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She was nervous, more nervous than she’d been on her wedding night, but after three years of fighting, he was coming home.
The table was special. One he had crafted himself from oddments of wood gathered from glades and valleys before he went away. He had lovingly stripped and polished the top, bringing out the natural grain with all its imperfections. The cutlery drawer had dovetail joints and slid smoothly on its runners, again all made by his capable hands. She herself had given the frame a coat of paint when he had finished, her contribution to his efforts.
The sound of a vehicle echoed at the end of the narrow street.
Footsteps replaced the sound as it pulled away.
She wrung her hands on her apron.
He was here.
He stood in the doorway, his smile hesitant, then beaming, just as it had been on their wedding day. He opened his arms to embrace her.
She clung to him, breathing in his essence, touching, sensing, yearning.
He was alive, and home.
He noticed the ash tray on the table and picked it up.
‘No need for this now,’ he said. ‘I quit when my mate in the ranks died of lung cancer.’