The doorbell rang with a muffled echo behind the thick oak door. It was the first house he had to go to by himself, as Kevin had caught the flu from his wife the day before. The few seconds before the door was opened after the doorbell were the worst for him - filled with a sort of hollow anticipation to get it over with. He hated days where he had to do this. When he finally heard the light footsteps approaching, he took a breath and when the door opened --
He saw her eyes. The same eyes that would flood his dreams night after night in high school, the same chestnut eyes that flickered with honey whenever she smiled, the same eyes that he hadn't seen in 7 years.
"Eliot!" The sound of her slightly surprised but joyful voice unlocked a flood of memories in his heart, memories that he thought he dammed up years ago. He could already see the flecks of honey in her eyes and she started to smile at the sight of her old classmate. "What are you doing here? Man, how are you?"
His fingers froze as his eyes were lost in hers. A torrent of excuses raced through his mind: I was just in the neighborhood.... Our high school reunion is coming up, are you going?.... My car broke down, can I use your phone?....
"Are you --" He had rehearsed the lines in the car at least ten times but couldn't get them out now. He couldn't bear to unload the burden on her innocent eyes. "Are you Mrs. Noah P. Thurgood?" He finally spit out, his fingers nervously clutching the white slip of paper.
"Yes... I got married two years ago," she replied, slightly puzzled. "How do you know that?"
He went on. "Is your husband Sgt. Noah P. Thurgood? Social Security Number 485-67-8982?"
"Yes... Eliot, what's going on?" It was only then that she noticed the Army emblem on his uniform. "My God.... Eliot...."
"Ma'am, I'm sorry to inform you.... I'm sorry.... I'm so sorry, Katherine.." He felt his barriers plummet as the words came pouring out of his mouth, his heart, his soul. Her entire body shook as she leaned into the doorframe for support. She closed her eyes and opened them to reveal a lonely, rusty color as a single, dry tear rolled down her cheek.
And it was in that second, that life became that much more fragile...