It was dead on 7.00 when Matt finally stopped running. Sneaking through the back gate of his own house, away from the prying eyes out front (of which a crowd more than just the reporters had gathered) he started to swallow large gulps of air and the pain started to make away for that satisfaction that came with putting your body through the wringer. Glancing at the clock on the kitchen wall as he entered the house, being sure to be quiet so as not to wake Tommy or his sister or Charlotte, he realized he had at least an hour before everything that he’d worked for over the past few months came to a culmination. At the thought of it, he got butterflies. And the more he thought of it, the more the seeds of doubt started to creep his into mind. The more he thought the more the cries of the small minded town with it’s small minded town folk started to sound like reality. Maybe he was crazy. Maybe he was completely and utterly out of his mind. But nobody was there that night, nobody could say that they saw what he saw. And besides, Lisa and Matt’s story was a love story for the ages, or at least they had thought so themselves, so why couldn’t what Matt had seen be real? And why couldn’t his plan work?
Their story was nothing too glamorous; they had both worked at NASA. She was a budget analyst and Matt had just started as an engineer on one of their rover missions. He still remembered the first time he had asked her out. It was March but they were working together on the seasonal aisle get prepared for the Summer – Summer starts early when you work in retail- and she had tossed a jug at Matt to catch. He of course missed and it cracked him in the head; cutting him just the eyebrow. She rushed over, tripping over an apology. Uncharacteristically for Matt he saw it as an opportunity to ask her to dinner as to apologise for beating him with a jug. She laughed and agreed. And that was that. On the first date, Lisa had asked him why it had taken him so long to ask her out. Matt always loved the way she carried herself, with such confidence, certainty and independence and he didn’t want to be the one to ruin that. She laughed again at that, this time harder than ever and nearly fell off the chair, called him stupid and ordered two White Russians to go. She was crazy but just the right amount and she was beautiful. The kind of girl that writers write about and people dream of; an hourglass with long brown hair, blue eyes that sparkled when she laughed and a face that was kind and never far from a smile. Even in the final days Matt saw the sparkle and could see the ghost of her smile haunt her face. He would never get what she saw in him but she was good for him; she made him a better man. His childhood had been sparse of joy and he had travelled into his adult years with not the happiest of memories. But when she walked through the door and he saw her for what she was. Everything and more. She was the happy memories and a life time full of them. And he would go to the ends of the earth to bring her back.
Dust swirled around the attic like little specks of snow as Tommy entered, tickling his nose as he flicked on the light switch. Nobody ever came up here anymore, only Tommy and his Dad sometimes. He had found a treasure trove of things, from cuddly toys to cameras and golf clubs to wedding dresses. But he had interest in none of these things; the boxes would be the wall of his fort and within it, his secret laboratory where he was building the rocket. Where he was creating the spaceship that would take them into the stars. Just like his Dad.
It had been the day after when it began. Tommy woke early with the sound of hammers, nails and the sawing of wood. It was coming from the back yard. Making his way to the window, he had looked down to see his father, surrounded by planks of wood, sheets of metal and what looked like tools he had collected from a thousand building sites. Stepping out into the cold morning sun, Tommy approached his father. He didn’t look right was the first thing Tommy noticed. He looked tired and rattled; there was a look in his eye he had never seen before and his white shirt was opened, the vest underneath covered in grime, oil and what looked like bloody thumbprints. A few of his fingers were bandaged and there was a gash on his arm. When Tommy spoke his father didn’t flinch, like he hadn’t heard him. That was when Tommy noticed the empty bottle and realized that was the smell on his father’s breath perhaps could account for the bandages; because Tommy knew his father to be a skillful build and had dispensed with many complex designs in his job as an engineer, not too mention all the furniture in the house, especially the ones he’d designed himself. Tommy walked around the makeshift building site, trying to piece together what it was he was building but with no clues jumping out at him. He saw the telescope, lying on the grass, a gift he knew his father had never used and had spent most of its time in the attic with everything else. Tommy spoke again and this time his father stopped and smiled at Tommy. There was something frantic when he spoke, breathless and a wild look in his eye. His usually well groomed hair was unkempt and flopped over his forehead with sweat. When he spoke, he did so in riddles and words that Tommy didn’t understand.
“Don’t worry, son. I’m going to bring her back. Don’t worry. She’ll be saved soon.”
And that was all he said, turning back to his work. Tommy decided not to push any further and instead, rescued the telescope from the grass and headed back inside, returning it to the attic and placing it next to the window it usually called home. Tommy had looked out of the window then to see his Gran – his father’s Mum – step into the garden to try and get him back inside and calm him down, but he never responded to her. Just continued to work and hammer away; letting his own mother walk back in the house in a flood of tears, looking up to see Tommy in the window, something which only made the flood fall harder.
Tommy had found the letter a few weeks later.