just friendship. She reached over and took his strong, masculine hand, clasping it in her own much smaller one. He looked up at her, waiting for something.
Wondering what was on her mind, he interrupted the silence. “Claire?”
Brown eyes sparkled back at her. “Are you okay?”
The gaze lasted a moment longer. “Are you sure?”
He left his hand sandwiched between hers. “Alright then.”
When the bus came to a stop, Claire stood and waited for Evan to stand beside her and they walked off together, as they always did.
Standing there on the sidewalk, Claire silently stared at Evan, not moving.
Evan was clearly confused. “Ummm, did you want to come over and study?”
Absently, he scratched the top of his head. “Alright then. I’ll see you tomorrow?”
“No.” She halted him with her hand on his shoulder. “Come with me.”
Pausing for a moment, he gave her an inquiring look. “Where are we going?”
She clasped his hand in hers. “Just come.”
They were seventeen and when she took his hand this time, it was because she loved him. She led him into the forest and back through trees they hadn’t been under in years. They walked through the thick underbrush and finally came to a clearing. He looked at it and smiled. A couple of old, beat-up pieces of plywood leaned together were held there by nails creating a sanctuary fashioned by children. Various odd blankets and pieces of bark and wood that were tattered and faded and barely recognizable lay underneath them.
Confused, he glanced from her to their favorite childhood place. “Claire, this is our old fort.”
She pulled him toward it. “Yes.”
“I had forgotten about this place.”
The light breeze rushed through her hair. “Do you remember when we built it?”
Nostalgia was obvious on his features. “Of course I do! Oh gosh, how old were we, nine, ten maybe?” “We were in third grade. It was fun. Come and sit with me under it now, will you?”
As she pulled him forward, he laughed. “Okay Claire.”
On their hands and knees, the dusty ground was cool and soft as they crawled into the tattered old fort. When they were sitting under it, there was barely enough room for both of them and Evan’s body was cramped against Claire’s so that they would fit.
Claire smiled at Evan and touched his forehead, brushing a lock of fallen hair away from his eyes.
A serious expression fell across his face. “Claire, can I ask you something?”
Evan’s eyes trailed off to the horizon. “Why do you still stay with me?”
“What do you mean?”
He shifted his gaze back to her. “I mean, you’re … well, you’re beautiful Claire. All those guys want to be with you, the good looking ones, the ones all the girls want to be with, and you still always hang out with me.”
“Well,” said Claire blushing. “That’s part of what I wanted to talk to you about.”
Unblinking eyes stared back at her as she spoke. “Evan, I think I’m in love with you.”
A friendly bear hug enveloped her. “I love you too, Claire.”
“No, you don’t understand. Not like a friend, not like we are best friends. I think I have fallen in love with you.”
He looked at her, as though he was barely registering what she was saying. She looked back into his dark brown eyes. Still, he said nothing. Finally, she leaned forward and kissed him on the lips. It was a soft and tender kiss, yet it was warm and inviting, too. And it was perfect, like they had done it all of their lives.
The words fell out of her mouth in a whisper. “Evan, I mean it. I love you.”
His voice was soft and tender. “Oh Claire, I love you too.”
Now he put his arms around her and she rested her head on his shoulder, feeling the warmth of his body. They stayed that way, he held her and she curled up within his arms, finally able to relax now that she knew that he loved her too.
That had been twenty years ago.
Claire thought back on the memory and smiled. Twenty years. Has
it really been that long? Twenty years since she realized that she truly
did love Evan. It seems like only yesterday.
She closed her eyes and pictured him as he looked now. Sharp jaw, strong features, tall and lean and handsome. Evan was the kind of guy that women looked at twice when he walked by, although he didn’t realize it. Those soft, gentle brown eyes that she loved and adored still made her feel weak and he still had the shock of deep brown hair that he had to trim constantly because it grew so quickly.
He had been such a scrawny kid that nobody understood why she went for him when she could have any boy in the school, had she wanted them. They simply didn’t understand love. She had belonged to Evan from the first time she saw him. She had always been his.
Evan had taken more convincing. It wasn’t that he didn’t love Claire, because he did. It was more that he was terrified of her. He was scared to death that she would realize how amazing she was and that she would go fleeting off into the arms of one of the rough looking muscled guys that were always hitting on her. Eventually though, he realized that she only saw him and he began to feel safe with her. In time he learned that they truly did belong together and that she would never leave him. He didn’t quite understand why, but he knew it to be true all the same.
Claire closed her eyes and pictured Evan next to her. She could almost feel his breath on her skin. But it was too soon, he wouldn’t be home for another five months. Sighing, she forced herself up to make breakfast.
Claire pulled the contents from her cupboard to make pancakes and began mixing the batter. As she was holding the bowl under one arm and whisking with the other, she heard Eve’s soft footsteps on the linoleum. The quiet, dainty sound of Eve’s feet were soon overshadowed by Connor’s much louder thuds.
Her two children came into the kitchen, both still half-asleep. Seventeen-year-old Connor was in sweatpants and a t-shirt, while thirteen-year-old Eve stood in a long night shirt and knit sleep pants.
Claire greeted them warmly. “Good morning kids.”
“Mmmph,” groaned Connor.
Eve yawned. “Morning.”
“Oh come on now you two, it’s a beautiful day, just look outside.”
They both looked out the window, indifference on their faces.
Jackson, the family pet, came meandering into the kitchen when he heard the kids. The huge, black Great Dane pressed himself against Connor.
“Oooph.” The air rushed out of Connor. “Jackson, it’s too early.”
The dog quite happily moseyed away to Eve who patted him lightly on the head. Then he walked to Claire and sat down next to her. She leaned playfully on him while she waited for the pancake in the skillet to be ready to flip, he didn’t budge.
Connor got out the milk and poured himself a glass. “Do you want some Eve? Mom?”
“Yeah,” yawned Eve as she took her place at the table, wiping sleep from her eyes.
Claire flipped a pancake in the skillet. “No thank you honey.”
Connor poured a second glass and walked it to Eve who took it, thanked him and sipped at it as she tried to will herself awake. Claire finished cooking breakfast and put some on the plates, handing them to the kids. She watched as Connor carefully poured syrup onto each pancake and then handed the bottle to his sister. Eve cut up her pancakes with a fork first, and then lathered syrup all over the small
Eve handed the bottle to her Mom. Claire put a tiny dollop of syrup on her single pancake and then spread it across in a thin, even layer. She smiled as she watched the kids eat. Slowly, they began to wake up.
Connor finished first, his voice still hazy. “I’m gonna shower.”
“Okay,” said Claire.
Connor left and Eve sat at the table with her daughter.
There was silence before Eve finally spoke. “Mom?”
“I miss Dad.”
Claire sighed. “So do I. Five more months and he’ll be home.”
Eve’s face drooped. “It’s still so long.”
Claire’s heart ached as she looked across the table at her daughter. “I know honey. I miss him too. Soon, soon he will be home.”
Eve looked up at her mother with solemn eyes. “Can he stay this time?”
Patting her daughter’s hand, she spoke. “I hope so honey.”
Eve’s young face flushed and Claire could tell she was holding back tears. Claire opened her arms and Eve walked to her mother and hugged her. Claire held her daughter and silently thanked God that, unlike most thirteen year olds, Eve still let her comfort her this way. She stroked Eve’s dark brown hair until she finally let
Her daughter’s eyes looked moist, but she no longer looked as though she would begin to cry. “Are you okay honey?”
“Yeah, it’s just one of those days I guess. I’m gonna get ready.”
She watched Eve disappear down the hallway to her room. Alone in the kitchen, Claire began picking up plates and putting them in the sink. She heard the shower stop and a few minutes later, Connor emerged looking much more like the bright, chipper boy that he was. He takes after his father so much. He was tall and lean, just like Evan, and he had those same deep brown eyes. Claire smiled at him and he returned the grin.
As she finished rinsing the dishes, she looked over at him. “Connor?”
He slung his backpack over his shoulder. “Yeah?”
“Would you mind dropping Eve off at school this morning? I am going to write your father a letter.”
His free arm wrapped around her shoulder and hugged her. “Sure Mom.”
“You’re welcome.” He was such a good boy.
They were both good kids. She was so thankful for them.
“C’mon Eve,” Connor called from the kitchen. “Five minutes.”
Eve’s voice trailed in from her bedroom. “Okay, I’ll be there.”
Just in time, Eve appeared with her book bag slung over her shoulder and Connor walked with her to the door. Eve looked as though she were a little less sad and Claire felt relieved.
Claire lifted her hand to wave goodbye to her children. “Have a good day guys.”
“We will Mom,” replied Eve. “Love you.”
“Love you,” chimed Connor.
Her heart swelled with joy. “I love you both, too.” Her children were so good to her. She watched out the window as they climbed into Connor’s old but reliable car, laughing about something. Then she returned to the nook.
As they pulled away, Claire sat in the warm light that shone through the window onto the breakfast table. The glossy surface was cool against her wrists, but the sun was warm on her back. She brushed her hair back with her hands, feeling the soft curls run through her fingers. Retrieving a piece of paper from the little drawer hidden under the surface of the table, Claire began to write.
My Dearest Evan…
Claire wrote the letter, telling him everything that was in her heart. She read it over. When she was satisfied that she had said everything that she needed to say, she signed it:
She placed a red lipstick kiss at the corner of it by her name. She slipped the letter into an envelope and addressed it to the APO address where the Army would receive the mail before dispensing it to the soldiers.
She closed her eyes for a moment, holding the letter in her hand and feeling the sun on her back. In that moment, she felt at peace. Her white, gauzy nightgown flowed softly in the ruffle of the breeze coming in through the window. It brushed against her thigh and then floated away as quickly as a whisper. Her hair fluttered against her face and she closed her eyes, embracing the wind. As she opened her eyes and rose, she felt the sun’s rays leave her back. Placing the letter on the edge of the kitchen counter, she walked to the bedroom. As she slipped into a pair of
jeans, she retrieved a lemon yellow blouse that was well fitted to her figure.
She could almost hear Evan telling her how beautiful she was and how he could
get lost in her eyes forever. Moving back to the kitchen, she paused to pick up
her car keys. She glanced at the letter before deciding she would place it in
the outgoing mail in the afternoon. When she climbed into her car, a soft smile
rested gently on her lips.
That was the last time Claire’s family ever saw her alive.